To create a sustainable future, individuals first need to imagine it. One potentially useful but underdeveloped pathway for motivating public support to address climate change involves identifying, testing, and deploying powerful narratives. These narratives should effectively present the drastic system-wide changes needed to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and provide pathways to achieve these goals.
IU Associate Professor Shahzeen Attari and her team aim to investigate the narratives Hoosiers use to imagine a sustainable future 50 or 100 years from now. Participants will identify pathways to achieve their sustainable futures that are self-generated rather than externally applied. These self-generated futures and pathways provide people emotional and cognitive scaffolding that allows them to compress time, bringing participants closer to the distant future.
Stories allow individuals to fuse facts and feelings in ways that are powerful and complex. A better understanding of how people imagine the future will inform the development of new narratives and stories that can inspire us to create a more sustainable state and nation. If the power of political will and public support is to be harnessed to create a sustainable future, it is crucial that the public perception of such a future is positive and worth striving for.