INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Issue #21

The Fall semester here at the University of Colorado Boulder is one month in, and our work Inside the Greenhouse continues. We are happy to share with you another update regarding our ongoing efforts in the spaces of research, teaching and engagement in the spaces of creative climate communication in the public sphere. 

In newsletter #21, we share some highlights of our many ongoing activities. Visit our website for further details and more information. We continue to carry out these projects through important collaborations and partnerships linking campus and community as well as the local with the state, regional, national and global.

Please don’t forget that your support is vital to our ongoing efforts. Please visit our donation page to provide a tax-deductible gift. We are grateful for contributions in any amount.

Up with (constructive) hope,
Rebecca Safran, Beth Osnes, Max Boykoff and Phaedra Pezzullo
(Inside the Greenhouse co-directors)

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CivicGreen World Affairs Forum - Max Boykoff
This summer, Inside the Greenhouse co-directors have participated in a number of information-sharing workshops and have given many talks involving creative climate communications. Among them, ITG co-director Max Boykoff delivered invited talks highlighting ITG at the CivicGreen ‘Civic Engagement in American Climate Policy: Collaborative Models’ conference and as an invited speaker at the Santa Fe (New Mexico) World Affairs Forum.

Bird’s Eye View - Beth Osnes
The film, Bird’s Eye View was awarded the Love International Film Festival award for the 2022 Best Short Documentary Film. This film that has been featured in numerous film festival all over the globe was the culminating art-science expression of our work with young people the summer of 2021 with our Side by Side project.

Postdoctoral Mentor Award - Rebecca Safran
Our very own Rebecca Safran won a Postdoctoral mentor award at an event in September. We are so proud of her amazing work and outstanding mentorship. Way to go Becca!

Daniel C. Brouwer Faculty Mentorship Award - Phaedra Pezzullo
Phaedra will be receiving the inaugural Daniel C. Brouwer Faculty Mentorship Award from the Rhetoric and Communication Theory Division of the National Communication Association in November. She was moved by her current and former student nomination letters.

Side x Side - Rebecca Safran
The Side x Side Project curated student work from the 2022 session which was featured in a live procession during free night at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and a month-long exhibit at the Boulder Public Library.


Climate Policy Conflict in the U.S. - Max Boykoff
We have continued to produce peer-reviewed research outputs as an integrated component of our ongoing experimentations and explorations. Among them, co-Director Max Boykoff recently co-authored an article in the journal Climatic Change:

‘Climate Policy Conflict in the U.S. States: A Critical Review and Way Forward’ – co-authored with Josh Basseches, Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Trevor Culhane, Galen Hall, Noah Healy, David Hess, David Hsu, Rachel Krause, Harland Prechel, Timmons Roberts, and Jennifer Stevens – reviewed how many United States (US) states have taken significant action on climate change in recent years, demonstrating their commitment despite federal policy gridlock and rollbacks. Yet, we explored how there is still much we do not know about the agents, discourses, and strategies of those seeking to delay or obstruct state-level climate action. We therefore first ask, ‘what are the obstacles to strong and effective climate policy within U.S. states?’ We then reviewed the political structures and interest groups that slow action, and we examined emerging tensions between climate justice and the technocratic and/or market-oriented approaches traditionally taken by many mainstream environmental groups. Second, we interrogated this consideration: ‘what are potential solutions for overcoming these obstacles?’ In conclusion, we suggest strategies for overcoming opposition to climate action that may advance more effective and inclusive state policy, focusing on political strategies, media framing, collaboration, and leveraging the efforts of ambitious local governments.

Side x Side 2022 - Rebecca Safran and Beth Osnes
This past summer, Becca and Beth Osnes and the Side x Side team importantly including Drs. Molly McDermott and  Chelsea Hackett were able to formally study the youth participants and their experience of our summer 2022 programming. We were delighted to see that the immersive art-science experience increased a sense of belonging in STEM! Specifically, data collection by Molly McDermott demonstrates that the summer 2022 session of Side by Side seemed to meet the goals of increasing science identity and connectedness to nature. In addition, there was evidence that the program boosted feelings of self-efficacy around environmental action. Becca and Beth are currently working with Chelsea on expanding our work to include and expand our partnerships with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.


Leela Stode - Summer 2022
Leela is a sophomore at Saint Andrews University in Scotland. She was a former high school participant of Side by Side the summer of 2021. The summer of 2022 she participated as an Inside the Greenhouse intern helping to facilitate activities. The following writing is a reflection by Leela about this experience:

About halfway through June, halfway through our time together, I was asked to interview the participants about what they thought our program was really about, and how they felt it was impacting them. I have been part of Bird’s Eye View for two years now, and within the community since its founding 3 years ago. In the summer of 2021, I was a participant myself, creating bird costumes and observing barn swallows. That summer no one really knew how to describe what we were doing, we all simply called it “the bird thing” and while I couldn’t have pinpointed it then, we came together to create a space in which we could love, observe, and interact with the nature around us. I was nervous then, when I was asked to interview the participants - ages 9 to 16 - this past summer (2022) on our project; I was still simply calling it “the bird thing.”

