If Stories Will Survive
Updated: Sep 18
Everyone’s a storyteller. It took a while before I realized it myself. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had more interests than I could keep track of. I’m sure there’s many out there that were just the same, or perhaps still are. I was about eight years old when I first learned about the grave danger humanity poses to the planet, and the countless number of species that we are sending off into extinction. It was difficult to imagine the scale of it all: just how big this all was. Extinction, at that age, had always seemed like something so far gone, something that belonged in a time that passed eons ago.
To counteract the helplessness I felt, I came to the decision that I was going to do something about this issue and not sit around for someone else to do something about it. I began to gather waste from offices and schools to send them to be recycled and hold workshops with schools on the importance of conserving endangered species. I wove this message into the lyrics that I wrote and sang about saving the world for future generations. I even started writing a series of books that focused on these issues precisely!
Storytelling has always been an essential part of my activism, even if I didn’t realize it back then. By sharing our different experiences with nature and stressing its value in our lives, we open ourselves more to perspectives we would consider foreign but are really intrinsically connected to one another. Of course, biodiversity loss and human-made climate change won’t affect everyone in the same way, but the reality we face is the same. The world as a whole is slowly waking up in realization to the fact that this massive threat is out there, affecting communities that cannot afford to adapt to the quickly changing conditions already in places far and wide.
Ways of life are being extinguished and ecosystems wiped out, and although we began to take steps to address this issue in the 1970s, clearly, it’s not been enough. Stories will only survive if we do. But acting too late will say more about us than any story that we’d pass on into the world. How would that be fair? Valuing the survival of only certain groups at the cost of those vulnerable who are often exploited and trampled on? What will that say about us? What will that say about the stories of the future?
Today, humanity is more in jeopardy than ever before. The stories of those communities already being affected by the impacts of climate change are being lost as more intense weather events kill, displace, and uproot entire cultures. We’ve already lost so many. Stories are the most rudimentary product of our imagination. It’s something that’s always available to us no matter where we go. They are the cornerstone of every culture that has ever existed and are the bedrock upon which all our religions, beliefs and they are humanity’s greatest gifts.
Telling stories is a magical thing: you bring a person into this foreign world, where some things remain the same, but others vastly differ. In stories, you offer a refuge from the ills of the real world for a moment. You offer wisdom, clarity, and the hope that at some point they venture back out to their world, that they’ll be able to endure all the trials that await. A good story provides us with a home because they are meaningful to us, in whatever form they may take, from novels to films, or lyrics. They teach us important values and lessons that we can then aspire to bring into our lives and use to better ourselves and those around us, every day.
Stories also can reflect our fears, anxieties, and insecurities about the world we live in. The monsters we imagine, lurking in the shadows are nothing but manifestations of our unease with our powerlessness. But we’re not powerless anymore. Some of us have the true potential to make meaningful change in the world, and yet, we wait. Humanity is the only species on this planet that can actively mitigate the issues we are causing. No pressure, but this is too big a task to pass up! Everyone’s needed and everyone’s voice counts.
The world sometimes moves too fast and it’s hard to tune out the noise to make sense of it all. All those distractions and superfluous obsessions have made it easier and easier to detach ourselves from reality, something that stories once did before returning us to actuality. That tether that once connected us to reality is now weaker than ever, making us blinder than we’ve ever been to see the repercussions of all the choices we make in our everyday experience.
Photo provided by Luca Berardi.
A few years back when I lived in Kenya, I paid a visit to a rhino at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Sudan was a rhino with a very interesting story. He was a Northern White Rhino, the last living male of his kind. I was lucky enough to meet him months before he died, leaving only two individuals of his species to continue the Northern White Rhino’s story. Actions to prevent the extinction of his kind were too little and disappointingly, much too late, but that mustn’t be the prevailing case. I carry that story with me not to remind myself of what we’ve lost but to never forget how much there’s still out there that’s left to fight for.
The threat that humanity poses to its own survival is of a kind the world has never seen before and the actions we’ll need to take will certainly be unprecedented and massive in scale. The future of my generation and the world that generations to come will inherit is one that hinges on the stories of today: our hopes that those with power will listen and that those on the side-lines will finally be heard. It’s a chance for all of us to join and preserve our wish to safeguard our right to continue to tell stories.
Written by Luca Berardi.