Watch videos from each session of our 2021 Earth Day learning event here.
Welcome from Dean Paul Robbins
This panel discussion explored how we can respond justly as we envision the future of environmental policy. Extreme weather events and other climate change events are placing a significant, and unjust, burden on the most vulnerable populations. We discussed this challenge and ways in which improved responses based in environmental justice can positively impact health, education, finances, and the overall wellbeing of people around the world.
- Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Director of Climate Policy, Roosevelt Institute
- Kyle Whyte, Professor, University of Michigan
Keynote – All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis
Keynote speaker, marine biologist, policy expert, and writer Dr. Ayana Johnson discussed her book, “All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis.” She explored conservation solutions rooted in environmental justice including the Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank she founded for the future of coastal cities.
- Ayana Johnson, Marine Biologist, Policy Expert, Writer, Founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv
- Sumudu Atapattu, Director of Research Centers, UW-Madison Law School
This session was co-hosted with the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
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
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.
- Jen Rose Smith, Assistant Professor, UW-Madison
- Cleo A. Woelfle-Erskine, Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle
- Hi’ilei Hobart, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
- Elizabeth Hennessy, Associate Professor, UW-Madison
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.
- Angelou Ezeilo, CEO, Greening Youth Foundation
- José González, Founder and Director Emeritus, Latino Outdoors
- Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor
- James Mills, Community Partnership Liaison and Faculty Assistant, Nelson Institute
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.
- Grace Bulltail, Assistant Professor, UW-Madison
- Adena Rissman, Professor, UW-Madison
- Patricia Romero-Lankao, Senior Research Scientist, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
- Carol Barford, Associate Scientist and Director, Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment
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
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
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.
- Kenya Jacobs, Director, Diversity Recruiting and Workforce Development, Trane Technologies
- Laurie Klomstad, Vice President of Human Resources, Spectrum Industries
- Lisa Geason-Bauer, President, Evolution Marketing
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.