| by Rachel Christopherson

News Stories

A young woman in brown overalls and blue shirt, smiling brightly against a lush green background, grass, tall grass, and trees, a red sculpture is hidden in the grass
Kamryn You Mak, a Middlebury College Junior, Environmental Justice major, and participant in the first ever Middlebury Climate Change Semester program held at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA.

The story of climate change is not a simple one.  Its roots run deep.

It’s easy to get lost in the complexity, or to give up and not care in the face of a changing climate.   Stories have the power to wake us up, grip our attention, and make us care.  This is the purpose of Planet Forward’s StoryFest competition:  to engage, inspire, and ultimately drive action for the health of the planet. Founded by Frank Sesno, retired CNN correspondent and friend of Middlebury College, StoryFest is open to college students around the country, and the competition is stiff.

Middlebury student Kamryn You Mak (a Junior, Environmental Justice major, and participant in the first ever Middlebury Climate Change Semester program) is a Planet Forward StoryFest 2022 finalist in the Most Creative Story category.  She weaves a readable, light, yet profound tale, as she connects the deep threads and through lines of a changing planet to her own experience in “Ice Plant = Climate Change.” Using her experience and the tendencies of this invasive plant as an analogy, she cuts to the heart of the existential threat while keeping the reader grounded in the literal sands beneath our feet. 

Two people smiling pulling iceplant from a dune (colors range from light green to red pink orange on that plant) with dusty blue coastal sage and a blue sky behind them
Two volunteers pull ice plant at Martin Dunes in Marina, CA, in February, 2022; the event was organized by the Big Sur Land Trust.  Photo by Kamryn You Mak, used by permission.
“Ice plant generally has one big main “mother root.” There may be smaller sections of root that spread out and run right under the sand, but they all connect to this one thicker root. Same with climate change.”
— From "Ice Plant = Climate Change," by Kamryn You Mak

I won’t spoil the main vein of Kamryn’s assertion, “You Need to Get the Mother Root,” but SHE NAILS IT.   She keeps it real and readable, including section titles such as:  “The sneaky bastard is everywhere, especially where you don’t expect it,” and, “She’s an octopus! Novapus? Decapus? Why so many arms?”   The well-told story leaves the reader with a new way of viewing the many threads/arms/roots of the climate story.

Winners will be announced at the Planet Forward’s Summit on Thursday, April 7th, 1:00pm-3:00pm ET/10:00am- 1:00pm PT in person at George Washington University and Livestreamed (register to participate!).  Grand prize winners will join a storytelling expedition aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion this summer, exploring the vibrant ecosystems of Alaska between Sitka and Juneau. The 62-guest ship will be led by a team of five naturalists plus an expedition leader. The ship’s team will host talks, as well as offer guidance ashore, and experienced Planet Forward journalists will be editorial guides to help shape the stories that will come from the experience.

Go Kamryn!   We will be “rooting” for you! 


For More Information

Read Kamryn’s article:  Ice plant = Climate Change  (one of five finalists in the Creative Story category)

Read Claire Babbott-Bryan’s article:   Eternity is upstream: A call for salmon habitat protection (another Middlebury College student who is a finalist in the Science Narrative category-Go Clarie!):

See all the Planet Forward StoryFest 2022 finalists:  Finalist Submissions