INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Issue #20

We hope you’re all doing as well as you can as these difficult and pressurized pandemic times continue into a third year. Our heart goes out to everyone, especially those directly impacted: the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives.

Amid the pandemic, atrocities in Ukraine, racially motivated mass shootings in the United States (US), shortages of necessities for young families and more, we remain firmly aware that climate change too remains pressing and urgent. During this extended period of accelerated learning and intense behavior change, we update you on our ongoing efforts to promote creative – and ultimately – effective climate communications, and to improve and inspire environment for communication about climate change in our everyday lives.

We at Inside the Greenhouse (ITG) resolutely carry on with our work to meet people where they are and share climate stories from a range of perspectives in order to help make sense of 21st century climate challenges and to inspire great climate engagement and action. Below you’ll find updates regarding our ongoing research, teaching and engagements/activities. Going forward, you can follow us via Twitter (@ITG_Boulder), Instagram (@everydayclimate) and Facebook. More information can be found on our website.

We continue to carry out these projects through important collaborations and partnerships linking campus and community as well as the local with the global.

Let’s keep hope alive,
Max Boykoff, Beth Osnes, Phaedra Pezzullo, and Rebecca Safran
(Inside the Greenhouse co-directors)

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ITG co-Director Max Boykoff was a Contributing Author to the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) report on ‘Mitigation and Policy’ that was released on April 4, 2022. He contributed content on media coverage of climate change as well as how contrarian counter movements – often funded by carbon-based industry interests – have sought to deny, delay and distract from the constructive policy actions that are warranted in the face of current climate challenges. His contributions appeared mainly in the Technical Summary as well as in Chapter 13 of the full report. The report also cited comedy and climate change research conducted by ITG co-Directors Beth Osnes and Max Boykoff, notably on page 32 of Chapter 13 that stated, “A broad variety of media platforms cover climate change issues, including…humour and entertainment media (Brewer and McKnight 2015; Skurka et 16 al. 2018; Boykoff and Osnes 2019)...” Other research such as ITG co-Director Max Boykoff’s book Creative (Climate) Communication: Productive Pathways for Science, Policy and Society (Cambridge University Press, 2019), and other associated research such as media monitoring of climate change through the Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) was also cited in numerous places. The traction that this ITG research gained through this high-profile report demonstrated the growing influence of ITG work.

ITG co-Director Beth Osnes is among many theatre and performance studies artist/scholars (including Sheila Christie, David Geary, Dennis D. Gupa, Ian Garrett, Jordan Hall, Katie Welch, Kendra Fanconi, Kimberly Skye Richards, and Scott Sharplin) who contributed to a recent article entitled, “Theatrical Calls to Climate Action.” This article excerpts a discussion about performance and climate action that took place during the annual Canadian Association for Theatre Research (CATR) conference, Partition/Ensemble 2020. Ten artists, activists, and academics share their experiences of using performance as a resource in climate-change action. They explore challenges and tactics, detail examples of theatrical climate action, and urge other artists and activists to use the tools of theatre and performance to tell the stories of climate collapse. This article reflects the groundswell of creative energy being brought to the climate crisis, providing an inspiration for others who want to use their artistic skills to support climate action. The article can be accessed through this link: 

ITG Co-Directors were thrilled to be supported by grants from Mission Zero this year. Max secured funds for a ENVS class to be developed on environmental racism, Beth’s green suits project was showcased in a video and through their website, and Phaedra’s aforementioned class on environmental justice was supported in part through their support of the CMCI College Fund

The ITG Co-Directors also won a $10,000 prize for C3BC at the end of the year to continue supporting our work. It’s been wonderful to work with another activist donor dedicated to encouraging climate education.

In other news, Patrick Chandler, a very recent graduate of CU with a PhD in Environmental Studies and a fellow with Inside the Greenhouse, and Beth Osnes are proud to announce the publishing of an open-source resource that makes top climate solutions identified by Project Drawdown accessible to all readers. Enacting Climate is an online collection of climate-related tools and activities for student learning and climate action. It has been contributed to by students from the 5th grade to PhD students. It is an engaging and beautifully designed accessible source for climate solutions in language that is easy to understand and highly informative.

Phaedra Pezzulo and Max Boykoff also consulted for the Pulitzer Center on how journalists have been and could be covering labor and climate in the news. To read the report: Climate change and labor: The media landscape. Phaedra will be speaking at the National News Club in Washington, DC, in June on this topic. 

