Inspire Green Behaviors with Denise Baden, Part 2

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Inspire Green Behaviors with Denise Baden, Part 2 – How To Write the Future podcast, episode 75

“It seems like really the first step for writers is focus on the solution. Focus on what experts are saying, are doing, are thinking, are discussing, and then write toward that– the resolution.” – Beth Barany

In this episode of the “How To Write The Future” podcast, “What is Thrutopia with Denise Baden, part 2,” host Beth Barany discusses with Denise Baden, a professor of sustainable practice and Thrutopia writer, what will inspire new green behaviors and appeal to the mainstream audience including how to write stories and scripts that address sustainable topics. 

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Denise Baden is a Professor of Sustainable Practice at the University of Southampton, UK. She has published widely in the academic realm and also in fiction. Her eco-themed rom-com ‘Habitat Man’ was published in 2021, followed by ‘the Assassin’ and ‘No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save the Planet’ in 2022. Her most recent research explores the use of storytelling to promote green behaviours, looking at how readers respond to eco-themed stories. In 2018, Denise set up the Green Stories Writing project that challenges writers to embed green solutions in their stories via a series of free writing competitions. These are open to all, and 19 competitions have been run so far, which have resulted in several publications. Denise is listed on the Forbes list of Climate Leaders Changing the Film and TV industry and speaks regularly on how to write for a cause. Free 4-story mini-taster of ‘No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save Our Planet’ is available here:

More about Denise here:







About the How To Write the Future podcast 

The *How To Write The Future* podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers. We cover tips for fiction writers. This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

This podcast is for you if you have questions like:

– How do I create a believable world for my science fiction story?

– How do figure what’s not working if my story feels flat?

– How do I make my story more interesting and alive?

This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

Transcript for Episode 75 Inspire Green Behaviors with Denise Baden, Part 2

Hey everyone, welcome to How to Write the Future. I’m Beth Barany, your host, and this is a podcast where we talk about the future for science fiction and fantasy writers, because I believe that when we vision what is possible for all of us, for humanity, we help make it so through our stories.

So I’m really excited to have a special guest with me today, Denise Baden.

This is part two of my conversation with Denise, where I ask her the question: how do you go about writing stories and scripts that will inspire these new green behaviors and really appeal to the mainstream audience?

Part 2: On Behaviors that Will Inspire New Green Behaviors and Appeal to the Mainstream Audience 

That segues us perfectly to the third topic, which maybe we can dig in a little bit more, which is, how do you go about writing stories and scripts that will inspire these new green behaviors and really appeal to the mainstream audience?


Okay, so there’s a number of things. One is that first, you’ve got to know a little bit about the solutions themselves.

So I think if you’re taking it upon yourself to influence other people, first you should check out, what you’re talking about. And I say this to myself, I’ve made the mistake. I remember once waxing lyrical about sustainable palm oil until I looked into it and I realized actually it wasn’t.

Green Stories Project- Writing Competitions 

So a really good step there is – We did an anthology.

So I run the Green Stories Project. We’ve run about 20 free writing competitions across all kinds of formats, trying to encourage writers to write green solutions into their books, books mainly aimed at the mainstream.

And we’ve got a whole load of resources there to help.

For one of them, we actually teamed experienced writers with climate experts and we did an anthology of 24 stories called No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save Our Planet. It’s available everywhere. We also had it handed out at the last climate summit at COP 27 in Egypt.

And there’s quite a few stories there that showcase technical solutions, nature-based solutions, cultural solutions, political solutions. And there’s a couple that actually do exactly what you were hoping for, Beth, which is show how we get from A to B and what that looks like.

One of the first stories is Climate Gamers.

Now the first one is by Paolo Bacigalupi, you may have heard him, a great author. He wrote a lovely short story set in a futuristic society.

And the second one is Climate Gamers, where a load of gamers are encouraged to play a game, where they virtually get us to net zero. And it’s those who playing things like Civilization or those kinds of games, which are world-building games. And they all try different things to see what will work. And they try a mixture again of technical things, legal things, like giving nation status to the ocean, so it can protect its interests, to carbon drawdown projects, to oil rigs becoming reefs, to personal carbon allowances, citizens assemblies.