But when I started to ask them the questions I had prepared - what do you think an expanded idea of STEM is? How do you feel connected to the natural world? Do you? What do you feel like this community advocates for? How do you feel being a part of this community? - I was stunned by their answers….

“I see this community as a place where people can be heard even though they are different from other people; just based on their personalities, or how they act or how they look.” - Cedar

“I feel like an expanded version of STEM is adding art to science because science is structured, and art is all over the place and I feel like it would be a good balance if they are together.” - Lucia

“To expand STEM, we need more women’s voices especially because it has been such a male dominated field.” - Lisa

“I think (this community) advocates for the rights of people who just want to be accepted for who they are and want to enjoy art and science and just explore the world around them.” - Cedar

“(This community) advocates for more people to be able to be a part of STEM no matter who they are and add their views to STEM instead of just cis white men.” - Ash

“Doing the costume really made me feel like I was becoming my bird because I just love the way my costume turned out and it looks really nice.” - Danshi

Not only did they understand the community and outlook we were building together, in words that I couldn’t even really pinpoint myself, but they found real affinity with the birds they chose to study. “My bird is a Great Blue Heron” said Lucia to me, following with “it has the same personality to me, I think Becca really chose a good bird for me.” When I asked to elaborate, she said this: “It is my favorite color. It likes to eat most of the same things I do and it’s a really sneaky bird and I love being sneaky.”

When I started out this summer, I still couldn’t particularly bullet point exactly what we were doing, but my real hope was that by the end the young people would move forward in their lives with more love, care, and connection to the nature that surrounds them. In interviewing the young folk I learned that not only did they bring forward with them that love but moreover they shared with me, in words I couldn’t find myself, what exactly the future we were working to create.

I still do not have a better name to describe “the bird thing,” but to be honest I don’t really think I want one. It is a silly, and simple, and unassuming label carrying with it the understanding that we all have more to learn from one another - from organizers to participants, people to the natural world.


Cat Adams - Summer 2022
Catherine (Cat) is a second year Environmental Policy and Decision Making major and Eminence Fellow at the Ohio State University. She is minoring in creative writing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She is also a climate justice organizer who has worked at both the local and national level. Cat co-founded Ohio Youth for Climate Justice in 2019 and worked on a national level as a member of the Communications team for US Youth Climate Strike. Currently, she is Ohio Youth for Climate Justice’s Creative Director. Beyond her work as an activist, she is passionate about the ways in which art and writing can be used to build mass movements and increase public awareness of the climate crisis.


Presley Church - (2020 - Present)
Presley Church is a junior at Cornell University majoring in Fiber Science and Apparel Design in the College of Human Ecology, minoring in Climate Change. She grew up in Boulder and has engaged with sustainable fashion since she was 11 years old via Trash the Runway (a collaborator of Inside the Greenhouse). After completing her freshman year at the onset of the pandemic, Presley took a gap year and worked on a variety of climate communication projects with us. Presley is passionate about engaging all industries, particularly the fashion industry, with climate solutions. Additionally, she is interested in climate and science policy communications. She is excited to continue forging new paths between environmentalism, communication, and design.


Nancy Yoder - (2021 - Present) 
Nancy Yoder is a Creative Technology Design and Computer Science student at the University of Colorado Boulder. She works primarily on front end web design and mobile app development. She is passionate about graphic design, as well as other forms of art such as jewelry making and crochet. She is currently the graphic and web design intern for Inside the Greenhouse, managing their social media accounts and websites as well as designing medias to display their curriculum. She is excited to continue her work with Inside the Greenhouse.



Climate Across The Curriculum Training Success! - Phaedra Pezzullo
This past spring, I was invited to serve as the faculty lead for a campus-wide Climate Across the Curriculum Training, co-sponsored by the Provost’s Office, the CU Boulder Mission Zero Fund (a donor), and the Environmental Center. The faculty steering committee included ITG Co-Directors Max Boykoff and Beth Osnes. We scheduled over 20 speakers and trainers; and vetted over 100 applications for 50 slots.

The training was designed with three I’s:

•   Interdisciplinarity. Participants represented 9 of our colleges and schools. Trainings and talks were led by climate scientists from national labs to Indigenous professors on governance to staff providing campus tours of sustainable operations.

•   Inclusivity. Climate was engaged through the 3 Es of Sustainability: Equity, Economics, & Ecology. This value was embodied through representation of speakers/trainers, logistics, and content. We included participants from every rank of full to graduate student instructors.

