2021 Earth Day Virtual Learning Event

Watch videos from each session of our 2021 Earth Day learning event here.

Welcome from Dean Paul Robbins

Environmental Vignettes

Inspired By Nature: How Nature-Based Solutions Promote Resiliency

View a discussion on nature-based solutions and the role they play in helping to restore and sustainably manage ecosystems that have been impacted by human forces. We explored a few examples of nature-based solutions and discussed how implementing solutions that are inspired by nature can help to promote ecological resilience.


  • Nathan Henry, U.S. Project Manager, U.S. Nature4Climate
  • Karen Sands, Director of Planning, Research and Sustainability, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Nathan Schulfer, Director of Professional and International MS Programs, Nelson Institute, UW-Madison

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Indigenous Knowledge, ‘Hope,’ and Climate Change

As the impacts of climate change are felt, Indigenous environmental knowledge is often turned to as a source of “hope” by non-Native people, organizations, and policy makers. We discussed this potentially problematic and appropriative trend, the opportunities it may present, and its nuanced politics.


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Equitable Access to the Outdoors

Diversity, inclusion, and equity in outdoor spaces is an important aspect of environmental justice, but studies suggest that minority populations are much less likely to participate in outdoor adventures. A diverse panel of community leaders discussed the “adventure gap” and the ways this can be addressed within a community.


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Justice in the FEW Nexus

We explored the ways in which food, energy, and water, also known as the FEW Nexus, is tied to environmental justice and learned how interdependencies within the FEW Nexus will impact resource availability and equity.


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Resilience in the Great Lakes Region

Recent studies indicate that pronounced impacts from climate change can be seen throughout Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region. Over the past two decades there have been increased intense weather extremes and fluctuations throughout the region. A panel of interdisciplinary experts explored this pattern and the ways in which the region can improve its resiliency to these extreme events.


  • Elena Irwin, Professor and Faculty Director, Sustainability Institute, Ohio State University
  • Adam Bechle, Coastal Engineering Outreach Specialist, Wisconsin Sea Grant
  • Anita Thompson, Professor and Chair, Nelson Institute Water Resources Management Program

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Parallels Between the Pandemic and Climate Change

While the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic are distinct, the known systemic impacts are not. Like COVID-19, climate change is a global phenomenon requiring massive structural transformations of economic and social institutions. Experts from climate and medical sciences explored these systemic issues and how we can prepare for, and perhaps mitigate, future challenges.


  • Dylan Jennings, Director of Public Information, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC)
  • Jonathan Patz, Professor and Director, Global Health Institute, UW-Madison
  • Kristofer Canto, Enterprise Risk Management Senior Analyst, ‎American Family Insurance
  • Beth Churchill, Community and Social Impact Consultant, American Family Insurance
  • Steve Vavrus, Senior Scientist, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, UW-Madison

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Business Workshop

The Future of Work: How to Create a Just and Sustainable Workplace Culture

How are current events and trends affecting the workplace today? What does the future of your workplace and workforce look like? This discussion will highlight emerging trends and data about the changing workforce landscape and dive into how businesses are adapting. From the lens of social sustainability, you will hear directly from businesses showcasing actions you can take to address these trends and how to be prepared for the future of work.

This session will provide an overview of the issues led by Dr. Patrick Hillberg of Oakland University. Dr. Hillberg will highlight changes happening in the workplace. The session will also include a discussion about the future of work and current trends with business leaders.

The discussion will be moderated by Jessy Servi Ortiz, Managing Director, Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

Featuring speakers:

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Co-hosted by:

All views expressed by the speakers are their own and are not necessarily representative of the views and opinions of the Nelson Institute or UW-Madison.