“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
Water Water Everywhere
Water is the source of life, we are drawn to it. We flock to beaches, rivers and pools in the summertime. We seek out the heat of the sun, glistening waves, salty breezes and that dip of coolness that quenches the heat. When we look out at the vastness of our seas, we feel small, grounded. Almost three quarters of our planet is made up of oceans. These bodies of water are vast and more complex than we know. Just five percent of Earth’s oceans have been charted and explored. We know as much about our oceans as we do outer space. And yet, among all this wondrous complexity, it is easy to look at the world around us and become disheartened. The planet is suffering, and the consequences of unfettered greed, consumerism and conquest are overwhelming. How do stories rooted in despair affect our world view? How do we find inspiration and admiration for our planet when we are constantly bombarded with bad news? In spite of what may seem like insurmountable odds many of us have the capacity to make small changes just by seeking out a different point of view.
Environmental Celebration versus Despair
Bad news has the ability to shape our world view, perception of ourselves and the choices we make. When we are drowned with discouragement, we have very little motivation left to find ways to feel inspired. It turns out that bad news is more complex than simple media motivations to create click bait or head turning stories of shock. We may be evolutionarily geared to recognize negative stimuli over positive stimuli. Casually browsing through news stories, we will notice negative ones more often. Our capacity to recognize negativity makes it seem more prevalent. Additionally, psychologists have studied negativity bias for years. In short, we pay greater attention to negative stimuli, it has a greater impact on us psychologically and has a higher propensity to impact our cognitive processes. When it comes to changing the way we view our planet, we have to actively work against our bias towards negativity. Purposefully seeking out positive narratives with the awareness we will be drawn to negative ones can help us find hope for the future.
Creatives of all types, have the ability to tell stories. By doing so we instigate new attitudes, opinions and behaviors. The key to creating inspiration is developing a narrative. Narratives that promote change in human behavior offer solutions to problems. We are inherently drawn to the story of a hero, someone who offers help, compassion and generosity. The narrative we create may have a tangible hero, or alternatively demonstrate the work of a hero-like figure. Creatives have the ability to imagine new possibilities. We may tell the story of the present, or envision a different future. And for those of us who do not create, there is always the opportunity to start. Regardless, we all have the capacity to change our relationship with the Earth; to cultivate hope, compassion and a lifestyle of caring for our planet. Whether we do this through actively creating, or purposefully seeking out positive narratives the result will be the same; changes in ourselves, our behavior and hope for the future.