2024 Conference Speakers

Keynote Speaker

Anne Therese Gennari

Anne Therese is a TEDx speaker, educator, and author of The Climate Optimist Handbook. As a workshop host and communicator, Anne Therese focuses on shifting the narrative on climate change so that we can act from courage and excitement, rather than fear. She has taught courses and lectured on climate optimism and mental health in the climate space at numerous colleges and universities, including City College of New York, Columbia University, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Find out more about Anne Therese by visiting theclimateoptimist.com.

Anne Therese’s capacity to inspire and impart knowledge on climate issues is extraordinary!
~ Alps Forum, Switzerland

Her message is about the power of possibility, how to plant small seeds of change, and why optimism has never been more needed.
~ SUNY, ESF, Syracuse

Jim Antal

Jim Antal serves as Special Advisor on Climate Justice to the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Jim has just released a revised and updated 2nd edition of his book, CLIMATE CHURCH, CLIMATE WORLD, which is being read by hundreds of churches. From 2006-2018, Jim led the 350 UCC churches in Massachusetts as their Conference Minister and President. He has preached on climate change since 1988 in over 400 settings and has engaged in non-violent civil disobedience on numerous occasions.

Steve Breit

Workshop Facilitator
Steve has 40 years of multi-disciplinary engineering and software development experience, and is passionate about strategic electrification of heating with heat pump technology. He is a co-founder of the HeatSmart Alliance. From 2000 to 2018, Steve was on the top management team for Coventor, Inc., a startup that developed specialized software for the semiconductor industry, serving as Vice President, Engineering and Sr. Director, MEMS Business. Steve holds multiple software patents and has a Ph.D. in Ocean Engineering from MIT and a B.S. in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from Webb Institute.

Andrew Breithaupt

Art Table Facilitator
Andrew is a creative artist, illustrator, designer, and fabricator with 40 years of experience in visual communications and marketing. He has worked for 10 years teaching college level computer graphics, and has designed and built testing equipment for Apple, Google, and Facebook. Andrew has designed and built theater sets for over 40 productions around the country, and has designed, drawn and painted artwork for hundreds of commercial clients. In these challenging times, Andrew mainly enjoys channeling his creative energy into art that supports our vital climate movement.

Nick Christman

Nick Christman is Chair of Weston’s Sustainability Committee. After a career in software, he now works with climate-focused startups and has done research for Harvard Business School on the climate venture capital space.

Dr. Sarah Das

Plenary Speaker
Dr. Sarah Das is a climate scientist and educator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and an ambassador with Science Moms. She has led over 20 scientific expeditions to Greenland and Antarctica, providing new insight into how climate change is impacting our polar regions, and why that matters for the rest of our planet. After close to three decades bearing witness to the rapidly melting polar ice sheets, much of her focus is now on developing science-based solutions to improve coastal community resilience to rising seas, training the next generation of climate scientists, and sharing the importance of understanding and acting on climate change with policy makers and the public.

Bernette Dawson

Workshop Facilitator
Bernette is the community organizer for MA & RI at Slingshot. She has over a decade of experience in community organizing and is known for her strong commitment to equity, anti-racism, and community building. Bernette is from Boston and has co-founded the Cambridge Families of Color Coalition, which helped establish an inclusive organizational structure and worked on strategic initiatives with the Cambridge Public School District. She has also worked as a Consultant Facilitator/Youth and Family Organizer for Cambridge Public Schools and played a key role in the Building Equity Bridges Sense-Making Team, advancing equity initiatives. Bernette's expertise lies in grassroots community organizing, workshop facilitation, campaign strategy, fundraising, and communications. She has various certificates in leadership and facilitation and has worked as a Facilitator and Equity Coach at Canopy Equity Coaching, where she led virtual coaching sessions, designed affinity spaces, and implemented accountability systems.

Meryl Glassman

Workshop Facilitator
Meryl Glassman is the Director of Development for Dignity Matters and brings 20 years of fundraising and development experience. She has worked with organizations of all sizes, from small nonprofits like The Young@Heart Chorus to national and international organizations like Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Partners In Health. She loves helping nonprofits leverage their board and volunteers to build community awareness and raise more funds. Meryl holds a BA in Psychology and Biology from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. She lives in Wellesley with her husband and two children.

