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.
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.
When Andy Revkin visited my class “Environmental Communications in the Anthropocene,” it was like a live window into the ongoing seminar that he conducts at the Dot Earth blog at The New York Times. He was responding live to critics — including Mark Ruffalo, aka the “Hulk,” pulling live links and examples from his own blog and other sources from around the web, and sharing stories about work in progress, including conversations and debates with readers around the world. To prepare for the class discussion, we read Andy’s recent posts and comments on Dot Earth, as well as an older post on Andy’s vision of and quest to be part of the expanding worldwide “knowosphere.”
Peter Kareiva, chief scientist and director of science at The Nature Conservancy, visited my class “Environmental Communications in the Anthropocene” to talk about the crucial intersections of conservation and communications, science and storytelling. Widely and often publishing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, Peter is also a lively and outspoken contributor to contemporary public debates about the future of conservation, ecology, development, and humanity. To prepare for the class discussion, we read Peter’s essay “Conservation in the Anthropocene: Beyond Solitude and Fragility” in Breakthrough Journal. For his full bio and publications, see The Nature Conservancy.