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LIVE NOW: Watch the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Digital Summit

The two-day virtual event will bring scientists and many other experts to highlight success stories in conservation

smithsonianmag.com

Looking to the future with optimism can be daunting with experts warning about rapid habitat loss, species extinction, climate change and global food crises. On top of that, with the world right now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, worries about public health, finance and food security are front of mind. Where can hope be found in uncertain times?

In the face of these unprecedented challenges, a new global conservation movement is underway. Communities, scientists, activists and businesses are actively working to change course, and upend how the public talks about the state of the planet, and bring our world into a brighter future.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Smithsonian Institution and its partners are hosting this week the Earth Optimism Digital Summit. Featuring more than 100 scientists, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and experts, the virtual event showcases ideas and innovarive solutions. The summit will stream live in the video player above over the course of the next two days, and individual clips will be made available over the course of the next few weeks.

“Earth Optimism reminds us that change happens when we focus on what works,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, in a statement. “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, this summit invites us to come together across disciplines and backgrounds to build a stronger, more sustainable future for our planet.”

Speakers will address wide-ranging topics, including species extinction, climate change and global food crises. Hear from prominent change-makers such as chef and humanitarian José Andrés talking about food security; Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, speaking about environmental justice; and Denis Hayes, one of the first Earth Day organizers in the 1970s, in conversation with a student leader of today, Zero Hour’s teenage founder Jamie Margolin.

“It’s inspirational to hear real stories from real people working on this in real time,” says Ruth Anna Stolk, founding executive director of the Smithsonian Conservation Commons. “Hopefully people’s view of who is doing environmental work will change because of this.”

Stolk also adds that even in murky, unprecedented times like today, when optimism may be in short supply, the summit will meet the challenges head-on, with sessions about public health and the financial crisis.

The full lineup of events is below, and for a list of related events, including "deep dives" that examine specific topics in greater detail (additional registration may be involved), visit earthoptimism.si.edu.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

12:15 p.m. - 12:40 p.m.

Yesterday and Today

Denis Hayes - who was the first Earth Day organizer in the 1970s – talks with a student leader of today, Zero Hour’s teenage Founder Jamie Margolin.

Bill Weir, Host – CNN Anchor & Chief Climate Correspondent
Denis Hayes – Principal National Organizer of the first Earth Day 1970; President, Bullitt Foundation
Jamie Margolin – Founder and Co-Executive Director, Zero Hour

12:40 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Our Small Blue Dot

Earth is our only home. Stand back and look at Earth from Space with Smithsonian scientific pioneer Ellen Stofan and her NASA colleagues.

Ellen Stofan – John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum; former Chief Scientist, NASA

12:45 p.m. - 1:55 p.m.

Feeding and Powering the Planet

Two leading global visionaries describe their efforts to increase access to healthy food and slow global warming.

David M. Rubenstein, Moderator – Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman, The Carlyle Group; Smithsonian Board of Regents
José Andrés – Chef & Humanitarian
Christiana Figueres – Founding Partner, Global Optimism; Former Executive Secretary, UN Climate Change Convention

Resetting Our Financial World

Leaders discuss how we can finance a more resilient and sustainable world.

Kristin Rechberger, Interviewer – CEO, Dynamic Planet
David Blood - Co-Founder and Senior Partner, Generation Investment Management

From Coral Reefs to Floating Cities

Two visionary inventors, one a marine biologist and the other an architect, discuss ways they are designing solutions to seemingly impossible problems.

Amy Johnson, Moderator – Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Mary Hagedorn – Director, Reef Recovery Initiative, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Kunlé Adeyemi – Architect & Founder/Principal of NLÉ

Innovating Innovation

Necessity is the mother of invention, but she can be helped. This in-depth interview focuses on how to foster innovation – from transforming higher education to sparking global grass-roots problem-solving at a grand scale.

David M. Rubenstein, Moderator – Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman, The Carlyle Group; Smithsonian Board of Regents
Michael M. Crow – President, Arizona State University
Alex Dehgan – CEO & Co-Founder, Conservation X Labs

1:55 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.

Fighting Pandemics

Experts on infectious disease outbreaks discuss how they spread, and how they have been fought in Africa and around the globe.

Ron Klain, Moderator – Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Revolution LLC; Former US Ebola Response Coordinator
Mateus Kambale Sahani – Vaccines Trial Programs Coordinator for Vaccines with Epicentre, Uganda
Sabrina Sholts – Curator of Biological Anthropology, Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

2:20 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Waste Not, Want Not

How people are changing the way they consume and dispose of food – both locally and globally.

Bill Weir, Moderator – CNN Anchor & Chief Climate Correspondent
Tristram Stuart – Founder, Feedback and Toast Ale Ltd.
Evan Lutz – CEO & Co-Founder, Hungry Harvest
Justen Garrity – Founder & President, Veteran Compost
Tambra Raye Stevenson – Founder & CEO, WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture

2:45 p.m. - 2:55 p.m.

