Dual BA Alumnus Publishes Children's Book About Climate Change

Inspired by his time living with a French family as a student in the Dual BA Program between Columbia and Sciences Po, Enrique Olivo '18, recently wrote and published a children's book titled Mommy, what's a Polar Bear? that focuses on climate change. 

October 29, 2021

When Enrique Olivo ‘18GS arrived in Reims for his first year in the Dual BA Program between Columbia University and Sciences Po, he decided to live with a French host family that had two young children in need of an English tutor. To expand the English vocabulary of the children, Olivo read them as many picture books as he could get his hands on.

“I read them the classic books, Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham and Cat and the Hat, really anything I could find on sale at the bookstore,” he said. “Eventually I ran out of books and realized I needed to start making my own.”  

He began to craft his own stories with simple drawings and characters, such as Mrs. Lemon and Mr. Orange, to engage the kids. Through this, he discovered that he really enjoyed the process and had a passion for writing.

I like writing, I can write, and I want to try to convince people climate change is something they should care about

Enrique Olivo '18GS

Like many other Columbia GS students, Olivo was eager to understand the world around him and have a positive impact on it. His passion for writing was accompanied by an interest in climate change and activism.

“I had that writing bug stuck in my head,” he said, “and I attached it to something at the time that I really started to take a personal interest in, which was climate change and climate action.”

Born in the Philippines, he was aware of the vulnerability of certain countries to the rapidly changing climate and resulting natural disasters. He traveled frequently between France and his home in Toronto, where he was involved with various local climate activist groups, and was able to use his talent for writing to help these organizations, gaining access to a network of inspiring climate activists.

“I ended up getting involved with any opportunity I could find, through Facebook or through friends, and I entered into a larger network of student groups, political parties, and climate organizations,” he said.

The front cover of Olivo's book, Mommy, What's a Polar Bear?

As he became more involved in these efforts, Olivo realized he could combine his interest in the climate and his writing experience into a children's book. This idea culminated into Mommy, what's a Polar Bear?, a story about a girl named Clementine who lives in a world with no polar bears. When she finds an old book about one, she learns how they ceased to be, and how others could be saved from this fate. Initially, Olivo struggled with whether writing a book would make an impact, especially when he was surrounded by other activists involved in protests, climate law, and policy creation.

“I like writing, I can write, and I want to try to convince people climate change is something they should care about,” he said. “I wanted to do what I could, and I knew that writing was something I should keep doing,” he said. 

The process of writing the book taught Olivo a lot about balancing the creative and mechanical aspects of writing. Creatively, he looked for inspiration from some of his favorite authors such as Dr. Seuss and Robert Munsch, who often use clever rhymes and humor in their children’s books. 

He worked on the manuscripts throughout his time in the Dual BA Program, with a friend of his providing the illustrations. After spending years trying to find a publisher through traditional channels, Olivo decided to self-publish the book using Kickstarter. He launched the project last month and recently exceeded his goal of CA$17,500. With the funding secured, he will now be able to print and distribute the books to the project's backers. Afterward, his goal is to set up a printing on-demand service so anyone can order the book online. Going forward, Olivo hopes to keep writing, no matter what form that may take.

“I want to find a way to keep expressing something that I found out that I actually like doing,” he said.