Tube to Work Day 2019 is Tardy, but Still Totally Tubular

by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Science Writer

Every year, hundreds of people participate in Boulder’s Tube to Work Day, an event for which Boulder Creek is flooded with people ostensibly commuting to work by inflatable device. It’s a yearly extravaganza only made possible by enthusiastic volunteers, a sense of adventure on the part of everyone participating, and an accurate knowledge of streamflow. 

Steamflow is the amount of water flowing in any river or creek—in this case, Boulder Creek—at a given time. It varies enormously based on the amount of rainfall and snowmelt that are adding to the water supply, and sometimes this variation can be unpredictable.

In a prime example of how unpredictable streamflow can mess with even the best-laid plans, this year’s Tube to Work Day (the twelfth annual event) was delayed by a week due to high flows. According to Jeff Kagan, one of the founders and organizers of Tube to Work Day, the ideal streamflow for Tube to Work Day is between 150-200 cubic feet per second. This speed ensures that the water isn’t dangerously high and fast, while still providing a good time.

Jeff Kagan, co-founder of Tube to Work Day’s founders and organizers in 2018.

Kagan has said in the past that if the streamflow is ever over 300 cubic feet per second on Tube to Work Day, the event will be postponed. The U.S. Geological Survey site reported that Boulder Creek was about 660 cubic feet per second on July 2nd, about a week before the event was originally scheduled to take place. As a result, the event was postponed to make sure the creek wasn’t dangerously high.

“We were looking on track through early May, and then we just had a very strange spring and early summer… Right around July 5th I saw the streamflow climb to a record high for that date,” said Kagan. “Knowing that our event was scheduled one week later, it was a pretty easy call to just say ‘we’re going to postpone.’”

Kagan then had to choose a date to postpone until, knowing that it would be hard to exactly predict what Boulder Creek was up to so far in advance (This year’s TTWD is Friday, July 19). Luckily, the research he did with the help of other Boulderites panned out.

“We consulted with the city events manager, the Boulder water resource department, and a water hydrologist up at Betasso,” said Kagan. “I think we chose a good date. The water is still a little higher than anticipated, but it has come down to a much more manageable level.”

Figuring out if and when it’s safe to go tubing isn’t the only reason you might need to know about streamflow, however. Streamflow data allows fly fishermen to choose times and places to cast lines. The data is also used to validate flood models and improve flood forecasts. For both recreation and safety, having accurate information about how much water is flowing in Boulder Creek can be very important.

CSTPR Director, Max Boykoff, participating in 2018’s Tube to Work Day.

One way to find this information is to use the online resource “Rocky Mountains-High Plains Climate Dashboard”, hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Western Water Assessment. From there, you can find multiple resources that have information about streamflow, temperature, snowpack and drought in the Rocky Mountains. The streamflow information is part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Information System, which collects data from river sites around the country every 15-60 minutes. The data is collected by automatic recorders and manual field measurements and is sent to USGS offices via satellite, telephone, and radio telemetry—quite the data collection feat.

But for everyone coming to Tube to Work Day this Friday, Jeff Kagan has done the work for you—the water will be tube-able, even if it’s quite fast.

“Anyone coming to float—it is not a lazy river, this is not a passive float,” warned Kagan. “There are always a percentage of people who come expecting a chill float, and this is more of a modified white-water experience.”

As Kagan further stressed, everyone should be prepared on Friday with a helmet, close-toed shoes, and a wetsuit. Also, a waiver is mandatory! So if you want to save some time, you should preregister online. But as soon as you’ve done that, the streamflow is yours to measure: if by “measure”, you mean “float rapidly downstream on in the midst of hundreds of enthusiastic commuters.” Have fun!

Tube to Work Day Pre-Registration closes at 10pm on Thursday, July 18. Missed the “boat?” Come to Eben G. Fine b 7:45am on July 19 to sign your day-of waiver.