It’s all there. Political, economic, cultural.

Kim Stanley Robinson donated a couple of chapters relating to refreezing glaciers and green finance.

So there’s some great ideas there. And by having really good writers mixed with climate experts, the solutions are solid.

Some of them were already doing. They just need scaling up. Some of them are weak, we can’t do them yet, but give some investment and there’s potential there.

So, it’s a very great resource, I think, and a fun read, for writers who are thinking, what might the world look like?

How can I maybe be a bit more ambitious in my world-building and think about the cultural and economic and those kinds of factors, as well as just this technology or that technology?


Right. So it seems like really the first step for writers is focus on the solution. Focus on what experts are saying, are doing, are thinking, are discussing, and then write toward that– the resolution. It feels like it’s- could be built into the resolution of the story, but it also could be built in, like what you did with Habitat Man.

You had him have his interest in ecology and sustainable gardening when he was much younger. And so he’s first working on it as a side project. And he thinks the solution is through economics, through accounting. And then when that, Well, I don’t want to reveal the story too much, but I feel like you did a good job organically setting up the character so that he had a personal interest that would eventually, in a circuitous, wonderful storytelling way, lead to a solution that, that is very satisfying and felt very organic.

It didn’t feel like I was being shoehorned into the solution part of the story. It felt like, this is something that the character really cared about. And he had his own journey to get there in a way that was very wonderful. You felt great when you got there. So at least, in the short story, I haven’t read the entire novel. I read enough of the novel where he starts to walk into his new role as Habitat Man, and it was very wonderful.

And I also love the romance that you’re building up in there.


Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head, Beth, because my first draft was nothing like that. My first draft was one big preachy info dump, and I had to get it out my system.


Yeah. Yeah.


Before I could do better.


Mm hmm.


And then, I mean, show don’t tell is the mantra.

So I do a court case, because you’ve got a body, you’ve got a court case, I love a court case. No one wrote to me saying his speech in the court case inspired me about natural burial. But they did write about the scene where he’s engaged in one himself being inspiring.

So in Habitat Man, every time there’s a scene when you’re waiting for the romance to play out, he might be talking, oh, do you know your dog’s flea treatment and worming treatment also affects the ecology?

But really you’re watching the romance.


Yeah, yeah.


He goes to create a habitat for bats and frogs for the Wizard of Wollaston.

The reader’s waiting for a bit of fun magic. In the garden with the pond, the feng shui gardener’s pond, it turns out there’s a body. So there’s always something, you know. 

There’s a polyamorist and you’re waiting for her to make a move while he’s waxing lyrical about home composting.

So, you always have to have something to keep the reader engaged and it has to arise organically. And I use humor, I think, as a way to sweeten the information. I try and make it quite amusing. but it has to arise out of the character and their own needs and drives and desires.

So if you do want to create a world, you don’t necessarily have to say, Oh, in this world, people have carbon credits and that’s replaced currency. You can just have them paying with a carbon credit card, seeding that idea, or you could have them – Like my Murder In The Citizen’s Jury. It’s a lovely locked room environment. It’s actually perfect for a whodunit. So it seeds the idea without saying, do you know citizens assemblies are very good at this, that, and the other?


Yeah. Yeah. Right. You just show it. Right. Right.


Yeah. It’s very easy to become info-dumpy and preachy and maybe write it to get it out your system, then rewrite it.

Cut all that.


Yeah. Yeah. I hope it’s okay to say that the short story in the sampler about the kelp forest, I felt like I was in a lecture hall. I really wanted to be more in a story. I read a few pages. I’m like, okay, I feel like I’m in a lecture hall, but I wish the story had been turned around so I could have been more embedded inside of the character right away.

Maybe it gets there, but I love the idea of exploring what is a kelp forest and all the ways in which it’s grabbing carbon and all the ways in which it’s sustaining an environment and all these. Yeah, it was fascinating. So not to poke, but it is showing like there is a real difference between lecturing to the reader and showing them the possibilities that arise out of the character.

And of course, as the author, how are we going to get there? And I really feel it comes back to character.


Yeah, always. Yeah.


So as we wrap up today, and I would definitely love to have you back, Denise, to have more conversations because I think there’s definitely more to say here, but what are, is there any remarks that you’d like to conclude with, and anything that you would like to talk to writers and people who care about the future, any top of mind, tips to help them in their storytelling?


