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Tuesday September 21st

'A way to make a difference:' UNC junior opens dialogue for environmental change in new book

<p>Junior Jessica Reid discussed her journey of becoming a published author to a group of students and faculty at a Honors Carolina Student Spotlight event on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Photo courtesy of Jessica Reid.</p>
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Junior Jessica Reid discussed her journey of becoming a published author to a group of students and faculty at a Honors Carolina Student Spotlight event on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Photo courtesy of Jessica Reid.

Growing up in Apex, UNC junior Jessica Reid witnessed the destruction of forests in her community — and she felt compelled to do something about it. 

At the age of 19, she started writing a book about how to discuss environmental issues. In August, her dream became a reality when the book finally got published. 

Reid discussed her journey of becoming a published author to a group of students and faculty at a Honors Carolina Student Spotlight event Tuesday.

"Writing was a way to make a difference around the environment," Reid said at the event. 

The Student Spotlight was created to amplify the voices and accomplishments of UNC students and to connect people through conversation.

On this platform, Jessica hoped to inspire students to take risks to achieve their goals, to use the resources available to them and to talk with their communities about the environment.

Journey to success

When initially presented with the opportunity to write her own book, Reid was hesitant, but after some self-reflection, she decided to go for it. 

“I was kind of scared going into it, because I thought — ‘I’m 19 years old,' at the time, 'How am I supposed to write a book right now?’" Reid said at the Student Spotlight. "But I thought that the worst that could happen is I start writing a book and I just don’t finish it.”

Now, one year later, Reid's book is finished — but achieving her dream didn't come without challenges.

She launched the campaign to fund the publication of her book in mid-March, around the beginning of economic shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The search for funds nearly halted and her publication was delayed. 

“I ended up taking longer to fundraise than I had originally planned, but that ended up working really well because I had extra time to finalize my manuscript and I added a chapter on what the pandemic tells us about communicating climate — so it worked out,” she said with a smile. 

Reid discussed how talking with experts helped her navigate imposter syndrome and played a pivotal role in the creation of her book "Planet Now: Effective Strategies for Communicating About the Environment."

“Maybe you feel like you’re not supposed to be somewhere that you are, like you’re not qualified enough," she said. “As a college student, sometimes I face that, but I really just reminded myself that I was talking to the experts and weaving that information together and telling their stories.”

In crafting these stories, Reid searched the world around her for motivation and guidance.

The inspiration to put this passion into words came to her after she read Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring," the novel that sparked the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

“I was inspired to see how a book could lead to tangible change," Reid said.

Reid's book brings attention to the inequities of the environment — a message she said should be a focus of understanding during conversations about environmentalism.

“The environment is really a people issue and a social justice issue, because a lot of times people who are historically marginalized in society tend to be the people who also face the most burdens with the environment," she said.

To further this mission, half of the profits from her book will go to environmental organizations that support a sustainable future.

Conversation fosters community

This virtual Student Spotlight event was the first of its kind — but likely not the last. 

The host of the event, Shandol Hoover, the director of student development and special projects in Honors Carolina, said now is the right time to be having these discussions.

“It is more important than ever to come together for these types of conversations,” she told The Daily Tar Heel prior to Tuesday's event. 

Students at the event asked a range of questions, from how to stay motivated to how to find sources to how to hold themselves accountable while writing.

Reid recommended that students curiously engage in different topics, talk to experts or professionals and ask people close to them for support. 

“Everyone has a story, a unique set of experience and knowledge that they can share,” Reid told The Daily Tar Heel in a pre-event interview. 

The message that Reid wanted to leave her fellow students with is that no matter the topic, communication is key.

“We have to talk in order to take action, and we need to make sure we are strategic to talk about the environment.”

@cameronmilnee

university@dailytarheel.com

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