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Just Released: Creative (Climate) Communications

Creative (Climate) Communications: Productive Pathways for Science, Policy and Society
by Maxwell Boykoff

Cambridge University Press, 2019

Conversations about climate change at the science-policy interface and in our lives have been stuck for some time. This handbook integrates lessons from the social sciences and humanities to more effectively make connections through issues, people, and things that everyday citizens care about. Readers will come away with an enhanced understanding that there is no ‘silver bullet’ to communications about climate change; instead, a ‘silver buckshot’ approach is needed, where strategies effectively reach different audiences in different contexts. This tactic can then significantly improve efforts that seek meaningful, substantive, and sustained responses to contemporary climate challenges. It can also help to effectively recapture a common or middle ground on climate change in the public arena. Readers will come away with ideas on how to harness creativity to better understand what kinds of communications work where, when, why, and under what conditions in the twenty-first century. Read more …

“When it comes to science communication, no topic is more fraught with politics and pitfalls than climate change. Max Boykoff deftly navigates the minefield of climate communication by providing a range of informed perspectives and insights into how to communicate the science and its implications. Creative (Climate) Communications is a great resource for practitioners and novices alike.”
Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor, Penn State University and co-author of The Madhouse Effect

“The world failure to act on climate change is not primarily the result of a failure to communicate. But ineffective communication does make it easier for denial and disinformation to reign. This important book helps us to understand what works and what doesn’t work in climate communication, and why. A must-read for anyone involved in this issue.”
Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University

“I appreciate the intent of this book: to make “a creative shift from ‘turning on each other’ to ‘turning to each other’ for support and collaboration.” Nothing short of that will be needed to get through the climate crisis. This is a book that makes real and practical the “cultural turn” in climate communications and asks us to tap our oldest and most unique human capacities to do so: our emotions and our imagination to connect with each other and make sense of the transformative journey we have embarked upon. In doing so, it implores us to be authentic, ambitious, accurate, imaginative and bold in climate communications and this book is just that. A great accomplishment!”
Susanne Moser, independent scholar and consultant

“Effective climate communication is an emerging area that has lacked an authoritative text – until now! This innovative, accessible book unites cutting-edge theory with practice. It synthesizes the peer-reviewed literature, existing approaches to effective climate communication, and representations of climate change in the media. If you’re looking to be informed by the latest theory, research, and practice in climate engagement and outreach, this is a must-read.”
Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University

“With this book Boykoff splendidly articulates the creative thinking and approaches necessary to find common ground and move forward in our engagement with climate change. In an exemplary and engaging style of writing, Boykoff moves with elegant ease and superb scholarly insight through a wealth of research, comment and opinion to interrogate the growing body of knowledge on the successes, failures and challenges of climate change communication. And he proceeds – with an
admirable command of contemporary, historical and philosophical context – to offer clear and optimistic guidance on promising pathways to effective engagement on climate change.”
Anders Hansen, University of Leicester

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MeCCO Monthly Summary: Rights to Life, Liberty, Property, and Public Trust Resources

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
June 2019 Summary

June media attention to climate change and global warming roughly doubled from June 2018, while trending slightly lower (-9%) from high levels in May 2019.

At the country level, coverage was notably up in Spain (+8%), Sweden (+8%), India (+67%) and through international wire services (+8%) as well as global radio segments (+26%) in June.

Figure 1 shows trends in newspaper media coverage at the global scale – organized into seven geographical regions around the world – from January 2004 through June 2019.

The increase of 67% from the previous month in Indian media coverage of climate change – across The HinduThe Times of IndiaThe Indian Express and the Hindustan Times – can be attributed in part to record-breaking and sustained heat waves across the country in June, with temperatures peaking at 45.6 degrees Celsius or 114.08°F in New Delhi. For example, journalist Jacob Koshny from The Hindu reported, “critical groundwater resources, which accounted for 40% of India’s water supply, are being depleted at ‘unsustainable’ rates and up to 70% of India’s water supply is ‘contaminated’”. Furthermore, an editorial from Hindustan Times noted, “India, in any case, is facing the worst water crisis in its history. According to NITI Aayog, by 2020, 100 million will be affected by a shortage of groundwater in 21 Indian cities. And about 40% of the population will have no access to drinking water by 2030. It’s not too difficult to discern why India is facing such an acute crisis. A report released by McGill University and Utrecht University blames irrigation techniques, industrial and residential habits combined with climate change for this problem”. Stories of severe heat compounding existing drought and water scarcity issues throughout India (and particularly in Northern India) provided news hooks for media stories. Also, stories of declining water levels in the India, Ganga and Brahmaputra basins, partly attributed to the rapid retreat of the Himalayan glaciers feeding these river basins generated media attention in India. And the impacts of heat waves on energy demands, particularly in cities, drove increased coverage.  

