Storytelling school

Climate activist Vic Barrett on wonder, transformation and storytelling

What excites him most about his future is, well, storytelling. Barrett may only be 23 – a Gen Zer whose peers alone dismantle the status quo and revolutionize the relationship between employers and employees, politicians and voters, and business and consumers– but Barrett has skin in the game. He has been an internationally renowned climate activist longer than the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Over the years he has told his own story and witnessed the power she wields. What Barrett wants next is to help others feel comfortable sharing their stories too.

“A lot of people assume their lived experience is inconsequential when ours is all of it,” he said. “How can we build empathy by creating platforms where people just learn about others?”

And Barrett is onto something: Science begins to show that narrative storytelling does wonders for the mind. A listener’s brain waves can even mimic those of a storyteller. Researchers believe this could be the body’s way of developing empathy and understanding, which can ultimately help change a person’s perspective. Funny enough, these are the stories that drew Barrett to climate change when he was a high school student in New York.

“Climate change, for me, just made me think of science,” he jokes that he was more of a child of the humanities until he heard stories of young people who lost everything when hurricane Sandy hit the city in 2012. long for me to grasp . As soon as they gave the first example, it was like, Oh, okay, yeah, it’s a matter of justice.”

It’s crazy to think of a 14-year-old connecting these dots in a way that many lawmakers and even climate action advocates haven’t yet. But Barrett is not like most people. In high school at the girls’ school he attended, he jumped between tables at lunch and talked to different types of people, despite the school being “strangely very cliquey”, said Shama Khayat, his best friend he met at the high school. After their first lunchtime conversation, Khayat felt like he had known him forever.

“He was always open and such a beautiful soul,” Khayat said. “As far back as I can remember, he was always this very sweet, very open person.”