Narrative Responses to Climate Change

Jenny Freeman (Berkeley California)

What might narrative ideas and practices have to offer our clients, ourselves and the general public during these times of global environmental challenge? Our species’ disconnection and extractive stances toward nature are highly problematic. We, and those we serve are unavoidably in relationship with these problems. How can we rise to the occasion? Encountering polarities of avoidance and immobilizing fear, despair, and the like, how do we make room for possibilities and visioning? Externalization helps to name forces that hold people back. What does it mean to move into a more fluid, creative response?

Dual listening can assist in facing the problem-saturated doomsday stories in circulation as we listen for co-emergent, liberative narratives. Countless people are engaged in weaving restoration and justice among humans and all life forms of our beautiful Earth. As we do when shaping meaning in relation to problems, might we be able to listen into global stories, navigate or even co-create our collective futures?

Considering ourselves as ‘citizen therapists,’ as part of a ‘global citizen’s movement’, how do we step outside of the box, beyond ‘business as usual’ practices, to invite awareness and potentials for engagement, including collective narrative practice? This Collab Salon will invite us to be in positive community, tuned into our natural surroundings, as we respond to questions about our relationship– personally and professionally–to these wild times. Each of us have stirrings and unique gifts to offer. What are we called to?

Narrative Responses to Climate Change: A Poetic Video Reflection

Our video is composed of words and images emerging from our conversations in the Vermont Narrative Camp 2019 workshop.Responding to earth’s environmental crisis with activism born from love and gratitude. Presented by Jenny Freeman, Videography by Kurt Broderson & film editing by Etienne Proulx. Recorded at Narrative Camp, June 2019 on Lake Champlain, Charlotte, Vermont.

Moving from Climate Complicity to Action

An anthropologist’s daughter, I came of age on Upolu, Samoa, living by a turquoise lagoon in an indigenous village and kinship group that formally adopted my family. Our beloved community thrived on the bounty of seafood from the reefs, and crops like taro and coconuts. We bathed in freshwater springs, our nights lit by oil lamps and moonlight.

I finished high school in Australia, then journeyed in a dugout canoe up the Rejang river, through the pristine jungles of Sarawak. In my early 30’s, I learned to dive among the teeming life of the Great Barrier Reef’s phantasmagorical underwater universe.

My early life was intertwined with exquisite natural beauty, yet I’m of the generation that’s witnessing swaths of jungle turn into logged-out wasteland. The reef paradises are fading out. Facing the ever-growing risk of tsunamis, my Samoan village moved inland along a paved road. With the ocean’s rise, the island beaches I love are beginning to swirl away…..Jenny Freeman

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Questions for our Times

Questions on the evolution of a person (or group of people’s) relationship with ‘the massive disconnect from nature’ “ecocide/ecomurder’ ‘climate change’, ‘the great turning’, ‘Earth’s environmental crisis/mess’, or chosen externalization.

  • Would you be interested in going into the realm of your relationship with (Earth’s environmental crisis)?
  • When were you first aware of some sort of threat to the environment?
  • When did you first become concerned about the environment/climate change? Do you remember how you found out about this problem? Can you recall your first response? What was your story about it?
  • Can you recall a time that your concern for the environment evoked suffering? Thinking about it now, do you suspect that numbness on one hand, or on the other hand, perhaps anxiety, grief, despair, hopelessness or overwhelm that you’ve experienced have been related to the environmental issues of these times? Would you be interested in estimating what percentage of your suffering that would be?
  • Can you remember what has helped you to experience and move through these feelings so that they were not immobilizing for you?
  • For a young person: Your generation is aware that the future belongs to you and that you are most affected by what is unfolding. How much does this come up in conversation with your peers? Are you grappling with it together?
  • Have you been tempted to bring it up unsolicited? If so, what response did you get? Have you noticed any active evasion of these concerns? Have you felt isolated or alone with the magnitude of the situation?
  • Are there any narratives that open for you more of a sense of possibility and positivity in the context of climate change?
  • What were you first aware of as a stirring to respond? Do you consider that this stirring has developed in you over time? If so, how?
  • How does your relationship with nature inform your sense of stirring and a call to respond? In what ways does this move or inform you?
  • By any chance, have you had visions or inspirations about the part you can play in responding to the big challenges and changes required of our times?
  • Have any stories or information about other people’s caring about and for the environment affirmed your stirring? In what ways?
  • Was there anything in particular that you can recall that turned your stirring into some sort of response?
  • Is your sense of responsivity connected with a community, or a group?
  • Do you sense or do you know how your gifts could come into play in responding to these callings?
  • Where do you feel you have already made a difference, or begun to make a difference in responding to the call of these times?
  • In what ways do you feel called to step up now? In what ways have you listened to those callings?
  • What inspires and energizes you to stay aware and keep going?
  • Do you have any sense of what your growing edge is?
  • When you think about it, have these questions left out any matters that have now come to mind about the evolution of your relationship to these times?