In addition, United States (US) media coverage increased in June: coverage in the US was up 5% in print media and nearly 47% on television compared to the previous month. When this increase across outlets is disaggregated, one can detect a slightly different set of trends (see Figure 3). These show that in fact most of these increases are due to increased coverage at The New York Times followed by increases at The Washington Post in print, and on CNNFox News and MSNBC in television, coverage. In fact, these increases across US media coverage of climate change in recent months are occurring in spite of rather than because of more abundant coverage in the leading US network news organizations – ABC NewsCBS NewsNBC News, and PBS Newshour* – along with US prestige press outlets – The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

For example, one day in the print edition of The New York Times – Wednesday, June 5 – nearly outpaced coverage across the entire month in The Wall Street Journal (which carried a total of 11 stories in June). Stories on that day addressed issues associated with climate change including ‘Biden’s Plan for Climate Action Goes Beyond Obama’s Goals’ on the front page above the fold, international news of the Danish elections and how “climate and immigration fuel the divide” (page A5), news of protests in London to US President Trump’s visit, with mention by journalist Ceylan Yeginsu of one placard on the street reading ‘climate change is real, your tan is not’ (page A6), a story about climate change motivating France to end the disposal of $900 million in unsold goods each year (page A8), coverage of an ongoing US federal court case regarding whether young people have a constitutional right to be protected from climate change (page A10), a story by reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis on research into avoided deaths associated with climate mitigation and adaptation commitments in line with the Paris Agreement (page A20), a Nicholas Kristof op-ed addressing the role of climate change in migration patterns (page A26), and story by journalist Brad Plumer entitled ‘Companies Expect to Feel Climate Change’s Bite in 5 years’ (page B4). Read more …

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Communicating Climate Change Effectively and Creatively

fifteeneightyfour, Academic Perspective from Cambridge University Press
by Max Boykoff

Lately, climate change has been unmistakably present in the public sphere. An evident swirl of extreme events linked to changes in the climate, new scientific research on climate change, Youth Climate Strikes, Extinction Rebellion actions, a New Green Deal, and United States Democratic Presidential nominees’ climate action plans have all contributed.

Yet, conversations about climate change have remained stuck.

Consequently, there has been an urgent need to ‘smarten up’ communications about climate change in order to find common ground at the intersections of science, policy and society.

With that in mind, I wrote ‘Creative (Climate) Communications’ to provide a handbook that bridges sectors and audiences to meet people where they are on this critical 21st century challenge.

The book works to integrate lessons from social science and humanities research and practices. It appraises how we can harness creativity to better understand what works where, when, why and under what conditions. The book then seeks to effectively make connections between climate change and other pressing issues that everyday people care about.

In the book, I argue that ‘smartening up’ involves processes of listening and adapting rather than winning an argument or talking people into something. I posit that careful approaches informed by social sciences and humanities scholarship provide space and perspective for more authentic participatory engagement in the public sphere. As a result, I assert that these approaches then can more effectively re-capture what may be seen to be a ‘missing middle ground’ on climate change in the public arena.

Together, a ‘smartened up’ approach can help to productively and effectively shape the spectrum of possibility for meaningful, substantive and sustained responses to contemporary climate challenges.

Many parts of the book also reveal that I am not only a researcher but I am also a participant in experimentation, mainly through the Inside the Greenhouse (ITG) project at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) where I’m on faculty.

With Professor Beth Osnes from the Theatre Department, Professor Rebecca Safran from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Professor Phaedra Pezzullo from the Department of Communication, we work through ITG to facilitate and support creative storytelling about issues surrounding climate change through video, theatre, dance, comedy, and writing. We engage youth, front-line communities and decision-makers in order to help connect wider and new audiences to climate change in resonant and meaningful ways.

The project has sought to create cultures of participation and productive collaboration among students at CU Boulder and larger communities in retelling the stories of climate change and to become meaningful and sustaining content producers.

The chosen title of the Inside the Greenhouse initiative acknowledges that, to varying degrees, we are all implicated in, part of, and responsible for greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Through the development and experimentation with creative modes to communication, we treat this ‘greenhouse’ as a living laboratory, an intentional place for growing new ideas and evaluating possibilities to confront climate change through a range of mitigation and adaptation strategies. ITG offers direct links between the natural and social sciences and arts to communicate, imagine and work toward a more resilient and sustainable future.

Ultimately, through this systematic and big-picture work through research and practice, I hope we will continue to better understand that a ‘silver buckshot’ approach (of many different approaches are needed to reach different audiences in different contexts) accompanied by more mindful and wise strategies will significantly improve creative climate communication efforts going forward. I hope my book will empower, excite and inspire you.

