New Approaches to Understanding Equitable Access to the Outdoors

Access to parks and open spaces is crucial for our physical and mental health. This has been
shown in study after study in recent years. But we know that access to nature and the
outdoors is not equitably distributed in the United States. That, too, has been shown in study
after study in recent years, at different spatial scales, from the neighborhood level to

We know that having access to neighborhood parks within walking distance — about a
half-mile or a 10-minute walk — is highly correlated with positive health outcomes. We also
know that access to neighborhood parks is inequitably distributed. We studied six states, in a
preliminary study that we hope to expand nationwide, and found that from 22% to 68% of the
residents in those states did not have a neighborhood park near their homes.
So we also wanted to see how many of those households had regional parks or open spaces
that they could visit within driving distance of their homes. We used the average distance of a
social or recreational trip from the National Household Travel Survey to measure this
distance. We were surprised to find that percentage was much, much greater than we had
imagined. From 98.5% to 99.9% of the residents in the six states we studied have regional
parks or open spaces within driving distance of their homes. And many have numerous to
choose from.

Why is this important? Read our report here. You’ll also find a link to our interactive website in the report.


The New West and the Politics of the Environment

A quiet, little-known revolution is taking place in American environmental politics in a most surprising place — Nevada. In this feature-length documentary, on which I was an executive producer, “Earth Focus” tells the story of Harry Reid, a politician who grew up in an Old West mining town, saw the possibility of a New West emerging in Nevada, and rode that change to power. Reid used power in new ways to settle water wars with respect for Native Americans, protect endangered species and wilderness, and usher in a just transition to renewable energy. Could this western green new deal set an example for the nation?


Stamen Design wins prestigious 2017 National Design Award for Interaction Design

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.

Read the full story here.


Our ‘Climate Lab’ video series on Vox

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:


A smarter way to pay for parks

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?

Read my op-ed in the Sacramento Bee.


The California Way: Sunny, with a Chance of Apocalypse

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.”


Imagining the Digital Future of The Public Historian

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.”