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.”


Inside Ethnic and Community Media and the Environment

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.

Download the podcast for later (55.2 MB), or stream it right now below.