Zero Waste Chicago

Zero Waste Chicago is a grassroots environmental organization founded in 2017 that is on a mission to connect Chicagoans with the resources they need to reduce the amount of trash they make. They offer resources and educational material to increase the awareness of alternatives to the traditional waste route. They aim to divert waste from the landfill through increased recycling and composting, transitioning from disposable items to reusable alternatives, and broader participation in the secondhand market. Through their website they provide helpful resources such as the location of local businesses for zero waste shopping, recycling and composting, information on workshops and events, consultations for individuals and businesses and news concerning the organization and involved community (Baird 2018; Zero Waster Chicago 2018).


Zero Waste bulk buy store Earth.Food.Love. in Totnes, UK.   ©

Litterless is a blog run by Celia one of the co-founders of Zero Waste Chicago, and it aims to do a similar thing but at a national scale. The website gives tips on how to live zero waste and gives a run down on stores across the US that allow you to purchase food and household staples without packaging (Cummins 2017; Litterless 2018).

The Zero Waste movement took off following the publication of Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home in 2013 which is based on her experience of the Zero Waste lifestyle, which she adopted in 2008 (Zero Waste Home 2018). There are now many blogs, websites and Facebook pages dedicated to living Zero Waste and sharing tips and how-tos. Many local business have also joined the movement, such as the Wasteless Pantry (Perth, Australia), Bulk Market (London, UK), Nude Foods (Cape Town, South Africa) and The Hive Bulk Foods (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Johnson’s Zero Waste lifestyle is built around the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. Expanded upon this means: Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse, and Rot (Compost) the rest (Zero Waste Home 2018). By following this philosophy and making more sustainable choices, individuals and households can dramatically reduce their waste production, reliance on plastic and disposable items and overall carbon footprint.  


Reusable food packaging sold by Litter Free Living. © Litter Free Living

The Zero Waste movement and Zero Waste Chicago are changing how consumers are buying items, which in turn will impact how produces make and package them. Some of the actions towards living waste free are relatively simple – using a reusable water bottle, buying bulk, shopping locally and refusing plastic bags – and can be adopted without much fuss, this means that more individuals, communities and business can and will partake in them. These actions while small can make a large difference in the amount of waste produced by an individual and community.

The use of social media coupled with local events will strengthen the spread of this movement and give organizations like Zero Waste Chicago a strong foothold in their communities. The next step for Zero Waste organizations would be to make the lifestyle more adoptable and accessible for lower socio-economic households and communities in developing countries.


Baird, S. (2018, 26 March). Fighting Climate Change With Food Scraps: Why Composting Is Easier Than Ever, Vogue.

Cummins, E. (2017, 22 Dec). How to reduce waste and help the planet this holiday season, Popular Science.

Litterless. (2018).

Zero Waste Chicago. (2018).

Zero Waste Home. (2018).



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Sourced from, April 11, 2018

For the last 13 days or so, I and many others on campus, 488 students to be exact have been on a mission to SaveOhno. The campaign is working with university organizations to bring awareness to climate change and environmental issues. Ohno is our future grandchild, that through our actions, we are attempting to save, hence the SaveOhno title. Whoever earns the most points through their actions, wins some Patagonia fleeces for the top 15 members of their team.

SaveOhno was started by a student at Babson College as a social venture. Their idea was to expand awareness about environmental issues as well as climate change science and its effects. You can learn more about the reasons that the project was created on their website.

The competition happens through “taking actions” and “signing petitions.” These actions come in the way of descriptions and a task to complete. The actions vary in difficulty and commitment, such as take a selfie of you recycling, composing, eating a vegetarian meal to attending the Farmer’s Market, registering to vote, and attending Youth Lobby day in Montpelier. All of the actions are verified by fellow competitors. Signing petitions, are just that, one is able to sign up to 3 petitions a day. Each petition relates to an environment or climate change cause.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 8.17.58 PM, April 11, 2018

With each social action, the world of our future grandchild, Ohno, is changed. This campaign has many students on the University of Vermont and other campuses around the country becoming more aware of how their actions affect our campus, the future and our environment.