XPRIZE Announcement

A major prize that will revolutionize our understanding of the planet’s most diverse and complex ecosystems, rapidly and remotely quantifying rainforests intrinsic value in unprecedented detail, in a time that has never been more urgent for conservation.

Shah Selbe – Technical Consultant, Rainforest XPRIZE

2:55 p.m. - 3:35 p.m.

Climate Change and Coastal Cities

Political and business leaders join scientists in a discussion of how we are restoring and building resiliency and sustainability into our port cities, where most of our people live and the majority of our economy is based.

Bill Weir, Moderator – CNN Anchor & Chief Climate Correspondent
Thad Allen – Commandant, United States Coast Guard; Former Director Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina
Libby Schaaf – Mayor, Oakland California
Emily Pidgeon – Vice President of Ocean Science and Innovation, Conservation International
Gregory M. Ruiz – Director of Marine Invasions Research, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Phil Ryan – Chairman, Swiss Re Americas
Anson “Tuck” Hines, Organizer – Director, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

3:50 p.m. - 4:10 p.m.

Positivity at Last

The author of "The End of Nature" and co-founder of 350.org talks about what gives him hope.

Lauren Ward, Interviewer – Earth Science Video Producer, NASA
Bill McKibben – Writer, Environmentalist & Activist

Connecting with Animals

We are living in a moment when the animals among us give us comfort: a dialogue between the Smithsonian National Zoo director and an animal defender.

Steven Monfort, Interviewer – John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Beth Allgood – U.S. Country Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare

4:10 p.m. - 4:40 p.m.

Big Thinking on Land and Sea

On land and in the ocean, in cities and rural landscapes, conservation leaders discuss saving species, protecting places, and uniting people with the natural world.

Ryan Heath, Moderator – Senior Editor, Politico
Steven Monfort – John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Enric Sala – National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Founder, Pristine Seas
Carrie Seltzer – Stakeholder Engagement Strategist, iNaturalist
Dan Janzen – Tropical Biodiversity Ecologist
Winnie Hallwachs – Tropical Biodiversity Ecologist

4:40 p.m. - 5:10 p.m.

Cowboys, Oceans, Bees

A filmmaker, a photographer, and an artist talk about how they tell stories that inspire audiences and advance conservation.

Tasha Goldberg, Host – Founder, Evidence of Hope
Peter Byck – Producer, Soil Carbon Cowboys
Cristina Mittermeier – Photographer & Conservationist; Co-Founder & Managing Director, SeaLegacy
Matt Willey – Artist & Founder, The Good of the Hive

5:10 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

When the Earth Moves

This new Earth Day film tells the story of 50 years of non-partisan, multi-generational activities bringing together politicians, organizations, and student leaders, followed by a sharing of perspectives by some of the people featured.

Andy Revkin, Host – Environmental Journalist & Founding Director of The Initiative on Communication and Sustainability, Columbia University
Varshini Prakash – Executive Director & Co-Founder, Sunrise Movement
Tia Nelson – Climate Change Program Director, Outrider Foundation
Bob Inglis – Executive Director, republicEn.org

5:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Becoming Leaders

A group of young environmental leaders discuss how they are making change happen faster.

Lauren Ward, Moderator – Earth Science Video Producer, NASA
Jerome Foster II – Founder & Executive Director, OneMillionOfUs; Co-Editor-in-Chief, The Climate Reporter
Sanjana Paul – Co-Founder & Executive Director, Earth Hacks
Nadia Nazar – Founder, Co-Executive Director, & Art Director, Zero Hour
Vic Barrett – Alliance for Climate Education, Earth Guardians, Our Children's Trust

6:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

Making a Difference

Interviews with an influential philanthropist and citizen scientist about his vision and leadership and with a leading Smithsonian marine scientist about his conservation work.

Amy Johnson – Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Ed Warner – Sand County Foundation
David Kline – Scientist, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

6:15 p.m. - 6:40 p.m.

Transforming Conservation: Crisis and Opportunity

Dynamic entrepreneurs - including a CNN Hero of the Planet – who have led impactful field conservation efforts discuss common threads and explore levers to help transform the field of conservation.

Fred Nelson, Moderator – Executive Director, Maliasili
Alasdair Harris – Founder, Blue Ventures
Leela Hazzah – Executive Director & Co-Founder of Lion Guardians
Lúcia Lohmann – Executive Director, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation

6:40 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.

Keeling Curve Prize

Keeling Curve Prize – a Global Warming Solution competition – announces finalists for its 2020 Competition.

