Part 1: The big story

Last week Greenpeace celebrated its 40th founding anniversary which sparked a global environmental organization that highlights the value of nonviolent direct-action as a strategy for environmental change.

Meta-narratives

At its simplest, the word means "Big Story." A meta-narrative can be defined as an abstract idea that is made to function as a comprehensive explanation of historical experience or knowledge.

Meta-narratives serve as over-arching stories that helps one interpret the world around them. In fact, we live in a world where there are many stories—many ways that people interpret and therefore see the world.

Good examples of these would be that of the Christian world view whereupon Christians view themselves as a community that gathers in the name of Christ as the people of God who appropriates the story of Israel, Jesus and the first followers of Jesus as their own story. Another would be that of the Marxist view where history is viewed as a grand narrative of class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

The same could be said of Greenpeace and our vision of a green and peaceful future. To which Greenpeace uses media to communicate revolutionary ideas, which our co-founder Bob Hunter called as ‘mind bombs’ –using simple images, delivered by the media, that would “explode in people’s minds” and create a new understanding of the world.

Many stories have been released speaking about Greenpeace’s achievements but it seems that rarely has there been an in-depth take on how Greenpeace bring into play the role of ‘communications’ in its campaign work.

It’s fair to say that the reason why we do this is because communication for the most part played an integral role in the foundation of Greenpeace as a global movement because it started with a handful of hippies, Quakers, draft-dodgers, anti-war activists who boldly ventured to the seas to prevent a nuclear test, and in doing so shared a story about their journey to the test-site that inspired people to become a part of this new movement that merged two fledgling movements: the peace & environmental movements.

A quick answer to the question of why can simply be found in our vision: For a green and peaceful future which entails change in attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment. In concrete terms this means that we communicate because we need to win campaigns that would translate to change in policies and implementation mechanisms in governments, institutions and corporation that would favor the environment.
This is actually a simplified answer that again demands an explanation and here are some very good reasons why we have arrived to using communication as an effective tool for advancing our vision:

  1. To tell stories and convey their lessons
  2. To challenge the status quo
  3. To inspire action
  4. To help people to find their place in the struggle for a green and peaceful future.

I will attempt to go into the details of these four in the coming days.