The Why is the Amazon Burning?  Humanities Lab was pleased to welcome Torie Bosch, editor of Future Tense – a project of Slate, New America and Arizona State, as a guest collaborator in the Lab today. Bosch partnered with students via a question/ answer session and offered feedback on story pitches students had pre-crafted related to some of the many social challenges that are happening in the Amazon today. The Humanities Lab had the chance to connect with Bosch on a few key details about her visit to the Why is the Amazon Burning? Lab as well as to gather a few tips and tricks for getting work published!

Read more from our Q and A session with Bosch in the interview below.


Humanities Lab:

What interested you (and Future Tense) about working with the Why is the Amazon Burning? Lab?


I am always interested in working with just about any class that will have me. I think that learning how to write for the public is a crucial skill for any future leader, but too often, students don’t get the opportunity. It is always a joy to find instructors who are interested in helping their students think about how they will engage with the public on their work.

More specifically, Why Is the Amazon Burning? was a perfect class for me to work with because when it comes to the future, few places on Earth are as critical as the Amazon. What happens to the Amazon affects us all. The issues at the core of Why Is the Amazon Burning? are also at the core of all of the big-picture questions about the future. It deals with the environment, with humans’ relationship to their surroundings, with questions of governance and accountability and fairness and exploitation and power.

It can sound a bit corny, but my guiding belief with Future Tense is that there is no “the” future–there are infinite numbers of possible futures, each one determined by the decisions we make every day. Some people’s decisions, though, have more power than others’. I think that Why Is the Amazon Burning? captures that dynamic.


Humanities Lab:

Can you share a few tips with our readers that you will be sharing with the Amazon Lab students?


The most important part of writing for the public is to respect your audience, and that means meeting them where they are. Often, experts want to write for their peers, but when you’re writing for a general-interest readership, you can’t do that. Instead, you have to weed out the jargon and focus on what you really want to communicate. Typically, the best way to do that is to limit yourself to communicating one idea at a time. If you’re writing a 1,000-word piece of commentary for Slate, the New York Times, the Arizona Republic, or another popular outlet, you should be able to summarize your argument in one or two sentences. Try it out on your smart friends and family members who don’t work in your field–if they find it surprising and interesting, that’s a great sign.

Also: Use contractions! Use active verbs! Mix up your word choice and sentence structure! Those simple things will help your writing feel more energetic and help your message land with the reader.


Humanities Lab:

Will any of the student work be included in the magazine?


Future Tense has published work from lots of students over the years. I’m not sure yet if any of the articles from Why Is the Amazon Burning? will lead to a Future Tense piece, but they may! Sometimes I receive a piece from a writer that isn’t a fit itself, but there’s a germ of an idea that we can turn into an article. I would certainly not be surprised at all if a student from Why Is the Amazon Burning? had a piece in Future Tense in the not too distant future.


Humanities Lab:

Anything else you would like to add?


Anyone who is interested in learning more about Future Tense or writing for the general public should feel free to reach out to me! Future Tense reaches more than 1 million readers a month, so it can be a great way to help bring cutting-edge ideas to the public.



Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a joint collaboration between New America, Slate magazine, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies and their effects on public policy and society.


Connect with Future Tense and Torie Bosch:

Torie Bosch:

Future Tense:

Maureen Kobierowski