Jacquelyn Francis – Director/Founder, the Keeling Curve Prize
Ruth Metzel – Assistant Director, the Keeling Curve Prize

ATBC Short Video Contest on Science Communication

The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, in partnership with environmental science news organization Mongabay and the BAND Foundation, share videos and announce winners of its tropical biology and conservation success story video competition.

Lúcia G. Lohmann – Executive Director, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
Lily Kang – Coordinator for Transforming Conservation, Mongabay

EO Teen Video Competition

Earth Optimism and the Global Co Lab Network share winning videos from the 2020 Earth Optimism Teen Video competition.

Linda Staheli – Founder & Director, Global Co Lab Network
Brian Coyle – Program Director, Conservation Commons

Friday, April 24th, 2020

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Bird Friendly Coffee Show with Student Lightning Talks

Join our hosts to learn about Bird Friendly Coffee and hear some young leaders share their own stories of action and success. Log on to Twitter for an interactive chat with others who will be tuning in to watch our live stream broadcast - It's the perfect way to join the conversation with like minded Summit attendees!

12:05 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Environmental Justice

Individuals from different backgrounds discuss their work with communities to address environmental challenges and bring people closer to nature at both local and global scales.

Sabrina Lynn Motley, Moderator – Director, Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Queen Quet – Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation
Dejah Powell – Regional Organizer for the Midwest, Sunrise Movement
Fred Tutman – Patuxent Riverkeeper
Bathsheba F. Bryant-Tarpeh, Organizer – Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow, Smithsonian Office of International Relations

12:30 p.m. - 12:55 p.m.

View from the Middle East

A Smithsonian National Zoo director discusses species rescue efforts with a conservation leader from Abu Dhabi.

Steven Monfort, Interviewer – John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
His Excellency Majid Al Mansouri – Managing Director, International Fund for Houbara Conservation

View from China

An interview with Lu Zhi, Earth Optimism sister event organizer, on major conservation efforts in her home country.

Andy Revkin, Interviewer – Environmental Journalist & Founding Director of The Initiative on Communication and Sustainability, Columbia University
Lu Zhi – Founder of the Shanshui Conservation Center

12:55 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

Communicating About Climate

Leading climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe talks with Smithsonian Natural History Museum director and an award-winning film producer about how and why climate communication is so important and yet challenging.

Lauren Ward, Moderator – Earth Science Video Producer, NASA
Kirk Johnson – Sant Director, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Katharine Hayhoe – Director of the Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University
Adam Paul Smith – Producer, Writer, Storyteller at Act 4 Entertainment

1:15 p.m. - 1:25 p.m.

View from School

A major thought leader in biodiversity conservation talks to one of his students (and an Earth Optimism host) about his efforts to influence the next generation.

Cat Kutz, Interviewer – Communications Manager, Smithsonian Earth Optimism
Tom Lovejoy – Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation; University Professor, Environmental Science and Policy Department, George Mason University

1:25 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Inventing Pollution Solutions

An award-winning Irish engineering student talks about his inventions to combat plastic pollution.

Fionn Ferriera – Student Scientist, Engineer & Sustainability Advocate

1:30 p.m. - 1:55 p.m.

Growing Resilience

A state legislator, restaurant CEO, First Foods and indigenous lands rights activist: three different professional perspectives share common themes for making modern food systems resilient, nourishing, and equitable.

Anna Palmer, Moderator – Senior Washington Correspondent, Politico
Lorig Charkoudian – Delegate, Maryland General Assembly
Leslie Silverglide – Co-Founder & CEO of MIXT
Katherine Quaid – Communications & Outreach Coordinator at Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
Kate Christen, Organizer – Senior Manager, Smithsonian Conservation Commons

1:55 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.

Preventing Extinction

A conservation leader discusses “Reverse the Red” – speeding the recovery of species so that they can be removed from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Steven Monfort, Interviewer – John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Jon Paul Rodriguez – Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission; Founder & President of Provita, Caracas, Venezuela

A View from the Ocean

Find out how the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working to help preserve and restore the health of the ocean and the organisms that depend on it.

Anson “Tuck” Hines, Interviewer – Director, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet – Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy NOAA Administrator

2:20 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Growing Up Green

Change makers across the generations discuss how schools and workplaces, lifelong learners and futurists can help ensure a sustainable planet.

Lauren Ward, Moderator – Earth Science Video Producer, NASA
Jeff Martin – Founder & CEO, Tribal Planet
Gillian Hinde – EY Global Corporate Responsibility Leader
Justin Shaifer – Executive Director, Fascinate Inc.
Faye Christoforo – Co-Executive Director of Campus Coordination, Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN)
Carol O'Donnell, Organizer – Director, Smithsonian Science Education Center

2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.

Afghanistan, Haiti, Africa, Indonesia

Major accomplishments from around the world: establishing national parks in warzones, reforesting island nations, restoring coral reefs, tracking and saving giraffes.