Martha Grover

Workshop Facilitator
Martha Grover is the newly appointed Manager of Building Decarbonization in the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.  In her former role as the Sustainability Manager for the City of Melrose, Martha managed both municipal energy projects as well as several community-wide initiatives, and worked on implementing the Melrose Net Zero Action Plan.  Melrose is best known for launching one of the first green municipal aggregation programs in 2016 and hosting the first pole-mounted EV chargers on the east coast.

Laury Hammel

Laury Hammel is the President and CEO of the Longfellow Health Clubs in Wayland, Sudbury, Natick, Nashua, NH, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Longfellow has been a leader in green business practices including recycling, solar energy, LED lights, heat pumps; has won many sustainable business awards;  and are known as the greenest health club business in the nation. In 1988, Laury founded the Sustainable Business Network of MA and serves as its Executive Director. In 2021, Laury created the vision for the founding of Mass Go Solar Coalition. This Coalition has a mission of solarizing every community in MA in order to achieve 50% of all energy in MA to be sourced via renewable resources.   Special attention is placed on working to connect Environmental Justice communities on installing solar panels and  emphasizes facilitating employment for people in underserved communities with jobs in the solar and other clean energy industries. 

Crystal Johnson

Crystal Johnson is a passionate Energy Strategist and Senior Environmental Planner with more than twenty-five years of accomplishments in strategic planning, management, policy, research, and assessment of energy and environmental resources. She focuses on climate/clean energy workforce development, stakeholder engagement and collaboration, tree canopy coverage, and climate action. She serves as the MA EEA Assistant Secretary of Environmental Justice. She values the role of communities in advancing climate action.

Jonathan Lan

Jonathan Lan is a student activist committed to building a just and sustainable future for all. As a field representative for Our Climate, student liaison on his town sustainability committee, and president of his high school’s environmental action club, this goal has been centered around expanding access to transformational, activism-inspiring climate education. He’s currently working with the MA Education Committee to develop curriculum recommendations, designing action-oriented climate projects for his school’s history classes, and broadening the scope of Weston students’ engagement with climate issues. 

Frank Lowenstein

Frank leads the community channel within Rare’s program for the U.S. Climate Change, focusing on developing and proving out strategies for community and partner engagement in the Greater Boston area. Frank joined Rare in October 2021, and brings 30 years of leadership in conservation and climate to Rare’s efforts, as well as deep knowledge of New England’s people, landscape and culture. He previously served as Chief Conservation Officer of New England Forestry Foundation-- the third largest land trust in the nation by area conserved, as well as Global Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader for The Nature Conservancy. Frank teaches in the Masters of Sustainability program at Harvard Extension School and is the author of three books including Voices of Protest and Clothed in Bark.

Helga Luest

Workshop Presenter
Helga Luest is the CEO of Progress Pollinators, a consulting firm that supports federal, industry, and nonprofit clients in marketing, communications, and technical assistance. Helga’s accomplishments include leading a USAID-funded malaria elimination branding effort for the Health Ministry of Zimbabwe, an EPA lead and drinking water awareness campaign, and several federal campaigns including the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Helga is a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and a certified Climate Change Professional (CC-P). 

Susan Martin

Susan Martin is a long-time member of Climate Action Brookline and a relatively new member of Brookline Mothers Out Front.  She has worked on the Electrify Brookline campaign since its inception.  Susan retired a number of years ago from a consulting career in the world of business analysis, and has since focused on volunteering for climate actions as well as for the Brookline Food Pantry.

Lisa Paul

Workshop Facilitator
Lisa Paul is the recently appointed Curriculum Coordinator and School Liaison for Cooler Communities. After earning her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke in biology, she worked in industry for a few years before making the switch to education. She has spent over ten years in the classroom teaching environmental science, biology, and chemistry and has also worked with the Massachusetts Audubon Society as an outdoor educator and naturalist. She has a particular passion for incorporating climate change education across all grades and disciplines and has worked with a number of organizations to design and implement lessons with this goal. When not working, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family and numerous animals on her small farm in central Massachusetts. The current count is 2 horses, 2 goats, 3 cats, and one dog - at least for now!

