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We need new (spiritual) stories that adequately tell the climate crisis. Stories in which collective action saves the world. (Book tips! 🙂

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Of heroes and fossil fairy tales. We need new narratives

Greenhouse mail 19.12. 23 #59 #Climate communication #Storytelling #Essay

"The stories we tell ourselves fail #Climate. The crisis hardly takes place in cinema and literature, and the public discourse is full of fairy tales. It's time for new stories." Writes Manuel Kronenberg in the Christmas greenhouse post #59, December 2023. And you will find out how right he is in the following short version. The same narrative move also applies to the Christian narrative. How? Yes. We should reinvent some things, the old storyline needs new logics, post-heroic, postcolonial and post-individualistic and then new ones Narrative structures.

Why talk about stories at all? Because they have an incredible power over us. We identify with the actors, get excited, get angry, get sad and learn. But there is a big catch. Our historically developed narrative structures make it virtually impossible to package the climate crisis into adequate stories. Or how many climate blockbusters do you know? Stories that really tell about the crisis and its solution? They are still very niche.

Manuel Kronenberg,#59 greenhouse post

Our stories today are based on a few structures. The “hero’s journey” pattern, for example, can be found everywhere (since Hollywood made it standard). Good drama works according to plan. And certain stories are particularly effective because of this. Perhaps it is also time to self-critically question the Christian narratives that we like to serve. The key narrative is the “Word of the Cross.” Isn't it also a hero's journey with the master Jesus and his companions (all male).

After a miraculous birth, a divine calling with thunder and smoke to the prophet John. Called, baptized and the normal Nazarene becomes the Messiah. At first he makes it big, is cheered more and more by the people, and the energy of his opponents (male scribes and Pharisees) is so stimulated that they decide to kill him. Betrayal, slander and sloth are the companions' traps and this is how it comes to the climax. The cruel imperial power (after a brief hesitation, "I find nothing evil in him!") to the cries of the excited masses "Crucify him!" takes the inevitable action. Cruel torture on the cross (in the Middle Ages and through Mel Gibson in "the passion" it became heroic-iconic charged to the "Man of Sorrows"), heroic the reaction of the righteous: "Father, forgive them..." After a short, affected silence, then the overwhelming resurrection and the good news: "I will come back soon and take revenge on my enemies and will transform your world into paradise".

The structure is catchy, "hero's journey compliant", with a central figure. Companions with different profiles and temptations. A learning path (with wisdom elements, parables, miracles, resistance). Then the tragic end and the wonderful turnaround. What remains problematic is that this model is told in an individualistically abbreviated way. As we emphasize at nuPerspective the story is different, is political and a story of a people and their fate.

The author Mary Annaïse Heglar (Opens in new window) writes that in order to build a new world, we must first imagine it. We need utopias that motivate us to act.

Manuel Kronenberg, greenhouse mail #59 Long version

But the climate crisis cannot be so easily squeezed into these schemes

"An ecological crisis that is unfolding in Slow motion unfoldt and get through all aspects of our coexistence is difficult to bring to the screen in the usual blockbuster style. Our narrative Habits suggest that the world only through strong individuals can be saved, with special ones, mostly male-connoted skills. And they make us believe that there is a big, clear resolution must give, one happy end a la Hollywood.

Both ideas (hero and happy ending) work completely misses how change really works. There is no one big solution to the climate crisis, but rather many small ones that we have to implement step by step. And even then it's just about containing the crisis.

Of course, the climate crisis cannot be solved alone, especially not by individual, “strong” heroes. We need collective action, solidarity, strategy and patience. Change is anything but a hero's journey as we know it from stories."

Change is more like a relay race. An undertaking with many networked protagonists. Some continue what others started.