Left: Take Action, Stop Sucking: Take a selfie drinking out of a reusable glass. Right: Hang clothes instead of drying them with a machine. Photos by Kyle Weatherhogg

This project aims to target students with an incentive of team-chosen embroidered Patagonia fleece sweatshirts. It even seemed like some schools had cash prizes that the student organizations could use for their activities. This friendly competition has encouraged students to go out of their way and activities out of their routine or merely just to take a photo of what they already do! I would guess that around 4-5,000 university students have been involved in this campaign since it started last year (2017).

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 8.19.37 PM,  April 11, 2018

While the project seems to stir environmental and climate change awareness, I am not convinced that it is making large change. Hopefully as the campaign develops, the actions will improve from recycling and composting, something I believe many students on the UVM campus do in their sleep, to larger commitments, like eating vegetarian or vegan for the duration of the competition.

There is also room for technological improvement within the project. There is not ability to comment on the actions or ask questions of others. As the technology increases, I believe that this campaign could be effective at increasing awareness.

Students at University of Vermont, along with other universities and colleges are on a mission to SaveOhno and our environment! We’ll see where it brings us!







The Queen Bans Plastic Straws.

The Queen has banned the use of non-biodegradable food packaging and plastic straws in meetings and onsite cafes at Buckingham palace, Windsor castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (BBC, 2018). This comes as an aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans, however, the impact that it could have to reduce our CO2 emissions are potentially huge.

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(Myupdate Star, 2018)

12 millions barrels of oil are used to manufacture the 30 million plastic bags that Americans use each year (1 Bag at a time, 2018), and roughly 4% of global oil is used for making plastics (BPF, 2018). This may not seem like much, but it would still be a significant decrease in the burning of fossil fuels, and may provoke more significant changes in behaviour that would further reduce fossil fuel emissions (Victor, 2018). Americans use 500 millions straws a day (Plastic Pollution Coalition, 2017), the majority of which simply end up in the bin, as they are so small and people often don’t see the value in recycling them. Straws are made from polypropylene, which is made from petroleum, (Worldwatch Institute, 2015), they are often individually or bulk wrapped – more plastic.  

The banning of plastics in Buckingham palace is only a small part in how far this initiative is reaching. It is becoming more and more common across the globe to ban the use of plastic products, such as plastic straws and plastic bottles. Not only will this reduce the amount of plastic waste in our oceans, but with direct relation to climate change it will dramatically reduce our emissions as a result of burning fossil fuels. Between 8-10% of the US’ total oil supply goes to making plastic (1 bag at a time, 2018), so if we reduce this, we are making positive steps towards reducing our emissions.

The challenges that this movement faces are mainly cultural, people are so used to using straws and other plastic products in everyday life, that for many it may be hard to go without or use alternative solutions. People may struggle with finding alternatives or having to spend a little more. But whilst there may be upfront costs involved with using products that are not one use and throw away, in the long run we will be saving ourselves large amounts of money, as well as supporting the movement to save our environment and slow down climate change.

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(BBC, 2018)

It is really great how with such a small and simple idea it is possible to start a large change. By thinking about the smaller things that we do and use that contribute to the continuing increase in CO2 emissions, we will inevitably think about the larger impacts steps we can take to reduce emissions. I really love the fact that the Queen has done this across her estates, she is such an influential figure worldwide, so she has a large reach and can help change people’s behaviours worldwide. She is also of a generation that are potentially more likely to be skeptical about climate change, so the fact that she is doing something about it, may spur many more people to also change their habits.


1 bag at a time, (2018). Plastic Bags and Climate Change, available at: (last accessed: 10/4/18).

BBC, (2018). Plastic straws: Which Companies are banning them? available at: (last accessed: 11/4/18).

BBC, (2018). Queen backs plan to cut plastic use on royal estates, available at: (last accessed: 10/4/18).

British Plastic Foundation, (2018). Oil Consumption, available at: (last accessed: 10/4/18).