Aimee Powelka

Aimee is the lead for Sustainable Framingham, a grassroots group that successfully advocated for the City to hire a sustainability coordinator in its first two years. Current efforts include partnering with the City of Framingham in a Mass Save Municipal Partnership. Aimee has experience working with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources in its Green Communities Division. There, she worked with communities and developers to create data tracking and reporting tools for the Green Communities Program. Aimee also worked with Eversource as an energy efficiency evaluation analyst, handling programs such as code and new construction. Aimee holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Macalester College and a Ph.D. in cell biology from Harvard University.

Darr Reilly

Dorothy Reilly, M.Arch. is an environmental activist whose three primary interests are reducing global warming, health and wellness, and building community. She has organized many events including Inherit The Earth, the First New York Women’s Conference for Sustainability, and Drawdown100Women4Women. She is co-founder of both Drawdown East End and Carbon CREW Project. Her inspiration comes from Paul Hawken; climate change is happening for us and is our opportunity to come together collaboratively with creativity and build a thriving community.

Sabrina Shankman

Panel Moderator
Sabrina Shankman covers the climate crisis as a reporter for the Boston Globe as part of the Into the Red team. She joined the newspaper in 2021 after reporting for eight years at Inside Climate News, where she covered the arctic. At the Globe, her work helps readers understand climate change-fueled extreme weather events, the emerging science and policy of climate change, and the work being done at the state and regional level to address the crisis.

Diane Sokal

Diane Sokal is an Architect and Sustainability professional. She volunteers with Mothers Out Front, both in the Brookline Chapter and with the statewide Clean Heat, Clean Air team, focusing on building electrification policy and implementation. Diane has led teams for Brookline’s Green House Fest, Decarbonize Your Home presentations, and most recently with the Electrify Brookline neighborhood-based campaign. Diane lives in an 1890’s two-family home that retains its Queen Anne character while incorporating the all-electric systems needed for our future.

Anne Sudduth

Workshop Facilitator
As a volunteer leader with the climate justice organization Mothers Out Front Massachusetts, Anne Sudduth coaches local grassroots chapter organizers who are working towards a livable climate for all children. Anne served as the coordinator of Brookline Mothers Out Front for three years, growing the chapter’s active membership by 473% and creating a structure to support a high engagement organization. As Co-Founder and Principal of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, Anne developed and implemented sustainability initiatives for K-12 schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Anne was previously National Director of Community Involvement at Deloitte, the global accounting and consulting firm, where she developed the U.S. firm’s award-winning community involvement program. Anne received the New Hampshire 40 under 40 Award after founding the Seacoast Women’s Giving Circle, a philanthropic and civic leadership organization. 

Ellen Tohn

Workshop Facilitator
Ellen is the co-chair of Wayland’s Energy and Climate Committee (WECC). Ellen co-founded MassEnergize in 2017 to help local residents and businesses take action. She is passionate about driving local actions and larger policy solutions to address our climate crisis. Ellen is a nationally recognized environmental health policy expert with over 30 years of experience working at the intersection of energy, housing and health. She is President of Tohn Environmental Strategies and an Assistant Professor of Practice at the Brown School of Public Health. She received her BA from Cornell University and a Masters Degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Sue Vatnick

Workshop Facilitator & Panelist
Sue Vatnick grew up in the state of Vermont and received her BA from Middlebury College. She went on to complete a master’s degree in Special Education and had a fulfilling career in special education that spanned 40 years and 4 states. She is currently a volunteer with THIS! Is What We Did, an organization created in response to the ultimate question: “What did you do about climate change?” As a team member of THIS!, Sue helps people have effective conversations about climate change, move their money from the 4 worst banks, and coaches parents & caregivers on helping their young people cope with the climate crisis.

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