Cat Kutz, Host – Communications Manager, Smithsonian Earth Optimism
Alex Dehgan – CEO & Co-Founder, Conservation X Labs
Michael Anello – Executive Director, Haiti Reforestation Partnership
Julian Fennessy – Director, Giraffe Conservation Foundation
Jared Stabach – Program Coordinator, Movement of Life, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
David Smith – Chief Marine Scientist, Mars Inc.

3:45 p.m. - 4:10 p.m.

Human Health & Ecosystems

Experts discuss how understanding the connections between humans and nature results in innovative solutions in environmental, wildlife and human health.

Richard Stone, Moderator – Senior Science Editor, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios
Nooshin Razani – Director of the Center for Nature and Health at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Oakland, CA
Carly R. Muletz Wolz – Molecular Pathogen Scientist, Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Jérémy Bouyer – Medical Entomologist, Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture (NAFA)
Katrina Pagenkopp Lohan, Organizer – Senior Scientist & Head, Marine Disease Ecology Laboratory, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Brian Coyle, Organizer – Behavioral Ecologist & Program Manager, Smithsonian Conservation Commons

4:10 p.m. - 4:25 p.m.

Changing the Narrative

A filmmaker and a TV journalist discuss how they “keep it real” while also helping people see that positive stories exist all around us.

Amy Johnson, Interviewer – Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Shawn Heinrichs – Artist, Photographer, Filmmaker, and Conservationist
Danni Washington – TV Host & Science Communicator

4:25 p.m. - 4:35 p.m.

Papua New Guinea

A filmmaker describes how local communities played a starring role in a film about conservation success.

Tasha Goldberg, Host – Founder, Evidence of Hope
John Weller – Lead Storyteller, SeaLegacy

4:50 p.m. - 5:10 p.m.

Climate Change Solutions

A climate scientist and an environmental scientist compare notes about solutions they are seeing now and on the horizon.

Amy Johnson, Host – Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Katharine Hayhoe – Director of the Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University
Jon Foley – Executive Director, Project Drawdown

5:10 p.m. - 5:50 p.m.

Sustainable Energy & Human Creativity

Top thinkers and doers talk about their approaches to changing the way we use energy and the central role of creativity in innovation.

Ali Velshi, Moderator – MSNBC Anchor
William McDonough – Founder of William McDonough + Partners, Architects
Charlotte McCurdy – Designer
Paul Bunje – Co-Founder & COO/CSO, Conservation X Labs
Camron Gorguinpour – Senior Global Manager for Electric Vehicles, World Resources Institute
Fred Krupp – President, Environmental Defense Fund

5:50 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Changing the Narrative

Two new efforts that embrace searching for and sharing stories that show the world is not all gloom and doom.

Amy Johnson, Interviewer – Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Sean B. Carroll – Department of Science Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Will Doig – Co-editor, Reasons to Be Cheerful

6:00 p.m. - 6:25 p.m. GLOBAL HEALTH

Virus Hunters

Learn about the tools used by global teams of scientists to help identify pathogens and viruses and prevent them from causing outbreaks.

Suzan Murray – Program Director, Global Health Program, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
James Hassell – Scholar, Global Health Program, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Peter Daszak – President, EcoHealth Alliance
Neel Aziz – Supervisory Veterinary Pathologist, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

6:25 p.m. - 6:55 p.m.

Peru, Predators, and Finding Hope

An environmental lawyer, a video producer, and a wildlife journalist share how they develop and use stories to promote positive change for the planet.

Tasha Goldberg, Host and Contributor – Founder, Evidence of Hope
Bruno Monteferri – Director of Conservamos.org/SPDA, Peru
Will Stolzenburg – Independent Wildlife Journalist

6:55 p.m. - 7:15 p.m.

Design for the Future

Designers tackle the environmental challenge and come up with unlikely solutions.

Amy Johnson, Host – Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Sam Van Aken – Artist & Associate Professor, Syracuse University
Cyrill Gutsch – Founder & CEO, Parley for the Oceans

7:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.

Resetting Our Financial World

Business experts share their ideas about how to reconcile the age-old battle of environment versus economy.

Kristin Rechberger, Interviewer – CEO, Dynamic Planet
Hongwei Rose Niu – Chief Conservation Officer, The Paulson Institute
David Antonioli – CEO of Verra
Kathy Baughman McLeod – Director, Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Resilience Center
Steve Case – Chairman & CEO, Revolution; Co-Founder, Case Foundation; former CEO, America Online

7:45 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Innovative financial leader Steve Case shares his vision for how we move forward with Earth Optimism.

Steve Case – Chairman & CEO, Revolution; Co-Founder, Case Foundation; former CEO, America Online

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

12:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Conservation X Labs Ideathon

Register online to join: https://conservationxlabs.com/ideathon
About Rachael Lallensack

Rachael Lallensack is the assistant web editor for science and innovation at Smithsonian.

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