I have researched and published in the area of using stories to promote sustainable solutions and am happy to speak at events relating to writing for a cause and using fiction to promote green behaviours or as a guest lecturer on creative writing courses. Payment beyond expenses not always required, depending on nature of the event.
I also provide one to one consultancy for established authors working on new material on how to smuggle in green solutions. Again, payment not always required. I work across several genres, for example, my most recent consultancy was on the comic The Renegades Flames of Amazonia published by DK children. Denise is also on the expert panel for the Global Action Plan Flickers of the Future project (patron Richard Curtis CBE) providing advice on green content for finalists.
Some of the research is available on The Conversation
See also the paper: Baden, D. (2019). Solution focused stories are more effective than catastrophic stories in motivating pro-environmental intentions. Ecopsychology, 11(4).
and books: Baden, D.: 2020, ‘Which work best? Cautionary tales or positive role models? ‘, In Molthan-hill, P., H. Luna and D. Baden (Eds.), Storytelling for Sustainability in Higher Education: An Educator’s Handbook (Routledge, Abingdon).
Baden, D., L. James and J. Brown: forthcoming, ‘Climate Fiction to Inspire Green Actions: Tales from Three Authors ‘, In Wang, H. and E. Coren (Eds.), Story telling to Accelerate Climate Solutions (Springer, Cham, Switzerland).
Denise will be speaking at Eastleigh book club 7.30pm about her book Habitat Man 12th April 2022
Invite Denise Baden to speak at your school
Denise is offering free sessions to schools and colleges throughout November in the Southampton region (including Eastleigh, Winchester) talking about sustainability and introducing the free green stories short story competition. Events last ideally 2 hours (some flexibility) and with 20-60 attendees in any session. The school/college will provide the space. If interested email email@example.com for details.
Denise recently ran a workshop with Bitterne Park School in Southampton. See how it went:
Check again soon for upcoming events or subscribe to my mailing list to be notified of my next event
- From research to impact. University of Oxford social impact lab 28th February 2022.
- Inspiring sustainable practice: moving beyond preaching to the converted” The Marjon Academy Lecture Series, in association with SCION RKE Group. Wed, 2 February 2022 12:00 – 13:30 GMT. Tickets here.
- Denise is a special guest for Hampshire Writers’ Society, 8th Feb 2022 7.30 pm. See here for details.
- Tues 18th Jan 7.30 – 9pm October Books, Southampton Denise talked about two key sustainability projects: Sustainable Hairdressing, the Green Stories Project and her eco-themed romcom Habitat Man, see HERE
- ‘Writing for a Sustainable Future’. Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, Dec 9th 2021
- ‘Writing Green Stories’ Anthropocene and More-Than-Human World, hosted by University of Nottingham Dec 8th 2021
- Bristol Climate Writers Nov 10th 7.30 – 9pm. ‘Writing for a Sustainable Future’.
- Writing Workshop, 20 Nov 2021 ‘Imagining a Sustainable Future via Green Stories’.
- Writing for a Sustainable Future year 9 workshop, Bitterne Park School. Nov 9th 2021
- Ethical Consumer week 21st Oct 2021 7pm – 9pm: ‘Inspiring Green Behaviours’.
- Book Launch Habitat Man 22nd Oct 2021 6.30pm – 9pm. October Books, Southampton
- Self-Publishing Conference 23/24 Oct 2021 ‘Writing for a Cause: Do’s and Don’ts’.
- Irish Writers Centre Climate Writers Group. 6th Oct 2021 ‘Writing Climate Fiction’. Online 119.35 – 21.00
- World Forum on Climate Justice 22nd Sept 2021 ‘Inspiring Green Behaviours: How to Move beyond Preaching to the Converted’. Online 11.00 – 11.15
- Talk on ‘writing to change the world’ at the Writers Weekend 26th June 2021. There are four wonderful days of events and talks for writers 24-27 June including a talk by Denise Baden on writing to change the world – see https://writersweekend.uk/2021-programme/
- Green Stories Workshop –Writing about Nature and the Climate with Professor Denise Baden. 20th February 2021. This workshop will give tips on how to write to change the world. Sign up for the free event by clicking here
- Free Prize Giving Event, Regents University, London on 27th Jan 2020 7pm – 9.30pm.Talks by industry professionals, readings of winning entries and opportunity to network https://www.eventbrite.com/e/green-stories-prize-giving-event-tickets-86337641209
- A writer’s workshop, University of Southampton 1st/2nd Feb 2020. A writer’s workshop is being hosted by the judges to generate ideas – see https://store.southampton.ac.uk/conferences-and-events/southampton-business-school/events/green-stories-writing-workshop
- Book launch for ‘Resurrection Trust’ October Books, Southampton 28/3/2019. ‘Resurrection Trust’ is a collection of funny, dark, mad, bad, upbeat, downbeat and fantastical short stories about living sustainably from the University of Southampton’s Green Stories writing competition. From eco communities to singing buildings, and sharing economies, these stories showcase a myriad of different ideas about how humans can live more harmoniously with nature, and each other. Foreword by Caroline Lucas and review by Jonathan Porritt. Resurrection Trust is available from October Books, online from Amazon, or even better https://www.hive.co.uk/
- Writer’s workshop 19/20 January 2019 at University of Southampton.