Myupdate Star. (2018). Some Fossil Fuel Facts About Burning Fossil Fuels, available at: (Last accessed: 11/4/18).

Plastic Pollution Coalition. (2017). The Problem of Plastic Straws (And How Each of Us Can Make a Difference), available at: (last accessed: 10/4/18).

Victor, D. (2018). Bans on Plastic Straws in Restaurants Expand to More Cities, available at: (last accessed: 10/4/18).

Worldwatch Institute, (2015). Plastic straws: A life Cycle, available at: (last accessed: 10/4/18).


Permaculture-A Saving Grace

One of the major influences on anthropogenic climate change revolves around the mass agricultural industry and the methods of conventional farming that we have developed. Land degradation, waste-management and the release of greenhouse gases are all obstacles that our species have struggled with and will continue to struggle with unless a change is enacted. However, I’ve noticed a spark of hope in the movement as there are innovative people putting in effort to initiate this change. Permanent agriculture, known as permaculture, is an efficient way to bring agriculture systems to a more local scale in hopes to ensure the maintaining of an ecosystem’s health as well as to provide beneficial outcomes for the surrounding community. Some of the main components of permaculture involve recognizing patterns and interactions of the natural world and utilizing them to better a system. Utilizing elements that have multiple functions as well as functional redundancy allows for a system to have a fail-safe and also create a dynamic web of interactions. Practitioners like Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, two of the founders of permaculture, show the ability of an individual to generate an efficient system without the need for large quantities of income and labor and are able to inspire the attempts of others. But much like with most ideologies, there are some criticisms which deter others from trying permaculture. One of these criticisms being the effect an individual’s geographic location has on their ability to produce a system. Urban permaculture, is a great example of how these criticisms can be put to rest; methods like rooftop gardens and portable pens can be utilized by communities living in urban areas to generate an efficient, sustaining permaculture system.

New York City is a wonderful example of an urbanized region in our country in which individuals are putting in effort to recreate the mindset of farming and self-sufficiency in cities. Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop garden located near central Brooklyn, is taking a permaculture approach to bring about nourishment and medicine to their community. With an emphasis on soil quality, seed/crop selection and water management, the Grange has created a prosperous system in which would have otherwise been occupied by cement. With methods such as capturing grey-water from contributing to the city’s runoff and using it to fuel their system, the Grange operates in recyclitive and conservative ways. The Grange offers guided tours and encourages volunteering within their system. They even host farmer’s market events to support the community and raise awareness on this method of farming. Another example of an NYC urban permaculture system is known as the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project located on the rooftop of the Metro Baptist Church. Much like the Brooklyn Grange, this rooftop farm is trying to create a more secure food source within an urban community. Hell’s Kitchen utilizes beehives to create a more interactive system through the processes of pollinators. New, innovative methods of permaculture are being experienced within this farm to generate a substantial food source.  Being run by volunteers within the community, the sense of locality allows for a more efficient mindset in maintaining the system. However, this system also grows food for distribution through a local food pantry as well as offering nutritional education and CSA programs to the surrounding community. These are clear examples of communities, limited by space and income(for some), that were able to create a secure food source through methods of urban permaculture and with a mindset that steers away from mass conventional methods to a more local

Permaculture is not only a way to treat our environment with a little more respect, but a way to bring communities together and understand the importance of our interactions and our role in the natural world. The movement is ever-expanding and open to everyone regardless of identity; ways of local farming will only benefit from the processes of permaculture as it will connect the community to the land itself. Permaculture is also a way we as a species can begin to understand how the planet actually operates and the mass impact we have on surrounding systems. Buckminster Fuller, a permaculture enthusiast, had once said that we should not being fighting forces of nature, we should be using them to our advantage and that is exactly what I think permaculture is all about. For the past couple of centuries, our species have worked so hard to suppress the natural way of the world. Whether it be diminishing weeds or clear-cutting a forest, we put in massive amounts of effort and only for a minor takeaway. With permaculture, we can flow with the systems of the natural world and begin to harness a new relationship with this planet we have come close to destroying. In regards to climate optimism, I believe permaculture will play a huge role in the attempt to reduce the changing of the climate.