Okay. Well, George Orwell said all writers they want to change the world. And I think there is a bit of that as writers. You want to communicate your worldview. And so I think it’s a worthy thing to do. And sometimes I don’t think you need to go overboard. 

Anything that the character does reflects their attitude towards nature.

It either reflects a nurturing mindful attitude towards nature, or it reflects a mindless complicity in exploitation of the earth. And I think as long as you’re not doing that, the only reason I mention this, I got really annoyed the other day about something so simple that no one else would have minded about.

And it was on a TV program, it’s a standard procedural drama, and the overarching plot was this guy’s wife had disappeared 10 years ago. And this was a turning point. 

He decided to declare her dead and was taking his car to the car breakers, her car. 

And the car breaker said this has got hardly any miles on it. Don’t you want to resell it? It could be reused. And he’s like, no, I can’t bear it. And he was so like, Oh, I don’t want to see anyone driving my probably dead wife’s car, very emotional. But I thought, what about all the resources that went into that?

I picture the mining for the metals, the carbon footprint.

I’ve been agonizing over whether I could justify the embedded carbon in a new EV. 

And this is so mindless, destroying something that’s still functional. It really annoyed me. And I think if writers would just not do that if they’re going shopping for their new date, maybe it could be a thrift shop or a fashion swap.

It doesn’t have to be always new trope of shopping bags swinging against the legs, just slightly shift to a more mindful walk light upon the earth kind of idea. So that’s just my current gripe. You got me on that day when I just got annoyed by that.


Yeah, I love that though.

Yeah, because those little things. I have a radio personality that I follow and she’s been talking about clothing, high-end clothing swaps that a company will manage for you. It’s like a subscription service. And you could put that cool moment in a story where their subscription new clothes come and that they get to walk around in for a few weeks. And if they don’t like them, they can return them. And that way the clothing goes into a circular – nothing goes into the landfill.

If it didn’t quite work out, someone else can wear it, that it might work better for them. And you could just put that as the fun put-on-new clothes scene. And there you go. You’ve embedded a new idea.


It’s product placement, isn’t it? Yeah. That’s what I see. It’s product placement. So if you want to go for a drive, maybe it’s a drive-share app. So we’ve got loads in the UK: Drivey, High Car, where you can actually make a fortune lending your own car out. Or if you haven’t got one, you can borrow others. So you can product place these new apps and ways of doing things naturally within your story. As it’s just part of their going about their business, getting from A to B.


Absolutely. That scene of the man giving away or wanting his wife’s car, his possibly dead wife’s car, to be junked, that could have been rewritten where he gives it away.

Or there’s a secondary character who’s in need, who all of a sudden he has an aha, like, oh, maybe something good can come out of something tragic.

And here, sure, you need a car, I’ll give you my car. Or, that could have been built in as a little secondary moment, versus taking it to the car junk place.


It’s just thoughtless. Yeah. That’s all it is. It’s, it’s not bad. It’s just thoughtless. And I think we need to learn to be a little bit more thoughtful and just show, normalize, being thoughtful by just showing characters who are who –


– walk more lightly upon the earth.




That’s beautiful. Well, Denise, thank you so, so much. I really appreciate you coming on to How To Write The Future. And if people want to follow up with you and connect about your green writing contest or any of the other work you do, what’s the best place for them to find you?


So a really great resource is There’s all kinds of things there. 

There’s our hashtag climate characters project. There’s the latest writing competitions. There’s the publications that we’ve produced. And there’s all kinds of resources to help you embed these kinds of solutions into your stories, particularly the No More Fairy Tales one. We’ve got a really good website we designed for COP 27, but anyone can use it. 

Every story will link to the solutions that is incorporated in it, and then you can click on the solutions, and it will tell you more about them. So it’s a great resource if you want to do a bit of world-building.


Oh, that’s fabulous. I’m so excited to share that with everyone. Wonderful. I look forward to talking to you next time.


Thank you so much..

Well, thanks for having me, Beth. Take care. Take care. Bye bye.


All right, everyone. That’s it for now.

So write long and prosper.

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Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”

Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites: 

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