Capstone Introduction: La Vida Despues (Life After) – A Climate Change Short Story

If you told me at the beginning of the semester that my last month in college would be spent from my home 2,000 miles away from Michigan because a global pandemic was happening, I probably would’ve asked what you had been indulging in that night. But, here we are. I’m writing this post from the desk I used to do high school homework from and a desk I never thought I’d use for college homework.

But let’s forget that. I’m here to introduce my capstone project. I went into this project with the idea of writing something tackling climate change or other environmental issues via a creative medium. In the end, I wrote a short story. I went in not even having much experience with short stories as a medium, let alone writing them so it was definitely a learning experience. However, I am very happy I chose this medium because it definitely provided me with the challenge I wanted in my capstone project. While I didn’t have any experience with short stories prior to this project, I did have experience in its subject matter, climate change.

I consider climate change one of the most pressing issues facing people today and I think others should too. It’s a phenomenon that will greatly impact our future and has already shown its ugly face on multiple occasions. I’m constantly thinking of all the dangers it can bring to myself, my family, my friends, and my home of Puerto Rico. So, I present La Vida Despues (Life After), a short story of a future heavily impacted by climate change. While the story is fictional, the setting and scenarios presented in the story are based on sound climate change projections described in multiple published reports and research articles. The purpose of the story is to give the reader a picture of what our future is being predicted to be unless we take action against climate change. It also serves as a way to communicate the hardcore science behind climate change in a way that can be accessed by the general public. I hope that this story serves as a wake-up call for those who still don’t consider climate change a pressing issue (*coughs* Trump). Either way, I hope the story is engaging to everybody and that readers can come out having learned significantly about climate change.

I want to thank everybody that helped me with this project from my classmates providing me with great feedback to Shelley for giving me great ideas for how to structure and develop my story. I also want to shoutout everyone that continuously works to promote climate change action and hope that the fight continues.

Without further ado, La Vida Despues (Life After).

Wisdom From a Puerto Rican

This is an announcement to all those who are deciding whether or not to take the minor. I would tell you to take it. Not as much for the writing but more for the people. You will be a part of a community of people all from different backgrounds with different personalities with mostly one thing in common, they chose to take the minor. As a beginning to the minor, you have to go through the gateway and these are my words of wisdom to survive the beginning of the journey.

  • Expect the unexpected – Be prepared to have an assignment dropped on your shoulders at the end of every class. Even if it seems it’s not coming, trust me it is. As a result, have some time set out each week for these assignments regardless of whether they’re coming or not. If you get an assignment then you have the time set up to do it. If you don’t have something then congratulations, go watch Netflix or something.
  • Experiment – The gateway is all about experimenting with your writing. You will be asked to take something old you’ve written and convert it into a variety of things. Don’t be scared to think of crazy or insane ideas to transform it into because, regardless of what it is, they’ll tell you to do it.
  • Don’t go quietly into the night – Make your presence known in the class, don’t sit in the back and stay quiet (no one did this in my class). The gateway and the minor is about creating a community, making friends, and connecting with people so let people know you exist in the class. Don’t be scared to read the daily writing (you’ll know eventually what this is).
  • Enjoy it – Last, but not least, enjoy the gateway to the fullest. If you don’t make any fun out of it then you will be stuck feeling like you’re just striking things to do off a list. Have fun with it and the time will fly by.

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Trusting The Process

When we first showed up to the gateway we were introduced to the idea of the experiments in the class and I had no idea what in the hell that meant. I just remembered being confused as to the idea of what it was. Transforming an old piece of writing into three different things when all the past pieces of writing I still had saved somewhere were research papers and analytic essays. How was I supposed to turn papers as bland as those into three different and intriguing forms? In the end, I wounded up taking my research paper about coffee from the past fall semester since the information from it was still very fresh in my head. Still, I had to think how I could transform this research paper into three different formats. Eventually, these are the experiments I came up with.

I started with a screenplay because I’m such a movie fanatic I thought I’d dabble in the art of screenwriting. Well, I was in for a treat. It took me hours upon hours to write a short scene that may have lasted 2-3 minutes if it was ever put to film. Nonetheless, it was interesting in seeing how screenwriting is done and I have come out of this experiment with a much higher respects towards screenwriters.