Phaedra also authored chapters in several books on environmental communication and environmental justice. She authored a chapter in the book Communication in the 2020s titled, “Chapter 17: On Bats, Breathing, and Bella Vita Verde: Reflections on Environmental Communication During a Global Pandemic.” Additionally, she authored the chapter “Environmental justice and climate justice” in The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Movements and co-authored a chapter titled “Rethinking Publics and Environmental Communication in Western and Eastern Cultures,” in The Routledge Handbook of International Trends in Environmental Communication.


Foundations of Environmental Justice

In Spring 2022, Phaedra Pezzullo taught the Foundations of Environmental Justice Course, which is the required class for the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Justice. The class included students from theater, law, journalism, environmental studies, history, and communication. The class partnered with CDPHE (Colorado Dept of Public Health and Environment), which is launching a quantitative database on environmental justice in June. The class piloted digital stories to accompany that data to provide qualitative perspectives and prompt public participation in environmental justice governance. The class was recognized with grants to support guest speakers and field work by a Payden Teaching Grant, the CMCI Dean’s Fund, and Mission Zero. Students presented work at the annual CU Boulder Sustainability Summit, have been interviewed about their experiences, and are finalizing their stories as this newsletter goes to press. The students’ goal was to avoid usual narrative traps of environmental justice, such as the deficit model, and to encourage engaging frontline communities beyond the numbers to learn from their experiences and imagine a better future.

Phaedra’s Environmental Justice graduate students Zooming with Joel Minor, the CDPHE Environmental Justice Program Manager.

Creative Climate Communication

As a class project for the undergraduate Spring 2022 Creative Climate Communication, students co-created climate comedy through a partnership with 10 professional comedians from across the USA and our own, student created and performed, climate comedy show. For the LA and NY shows by professional comedians, instructors divided the class into groups and matched each with a comedian. Each group chose a top climate solution from the list generated by Project Drawdown for their assigned comedian to focus on in their comic piece. Students provided a summary of research on the solution, links to media stories about this solution, and ideas for jokes and comic approaches for this solution. The comedians used this material along with their own ideas to create an original comic piece. They rehearsed drafts of their pieces in several classes with the students before performing them live in their respective cities. Then the students—led by Beth Osnes, Patrick Chandler, and Max Boykoff—created their own stand up and sketch comedy at Old Main on April 15, 2022. A full house of about 200 people enjoyed their performance.

This was all part of an Inside the Greenhouse Coast-to-Coast initiative for the Spring of 2022 in partnership with the Argosy Foundation. The culmination of all of this launched on Earth Day April 22, 2022, through an online show—Stand Up for Climate Change Comedy Show 2022—which features a compilation of highlights from each of the fully produced performances NYC, Boulder, and LA, seed events throughout the nation, and winning videos from our international climate comedy video contest, all hosted by Beth Osnes and Max Boykoff, available on Inside the Greenhouse’s YouTube channel—Climate Comedy, and at this direct link:

Various comedians from New York City and Los Angeles join the Creative Climate Communications Class.

The Art and Strategy of Science Communication

Rebecca Safran taught the Art and Strategy of Science Communication for the 14th time during the Fall 2021 term. Thirty students from across two different schools on the CU campus—Communications and Arts and Sciences—participated in an intense semester of training related to obtaining information from reliable resources and then translating climate-change science and news into three short film projects. The final exam was a film festival showcasing student work with an exciting panel of judges including Professors Dr. Erin Espelie and Chelsea Hackett and amazing photographer James Balog. Thanks again to the CU Museum of Nature and Science for kindly sponsoring this event!


The Ocean is Angry

Phaedra gave a talk at Boulder-based NGO Oceans First in May titled: “The Ocean is Angry: The Lonely Whale’s Sucker Punch Campaign to Nudge People Away from Single-Use Plastics.” The talk was drawn from her forthcoming University of California Press book. She addressed how single-use plastics are a global crisis for marine life, the climate crisis, and public health. Then, the talk focused on the NGO Lonely Whale’s “Sucker Punch" campaign to “nudge” people to reduce single-use plastics, such as straws, with the tagline “The Ocean is Angry." Based on an interview with the director of digital strategy, in addition to other research, Prof. Phaedra C. Pezzullo shared background on the NGO’s namesake and the choices they made to create a humorous environmental advocacy campaign to move people to connect with and care more about the ocean. It was a fun event—her first time speaking in between a volleyball court and a pool! In Spring 2022, Phaedra launched a Podcast, Communicating Care, as part of her research. Please, tune in here:

Vatican visit: The Pontifical Academy of Social Science (PASS)

