Conservation and Storytelling – What’s the Connection?

Here at ICL, the stories of your connection to Idaho are not only what makes our work so meaningful, but also what makes us incredibly effective.

Our lives are inundated with stories. We see them in books, movies, podcasts, tv shows, board games, and songs. They are swapped in local coffee shops. They are implied in each advertisement we see. They are every piece of news. They exist in every language, every culture, every place all over the world. The stories that the majority of people tell, hear and share is ultimately what initiates change. This change eventually creates pages in history books.

What does that mean for us?

Every time you share your experience on how conservation has improved your life in Idaho, or express your gratitude for clean air, water and land – you make the Idaho Conservation League stronger. You help Idaho value these important things even more prominently. You help shape our history as a state.

We would love to take a moment to tell you why your authentic story is interesting, necessary and deeply important.

What Is Happening in Your Brain?

We are simple creatures. Most of what our brain does directly relates to our survival. Essentially – to reduce how many calories we burn – our brain looks for the most efficient way to gather information. What is the most efficient way for our brains to make sense of something? You guessed it, a story.

As humans, we are wired to exchange information through the act of storytelling. We love stories so much that our brain utilizes them in order to retain more details and specific figures. When people make decisions, they often times rely less on the facts and more on a narrative  (it barely matters if the story is true or not!). In the absence of a story,  our brains even tend to make stories up.

When we listen to a story, areas of our brain light up (called “mirror neurons”) that make us feel like the experience we’re hearing is our own. This helps us create empathy and see new perspectives. When we take the time to write a story down, the information moves from a reactionary portion of our brain to the prefrontal cortex, where higher-order thinking exists. In other words, when you take the time to articulate your story you can make an intentional decision about your experience, rather than falling into a knee-jerk reaction. Writing down all of these experiences is likely to lead to improvements in overall health and well-being.

What Is So Important About Stories?

Here at Idaho Conservation League staff can research issues and talk to scientists to find what the best practices are. We make sure our government is following their own laws to protect our citizens and uphold the standards our government has put into law. We even find places where we do not feel the standards are high enough and call to raise the bar. ICL provides important infrastructure. However, when it comes to making a change – more often than not – it’s your personal story that can make the biggest difference.

Conservation can be a touchy issue in Idaho. We often have to learn to laugh at ourselves during the process.  But whenever we find ourselves in conflict, remembering to share our stories can be an incredibly powerful tool. When we argue, it outlines our differences. When we share stories, we highlight our similarities.

Telling your story helps you better articulate why conservation is an important value you hold. Your story also helps teach someone with a different perspective to understand your value on a deeper, more primal level.

Tomorrow we will talk about how to create your own powerful story in three easy steps.  Stay tuned for Part 2!