Meet the Storyfest finalists: Left Brain

Finalist: Janice Cantieri, Northwestern University

Story: Puerto Rico: A 'canary in the coal mine' for climate change

Why did you utilize facts and data to communicate this idea?

I wanted to explain sea level rise in an animation because the reasons the sea level rises are a bit complicated but once you see them it's much easier to understand. I figured an animation would do the best job at showing something that's even hard to see in the natural world because it happens so slowly. 

How does the innovation in your piece move the planet forward?

Knowing that coastal erosion and sea level rise are happening and affecting people already is the first step for people to take action for the planet. If they don't know it's happening, they wouldn't care or try to develop a solution. I thought that telling this story would raise awareness about climate change and how it's already affecting the tropics. 

 

Finalist: Dan Douglas, SUNY-ESF

Story: Green infrastructure: A calm after the storm

Why did you utilize facts and data to communicate this idea?

It seemed very necessary for my story to utilize facts and data, since facts and data have such an integral part in the development of modern technologies like green infrastructure. I also think it's much more effective to convey a message to an educated public with hard facts than wordy rhetoric.

How does the innovation in your piece move the planet forward?

Since freshwater is arguably the single most important natural resource on the planet, I would definitely consider a technology that can aid in its preservation as effectively as green infrastructure to be a great step forward for our planet.

 

Finalist: Olivia Iannone, SUNY-ESF

Story: Chestnut revival: How genetics could bring back an American giant

Why did you utilize facts and data to communicate this idea?

The GM chestnut project needs facts to be told effectively - the scientific cause of the blight, an explanation of what a "GMO" really is (many people have a gut reaction against GMOs, but there's so much more to the story!), and how complex genetic work can be used to implement countrywide ecosystem improvements. In situations like these, it's definitely important that the public know the scientific facts behind what's going on perhaps in their own backyards.

How does the innovation in your piece move the planet forward?

I believe that genetic engineering can be a huge tool for ecosystem health once people learn to destigmatize it, especially for pathogen immunity. The issue of invasive diseases is completely due to human influence, and granting species genetic immunity is an excellent solution to this problem. This GM chestnut tree will be the first of its kind, and if it is successful, it will be a model for future conservation.

 

Finalist: Matilda Kreider, The George Washington University

Story: Island style ingenuity

Why did you utilize facts and data to communicate this idea?

Facts and data are integral to all responsible reporting. After all, unsupported claims can get scientists and environmental storytellers in a lot of trouble! But I felt that I had an added responsibility because I was writing about a relatively new and unknown innovation. For most readers, my piece was their first introduction to OTEC and to this type of technology park. Providing data and facts was an essential part of my reporting because I wanted to ensure readers gained an accurate, nuanced understanding of these concepts. Another important factor was that I had had the privilege of seeing these impressive accomplishments in real life... But readers weren't able to be there with me. To make it all come to life, I needed to draw on the science behind the park's success. Broad, generalized claims would not be enough to make the ingenuity real.

How does the innovation in your piece move the planet forward?

In my view, the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology park represents several important steps forward. Perhaps what stands out most is that the park utilizes a form of sustainable energy that has not yet been harnessed anywhere else in the world. Facilitated by OTEC, the HOST park is able to take another step forward as an incredible example of sustainable business and development. All of the individual industries within the park are interdependent and draw on the unique qualities of Hawai'i; because of this set-up, many of them are doing work that has never been accomplished before. As I began to write this piece, I tried to decide which Planet Forward category the HOST park fell under. Was it energy or architecture, food or water, business or science? I've come to the conclusion that the park moves the planet forward in all of these areas. It is supported entirely by renewable energy, which is one reason the park is a model of sustainable architecture for technology and industrial parks. It uses water temperature differences as a source of power, and it revolutionizes the way water is distributed for use in industry. Industries within the park are growing food in new ways, whether it is farming shellfish or growing wine grapes. Business and sustainable science come together on every level in this park, making its category impossible to define and its influence on the planet impossible to deny.

 

Finalist: Carrick Palmer, SUNY-ESF

Story: Bringing back bald eagles

Why did you utilize facts and data to communicate this idea?

I utilized data and facts in my story because to me being able to have something quantitatively concrete makes the story less abstract than something that's more vague. Personally I find numbers can help to conceptualize something further than adjectives could alone and provide more emphasis as well.

How does the innovation in your piece move the planet forward?

So the most difficult part to me in writing this story was figuring out what exactly was innovative about it. In the end I felt that the innovation was a multitude of diverse groups and stakeholders from different backgrounds, coming together to change course and bring back the bald eagle. This didn't seem particularly innovative to me at first but given the current climate here in the country, it unfortunately feels as if working together is innovative, but certainly if more situations were like the bald eagle's where there was cooperation on multiple levels from every corner, we could actually move forward.

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