K. Climate Courage and Compassion: Strengthening our Activism with Care

Afternoon Session 1:30PM-4:00PM
Capital Room (2nd floor, North Wing)

Session Chair


As we face the realities, challenges, uncertainties and opportunities of the next decade and beyond, how do you feel? How do feelings shape our capacity to continue our work? How do our working and community conditions shape our ability to sustain ourselves in this field? What can we learn from social science, the humanities, and each other to bolster our collective well-being as we navigate the climate crisis?

Many climate scientists experience distress, grief, anxiety, depression, and some even experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Distress is catalyzed by disturbing current catastrophes and predictions of future devastation, but exacerbated by alienation from friends, families, political leaders and others whose response minimizes or denies the significance of the climate crisis. Isolation and demoralization lead to burn-out. Alternatively, many scientists also express tenacity, hope, and connection to others who share their willingness to face climate realities and work toward solutions. Developing new skills to process grief, develop courage and resilience in ourselves and our communities is work that will be vital to sustaining a new generation of informers and changemakers.

Distress is felt by many other groups navigating climate catastrophe, fears about the future, and their frustrations with or alienation from others who may be slower to acknowledge implications of climate change or take responsibility for responsive action. Sustainable activism requires care, planning and thoughtful resource allocation too. Each of us will need new skills to sustain our participation as solutionaries in the anthropocene. This session invites new connections with projects focused on supporting resilience within ourselves, our organizations, and communities.

How can we help each other, and those entering the fields of climate science and advocacy thrive within our working environments? How can climate science become more sustainable as a sector? What can we learn about Climate Courage from our collective wisdom? From the frameworks offered by  spiritual leaders, Climate psychology, civic engagement projects and other social movements? This workshop will begin with an opportunity to ground ourselves, and panelists will share narratives and insights about climate resilience. Workshop participants will then be offered time for reflection and sharing. After the break, panelists will share our various organizational frameworks and resources, allowing time for reflection along the way. We will close with suggestions for further resources and integration of these ideas.

Session Overview


  • Opening. Grounding exercise and brief narration about the role of somatics in our well-being with Dennis Kiley
  • Welcome. Overview of workshop, introduction of panelists, group expectations
  • Introductions and insights from panelists. Each panelist will answer one of the following questions:
    • What helps you build and maintain climate courage?
    • How would you describe your climate emotions and how do you cope with the biggest feelings?
    • What keeps you from quitting?  What helps you maintain persistence?
    • How does compassion shape your climate work?
  • Sharing. An opportunity for participants to consider the questions and share responses with a partner or small group

2:30 -3:00pm
Afternoon Break

Book and resource table available for browsing


  • Returning. Shared poem and guided reflection with Ben Yosua-Davis
  • Growing our Courage and Compassion. Three Frameworks for Supporting Ourselves and Others
  • Closing. Discussion and Resource Sharing

About Our Session Chair and Panelists

Kimberly Simmons, PhD, teaches in sociology and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine. Her research on social movements and feminism includes a commitment to public sociology, and she offers workshops on sustainable activism for advocates and organizers. Over the last several years, Simmons has been part of an ongoing study group about climate justice, and has brought readings on climate justice movements into her courses, revealing a deep need for more support for all grappling with the threats of climate catastrophes, beyond just more information. A 2023 fellow with the Maine Chapter of the Scholar Strategy Network, vice-chair of the board of I’m Your Neighbor Books, and a volunteer with both Maine’s Paid Leave and ERA campaigns, Simmons is feathering her newly “emptied nest” with many projects.

Dennis Kiley is the founder of the EcoPsychology Initiative, an organization applying the principles of nature and psychology to foster healing and health. He consults and leads trainings on subjects ranging from Climate Psychology, Ecotherapy and Psychological Biomimicry.  His passion is supporting individuals, organizations and communities in discovering how ecopsychology can heal problems and generate solutions for people and the planet.  He is a proud founding and ongoing board member a of A Climate To Thrive, an organization on MDI seeking to make the island energy independent by 2030.

Kathleen Meil, Senior Director of Policy & Partnerships, Maine Conservation Voters
Kathleen leads MCV’s program work, integrating the organization’s public policy expertise, political insight, and deep commitment to education and collaboration as the foundation for transformative change.  She directs MCV’s climate action and Clean Energy for All campaigns; serves on the Steering Committee of the Maine Climate Council; and collaborates with state and federal partners to ensure just, equitable implementation of pro-climate, pro-environment, and pro-democracy policies and programs at all levels of government. Kathleen also facilitates Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition, a partnership of environmental, conservation, and public health organizations, and hosts MCV’s weekly online Lunch & Learn series.

Ben Yosua-Davis is Director of Applied Research at The BTS Center, a Maine-based organization focused on spiritual leadership in a climate-changed world. He was lead researcher on The BTS Center’s cross-sector research collaborative in 2022 exploring the question, “How would organizations act differently today if they embodied an ecological imagination?” with leaders from seven non-profits and institutions of higher education from Northern New England and the Quebec province of Canada. He also co-hosts the podcast “Climate Changed”, which explores what it means to find faith, love, and life in a climate changed world through interviews with activists, thinkers, and poets across the globe.