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Year on Climate Change

Illustration showing three students engaged in different sustainable activities

The Year on Climate Change was a collegewide initiative during the 2019–20 academic year to critically examine the complex and urgent issue of climate change. As a college of and for the world, the program was an invitation to the entire Smith community, no matter background or passion, to engage in a manner that was uniquely liberal arts—through deep and authentic collaboration, critical thinking, listening and action. All students, staff, faculty and alumnae were encouraged and invited to create and attend events throughout the year.

An infographic representing the major elements of the Year on Climate Change. During 2019-20, the Year on Climate Change sought to engage the campus community in ways that catalyzed and grew connections between their passions and interests and climate and environmental change. Across the college, the community was galvanized to orient curricular and co-curricular programming toward equipping itself with information and skills to take on the climate change crisis critically, deliberately, and uniquely.

A Year in Review

During 2019-20, the Year on Climate Change sought to engage the campus community in ways that catalyzed and grew connections between their passions and interests and climate and environmental change. Across the college, the community was galvanized to orient curricular and co-curricular programming toward equipping itself with information and skills to take on the climate change crisis critically, deliberately, and uniquely.

Some key events, initiatives, and milestones achieved throughout the year include:

  • The Year on Climate Change Conference, held in October 2019, brought the community together to frame the crisis of climate change as a social justice problem and explore and investigate models of just and equitable solutions in action
  • A plan to divest from fossil fuel investments in the Smith endowment
  • Completion of the District Energy Master Plan
  • A test geothermal well was drilled as a pilot project for implementing a campus-wide ground- source heat exchange system that will help Smith achieve carbon neutrality by 2030
  • Faculty throughout each academic division augmented or added courses that examined the intersection of climate change. Examples include: Architectural Design Studio: Transient Spaces - Terrestrial Bodies, The Bible and the American Public Square, Psychosocial Determinants of Health, Race and the Environment, Engineering for Everyone: Sustainable Water Resource, and Climate and Conflict.
  • The Design Thinking Initiative executed a year-long series of interactive, environmentally focused programming to teach and engage the community on principles of re-use, re- purposing, and human-centered design.
  • As a partner of the Whole Animal Whole Region program, Smith began a multi-year regional whole animal supply chain that sets a fair price and predictable business for local farmers and food processors, advances best sustainability practices for livestock and land management, and fulfills our purchasing needs. In 2020, Smith bought 399 whole animals from local farms.
  • In total, 165 events on campus focused on climate change and were led by numerous departments, units, and student groups

View the schedule from the October 2019 conference (PDF) for details.

News

On Biodiversity: Six Questions for Desiree Narango

The opening lecture for this year’s annual Bulb Show—all online this year—will focus on the connection between plant choice and conservation. Wildlife ecologist Desiree Narango will discuss “The Birds, the Bees, the Flowers and the Trees: Why Native Plants Matter for Wildlife Conservation,” on Thursday, March 4, at 4 p.m.

Building Connections to Nature

How do you take your class on a science field trip when your students are living all over the world? Marney Pratt, a laboratory instructor in biological sciences, came up with a semester-long project designed to help students become skillful observers and feel more connected to the natural world—no matter their location.

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‘The Life Cycle of Dining’: Reducing Carbon Emissions

For four members of the class of 2020, a senior capstone research project has led to a prestigious award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Larissa Holland ’20: ‘I’m One Person ... There’s a Lot I Can Do’

Larissa Holland ’20 always had a passion for the environment. In her four years at Smith, she developed the confidence and critical skills to turn her natural enthusiasm into a career fighting for climate justice.

Look Up from Your Carbon Footprint

Individual efforts matter, but to move the needle we need to change systems and policies.