Meet the Storyfest finalists: Innovator

Finalist: Jayme Dittmar, University of Montana

Story: Redefining progress

How did you find this innovator?

I was dog mushing through the Brooks Range for one of the first times when an Inuit elder told me about the Road to Ambler and the underlying issues that may affect their culture. A few years later, a team of five and I decided to complete a 350-mile packrafting expedition along the Kobuk and Koyukuk rivers in AK that ran adjacent to the road corridor, stopping in each village and collecting interviews conveying the environmental complexities behind this development project.

How do they move the planet forward?

All of these characters move the planet forward in practicing a personal or cultural act of progress that is outside the current paradigm. Progress is as a "forward movement toward a destination." The common narrative surrounding inevitable progress is often laden with pursuits of exploitation of the natural world. In a world of hyperconsumption, overpopulation and continuous development, if we continue this trajectory of progress, to what destination will we arrive? This pivotal conversation that will be continued throughout the next century will define our species. Iri, Steve, Harry, Seth and John all offer insight, and I wanted to make sure that their perspective was included in this conversation.

 

Finalist: Jacob Lebel, Umpqua Community College

Story: Fires of the future: Meet the Oregon innovators fighting global pollution with rocket stoves

How did you find this innovator?

During a visit to the Standing Rock camps in early December, I observed different kinds of heating apparatus and stoves being used for heating and cooking. The most efficient and least polluting technology in use seemed to be a large rocket mass heater, which utilizes similar principles as the rocket stove. Upon my return in Oregon, I researched these different technologies and, by chance, connected with a fellow martial arts student who told me he was working on designing and building rocket stoves alongside Dr. Winiarski.

How do they move the planet forward?

Unfortunately, air pollution is still a very widespread and deadly environmental issue across the globe. Dr. Winiarski’s creation of the rocket stove prototype and his subsequent work to promote its use have led to him being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air. His ideas have led to mass production of a sustainable cookstove technology that now helps save the health and environment of families around the world.

 

Finalist: Amanda Menas and Zoe Spielvogel, The George Washington University

Story: Great Scott! Meet the modern day Doc Brown

How did you find this innovator?

Professor Scott Sklar, along with his work on the global stage, is a professor at the George Washington University. After finding his TEDTalk and learning of him through the Sustainability Reporting class, we were captivated by his character, entranced by his passion for the field and story of overcoming pushback in his early years, and look forward to see where his successes bring not only his professional work but our society into a brighter future.

How do they move the planet forward?

Professor Sklar, and his work at Stella Inc., have been inspired by the prospect of providing energy in a positive and environmentally friendly way for future generations. Motivated by his daughter Stella, Professor Sklar has traveled around the world providing energy with different types of solar panels, and batteries for storage. Not only is he thinking about what he can do as an individual to conserve on his own property today, his work exists in the future to explore all we can do to help the next generation.

 

Finalist: Kara Morgan, Northeastern Univesrity

Story: An American in India

How did you find this innovator?

I met Tavish on a month-long course trip to India in May 2014. When I heard he returned to the country, I knew I had to hear and tell his story.

How do they move the planet forward?

Tavish works with Professor Vishal Sardeshpande at the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, at the Indian Institute for Technology Bombay, to help move the planet forward. Tavish's projects focus on turmeric processing and spice roasting, as a part of CTARA's mission to connect engineering expertise to the rural challenges the country faces.

 

Finalist: Zachary Smith, SUNY-ESF

Story: Learning from a Native perspective with Robin Wall Kimmerer

How did you find this innovator?

Dr. Kimmerer is both a professor and the director for, The Center for Native Peoples, located at SUNY ESF. As a student, I have heard of her lectures and classes for several years. Finally able to secure a spot in her class, Indigenous Issues and the Environment, I have come to understand Dr. Kimmerer's reputation. She is a leader that pushes her students to interact with, understand, and engage a Native's perspective toward our environment and balance that with our western science education.

How do they move the planet forward?

Dr. Kimmerer's work moves the planet forward, not by re-inventing the wheel, but rather by sharing that there is another wheel that has been forgotten about and that we will move forward faster if we can learn to ride on both of them. In this metaphor, the first wheel represents Scientific Ecological Knowledge (SEK), and the second, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Each works in ways the other lacks. Dr. Kimmerer challenges her students and peers to value both of these ways of knowing in tackling the global climate issues of today and the future. It is a perspective that can be applied regardless of ones scientific background or economic standing.

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How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.