State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

How Storytelling Inspires Change

Carla Singson (center-right) and Charlotte Munson (right)
Carla Singson (center-right) and Charlotte Munson (right)

By Carla Singson and Charlotte Munson

From ocean plastic to climate change, science research has been essential to understanding the diverse range of environmental challenges we face. But how do we translate this scientific knowledge into impactful action? Increased collaboration between scientists, policy-makers, and the public is necessary to design and implement solutions that adequately tackle these complex challenges. Science communication is the bridge between these actors.

Environmental storytelling brings findings from the scientific community into the public sphere. Just as importantly, it injects human voices back into environmental discussions by highlighting human impacts and innovative ways in which society is responding. Planet Forward, a project of the Center for Innovative Media at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, is premised on the belief that stories have impact. Founded by Emmy award-winning journalist Frank Sesno, it “teaches, celebrates, and rewards environmental storytelling by college students.” Through funding from the Earth Institute, two students in the undergraduate program of sustainable development, Carla Singson (‘CC 20) and Charlotte Munson (‘GS 21), were able to attend the annual Planet Forward Summit in Washington, DC.

The conference showcased environmental storytelling at its prime. From a deeply moving presentation by National Geographic wildlife photographer Steve Winter to an impassioned call for transitioning to a plant-based diet by Marco Borges, these stories focused on solutions “pushing the planet forward.” The attendees also had the opportunity to speak with changemakers like Tom Szaky, founder of Terracycle, and like-minded students set on making their own mark. Notable practitioners taught breakaway sessions on skills like podcasting and education techniques. Despite its impressive roster, at the heart of the conference was a celebration of young writers. It culminated with the announcement of the Storyfest 2019 winners, whose stories can be accessed here.

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