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NMH Marks Climate Action Week

NMH Marks Climate Action Week

Student Ecoleaders organized a full schedule of events as part of NMH’s recent annual Climate Action Week. 

The week kicked off with a field trip to an Earth Day art and climate fair in nearby Northampton. Back on campus, students put together a daylong teach-in on Earth Day on April 24. Participants enjoyed fair weather amidst blooming daffodils and cherry trees, along with the season’s first whiff of freshly cut grass – perfect conditions for digging into the essential work of saving the planet. 

Eben Bein talks at a stable with students on Climate action day

The day began with a talk in Memorial Chapel by climate justice advocate Eben Bein, followed by 17 workshops led by alums, students, staff, and visiting climate advocates from a wide range of backgrounds. Discussions throughout the day zeroed in on the necessity of intersectional, collective action. Many workshops also underscored the value of cultivating community and personal connections to nature as a strategy for self-care, support, and inspiration.  

In his keynote, Bein, a poet and science writer, emphasized the importance of recognizing one's grief over the climate crisis and the limitations of climate advocacy work. “To survive in a world that is burning and drowning, I am constantly dissociating from my body,” he said. “I believe that full-body interconnected action must be an activist touchstone.” Bein also advocated for a more participatory model for education. “We need to do more than cover our subjects,” he said. “We need to dialogue with communities and offer our labor.” 

In a panel discussion after Bein’s talk, Michelle Tang ’26 spoke about a recent student trip to the Massachusetts State House to lobby legislators about climate bills. “It was very empowering for me,” she said. “And it gives you a sense of agency and confidence knowing that you’re part of something bigger – that there's a community of young people working together to push the structural change. … By the end of the day, I felt I became very engaged in democracy. I told myself ‘This is what activism truly means.’”

Eben bein discusses climate with a panel of students in the chape;

Pete Sniffen, NMH’s sustainability program coordinator, underscored the importance of an intersectional approach to climate-oriented work. “One of the beautiful things, one of the inspiring things that I find and recognize is the connections between social justice, environmental justice, and economic justice,” he said. “I think you should not be able to graduate from college without … recognizing in a real way how interconnected health equity and the environment are.”

Wilson Cheung ’24 led a workshop on geopolitics, offering China’s land consolidation efforts in southeast Asia as an example of how geography shapes climate-related politics. His surprise question to students: “If climate scientists say the earth goes through cycles of warming and freezing, and the earth’s temperature is going to go down anyway, why do we want to stop climate change?” 

Jessica Zhang ’25 was quick to respond. “We are doing excessive damage to our planet by burning fossil fuels and being irresponsible with our methods of production,” she said. “It is resulting in avoidable natural disasters and heightening inequality around the globe. So it’s our responsibility to develop more sustainable practices for the future.” 

“I thought Wilson’s lesson was really eye-opening,” Zhang said after the talk. ”He guided everyone in the room to understand a really difficult concept to grasp.”

Theresa Moon talks with students in class about her food distribution program

In another workshop, alums and former Ecoleaders Sasha Kracauer ’23 and Meena Relyea-Strawn ’23 proposed “collective-action solutions” to climate crises. Kracauer discussed how industries and policy-makers deliberately shift responsibility for addressing the crisis to individuals. “The term ‘carbon footprint’ was popularized in the mid-2000s by the British petroleum companies,” she explained. “This was very purposeful because it shifted the focus away from the industries and onto the individual. Our carbon footprint is important, but the concept moves our attention in the wrong direction.”

“Sasha and I both felt very honored to have the experience of coming back and engaging with the NMH community,” Relyea-Strawn said after the event. “It felt like a full-circle moment to see the Ecoleaders continuing with Climate Action Week, which is something that Sasha and I worked hard towards implementing while we were NMH Ecoleaders. …  It was really special to acknowledge how much NMH encouraged and directed my learning journey and to come back to share about how NMH can be a launching point for future academic pursuits.”

Climate educator Joe Silverman led an engaging presentation about the core facts behind climate change and what individuals can and are doing, while Theresa Snow of Salvation Farms in Vermont talked about her 20 years of experience channeling agricultural surplus to underserved and nutritionally insecure communities.

Two students forage in the forest near their dorm

Other workshops during the day included a screening of the documentary “From Asia to Antarctica,” led by librarians Beth Ruane and Alexis Arcaro; a forward-thinking presentation on biomimicry by Kitty Zhang ’24 and Payton Bonang ’24; and a strategy and learning session about how to influence policy-makers by Priya Chatterjee ’25.

Climate Action Week also included events such as crafts and thrift shopping, offering students a chance to balance their intellectual deep dives with a little eco-friendly fun.

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