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CSTPR 2018 Annual Report

January 1 – December 31, 2018
Full Annual Report [pdf]

The Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) was initiated within the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the summer of 2001 and was recognized as an official University center in the summer of 2002 to conduct research, education, and outreach at the interface of science, technology, and the needs of decision makers in public and private settings. Our long-term vision is to “serve as a resource for science and technology decision makers and those providing the education of future decision makers.” Our mission is to improve how science and technology policies address societal needs, including research, education and service.

The following report includes CSTPR highlights from 2018 as well as a complete list of activities. Also included are selected activities of CSTPR faculty affiliates as an indication (not exhaustive accounting) of what those affiliates engage in.

Looking across the past calendar year 2018, I am proud that we here in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) have been working mindfully and effectively to help confront these urgent and opportune times at the intersections of science, technology, policy, culture and society. As one of four centers in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, through research conducted by members of our CSTPR community, we have continued to productively inform connections between and among these pressing, critical and interdisciplinary spaces.

Among highlights you’ll read in our 2018 Annual Report, I point out three particular bright spots:

  • in Fall 2018, we welcomed Dr. Matt Burgess to CSTPR: Matt has taken up a role as CSTPR Core Faculty along with his responsibilities as CIRES Fellow and Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies and Economics; Matt brings energy and strengths to investigations of global sustainability and relations with species conservation as well as natural resource management (see pages 7-8 for more)
  • in 2018 we graduated six students associated with CSTPR (three PhD students, two Master’s students and one undergraduate student): their successful matriculation (and next chapters in the workforce) show our ongoing traditions and commitments of training the next generation of science-policy scholars and practitioners (see pages 21-24 for more)
  • integrated research projects continued to grow and thrive in CSTPR in 2018 (see pages 11-18 for more), these projects cut across themes of Drivers of Risk Management Decisions, Innovations in Governance and Sustainability, and Science and Technology Policy that we have prioritized through strategic planning over the past few years

Over the past sixteen years or so as a Center, we have cultivated a dynamic terrain of engagement. Among our activities and accomplishments, we have published over four hundred peer-reviewed articles, nearly another four hundred other reports and publications, and we have generated over $14 million in funding. We also have been referenced in the media over 1,600 times while we have delivered over 800 talks in the state of Colorado, around the country and throughout the world. Now in 2019, we recognize that the arenas of Science and Technology Policy Research have continued to develop from our initial beginnings as a Center. We – as a community of core faculty, affiliates, students, and staff – continue to nimbly and ambitiously shape and adapt to these changes as we rigorously deploy both ‘the hatchet’ as critique and ‘the seed’ as emancipatory research to trigger innovations and improvements in our confrontations at the human-environment interface.

As we continue to invest in our collective futures, we welcome you to engage with us through a number of touch points described in the report that follows.

Max Boykoff, Director
Annual Report [pdf]

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An Interview with Dr. Cassandra Brooks

Nature, June 2019

Cassandra Brooks is an Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. She was recently selected as one of the science faculty on an upcoming #TeamHB4 #WomenInSTEMM leadership initiative in Antarctica.

Please tell us about your research interests. Consumption, overexploitation, and the resulting environmental degradation threaten the long-term vitality of the resources upon which human societies depend. Based on hundreds of case studies, we know that human communities have the capacity to conserve their resources, particularly at the small to medium scale. Moreover, several conditions or processes have been shown to facilitate sound, equitable management of common pool resources.  Despite such numerous local yet spatially constrained examples, how do we scale up these conceptual frameworks to apply to the global commons? Recognizing there are no panaceas, what are some of the essential socio-ecological conditions required for conserving our global commons? My research is driven by a desire to study and devise potential solutions for collective action to address environmental dilemmas. These issues are inherently interdisciplinary, and with my advanced degrees in Marine Science, Science Communications, and Environment and Resources, I draw from a diversity of fields and disciplines – including environmental governance, international relations, policy, law, conservation biology, and economics. By creatively using the most appropriate methodologies – both qualitative and quantitative – I  compile and apply diverse datasets to address a suite of complex issues surrounding policy and management of global international commons.