•   Interdependence. The digital toolbox, includes science databases, lesson plans, and climate wellness.

Overall, the training was successful. In our Exit Survey, the majority (92.9%) felt the training would improve their knowledge, skills, and/or capacity to teach climate in the classroom, and the majority (88.1%) strongly agreed or agreed that the training fostered DEI excellence in meaningful ways (none disagreed). Faculty sent their impact statements to the Environmental Center, which will use them and the fact the training happened to improve the national sustainability rating of the campus. The donor for the event wrote: “Thank you for the amazing event. Really ‘off the charts’ good!”

Some of the trainers and participants of the Climate Across the Curriculum Training held in August 2022 on campus.

Enviromental Justice and Digital StoryMaps - Anthony Albidrez
Anthony Albidrez is a 2022 ITG graduate student researcher, with Prof. Pezzullo.

In the spring of 2022, Professor Pezzullo taught a graduate level Foundations of Environmental Justice course, and students were given the option to create digital stories about the communities most impacted by environmental injustice in Colorado. Many opted in.

Through a partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), students produced ArcGIS StoryMaps to complement quantitative data presented by Colorado EnviroScreen, a new state-led interactive environmental justice mapping tool. The goal was an attempt to imagine communities not only as sites of harm, but also as resources of hope and solutions. 

Graduate students leveraged multimedia, information, and resources available online. Many also went directly to these regions to gather photographs and to better understand the regions they were covering for the project. They interviewed community members from the regions and documented through audio.

After the semester ended, the project continued. Stories and audio interviews needed to be edited. The content gathered also needed to be packaged into a uniform layout and reviewed by the CDPHE. By June, we launched two: Lower Arkansas River Valley and Pueblo County; we also drafted three more under review with CDPHE: San Luis Valley, Commerce City & the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (noted in Warren’s reflection below). For each community this project focused on, there are people working on solutions for environmental justice issues, and we wanted to amplify not only EJ challenges, but also why people call their communities home.

Exploring the CO EnviroScreen. For more information and to explore the mapping tool, go to:

On Mapping Stories: Reflections of a Journalist - Anthony Albidrez
I have to admit that telling stories of environmental and climate justice is quite new to me.

I do know that storytelling, more specifically journalistic storytelling, is a powerful tool to address environmental and climate justice issues. That being said, there does come a certain responsibility for journalists, and storytellers. Journalism has a long history of reinforcing dangerous stereotypes, omitting important voices and decent, and ignoring significant events all together, such as climate change.

We do see this changing in today’s media landscape, especially on the local level. But, climate change needs to be on every front page of every newspaper and news website on the daily. Many environmental and climate journalists and scientists agree.

We’re seeing this today with new journalistic projects, outlets, and in citizen and grassroots journalism. We see this in new ways people and communities are telling stories.

For me, empowering future journalists and storytellers begins with acknowledging the fact they only need an idea, a spec of passion, and a splash of creativity to create meaningful stories.

It’s easy to lose hope. But stories give me hope. Being a storyteller gives me the agency and the strength to believe that I have a place in this world and the ability to address the biggest challenges humanity is facing—climate change—one story at a time.

I hope students in any field recognize their abilities to be a storyteller in their work and continue to nurture their inner-storyteller through projects such as this one.

Anthony Albidrez, the student lead on designing and writing the final StoryMaps

On Mapping Stories: Reflections of a Communication Researcher - Michael Warren Cook
Michael Warren Cook is a summer 2022 ITG graduate student researcher.

I was excited about the opportunity to work with the CDPHE because our collaboration would allow me to apply the environmental justice theories we had been learning about in the course toward a meaningful, public-facing project.

The StoryMaps we added to the website humanize the issues that communities are facing and place them into a context of everyday life that we can all understand. I think stories move audiences to empathy and action in ways that quantitative data alone cannot.

I specifically collaborated with a group of interdisciplinary students, Colorado government officials, Ute Mountain Ute (UMU) Nation officials, and UMU community members to create a StoryMap that amplified the environmental/climate justice issues and efforts of the UMU Nation. Through this process, I was able to better understand the role and vision of environmental justice for each of these groups as well as the complicated relationships that environmental justice calls us all to consider.

The most exciting aspect of the project for me was the prospect of listening to people about the places they love and are passionate about. As Prof. Pezzullo taught us, there is a deficit framing that shows up in a lot of environmental work—e.g. "What's wrong with this place?" Although environmental injustices are critically important to highlight, this project also gave us the opportunity to hear about what people love about a place and the ideas and solutions that communities—and sovereign nations like UMU—are already proposing and implementing to address environmental injustices.

Michael Warren Cook in Prof. Pezzullo’s graduate course on Environmental Justice