How Storytelling Can Help Save Water
photo credit: KC Pagano
Storytelling delights. It entertains and transports and calms and inspires.
But can it save water? Can it lower utility bills? Can it fill up aquifers and reservoirs? Can Storytelling help the drought in California, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin and Utah – not to mention Mexico, Greece, South Africa, India and China?
Well, yes. And here is how:
I don’t think anyone would argue that the problem of drought – or an extended shortage of water – is directly connected to human behavior. I say ‘problem’ because true drought is a natural event. There are some years when it rains a lot in Texas (like this year) and there are other years when it doesn’t rain very much at all (like many of the last ten years). During those years of scarcity, the natural world adapts – it drinks less, uses less or in the case of animals and plants, they move to a different area.
The ‘problem’ comes with people. We like to stay put and we don’t like much change. And that last word – change – is where storytelling comes in.
Scientists, engineers, activists and politicians all agree that reducing the amount of water we all use, will help with the ‘problem’ of the drought. Simply put, if we use less – or be more conscious around how we use and re-use water – then we will pull less from limited reserves. And therefore we will have less of a problem. But that requires that we change our behavior and habits. And that is not easy for people. In fact, it is very, very difficult.
The common tactic is to start with information. Give statistics and make dire predictions. We can then give penalties – raise the cost of water or impose fines on those that use ‘too much’. And then we can give rewards to those that are successful. All of these tactics can be very successful but they require something fundamental to happen first. We need to change the story. We need to change the picture we have around water conservation. This is key. Experts all agree that changing habits starts with changing the stories we carry around those habits. Change the story, change the behavior.
And this part is a lot easier than most people think. Advertising gets it. Politicians get it. Marketers get it. And so here is how parents, educators and activist can do that same thing: tell stories to change behavior.
photo credit: KC Pagano
So we of Sparkle Stories created a challenge for ourselves: how do we motivate children to want to conserve water – without making them feel unsafe or worried? How do
we get them to want to save water in a sustainable way?
We started with a question from a thinking place: how much water do most people use? How many gallons of water do I use? What activities could I change?
Then we looked at it from a feeling place: how do I feel about water? How do I feel about wasting water? How do I feel about saving water?
Then we looked at it from an action place: how can I enjoy conserving water? How can I effectively encourage others to save water too.
And we landed on three different stories that together, honor and answer those questions – but also give room for the questions to continue living and growing in every child.
For the thinking questions we gave statistics – but in context. How much is a gallon – what does it look like – how heavy is it? Then we were able to use that one gallon as a frame of reference. That way children can imagine what 10 gallons might be – or 40 or 100.
For the feeling questions we landed on gratitude. Water is life – literally. And experiencing water from the perspective of a water fairy can intimately tie the ‘flow’ to gratitude. Cultivate more gratitude to water, and you begin to see it as precious – as dear and very, very familiar. This cannot be done through lecturing – only through living images that continue to grow in little hearts.
For the action questions we gave examples: games, contests, conflicts with surprising resolution. When children engage their imagination and ‘see’ the games, contests and conflict resolution, then the message and motivation of the story becomes a part of who they are. They find themselves authentically wanting to play the game, join the competition and use the same resolution with conflicts in their own lives.
They think about the story, they feel the story and then they want to act the story out. And then, quite effectively – their behavior changes. They want to play the “Game of Drought” just like Martin and Sylvia. They want to say ‘thank you’ to the water just like Signe does to the water fairies. They want to find ways to save water together – just like the Great Plains animals do around a small watering hole.
They listen, they imagine, then they get inspired and ultimately ‘try on’ the new behavior.
And it works.
Just like advertising works and propaganda works and content marketing works and motivating speeches work: they give you new, attractive and inspiring stories that you want to ‘try on’.
You’ve heard me talk about using storytelling to bring calm – to bring peace – to bring inspiration and to bring reassurance to your children. Now you can use storytelling to bring action. Action that – whether we live in California, Vermont, Ontario, Ireland or Sidney – benefits us all.
“Conserving Water” is a collection of
three stories with a single purpose –
Category: Personal Finance