I have a fierce passion for Antarctica, with the last fifteen years of my career focused on marine science and conservation in the region, especially marine protected areas (MPAs). I’ve participated in five Antarctic research cruises, studying diverse components of the ecosystem, from phytoplankton and krill to finfish and mammals. I’ve published on the life history of Antarctic toothfish—the top fish predator in the Southern Ocean that supports a lucrative international fishery. I’ve also been involved in extensive media projects, including the Last Ocean, in which we produced an award-winning documentary and a highly regarded book about the Ross Sea, Antarctica. I’ve been lead author on multiple MPA policy reports which focused on identifying key areas for inclusion in a representative network of Southern Ocean MPAs. I’ve also authored more than 150 popular articles, op-eds, book chapters, blogs and websites, many focused on Antarctic science and conservation. Most importantly for my work at the science-policy interface, I’ve spent the last eight years studying the process for adopting Antarctic MPAs. This work was the foundation for PhD at Stanford University and, along with my media and outreach work, helped drive the adoption of the world’s largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea, Antarctica – one of healthiest and most productive marine ecosystems left on Earth.

I see that your education is in biology and marine science, but you also have worked quite a bit in science communications and policy outreach. What has your journey been to this point? I am an intensely curious person with a passion for the environment, especially the ocean, which drove me to pursue science. For me, a career in science has been a life of endlessly turning over rocks to discover, with delight, what lives underneath. Yet I was never satisfied with the scientific process in isolation. I wanted to show and teach the public about the beauty of the natural world. Even more so, as I learned that everything I loved and studied – from my back yard in New England to the reaches of Antarctica – was immensely threatened, I was desperate to drive conservation solutions.

My journey has centered around science, outreach and policy – often working within these worlds simultaneously. I completed a BS in Biology at Bates College in Maine and during that time I worked in labs across campus while completing a summer Environmental Education internship at the New England Aquarium. I also spent a summer at Shoals marine lab and conducting summer research at the Mount Desert Biological Lab and Virginia Institute of Marine Science. After college I spent three years working in Environmental Education as a wilderness therapy guide working across the United States for Outward Bound, Summit Achievement and Naturalists at Large. In the midst of these largely seasonal jobs, I also toiled as a federal fisheries observer on New England groundfish boats. Seeing how poorly managed fisheries are, particularly deep-sea fisheries drove me to return to school for a masters in Marine Science at Moss Landing Marine Labs in California. There I studied the life history of Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish (sold as Chilean Sea Bass). The research itself was a direct call from managers within the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR – the international body that governs the waters around Antarctica) to gain more life history information on these species which were supporting a growing commercial fishery in the Antarctic.

I’ll never forget my first research trip to Antarctica in 2005. The wind whipping across from the icy Antarctic continent, icebergs scattering the horizon and me donning a thick orange coat to brace the elements. I remember finishing a 12-hour shift on deck sampling Antarctic fish, including the Antarctic toothfish, the top fish predator of the Southern Ocean. I watched as night fell and unfamiliar stars peppered the thick dark sky. I remember hearing a brisk exhale off the side of the boat and the wet scent of krill hitting my face. I peered to see a humpback whale breaking the surface, swimming in parallel just a few feet from our vessel. I had never felt so alive, so small and so inspired and humbled. Nor have I ever felt such a visceral compulsion to protect a place.

I had worked in and studied fisheries for many years of my adult life, but only when I made the exhaustive trek into the ice-choked waters around Antarctica did I realize the severity of the problem. It was hard to believe that fishermen would travel so far – into the most treacherous waters on Earth – in search of fish. But then I remembered scrambling on the deck of New England groundfish boats as a fisheries observer, gathering measurements from the pathetically small catch, while fishermen relayed stories of hauling in cod larger than me. We have depleted our fisheries closest to home and have had to cast our lines ever deeper and further to find new fish stocks, but we now have nowhere else to go. The Antarctic toothfish that I was studying supports the Earth’s most remote fishery. And the more I studied, the more obvious it became that this species, like most deep-sea fish, was incredibly vulnerable to overexploitation.

In 2008, I stood before my master’s defense committee making a case for a Ross Sea marine protected area (MPA). Current management allowed fishing on their purported spawning grounds and didn’t take into account the overall impact on the greater Ross Sea ecosystem. A marine reserve, which excluded fishing from critical life history areas, seemed an obvious solution. But my committee scoffed at the idea. As an international space, an MPA in the Antarctic would require the consensus of more than two-dozen nations – a seemingly impossible feat. What my professors didn’t know (and what I would later learn) was that closed-door discussions were already underway developing plans for a network of MPAs across the Southern Ocean.

