Hitchcock Climate Action Series

An adult engagement program at the intersection of climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice.  Bringing partners and community members together  to address critical community issues through a fireside chat, practical workshops, and deliberative forums. 

This new program series aims to help us come together as a community and region in the face of climate change.  We will be asking the questions –  How can we engage adults in building a sustainable and resilient future for the valley? How do we build community capacity for civic engagement, civil dialogue, and deliberation in Amherst and surrounding communities?  How do we do this in a way that is socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative as our Living Building challenges us to do?   We will be telling the stories of creative problem solving.  Exemplifying for adults the great work we do with children we do the work of developing  hopeful creative problem solvers for now and the future. 

Season 1: Coming Together in the Face of Climate Change: Laying the Groundwork by Building Hope, Practicing Action, and Improving Communication 

Please join us as we launch a new program series at the intersection of climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice.  Bringing partners and community members  to address critical community issues through a fireside chat, practical workshops, and deliberative forums.   All programs will be available for a Sliding Scale $15- $50 or Suggested Donation. 

Community Forum (Hybrid) 

Improving Communication: Deliberative Dialogue (Hybrid; you can attend in-person and over Zoom)

Thursday, December 8,  5:30pm Arrival & Snacks 

6pm – 8pm Forum Net Zero: How Do We Get There?

Join in a deliberative dialogue about different ways in which we can get to a “net zero carbon” future. Deliberation matters because democracy depends on community members coming together and making well-thought-out decisions on what we can do together to solve tough problems like climate change. A pre-reading will frame the issue, lay out several approaches based on values people care about, describe benefits and trade-offs associated with each choice, and pose some reflective questions. In small groups, participants will have an opportunity to share their personal perspectives and listen to others, weigh options and wrestle with trade-offs, and identify areas of common ground. A moderator will help to set ground rules, ensure that all perspectives are heard, and identify areas of agreement and uncertainty. We hope participants will keep an open mind, listen to one another, disagree with curiosity, and focus on learning.

Fireside Chats:  

Building Hope : Telling the Stories of Creative Problem Solving (**CANCELLED**)

Nature Runs on Sunlight –   Energy Cycles in Nature – Come for inspirational stories and conversation about how we can learn from nature about our own potential for more efficient systems.  There will be a short program followed by conversation around a  fire, enjoying the beauty of a crisp evening with hot beverages and hearty nibbles. 

Workshops: 

Practicing Action: Strategies and Revelations 

January TBD – Practicing Creative Problem Solving through Design Challenges – Rain Water Capture Challenge, Come play, create and work together just as our students do!

The Bigger Why

When we built our Living Building on our Welcome Wall 

we invited you- 

to join us in creating and imagining a world in which children think electricity comes from the sun and composting toilets are normal. 

A world where every decision has been made with the safety and health of all life on earth in mind.  

A world where everyone has access to safe fresh local food and water. 

A world where what we create and do as humans adds to the web of life, restores it, is regenerative.   

A world where diversity, competition, and cooperation among a community’s members, natural and human, is the source of the community’s resilience. 

This is our next step in this process.  

The Hitchcock Center is uniquely poised to use the living building and outdoor learning spaces as inspiration for what a sustainable and resilient future for the Valley could look like, and to use our expertise and rootedness  in the community to facilitate conversation and change on a community level that is inclusive and equitable. We need leaders, citizens, and residents to have the knowledge, skills, and values to successfully engage together in building a greener, just, and more economically vibrant future. We need municipalities in our region to come together to create a sustainable and resilient vision for the future of the Connecticut River Valley, from Greenfield to Springfield.

“Use your voice to talk about why climate change matters to you, here and now. Use it to share what you are doing, what others are doing, what they can do. Use it to advocate for change at every level. Use it to vote and to inform decisions your school, your business, your city, and your country can make. Talk about it in every community that you are part of and whose values and interests you share.”

– Katherine Hayhoe (2021) Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World

The Need for Public Discourse on Climate Change

We are all experiencing the impacts of climate change more each day, in our own communities and around the world. Recent data from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication shows that 70% of Americans understand that climate change is real, human-caused, and happening now. Yet, only 35% discuss it even occasionally with family or friends, leading to a lack of public discourse and civic engagement to address one of the most critical issues of our time. 

Informal science education centers such as the Hitchcock Center are ideally situated as boundary organizations in their communities who can bring together diverse partners, and hold unique authority and social position to promote solutions at a civic scale. 

Increased public discourse is a critical precursor for action: “Americans who hear about global warming in the media or talk about it with their own family and friends are more likely to perceive global warming as a risk and support policies to reduce it,” (Ballew et al., 2019; Howe, et al., 2015). And, discussing climate change with family and friends is the only predictor of climate change’s absolute and relative importance as a voting issue (Campbell et al., 2021).

A major reason why these conversations are not happening is because many people don’t feel hopeful about our ability to address climate change, and don’t see how they can be part of the solution. That is why it is so important for us to help people to reconnect to and learn from nature’s efficient and sustainable systems, to develop a problem-solving mindset, and share a positive vision for the future.

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment