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Everywhere I go, I meet people ready for change. People who are fed up with the exhaustion that comes from devoting one’s life to the work-watch-spend treadmill. People who know in their hearts that it’s wrong to treat the planet and whole groups of people as disposable. People who are challenging the bogus stories we’ve been fed for years and are writing their own about hope and love and working together to build a better future for everyone.

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Turns out, people’s brains are not nearly as powerful a motivator as our hearts. Facts, data, and economic models don’t move people to courageous action the way that powerful stories can.

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Just recognizing and naming that many of the things we treat as historical fact are stories can help erode their power over our sense of identity and thinking. If they are stories rather than "truth," we can write new stories that better represent the country we aspire to be. Our new stories can be about diverse people working together to overcome challenges and make life better for all, about figuring out how to live sustainably on this one planet we share, and on deep respect for cooperation, fairness, and equity instead of promoting hyper-competitive individualism.

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Put simply, if we do not redirect our extraction and production systems and change the way we distribute, consume, and dispose of our stuff – what I sometimes call the take-make-waste model – the economy as it is will kill the planet.

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We depend on this planet to eat, drink, breathe, and live. Figuring out how to keep our life support system running needs to be our number-one priority. Nothing is more important than finding a way to live together – justly, respectfully, sustainably, joyfully – on the only planet we can call home.

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I want to clarify that one doesn’t need to be a scientist or have fancy college degrees to know the truth about the health of our children, our communities, and the planet. Community members generally know far more about the health of their own communities than visiting "experts," yet that knowledge is often discredited because of another story that we tell ourselves: "real" education happens [only] in the halls of universities.

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Right now, American government has stepped back from offering any kinds of protection for human rights and public health. And the fossil fuel industry thinks that they have just absolute free rein to go for it. The one thing in the way is public opposition. It’s civil society. It’s activism.

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Recycling is what we do when we’re out of options to avoid, repair, or reuse the product first. Firstly: Reduce. Don’t buy what we don’t need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you’ve exhausted those options, recycle.

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Between the disillusionment that people feel about politics-as-usual, assaults on the right to vote, and the constant feelings of pressure that Americans suffer in our overworked, overstressed economy, too many people have checked out of the political process.

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For decades, I thought that scientific truth, solid economic case studies, and common sense were enough to bring about change on the environmental front. After all, the data is so compelling! I thought that if people just understood the severity of today’s environmental threats and knew about available solutions, those solutions would happen. Not so.

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The power that comes from knowing the facts of history is dwarfed by the power that comes from being able to shape the stories about how that history is written and told.

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I am afraid that I think both the near future environmental reality and political landscape are not looking good – and they are connected. The best tool we have for advancing environmental solutions is our democracy, and we can’t currently access it because it has been so thoroughly hijacked by big corporate interests.

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Solid information is necessary, but insufficient. We also need to present that information in ways that are inspiring and accessible. That’s where stories come in.

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We’re more concerned about climate or economic equality or racial justice or anything else that is good for people and the planet, we simply must also spend some time wresting back our money-marinated democracy. This will require getting money out of politics and then getting people back in.