Chip Giller from Grist: The Importance of Humor and Storytelling


Founder and editor of Grist Chip Giller gave a great 15 minute preso. Before I try to surmise his presentation, I have to say that this talk really resonated with me. Also, it seemed to really flow along with the collective ideal that ecological matters need to be presented in a more riveting and human way. I think these discussions need to be incorporated into mainstream culture, so that eventually it won’t be uncommon to hear a conservative middle class family in Kansas discussing environmental issues (I can dream can’t I?).

Chip’s talk centered around how humor and storytelling can help with the green cause.

As is the case with many fascinating people, his childhood was atypical in the sense that he was focused and exhibited a higher than average level of maturity. I’m sure he went through the same types of things we all went through during adolescence and beyond, but what he dwelt on in the beginning of the talk was his focus on journalism at a young age.

In high school he did in-depth journalism on green stuff, and found that nobody really paid much attention so no changes actually took place.

Thennnnnn he founded  Grist in 1999 and used humor and storytelling, which produced results, unlike his high school experience.  70% of the users say they make changes to their lifestyle based on the information found within the site. Now that is something.

He then went on to talk about some very fundamental axioms regarding human existence, the main being that storytelling is hardwired into our biology. We tell stories to entertain, to laugh, and to cry.

Following are the 4 historic ways environmental stories have been told:

1) Very earnest

2) Scolding

3) Fact-heavy

4) Critter-centric

Not surprisingly, none of the above methods have been highly effective (as shown by a lack of awareness and concern).

Chip is ushering in a new era of storytelling, one that includes the comical when talking about dire eco things. He wants to engage a new generation and broaden the movement.

Ahhh, and then Chip shared with us there in the Austin Convention Center the secret sauce of Grist:

be authentic, inviting, informative, and people centric.

He went on to state that not everything has to be funny, but you gotta realize these are people, and you have to find a way to meet people where they’re at.

“Humor and storytelling help us maintain our sanity.” – Chip Giller

Following are some resources that he sited near the end:

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It

We Are Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream




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