By Subhankar Banerjee
29 August, 2010
Many thanks to Subhankar Banerjee for his amazing new site ClimateStoryTellers.org. The very first post is a long and moving account of forest mortality from various beetles and pests--not just in one forest or one continent but all around the earth. Banerjee has a truly global take on the world, and it's stories like these that will help everyone understand that nothing happens in isolation any more. - Bill McKibben
After the United States Senate killed the climate bill in July 2010, many of us started asking – why did the U.S. climate movement fail and where do we go from here?
Earlier this year, I wrote an article, BPing the Arctic? to help stop Shell’s oil-and-gas drilling plan in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of arctic Alaska. Huge thanks to my friend, visionary editor, and writer Tom Engelhard, the piece first appeared in TomDispatch on May 25, and then in numerous other Internet outlets around the world, reaching millions of people. On May 27, President Obama suspended Shell’s arctic drilling for 2010.
With this modest victory for now, I realized it would be nice to have a gathering place on the Internet for in-depth stories on all things global warming. I started to look around and realized we have no place on the Internet that focus only on “global warming” stories from a first person point of view. We have much news, many views, and a lot of science – but where are our storytellers? My wife Nora told me that New Mexico has a long tradition of storytelling. She asked, “do you know about the Pueblo storyteller dolls?”
So I got to work and here I’m welcoming you to ClimateStoryTellers.org.
We have wonderful activist groups like 350.org and others, we have great sites like Grist, ENN, and others for environmental news and opinions, but I found no one place dedicated to climate stories, so that's where my idea began, that we need this, mainly because much of global warming communications have focused on conveying scientific information and I strongly believe that we need all fields of the humanities to help us. So the emphasis is not just the story, but "storytellers" meaning how a story is told, so with that emphasis we're saying we need creative ways to tell a story.
Our objective is not to present just a story as a short news or opinion, but "in-depth", which means all stories will have a central focus perhaps a local issue, but it'll also explore the issues connection to regional, national and global relevance. Because if we pick any topic on global warming today it is affecting all parts of our earth, so that interconnectedness we'll explore. Because what we're trying to say is that it is a global crisis, so let the storytellers explore that global connectedness. Also since they're in-depth we'll be able to explore quite a few aspects on an issue, meaning ecological justice, human rights justice, and many others in one single story, so when the reader completes the story they might see things in a different way than they did before. Again the focus is not information but to build a larger collective consciousness on each of the topics we'll explore.
All stories will be told from a first-person point of view to connect the reader, so that they can feel they're in the story in some ways. We may not always succeed, but at last it is what we hope to achieve.
Because our focus is not "news" we're concerned about who told that story first. Meaning if we publish a story on forest death today, it does not mean we will not publish another story on forest death next month. In fact our philosophy is quite the contrary, we may publish several stories on forest death. But of course we don't intend to repeat, but we may tell another story on a same topic that may be completely a surprise for the readers, as they may not have thought about forest death from such a point of view. Plus philosophically we strongly believe we have to keep telling stories again again so that it becomes part of our collective consciousness. To give you an example, only when crisis hits like BP spill, etc. we tell lots of stories on the same subject with of course new information and new points of view, but the focus is that subject and then it becomes part of our collective consciousness.
Our main hope is that this site also becomes a resource for activists around the world who are working on the climate campaign. And that's where the subtitle comes from "gathering place" - so its not just an archive of the stories, but a gathering place for people all over the world to just visit read a story and feel part of a larger community of concerned citizens. I am deeply heartened to see that our climate movement sage Bill McKibben has written a blog piece about climatestorytellers.org and posted it on the front page of 350.org. Something like this would have been a great wish for me and it has already happened.
Unlike "news" that comes and goes fast, we believe stories need to linger in our mind a little longer, so we'll surely have a philosophy to go slow, never too many stories in a month. We strongly believe that stories keep a culture alive, it always have, and so these stories could keep the culture of our climate movement alive and make it stronger and stronger. The activists world over are doing the hard work, we're just trying to offer some inspiration and resource that what they're fighting for is worth every bit.
Lastly climatestorytellers.org is all about global warming and that is the only subject that our stories will focus on. And we have many wonderful storytellers in mind, so our readers can surely expect some exciting and unexpected stories in the coming months.
Like all grassroots initiatives, we’re starting out with a lot of ideas and passion, but no money in the bank account (actually there is no bank account!). We’ll proceed slowly with 1 to 2 stories each month for rest of 2010, and perhaps a bit more frequently next year. We need your help to spread the word far-and-wide. And if you have contacts at other progressive Internet outlets, please encourage them to post stories from ClimateStoryTellers.org. Reposting is free and easy – just pick up the story (and the images if you need them) and post it with an acknowledgement that states, “This story first appeared in ClimateStoryTellers.org and is posted here with Subhankar’s kind permission” or simply mention ClimateStoryTellers.org as the source of the story.
Over the coming months and years we will present exciting and original stories told by some of our best storytellers. Our stories will shine spotlight on: species other than our own that are vanishing fast, human communities whose survival depend on ecological resources of their homelands, water, food, energy, consumption, conservation, arctic, desert, forests, rivers, oceans, mountains... the list will grow with only one catch, all these stories will be about “global warming”.
With your help we can certainly make ClimateStoryTellers.org a gathering place for good stories on global warming. And to you – all climate activists from around our-earth: I hope you’ll find these stories inspiring and useful in your own work.
Subhankar Banerjee is an Indian born American photographer, writer, environmental educator, and activist. Over the past decade he has been a leading international voice on issues of arctic conservation, indigenous human rights, and global warming, and over the past five years he has also been focusing on forest deaths from global warming. His photographs and writing have reached tens of millions of people around the world and he continues to give lectures on issues of global warming, resource development, biological diversity, human rights, and ecocultural sustainability.
Subhankar is currently editing an anthology Arctic Voices.
Subhankar’s photographs have been exhibited in more than fifty museums and galleries in the U.S. and Europe, and published in more than 200 publications internationally, including The New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair. His essays have appeared in numerous publications including, ClimateStoryTellers, TomDispatch, The Huffington Post, Grist, The Scholar & Feminist, click! Photography Changes Everything, and the anthology The Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics.
Subhankar received an inaugural Cultural Freedom Fellowship from Lannan Foundation, an inaugural Greenleaf Artist Award from the United Nations Environment Programme, a National Conservation Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation, a Special Achievement Award from the Sierra Club, and Housberg Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation. He has been a visiting scholar at the Environmental Humanities Graduate Program at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City since 2006. During winter 2009 he was Artist In Residence at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He serves on the advisory board of Blue Earth Alliance in Seattle, and the partnership board of the Environmental Humanities Graduate Program at the University of Utah. You can visit his personal website by clicking here.
The First Story
Global warming is a crisis: for all lands, for all oceans, for all rivers, for all forests, for all humans, for all birds, for all mammals, for all little creatures that we don’t see... for all life. We need stories and actions from every part of our earth. So far, global warming communications have primarily focused on scientific information. I strongly believe that to engage the public, we need all fields of the humanities. It is to this end that I founded ClimateStoryTellers.org