Leila Phillip, Professor Environmental Studies Program at the College of the Holy Cross

Writing & Activism: Or how to tell a Good Environmental Story when no one is listening (and the planet is melting)

In this illustrated talk, award-winning author Leila Philip will discuss her journey to research, write and publish Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America, (Twelve Books, December 2022). Lauded by critics as a “model for 21-century environmental writing”, Beaverland was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, where it was named an Editor’s Choice. It was featured on NPR and Science Friday where it became January’s book of the month.

In this talk, Philip will discuss the many choices involved in researching, writing then choosing a publisher for her book — then the experience of bringing Beaverland into the world — a process she is still engaged with by actively speaking on radio, print media and podcast venues to speak about beavers and advocate for the important role they have to play as we face rapidly accelerating climate change.

Many people love beavers, and increasing numbers of people understand why they are a keystone species, but many do not and we have a long cultural history of regarding beavers first as pelts, then as pests — a history filled with misinformation and bias. Beavers need a re-brand and throughout the country, beaver management needs critical revision. Yet, how can we accomplish lasting social and environmental policy change? In this presentation, Philip engages the ways storytelling can be harnessed as a valuable means to create engagement, community and collaboration.