Later that year, I received a call from a prominent conservation photographer, “We need to talk about toothfish,” he said. He, along with a renowned Antarctic scientist, had been partially responsible for jumpstarting the MPA discussions within CCAMLR, particularly around the Ross Sea, a region deemed by many to be the last intact marine ecosystem left on the planet. They wanted my help in pushing the MPAs forward. I jumped on board their grand outreach effort, which we called The Last Ocean. We worked to generate the support of hundreds of scientists, developed an in-depth website, published academic and popular articles, a critically acclaimed book, created curriculum for school children, and traveled to New Zealand (where the largest Antarctic toothfish fishery is based) to help produce an award winning documentary film. Working with environmental non-profits from all over the world, we generated policy reports, translating complex Antarctic science into policy recommendations. Then we worked to put it all before the decision-makers at CCAMLR. By 2012, a Ross Sea MPA, what I had been told was impossible, was actually on the table of CCAMLR.

By then, I was beginning to realize that good science and effective media were not sufficient to generate sound policy, and I returned to school for a PhD at Stanford University to study the Southern Ocean MPA policy process directly. I gained access to high-level international policy meetings, approaching the research as a case study. I gained expertise in qualitative methods, international relations, environmental governance, economics and the science-policy interface. I analyzed a policy process as it unfolded in real time and learned to appreciate the complex suite of factors that drive policy development and implementation including the role of science, the influence of media, the constraints of state interests, and the power of industry. My grounding in science has also allowed me to analyze the extent to which the policies being proposed would reach their stated management and conservation goals.

In late October of 2016, just three weeks before I defended my PhD, I witnessed what many had said was impossible – the adoption of an extensive 1.55 million km-2 MPA in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. This moment changed my life. Conservation – even at immense international scales is possible. This feat cannot be understated. It was the culmination of the dogged efforts of hundreds of scientists, thousands of conservationists, and millions of global citizens over the course of more than a decade. We took one of our most productive and healthy stretches of ocean and protected it for the future. In my current research, I continue to study the MPA process in the Southern Ocean. As a global community, we have so much to learn from the case of the Ross Sea. And we have so many other areas of the world in critical need of protection.

Can you speak to any challenges that you had to overcome? Being an interdisciplinary scientist has been an immense challenge. I have struggled at times to define who I am, to describe my work and to find my place in the professional world. I have had professionals tell me: “you are not an expert” when I tried to put my own voice out in the world. Getting a PhD helped establish me as an expert, but in what? I surprise my colleagues by continuing to publish on quantitative fish life history, while also publishing qualitative case studies on Antarctic governance or commentaries on the science-policy process. I continue to publish popular articles on a variety of environmental and science blogs. I work in marine conservation and environmental governance. To do so, I am a marine scientist, a policy expert, a social scientist, a conservationist and a communicator. Our global environmental problems span all disciplinary and political boundaries; our solutions, research, and professional activities must as well.

What advice would you give your younger self? I grew up in a small town in rural New England with a large family and nature as my playground which was a profoundly wonderful experience. I had so much energy and passion, but was a bit scattered. Like many young professional women, I had no confidence. I wanted to do great things in the world, but I didn’t believe I necessarily would. Somewhere in my mid-thirties (and in my PhD) I finally felt strong and confident enough to speak up for myself and really put my voice out in the world. The advice I wish I could give my younger self – and really all young women professionals coming up in the world – is to follow your passion and believe your voice matters. We all have unique perspectives and experiences to offer the world. Integrity is more important than expertise. We need you out there fighting for your future and future generations.

What are your predictions for your field in the near future (e.g., are there some really pressing questions that need to be addressed)? The future predications about environmental resources and biodiversity, including in the marine realm and Antarctica is dire. We certainly need continued research on our marine systems, including in the Antarctic. Our global community can learn from studies on best practices for conservation and sustainable use across scales and resources (for example the case of the Ross Sea). What drives communities to conserve rather than overexploit? How can we, as a global community, stop the degradation of the earth systems? How can we more intimately understand our visceral dependence on these natural systems? How can we see ourselves as part of, rather than in dominance of, the natural world?

Our survival depends ultimately not on conducting more research, but on human action, immediately. I believe we have a lot to learn from E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth Project which demands that we must protect at least half of the Earth’s biosphere so conserve global biodiversity, which Wilson insists is necessary for our own human survival. My hope is that we, as professional scientists, listen to and support wise elders like Wilson and the future generation, like Greta Thunberg. My experiences in the Antarctic, especially after witnessing the grand protection of the Ross Sea, have shown me that diverse communities can come together to make decisions that benefit the future. I truly believe, we as a global community, can do the same and can prevent the loss of global biodiversity, the degradation of the biosphere and halt climate change. We cannot afford not to.   

