New Approaches to Climate Change: Speaker Series

‘New Approaches to Climate Change’ is a series of free online talks over four weeks starting Wednesday, February 24.  The series presents a range of international speakers who challenge how we perceive planet Earth and our collective responsibility as citizens to preserve and protect it. The series is curated by Dr. Niamh Shaw, science communicator in residence in Abbeyleix and is aimed at those with a general interest in climate change and all are welcome. Niamh has a background in science and engineering a wealth of experience in theatre and live speaking and holds the serious ambition to travel in space as a citizen and an artist.  Since last September, she has been finding creative ways to engage people in Abbeyleix and the wider area to consider their role in climate action – what is it, and what can we all do about it.  This role is supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme [2017-2022] in partnership with Laois County Council and Midlands Science, and in association with Abbeyleix Tidy Towns.

Dr. Niamh Shaw said, “The aim of the Climate Speaker Series is to give our local community a taste of some of the really interesting science and research taking place across the globe- from the desert to the poles, and from psychological and systemic impact, climate change is being explored from so many differing points of view. And everyone is working together to find manageable solutions to create a positive climate future and an impact that we as individuals can have on climate change.”

Niamh Shaw (Photo: Deirdre Kilfeather)


Climate Speakers & Topics

The Climate Speakers series of talks begins on Wednesday February 24 at 7pm with two short talks championing women in science and leadership who are passionate about sharing accessible solutions to climate change. Madeleine Murray presents ‘ Sustainability – individual and systemic action to future-proof our world’. Madeleine Murray is co-founder of the Kinsale-based Change by Degrees, a company co-founded with environmentalist Dr. Tara Shine. The mission of Change by Degrees is to provide sustainability leadership and inspiration for people and organisations. She is an archaeologist by training with experience in research, editing and writing at the School of Archaeology, U.C.D. and the National Museum of Ireland. She is passionate about making complex information accessible and helping businesses to create and tell their sustainability stories.

On the same evening Dr. Niamh Shaw presents ‘How Space teaches us to be better Earth citizens’. In 2017 Niamh participated in a simulated Mars mission that changed forever her way of life, embracing a new approach to sustainability. Niamh is the science communicator in residence for the Abbeyleix Climate Action project, with a deep passion to share the perspective of Earth from space. She recently joined Homeward Bound, a global transformational leadership initiative for women with a background in science and a passion for climate action. As part of this leadership programme, she joins 100 women on an Antarctic expedition in 2022.

On Wednesday March 3rd at 7pm, Sally Weintrobe’s talk “Working through our feelings about the climate emergency” will explore common feelings many of us share about the current state of the climate and the environment; also, what can help us bear these feelings so we can better address the damage and push for change. Sally is a psychoanalyst, working on climate and the environment. She is a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society, a founder member of the Climate Psychology Alliance and she chairs the International Psychoanalytic Association’s Committee on Climate. Her new book, “Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis” is available this April.

Book cover Sally Weintrobe

Sally Weintrobe’s book “The Psychological roots of the Climate Crisis” is due out this year

On Wednesday March 10 at 7pmDr. Anna Maria Trofaier from the European Space Agency (ESA) Climate Office will talk about “Using Space for climate change: Satellites that monitor our planet’s health”. Anna Maria oversees the sea ice, snow and glaciers projects within the ESA Climate Change Initiative to ensure delivery of technical requirements. She is currently working on developing a Massive Open Online Course on the cryosphere. She has a background in physics and remote sensing, with a focus on polar regions and initially joined the ESA Climate Office as a research fellow.

Dr Anna Maria Trofaier of the European Space Agency


On Thursday, March 18 at 7pm, LIVE from Biosphere 2, Arizona, John Adams & Kai Staats’s talk is “Seeking Earth from Space: Biosphere 2, simulated Mars analogue facilities and what we can learn about sustainability and climate action”.  Originally constructed to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support human life in outer space, Biosphere 2 is now a research facility of the University of Arizona where scientists use the 3-acre site to carry out controlled experiments and study climate, water, energy and sustainability.


Biosphere 2 in Arizona

Heritage Officer with Laois County Council, Catherine Casey said, “Climate change is the most important issue facing humanity and this series of talks curated by Dr. Niamh Shaw provides a range of perspectives on individual and collective responses and research.  We hope that these international stories will inform and inspire action we all take at a very local level within our own communities and county”.

Speaking about the involvement of Abbeyleix Tidy Towns in the series, Chairman Robbie Quinn said “We are delighted that our Climate Action project is involved in this series of talks curated by Dr. Niamh Shaw. Hosting this panel of international speakers, it affords us an opportunity to reflect on our local climate action efforts, explore the global context of climate change and then pool this expertise back into our community activities. One of the benefits of this pandemic has been the opportunity to connect with panellists of this calibre, something that probably would not have occurred outside of this unusual time in the world.”

Robbie Quinn, Abbeyleix Tidy Towns; Mark Clancy, Abbeyleix Tidy Towns; Niamh Shaw, Science Communicator in Residence; Catherine Casey, Laois Heritage Officer; Mary White, Abbeyleix Tidy Towns; Ann Lawlor, Creative Ireland Laois and Dr Fiona MacGowan, Abbeyleix Tidy Towns in Abbeyleix during the Abbeyleix Climate Action Project . Picture: Alf Harvey.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said “The upcoming climate change speakers series provides a unique opportunity for us all to hear from and dialogue with leading voices from fields as diverse as ecology and psychology on issues relating to climate change. Midlands Science is delighted to be involved in this this project which has focused on the local actions in Abbeyleix and is now bringing global voices to the area through the upcoming speaker series. It’s great to see people connecting on this vital issue and engaging with the science that such issues involve.”

The “New Approaches to Climate Change” series will be livestreamed on the Laois Heritage Forum Facebook Page. No registration or pre-booking is required, and all are welcome. Questions or comments can be submitted in advance to, or posed on the night during the livestream.

The series is part of the Abbeyleix Climate Action Project, supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme [2017-2022] in partnership with Laois County Council and Midlands Science, and in association with Abbeyleix Tidy Towns.


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