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Spring Workshop: New modes of environmental storytelling

Spring Workshop: New modes of environmental storytelling

people on the beach and in a boat at sunset

Spring Workshop: New modes of environmental storytelling

people on the beach and in a boat at sunset

The workshop will discuss how “landscape” is not a phenomenon that exists without the presence of culture. Photo: Peggy_Marco

The American landscape has been misunderstood for years as being natural and unaltered. Contemporary writers are now recognizing the rich and complex cultural practices that make up this vast land, as well as the intricate interaction between human and non-human components.

Writing Cultural Landscapes, a six-week workshop offered by Climate School to all Columbia affiliates that aims at exploring the intertwined crises surrounding equity and environment, is available for six weeks. It will expose students to unusual environmental texts and encourage them use the lessons and ideas they have gathered in their own short pieces.

Students will leave with their own place-based reading lists and a glossary, as well as writing prompts and exercises.

Lynnette Widder will lead the classes. She teaches community resilience in the Earth Institutes and sustainable architecture in Earth Institutes. Sustainability Management ProgramDarby Minow Smith, a long-time journalist in the environment and a candidate for Columbia’s MFA program in creative writing.

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The collaboration has already generated excitement about the possibilities of environmental storytelling. Smith, who teaches undergrad creative writing at Columbia, said Lynnette has a unique way of looking at landscapes. She doesn’t just look at writing, she also looks to measure assumptions and test them. It has made me realize the importance of collaboration across schools and fields. This class is going to be a great place for creative writing.

Classes will be held on Zoom from 2-4 p.m. Thursdays beginning March 3, and ending on March 3. All current Columbia and Barnard students, affiliates and faculty, as well as alumni, are eligible to apply. Those interested should send an email to Widder ( and Smith (

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