Tag Archives: climate champion

Powering up Climate Action

Since moving to the Connecticut River Valley in 1981, Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Northampton has helped grow our dedication to the environment.

We’ve hiked Arcadia’s trails, canoed the marsh, sent our kids to summer camp, volunteered, and donated money. Perhaps most important, Arcadia has been playing a major role in our climate change advocacy, education, and action.

We view climate change as an existential threat to the planet. The severe disruption to the environment has us freaking out and desperate for action.

We are Morey Phippen and Brian Adams, and we’re fighting for climate justice.

Morey Phippen and Brian Adams, Climate Champions.

Married 40 years this summer and retired from our jobs as a family planning counselor and community college professor, we have channeled much of our time and energy into fighting for our planet at a local level. What we have been able to accomplish we credit to our parents, who left us an inheritance when they passed that has provided for us, our children, and the thrilling opportunity to contribute to charitable causes.

We decided to use some of this money to help nonprofits install photovoltaics (or solar panels).  Given the up-front costs that a solar system demands, we knew that nonprofits often have difficulty coming up with those financial resources. Solar energy’s cost has also dropped significantly, making it an affordable alternative to fossil fuel powered energy.

Our plan was to install solar panels at no cost to organizations, and negotiate a six-year purchase power agreement with them at a much-reduced electric rate. After six years we’d donate the systems in their entirety to the organizations.

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary was one of the first organizations we approached. With over 700 acres of forest, meadows, grasslands, marsh, and wetlands, their mission to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife was one we were totally committed to. It would be hard to find a better fit for our project!

In October 2017, we “flipped the switch” on a 5.6 kW photovoltaic system at the sanctuary.

Like other solar panels, it generates clean, renewable electricity from sunlight, about 8,000 kilowatt hours per year. But unlike other arrays, this panel uses a tracker that follows the sun across the sky. It adjusts to the height of the sun above the horizon as it changes during the day and throughout the seasons, which makes it a terrific teaching tool for the thousands of visitors who seek solace at Arcadia’s sanctuary every year.

To date we’ve installed over 550 kilowatts of solar at 34 locations including Arcadia, our local food pantries, homeless shelters, farms, environmental organizations, and social service agencies.  We’re hoping for a dozen more installations this year.

We are grateful to have such a wonderful sanctuary such a short distance from where we live, and to have the resources to help Arcadia and Mass Audubon in their quest to be carbon neutral and practice the urgent climate solutions that our planet needs.

Morey Phippen and Brian Adams, Mass Audubon Members, Donors, and Volunteers

My past is my prologue

The first time I saw myself as a scientist was at a very young age, inspired by scouting. My two favorite merit badges were Nature and Environmental Science – but earning them took effort and time. I had to pick three different environments and observe patterns in them.

I vividly remember taking my bike out every day to our local salt marsh, each time with a growing curiosity. What would I hear? What new discovery would I make? Scouting taught me that if I take the time to look in nature, I will certainly discover something new.

Tom Eid, Climate Champion.

My childhood experiences come full circle.

While my scouting days are over, the lessons I’ve learned still ring true today: that as a community, we must look to the patterns in nature to understand what is happening to it.

Right now, that means grasping how nature is changing in order to adapt to our changing climate.

I’m Tom Eid and I’m a Climate Champion.

I act on climate by helping increase our collective, scientific understanding of how nature fares in the face of rising seas, warming temperatures, and shifting seasons through community science.

Community science is public participation in scientific research and decision making. It has provided me opportunities to collaborate with experts and help protect the environment. It is science by people to benefit nature.

What I did as a scout was science. The activities I completed were part of the practice of phenological monitoring: the observation of long-term patterns in wildlife behavior to understand nature and its adaptation to environmental threats. Many years later, I still use phenological monitoring to better comprehend how wildlife behavior is affected by the threat of climate change.

A return to the salt marsh

From July through September 2020, I worked with Mass Audubon on its Coastal Salt Marsh Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment project.

There was a beautiful nostalgia in the field at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary that reminded me of my time scouting. What struck me is that the smell of a salt marsh is the same – no matter where you go or how many years have passed. There’ll always the gentle bending and bowing of salt marsh grasses as the wind blows through. The feeling of the soft, cushion-like peat underneath me. The calls of birds whistling through the air matched with the slight touch of sea salt in the marsh breeze.

While my monitoring as a scout merited me with a badge, these assessments gave me a pathway for climate action. I helped observe nature’s cues, noting shifts in things like where certain marsh plants grow, to inform adaptation strategies that preserve and enhance this critical habitat for people and wildlife. 