Mother Up! Making family involvement possible

350VT is a local non-profit organization focused on organizing, educating, and supporting individuals and communities in working for climate justice. While they provide a wide variety of opportunities for people to get involved in climate activism, one of their most unique opportunities is the Mother Up! directive.

Recognizing the burden parents have of looking after children as a limiting factor for their involvement, 350VT created Mother Up! as a way for parents to participate without having to find and pay for child care. That is, while parents attend a monthly meeting about big picture climate issues, their children are watched over by childcare provided by 350VT. Families don’t even have to worry about making food that night, as a vegetarian meal is also provided.

Parental participants are valued greatly by 350VT as, “parents are powerful voices in fighting for the health and safety of our collective future.” To empower these voices, 350VT provides leadership development, educational opportunities, and logistical support to the family groups that come together at the monthly Mother Up! meetings. Not only does this encourage individual involvement in climate justice initiatives, but it also creates networks of families that share this objective and can understand the difficulty of getting involved as a parent. By nurturing these support groups, 350VT not only provides monthly directives, but also creates foundations of support outside the 350VT directive.

This seed is great for local areas, as it could build strong networks of activism and establish a strong foundation of values related to climate change. It also gives kids and indirect exposure to the discussion of climate change, justice, and issues. The strength of this seed would be limited to the resources the local 350VT community is able to supply in terms of food and childcare. As a non-profit, 350VT relies heavily on volunteers, donations, and community contributions. More could also be accomplished if meetings were more frequent than simply once a month.

Ultimately, Mother Up! is an effective way to expand community involvement in climate justice to those who are otherwise inhibited by family obligations. This is just one method 350VT has to organize local communities, but one that I was excited to hear about in my time there for a service learning class. Like 350VT, I see the value in getting parents involved in discussions related to climate change, as some of the most powerful narratives come through the lens of family.

For more information about Mother Up!, and 350VT as a whole, visit

The Breakthrough Energy Investment fund: connecting research, innovation, and capital to kick-start advancements in clean energy technologies.

The Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund was announced by Bill Gates in 2016 with a starting commitment of $2 billion dollars to be invested in the innovation, research, and development of clean energy technologies across the globe. The fund has been reinforced with seventeen partner companies, and twenty-nine individual investors from ten different countries. This group is known as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. The action plan of the fund is to build on pre-existing government funded research that is at risk from the current presidential administration. Funding is intended to go to technologies and research that will aid in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are perpetuating climate change. More specifically, investments will be put towards developing cleaner transportation, electricity generation and storage, overall energy efficiency, environmentally responsible agriculture, and clean energy startups.

Within their mission statement, the Coalition states that their goal is to “make sure that everyone on the planet can enjoy a good standard of living, including basic electricity, healthy food, comfortable buildings, and convenient transportation, without contributing to climate change.”(Breakthrough Energy, 2018) The investment fund plans to address the challenges of reducing the human impact on the environment across all borders through linking research with the needed capital to hasten the overall shift to a more sustainable world. The most innovative aspects of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund is firstly its established internal influence and power as well as its commitment to maintaining what is left of the government funded environmental progress.


CREDIT: sustainable

In the middle of the 20th century, we tackled huge projects for humanity – even with minimal computing power. In July of 1969, the United States’ Apollo 11 reached the moon, and with a fraction of the technological advancements that we have today. In the book The Four, Scott Galloway analyzes the immense pools of data, technology, and computing power top corporations like Google and Apple have access to, and he asks the question: “what is the endgame for this, the greatest concentration of human and financial capital ever assembled? (Galloway, 2017, p. 268) This question resonates in me in regards to the needed paradigm shift of the energy sector, and what the final push is going to be. It is not a secret that investors are disinclined to dive head first into the research and development it will take to even see the slightest bit of a breakthrough that is worthwhile in new climate-saving green technology, and for good reason. (Bellware, 2015) That is why I see the mission and scope of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures Coalition to present immense climate optimism. In Bill Gates own words, he articulates that “an investment in a true energy transformation requires governments, research institutions, businesses, and private investors to work together” (Gates, 2016) and that is exactly what he is proposing in his plan for the Breakthrough Energy fund. By partnering with educational institutions and government organizations, paired with immense capital, I believe that the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund provides a very optimistic view for the future of advancing green energy technologies.



