1st Edition

Storytelling for Sustainability in Higher Education An Educator's Handbook

    To be a storyteller is an incredible position from which to influence hearts and minds, and each one of us has the capacity to utilise storytelling for a sustainable future. This book offers unique and powerful insights into how stories and storytelling can be utilised within higher education to support sustainability literacy. Stories can shape our perspective of the world around us and how we interact with it, and this is where storytelling becomes a useful tool for facilitating understanding of sustainability concepts which tend to be complex and multifaceted.

    The craft of storytelling is as old as time and has influenced human experience throughout the ages. The conscious use of storytelling in higher education is likewise not new, although less prevalent in certain academic disciplines; what this book offers is the opportunity to delve into the concept of storytelling as an educational tool regardless of and beyond the boundaries of subject area.

    Written by academics and storytellers, the book is based on the authors’ own experiences of using stories within teaching, from a story of “the Ecology of Law” to the exploration of sustainability in accounting and finance via contemporary cinema. Practical advice in each chapter ensures that ideas may be put into practice with ease.

    In addition to examples from the classroom, the book also explores wider uses of storytelling for communication and sense-making and ways of assessing student storytelling work. It also offers fascinating research insights, for example in addressing the question of whether positive utopian stories relating to climate change will have a stronger impact on changing the behaviour of readers than will dystopian stories.

    Everyone working as an educator should fi nd some inspiration here for their own practice; on using storytelling and stories to co-design positive futures together with our students.


    1 Introduction

    Petra Molthan-Hill, Tony Wall, Helen Puntha and Denise Baden

    Part I Storytelling as a Pedagogical Tool (Research and Conceptualisation)

    2 The Storyteller Who Wanted to Change the World

    Rachel Howell

    3 Changing World-views Through A Stories Collection and The Earth Charter

    Grian A. Cutanda

    4 Storytelling for Sustainability: A Definition and its Implications for Education and Communication

    Daniel Fischer, Hanna Selm, Anna Sundermann And Martin Storksdieck

    5 How to Tell Stories

    Uthpala Sankalpani

    6 Storying the Past: Using Historical Fiction to Teach Sustainability

    Nikhil Chandavarkar

    7 Storying the Future: Storytelling Practice in Transformative Systems

    Chris Riedy

    8 Which Work Best: Cautionary Tales or Positive Role Models?

    Denise Baden

    Part II Applied Storytelling

    9 Digitally Enhanced Learning Through Collaborative Filmmaking and Storytelling for Sustainable Solutions

    Joerg Altekruse And Daniel Fischer

    10 Examining Sustainability Challenges Using Science-Fiction Film Scenarios

    Jeffrey Barber, Karen Onthank, Tony Wall, Nerise Johnson and Anna Mackenzie

    11 "The Future Has Gone Bad; We Need A New One": Neoliberal Science Fiction and The Writing of Ecotopian Possibility

    Anthony Nanson

    12 Reading Ecological Memoirs: What Narrative Therapy can tell us About the Power of Discussing Books in Groups

    Alette Willis

    13 ‘Inside Story’: Participatory Storytelling and Imagination in Eco-Pedagogical Contexts

    Maria Nita

    14 Use of Storytelling Within Assessment to Support Sustainability Literacy

    Helen Puntha, Anne Touboulic and Tony Wall

    Part III Storytelling Through the Disciplines

    15 Consumer Privileges and The Sociocultural Dimensions of Production and Consumption

    Bob O. Manteaw

    16 The Secret of Dreaming: Introducing Systems Thinking and World-View

    Grian A. Cutanda

    17 Using Memoirs in Science Communication for Transformational Learning

    Alette Willis

    18 Sustainable use of Chemicals in Practice

    Chalani H. T. Rubesinghe

    19 Cowboys, Cooking Stoves and Corporations: Engineering a New Future Through Storytelling

    Mike Clifford

    20 Going for a Walk: Using Psychogeography to Explore Sustainability in Art and Design

    Joanna Cooke And Nicola Mace

    21 To Invest or Not to Invest? Anita’s Dilemma

    Madhvi Sethi And Katrina Plumb

    22 Storytelling for Complex Sustainability Perspectives In Business and Management

    Nerise Johnson, Anna Mackenzie, Tony Wall, Jeffrey Barber and Karen Onthank

    23 Exploring Sustainability Perspectives in Accounting and Finance Through Contemporary Cinema

    Nerise Johnson

    24 Storytelling in The Field of Law and Sustainability: Five Different Stories About "The Ecology of Law"

    María Dolores Sánchez Galera

    25 Stories for Well-Being, Resilience and Mental Toughness in Primary and Secondary Education: Ideas for Pedagogy Practitioners

