Meet the Storyfest finalists: Right Brain

Meet the Storyfest finalists: Right Brain
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Past Storyfest Entries

Finalist: Tomasz Falkowski, SUNY-ESF

Story: The language of birds

Why did you choose to creatively communicate your idea through this media format?

I see science as storytelling. Science is another way in which we encode, maintain, and communicate our understanding of the cosmos and our place in it. For me, science writing is a creative expression of this body of knowledge and allows me to share my passion for and fascination with nature. In partaking in this tradition, we all can personally experience worlds beyond our wildest dreams either across the universe or in our own backyards.

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

I believe the only way we can restore health to the land is to first restore our relationship to it. We must become a part of nature rather than apart from it. However, this seems impossible in a culture that presupposes a dichotomy between humans and nature, thus facilitating exploitation and abuse in the name of production. Fortunately, indigenous cultures around the world can teach us how to cultivate the reciprocity needed to heal the living web of relationships upon which we all depend. Indigenous agroecosystems can serve as examples of sustainable, reciprocal relationships with nature. In following their example, we can reconcile human needs with those of nature so both benefit now and into the future.


Finalist: Nolan Hausler & Emily Robinson, The George Washington University

Story: Don’t kill my buzz

Why did you choose to creatively communicate your idea through this media format?

We started to create 360 video projects for our sustainability reporting class and fell in love with it. The ability to communicate a story by letting the viewer truly immerse themselves in the content is like nothing else. This format pushes both the storyteller and the viewer to be creative and adapt themselves to this new medium.

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

If every rooftop in every city had a beehive, there would be thousands of more bees, enabling us to secure our food for many years to come. Through this story, we learned how incredible and fun urban beekeeping is, and it inspired us to spread the word about this project. It is something so easy that so many more buildings should have on their roofs! 


Finalist: Darby McGlone, Sewanee: The University of the South

Story: The Simple Life

Why did you choose to creatively communicate your idea through this media format?

After considering a few different medias, I decided to create The Simple Life using an ArcGIS Story Map. I thought a Story Map would be the best way to clearly and distinctly identify the issue, the innovation, and their implications. I felt these elements would be most effectively communicated through a media that enables me to assign images to specific topics and text, as there are several different variables at play in the story, each of which I wanted to highlight and discuss individually.

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

The most inspirational aspect of Housing Sewanee’s Sherwoods Springs project is not captured in any specific innovations. Rather, it is the framework for simple, sustainable living provided by Sherwood Springs that serves as the project’s greatest innovation. Now more than ever we need a model for living, one that is not centered around material consumption, but rather gets at the more important things in life, the things that really matter. The Simple Life demonstrates a way to rediscover these things, by reconnecting with the surrounding nature, establishing a dependence on spring-fed water sourced from a spring twenty yards from your home, and developing small, low-impact homes whose success depends on the involvement of family and the community, all of which motivate the pursuit of a more meaningful, prosperous and sustainable lifestyle.


Finalist: Alexandrea Rager, Colorado State University

Story: Protecting not protesting

Why did you choose to creatively communicate your idea through this media format?

I chose to creatively express the North Dakota Pipeline protest through photographs because there is more to the area than the publicized aggression between protesters and police. There was such a sense of community between those who were fortunate enough to aid the effort, that was not discussed in the mainstream media. I wanted to capture the essence of Standing Rock Burial Grounds and thought the best way to facilitate that would be through photography. I was fortunate to witness it first hand and wanted to provide others with a glimpse into the experience.

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

I believe that the innovation in my piece really serves to not only aid the efforts of those fighting for the river, but provide a perspective many did not have. I wanted to allow the photographs to speak for themselves through the colors, angles and intention each hold.


Finalist: Harrison Watson, Jackson State University

Story: Taking notes from the planet: Mobile Bay National Estuary Program’s watershed project 

Why did you choose to creatively communicate your idea through this media format?

As a child I often spent my time in the fantastical world of fiction, exploring vast worlds between the covers of a thick book; however, as I grew older, I was sucked increasingly further into reality, regardless of my consent. I figured that my time in the imaginary was over – and it was; though, many an author taught me it was not which world that I should be concerned with, but which words. If one so chose, those words used to construct the lands derived from the minds J.R.R. Tolkein, H.P. Lovecraft, J.K. Rowling, and many others, could be made to describe the reality of my planet: A single word could be used to create a million landscapes. As a budding environmentalist, I must be capable to tell a story about the modest ecosystem in my backyard in relation to the Mobile Bay Watershed system, which is connected to a fifth of the United States’ freshwater production, while still giving readers the opportunity to picture the activity in their backyard to use their fiction, their imagination, as a means to improve upon reality. Environmentalism is a tough discussion to conduct, and the best way to conduct that discussion is through a one-on-one conversation, me and you – or myself and the reader. I should be able to convince someone that methods used to restore the natural freshwater distributers of my native region are no different than the ones used to restore their native region, so long as we can mesh fiction, or imagination, with reality to create an omniscient perspective imperative for adapting to those millions of landscapes created by one word, Earth.

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

As I discussed in my closing sentences of the story, too often now I hear the voices of outspoken environmental thinkers suggesting new designs for infrastructure that dictates changes in the planet best suited for humanitarian purposes by reconstructing or reconfiguring disrupted flows. Earth long ago realized what blueprint works best for organic life to proliferate without exhausting resources, and I find it hard to believe that we are too far gone to entertain a possibility to return to those blueprints. Thus, this “innovation” exists not as a single step forward, but as a return to point “zero”. Of course, the definition of a healthy planet is contingent upon whatever life dominates the resources of the times, but for now carbon beings dominate our planet’s resources, so healthy for them means, an abundance in organic matter (if I am telling that right). We have regressed as the health of the planet, and subsequently those carbon beings, as we progressed in virtually all other areas of observation (communication, technology, intellect). If this is not true on the whole, I apologize, but it is time for us to stop looking through the middle man – the everyday man – to discover the solution, and return the source. If we can restore the planet to it’s original blueprints, or modern adaptations, and let it live, it will persist happily and healthily well beyond the generations of our children we struggle to save by remodeling those same settings to stave off tomorrow.

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