A picture is worth a thousand words. For Dr. Neil Ever Osborne, assistant professor in Trent University's School of the Environment (TSE), this age-old adage is more than just a saying – it's a guiding principle.
“These magazines broadly explore various scientific endeavours. I think their responsibility is to connect an innovation or a revelation in science with the larger society,” says Prof. Osborne, who believes that the true power of photography lies not just in capturing beautiful images, but in telling important stories, such as the urgency of the climate crisis.
Similarly, Prof. Osborne shares his stunning photographs in class to create a real-world connection for his students – an element he believes is somewhat missing from environmental communications.
To bridge the gap between effective storytelling and climate change science, Prof. Osborne is now teaching fresh new courses in Trent’s Climate Communication Option that just started this term.
Demonstrating climate change effects through visual storytelling
“In classes, I've been trying to bear witness to what we're seeing with global warming and its’ consequences. I recently showcased my photos of polar bears on the sea ice to display this. The sea ice is shrinking and not forming as early or as thick as it should, creating a negative impact on their ability to hunt.”
Through his collection of arctic polar bear photos, Prof. Osborne can demonstrate the complexity of current climate issues, while also shedding a unique light on some of the more challenging theoretical topics for his students.
A mission to create one special image each day
“I had this thought recently, that when I look back on my career, I may only have a handful of images that truly resonated with people,” says Prof. Osborne. “The quest for me now is to just make at least one special image a day.”
Prof. Osborne hopes his images prompt people to get involved in making a difference.
“If an image can influence a politician or someone who chooses to volunteer, then I think I'm contributing in my own little way,” says Prof. Osborne. “We need more storytellers showcasing diverse perspectives and voices, particularly those who live on the front lines of combatting climate change and are experiencing this day to day.”
New climate communication courses available
“In the TSE, you can become an ethnobotanist, an ecologist, a limnologist — anything,” says Prof. Osborne. “What I’m really trying to convey is that no matter what hat you wear, you need to be effective at communicating your findings, your interests, and most importantly, make use of storytelling.”
By offering dynamic new courses within the Climate Communication option at Trent, Prof. Osborne hopes to continue advancing the climate change conversation.