Breakthrough Energy Ventures (2018). In Breakthrough Energy . Retrieved March 21, 2018, from

Galloway, S. (2017). The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (pp. 267-268). New York, NY: Portfolio / Penguin.

Bellware, K. (2015, November 30). World’s Tech Giants Team Up For Mega Investment In Clean Energy. In Huffington Post . Retrieved from

Gates, B. (2016 , December). A New Model for Investing in Energy Innovation. In Gates Notes . Retrieved from

A forest in your backyard

The way humans consume and take resources from the nature and transform them into products doesn’t complete an appropriate cycle, because we are operating in an open circuit, which is not coherent with the way the nature recycle its nutrients, that is the main reason because this star up decide to promote a “tiny forest” that will have all that process in a small space.

Starting as an environmental and social business, “afforestt” is dedicated to build small forest spaces within cities, based on local fauna and forest practices for rapid growth, with the return of ecosystem services, such as: water harvesting, micro-regulation of climate, avoid soil erosion and serve as a habitat for local species, etc. A simple idea that provides spaces with a high biodiversity density in an organic way. The “Miyawaki” technique promotes a clear message of afforestation and the opportunity to form sinks for carbon emissions, as a means to mitigate climate change, this method promise that the forests can grow 1 meter in height per year and become a complete forest in 3 years.

So it promotes a holistic management of natural resources, that looks for integration of vegetation cover within cities, for example some of these tiny forest can be designed to hold specific species based on the tree species used, if it is a floral forest can help to preserve bee populations or maintain local birds and bugs, avoiding biodiversity loss. Specifically, it aims to bring a part of the nature to communities, and to individuals. Currently it has projects in 9 different countries, with 111 forests planted.


However, we can´t obviate that sustainability hast three main characteristics, so the economic feasibility is a main characteristic that makes this approach suitable to work as a solution, while at the same time it can continue growing with economic revenues and creating jobs, training more people on this technique, and as a social movement it has a webpage with a section “Do It Yourself”, that shares the information of how to apply this technique in 4 different languages.

One of the mains aspects related to climate change mitigation is the storage of CO2 in sinks, and how efficient they are. This initiative does it, or at least, that is the argument that they promote, directly in their webpage reviewed in 2018. They ensure that this method has significant benefits, specifically: “Up to 30 times better Carbon-dioxide absorption as compared to a monoculture plantation”. This fact will need to be reviewed, and is too generalist, but it reflects a desirable potential solution.

In conclusion, this initiative is in my perspective a good approach that fulfill most of the characteristics of a sustainable proposal, however this solution has to reach more people. It is very optimist because it is confident that a significant change is possible just by the action of people, moreover it can be reproduced in other parts of the world and most important it can be carried out by individuals with the desire of contributing to a better environment.



-Newspaper article:

 -Conference in a ted talk video:

Web page:

Technique explanation:

Thermal Depolymerization: Is your garbage waste?

