Jennifer Atkinson and Bee Elliot featured in Taking the Heat

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IAS faculty member Jennifer Atkinson and alum Bee Elliot are featured in a new book called Taking the Heat: How Climate Change Is Affecting Your Mind, Body, and Spirit. In the book’s opening chapter, author Bonnie Schneider profiles Atkinson’s class on Climate Anxiety and Hope at UW Bothell, and includes excerpts from interviews with both Atkinson and her students, with a full section dedicated to activist and IAS alum Bee Elliot, who struggled with eco-anxiety before discovering Atkinson’s class.

Taking the Heat also shares an account of Atkinson’s personal experience of two major wildfires in California in 2016 and 2017, including family evacuations from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, and the subsequent flash-flooding that triggered deadly mudlines along the burned slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains. As Schneider writes in the opening chapter:

“The impact of these consecutive natural disasters weighed heavily on Dr. Atkinson. She channeled these experiences into creating a college course to tackle the subject of climate change in a more personal way – focusing on environmental grief and eco-anxiety. Her goal was to explore the complex emotional and ethical issues of the climate crisis, as well as offer a supportive space for students to discuss environmental injustice, to navigate despair, and to find hope in the midst of ecological loss.”

Interviews with several of Atkinson’s students highlight the sense of agency and solidarity they developed in taking this class, which kept them engaged in climate solutions even in times when they felt overwhelmed and demoralized. As Schneider writes of Atkinson’s course:

“Learning about environmental and social justice movements provides a road map for moving from grief to action. The class examines individuals and communities that have overcome setbacks and loss and have developed resilience to stay engaged in social movements over the long run. Dr. Atkinson believed civic action can be a therapeutic antidote to climate grief.”

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