Mister Fox is a passionate believer in the power of story. And he will yammer on about it at any opportunity. This is the third and final part of his discourse on Activism & Storytelling, which he delivered from atop a small hill, silhouetted by a full moon, to a wily band of radical animals who believed a better forest was possible, and that brave individual and collective action could make it a reality.
Level 3: Change the story, change the world. Beyond strong motivational narrative, beyond consistent organisational stories, the real gold, and the real challenge, lies at the invisible layer of story as the operating system of society. Continue reading “Activism & Storytelling: Level 3″
Mister Fox drops in regularly to visit with forest friends who run organisations dedicated to this and that. Mister Owl’s Wilderness Health Organisation, the Association of Unassociated Hedgehogs for Fewer Roads and More Hedges, and his favorite, the Henhouse Liberation Army. He likes to help them tell better stories so the entire forest understands who they are and what they do. Last week, he talked about how stories can help make for better communications. Today he’s talking about how story works at the level of their organisations.
Level 2: Consistent organisational storytelling solidifies your identity and makes social movements more efficient.
An organisation with a strong story can use that story to design and select its programme, to test its communications, and to be crystal clear to its audiences about who it is and what it stands for. Charity: Water’s founder Scott Harrison tells a beautiful story, of how he set out with the twin mission to bring safe clean drinking water to everyone on the planet and to reinvent charity for a new generation. That he managed to get that twin mission right into the organisation’s name is even more impressive.
When Mister Fox talks about storytelling to activist organisations, he finds he needs to talk about stories at several different levels.
“I like stories with the number 3” says Rabbit. (This may have to do with the fact that rabbits can only count to 4)
“Very well,” says Mister Fox, “There are three levels of storytelling for change. Today we’ll talk about level 1” Continue reading “Activism and Storytelling: Level 1”
The other day Mister Fox and I dropped in on the Little Prince’s planet to have a talk with Fox. You remember, the one that wanted to be tamed, became the Little Prince’s friend, but then became sad when the Little Prince went away. Fox reminded the Little Prince of his responsibility to all that he’d tamed, and memorably said:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Mister Fox and I are interested in that, because it sometimes seems that a lot of people’s hearts are blind. I’m always surprised by how some people can see stories all around us and some can’t. How some see the opportunity in hacking at society’s stories and some don’t.
A long time ago, when the web was young, a mysterious box arrived at the secret mountain headquarters of Greenpeace International. I was working then as the director of what we called “New Media.” New Media was anything that involved a computer, and I and a team of freshly minted digital ninjas were running around with our hair on fire telling anyone who would listen that this “World Wide Web thing” was going to be HUGE if we could all collectively get over the idea that it was just a new way to deliver press releases.
The box was addressed to Karen & Ludmilla, the inseparable duo who made up our Supporter Services team. Karen recognised the name on the return address: it was from “Grateful Child,” a frequent correspondent, contributor to our online bulletin board and commenter on our website. Wes, as we eventually came to know him, was one of those voices that was consistently positive and upbeat and helpful. He’d field questions about the organisation from other posters knowledgeably, bring context to a discussion with a nugget of activist history or eastern philosophy, provide a deep link into our website when someone wanted to know more, and post wonderful, hippy-themed promotions of our content and online actions at his own website. In short, he was one of those supporters who crossed over that weird imaginary barrier all of us who work for organisations draw up between “us” — the folks within the bricks and mortar of an organisation — and “them,” the audience and supporters that we speak to when we blog, create web content, send press releases, talk at from the other side of a lens.
Let’s call it The Wall.
Continue reading “The Wall. The Mug. The Door.”
It’s not perfect. It doesn’t yet mean the end of the dig, burn, and dump consumer culture. And it will require difficult decisions by risk-averse politicians. But it spells the end of the era of fossil fuels, and let’s face it, people, we worked hard for decades to get this. So I’m disappointed when I search #Celebrate #Cop21 that I don’t see spontaneous celebrations in the streets of every city in the world. But it looks like there was a damn fine party in Paris, well deserved, and we can all virtually do low-carbon high fives. And while you’re at it, why not tip your favorite climate activist with BitCoin via ChangeTip, and let’s get the bankless future started. I’m sending tips called “Cop21 Toasts” to folks in Paris and around the world who propelled this day forward in so many ways. Pass it forward. So many people in so many places around the world were a part of the great slow tidal wave that brought this agreement forward. So many people have suffered and sacrificed and stood up. Let’s not let this escape notice: we’re changing the story of the future. This day was another scrap of evidence that the great ship, forest-masted and sun-soaked in its voyage through space, has a chance.
– ChangeTip (@ChangeTip) December 13, 2015
Below the fold, a glimpse of how Greenpeace trains landlubbers to become salty dogs. For the next few days, join along for a glimpse of On Board Campaign Training aboard the Rainbow Warrior in Taiwan. Continue reading “How do you train a Rainbow Warrior?”
Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me. –Herman Melville, Moby Dick
I’ve just walked up the gangway onto the Rainbow Warrior here in Keelung, Taiwan. Four years ago nearly to the day, I sailed upon this ship’s maiden voyage. It was an immeasurably magical experience, marked by extraordinary companions.
I recently noted the coincidence of dates on Facebook, and a friend responded with something beautiful: “Life loves to walk us in circles.”
Well, I’m grateful for this circle returning to its start, and for other circles that are just beginning. Continue reading “Aboard the Rainbow Warrior: Life loves to walk us in circles”
SPOILER ALERT: If you’ve not read The Man in the High Castle, the following contains plot element spoilers.
The Man in the High Castle manages to jam three of my favorite things into a single novel. First, it’s by Philip K. Dick, who may not have been the greatest crafter of prose in the world, but imagined some of the most enduring science fiction tales in English literature. Second, it not only features the I-Ching, Dick claims that it was actually in part written by the I-Ching. He says he used the book of changes as a creative guide, ceding decision making about many aspects of the narrative to the text of the hexagrams. And third, he may have made that whole thing up in order to create a mind-bending metafiction. Or not.
Now, to break down the central meta-fiction we’re dealing with here:
The Man in the High Castle is a book written by Phillip K. Dick with the help of the I-Ching about an alternative history in which Japan and Germany won World War II. Central to the book is another book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which is a novel written with the help of the I-Ching about an alternative to THAT alternative history in which Japan and Germany lost World War II.
In a nice twist, the television series coming out on Amazon Prime in November 2015 renders The Grasshopper Lies Heavy as a film instead of a book, neatly transporting the parallel mirror effect to the medium in which the story is told.
If that’s not meta enough, there are points in the plot where the I-Ching features as a doorway between worlds — two characters cast paired hexagrams, in different places at the same time, linked by a single changing line. Another character finds himself eerily transported into a surreal vision of San Francisco which may be the one in which Dick was actually writing the book — or at least one in which Japan had lost WWII — through a piece of jewelry crafted by the character who throws the identical hexagram. The hexagrams that are cast in the book all predict the future or shape the behaviour of characters, and (if he’s to be believed) were actually cast by Dick in order to determine plot movement and character behaviour.
In the final scene of the book, in the presence of the author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Juliana Frink asks the oracle itself why it wrote the book. Continue reading “Meta Fiction, Story, and Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle”
I was so grateful to present the keynote at the Amsterdam Dance Event Innovation Battle at ADE Green yesterday, and to learn more about the amazing strides forward that are being made in reducing the footprint of big festivals. Eight major Dutch festivals signed up to a landmark agreement with the Dutch environment ministry to go waste-free. I caught a panel where Rob Scully talking about the 100% renewable energy solutions for Greenfields at Glastonbury, Govert Reeskamp talked about creating miniature festival-sized smart grids. There were lightning talks about everything from a generator that creates electricity from urine to Julie’s Bicycle talking about how big data can help big festivals be kinder to the Earth. Open House put innovation challenges out that asked entrepreneurs to come up with ways to distribute tap water to avoid plastic bottle waste, and there was an innovation dedicated to solving a problem I didn’t know existed: tent waste. Apparently a vast number of people buy tents new for use at festivals, use them for a couple days, and leave them behind where they end up as landfill.
Open House’s Innovation Battle was a kind of Dragon’s Den — ideas got pitched and then interrogated by a panel of judges made up of Jim Stoltz, founder of Tedx Amsterdam, Sander Bijlstra of Q-dance, Patrick van der Pijl of Business Models Inc, and Jan Willem van der Meer, founder of Paylogic.
I was particularly pleased to see who won the battle, and why.
This was the original text of my keynote at the ADE Green Innovation Battle. Had to cut some, forgot some, and mangled some in what I actually said.
Hello. I’m from Greenpeace. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to chain myself to anything or hang a banner on your stage. I’m here to do what we activists don’t do often enough: applaud. Applaud in particular your Innovation Battles: Energy to Enjoy, Waste No More, Water for Everyone. In fact, those would make fine Greenpeace banners, better than we often do ourselves: short, sharp, positive.
When I was first asked to do this Keynote I really wasn’t sure what the common ground between environmentalism and dance events and festivals was. But I talked to Carlijn Lindemulder of ID&T and Barbara Vos of Open House and heard about all of the sustainability efforts going on in this industry, and all the people you reach with those efforts, and I realised you’re all running tiny experiments in different ways of living and being. Every festival is a small synthetic utopia – we all know when we have that experience of not wanting to leave, of asking why can’t every day be like this? How can I make this vibe and this tribe a part of my daily being? Those of us who have been to an event that we didn’t want to leave know that feeling — the idea of Woodstock nation, of Fusion forever, Glastonbury 365, of a world that looks more like Burning Man – magical worlds where we celebrate more, dance more, and experience the primal bonds of being one tribe revelling in creativity, kindness, love, and the courage to be joyful. Continue reading “My keynote at the Amsterdam Dance Event Innovation Battle”
This is an old story, but it appears to have vanished from the internet. It deserves to live on, as it tells the tale of how one of the most recognised logos on the planet was born in a bar.
