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paige's picture

"In the end we will conserve

"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught."

Environmentalist Baba Dioum wasn't talking about stories when he made the above statement in 1968. You have probably all read this quotation on the front gate of a zoo or on the pathways of a park.
However, Dioum's words jumped to my mind when I thought about what to post here. On Thursday, we compared the responsibilities of stories and essays. We said something along the lines of "stories are more metaphoric, they resolve thoughts, play with language" and "essays are more explicit in making a claim, need disciplined subjectivity, write with sources." I think we were soon to forget how the two are intertwined. Viewed in our friendly, pleasurable light, stories have the power to bring the reader to arms for a cause - say protection of animals or the rights of indigenous peoples (King). Research is only really conducted in the areas where the money/influence/prestige flows into - largely, issues people (people with money) care about. The goals of an essayist are similar - many seek to raise awareness for an issue, to persuade, to counter a position. Stories may easily grab our hearts but essays can challenge our minds and make the difference for the more ?empirically? disposed. Our stories indicate what we love, what we understand, what we have been taught (by our parents, teachers, friends). It is no wonder our creation stories were so human-centric. I am not surprised that not many people want to be a soil conservationist (aside from those who grew up among agriculture) even if we lose 24 billion tonnes of topsoil per year because you never hear a story about eroding shorelines, do you? I suppose my post is calling us out on our lack of responsible story-telling again but its also a hopeful post because I think that we have the power to write our stories and our essays to move people. I am also patting King on the back for illustrating just how our stories can make us who we are and influence our actions.

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