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Science Struggling Against Fake News and Fact Deniers

University World News

Flat Earth theories. Anti-vaccination conspiracies. Climate change denials. Such deeply held beliefs are impeding the job of unveiling and spreading verifiable truths, according to speakers at the international Worldviews on Media and Higher Education Conference in Toronto, Canada.

Educators and journalists who made up a panel on “Scientific research, ‘post-truth’ and fake news: What’s next?” warned of incessant efforts to deny the truth and also actively manipulate it with falsehoods.

Moderator Ivan Semeniuk, science correspondent for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, told the audience that scientific conspiracies are nothing new, but they have more currency today in the public realm than ever before.

“Something has changed, something significant,” said Semeniuk, reflecting on a professional career as a journalist that goes back to the 1980s. “And it’s having a huge impact on how we do our business, the business of bringing knowledge to light.”

Sandra Quinn, professor and chair at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in the United States, has watched the anti-vaccination movement’s activities and explained to the audience that she and other observers see two different types of activity. 

“Misinformation is simply false or misleading, and it can happen accidentally,” she said, such as when medical rumours or second-hand accounts are passed around between friends on social media. 

On the other hand, “disinformation is literally that deliberate attempt to mislead someone”, and is a bigger concern to the health sciences community. This includes fake news sites that promote the anti-vax agenda, and which look like legitimate media sites but fail to ask the critical journalistic questions of who, when, where, what and why.

Quinn spoke of such concerted efforts that were developed by the tobacco industry decades ago and are continued today by interested groups and individuals to deliberately undermine science by questioning the motives of scientists and the authenticity of their results. This has sowed confusion among the public, who may not know which sources are trustworthy.

Healthy scepticism

“Scientists are the very first people to question [research],” she said, before adding, “I believe in a healthy scepticism; I think that’s important. But we’re beyond the healthy scepticism point.”

Indeed, while Max Boykoff addressed the climate change denial community, he stressed: “I’m a fan of questioning authority.” 

As director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research and an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the United States, Boykoff has watched as questioning environmental science has been overtaken by denialism, and detailed the three types he sees going on with climate contrarians that have muddied the factual waters.

“There is literal denialism, which is basically hands over the ears, ‘I’m not going to listen to what you have to say’. But there is interpretive denialism, which is a way of interpreting the same information in a different way. And then, thirdly, there is implicatory denialism.” That happens when individuals accept what science is saying but fail to do anything to deal with the issues or change their behaviour, he explains.

“There are many different pathways to knowing and I think with new ways of engaging through new and social media, there’s new voices,” said Boykoff, acknowledging the enhanced ability to communicate today, as opposed to in the pre-digital age. 

Unfortunately, not all those voices are pleasant or polite and for those in the media who cover fake news, a prime concern is the rancour that accompanies those who perpetuate disinformation. Read more …

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Business Leaders Would be Wise to Better Support Youth Climate Protests

by Lucy McAllister
MeCCO Research Team Member, Visiting Assistant Professor and Lewis Institute Fellow at Babson College

Photo: Protesters throw a ball depicting the Earth during the “Global Strike for Future” demonstration in Stockholm on May 24, a global day of student protests that aimed to motivate world leaders to act on climate change. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images.

All around the world people are taking to the streets to protest climate inaction: notably school children, but also moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, teachers, scientists, artists, and, what protesters in Munich described in a May protest as, “middle-aged white men for the future”. Though the above list is obviously not exhaustive, one group has been noticeably absent in its public support of the widely visible youth movement – business leaders.

Yes, global businesses are taking significant steps to address climate change, and turn a profit while doing so, and yet these steps are frequently reactive if taken at all, as evinced by Proctor & Gamble’s use of Canadian boreal forest in its toilet paper despite its previously glowing global reputation as a leader in sustainability efforts.

Too often multinational firms perceived as leaders in sustainability efforts are revealed as Dr. Seuss’s Once-lers only giving back to the future upon discovering or regretting the errors of their ways at meetings with other billionaire leaders from Silicon Valley.

Fortunately, some firms are not simply reacting to environmental or social issues that visibly surface in their supply chains or to assuage consumer calls for climate action, but instead are reshaping their entire business models in ways that address the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. For example, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission has identified 30 sustainable development “unicorns,” that is, firms experiencing tremendously rapid growth, that are already making impressive progress towards, for instance, cutting emissions and reducing air pollution, all while being valued at more than US$1 billion.