    Sandra Hopkins and Megan Bettinson

    26 Communicating Sustainability and Climate-Change Messages Through 360 Film and Virtual Reality

    Rebecca Cunningham And Cody Karutz

    27 Social Entrepreneurship: A Facilitator of Social Progress

    Pradnya Vishwas Chitrao, Pravin Kumar Bhoyar and Brig. Rajiv Divekar

    28 Accounting for The Planet?

    Caroline Aggestam Pontoppidan

    29 Using Stories to Engage and Educate Schoolchildren and Teachers in Sustainable Development

    Joanna Jones, Petra Molthan-Hill and Roy Smith

    30 Conclusion: Stepping into Sustainable Futures: Actions, Developments and Networks

    Tony Wall, Helen Puntha, Petra Molthan-Hill, Nicola Kemp, Sapphire Puntha And Denise Baden


    Petra Molthan-Hill leads the Green Academy at Nottingham Trent University (UK), supporting all faculties to integrate Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), a subject on which she has published widely. She is co-designing the UN’s Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) Carbon Literacy Training for Business Schools, following her related research in the television industry.

    Heather Luna was a lecturer for the Green Academy at Nottingham Trent University. Between 2005 and 2012, she was the Education for Sustainable Development project coordinator for the UK’s Higher Education Academy. She co-edited the Routledge book, The Sustainable University .

    Tony Wall is the founder and head of the International Centre for Thriving, a global-scale collaboration among business, arts, health and education to deliver sustainable transformation. He is an Advance-HE National Teaching Fellowship and holds three Santander International Research Excellence Awards.

    Helen Puntha is a learning and teaching adviser and Green Academy deputy at Nottingham Trent University. She co-founded the Scholarship Projects for Undergraduate Researchers (SPUR) scheme, co-designed the innovative Sustainability in Practice online certificate and is currently working on the Guardian award-winning SCALE-UP active learning project.

    Denise Baden researches and teaches sustainable business and business ethics at Southampton Business School, University of Southampton. She leads the Green Stories writing competitions which aim to solicit positive visions of what a sustainable society might look like, see www.greenstories.org.uk.


    "Read this if you want to be inspired by the power of a good story to change our behaviour for the better!"

    Professor Eunice Simmons, Vice Chancellor, University of Chester, UK

    "A perfect read. I believe that this book will help us all to inspire others to make real change, beyond the classroom – students, staff and other stakeholders"

    Jessica Lichy PhD, MBA, Professor of International Marketing, IDRAC Business School, Lyon, France

    "Amazing! A former senior UN official who wrote technical papers and talks on sustainable development for over 30 years has produced a stunning historical novel. The Endless Dawn takes the reader back thousands of years in the Indus Valley and tells a captivating and inspiring story of the human quest for meaning, power, and love. In reading the story I was transported to another time where I encountered compelling scenes, characters, emotions, and dialogue that touched something deep within me. Thank you, Dr. Chandavarkar (Chapter 6) for offering this profound gift of imagination and insight. We look forward to your next creation."

    Robertson Work, author of A Compassionate Civilization, climate/justice activist, and former UNDP policy adviser and New York University adjunct professor

    "Well, Dr. Chandavarkar (Chapter 6) has done it again. After many years as a senior UN official, Nikhil has followed his first historical novel, The Endless Dawn, with yet another beautifully crafted story, this time of ancient Iran, The Turquoise Empire, may be even better in its realism, power, drama, and depth of characterization. How can the author make ancient history both come alive and so relevant to our contemporary challenges and crises? Thank you, Nikhil, for this gift. We eagerly anticipate your next creation."

    Robertson Work, author of A Compassionate Civilization, climate/justice activist, and former UNDP policy adviser and New York University adjunct professor.

    "The Endless Dawn centres around the Aryan Migration, when nomadic Indo-Europeans arrived into the Indus Valley. The theory that they sought to conquer the region serves as the novel’s main premise, and the story hypothesizes how this invasion might have unfolded. Nikhil Chandavarkar (Chapter 6) impresses with his knowledge of ancient history and linguistics by conducting a cultural tour of these fascinating societies, set amidst the backdrop of a compelling political drama and perilous love triangle …by and large, I was engaged and curious throughout. The story is believable and riveting and the characters memorable… I found it an exciting and highly educational experience."

