What’s a person to do?

A UMass student recently interviewed a member of the Talking Truth planning team for an article she is writing about the project. Her final interview question was, “What can a person do to help stop climate change?” Instead of just one team member’s response, here are responses from a few of the TT planning team members.

Ludmilla Pavlova, Senior Campus Planner
I think of it as applying my human labor to preserving life and natural resources.  As often as possible I walk or bike when I am able instead of driving, tend a garden, hang the laundry to dry in the sun, buy local produce, clear invasive weeds, buy used or donate clothing, manage my stuff so there is less waste, spend time with people and animals, attend a concert or a museum.

Emily Tareila, MFA student
Making choices that sincerely take into account the ways decisions impact systems both inside and outside of the self. Consider systems in all forms: (and then list all different kinds of systems of which we are and aren’t directly apart). Not sure if that helps but I think it’s one that people can take on their own terms without promising that we can ‘fix’ anything!

Kris Nelson, Civic Engagment and Service Learning
Perhaps sustainable practices, in order to be “sustainable,” need to bring together the various kinds of work that happens on the inside (What is my role in this? What larger systems am I a part of? Am I listening to my feelings as well as my intellect?) and then how we live that out – our individual actions, and our collective actions, both in creating alternative practices for sustainable living and our work advocating for politically and economically just systems.

Will Snyder, Extension
Also asking “Is this trip (or whatever else) necessary?”   I would also remind the questioner that political action, including collective economic action, is the only “practice” that will really affect climate change in a meaningful way.

Our Spring 2018 series

Talking Truth: Finding Your Voice Around the Climate Crisis

Spring 2018 Series

Sustainability Slammer
Tues. 1/30 10am-3pm
Stop by the Talking Truth booth at this info. fair for campus sustainability groups
Location: Cape Cod Lounge

Interactive, Creative Responses to Climate Change
Wednesdays. 1/31, 2/7, 2/14, 2/21, 2/28, 3/7
3:00-4:00 pm (arrive 2:30 for quiet contemplation, check in)
Reflective writing, art making and sharing. A collaboration with Paperbark Literary Magazine
Location: Goodell 406A


Thurs. 3/22, 7-9pm  – Climate Leadership: Starting with Your Story
Why do you care about climate change? Learn how to discover and communicate your unique story in a compelling way for different audiences. Facilitated by Lauren de la Parra, Climate Reality Leadership Corps trainee (Pittsburgh, 2017) and UMass graduate student in Sustainability Science.

Thurs. 4 /5, 7-9pm  – Finding Your Life Purpose: Career Workshop
Reflective writing, group discussion and practical steps to support career exploration. Led by contemplative career coach and mindfulness teacher Jennifer Earls, M.Ed., Dance with Life Consulting.

Thurs. 4/19, 7-9pm – The Work That Reconnects
Engage your love for the Earth with a variety of practices. WTR builds community and connectivity, reminding us of our core mission. Starting in the 1970s, these practices have spread around the world, shifting how people perceive and address climate change – helping us move from our intellect to our hearts. Facilitated by trained facilitator Bela Schultz who is also a UMass student in BDIC with a concentration in Environmental Psychology.
Location: Du Bois 2601


Music and the New England Trail: Concert with Ben Cosgrove

Thurs 3/22, 7-9pm

Come spend an evening with the Appalachian Mountain Club and Kestrel Land Trust to learn more about the New England National Scenic Trail (NET) and hear music inspired by the trail and other landscapes, performed Ben Cosgrove, a young composer, essayist, and multi-instrumentalist whose work is guided by landscape, place, and ecology.

Green Building Tour
Thurs. April 5th 4:00-5:30
Get the inside stories of Crotty Hall, the new Design Building, renovated Old Chapel, South College addition, Integrative Learning Center and others. Led by Ludmilla Pavlova, Senior Campus Planner.
Location: Meet at Crotty Hall

Two Truths and a Lie

This guest blog post was composed by Evan Kuras, MS student in Environmental Conservation at UMass Amherst.

I attended my first Talking Truth/Hearts in Action session in Fall 2017. We played a game based on Two Truths and Lie as a way to reflect on our sustainable lifestyles. We stated two behaviors we actually do (the “truths”) and one that we aspired to (the “lie”) and the rest of the participants had to deduce which were which! I appreciated the opportunity to assess my current actions and name a goal out loud.

During any normal day, I rarely take time to reflect on the value of my decisions in a grand “lifestyle” sense. Usually my reflections are on a smaller scale. Classic examples might be, “I wish I didn’t have that second cup of coffee” or “I’m glad I saved 25 cents on that second cup of coffee by bringing a re-usable mug.” A grander version of this reflection would be, “is my coffee ethically sourced?” or maybe, “instead of drinking a beverage from halfway across the world, what local alternatives exist to start my day?” Sustainable decisions start small, like using a re-usable mug or limited your consumption to what you actually need or want. But with reflection, your decisions can have a greater and greater impact as you scale up! *sips coffee*

Climate Change in the American Mind

Here is the latest report (October 2017) from Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.  The nationally representative survey finds that:

  • The number of Americans “very worried” about global warming has reached a record high (22%) since first measured in 2008. A majority of Americans (63%) say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about the issue.
  • Nearly four in ten Americans (38%) say they discuss global warming with family and friends “often” or “occasionally,” an increase of 12 percentage points since March 2015. However, more say they “rarely” or “never” discuss it (62%). Additionally, half of Americans (51%) say they hear about global warming in the media at least once a month, and one in four (25%) say they hear people they know talk about global warming at least once a month.

The Hinge Decade: What Will Be the Story of This Time?

We had an exhilarating final fall session of “Hearts in Action: Creative Responses to Climate Change.” To those who wanted to come but couldn’t, we missed you. Stay tuned for spring 2018 happenings.

1 – The last group meeting was larger than usual (maybe 20) but we fit snugly into the conference room at the Science and Engineering Library. We were students, faculty, librarians, staff and community members.
2 – Lena offered a beautiful introduction to a 3-minute meditation; we sat again for a minute at the end, to integrate the experience.
3 – We watched excerpts of this passionate presentation by philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage. Moore refers to this time we are in as a “hinge decade,” and asks us what kind of story we are all co-creating for our collective future.
4 – We talked in pairs about which “stones” we will “chuck into the river.” Go to minute 37:30 for the analogy.
5 – We shared in the bigger group about what our “stones” are. Some added how heavy or large their stone felt, and what kind of help they needed to chuck it.


What an honor it is to be doing this inner and outer work together, as a community, at UMass.

Did you know? We are a node of Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere

Did you know? Talking Truth is a Node of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB). That means MAHB recognizes Talking Truth’s commitment to deeply shifting human behavior to foster environmental sustainability and the health of the ecosystem services upon which all life depends.  You can learn about the other 136 (and counting) Nodes here.

MAHB is a Stanford-based project that envisions a future that embodies two basic principles

  1. All forms of life are essential and interdependent.
  2.  Economic underpinnings, social norms, and individual behavior are all part of a single system operating within the bounded biosphere.

MAHB brings us together to develop a new type of intelligence called foresight intelligence.

Foresight intelligence is the ability to implement behavioral, institutional and cultural changes necessary for future generations to live peaceful productive lives.

Foresight intelligence, when met with the best of global civil society, can reduce interconnected complex problems*

So, what does this mean to us who gather at Talking Truth events?

Forging ourselves to be change leaders so we can protect the World we love. Even when it’s deeply troubling. But we do it together, breathing, creating, listening — to ourselves and one another.

Our final session of “Hearts in Action: Creative Responses to Climate Change” will be Mon. 11/27, 4-5pm in the Science and Engineering Library (3rd fl. conference room).

Then stay tuned to see opportunities to join us in spring 2018.

*These problems include: climate disruption, loss of biodiversity (and thus ecosystem services), land-use change and resulting degradation, global toxification, ocean acidification, decay of the epidemiological environment, an economic system based on growth, pressure from increasing population, and resource wars (which could go nuclear). The manifestation of these interactions is often referred to as “the human predicament.” With foresight intelligence, we can reduce the threats inherent in the human predicament.

Text adapted from https://mahb.stanford.edu/welcome/

Hearts in Action, Four Weeks In

Above: Our mind map of a new definition of sustainability.

Talking Truth has hosted four of our weekly workshops, Hearts in Action: Creative Responses to Climate Change! We have practiced art and creative writing; learned about the efforts of environmentalists across the globe to build a dialogue about the climate crisis; and added our own voices to it. We have shared our thoughts, fears, and ideas, and seen them reflected in others sitting beside us.

Hearts in Action is co-hosted with Paperbark Magazine, an environmental humanities publications starting up at UMass.

I have felt my creativity sparked and my boundaries pushed. These weekly meetings have kept me in touch with nature amidst the challenges of a busy college schedule, and having a designated time to pause, reflect, and express myself is one of the most important additions to my college career.

I know that our weekly events will only continue to grow richer, more thoughtful, and more intentional as our experience grows and as we welcome in new people. In only four meetings, we explored:

  • The Golden Record: what would you put on an artifact that will outlast humanity and be our legacy?
  • Definitions of sustainability: what is our personalized and comprehensive definition of the much-used and increasingly vague term, “sustainability”?
  • Performing a water ritual: how can we honor the water in our lives, even while Hurricane Harvey devastates?
  • Creating personal flags: if we were to make a flag touting our beliefs, what would it look like? What would it mean?

My favorite workshop was when we learned about the Golden Record, a fascinating project that launched a “record” of some of Earth’s sounds (and images) into space, with the intention that it would outlast our species and be our legacy. When Emily, an MFA student and one of the facilitators, asked us what we would put on the Golden Record, I was stumped. When humans are gone, what is the essence of humanity that I believe needs to be preserved? The very first instinct I had was to somehow say, “We’re sorry.” But moving beyond that, I was able to enter a space of love for the Earth. I envisioned adding the sound of trickling water, or time lapses of seed and infant growth. By the end of the exercise, I was in tears. So much of our planet Earth is unique and precious. So much of it needs to be preserved – how can you distill it in one artifact?

Hearts in Action will continue to be held every Monday afternoon (through 11/27/17) from 4 – 5 pm in the Science and Engineering Library in the 3rd floor conference room. We would love to see more new faces in the coming weeks!


Announcing the Fall 2017 series

Fall 2017 Series

Talking Truth: Finding Your Voice Around the Climate Crisis

TalkingTruth Fall 2017 (flyer)

“Hearts in Action: Creative Responses to Climate Change”
Art making, creative writing and contemplative practices
Mondays 4-5pm, Sci and Engineering Library

Reading of Kinship of Clover with author Ellen Meeropol
Thurs. 9/28 7pm, Sci and Engineering Library

Nature Experience with the Outing Club
Fri. 9/29 12-1, Majestic beeches next to Durfee Conservatory

Green Building Tours with Ludmilla Pavlova, Senior Campus Planner
Thurs. 9/14 and 10/5 4-5:30, meet in the lobby of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library