The Staff Spotlight series features Earth Institute staff members from across the Morningside, Lamont and the Irving Medical Center campuses. The series is intended to highlight the important work our staff members do to keep the Earth Institute running smoothly and to support our mission of guiding the world onto more sustainable paths. These interviews discuss staff members’ careers, their interest in our institute, and insights that might be relatable and useful for the rest of us.
This month’s spotlight is on Jeremy Hinsdale, senior web producer on the Earth Institute communications team.
How did you connect with the Earth Institute?
My previous position was as the technical producer for the television program NOW on PBS. Produced by a team of top-notch journalists, NOW was a much-needed voice in the media landscape of the 2000s. When NOW’s run came to an end in 2010, I was determined to continue working for an organization that was making a positive impact on the world. I had heard good things about the Earth Institute, so when a position opened at EI, I quickly applied. Luckily it was my resume that tech guru Arif Noori pulled out of a large hat.
Strangely, soon after I was hired someone began pranking Mr. Noori’s desk whenever he went on vacation. One time Gumby and Pokey mischievously TP’ed his monitor while we was away. Perhaps this jackanapes will one day be caught red-handed, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
What makes your work fun and enjoyable?
It’s awe-inspiring to work at the intersection of cutting-edge science, education and practice. As part of the communications department, my job is to help translate the amazing breadth of Earth Institute research to the web, and I really enjoy working with researchers to create innovative, interactive, and data-driven visualizations and components. I’m always learning new things, whether about increasing heat and humidity, lead fallout from the Notre Dame fire, or rainwater harvesting in Mexico City.
And now for a shameless plug: I’m always on the lookout for interesting projects, data, and opportunities to collaborate. So don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can build something cool together!
Anything that stands out for you since you started working as a memory?
There are so many things! In 2012 I traveled to India to document the Columbia Water Center’s important work there. It was an eye-opening trip, and I could write a book about the few short weeks I spent there. If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, then perhaps my photo essay “India, Water, Culture” is the short version.
How do you anticipate our new normal to be?
I’m hopeful that we can emerge from the pandemic with some positive lessons and a new sense of purpose. The pandemic proved that we can cut carbon emissions worldwide without the collapse of civilization, that nations can work together to achieve common goals, and that some of the “old normal” ways of doing things just weren’t working. We humans are astoundingly clever, and there’s almost no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together. What excuses do we have for not doing our best to build a better future?
What are your hobbies?
I like riding and tinkering with bicycles, which I believe are one of humankind’s greatest inventions. Last year my digital artwork the consciousness generator was included in SciArt Magazine’s “algorithmic” issue. I think I’ve taken a few good photos over the years. Somehow I got interested in dinosaurs earlier this year, and after finding some nifty open-source data built the DinoMap. My next pet project involves “creepy puppets” as a friend likes to say, so watch out!
What’s next for you?
I’m excited to be a part of the new Columbia Climate School. The Climate School will bring together some of the brightest researchers, practitioners and students to tackle the most pressing challenges facing the planet. It’s clear that the time has come to take action on climate change and to protect our biosphere for the future. We’re standing at the foot of a formidable mountain, but we’re also about to take the next adventurous step into human history. Let’s begin the journey!