WRITING FOR POSITIVE IMPACT: Communicating the Climate Crisis

Please join us as we build the first global community of practice to tackle the climate crisis --- Bringing together scientists, journalists, practitioners and other professionals engaged in communications around the world.



In the field at the Jardin de Talefre, in the heart of the Mont-Blanc massif. © Brad Z Carlson




Lauren E. Oakes
Emily Polk



click here



Scientists addressing climate change talk with experts in their own fields; journalists target specific outlets. Advocates and practitioners often reach their own communities--and sometimes beyond. Yet the impacts of rising sea levels, severe hurricanes, dangerous heat waves, and droughts remind us that there has never been a more urgent time to collaborate around the ways we communicate about climate change. This 8-day, 8 night workshop and writing retreat in the French Alps brings together environmental scientists, journalists, practitioners, advocates, scholars, teachers and writers in order to build an international community of practice that focuses on climate change communication and storytelling. It will provide the foundation for long-term collaboration and innovation among professionals and engaged-citizens with diverse skill-sets and interests, in order to increase knowledge, improve communication practices, and support climate change action in unprecedented ways.

We will focus on “hot topics”, such as migration, climate justice, visual arts, climate fiction (cli-fi), while considering the implications of various discourses from vulnerable populations to political leaders. What does the latest research say about communication strategies that can increase public understanding and empower people to take action toward adaptation and mitigation? Participants are invited to share their own experiences, insights, and interests, while learning about different strategies that take into account their audiences and the socio-cultural contexts in which their work is embedded.

The Aiguilles des Drus, site of massive rockfall due to permafrost melt during the 2003, 2005 and 2011. © Lauren E. Oakes

Why join?

During the workshop, participants will have opportunities to:

  • Work individually or collaboratively on a climate-related writing project and practice communicating the science in an accessible way to different stakeholders such as policymakers, consumers of popular media, community leaders, religious leaders, family members, students, and others
  • Draw from current research on climate change communications to experiment with new strategies
  • Develop and share a climate change narrative across a range of multimodal options (e.g. op-ed, podcast, longer feature article, scholarly piece, graphic)
  • Hike in the magnificent Alps to a backcountry hut for a 2-day retreat and work on your own communications project, or partner with others to develop a collaborative effort
  • Create a community of practice by sharing ideas and best practices, as well as develop longer-term collaborations



Why Chamonix?

This region, its landscape, and its people sit at the forefront of the climate crisis , yet lead pioneering climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. Mont-Blanc holds a long history of scientific exploration, which will allow us to build our field of practice in a place where communities and political leaders are responding, across borders, with action to address the current and future challenges.

Climate change and its impacts in the Alps  


The team

Taught by Stanford University’s Dr. Emily Polk and Dr. Lauren E. Oakes Co-hosted by Centre de Recherches sur les Ecosystèmes d'Altitude (CREA), the Research Center for Alpine Ecosystems, and the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University




Read more on writing from Emily and Lauren at LitHub -- The Scientists' Writing Group: Finding Community in a Burning World"


Lauren E. Oakes

Lauren E. Oakes is the author of In Search of the Canary Tree (Basic Books 2018), a book about finding faith in our ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. She is Conservation Scientist and Adaptation Specialist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. In Search of the Canary Tree was selected as the Second-Place Winner of the Rachel Carson Environmental Book Award, a Finalist for the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Communication Award, and one of Science Friday’s Best Science Books of 2018. In addition to publishing her research in peer-reviewed journals, she has written for media outlets such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Scientific American. Oakes met the CREA staff in 2017, when she joined other selected scholars to support the organization’s long-term development of an international educational program.


Emily Polk

Emily Polk teaches sustainability and climate change communication courses at Stanford University as an Advanced Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric and Affiliate Faculty with the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environmental Resources. She developed and taught some of the first courses at Stanford on Gender and Climate Change, Communicating Climate Change, and Environmental Justice. Prior, Emily worked as a human rights and environment–focused writer and editor. Her book Communicating Global to Local Resiliency focuses on community-led responses to climate change and her other climate and sustainability related work has been published in global anthologies, peer-reviewed journals, and magazines such as Whole Earth and National Geographic Traveler. Her most recent article was published in the Handbook of Communication for Development and Social Change, (Springer 2018).


CREA Mont-Blanc

CREA Mont-Blanc is a French scientific and educational non-governmental organization that has been performing climate change research since 1996 on the slopes of the famed Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain. The organization’s work in the Alps combines the efforts of a highly respected group of scientists and a network of hundreds of volunteers who collect data and make observations to assess the impacts of climate change on flora and fauna. In 2016, CREA Mont-Blanc received a grant from the European Union to bring academic professionals to Chamonix, in order to develop educational courses related to climate change. CREA Mont-Blanc was awarded the 2017 United Nations Momentum for Change award at the COP 23 climate talks.



Stanford Earth

Our goal is to understand, predict, and respond to human-caused and natural environmental change at local to global scales. Scientists in our Earth System Science department offer strong graduate research programs across a broad range of environmental and Earth science disciplines for students working toward master's and doctoral degrees. Undergraduate and coterminal master's degrees are offered through the closely-related and popular Earth Systems Program.

Cost & details

Dates: July 17-25, 2021, in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France

Registration: This workshop was postponed from July of 2020 due to COVID-19. Many participants are rolling over into the 2021 workshop, but there are still spaces. Please contact us, including your answers to the questions listed below, if you're interested in attending. We will begin building this community of practice virtually in the interim.

Cost: $2400, including housing, breakfasts, and a welcome dinner for 10-participants at our communal chalet in the Chamonix Valley. There is space for 2 additional participants (at a lower cost) who choose to stay elsewhere and convene at the chalet. Some financial support may be available for a limited number of participants -- write us for further details. Course fees also support our partner organization, CREA.


Want to support?

Whether you're able to join us or not, your donation will help develop this global community of practice around climate change communication.


Your contribution could:

1) Lower the cost for participants to attend and ensure we bring together a diverse group of communicators;

2) Enable much-needed field reporting by participants;

3) Offset emissions for travel.


Please contact us to donate to this climate communications endeavor.

If you’re also interested in supporting the climate change research carried out by our partner, CREA Mont-Blanc, click here.

France’s longest glacier, the Mer de Glace © Ashton Hooker


Contact / Apply

For more information, send us an email at climatecomms[at]creamontblanc.org, or click here to contact.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself!

  • Why are you interested in attending this workshop and what do you hope to gain from it?
  • What kind of science writing and/or storytelling have you pursued or are you interested in pursuing? If you have hyperlinks for 2-3 clips please provide them or a writing sample (< 5000 words).
  • How could your work and its impacts benefit from a larger community of practice in climate change communication?
  • What are 1-3 ideas for writing projects during your time in Chamonix? Please let us know if you’d like to work on this alone or collaborate with others.