Published: Nov. 17, 2023 By

The Ted Scripps Fellowships have been bringing award-winning environmental journalists to CU Boulder for 27 years. Fellows embark on a year of courses, projects, field trips, seminars and more— taking advantage of everything university life has to offer. This series is a chance to get to know this year’s cohort of talented journalists beyond what a typical bio page will tell you.

Kara FoxKara Fox is a visual journalist and digital producer whose work has taken her across the globe. Fox has reported on women's issues, geopolitics, culture and corruption from Bhutan, Cambodia, Myanmar, Haiti and most recently the UK. As a digital producer with CNN International, Fox crafted features about alternative youth movements in Putin's Russia, LGBTQ+ people in Turkey, and the plight of Rwandan dissidents. During her fellowship year Fox plans to explore how the climate crisis disproportionately impacts women.

Fox sat down with CEJ graduate assistant Devin Farmiloe to talk about her work and experience as a fellow.

Your fellowship project is covering how climate change disproportionately impacts women. Could you tell me a little bit more about that line of inquiry?

We know that women and girls disproportionately bear the brunt of the climate emergency, and research shows that reproductive justice is a key element of climate change mitigation and adaptation. But international and national frameworks on climate change are failing to take adequate action, with few stories dedicated to the gendered impact of climate change. So, I’d like to be a part of that change.  My research is focused on three broad categories so far: how climate change affects maternal mortality, reproductive justice and how it affects gender-based violence. I’m also looking into how extractive industries fuel gender based violence, and querying whether the green transition will also present those same problems. While we know anecdotally that climate change is drastically affecting these aspects of women's lives globally, with some new research emerging in this space, especially in the Global South. However, there’s not nearly enough comprehensive studies into just how badly things like the rise of sea levels or the warming of our Earth are really affecting women in every aspect of their lives. I'm finding many researchers that say that there's this study and that study, but that there’s just not enough data available quite yet, or that they haven’t necessarily placed a gendered lens on their research. My hope is that I'm going to be able to partner with academics and scientists that are interested in further looking into the intersectionality of climate and gender  and to harness the data that is available into a body of work that helps folks connect the dots on these issues, especially here in the United States.

What was your inspiration behind this topic?

A lot of my reporting in the geopolitical space focuses on women’s issues and movements around gender equity. It seemed like a natural progression for me to apply an intersectional feminist framework in writing or researching stories around climate change and environmental justice. Women are often an afterthought in a lot of scientific circles and still in a lot of journalism circles. We are not at the forefront of research, even though we are often leaders of initiatives aimed at transforming societies. It is a complete disservice to women and other minority populations if we don't put them at the forefront of this conversation around climate change. We live in this world, and our right to self-determination and empowerment is crucial for the sustainability of our planet. It's imperative to study how climate change is affecting women - and if those studies don't exist then to put it to scientists and to put it to researchers to start making this a priority. I'm hopeful that dialogue during this fellowship will do that. Kara Fox

How has your fellowship been so far?

It has been extraordinary. In all of my years reporting, being out in the field, or being in an office, I've never felt so excited or engaged as I have in these last six weeks. I can say that with all honesty. I've been able to take time away from the daily pressure of a newsroom job, which is wonderful, but not just because there's no pressure here that's imposed by someone else but because the pressure is on myself to explore a topic that interests and engages me and, to hopefully create work that sparks change. It’s a gift to be able to explore things that I’m interested in but wouldn’t have an opportunity to delve into deeply. Right now I'm taking five classes, which is a little oversubscribed, but I like that three of the classes are directly complementing each other in terms of climate science and environmental science. I'm really enjoying the overlap. It's really nice to be able to take time to really ingest these big-picture ideas so as to get better at articulating them to the wider public in the future. It feels really empowering. It's also really exciting to be able to work among and collaborate with the other fellows -- we all come from such disparate backgrounds, but we complement each other so well. I think that's part of the strength of the program, to be able to share ideas and develop concepts for your project, but also to talk about the things that you're learning. I can physically feel an expansion of my brain right now in a way that I haven't before.

What is your favorite class, or maybe top two if you cannot choose?

My Ancient  Astronomies  of the World class is fantastic. More than half of the lectures are taught in the planetarium, which is just neat, overall, but the reason that I love it is because it's not just a class about looking at the stars or examining the stars, the planets, and how the stars and the planets affect what's happening here on Earth, but shows us the historical context for why cultures and people did things that they did.  This allows me to reflect on how light pollution is not allowing people today to enjoy the night sky - and why that matters. Because of light pollution, people today are not engaging with the stars, because we can't see them, we can't see what's happening. So things that our ancestors did, anything from creating sundials, to calendars to Polynesian navigation, those sorts of things that they did because they had this big, bright sky, were so extraordinary. I feel that we're missing out on learning about how that part of our world affects us and what we could do with it. I've also really been enjoying my Introduction to Oceanography class that I'm taking, which just spells out everything from how we began our first life on Earth, to how the oceans are carbon sinks and how adding CO2 to our atmosphere is affecting our oceans and therefore our world. It's been really cool.

What do you enjoy doing outside of journalism?

Being in the ocean, swimming and diving. We're in a landlocked place though, so I love climbing and I love being in the mountains. It's great to be able to explore some of these mountains while I'm here -- (even if it's just at the foothills with my kids). Especially in the context of studying about how these mountains were formed, which is what I'm doing in some of my other classes.