For my second experiment, I headed in a different direction, a humorous and expository essay. For this, I took my inspiration from a popular College Humor show called Adam Ruins Everything. In the show, the host takes common misconceptions people have about a topic and debunks them in a humorous way. I converted this style into an essay since this was the format I wished I could’ve written out. It was fun to write it out and I thought this would end up being my final project but then came the third experiment.

For my final experiment I ended up doing a blog. From the moment I ended editing the website, I knew this was going to be my final project. I did not spend all those hours just to set up the website to just it let it go as a sample. I knew I need to follow up on this experiment and I have had no regrets.

By the end, I’ve trusted T’s process for these experiments and they’ve ended up being very interesting as I have now created three interesting projects out of a typical college research paper. It is incredible what has come out of this class and I’ll see where the minor takes me from here.

The Beginning of the End

It’s April and, in a kind of Game of Thrones way, the end is coming. We have finally gone through all our three experiments and have chosen the paths for our final projects. Much of us sitting like the following dog…

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Credit: Giphy

claiming it’s all fine. April has come much faster than we expected to and now none of us can wait for it to end. Looking ahead is the final project and the experiments have been left behind in the fire. The only thing that survived is the remnants of experiment #3 which I have chosen to continue on as my final project.

For experiment #3, I took my original piece and expanded on it in order to make a blog. I took the basis of my original piece, which was a research paper on the Colombian coffee industry and used it as a starting point to develop a blog focused on the entire coffee industry. The idea was to create a blog that used science-based research to develop engaging articles that can be accessed by whoever is interested in the coffee industry. For my final project, I’ll be continuing with the outline I set to run this blog and continue posting to it for the remainder of the semester. The idea is to create a type coffee blog that is barely seen online nowadays.

While doing my research on coffee blogs for experiment #3, I noticed there was a lack of blogs that talked about the industry the way I wanted to speak on the industry. I wanted to provide engaging articles about the industry focusing on its environmental and social aspects but most, if not all, of the coffee blogs I encountered, were about making the perfect cup of coffee, how to become the best barista, what equipment to buy for your kitchen, and so on. As a result, I identified an unoccupied niche among coffee blogs that I could occupy. For that reason, I am choosing this experiment for my final project.

In my sample, I included the blog itself, the original piece as a special case study, and an article I wrote about climate change and the Puerto Rican coffee industry. Following the steps I outlined in my sketch, I will now continue to post articles at least once a week until the end of the semester. My sketch also outlined the way my blog will be formatted for the duration of the project and, for now, I will be sticking to this format.

I’m really looking forward to taking my original piece and transforming it into its own full-fledged platform. I never thought a research paper I wrote for a class would be transformed in this way and I’m looking forward to seeing how my blog will look like by the end of the semester. My only concern is that this project will be very time-intensive since I will be continuously researching and writing pieces for the blog for the next few weeks and it’ll be interesting to see how I’ll manage considering the last mideterms and class projects are fast approaching.

Myself as a Writer

To start my story as a writer we first have to talk about the upbringing, high school. High school is the place many of us are the first thrust into the world of complex, analytical and linear world of essays, research papers, etc. There was never anything aside from essays about poems, essays for college applications and standardized test, research papers about assigned topics, or lab reports. Then I got to college and, for a while, it was about the same. That all changed when I got to the minor in writing. The gateway has been a world of experiments and unplanned prompts that come up at the beginning of class.

If we’re talking about now, the present, my writing is being characterized by experiments which I never thought would come through my writing class instead of my biology or physics labs. The experiments are not just referring to the projects we are working on currently, but also the various little prompts in our writer’s notebooks, most of which are unfinished. Sitting in this notebook are now snippets of my everyday imagination where my pieces reflect my frame of mind over a semester, most of which make me see as taking the humorous and satirical routes with the pieces in contrast to some of the more visual and metaphorical pieces my peers write. I enjoy putting these kinds of sketches to paper every class as I never do so outside of that classroom. Either way, my writing is now freer than ever. It does not fall under the linear and structured form of writing I had been put through most of my life. For now, my writing is unpredictable and at the will of T’s prompts and experiments and for the future, I’m unsure what direction my writing will take. All I know is that, right now, writing is the most fun it’s ever been.