Expanding the Narratives of Our Climate Emergency: A Case Study with the National Park Service


Public Historian Donna Graves will share a new National Park Service project that expands how the agency communicates about the climate crisis. “History and Hope: Interpreting the Roots of Our Climate Crisis and Inspiring Action” is a toolkit designed to help interpreters and other NPS communicators use history to help people understand climate change in new ways and feel inspired to take climate action.

National parks protect some of the nation’s most precious places and objects and hold stories of who we are as a nation and what we value as a society. Rangers and other NPS staff are trusted sources of information, making national parks prime locations to help people grapple with the challenges of the climate crisis.

The purpose of “History and Hope” is to expand our interpretation of climate change. Existing interpretation generally uses scientific and technical language to focus on the physical impacts of climate change on individual national parks. Scientific data about climate change doesn’t reach everyone and misses crucial opportunities to deeply engage the public.

The toolkit supports using narratives based in the history of sites to help people see climate change in a new light — from its human-caused origins to its solutions. Centering human narratives allows visitors to see themselves and their communities within the story. This toolkit can help move people beyond individual action to the collective and systemic changes needed to build a sustainable and just future.

Graves will describe the development of the toolkit, which included consultation with a variety of national parks.

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