Jenny Freeman with a hand from David Epston 2018-2019

heir innate connections with each other and w The central purpose of the Work that Reconnects is to help their part in creating a sustainable civilization.” –Joanna Macy


Nahko Bear ‘Medicine for the People’

Ma Muse and Thrive choir


Ayla Nereo  Music from The Code of the Flowers and By the Light of the Dark Moon

 Ziggy Marley – Dragonfly 

Markese “Doo Dat” Bryant from Oakland– The Dream Reborn (My President is Green)

Niyorah – Globe All Warming

Colby and Awu – Green, Go Green

We are Water, from album Wave. Tubby Love



Our Common Habitat: A collaborative video project

Our video is composed of words and images emerging from our conversations in the workshop. In the process of gathering elements for the video, we reflected on how our individual stories and relationships to our environment might be connected to larger collective narratives about climate change.


Jenny freeman

Jenny Freeman has met with  people ages 3 to 93 in collaborative practice, group and school settings, and loves the creativity that emerges in collaboration, with the interweaves of narrative and  just therapies with expressive arts, somatic, EMDR, energy and transpersonal approaches. Jenny presents internationally, co-owns and has contributed to the field; Playful Approaches to Serious Problems: Narrative Therapy with Children and their Families, Freeman, Epston and Lobovits (1997); Enter the Magic Sleep Garden (2007), audio & booklet; A Living Legacy, in Whispers and Vanities: Samoan Indigenous Knowledge and Religion (2014); The Turtle With Wings in The New Language of Change:Constructive Collaboration in Psychotherapy; Destination Grump Station: Getting off the Grump Bus, In Nyland, D. & Smith, C., (Eds.), Narrative Therapies with Children and Adolescents. Jenny worked at Walden School, Berkeley, CA over the last 6 years on community needs, served as instructor/director at John F. Kennedy University, & provides student training therapies for the California Institute of Integral Studies. Currently, she is writing a book on interspecies communication and pressing environmental issues, as well as researching and writing articles on how our field can respond to climate change. 

Etienne Proulx  is a film editor from Montreal. He has been involved for more than 10 years in numerous projects like Netflix’s The Little Prince, BAFTA winning children TV-show Bookaboo and the upcoming film Playmobil The Movie. Alongside his editing career, Etienne has delivered education workshops and recently expanded his focus to use stories and video-making in participatory and community-based projects. He brings a newfound love for both Narrative Therapy and Digital Storytelling to his versatile background and deep concern for Climate Change.


Of the many resources orienting stories of climate change, we chose to focus around creativity and hope as guiding principles for Narrative Practice. These are just the ones that we have researched and engaged with. We know there are tons more great ones. Please let us know.

With love for Gaia, Jenny Freeman & Etienne Proulx

Restorative Resources & the Environment

Active Hope and the work of Joanna Macy inspires a great/necessary outlook on our times.

Here are some large-scale, well-organized responses to environmental challenges:

  • Project Drawdown this is a great resource to help us orient our environmental choices.
  • The Global Purpose Movement
  • The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
  • Extinction Rebellion, London based, spreading internationally at a rapid rate
  • Strikes for climate change, led by Greta Thunberg, and school children in 125 countries and counting.
  • In the USA, a Green New Deal resolution, launched by US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a Great-Depression-scale mobilization, joined by
  • The Sunrise Movement, who in their words are “building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of new jobs in the process”.
  • The Natural Step,
  • Avaaz
  • A graphic analysis of the extractive economy that underlies all this trouble, contrasted with living or regenerative economies.
  • Several programs in sustainable leadership such as, in Sweden, an international Masters in Strategic Leadership Toward Sustainability
    Note: In Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World, environmentalist Paul Hawken suggests that the virtually countless groups, organizations and individuals working towards environmental and social justice are akin to a global immune response to extractive attacks on nature’s well-being.
Digital Storytelling and Climate Change
Below are a few links of readings and projects related to climate change and digital storytelling.
  • Dr. Antonia Liguori’s work is centered around storytelling to “unlock grassroots knowledge”. She gave a recent presentation of UK project called DRY. This short video highlights this project.
  • This project (2011) funded by Health Canada with the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut.
  • This series of projects in Arizona,

Longer reads:

Examples of the process

This 9m video profiles a StoryCenter-led workshop. While not about climate change it gives a glimpse into the story sharing and shaping part of the process.

Some digital stories, not about climate change…