Two Climate Storytelling Approaches with Unique Results

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Climate change storytelling is a powerful tool to communicate the urgency and impact of environmental issues. But how you tell the story can make a big difference. This article explores two approaches: presenting and amplifying stories and why understanding the difference is crucial for effective climate storytelling.

The Context for the Examples Below

Taylor Ann Rivera and our team at BairStories created films showcasing a North Hennepin Community College course designed by English Faculty Ana Munro. This course provided students with outdoor learning and nature immersion opportunities.

Presenting Stories vs. Amplifying Stories

Presenting Stories: Sticking to the Facts

Between the Trees Documentary produced by Taylor Ann Rivera

Presenting a story means delivering it as close to the actual events as possible, similar to a news report. This approach is factual, straightforward, and often used in climate change communications.

Taylor's analytical approach focused on the educational aspects without adding creative elements. This is a typical example of presenting a story in climate change communications.

Quote from Taylor:

"My approach to creating the film was about inclusion and educational factors. Since my main career is journalism, my approach to this film was more analytical than creative.”

The presented story approach is a common storytelling approach for climate change communications. It's often the reluctance of scientists [and people] to share personal stories (Millie Kerr, Outdoor Journal).

Kerr recalls interviewing an ornithologist who, off-camera, mentioned being bitten by venomous snakes during fieldwork - a detail he omitted during the formal interview. This situation exemplifies how personal experiences, often left out in climate change narratives, could add a vital human element to the story.

Amplifying Stories: Adding Depth and Emotion

Belonging (short documentary) created by BairStories

Amplifying a story means expanding or emphasizing the truth to draw out deeper meanings and emotions. This approach is often used in films and documentaries to engage the audience emotionally.

For the same project, our team at BairStories created a film called Belonging, weaving raw, poetic visuals with profound reflections on identity and community. We focused on the personal experience of a central character, Dalorian, to create an emotional connection with the audience.

When we amplify stories, we focus on the significant emotional experience of a single character with a strong desire, motivation, and uniqueness for audience connection.

Why Amplifying Stories Matters

Emotional storytelling can bring many benefits to your environmental nonprofit or cleantech company, including:

  1. Making emotional connections
  2. Encouraging action
  3. Humanizing big topics like climate change and environmental justice
  4. Creating a sense of community
  5. Humanizing organizations

Learn more about the benefits of emotive storytelling.

Comparing the Two Climate Storytelling Approaches

Climate Storytelling

Both films about the North Hennepin Community College course contained the same characters, locations, and experiences. However, their approaches and functions differed significantly. Taylor’s film helped students understand what to expect from the course, while our film invoked conversations about nature inclusion and representation.

Example

While Belonging conveyed the course experience, it didn't cover every aspect, such as the Wolf Center scenes, because they didn't serve the story we were telling.

  • Taylor’s film can help students know what to expect from this course experience.
  • Our film can invoke conversations about nature inclusion and representation.

Both films can do the same things, but the different approaches determine the story’s outcome.

Now, imagine the power of emotive visual storytelling in climate change communication. Studies have shown that sharing individual experiences can lessen the perception that climate change is an issue affecting only distant places or future generations, bringing it closer to personal realities.

Jane Goodall has also emphasized the effectiveness of storytelling in reaching people’s hearts and minds. This approach can be pivotal for nonprofits like yours, which aim to raise awareness and motivate action on climate change.

Choosing Between Presenting and Amplifying for Climate Storytelling

How do you decide which approach to use for your climate change storytelling? Here's a simple guide:

Determine Your Goal.

  • Presenting: Ideal for delivering factual information. It's straightforward and educational.
  • Amplifying: Best for emotional engagement and impact. It evokes feelings while conveying facts.

What Is Your Story About?

  • Presenting: Offers the complete, unfiltered truth.
  • Amplifying: Highlights specific emotional or thematic elements.

What Is Your Desired Impact?

  • Presenting: Aims to inform.
  • Amplifying: Seeks to create a lasting emotional connection or provoke thought.

Do You Have A Preferred Style?

  • Presenting: Similar to journalism. Factual and straightforward.
  • Amplifying: Offers additional creativity for an immersive experience.

Conclusion: the Climate Storytelling Approaches

Both approaches have their place in climate storytelling. The choice between presenting and amplifying depends on your goals, the nature of your content, and the impact you want to achieve.

Your presence will influence the authenticity of your story. Whether presenting or amplifying, be aware of how your lens and experiences shape the narrative.

Remember, factual accuracy doesn't exclude emotion. Both can exist simultaneously. Underneath the factual accuracy are people with human emotions. Choose to amplify those human experiences that bring light to the accuracy of stats and facts.

Understanding the strengths and applications of each approach will make your environmental nonprofit or cleantech company stronger at storytelling. Embrace these tools to make your climate change storytelling heard and felt.

Feeling Overwhelmed by the Storytelling Process?

Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Download our comprehensive guide to emotive storytelling. This is an insightful resource for climate change storytelling.

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We're a storyfirst film and video production company, based in Minnesota, specializing in emotive stories that elevate empathy, community, and funding. 

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