Activism & Storytelling: Level 3

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″

Activism & Storytelling: Level 2

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.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Activism & Sto­ry­telling: Lev­el 2″

Activism and Storytelling: Level 1

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”

Activism and Storytelling

mister fox & little prince
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.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Activism and Sto­ry­telling”

The Wall. The Mug. The Door.

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 ruboxnning 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.”

2015: The Year the Carbon Beast Blinked.

For all of us work­ing to stop glob­al warm­ing, 2015 will be looked back upon as the year we pushed Big Oil and King Coal hard enough that they at last took their first, inevitably fatal steps back­wards. They have loomed large — mytho­log­i­cal­ly large — as teflon-shield­ed, weaponised giants. Petro­le­um vam­pires tow­er­ing over our cap­i­tal cities, their teeth deep in the neck of our gov­ern­ments, feast­ing on blood and mon­ey. Mighty coal goril­las beat­ing their chests atop moun­tains they’d decap­i­tat­ed, throw­ing boul­ders down upon the vil­lages below. Gov­ern­ments bowed down before them and did their bid­ding. They smirked and threw fist­fuls of gold at the feet of our cul­tur­al and sci­en­tific insti­tutes and ordered them to sing their prais­es. And for three decades, they seemed unas­sail­able; imper­vi­ous to the forces of democ­ra­cy and the liliputian non-vio­lent armies that dared oppose them.
Per­son­al­ly, I see four major events in 2015 chal­lenged that sto­ry.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “2015: The Year the Car­bon Beast Blinked.”

COP21: Celebrate, dammit, you worked hard for this

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. 

Con­tin­ue read­ingCOP21: Cel­e­brate, dammit, you worked hard for this”

Aboard the Rainbow Warrior: Life loves to walk us in circles

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”

Meta Fiction, Story, and Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle

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”

#ADE15 Green Innovation Battle: The winner is the planet

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.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “#ADE15 Green Inno­va­tion Bat­tle: The win­ner is the plan­et”

My keynote at the Amsterdam Dance Event Innovation Battle

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”

The Greenpeace logo first appeared on a beer mat

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.

Mystic Hippies and the I-Ching: App of Changes


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”