There are many problems that growing populations and a global commitment to non-sustainable practices produce. One noteworthy and sometimes overlooked issue is that of waste management. Landfills are overflowing and the pollution in the ocean is so rampant that garbage islands are forming in the Pacific Ocean that have been estimated to be the size of Texas. What is the solution to this growing problem? New technologies have been implemented that function based on the concept of thermal depolymerization. Thermal depolymerization is the processes of raising and lowering the heat and pressure of something so that the long molecular chains of hydro carbons are broken down. This process has been previously attempted by scientists with patents going all the way back to the 1970’s. However, there has always been an issue with the efficiency of the process. So what is the solution? Microbiologist Paul Baskis realized that the issue was with water. Originally the process of converting organic solids into high energy liquids was not very effective because the goal was to drive as much water out as possible. Baskis realized that water was actually the key to high efficiency oil production. Baskis’s process has an energy efficiency of 85%. And the result? A light oil that according to the production agencies burns much cleaner than conventional fossil fuels and by products that can be used as fertilizers or as gases to power the furnaces on site. In a sense it is a moderately “self-sustaining” process. This idea first came to light because of turkey. Excess turkey guts and waste, approximately 200 tons turkey is planned on being converted through this thermal depolymerization route to useful byproducts and 600 barrels of oil.

Can oil companies make the switch and why would they? The implementation of this technology would show their support for the increasing pressures towards sustainable energy, which could end up making them more profitable. This technology is not the end-all-be-all solution to combat climate change. However, this could represent a significant shift away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable measures. While green energy solutions are in the works, the use of thermal depolymerization could be the stepping stone that bridges. Pushing this technology and making it mainstream could mean using less coal and other fossil fuels.

Could this technology prevent global warming? The inventors sure seem to think so. But we are still producing oils, so how? By recycling materials that are already present and have been extracted we are not taking more carbon out of the earth that is ultimately going into the atmosphere. By switching to fuels produced by thermal depolymerization, we could leave carbon that stored in the ground there to remain as a sink. Baskis’s idea is that all objects once they have finished their use or value on earth will be converted into fuels. This all sounds great. However, the biggest issue with this plan is that the first plant, which is in Carthage, Missouri, functions as it is supposed to. Only time will tell if this is next big step in the global energy revolution.bluh

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

There are numerous climate change initiatives and projects being done around the globe to address the ecological consequences that are resulting from anthropogenic pressures on our planet. We hear a lot about communities doing their own part to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. One initiative in particular has made leaps and bounds to target regional greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the first mandatory cap-and-trade program to limit carbon dioxide from the power sector. It is the cooperative effort of the following states to combat the effects of climate change through this program: Maine, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts.

This initiative offers a market-based program that establishes a regional cap on the input of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by power plants. This is monitored and traded by way of allowance. States can buy and sell CO2 allowances from each other as long as they stay within the budget for the region. This way, the region can limit their emissions as a whole while incentivizing one another through market based strategy. The states distribute over 90% of allowances through auctions, quarterly. The auctions generate proceeds, which each state is given the opportunity to invest in benefit programs. These funded programs include that of renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc.


Climate change can be addressed across many scales. However, it is harder to formulate and organize mitigation strategies and policies at larger scales due to contrasting viewpoints, limited funding and viable solutions. For this reason, it is still a challenge to get larger bodies on board with proposed projects and actions to address climate change. This creates a vicious cycle that prevents us from making effective changes. The US is responsible for a large percentage of the worlds GHG emissions (2nd largest contributor behind China) . Recently the US refused to abide by The Paris Agreement, a climate agreement within the United Nations Framework that deals with GHG emission mitigation, adaption and finance starting in the year 2020. By taking part in this agreement, the US could have helped play a big role in strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change. However, by saying no, it has discouraged other countries from making the effort as they attempt to keep pace with the US’s booming economy. This as created


The Northeast has recognized the importance to take action and has come together to devise their own cap-and-trade system in order to help reduce these impacts. According to Inside Climate News, these eastern states have agreed to cut 30% of the region’s power plant global warming pollution by the year 2030.  As a resident of these states, I can participate in  this initiative by electing the right government officials that support this system. By offering an effective and successful large scale way to cut down CO2 emissions, the RGGI is a great example of how we can come together and create viable ways to address climate change. It serves as a great model for other areas of the world and offers an optimistic look into what our future can be.



Rising: Multimedia Stories of Local Change

Everyone has a story. More and more, those stories reveal the everyday impacts of climate change on local communities. They expose our vulnerabilities, weak spots in the socio-environmental interface, and our ability to rise above these challenges to create new opportunities for action. Rising, a multimedia exhibit of climate change in North Carolina, showcases these vulnerabilities and opportunities by combining oral histories with soaring aerial photography.


