(Shandra Furtado/George Washington University)
The stories of Alaska — and the stories of you
For the majority of human history stories were the fabric of our social construction. They varied geographically and often tied to the land. Today, science and technology are the main drivers of our cultural stories and priorities. Coupled with an endless need for growth, we’ve found ourselves in a global environmental predicament. Ironically, science is also our best hope for a solution.
The problem is, science has always been framed as a story of the Big Dogs. There’s a cultural misunderstanding that science belongs to the Nobel type with a stiff white coat in a sterile lab. The cure for cancer is important stuff, but while they’re working on that, let’s pan the camera to Joe who lives around the corner and just figured out how to power his house with a stream in the backyard. Or Susan from the town over, who rebounded a keystone frog population from close to extinction. Not everyone will think these stories or people are interesting, but the ones that do will be inspired to create their own similar stories. Enough of these types of stories have the potential to create an intertwining web of like-minded people with the same goal. Is that better than a headline that grabs the attention of millions and then drifts into the cloud? Maybe, maybe not. It’s comparing apples to oranges. But the story of an average person doing something phenomenal is much more relatable.
Alaska was a place where local stories circulated almost as well as the ocean currents. Yet, many Alaskans live in complete isolation. The stories they share are all different but relatable because of their intense connection to the land. We can learn from this type of storytelling and reproduce it elsewhere by drawing this innate connection to “home” from people — even city dwellers. Making science relatable through characters, scenes, and plot lines that are familiar and lovable can information accessible to even the most uninterested of crowds.