The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum announced today that Stamen Design is the winner of the 2017 National Design Award for Interaction Design. The highly regarded award is given annually to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in the design of interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services. Stamen Design is an independent San Francisco-based studio, defining the field of data visualization, digital map-making, and strategic communications. The National Design Award acknowledges the studio for the diversity and breadth of its portfolio of bold, public and private sector projects, which translate information and data at the intersection of technology, storytelling, and design.
The University of California’s Office of the President has launched ‘Climate Lab,’a video series produced in collaboration with Vox. So far the first two episodes have had more than 1 million views.
Why would a university attempt to produce a popular, journalistic video series on climate change?
I worked through our new Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies at UCLA with the UC Office of the President to help produce the series, after serving as senior editor of “Bending the Curve: Ten Scalable Solutions for Carbon Neutrality and Climate Stability,” a systemwide University of California report on climate change co-authored by 50 researchers as part of the UC pledge to become carbon neutral by 2025,
One of our main findings in “Bending the Curve,” in a chapter I co-authored, is that, so far, communication about climate change has largely failed. We know a lot about how and why it has failed. But we know very little about how to communicate successfully to lower the barriers for people taking action in their personal lives and collectively.
The gloom and doom of many documentaries is paralyzing.
And journalism has, alas, often failed because of the nature of journalism. We know that facts don’t change people’s minds.
That was the inspiration of the series: to experiment. We knew a few other things, too: We wanted it to be rigorous and factual, but irreverent, open-minded, and conversational. So we wanted to tell approachable stories, with humor, through frames and messengers that different audiences can relate to. We wanted to focus on solutions. And we wanted to be ecumenical. This is not just about research happening in the UC system, although we’re doing a lot. The sources come from all over.
And we wanted to lower the barrier for people to see a way forward to solutions for a problem too often perceived as too big, too far away, and too out of control for ordinary people to do anything about. The host of the series is M. Sanjayan, a popular science communicator who has done work for PBS, National Geographic, the BBC and many others, and who is now a visiting researcher at LENS.
Read more about the series here: https://www.ioes.ucla.edu/article/experts-come-surprising-solutions-climate-change-new-ucvox-video-series/.
In California, we often pass multibillion-dollar environmental bonds and don’t look back at who benefited from the spending. But what if we could look back and learn? And then make smarter investments in the future?
At UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, we did a systematic analysis of spending under Proposition 84, the last major environmental bond approved by California voters, which in 2006 authorized $5.4 billion to improve parks, natural resource protection, and water quality, supply and safety. Most of that money has been spent. And for the first time ever, we have good enough data to ask some crucial questions.
Where was that funding spent? Who benefited? And was the spending prioritized as voters expected?
California Gov. Jerry Brown has found a sweet spot in climate-change communication. His genius is combining what seem on the surface to be two irreconcilable rhetorical strategies: a fateful doom and gloom, on the one hand, and sunny, pragmatic optimism on the other. Scientists, advocates and other politicians should take note. This could save the world, the California way.
Read my op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle on “Earth Today / Earth 2050.”
Parks Forward—a blue-ribbon commission studying the troubled California State Parks system—is proposing a surprisingly bold vision for the future of parks in California: a brand-new privately and publicly funded organization to do what the state parks agency cannot do. Read my op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The digital revolution is transforming research, exhibition, writing, review, participatory public engagement, and every other aspect of public history. I recently joined a conversation with five other scholars discussing the influence of these changes and what the internet age affords The Public Historian, the journal of record in the field of public history. Download a PDF of “Imagining the Digital Future of The Public Historian.”
Sandy Close is the founder and director of New America Media, an organization for more than 3,000 ethnic and community newspapers, radio and television stations, magazines, and online news sources. Sandy’s visit to my class “Environmental Communications in the Anthropocene” gave students an inside view of the needs and ambitions of media that serve a large proportion of the public but remain largely off the radar screen for environmental and science communications. To prepare for the class discussion, Sandy asked the students to check out the New America Media web site to get a sense of the environment and science stories ethnic and community media cover and that interest their audiences.
Jamie Henn is one of the founders and the communications director of 350.org, arguably the most successful environmental communications campaign of our times. 350.org was started by Jamie and classmates at Middlebury College along with writer Bill McKibben. So Jamie’s visit to my class “Environmental Communications in the Anthropocene” gave students a view of what they might do, with some dedicated friends, some astute use of social media, storytelling, PR, and theatrics — plus a compelling global cause, and thousands of passionate allies worldwide. To prepare for the class discussion, Jamie asked the students to check out the 350.org web site and Facebook page to get a sense of their approach, the language they use, and the content they share. He also recommended two articles about 350.org, one in the Huffington Post and the other in Outside magazine. And finally, he recommended a slideshow in Upworthy as “the best presentation on what makes for good social media content that I’ve seen in a while.”
Tim De Chant’s visit to my class “Environmental Communications in the Anthropocene” was an inspiration to students who, like Tim, have come of age in a new media landscape. Tim has made his own way in this new landscape after earning a PhD in Environmental Science, Management and Policy at UC Berkeley by starting his own groundbreaking blog Per Square Mile, learning the ropes of web production, content management, editing and publishing while working at the Kellogg School of Management, and then landing a position as the senior digital editor at the leading science program on television NOVA on PBS, where he was preparing to launch “NOVA Next,” even as he spoke to our class.
Going on nearly a decade as the national environmental correspondent at The New York Times, Felicity Barringer visited my class “Environmental Communications in the Anthropocene” to share hard-won insights and stories from the field. She shared some of the watchwords that guide her work: empathy, science, and trust. To prepare for the conversation, we read Felicity’s reporting on the controversy surrounding the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Point Reyes National Seashore here and here.