The scientist in you

Climate change is our reality: it affects us here and now. We are all responsible for making a difference.

What can you do to act on climate change to ensure a sustainable future for the world around us? Get outside and into nature! Community science can be that opportunity to engage, here’s how to start:

  1. Pursue your passion. What do you love about the environment?
  2. Leverage your skills: What do you bring to the table? How can you engage and educate others about new scientific findings?
  3. Embrace your sector: What type of work do you want to do? Visit Mass Audubon’s website for some ideas.

Together, lets commit to protecting nature. Let’s learn from nature’s patterns and cues, teach each other, and enable current and future generations to act on climate through science.

– Tom Eid, Mass Audubon Community Science Volunteer

On Bug Boxes, Climate Grief, and Human Health 

My connection to nature sparked as a  kid in the eighties. I owned a bug box – my  grandmother’s neighbor made them in bulk and then let the kids on the block decorate them. It was a simple wooden construction with a panel door that swung sideways and up, with fine mesh netting  that let the bugs breathe. I’d catch and inspect all kinds of bugs in there. I especially remember summer nights chasing fireflies, carrying my bug box like a lantern on the lawn of our South St. Louis home as dusk fell, and releasing the fireflies as rogue twinkle lights before I went inside for bed.  

I’m Claire Berman, a nature lover, an author, a health communicator, and an aunt. Each of these roles motivates me to act on climate change.  

Claire Berman, Climate Champion.

As I conducted research for my first novel this year, I learned more about the impact of climate change on birds and other animals. I wanted to write about the way they were being forced to find new homes or change their migration patterns. So I bought a pair of binoculars, made a few birder friends, and became amazed by the herculean task of migration. Yet I was also troubled by the ways human-caused climate change can alter when and where birds migrate because of temperature changes or availability of food.  

In my job as a health communicator, I see firsthand the ways that climate change affects human health in addition to animals. Through this  work, I  have seen communities struggle against intense hurricanes, mosquito- and water-borne illnesses, or displacement from their homes because of climate change. I’ve seen how systemic racism creates conditions that put  people of color and people in poverty  more at risk of respiratory illnesses and other public health threats borne from climate change.  

I’m fighting for the climate on all of these fronts.  

This year, I completed a certificate program in Climate Change and Human Health to learn how we can mitigate, adapt to, and communicate about climate change’s public health impacts. I wrote to my senators in support of the Green New Deal for clean energy and millions of new jobs. I signed up to support the youth-led Sunrise Movement. I phone banked and wrote postcards to get out the vote. I donated to wildlife conservation organizations like Mass Audubon.

Anyone can take actions like these. We can all do our small part to protect the natural world and work towards a safe and healthy future for humanity and all living things.  

Claire’s childhood bug box.

A few months ago, my mom asked if my 8-year-old nephew could have my old bug box. He’d found it buried somewhere in the basement, a bit worse for the wear. I said yes, of course. I want him to find joy in the beauty of nature, just as I did at his age, and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure it survives for his generation of kids and beyond.

Claire Berman, Mass Audubon Member.

A Movement for Our Future

I was born in 1994, making me 25 years old.  

In that short amount of time, humans have pumped more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere than any time before. 

This is the present and future I and so many young people were thrown into. Now, it’s become our responsibility to ensure a habitable and healthy planet for us and our children. I care about climate change because a changing climate is all I know.

Andrew Ahern, Community Engagement Coordinator, Mass Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Conservation and Wildlife Sanctuary.

It’s my generation’s future on the line.

I like to say the 21st century is a century of solving global problems at a local level, so no one can claim boredom: there’s too much to do. Young people have been hearing this call, especially in the last four years with the rise of the youth climate strikes, the Green New Deal, and the Sunrise Movement—all of which I have been a part of and have served as catalysts for educating, activating, and inspiring me.

People are always looking for hope and motivation. Climate action can provide that space for young people who haven’t found it yet.

I stay motivated by the climate movement I am a part of.

It’s being part of the movement, surrounded by so many caring, smart, talented, and passionate young people, that keeps me going, engaged, and ready for action. Being part of a movement gave my life purpose and will do the same for many others.

I find hope in strangers and friends alike who stand next to me in marches; who listen to frontline communities about the disproportionate toll climate change takes on them; and who are actively pursuing a world based on justice, democracy, and ecological well-being. You can and will find hope in a movement based on collective community action.

