Stanford University

The Art, Science, and Adventure of Environmental Storytelling

Hewlett 201
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Summer Session

The Art, Science, and Adventure of Environmental Storytelling: Discovering nature’s unexpected resiliency in a rapidly changing world through environmental research

In 2010, young scientist Lauren E. Oakes set out to study the mass die-off of yellow cedar trees on the outer coast of Southeast Alaska. She found herself immersed in an even bigger, and totally unexpected story: how the people of Alaska were adapting to the species’ disappearance, and how the forest was adapting to the changing climate conditions. Her recent book, IN SEARCH OF THE CANARY TREE: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World, chronicles the six years Oakes and her team spent studying thousands of trees and countless plants and interviewing locals whose lives are directly affected by the loss of yellow cedar, a species impacted by climate change. To her surprise, Oakes discovered the resiliency of forgotten forests, flourishing again after years of exposure to stressful conditions. What they found would also profoundly change Oakes’s understanding of how people respond to the reality of climate change, and what is needed to spur them to action. Oakes will share her perspectives on storytelling in science and the ways in which she finds optimism amidst the many climate change impacts occurring across the planet. She’ll draw from her research in Alaska, current climate adaptation work, and experience in crafting narrative in science to shape this event around meaningful work that addresses a breadth of environmental issues.

About Lauren Oakes

Lauren E. Oakes is the author of In Search of the Canary Tree (Basic Books 2018), a book about finding faith in our ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. She is Conservation Scientist and Climate Adaptation Specialist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. She wrote In Search of the Canary Tree while teaching environmental communications courses in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, after finishing her PhD in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. The book was selected as one of Science Friday’s Best Science Books of 2018 and Forbes’ Best Books of 2018 about Climate Change, Conservation, and the Environment. In addition to publishing her research in peer-reviewed journals, she has contributed to media and literary outlets such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, and Lit Hub.

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