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 practical workshops, discussions, and deliberative forums. 

This 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. 

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

All programs are at a Sliding Scale or Suggested Donation

Get Plugged in to Electric Driving for the Climate

Wednesday, September 13th at 7:00 PM
Virtual workshop
Registration required | Suggested Donation $8-15

With new electric vehicle (EVs) incentives, EVs with longer driving ranges, and more charging stations installed and coming soon, maybe you’ve been thinking about getting an electric vehicle to lower your carbon footprint. But you’re not sure what incentives are available that may make it financially doable. Or you’re concerned about whether or not an EV’s range and charging options will suffice for your daily and/or longer distance drives. This workshop will help you: explore some of the models and features of EVs currently on the market and show you how to find information on all new EVs being sold, along with listings of used ones. You’ll learn about online resources showing EV models that qualify for state and/or federal incentives, and the devilish details of these rebates and tax credits. The workshop will also cover options for charging EVs at home (including with solar power), and cell phone apps with charger locations and availability for your travels near and far. 

Meet Workshop Leader, Sally Pick  

Having worked in the environmental field for over 30 years, Sally Pick consults and educates homeowners on energy-saving opportunities, through her firm, SJP Environmental Consulting, LLC. She provides residents in the Pioneer Valley guidance on prioritizing energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities, including reducing wasted heat, exploring solar power and hot water, installing heat pumps (mini splits are a type of heat pump), and buying and charging electric vehicles that match a client’s driving needs. She serves on her town’s energy and solar planning committees and on the legislative working group of Climate Action Now Western MA.


Climate Action through Conversation: Promoting climate action through interpersonal communication  

A conversation with Ezra Markowitz
Tuesday, October 10th at 5:30 PM
at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Registration required, donations appreciated

Most people spend very little time talking about environmental issues with their colleagues, friends and family members. Yet research shows that these are exactly the conversations we need to be having in order to promote greater public engagement with the climate change and sustainability challenges we face. In this talk, I will present some of the research we and others have done on the key role of interpersonal communication—everyday social interactions and conversations—in climate change decisions. I will then highlight how this work can be used to support pro-environmental decision-making across a variety of issues. This will be a moderated conversation with lots of time for Q&A.  


Community Open House and Listening Session

Saturday, October 21st
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Registration appreciated but not required

We’d like to hear from you! Come see the Hitchcock Center’s Living Building, hear some about how we teach climate action and creative hopeful problem solving to kids. And then we want to hear from you. What are your regional climate concerns? what resources, information or support do you need? What gets in the way of action, how do we come together well and intentionally to address climate concerns locally.


Electrification: The Conservation Conversion Conversation

Workshops with Jonathan Wright
Session 1: Tuesday, October 24th at 6:30 PM
Session 2: Wednesday, November 1st at 6:30 PM

at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Registration required, donations appreciated

Session 1: A deep dive for the eager and curious novice. Core facts and figures will be folded into what we can do NOW, and why it matters.The sources and uses of electricity, how it works, and how it is so different from any other utility. Where are the conversion opportunities that do not add fossil fuel load on the generating side, or at least reduce more than enough to offset the new grid load? Getting to what good looks like- reducing building operations carbon. Why we can’t just turnoff the gas and plug in the electricity. 

Session 2: How to fix our homes and buildings, reduce loads, utilize changing HVAC technologies, have healthier air, in all communities. The easy and not-so-easy.   Heat Pumps and how they work and where they shine, and falter. Traveling cleaner, and how to make your EV or Hybrid vehicle usage most sustainable working with utilities, rebates, incentives, HEAT loans and financing options. 

Meet Workshop Leader, Jonathan A. Wright

Jonathan A. Wright is a writer, author, poet, retired builder, artisan, and designer with a 50-year history in sustainable buildings, methods, materials, and communities. His former company, Wright Builders Inc., under his guidance, completed over fifty LEED certified projects, and was the first in the world to complete two Living Building Challenge projects. He lives In Northampton and consults regionally on sustainable practices.


Unpacking the Massachusetts Climate Action Plan 

Workshop with Steve Roof 
Tuesday, November 7th at 6:30pm
at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment

Massachusetts has a meaningful Clean Energy and Climate Action Plan that quickly and dramatically reduces our carbon emissions to 50% by 2030, 75% by 2040 to net zero by 2050!   Come here from Hampshire College professor Steve Roof about the state’s strategies for meeting this goal and get us thinking about how we as a region can contribute.  Registration required, donations appreciated.  


Community Forum: Deliberative Dialogue 

with HCE’s Executive Director Billy Spitzer
Thursday, November 16th at 6:30 PM
at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Registration required, donations appreciated

Improving Communication: Deliberative Dialogue 

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.


How to Design Low Maintenance and Low Impact Landscapes that Enhance the Ecology of Place

with Owen Wormser
Wednesday, November 29th at 7:00 PM
Virtual workshop
Registration required, donations appreciated. 

Learn how to create beautiful, low-maintenance, low impact,  native landscapes.  Using techniques based on the observation of the natural world and emulation of existing plant communities, landscape designer and author Owen Wormser offers key techniques for creating beneficial, easy to care for landscapes that support wildlife and enhance habitat. Students will discover important functional and aesthetic qualities offered by native species that are the building blocks for sustainable landscapes.  A handful of participants will be chosen to share their land and gardens in the form of photographs and plans that will be used as examples for discussion. Registration required, donations appreciated. 


The Bigger Why of our Climate Action Series 

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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