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New Seminar Series Explores Climate Anxiety, Plastics Sustainability and More

Climate Change Initiative’s Online Events Are Free and Open to the Public this Spring

Meg Sobkowicz-Kline talks to a student about recycled plastics in the lab Photo by Imelda Joson
Assoc. Prof. Meg Sobkowicz-Kline, seen here discussing recycled plastics with a student during a pre-pandemic lab, will kick off the Climate Change Initiative's spring seminar series with a talk on "Living with Plastics."

01/25/2021
By Ed Brennen

Dealing with the emotional toll of climate change and reducing the environmental footprint of plastics are among the topics that will be covered in a new spring seminar series hosted by UMass Lowell’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI). 

Assoc. Prof. of Plastics Engineering Meg Sobkowicz-Kline will kick off the virtual series on Monday, Feb. 1, with a talk on “Living with Plastics: Problems and Solutions.” Sobkowicz-Kline, who serves as the Francis College of Engineering’s liaison to the CCI, will discuss the basic issues in plastics sustainability, her research group’s recent highlights, and steps being taken by her department to lower its environmental footprint.

The CCI is partnering with the Environmental, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences (EEAS) Department and the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy (RISE) to host the series, which is free and open to the UML community and general public.

“While we certainly miss gathering with students and colleagues in person, the virtual format of our seminar series will make these important conversations about climate change more accessible to people across the university and our broader community,” says CCI Director and EEAS Prof. Juliette Rooney-Varga, who hopes that the discussions “will serve as a catalyst for learning about – and acting on – climate change and sustainability in Lowell and beyond.”

On Feb. 22, Jennifer Atkinson, an associate professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, will explore the emotional toll of climate change and offer strategies for navigating anxiety, grief, guilt, fear and apathy. Atkinson hosts a podcast exploring the emotional impact of climate disruption called “Facing It,” and her seminar on “Climate Anxiety and Eco-Grief” was one of the first college courses of its kind in the country.

Talks will be held on Mondays at 5 p.m. periodically throughout the spring. Future speakers will be announced on the CCI’s events page and are expected to include: Sheila Tripathy, research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Eric Friedman, director of the Leading By Example Program in the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources; and Inke Forbich, research scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Rowley, Massachusetts.

CCI Program Associate Carolyn McCarthy says there’s “something in this series for everyone.”

“Due to the virtual format, we were able to engage both national and regional experts to help our campus and community reckon with various dimensions of climate change and sustainability,” McCarthy says.