"Teach like the world depends on it," I've often heard. I take this mantra literally as I teach about today's major, interconnected environmental crises and their social consequences, especially biodiversity loss and climate change, in the Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University. As an ecologist who spent seven years doing outreach work in the non-profit sector, I have come to appreciate the value of narrative in communicating about these crises.
Inspired by Elizabeth Kolbert's 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, my students and I are writing about the current mass extinction event. Today's biodiversity crisis is largely driven by the expanding human footprint on the Earth, for which the Anthropocene--a still unofficial title for the epoch in which we live--is named. Each of our narratives, like Kolbert's chapters, focuses on the story of an emblematic species--one whose story can help us understand the broader story of the biodiversity crisis and our connections with it. Click the menu links above for narratives written by me and narratives by my students--we hope you enjoy them and take them to heart.