Climate Change Beyond a Human Lifetime
There's a problem inherent in the way we're processing the climate crisis: Our memories don't hold up enough to notice it.
This tension is central to National Geographic Explorer and documentary filmmaker John Sutter's ongoing documentary project "BASELINE." In his keynote presentation, he discussed the project's inspiration: "shifting baseline syndrome," through which our conceptions of "normal" are gradually, unnoticeably, shifting to a lower standard as the environment degrades.
Take the photo at left for example. While trophy catches in Key West, Florida, were nearly as tall as a fisherman at the time of this photo in the 1960s, trophy catches in the same body of water in the 2000s were closer to the size of a forearm. Yet, the fishermen seem just as pleased with their catch then as now.
With this phenomenon in mind, Sutter seeks to capture the story of climate change on a fittingly long timescale. Over the next 30 years, he will visit four locations in five installments to document how climate change alters local environments and the people who inhabit them.
After Sutter's presentation, GW's Dr. Imani Cheers posed questions about his innovative approach to climate storytelling and opened the floor to questions from student attendees.
Image courtesy of the Florida Keys Public Library/Flickr.
Talking Climate and Weather with One of the Most Trusted Voices in America
Legendary broadcaster Al Roker is one of the most recognized figures in American life. On NBC’s Today Show he communicates important weather information to a wide and diverse audience. As a storyteller on NBC’s Climate Unit, he dives into the story of climate change, extreme weather, and solutions for our planet.
In a keynote interview with Frank Sesno, Roker shared his expertise on communicating the severity of the climate crisis to a general audience, motivating behavioral change without "preaching," and how he's seen weather change over his long history of reporting on it.
Still from "Climate in Crisis," courtesy of Comcast NBCUniversal.
Meet the new EPA Administrator: Michael S. Regan
There's no better person to talk to about the themes of urgency, action, and inclusion than the new EPA Administrator Michael Regan. He is the former secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, where under his tenure he established the state's first Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board. Regan received his MPA from George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration in 2004, and he is an alumnus of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. He is the first Black man and the first graduate of a historically Black college and university to run the EPA in its 50-year history.
In this exclusive keynote interview, Regan discusses the importance of environmental justice, his history addressing environmental inequality, and how he and the Biden administration plan to make it a priority.
Image courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Meet the Mayor of America’s Hottest City
In the race to adapt to extreme heat, Pheonix, Arizona, is at the forefront. In 2020, the city experienced a record-breaking 145 days of 100-degree weather. The mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, joined the Planet Forward Summit to discuss the new urban technologies that the city is implementing to become the first "heat-ready city."
Heat-preparedness for the most vulnerable
Afterward Gallego spoke, Planet Forward student contributors Adora Shortridge and William Walker from Arizona State University joined GW's National Geographic Professor of Science Communication and author of "Hot, Hungry Planet," Lisa Palmer, for a live Q&A about their work. The pair have spent time researching feasible and equitable heat-preparedness strategies for some of our most heat-vulnerable citizens: children.
Moving Away from Single-Use Plastics
George Washington University announced in early 2021 it will phase out single-use plastics on campus. This decision begs the question: can and will other universities do the same? GW President Thomas LeBlanc explained why, how, and what the policy means for the GW community and beyond in conversation with Frank Sesno.
Image courtesy of Tom Page/Flickr.
GAME TIME! Let's Talk Storyfest
Students publish stories on PlanetForward.org all year — this "Game Time" session brought those stories front and center. A panel of science and media experts featuring ASU Global Futures Laboratory's Steven Beschloss, PBS (WNET) Executive Producer Eugenia Harvey, Project Drawdown’s Matt Scott, and GW Professor Dr. Tara Scully, shared their feedback on a selection of Planet Forward Storyfest 2021 entries.
Stories brought to the spotlight included a TikTok-style informational video on the connections of climate and air quality by SUNY-ESF's Calvin Bordas and a short first-person documentary by Ryan Beiber exploring the tricky relationship between environmental journalism and environmental activism.
Still from "The quest for activism in journalism and environmentalism" by Ryan Beiber.
Congratulations Storyfest Winners!
As the summit culminated, Frank Sesno announced six grand prize winners of Storyfest 2021. Each winner received a grand prize of $500 and 50 trees planted in their names in a Cheppewa National Forest, courtesy of Planet Forward's friends at One Tree Planted.
The Storyfest 2021 winners are...
Most compelling character: Francesca Edralin, George Washington University, “Meet Cameroon’s ‘plastic man’: The story of environmental activist Forbi Perise”
Best use of science or data: Christopher Howley and Michael Hannan, Arizona State University, “Diversifying the pack: Cross fostering helps Mexican wolf population boost genetic mix”
Best scalable innovation: Allison Klei, Franklin & Marshall University, “Daylighting: A case study of the Jones Falls River in Baltimore, Maryland”
Photo of Chippewa National Forest courtesy of Forest Service, USDA/Flickr.