INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Issue #5

The hot summer of 2016 has been productive for us Inside the Greenhouse. Highlights included the successful continuation of our summer internship programs, collaboration with ‘Lens on Climate Change’ and the posting and tagging (for database searching) of our Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 class compositions on the website.

Thank you all for your ongoing support of our work. Stay tuned for much more to come in the Fall 2016 semester.

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

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One of our summer 2016 Inside the Greenhouse interns, Sean Race, headed out to the deserts of California to study and document a project focused on how quail adapt to climate change. Sean was a student in the Film and Climate Change class during the Fall term in 2015. Check out his first of two films posted here. Stay tuned into our website for more. In the meantime, Sean describes his internship experience in this way:

“My internship took place within the beautiful backdrop of the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto National Monument of Southern California. The thrust of the summer was dedicated to assisting David Zonana, a PhD candidate from University of Colorado Boulder, with his quail research in the field; time was also dedicated to filming, blogging, and hammering out concepts as the season progressed. In the quiet moments between field work, I also met with local researchers and private citizens to discuss the issue of climate change and how it might be affecting the region in which they live.

The internship was a wonderful opportunity to not only work within the frame of science but also view it through an artistic and humanistic lens. Scientists face the onerous challenge of communicating their research (especially climate-related research) to the public, and having the tools to not only write about but visualize the work being done is a huge boon to a field that can at times seem opaque. Additionally, the ability to actually relate climate change to a particular region and lived experience certainly provided a broader perspective. Those I talked to were more than just scientists or concerned residents; they had a deep appreciation for the landscape and what climate change could mean for an area that already exists on the extremes. Climate change's human element certainly shone through during my two months living in the desert. Knowledge of this kind is hard to come by and is a wholly different experience than simply talking the language of charts and data. Being able to combine both the scientific and lived perspective was by far one of the more unique and valuable aspects of my internship.”


This summer, Inside the Greenhouse took part in the ‘Lens on Climate Change’ project at the University of Colorado and supported workshops Boulder and Trinidad, Colorado. This project is led by Anna Gold, Sarah Wise and Lesley Smith, and works with middle and high school students in Colorado in film creation and production. Dick Alweis (Filmmaker and Faculty Member at Colorado Film School) and David Oonk (CU Boulder PhD student) led students in work to develop story content about their roles and those of their communities in climate and environmental change.

Left Photo: Students and mentors from the summer programs at CU and Trinidad. Credit: Coady Rood.
Right Photo: Students in Trinidad practice shooting before principal production. Credit: David Oonk.

Through the workshops, CIRES graduate student and Colorado Film School mentors and facilitators worked to build students’ confidence and competence in both the technical and creative dimensions of video storytelling.

Left Photo: CU graduate student Jordan Krechmer aids in the production of “Cow Meets New Mexico” on the CU Boulder campus. Credit: Lesley Smith.
Right Photo: Students in the “Green Team” start production of their video on the CU Boulder campus. Credit: Robin Strelow.

Inside the Greenhouse provided support in the development and implementation of these exercises during the workshop. As the project, supported through a National Science Foundation grant, continues Inside the Greenhouse are excited to continue to be involved in support and collaboration.

Check out the products these students produced through the ‘Lens on Climate Change’ process.


Each newsletter we feature past students from our two-course series. This issue, we feature Rebecca True, who took Beth Osnes’s Spring 2015 course. We also feature Annie Smith, who was a student in both Rebecca Safran’s Fall 2013 course and Beth Osnes’ and Max Boykoff’s Spring 2014 course.

Rebecca True
"I've spent some time reflecting on how much I've changed since graduating last year and the career path I'm heading down". These are the words of Inside the Greenhouse alum, Rebecca True, who is currently completing a service year with CivicSpark, a Governor’s Initiative AmeriCorps program dedicated to building capacity for local governments to address climate change and water management issues in California.  "After Creative Climate Communications I felt confident in my abilities to tailor my message to any audience, and with that confidence I accepted a CivicSpark position in the San Joaquin Valley region to further challenge myself in the predominantly agricultural, impoverished, and conservative part of California. In these past months I have given presentations at all of the city council meetings in the county and have completed some work on GHG inventories and climate action plans for those cities, worked with local businesses on installing electric vehicle chargers, and have organized the community around a volunteer project for bicycling and other alternative transportation modes. I focus primarily on health, cost, and efficiency benefits, and while I have encountered the naysayers, there are many more people excited and supportive of the work I am doing. I absolutely love my job and this year has made me 100% sure that I prefer working on a local scale and that I want to further my sustainability career through urban planning."

"For instance, this summer I organized volunteers around a booth at the local county fair for more education regarding bike safety and alternative transportation. A big barrier to bicycling is that many local residents don't know the rules of the road, particularly the large population of non-English speakers in our region. We had translated information pamphlets but we also definitely had to get creative with pictures and acting things out - so funny! It was almost like class! And of course we had a lot of high-energy kids to answer safety questions for prizes so things got pretty competitive! Overall I think it was a great success and I'm amazed that I was even able to create something with so much impact. It's definitely given me a lot of confidence in applying the knowledge from my ENVS degree in moving forward.”