What would our Christian narratives (sermons) look like if we framed the message of the cross in a communitarian, solidarity and postcolonial way? Heroes like Greta and Luise Neubauer (see the detailed greenhouse post). But Manuel Kronenberg's suggestion there makes a lot of sense to me, to demand and find new narrative structures, because the hero's journey model tends to fuel fake news or climate fairy tales. And the tragic. Our Christian narrative is also often presented within the framework of Christianity paradigm mythically abused by referring to the "finally soon-coming white savior Jesus", who will bring a sudden and guaranteed end to wars and climate catastrophes.

We need a different messianic process

"We need many small solutions, which we implement step by step. And even then it's just about Containing the crisis – unfortunately turning off the heating and turning it back completely will no longer work. Zero degrees and we happily return to the Shire: a pretty dangerous fairy tale.

Of course, the climate crisis can also be done don't solve it alone, especially not by a strong, “male” hero. We need collective action, Solidarity, strategy, patience – no chasing and hitting"No big bang."

Perhaps the Messiah today would have to radically rethink and transform his appearance, his methods and his message so that the crisis can be addressed. Certainly he has to. Elements of this are laid out in our New Testament when the political misery and hope of salvation of the people become the subject of Mary's song of praise.

He pushes the mighty from their thrones
and lifts up the lowly.
He fills the hungry with goods
and leaves the rich empty-handed.
He remembers mercy
and helps his servant Israel up,
as he spoke to our fathers,
Abraham and his children forever.

Luke 1:52-55

And at the same time, the narrative of “one great savior” remains stuck. So there are further developments Messiah idea in Jewish traditions that instead of "the Messiah" refer to the messianic process" wait.

As a gathering of believers and as the body of the Messiah, the church can see itself anew as God's messianic project, which is connected to all the hopes of all humanity. (p.212)

Frank Cruesemann, The Old Testament as a space of truth for the New, The new view of the Christian Bible, 2nd ed. 2015

I'll stick with this as an interim result. The future gospel in trans-Christianity needs a completely new narrative structure, at least different from that of classic hero's journey. It comes from a pre-modern time and is based in the Ulysses myth of heroic struggle and often also that of the colonial idea of the "redemptive violence" (Walter Wink), which resonate the political-realistic complex reality of postmodernism with our democratic ideals (in the fight against powerful white men, such as Exxon bosses or Trumpist antagonists). A nice example is the picture of Relay race:

We need new stories that adequately tell the climate crisis. Stories in which collective action saves the world. Stories that break with usual narrative patterns. Relay races instead of hero's journeys. Because in the end, none of us are heroes. We are living beings in the midst of countless others who desperately need to once again perceive and appreciate the interconnections that make life possible.

Manuel Kronenberg, Greenhouse Post #59 Be sure to read this now Long version

Write to us what ideas you have for the new narrative patterns and images. Wonderful variants of storytelling with pictures and examples are presented in the book gem "Change it!" 21 Creative instigations that change the entire world, every organization and even yourself; Back & Out, listed. Now we have to get to work in the nuPerspective lab...
The common climate fairy tales are simpler and have transparent plots:

You probably know some fossil fairy tales, and most of them can be assigned surprisingly well to a narrative scheme. Which explains why they get caught so easily.

  • The fairy tale of prohibitions and renunciation: We live in wealth and abundance, climate protection puts all of that at risk. As with the Icarus plot: we have worked our way up, now we are in danger of falling. The antagonists here are very clear: activists, vegans, the Greens.
  • Technology will take care of it: The blind, fact-free belief in progress is reminiscent of the rags-to-riches arc, which only knows one direction: steeply upwards.
  • Sustainable consumption saves the climate: We all just have to consume less and live sustainably and mutate from guilty people into moral super-ecos and the crisis will be solved (metamorphosis plot).
Manuel Kronenberg, greenhouse mail #59 from the Long version

P.S Oliver Schippers still seduced me the author John Ironmonger, the fascinating stories to browse through his bestsellers on the climate (and the corona crisis). His reading tip for Christmas! 🙂

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