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Students Form New Environmental Movement

Group Aims to Foster Climate Change Awareness

The principal organizers of the Student Environmental Alliance are, from left, Erin Sullivan, Danielle Sherman, Tyler Arrigo and Meghan Mandel.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

A new student-led initiative will help raise awareness about the consequences of global warming and climate change and promote sustainable practices at the University and in the community through education and outreach.

Called the Student Environmental Alliance (SEA), the group was organized by political science junior Meghan Mandel, marine sciences Ph.D. student Erin Sullivan, biology junior Tyler Arrigo and biology senior Danielle Sherman.

“We welcome students of all majors and disciplines, as well as faculty, to join us at our regular meetings and sponsored events,” says Mandel. “The more universal the collaboration, the more effective this campus will be. We believe the SEA is a great opportunity for all students with an interest in the environment and climate change to advocate for necessary changes and foster education.”

Among the goals of the SEA for the spring semester are organizing campus Earth Day and Climate Change Awareness Day celebrations, working with various departments to help promote and influence UMass Lowell’s sustainable practices and goals and reaching out to the community to partner on sustainable initiatives.

“A primary concern in the national dialogue on climate change is that scientists aren’t adequately conveying the facts of climate science,” says Sullivan. “We will emphasize the importance of scientific literacy regarding climate change and make the information accessible to everyone in the UMass Lowell community.”

Graduate-certificate programs are being developed by the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) with assistance from the SEA, notes Sullivan.

“We will be pushing for broader undergraduate offerings that focus on climate change,” she says. “We see this as an immensely valuable opportunity to make climate science and environmental policy part of the general education curriculum.”

Climate Change Teach-In

The SEA was formed as a result of UMass Lowell’s second annual Climate Change Teach-In, which was held in October and hosted by the CCI. Internationally renowned advocates and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas were among those who spoke at this year’s event, which attracted more than 200 attendees.

While the CCI, which is run by faculty and staff, addresses climate change through research and academic training, the SEA is a student-run organization that focuses on advocacy and outreach.

“Climate change touches many disciplines and aspects of human society,” says biology Assoc. Prof. and CCI Director Juliette Rooney-Varga, who is an expert on the ecological consequences of climate change as well as Teach-In organizer. “Scientific research must be the foundation for informing society about ongoing climate change and its potential future impacts.”

The CCI, together with Cambridge Educational Access TV and TERC, recently received a $614,691 grant from NASA to integrate global climate-change science with video for educating students in Kߝ12 and college.

“In today’s media world of twitter, blogs and sound bites, confusion about the scientific reality of climate change frequently dominates the discourse in classrooms and communities,” says Rooney-Varga, who is the principal investigator on the NASA project. “We aim to change this by integrating climate-change science with the expressive power of video to create a unique and stimulating approach to global climate-change education.”

For more information or to join, visit the SEA and CCI websites.