    Dan Cross, Reviewer, The Historical Novel Society

    "This much-needed volume will prove an invaluable and inspiring go-to reference for educators seeking to integrate story-telling into the classroom practices in a purposeful way. I have certainly missed having a resource like this to draw on in teaching sustainability-related issues in a management education context, in a way that can touch students’ hearts, not just their minds."

    Associate Professor Maribel Blasco, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

    "Stories are powerful ways of engaging the imagination and the emotions, helping people understand who they are in the world. This book makes clear that change makers and educators interested in building a more sustainable world need to learn to become better storytellers, weaving tales that inspire creative new visions and who how all can help bring them to reality. This book will prove an amazing resource for educators wanting to build storytelling in many media into their pedagogy."

    Sandra Waddock, Galligan Chair of Strategy, Carroll School Scholar of Corporate Responsibility

    Professor of Management, Boston College, USA

    "This book sounds amazing! Extremely useful and just what I've been looking for. I'll order it today!"

    Professor Eva Österlind, Stockholm University Sweden 

    "Storytelling for Sustainability in Higher Education is a ‘must read’ for those who are interested in embedding sustainability in their higher education teaching space. The book provides in depth theoretical discussions on storytelling and shows how storytelling enhances understanding of sustainability. The book provides many wonderful suggestions about writing impactful stories for the classroom space (and beyond) and the authors generously offer many examples of how they have used storytelling in their own teaching spaces."

    Dr Suzette Dyer, University of Waikato, New Zealand

    "This Educator’s handbook offers real insight into the role of storytelling in the teaching of sustainability. The wide array of examples provided offers educators with a great opportunity to work with their students and develop understanding of complex sustainability concepts. I would highly recommend its use across the higher education sector."

    Dr Phil Megicks, Associate Professor in Marketing, University of Southampton, UK

    "As our unsustainable industrial civilisation collapses around us we need storytelling more than ever to imagine what comes next. This book provides invaluable tools that educators can use to kindle the imagination of students and empower them to act."  

    Arran Stibbe, Professor of Ecological Linguistics, University of Gloucestershire, UK

    "This book will create a sustainability revolution in the classroom - stories can and do drive change in the world and this book tells us how to use stories for the wider, collective good."

    Professor Jane Harrington, Vice-Chancellor, University of Greenwich

    "This pioneering Handbook illumines the art of storytelling in education. Among many cutting-edge contributors, Grian Cutanda offers a radical agenda for ecology, transforming minds and hearts, through carefully chosen stories. This power to change the way we see things becomes the leitmotif  of an inspiring collection. "- Donald Smith, Director, Scottish International Storytelling Festival

    "Dr. Nikhil Chandavarkar makes a compelling case for using historical fiction as a means to teach students how to navigate issues in sustainability. His novel The Endless Dawn in particular incorporates a number of SDGs and illustrates ways to respond to challenges. Given the urgency for humanity to achieve the SDGs and their complexity, historical fiction plays an important role in taking students inside scenarios where they can become a part of a story bigger than themselves. This genre effectively presents case studies that students can analyze and compare to present-day situations, in independent and team assignments, achieving understanding of various ways to approach these complex issues." - Ms. Shireen Khan, Chief Operating Officer (COO), of GlobalXplorer


    "Dr. Nikhil Chandavarkar has written a brilliant chapter on "Storying the Past: Using Historical Fiction to Teach Sustainability". In order to achieve the five key pillars of Agenda 2030, Chandavarkar proposes and clearly illustrates how historical fiction can be used as a powerful tool of bringing to life the teaching of sustainability. Using his own book, Endless Dawn, which takes place in the second millennium BCE in the Indus Valley, the author shows the two-way nature of time wherein journeying back into the past can inform the present and help invent a new future. Furthermore, the chapter lays out a complete course construct for teaching the use of stories of previous epochs to help avert, in the 21st century, climate disaster and ecocide, and other development challenges. I am excited with the effectiveness and convincing presentation of this novel approach."- Robertson Work, author, climate/justice activist, and former UNDP principal policy adviser for decentralized governance, and NYU Wagner professor of innovative leadership