Stories to save the planet?

Each Scottish Islands has their own distinct culture. But something they all have in common is a rich history of storytelling. Folklore and stories about people, places, and events being passed down from one generation to another is very much part of Scottish Island tradition.

Earlier this year the Big Issue had an article about a Danish man Per Grankvist who says that “When it comes to climate change, storytelling is much more important than transmission of facts. Just bombarding people with facts doesn’t work, and neither does shaming people,”

Last year, Climate Change Message in a Bottle brought messages from young islanders around Scotland and the world to COP26. In 2022, for Scotland’s Year of Stories, the project is encouraging young islanders to get creative in writing stories of their carbon neutral island futures, set in 2040. A total of eighteen island schools, at both primary and secondary levels, across Scotland are participating. The project is supported and funded by the Scottish Government, Island Innovation, Youth Scotland and the Scottish Islands Federation.

Stories and artwork will be submitted by February 28th and their contents will be analysed in a report, to be released in March 2022. Two professional artists, Hannah Riordan and Melanie Grandidge, are being commissioned to produce a zine (16-page illustrated booklet) telling the story of a ‘climate friendly day in the life on a 2040 carbon neutral island’ based on the children’s responses. The zine will be distributed to youth and community hubs around the islands and will contain information on funding available for climate-related initiatives on islands in Scotland. It will also be available online with some of the illustrations appearing as GIFs.


Climate Change Message in a Bottle is also excited to announce the launch of its artwork competition! One piece of artwork designed by a participating young islander will be selected by public vote to appear on the cover of the Scottish Government’s Carbon Neutral Islands progress report. The report will be released in June 2022 and will detail the Scottish Government’s plans to fully support six islands in becoming carbon neutral by 2040. The vote for the winning piece of artwork will run from 2nd March until 21st March and can be accessed here.


Stories already submitted mention themes of local food growing; renewable energy; climate friendly transport services; litter and waste; active, public and shared transport; varied and sustainable jobs; and sustainable building materials. In the Climate Change Message in a Bottle report, stories will be analysed in relation to the 13 Strategic Objectives of the Scottish Government’s National Islands Plan. The stories and artwork themselves will be showcased in our online gallery, kindly hosted by Youth Scotland, from the beginning of March.


Young islanders’ stories will help to inform the future agenda of Youth Scotland’s newly established Young Islanders Network, which aims to help young people offer contributions to the delivery of the National Islands Plan, as well as to benefit from training opportunities and implement changes in their own communities.


While island futures remain uncertain in an era of climate change, storytelling allows young people – the first of the not-so-distant future generations – to make a carbon neutral future seem real, attainable, and possible. The arts are a powerful tool for forging narratives on the climate crisis, and young people’s and islanders’ voices must be given a central position in decision making.


To stay up to date with the Climate Change Message in a Bottle project and read the young islanders’ stories click here, or follow @cop26messagebottle on Instagram and @SCELG on Twitter. Climate Change Message in a Bottle is funded and supported by the Scottish Government, and collaborations with Island Innovation, Youth Scotland and Scottish Islands Federation.

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