I’m Andrew Ahern, and I’m a Climate Champion.

Over the past ten months I’ve had the privilege of serving as a Terracorps member with Mass Audubon and the Worcester community organizing, educating, and activating people towards climate action.

During this time, I organized over 40 of Worcester’s youth for Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary’s first Youth Climate Summit. I created community spaces for people to learn and talk about climate change through our Climate Café series. I reached over 1,000 unique viewers during digital Earth Day events I organized with the Worcester chapter of the Sunrise Movement. These are just some of my accomplishments during my service term, and I’m thrilled I get to build and continue this work as I enter into a new position with Mass Audubon.

As my work continues with Mass Audubon, climate action only gains importance with each passing year. The need to get off fossil fuels, change our agricultural systems, reduce our consumption habits, and invest in education, healthcare, and renewable energy (all “green” jobs) are initiatives for the future I direct my time and energy into.

I have two pieces of advice for young people: build a better future and repair a broken past.

Begin imagining what a better world will look like for our generation and the following ones. What we lack is not the technological feasibility or even political power, but a shared vision for a better future. Having a vision turns this project into a mass movement.

Show up and get involved. I don’t mean just attending a climate change program or joining a rally, but also supporting those most affected: from disaster relief, to homelessness, to caring for our elders. Climate change puts our most vulnerable in increased danger. They will need help in a warming and sea-rising future and we need to be able to hear the call.

Here’s to the next and most important 10 years of our collective lives!

– Andrew Ahern, Community Engagement Coordinator, Mass Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Conservation and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Nominate your local climate champion by commenting below or sending us an email at [email protected] If you’re looking for more ways to engage with Mass Audubon’s climate action work, visit our Instagram Story to ask us all your questions about climate action on Monday, August 3 at 12 pm for our First Friday Climate Action AMA.

The Impact of Storytelling

Our words hold immense power. 

We all learn this pretty early on. Think of your first favorite book or movie that whisked you off into a wonderful, magical world and how that made you feel. Think about the last time you sat down with a loved one to vent your frustrations or rejoice in good news, and how your stories connected the both of you through a sense of trust and understanding.  

Storytelling is part of that critical foundation that forms our social bonds but also our larger culture itself; our stories are tools that allow us to reach a place of empathy in those we care about. 

2019 Arcadia wildlife sanctuary and Hitchcock Center for the Environment Youth Climate Summit. © Phil Doyle

That’s why storytelling is indispensable in our collective climate fight

When dealing with something that can seem as amorphous, but also as frightening, as climate change, our words can bring the phenomenon down to a personal level. Weaving a tale about your first coastal flooding incident or when you noticed your allergies worsening along with rising temperatures imbues climate change with real feeling and real experiences. These stories allow us to visualize climate change in a much more tangible way. This isn’t just happening across the world – but here and now, to people we know and love, and to our neighbors around us. 

Our stories also have the opportunity to give others hope when spirits are low. Through stories, we can connect climate action to successful solutions, community engagement, and innovation. We can demonstrate just how much all of us can do if we work together. Acting alone can be overwhelming and scary, but connecting with a community who understands your story can help you overcome these challenges. 

Anyone can tell their climate story 

If you want to try, just follow these simple steps:  

  1. Start with what you care about 
  1. Share your experience of what’s happening here and now 
  1. Focus on solutions  

You can also follow Mass Audubon’s guide on how to talk about climate change.  

Most important: remember you are not alone 

Rishya Narayanan, Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Communications Manager.

My name is Rishya, Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Communications Manager. I’m a Boston-based bird nerd, an ocean enthusiast, and a climate champion. I use stories to build a bridge between science and the human connection, telling tales of sea turtles and lobsters, but also of people and communities – all with the goal reaching that very same place of empathy. These stories help me connect people feeling lost about the climate crisis to real solutions they can engage in, so that we form a community that supports each other and acts together. 

Our “Meet a Climate Champion” series will feature everyday people, like you and me, invested in solving the climate crisis. Our champions will tell their stories, taking you through their journey of why they care, what they’re doing to act, and what brings them hope. 

Talking about climate change, telling our personal stories, is one of the best ways to reach peoples’ hearts and inspire climate action in our communities.

If you’re looking for ways to stay connected with Mass Audubon’s climate action work in the meantime, sign up for our newsletter, Climate Connection, for climate information, community action, and solutions. You can also nominate your local climate champion by commenting below or sending us an email at [email protected]

— Rishya Narayanan