This past September, ITG co-Director Max Boykoff was invited along with ten other scholars to visit the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences (PASS) for an intimate workshop with Vatican officials discussing ‘Truth and Post-Truth in Communication, Media, and Society.’ PASS President Stefano Zamagni and PASS Chancellor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo served as the main hosts while Yale University Professor Justin Farrell was the lead organizer of the event. Max presented some of his ongoing research in a session moderated by the Italian Minister of Justice Marta Cartabia. After the meeting – with a blessing from Pope Francis – the group put out a powerful statement on the Vatican’s PASS website here. Included in the statement was the following passage: “We call for an infusion of moral energy, political will, and advocacy to directly challenge the lies—of commission and omission—perpetrated by transnational commercial interests. In recent years, young people worldwide have mobilized to oppose the profit-motivated lies of transnational corporations and their political allies that obstruct and delay action to combat climate change and protect the earth, our common home. We must increasingly see these connections between post-truth culture, powerful special interests, and environmental challenges.”

Left photo: PASS Chancellor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo holding an ITG t-shirt. Right photo: Max Boykoff with Marta Cartabia, the Italian Minister of Justice.

Left photo: Max Boykoff presenting at the workshop. Right photo: Participants at a workshop with Vatican officials discussing ‘Truth and Post-Truth in Communication, Media, and Society.’ 


Ongoing information-sharing, talks and workshops

ITG co-director Max Boykoff has continued with several ITG-related activities. Among them, Max presented his work to the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), to the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change Communication at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), to the European Climate Foundation, to the ‘Seedbox Collaboratory’ at Linköping University (Sweden), to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), at the University of Colorado Boulder Conference on World Affairs (CWA), to the ClimaEnRedes conference at University of Navarra (Spain), to the CivicGreen organization at the American Institute of Architects (Washington DC), to the Santa Fe (New Mexico) World Affairs Forum and on a panel at the Brookings Institute. He also delivered invited ITG-relevant lectures at Colgate University, Ohio University, the University of Texas, Rutgers University, Macalester College (Minnesota) and University College London, among others. Max also served as an advisor to the ‘Don’t Look Up’ film project platform, helping people and organizations/collectives interested to take steps that matter to alleviate the challenges associated with 21st century human-caused climate change.

Max Boykoff speaking at the CU Boulder Conference on World Affairs.

On August 8-9, Phaedra, Max, and Beth will be working with colleagues Prof. Bailey, Prof. Carroll, Prof. Dashti (pic provided), and Prof. Roudbari (pic provided) to create a Climate Across the Curriculum Training, hosted by the Provost’s Office with sponsorship from the Environmental Center and Mission Zero. C3BC recieved over 100 applicants and selected 55 participants from all major colleges on campus. The workshop will feature leading scholars in Boulder on climate education, featuring the new common core curriculum of CU Boulder of Sustainable Futures. This training emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinarity, climate justice, and creativity in approaches to climate education.  

Prof. Shideh Dashti, the Acting Dean of Research of Engineering, is a vital member of the Steering Committee for the Climate Across the Curriculum Training. She and Phaedra have been collaborating on research about the impact of climate disasters on infrastructures of incarceration.

Prof. Shawhin Roudbari, assistant professor in Environmental Design, is a vital member of the Steering Committee for the Climate Across the Curriculum Training. He and Phaedra have been collaborating on just transition research.

Additionally, this summer the Side by Side program will roll out its youth program for the third time! ITG co-directors Beth Osnes and Rebecca Safran and collaborator Dr. Chelsea Hackett have been organizing along with graduate students and former participants for months! This summer, 12 female-identifying/non-binary youth participating in an intensive series of workshops focused on observing nature from both scientific and artistic perspectives. Each youth participant will be collaborating with and mentored by interns who were Side by Side participants in 2020 and 2021. The Side by Side program is grateful to the National Science Foundation, the CU RIO SEED competition and donors to Inside the Greenhouse for funding this work. Come visit their end of the summer activities at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on the evening of June 29th and their exhibit opening on June 30th at the Boulder Public Library. More information will be posted on the website:

Films produced by Inside the Greenhouse’s Side by Side Project traveled all around the world through their acceptance to a number of national and international film festivals! Check out the films and learn more about the project here:

In connection to this work, ITG co-director Rebecca Safran was nominated by the Princeton University Press and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton for the Frontiers in Biology Lecture. Delayed two years due to the pandemic, Safran was finally able to visit Princeton in April to give two seminars: one related to Inside the Greenhouse’s Side by Side project and another related to her research program on speciation in birds.

All of this work would not be possible without the funding and partnerships that support ITG. The Center for Creative Climate Communication & Behavior Change (C3BC) raised $160,000 in 2021, which helped support many activities, including some of Inside the Greenhouse. We continue to seek donors and partners invested in supporting ITG’s good work.