Climate Leadership Summit Opens Earth Day Observance at UMass Amherst

Earth Day logo

AMHERST, Mass. – This year’s celebration of Earth Day at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will be preceded by the Massachusetts Climate Leadership Summit, a gathering of prominent policy and thought leaders who will share how communities and institutions can mitigate climate change and become more resilient.

The summit, which takes place Wednesday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the John W. Olver Design Building Atrium, is expected to attract several hundred students, faculty, staff, and community members as well as top university and public officials. The day begins with a Student Showcase of undergraduate and graduate student projects and presentations that examine sustainability, climate change, environmental solutions, resiliency, green design, and other Earth Day topics.

At 11:30, speakers will share their vision, policy initiatives and stories about climate change and resiliency. UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg, sustainability strategist and expert David Lubin, Carl Spector, commissioner of the environment for the city of Boston, Angela Burnett of the Climate Change Office for the British Virgin Islands and author of “The Irma Diaries,” and Curt Griffin, head of School of Earth and Sustainability (SES) at UMass Amherst.

A second group of speakers will address issues of resiliency beginning at 1:30 p.m. They include:

  • Katie Theoharides, assistant secretary of climate change at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, who will discuss the Massachusetts State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan—the first of its kind in the U.S.—and Gov. Charlie Baker’s $1.4 billion environmental bond bill.
  • Ambarish Karmalkar of the Northeast Climate Science Center and the UMass Amherst department of geosciences, who will discuss research that has provided the statewide adaptation efforts with updated climate projections, including observed and expected trends in water resources, temperature and precipitation, and estimated sea level rise.
  • Jeff Hescock, interim executive director, UMass Amherst Environmental Health and Safety, who will speak on how the state framework being developed can inform the UMass Campus Resiliency Planning process.

A campus resiliency community visioning workshop will follow from 2:30-3:30 in 170 Design Building. Participants will explore what it means for UMass Amherst to be a climate-resilient campus, how that could be measured and recognized, and how resiliency can contribute to the university’s core mission. The day will conclude with a report-back and final words about next steps by campus sustainability manager Ezra Small.

The annual Earth Day Festival kicks off Thursday, April 19 at 9 a.m. on the south lawn of the Student Union. The day’s events include a student showcase, a student farmers market, permaculture demonstrations and other activities.

At 1 p.m., members of the UMass Green Building Council Student Chapter will lead a tour of the green roof on the Integrative Learning Center (ILC). The tour leaves from the ILC lobby.

The concluding event of the week will be a preview of the new UMass Amherst-based literacy magazine, Paperbark, on Saturday, April 21 from 5-7 p.m. at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, 845 West St., Amherst. The keynote speaker will be Angela Burnett, climate change officer for the British Virgin Islands and author of The Irma Diaries.

Paperbark draws on the unique heritage and culture of the region to support and stimulate creative engagement with progressive ideas. Rooted in themes of stewardship, innovation and possibility, Paperbark’s content is motivated by a desire to trace the connections between science, culture and sustainability. A core principle of the publication’s mission is justice, embodied in the movements of the social, environmental, political, economic and climate spheres, and their points of intersection.