The musician, Sting, understands better than most the importance of narrative. His ‘Message in a Bottle’ song with The Police will be 40 next year. And whilst the original lyrics about loneliness and isolation are perhaps even more relevant in today’s digital world then they were in 1979, I can’t get that song out of my head or how its lyrics could be adapted to become a powerful voice from our salty sea friends.
Today is World Oceans Day. Environmental stories are notoriously difficult to tell, especially those that lack a human face. Sting also understands this. Long before superstars became vocal about environmental issues, Sting was out there, campaigning for the rainforest. He and his wife are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Rainforest Foundation this year. It’s a charity dedicated to rainforest preservation – one that has brilliantly given the forest both a voice and a human face by focusing on the rights and stories of its indigenous people.
We’ve heard a lot of facts about ocean plastics, sea temperature rises, coral reef die-off and overfishing. And these all matter but, to really connect and effect change, they must be told as part of the sea’s story. Sadly, washed-up sea creatures choked to death by plastic don’t make the best storytellers.
But what if instead of sad, sick, sea creatures, those from the ocean’s depths are sending us a powerful distress signal? What if they’ve taken our plastic bottles and are collectively throwing them back to be washed up on our shores? And what if each one contains its own message – to tell each of their stories? Because, whilst our ocean is drowning in plastic, we’re not drowning in the stories we need to save it. It makes for a powerful SOS. We’re being told that to save our own souls, as well as theirs, we must share these stories and act on them.
When Princess Diana died, her close friend, Elton John, re-wrote and re-recorded his ‘Candle in the Wind’ lyrics. ‘Goodbye England’s Rose’ raised £38 million for Diana’s charities. Perhaps to celebrate its 40th anniversary ‘Message in a Bottle’ could replicate that model to tell the ocean’s powerful story?
Sting’s a long-term environmental ambassador, a brilliant storyteller and has a personal connection to the sea, which he’s currently telling through his Tony nominated, debut musical, ‘The last ship’. It would be amazing to think ‘Message in a Bottle’ could be repurposed for its 40th anniversary next year but even without this, Sting and that song can inspire us to rethink.
If we each collect one plastic bottle from our shores and use it to share a story from the sea, we can give our ocean the powerful voice it deserves. And, given the power of storytelling, that might just be something to truly celebrate this World Ocean’s Day.
Alex is passionate about sustainability storytelling. She launched and led Kingfisher’s ‘Net Positive’ communications in 2012. She left the FTSE50 home improvement company in March 2017 to establish not A Duff word. She now helps businesses, brands and boards to wordsmith words that work, master their messages to matter and sculpt standout stories. Her blog ‘early words’ is published Thursday mornings at 07:00.
CREDIT: © Suncana Paro Vidolin / Greenpeace