Story-Telling: The Foundation of Nations

Every civilization since the Stone Age has had a story about itself–to explain where the world and mankind and nature came from, what the future would hold and how to navigate safely and as comfortably as possible towards that future.

Our current Big Story is now the Old Story. It is no longer capable of getting us to a livable future. It says that our national health is measured by what we use up (GDP) and that if our consumer economy stops growing (converting “nature’s” resources into stuff) then humanity will wither and die. It separates the human economy  from Earth ecology.

Our current story is one built by our “energy slaves” we’ve taken out of the ground for two hundred years, sent it through our machines and into the atmosphere, the water, the soil. The Old Story worked very well for some for a brief while in the Machine Age. That age is over.

What comes next? It must be an extended period (Thomas Berry called it the Ecozoic) where, before profit, we consider the impact of everything we buy, every mile we drive or fly, and the way we navigate towards a future worth living. And the bottom line is impact to the ecosystem services that sustain us.

I believe that an important chapter of the New Story must look at restoring relationships to nature, to the places where we live and within the communities of humans and non-humans we live among.

I’ll be speaking to a group in NY state in June. At the end of a photographic “visual essay” that shows rather than tells of these relationships in my own life, I’ll read an essay that pretty much says what these three panels tell.

It is an essay that I was pleased to have requested by Richard Louv for inclusion on his Child and Nature Network blog in 2013 and you can read it here:

The Wisdom of One Place


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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