Today’s youth is leading the way in pushing for urgent climate action and we would all be wise to support their efforts beyond mere platitudes, tweets or press releases, whether it is to support your child’s future or to secure the brightest talent and loyal consumer base of tomorrow.

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Environmental Journalists Know the Value of a Climate Debate

Democratic presidential candidate and Governor of Washington Jay Inslee speaks about climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations on June 5 in New York City. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Colombia Journalism Review
by Jason Plautz

CLIMATE CHANGE HAS BECOME A DEFINING ISSUE in the early Democratic presidential primary. But the Democratic National Committee has rebuffed calls to hold a dedicated debate on the topic, raising concerns that the issue will once more remain siloed during an election cycle.

DNC chairman Tom Perez wrote on Medium this week that the party wouldn’t acquiesce to candidates who wanted single-issue debates, although he said he has “made clear to our media partners that the issue of climate change must be featured prominently.” Perez, who served as Labor Secretary under President Obama, said he wanted to have candidates “engage on a range of issues that matter to the American people.”

But climate change wasn’t treated as just one “issue” during Obama’s presidency. It was spread out across the cabinet. The State Department, for example, negotiated  the Paris Agreement, and the Transportation Department focused on the risks extreme weather posed to infrastructure.

As journalists and candidates seek to show that climate change is too vast to restrict to an environmental issue, there’s concern that the DNC’s decision is going the opposite way. By refusing to devote one night to an “issue that threatens to throw human civilization into crisis,” wrote New York Timescolumnist Justin Gillis, the DNC is enabling “another round of presidential primaries in which the climate crisis is basically hidden in the attic.”

Jay Inslee, the Washington governor and presidential candidate who led the calls for a climate debate, told Mother Jones that he would still participate in a separate climate debate despite apparent DNC threats to blacklist any candidate who did so (Perez has said candidates can participate in issue-based forums and town halls). “Sixty-second sound bites, which is all you’ll be able to get in a party debate, is grossly inadequate to the task,” he said.

Unlike previous elections, climate change tops voters’ concerns ahead of 2020; an April CNN poll of Democratic voters found that 82 percent listed climate change as “very important.” That should incentivize candidates to discuss climate change from as many perspectives as they can, Max Boykoff, director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, says.

“Climate change is an issue that cuts to the heart of how we work, live, organize ourselves, how we meet our needs every day,” Boykoff, the author of the upcoming book Creative (Climate) Communications, says.  “Given the information we have, given the challenge we face, it’s insufficient to not have a dedicated debate to it.”

Dedicating a debate to climate change would elevate “the public’s awareness of the biggest story of our time,” Bobby Magill, a reporter at Bloomberg Environment and the president of the Society of Environmental Journalists, says in an email.

“There are so many climate-related issues at stake: The Green New Deal, which has become a GOP favorite subject of scorn, as well as carbon pricing, renewable energy, national security, rising seas, immigration and the future of fossil fuels,” he says. “Most of those issues affect everybody and are highly political.”

Campaigns are rarely the best venue for policy discussion, and party polarization means that a general-election debate over climate change effectively devolves into whether or not to trust the scientific consensus. But among Democrats, there is the chance for nuance. And while sixty-second answers won’t allow candidates to get far beyond the top-line goals of their climate-change plans, filling 90 minutes of debate time would force each to reckon with the differences between their plans, whether it’s the phase-out timeline for coal and natural gas, or how they would engage Congress in passing climate legislation. Elizabeth Warren could talk about how her public lands protection plan would limit fossil fuel drilling; Michael Bennet could offer more detail on his “Climate Bank” strategy to catalyze private investment. Read more …

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Good-Natured Comedy to Enrich Climate Communication

by Beth Osnes, Max Boykoff, and Patrick Chandler
Comedy Studies (2019)

Abstract: This report explores the use of good-natured comedy to diversify the modes of comedy that can be used in climate communication beyond satire to others modes that are possibly more supportive of sustained climate action. Student’s self-assessment on a class project involving this type of comedy were collected through an on-line survey to generate data to explore their feelings of hope and their views of their own growth as climate communicators. Research findings suggest that student participation in creating good-natured comedy helps students positively process negative emotions regarding global warming, sustain hope, and grow as communicators of climate. These findings are from a practice-focussed study that shares primarily the self-reported results by students of a project offered over one semester. These findings show promise in the exploration of comedy for students to process emotions that allow joy, fun and hope to sustain their commitment to grow as climate communicators. Read more …

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