Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Comfort with discomfort -- my theme for 2015

A great start to a snowy California winter on the Truckee River. Photo by me.
I've got a new article up at The Conversation on working with conflict and emotion around climate change issues (thanks also to New Republic for picking it up!). It's basically all around the idea of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable during a time when things are changing pretty rapidly. It has been a really interesting time to try to write about climate change -- I finished the article before the Paris climate talks started, but it just came out today, which might be even better timing, even though trying to keep it relevant as the talks progressed was a challenge.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Longing for a revolution

I had to go really far away to a watery, watery land to find a really helpful book. Photo by me.
Some days, I feel certain that we are on the verge of some major cultural shifts. Other days...not so much. During the latter, I am grateful for anything the reawakens a deep sense of possibility. Recently, that thing was a serendipitous encounter with Land and Environmental Arta book that contains some unexpected parallels for where I feel we are in the sciences right now and provides a really interesting look at working from the margins.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tuning out, tuning in

The sound of thunder and lightning and a million grains of sand being stirred by monsoon winds in the desert. Photo by me.
Listening is something I spend a lot of time doing and thinking about, but over the past year or two I have noticed that my feelings about it have evolved quite a bit. In a nutshell, I'm seeing more and more that the times when I just can't bear to listen have as much to teach me as anything else.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dry spells

After what felt like a really productive first half of 2015 where I wrote a bunch of articles and a book chapter, I think needed a couple months of silence. There is a way that working on drought issues full time can really dry a person up -- literally and figuratively. Somewhat paradoxically, a long sojourn to the desert last month helped a lot.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated, California?

Drought looks and is felt differently
across California. (photos mine)
Last year, on one of the hottest days of southern California's fall (it was about 108 in Palm Springs), I bought a rain jacket because, well, it was on sale and I needed one. Shortly afterward, I spent a couple weeks without a kitchen as my landlord replaced the roof on part of my apartment because it had started to leak. In both cases, lots of jokes were made about the need to protect myself from the rain -- I mean, what rain? Then, it rained. Quite a lot. And I was happy to have a rain coat and a solid roof, and felt slightly less crazy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

California's water paradox -- new article up at The Conversation

California never ceases to amaze. The Trinity Alps, photo by me.

My colleague Doug Parker and I have a new article up at The Conversation that expands on some of the concepts explored in my previous blog post -- namely that when it comes to water in California, enough will never be enough. Here we go a bit further in articulating that strategies for contending with that kind of paradox come down to more of a significant paradigm shift than a solutions mindset.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

When enough isn't enough

Look at this gorgeous (and, yes, sadly snowless) place we live. Lakes Basin National Recreation Area in Plumas County, CA -- March 28, 2015. Photo by me.
We have enough and we'll never have enough. This is the unresolvable paradox at the heart of so many issues, and one that is playing itself out daily when it comes to discussions about California water. Since the now infamous "one year of water left" headline ran last month (don't worry, it was quickly refuted) and the governor announced a 25% water reduction for urban users in the middle of a snowless Sierra meadow last week, anxiety has skyrocketed and finger pointing has commenced.

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Being: Stepping Stones of Integrating Emotions into Practicing Science

I could not be more thrilled to be a guest contributor at On Being. For those that don't already know it, it's a platform that explores the questions "what does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?" hosted by the incomparable Krista Tippett. I love the blog and the podcast, and am so so so honored to be in the company of contributors like Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin.

You can read the full post -- "Stepping Stones of Integrating Emotions into Practicing Science" -- and dig around for some other inspiring content (like podcasts with Mary OliverJoanna Macy, John LewisRachel Naomi Remen, and Seth Godin - so many good ones!) at their website. I have so much gratitude for the work they do.

Related posts:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Drought anxiety

"California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?" This was the *slightly* provocative title of an LA Times op-ed written by Jay Famiglietti, a UC Irvine hydrologist currently at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. He has since said that the title was not accurate, asking that people read the article itself.* Unfortunately, judging from a lot of my conversations, it was hard for many to read past the fold.

Today, Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a pretty irreverent (as is his style -- big fan) article on what he is calling "California Water Anxiety Syndrome:"
that sinking feeling to trump all sinking feelings, that sour knot in the pit of the collective stomach, unnerving and strange and, let’s just admit, unutterably depressing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Art and Science of Waiting (for rain and other uncertain things)

One of the most depressing hikes I've taken. Photo by me.
California rancher Dan Macon knows firsthand that waiting can be an excruciating experience. As a small-scale sheep rancher in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, he has spent a lot of time waiting for rain during the state’s ongoing drought. Macon’s livelihood is tied to the land and particularly to water: a vital ingredient in creating the unique grasslands his animals depend on. Good-natured and thoughtful, he waits for rain and tries to get through with, as he puts it, a mix of “humor and commiseration.”

Kate Sweeny, an associate professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, studies the kind of waiting that Macon is faced with—that is, waiting for uncertain news. As Sweeny writes, waiting for things that we can generally depend on like getting a table a restaurant is vastly different from waiting for uncertain and unchangeable news such as a medical diagnosis.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The problem with consensus

The issue of scientific consensus on climate change is back in the news again. For a good primer, see Chris Mooney's latest piece in the Washington Post: "Researchers think they’ve found a “gateway belief” that leads to greater science acceptance." I just want to jump quickly to what I find so challenging with focusing on consensus (and there are many) as a means to sway public opinion: if you view the climate change issue through a conflict lens, consensus is not the answer. Research actually shows the opposite -- that in intractable conflicts, which I believe climate change has become, introducing nuance, shades of gray, and multiple perspectives is what leads to change.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Scientists Have Feelings Too

I was a scientist just a few years out of graduate school when I had a career-altering experience speaking with a man in tears at a community workshop. A large cluster of wildfires had burned through his small, close-knit northern California town, and many residents were forced to evacuate their homes. They were worried that their properties would be unprotected in the time they had to stay away: firefighting resources were strained due to additional wildfires in other parts of the state. Emotions ran high for everyone as my colleagues and I presented our work on how houses burn during wildfires.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Relationships, listening, conflict (and an actor) in science & communication

For the past five or so years, I've been writing and speaking extensively about the value of relational work, including deep listening, in science and communication. It's so heartening to see others joining that chorus. Alan Alda (yes, that Alan Alda), who is now a visiting professor at a science communication center named after him at Stony Brook University, has a beautiful reflection on his work teaching scientists to communicate more effectively. In an interview in The Atlantic with Jessica Lahey, he says: