UNE to host worldwide climate teach-in on March 30

The University will welcome Hip Hop Caucus Founder Rev. Lennox Yearwood as keynote speaker

Aerial of the Biddeford Campus
The teach-in will feature seven panels comprising 35 faculty and guest speakers from over two dozen programs, centers, and disciplines across the University

As part of its commitment to environmental stewardship and leadership in fighting climate change, the University of New England is uniting with colleges and universities around the globe as it brings the “Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice” to Maine on March 30.

UNE will welcome Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and founder of the Hip Hop Caucus and award-winning climate activist, as keynote speaker for the one-night teach-in. Founded by Yearwood in 2004, the Hip Hop Caucus focuses on addressing core issues impacting underserved and vulnerable communities, with programs and campaigns that support solution-driven community organizing led by today’s young leaders.

In addition to remarks from Lennox, the teach-in will feature seven panels comprising 35 faculty and guest speakers from over two dozen programs, centers, and disciplines across the University. These panel presentations will discuss public health, navigating climate anxiety, communicating climate change, and solutions for the future, among others.

The teach-in is one of more than 300 such events taking place in 50 countries worldwide and in each U.S. state as part of the Solve Climate by 2030 project. Led by Bard College, the project aims to encourage states to engage in ambitious but feasible actions to tackle climate change and to promote the initiative #MakeClimateaClass, designed to engage and empower young people in the fight against climate change.

UNE is the sole higher education institution in Maine to host the event.

Alethea Cariddi, assistant director of Sustainability at UNE, said the event will showcase the broad representation of disciplines across the University that can integrate climate change and justice into their coursework.

“Climate change and climate justice do not exist within the boundaries of the environmental sciences alone. The message to be taken is that every single class at UNE — from osteopathic medicine to the arts and sciences, social work, public health, and more — can have some component of climate change and climate justice interwoven into the curriculum,” Cariddi remarked.

UNE has for years been a leader in climate action within higher education, having adopted its first Climate Action Plan in 2010. In 2015, UNE became one of only a few institutions in the northeast to academically engage undergraduate students in climate change topics by offering an interdisciplinary minor in Climate Change Studies.

Early in 2021, UNE adopted a carbon-reduced portfolio for the University’s endowment, and, in November, signed a two-year contract to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for 13 of its electricity accounts that service its two Maine campuses. These third-party, Green-e certified RECs represent the environmental benefit of 100% renewable wind energy and will offset about 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents — roughly half of all the electricity purchased by the University — to ameliorate the impact of the University’s carbon emissions, Cariddi said.

Bethany Woodworth, Ph.D., teaching professor and coordinator of the interdisciplinary minor in Climate Change Studies, said hosting Yearwood for the event was a natural choice given voice because of his engagement of young people in the fight against climate change.

“Young people are aware that they are inheriting the climate and justice crises, and they are outspoken in their desire to enact positive change,” Woodworth commented. “We are excited to host Rev. Yearwood, a leader in organizing and inspiring youth to engage with the political process around issues that impact underserved and vulnerable communities.” 

Yearwood is a leader in campaigns calling for divestment from fossil fuels causing climate change, increasing diversity in the climate movement, ensuring everyone has clean water and air, and international efforts to address climate change. Dubbed a “New Green Hero” by Rolling Stone, Yearwood launched Think 100%, the Hip Hop Caucus’ award-winning communications and activism platform, in 2018. Comprised of podcast, film, music, and activism opportunities, the platform challenges environmental injustices and shares just solutions to the climate crisis, including a transition to 100% renewable energy for all.

This collaborative event is produced in partnership with UNE's Center for Excellence in Collaborative Education (CECE), with funding from The Climate Initiative and the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood