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I’m a researcher and writer in ecolinguistics and environmental communication. Get my weekly digest of nature writing ideas/tools:

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About me

Hi there! My name is Gavin. I have an M.A. and Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. My main research examines how language and culture shape human relationships with threatened species and places, with most of my work focused on Hawaiian green sea turtles in Hawai‘i. …

Ed Yong on the Craft of Science Writing and Communication

Photo by Rana Sawalha on Unsplash

When it comes to science writing and communication, there are few writers as skilled at their craft as Ed Yong. He’s something of a science writing prodigy. His writing spans topics ranging from the microbes that inhabit our bodies and orca conservation to language genes and most recently, the current global pandemic.

In fact, Yong’s coronavirus reporting has been widely praised as some of the most well-researched, compelling, and informative coverage on the pandemic. He currently covers science as a staff writer for the Atlantic, and his work has appeared in National Geographic, Nautilus, Scientific American, Wired, Aeon, Nature, the…

Photo by Havilah Galaxy on Unsplash

James Nestor’s book ‘Breath’ chronicles the new science on the ancient art of better breathing.

“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe better.” — Dr. Andrew Weil

When I first started reading James Nestor’s new book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, I was curious but skeptical. Why do I need to learn to breathe better? I’ve been breathing my whole life. It seems like I’ve been doing it pretty well so far. On average about 25,000 times a day. After all, I’m still alive.

Perhaps if you meditate or practice yoga, you are aware of how…

“In Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

Harjun Näkötorni, Jyväskylä, Finland. Photo Credit: Gavin Lamb.

In his essay Walking, published in The Atlantic in June of 1862, Henry David Thoreau writes one of his most famous lines, “in Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

But this line is also one “that is still misquoted as a defense of untouched wilderness,” writes Deagan Miller. For some reason, Thoreau’s ‘Wildness’ is often interchanged with ‘Wilderness’ when quoted. And not just with this quote. Another famous line of Thoreau’s from his book Walden, “We need the tonic of wildness,” is often misquoted as “We need the tonic of wilderness.”

Miller, a historian of American environmentalism, argues that…

“Smash the control images. Smash the control machine.” – William S. Burroughs.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

This week, I’m still finishing up Re:Imagining Change: How to Use Story-Based Strategy to Win Campaigns, Build Movements, and Change the World, by Patrick Reinsborough and Doyle Canning (2017). Last week, I took a quick look at some of the ideas behind the book and I’m learning a lot! …

“Numbers numb, jargon jars, and nobody ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart.” — Andy Goodman

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

This past week I started reading the second edition of Re:Imagining Change: How to Use Story-Based Strategy to Win Campaigns, Build Movements, and Change the World by Patrick Reinsborough and Doyle Canning (2017). The book comes out of The Center for Story-Based Strategy, a great resource for environmental communicators to check out. They also have a neat collection of ‘tools and resources’ on their website too.

The book covers a lot of territory on key communication strategies for social movements, non-profits and advocacy groups, including elements of storytelling, frames and framing, narrative analysis, and a fascinating chapter on selecting a…

What the debate around the new Netflix documentary ‘Seaspiracy’ can teach us about effective environmental storytelling

Photo by Anna Wangler on Unsplash

As a researcher in the field of ecolinguistics and environmental communication, I think a lot about visual environmental communication. I’ve written about the role of visual media in climate communication. But when I heard about a new documentary on the environmental crisis of industrial-scale fishing on Netflix that was generating some controversy, I wanted to dig a little deeper.

Last week, I watched the new documentary, Seaspiracy. “Seaspiracy examines the global fishing industry, challenging notions of sustainable fishing and showing how human actions cause widespread environmental destruction.”

Here are some of my first thoughts about the documentary after watching it.

“whenever you can exchange your and’s with but’s or therefore’s, it makes for better writing” — Trey Parker

Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

“Science Needs to Emulate Trey Parker”

So says Randy Olson, is his great little book for anyone writing about science, Houston, We Have A Narrative: Why Science Needs Story.

As a long-time South Park fan, Olson says, he always admired the narrative genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. But it wasn’t until he watched a short documentary about the making of South Park, that a light bulb went off. In the short documentary, there is a moment when Trey Parker is explaining his editing method for South Park scripts to a group of NYU film students. …

Research shows how a polarized left-right debate in the media about critical environmental issues only hides deeper problems

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

In a new article in The Conversation, environmental communication scholars Tema Milstein and John Carr look into an incident involving the harassment of a manatee that happened in Florida in early January this year. As their article’s title suggests, “A manatee with ‘TRUMP’ scraped into its back was itself disturbing. But it reflects a deeper environmental problem.

Manatees (related to dugongs in Australia) are a threatened species in Florida and are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Milstein and Carr explore how the framing of this incident in the media reflects a common pattern in how environmental debates are…

“The reader is impatient. Start with the most important conclusion and then explain how you got there.” –Glenn Kramon

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

In a recent episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart, a podcast rich with insights on writing and communication from the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), host Matt Abrahams, a lecturer in organizational behavior at Stanford GSB, interviews Glenn Kramon, also a Stanford GSB lecturer in management and an editor at the NYTimes. The episode is entitled: “Writing to Win: How to Quickly Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged.”

The interview is packed full of great tips and tricks for improving your writing, not just in the business world but for anyone trying to write more compelling prose. 3 tips…

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