Rebecca True at a recent outreach project with CivicSpark.

Annie Smith
Now working for the Colorado Ocean Coalition in Boulder, Colorado, Annie Smith had this to say upon reflection on her work in the two-course series of Inside the Greenhouse.

“Looking back at how I spent my time in college, I can honestly say that the experiences I gained through the Inside the Greenhouse classes inspired me to pursue a creative job in the environmental sciences. I graduated with an open mind about science, communications, and the environment around me. Today, I work as the Operations Manager for the local non-profit, Colorado Ocean Coalition, a project of the Ocean Foundation. In the organization, I do a little bit of everything: volunteer coordination, event planning, website design, grant writing, marketing, program development, board participation, fundraising, creek-clean ups and presentations.

The Colorado Ocean Coalition engages inland communities with land-to-ocean stewardship and I help support that mission.  Inside the Greenhouse influenced me to approach activism in a creative and meaningful way that incorporates science, technology, and stories.

Most of the work I do right now is behind-the-scenes, but the outcomes I produce help ignite community engagement across the US. Currently, I have just finished filming a Mermaid vlog series with one of our Ocean Ambassadors about five ways to protect oceans.

Projects like this are what bring me back to how much fun I had in ITG when we had to come up with a new climate composition. I hope that I will be able to incorporate the things I learned from ITG with every new opportunity I have in the future.

Credit: Colorado Ocean Coalition.


Shine shines
The year-long Tour of Participatory Climate Musical Comes to a Close. The Inside the Greenhouse mini-musical named Shine – created by co-Director Beth Osnes – has toured to cities across the world to engage youth voices in city planning for climate, energy and resilience issues. Most recently, Beth and Inside the Greenhouse collaborators coordinated with youth in New Orleans, Connecticut, and Limpopo, the northernmost province in South Africa. Earlier in the year this show was performed by youth in Boulder, New York City, and London. At each location young people brought the performance to life to dramatize 300 million years of geological time to tell the story of humanity's relationship with energy and how that has impacted our climate.

Students at Saint Dominic's School in New Orleans respond to the question "Who wants to be the trilobite?". Credit: Rebekah Anderson.

Through song, dance, costumes and props, students embodied the various aspects of the play, such as the process of ancient plants and animals getting compressed into fossil fuels. They also authored their own skits to express their solutions to local climate challenges they identified. Throughout it all they breathed joy and life into their city's deliberations on how to plan for a resilient future.

The lessons learned from all of the participating cities will be included in a book by Beth Osnes tentatively titled Performance for Resilience: Youth Engagement Musical on Climate and Energy.

Green Suits Your City! Photographs to spur imagination and inspiration for the greening of our cities (a.k.a. What I learned at my family reunion about communicating climate resilience for our cities)
When my wonderful sister-in-law overheard me describing this latest participatory climate project to my nephew she rolled her eyes and said with a smirk, "I am so tired of hearing about all this environmental stuff." I turned my laptop to show her this photo from New Orleans (included below). Her eyebrows raised and she said in an open and interested tone, "Oh!"
What happened in her reception of this expression? Was she open to it because it had no words and was quirky and fun?

Credit: Rebekah Anderson.

We invite you to join us in bypassing people's defenses to climate communication by donning a green suit in your city and sending us the photographic results for us to add to this collection for dissemination.  Just write to us at, and we'll send/lend you a green suit (or 2) so you can photograph the embodying of your city becoming more green. Our goal is to infuse embodied creativity into the greening of our cities. Placing actual bodies in service of this vision marks the commitment to joyful acts that will inspire action on behalf of environmental sustainability. Sometimes it takes a literal representation of an idea to make it real.

Ongoing information-sharing, talks and workshops
This summer, Inside the Greenhouse team members have continued to lead information-sharing and participatory workshops as well as giving talks involving creative climate communications. Among them, co-director Rebecca Safran and her lab group traveled to three international conferences to talk about their work on biodiversity. Notably, one of her former graduate students, Matt Wilkins, took first prize in a Science Communication Film Festival at the International Society for the Study of Evolution. Summer is field research time in the Safran lab: students traveled for fieldwork in Morocco, China, as well as conducted several intensive experiments on populations of birds right here in Boulder, Colorado. You can read more about recent work here.

Meanwhile, co-director Beth Osnes worked in Tanzania with Maji Safi, a non-governmental organization working on water-related health education, providing a week-long training for their Community Health Workers on the use of theatre for participatory methods of community engagement on water, health, and sanitation issues. She facilitated further theatre workshops at the Malope Primary School in South Africa on the use of theatre to give voice to youth in community planning. She traveled to Guatemala to continue her partnership with a non-governmental organization, Starfish, to continue development of a vocal empowerment program for young indigenous women. Beth assisted former Inside the Greenhouse student Mariel Krammer who ran a week-long camp to perform Shine, the Inside the Greenhouse musical for youth engagement in climate and energy-related energy. This was offered through CU's Science Discovery, which provides STEM education for local youth.

Going forward, follow us via Twitter (@ITG_Boulder), Instagram (everydayclimate) and Facebook.