When Greenpeace International was set up in the late 1970s there was one item that kept appearing on the agenda of every annual planning meeting: finding a common logo. In those days, there was no agreed way to write (or even capitalise) “Greenpeace.”
Some adopted a Native American symbol while others used a peace sign and the ecology icon with “Green Peace” as two words.
Some wrote “Greenpeace” in a Times-Roman font, and others would use whatever typeface they fancied that week — often depending on which Letraset sheets were lying around the office or ship.
Whenever the logo came up for discussion,it would either lead to an argument based on personal preferences or get overlooked in favour of more important campaign matters.
Remi Parmentier recalls “One day in Paris in 1980, we were out of Letraset sheets and the local stationery shop was closed. A publication needed a Greenpeace logo. So Jean-Marc Pias, a fellow who was making posters and stickers for us, ran around the corner to a bar and asked an artist friend, Patrick Garaude to write out “Greenpeace” for him.
“Garaude drew quickly with a fat felt-tip pen, on a beer mat, and the “graffiti logo” was born. It was adopted by office after office and ship after ship until it became one of the most recognised symbols in the world.”
One thing that made it fit Greenpeace’s organisational story was the quickness it expressed — “like somebody is spray-painting it on a wall fast before the cops show up.” It was designed to look like it wasn’t designed, and for an organisation that in those days never, ever used the word “brand” the only logo that was going to succeed was one that didn’t look like a logo. It had to say “pirate” more than “navy” and put an anti- and counter- prefix on anything it said about authority and culture.
Remi says: “Whenever I see that logo today, especially in remote places like Antarctica and the Amazon, I remember Garaude with a pen in one hand, and a beer in the other.”
Remi also says he really wishes he kept that beer mat.
The Director of How To Change the World, Jerry Rothwell, kindly let the Greenpeace International staff in Amsterdam have a sneak peek at his Sundance-award winning documentary of the early days of Greenpeace. It’s a brilliant, funny, and moving story. It’s also the only documentary I’ve seen that’s done justice to the organisation’s mystic hippy roots. Aside from the standard cosmic adventures of the early 70s, the film documents the ritual casting of three Chinese coins that was once an accepted form of decision-making in those pre-organogram days: the I-Ching.
If you don’t know it, The I-Ching or “Book of Changes” is an ancient Chinese oracle and book of wisdom. It was used to describe the present, understand the past, and predict the future in something close to its present form as early as 600 BC. But elements of it appear in China as early as the Hsia Dynasty (2205 — 1766 BC). Like The Bible, the book is the result of a layering of many texts by many authors (Confucius and Lao Tzu among them) and there is no widespread agreement on its authorship or birthdate. It was a standard text you might find in any North American hippy’s concrete-block bookshelves alongside the works of Alan Ginsberg Ken Kesey, Gary Snyder, Carlos Castaneda, and Tolkien. The reason it might have been there might vary from hippy to hippy though: for some, it was a beautiful exposition of Eastern philosophy. For others, it was a doorway to the subconscious through archetypal imagery and elemental poetry. For still others, it was believed to have powers of divination.
Bob Hunter, the Vancouver journalist/activist who led the early organisation and is at the centre of the documentary, chronicled many consultations of The Book in his Warriors of the Rainbow, the text of which provides’ much of the film’s narration. Decisions about who would join the crew, what the outcome of a journey might be, and even where a ship should go were often made by tossing three coins six times to generate a hexagram of broken and solid lines.
My own decision to join Greenpeace full time was helped along by a reading I did in 1982. I’d cut down on my hours at a good paying job to make room for volunteering at a crazy place called Greenpeace New England in Boston. I was canvassing Saturdays and a night or two a week, which brought in a little money in commissions, but spending most of my time helping out around the cavernous warehouse of an office. There were only two paid staff, and the rest of us did everything else: maintained boats, designed actions, fixed the photo copy machine, answered the phone. We were building something powerful, and I wanted to be a bigger part of that creative pressure cooker of a place, but it would mean trading in the day job, a secure income, and warm, dry, book-lined environment for the uncertainty of the street, the weather, and the very real possibility I was getting into something that was going to get me arrested. But I knew it was time to either commit or quit. I did what any mystic hippy would do: I cast the I-Ching. Continue reading “Mystic Hippies and the I-Ching: App of Changes”