“It’s really exciting when storytelling can resonate with the greatest issue of our time. There can be no greater focus than saving our home.” So said Hollywood actress Laura Dern in an interview in ”Variety” magazine headlined: “Is Hollywood Doing Enough to Fight the Climate Crisis?”
And now Hollywood activists Daniel Hinerfeld and Cheryl Slean are asking: “By now there should be no doubt that the climate crisis is urgent and dire. So why aren’t we rising up and demanding action?”
“In part, because we’re telling ourselves the wrong stories about climate,” they answer in a recent email introducing a new Hollywood campaign. “That it’s not urgent or even real. That we have plenty of time. That it’s too expensive or too big to fix. That it’s already too late. And other fairy tales that invite complacency.”
”We need a new climate narrative, they insist, adding: ”A narrative that will help us face reality, confront our fear and grief, imagine possible futures, and inspire us to action. We need Hollywood to help us rewrite the future.”
Social scientists have long been telling us that ”entertainment” can be a more effective way to change people’s attitudes and behavior than factual communication.Lights! Camera! Action!
According to Hinerfeld: “Entertainment reaches across demographics and national borders, and when a good story carries us away, we effortlessly absorb new information; identify with characters who may be very different from us; drop our defenses and identity group biases; and open our minds and hearts to new ways of thinking and living.”
According to Slean: “Over the decades, the entertainment community has focused its creative power on other social problems — the Vietnam War, racism, women in the workplace, the AIDS epidemic, marriage equality — and helped bring about cultural transformations. But Hollywood hasn’t told many stories about climate change.”
And she’s right. Hollywood has been asleep at the wheel.
True, there have been barriers to climate storytelling in the past, but they’re falling now, according to industry sources. The climate crisis is no longer abstract and remote, thanks in large part to 17 year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg — it is at our door!
“The power that TV network advertisers once had to influence content is waning with the rapid growth of subscription-based entertainment. Climate stories needn’t be preachy, boring, or politically divisive, and the narrative possibilities go far beyond the cliches of disaster and apocalypse,” Hinerfeld and Slean say.
Cue the National Resources Defense Council’s “Rewrite the Future” initiative which aims to enlist the power of storytelling to help us turn the climate crisis around. The NRDC is now offering a range of support to encourage more, varied, and compelling climate stories in entertainment, including industry dialogue and networking, climate story consultation, and help with project development.
“Storytellers have a vital role to play in shaping our cultural narrative about climate. And a new narrative is necessary if we’re going to meet the challenges ahead. Together, Hollywood’s storytellers can help save the world,” shares the NRDC.
As you know, climate storytelling should be more than just entertaining disaster movies with A-List stars..
”The climate crisis and its solutions offer endless story opportunities across genres, from comedy to drama, recent history to speculative futures, and everything in between,” Hinerfeld says.
Realistic depictions of people dealing with climate anxiety, like “End of the World” episode of ”Big Little Lies.”
Absurdist comedy, like the “The Gang Solves Global Warming” episode of ”It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
How climate influences basic personal decisions, such as whether to have children, where and how to live, and what kind of work to do.
Stories that personalize the impacts of climate-related disasters on people around the world.
Emotionally engaging stories that show people facing, feeling, and moving through their fear and helplessness to become part of the solution in small and large ways.
Characters based on the heroines and heroes who are leading communities to better futures, innovating solutions, and inspiring others to act.
”Audiences need to see and feel what our future will be like if we do nothing — the hideous escalation of climate-related crises, the runaway climate feedback loops that could very well destroy us,” shares the NRDC.
”Most importantly, we need visual storytelling to show us the alternative to climate apocalypse — the promise and immense opportunity of a healthy, sustainable, more equitable future if we leave complacency behind and rise to the challenge,” says Slean.
The NRDC initiative “Rewrite the Future” is offering support to entertainment professionals who wish to tell the greatest story of our time with such activities as:
Climate storytelling panels and workshops
Industry dialogue and networking
Customized climate story consulting
”Writers room” presentations
Working with studio and network executives to expand markets for climate stories.
To contact Hinerfeld and Slean please write: RewriteTheFuture@NRDC.org