Student Union for Sustainable Development Presents: Fireside Lunch Chats

by |April 24, 2019

By Carla Singson and Charlotte Munson

bios for francesco fiondella and lisa daleThe Student Union for Sustainable Development held its inaugural Fireside Lunch
Chat in March. The event featured Lisa Dale, a lecturer in the undergraduate program of Sustainable Development and Francesco Fiondella, the director of communications at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. The chat centered around the topic of science communication in the field of sustainable development.

Drawing on experience from their respective professional backgrounds, Dale and Fiondella provided colorful insights into the challenge of bridging scientists, policy-makers, and cultural messengers. Dale recounted a formative encounter with a member of the Colorado legislature that caused her to reconsider her assumptions about how different individuals understand climate change. Fiondella described the process of working with artists and navigating the precarious balance of scientific accuracy and emotional poignancy. Both speakers emphasized the bi-directional nature of science communication: instead of just repackaging information for decision-makers and cultural messengers to do what they will, effective science communication should be a collaborative process that contextualizes knowledge and facilitates trans-disciplinary findings.

Students were especially enthusiastic about a prospective course on science communication in sustainable development. Max Goodman (GS’20) was intrigued by the creative challenge of accurately portraying a complicated truth. He is glad the university is explicitly addressing science communication and believes the course will fill a gap in the program and provide a core skill set “that should honestly be required.”

While its overarching theme was science communication, the event also functioned as a career talk. Dale and Fiondella each traced their unconventional career paths, sharing anecdotes about time spent as a ski-bum and wood-worker’s apprentice. Their main takeaway for students was the value of “derailments”; it is life unplanned that allows you to discover work you find meaningful.

The Fireside Lunch Chat series aims to foster relationships between Earth Institute faculty and students by providing intimate settings in which to discuss topics in sustainability. It was hosted by the Student Union for Sustainable Development, a student organization dedicated to supporting the undergraduate program in Sustainable Development.

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