Dead Without Water: Personal Storytelling Of Place As An Education Tool For Interdependent Survival Of Our Earth Home
Do you have stories of meaningful places in your life? Are there examples of stories of place(s) you have heard have been powerful influences for you? Why? How have these places been impacted by climate change, and how will they be impacted by climate change? Our shared environment is at a critical juncture. The physical survival of this planet and our collective wellbeing is increasingly dependent on challenging our ways and bettering educating ourselves and others to respect and acknowledge the interconnection we have with the planet home that gives us life. In this research, I examine the power of personal stories which focus on relationship to place in order to connect us to each other and to the places we inhabit as a powerful tool to forge practices that are benevolent towards the Earth. Sharing personal stories of our meaningful place-based settings has the power to expand universal understanding of the link between our behavior towards the Earth and the wellbeing of these places, which is crucial for the health of all species, including human survival. Stories are perhaps one of the most efficient methods in highlighting interdependency between humans and the environment to foster an ethic of a care for the planet and future generations.
This thesis draws from storytelling as action in indigenous cultures and their effectiveness in Earth justice movement building today specifically in the United States. I examine the Gwich’in Steering Committee as one vital model that uses storytelling as their primary tool for not only Earth and human rights justice, but importantly, their survival. Additionally I will reference storytelling used as a method of education and action used by the Water Protectors of Standing Rock and L’eau Est La Vie camp. These indigenous organizations are by no means the only indigenous models that use personal, place-based storytelling for movement building, but serve as the research focus for this thesis. The literature review will reflect upon the Gwich’in Steering Committee’s use of story throughout their movement; their own sustainable, cultural and spiritual way of life, to protect The Sacred Place Where Life Begins, their water and food sovereignty in the face of oil drilling proposals and climate change.
Through Scholarly Personal Narrative methodology, this deep dive account unearths my own depictions of my place-based stories which have taught me that the Earth deserves our compassion, our empathy, and our urgent attention and to craft a sustainable planet. This thesis will draw from on my personal lived experiences in my local and global settings, my own stories of connecting to the places sources of cultivating care and wellbeing for the planet. This project explores my narrative journey through my childhood in Vermont, my family homes across Maine, my four undergraduate years in Connecticut, my studies in Chile, and return to Vermont. My hope is that the indigenous model of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, paired with my personal and reflective account of place-based stories can prompt educational leaders to reflect and utilize personal storytelling as one educational tool that assists with building empathetic and active healing for the wellbeing of our shared planet.