Tips on how to write for a cause
Findings by Professor Denise Baden indicate that solution-focused stories with a positive tone are more likely to inspire greener behaviours and a proactive mindset to address sustainability issues than stories with a catastrophic focus. This seems to be because negatively framed stories can either make people avoid the subject and switch off, or leave them feeling helpless to make a difference. Example quotes relating to the various stories illustrate:
The positive stories were inspiring and made me realise everyone can make a difference.
I think the ones with solutions have more impact than the over the top scare mongering.
The second story felt inspirational. It gave me a simple option that I could take to do something positive for the environment.
This was very frightening and negative. It made me angry and I switched off
Scaring people only leads to switching off.
Psychology of behaviour
The theory of planned behaviour proposes that behaviour results from awareness, social norms and perceived behavioural control i.e. we know about an issue, see that other people approve of a behaviour and feel able to do it ourselves. Behavioural control also includes the belief that what we do makes a difference. Research indicates that social norms and feelings of behavioural control are the most important influencers of behaviour. That is, awareness of the benefits of a behaviour are not enough to lead to action – it is important that we feel the behaviour is approved of by people who matter to us and also that we are capable of carrying it out and it will have an effect. So knowing that recycling is a good thing is not enough. What really matters are social norms (i.e. those around us recycle and would disapprove of those who don’t) and ability to carry out the behaviour (i.e. recycling facilities are available, and it will make a difference to amount of waste).
You can use this insight to find ways not just to raise awareness, but to promote pro-environmental social norms and show readers how actions make a difference. So it is enough often just to show social approval of green behaviours or disapproval of harmful behaviours, or simply a positive role model.
Focusing on problems not solutions
Many writers still focus on problems not solutions. For example we had numerous entries on rain forest destruction for our writing competitions which is an issue everyone must surely be aware of, so raising awareness won’t necessarily help. What might help would be showing the link between rain forest destruction and meat, especially beef, or talking about where to source wood. If you want to change behaviour, it is not enough to show the consequences, you must also show solutions that the reader is likely to be able to engage with – few readers will be able to become eco-warriors and tie themselves to trees in Indonesia!
Preaching to the converted
It’s important to engage everyone in the fight to tackle climate change, and some people will switch off the moment environmental issues are raised. But most green solutions have numerous other benefits so the good news is that you can promote them subtly without mentioning their sustainability credentials at all. For example, seasonal food is much cheaper and healthy; washing clothes less often saves water, energy, money, time and extends the lifespan of fabric etc. Low resource products such as dry shampoo save money, time, energy, water, make hair easier to style, can be used anywhere – you don’t even need to mention the environmental credentials (93% of the carbon footprint of washing hair is in the hot water used).
The novel Habitat Man illustrates some of the techniques of writing to promote a cause.
‘Habitat Man’ is a fictional account of Tim, who finding himself fifty, single and in a job he hates, begins a quest to find love and meaning. As a result of a life-coaching session, Tim finds new purpose when he starts the Green Garden Project, which gives free advice on how to turn gardens into habitats for wildlife. His first client is the beautiful Lori and her teenage son Ethan, who loves wildlife just to kill it (along with all potential suitors). When digging for a pond for another client, Tim is shocked to find he’s inadvertently dug up the bones of the famed guerrilla knitter who mysteriously disappeared thirty years ago after achieving notoriety for covering a statue of a colonial imperialist with a knitted shroud. The conspiracy theories that surrounded her disappearance lead to this becoming news. Tim finds himself a key witness in an inquest to determine what really happened – was it really a natural death?
The book celebrates real local projects/organisations such as the Front Garden project, Transition group, guerrilla gardeners, Green Garden Consultancy, Natural Death Centre and others. Through Tim’s journey to confront the secrets from his past and his interaction with a wealth of characters, readers learn about seasonal/low carbon food, how to create habitats for wildlife, home composting, composting toilets, green funerals, roof gardens, green fashion, how to effectively campaign for green policies, the sharing economy, the merits of costing for nature (triple bottom line) accounting and others.
Many scenes take place in back gardens, but each garden has something to keep the reader hooked beyond the advice on wildlife gardening:
- In the gardens with the love interest, Lori, the readers are kept engaged by seeing the romance play out.
- In ‘the Polyamorist’ Tim talks about home composting, but the reader is waiting for Dawn the polyamorist to make a move.
- In the scenes with the wizard, Tim promotes the idea of a pond to attract frogs and bats, but the reader turns the pages in anticipation of some fun magic or wizardry.
- In Daisy, the Feng Shui gardener’s garden, the mystery of the body in the garden keeps the reader’s interest.
- Having a body enables a coffin and a burial, enabling the promotion of green funerals. An inquest into the death provides a natural opportunity for a witness from the Natural Death Centre to talk about greener options