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Storytelling for just and sustainable futures

Tanvi Dutta Gupta, BS Biology ’23, MS Earth Systems ’24, envisions a more sustainable world by connecting environmental justice, storytelling, and the arts.

Tanvi Dutta Gupta smiling outside wearing a red stole
Photo credit: Steve Castillo

Growing up across the rainforests of India and Singapore, Tanvi Dutta Gupta discovered her passion for the environment and ecology. “The rainforest taught me how to love nature,” she said.

Dutta Gupta has lived across India, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, and the United States. She identified this international perspective as critical to her understanding of environmental justice.

“Global inequities define how environmental change impacts us, especially for frontline communities,” she said. “The reason I do ecology is because I believe in the importance of telling better stories about the global south and ecosystems that I come from.”

Dutta Gupta, who graduates in June with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in Earth systems, knew she wanted to work on environmental justice when coming to Stanford and got involved with the Environmental Justice Working Group during her first year.

She began co-leading the working group’s EJ and the Arts initiative to amplify the importance of the arts in addressing global challenges like climate change. Over the last three years, the team has organized events with artists in music and theater, collaborated across campus with organizations like Stanford Live and Earthtones, and launched an environmental justice film festival.

Recognizing the many existing environmental justice and art projects on campus, Dutta Gupta was inspired to create a way for artists to share their work and reflections every year. In spring 2023, she initiated Fronds, an anthology for environmental justice and storytelling that features essays, poetry, short stories, photography, and other forms of art created by the Stanford community.

She published the second edition in spring 2024, working alongside fellow Environmental Justice Working Group member and Earth systems coterminal master’s student Aiyana Washington. “This year, I’m excited because it’s so intergenerational – we have everyone from faculty to freshmen,” Dutta Gupta said.

She reflected on the outpouring of support that has made Fronds possible, with volunteers reading submissions, editing drafts, and even helping transport the printed copies on short notice.

“There’s a generosity that the contributors have given us in helping us hold their pieces, and there’s also a generosity that people have with their time and energy.” Both, she emphasized, have shown her the wonderful power of community.

This theme of community resonated the most with Dutta Gupta when reflecting on her past five years at Stanford. Looking ahead, she said she was especially excited to see her colleagues in the Environmental Justice Working Group continue to expand their impact.

“I’ve been really grateful for the chance to work alongside so many amazing people,” she said. “What I’m looking forward to now is I get to build on these relationships. I get to see where that goes next. And that’s the biggest reward of my time here.”

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