A photo from the exhibit shows birds standing on a shoal in the ever-changing Hatteras Inlet. Photo by Baxter Miller.

Inspired by a flight over the North Carolina coast, photographer Baxter Miller got together a group of community activists, local nonprofits, and academics to create a new tool for communicating climate change. Her idea was to pair dramatic photos of the shifting landscape with stories by the people experiencing those changes. The team received a community collaborative research grant from North Carolina Sea Grant and the William R. Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology, and Science based at North Carolina State University to bring their vision to life.

Their first exhibit opened on February 16 at the Center for the Study of the American South at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rising directly addresses climate change, specifically the impacts that threaten coastal communities and their economies by elevating the voices of North Carolina’s coastal residents – from fishermen to lifelong residents. The exhibit tries to transcend current challenges in communicating climate change by relying on personal stories and vibrant art to create a shared, emotional connection among viewers.1 For those who can’t make it to Chapel Hill, the exhibit travels eastward to a coastal location in the state later this summer, and anyone can follow along online through Facebook and Instagram.


Visitors crowd around one of the photos during the exhibit’s opening reception in Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of Rising.

Rising does what many other climate change projects fail to do: speak to people’s deeper humanity in ways that connect with our strongest values.2 Communicating climate change isn’t as simple as sharing the science; in fact, the more people know about climate change, the more they tend to become entrenched in their original positive or negative opinions.3 Rising overcomes this divide by showing climate change in a whole new light, calling upon personal stories and visual artifacts to show not tell. It uses stories to connect to community identities and relational values in a positive manner, emphasizing the personal relevance of climate change and potential responses.4 Miller, in a NC Sea Grant news release, sums up the goal of Rising by saying, “My hope is that it will provide an alternative lens through which to engage in conversation about whether my home region’s fate will be one of loss or continued resilience.”

While deeply place-based and personal, communities around the world could easily replicate the project. Drones, fast becoming an effective tool for many forms of science, have made aerial photography more cost-effective and anyone with a smartphone can start collecting stories from the people around them (for more guidance, check out these guides from The Smithsonian and StoryCorps). The impact of this type of project depends less on technology, though, and more on who gets involved. The stories will only be powerful if they represent real lived experiences and will only resonate with a wide audience if they represent diverse viewpoints. The organizers need to be established within the community or have an enhanced understanding of what stories might be available (and how) for the project to be successful. As a storyteller herself, Miller understood this hurdle and took careful measures in creating a team that could uncover the rich tapestry of life represented in the Rising exhibit.

How many people see the exhibit also enhances its overall impact. The traveling and social media aspects of Rising try to do this, but subsequent projects could increase visibility by having similar exhibits at schools, inviting important public figures/dignitaries, and/or by making it more interactive, such as collecting new stories at the exhibit or by using music. For many, a multimedia exhibit like Rising may represent the first time they see climate change as a human issue rather than a scientific question of data, models, and uncertainty.

“All good science is art,” reasoned English novelist John Fowles, followed closely by the idea underpinning this act of climate optimism: “And all good art is science.”


Photos showing both the beauty and fragility of the coast provide a gateway for talking about the impact of climate change on increasingly powerful storms. Photo by Baxter Miller.


    1. Corbett, J. B. and B. Clark. 2017. The arts and humanities in climate change engagement. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Retrieved 18 Mar. 2018.
    2. Corner, A., Markowitz, E., and N. Pidgeon. 2014. Public engagement with climate change: the role of human values. WIREs Clim Change 5: 411-422.
    3. Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., and G. Mandel. 2012. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change 2: 732.
    4. O’Neill, S., and S. Nicholson-Cole. 2009. “Fear won’t do it”: Promoting positive engagement with climate change through visual and iconic representations. Science Communication 30(3):355-379.

Special thanks to Baxter Miller and the Rising team for permission to use their photos in this post!