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Monday, February 26, 2024

At RE:WIRED Green, We’re Innovating to Fight the Climate Crisis

Today, every issue is a climate issue. It's no longer just higher temperatures, wildfires, and rising sea levels, but issues we previously thought had nothing to do with climate change—like the severity of the seasonal flu or invasive species in our farmlands. The way we prepare for annual hurricane seasons or flooding in certain parts of the world will all have to change. Problems formerly considered purely social or economic are now climate problems, and how we deal with them will resonate for generations. This is literally humanity's greatest challenge.

That's why we're hosting RE:WIRED Green, a one-day event bringing together creative individuals from a wide array of fields who are working on these challenges and have solutions in hand. From food insecurity and inequity to comprehensive energy solutions, all the way to technologies both new and old that can help reduce the impact of our already warming climate.

We're gathering scientists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and activists to discuss everything from carbon capture and de-extinction to synthetic foods and youth activism. Our goal is to highlight ways that human ingenuity can help secure our future. By the end of the day, we will have heard about actionable, useful steps on every level—personal, local, and global—where we can all make a tangible difference. 

The day's activities are organized around three big themes:

I. Avoiding the Worst-Case Scenario

In our first programming block of the day, we focus on what people can do today, right now, to minimize the negative impacts of climate change across the globe, and how today's changes can ease us into greater, more substantial change on a broad scale.

WIRED senior writer Lauren Goode will host a series of talks and conversations with people like paleontologist and explorer Kenneth Lacovara, who'll discuss the fragile history of life on Earth, and photographer Camille Seaman, who has spent years documenting our changing world through her lens and will share some of her most striking work with us.

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Michèle Koppes, professor of glaciology at the University of British Columbia, will discuss the impact of rising sea levels and disappearing glaciers on communities that rely on the seas for tourism and their economies, and the impact on all of us who rely on fresh water to drink.

Next, WIRED's global editorial director, Gideon Lichfield, will lead a panel discussion with Sylvia Earle, president and chair of Mission Blue, an organization fighting to protect marine ecosystems, and Sophia Kianni, founder of the Climate Cardinals and US representative to the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, on what a new generation of climate activists can learn from their forebears who have been on the front lines for years.

Finally, Stephen Palumbi, professor of biology and marine science at Stanford, will walk us through the effort to revive and rejuvenate damaged ecosystems, from helping nature rebuild coral reefs that can withstand rising sea temperatures to reintroducing biodiversity to wild spaces using gene banks, frozen zoos, and more.

II. The Future of Food

Our second segment focuses on the future of agriculture, which today is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. The sessions in this block are focused on how our food supply system can adapt to once fertile lands becoming unsuitable for farming, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, and of course, the demand for more food to feed growing populations around the globe, as well as resistance by wealthy nations to changing their eating habits.

Leading the session is WIRED senior editor Michael Calore, who will make music with plants, live on stage. Then special projects editor Alan Henry hosts a series of discussions on the future of global agriculture. Ertharin Cousin, chief executive of Food Systems for the Future, will discuss the pressures that global communities—especially poorer ones—face from war, supply chain issues, and a changing environment, but he also comes armed with solutions from those same communities and how they're mobilizing to make sure everyone is fed and healthy without destroying their lands in the process.

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Next, Kayla Abe, co-owner of Shuggie's in San Francisco, will talk about how she built a business on innovating food waste and turning “ugly food” into delicious and sustainable cuisine for everyone. She shares her lessons for restaurateurs and other entrepreneurs who can save money and help fight climate change in their own industries.

Then WIRED features editor Sandra Upson hosts a panel with Isha Datar, executive director of New Harvest; Magi Richani, founder and CEO of Nobell Foods; and Beth Zotter, CEO of Umaro Foods. The group will discuss the potential for new food sources to work their way into existing food channels—like protein-rich seaweed, which can be easily farmed and turned into a number of products for hungry communities without a significant climate impact. From lab-grown meat to plant-based “dairy” products, the conversation explores innovative foods that we'll see on store shelves in the next few years.

Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth, will then take the stage to discuss how climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income populations. She'll share her experiences with urban farming, which can help communities feed themselves without relying on massive agricultural networks, ease the strain on global food chains, and enrich and enliven communities all at the same time.

III. Thinking Beyond Technology

While technology will certainly help us adapt and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis, technology alone won't save us. As the final programming block of the day emphasizes, human ingenuity and action on both personal and systemic levels will be critical.  

WIRED science writer Matt Simon guides us through several conversations focused on actionable solutions to problems in our communities. He begins by introducing David Lin and Mathis Wackernagel, chief science officer and president, respectively, of the Global Footprint Network, who leads attendees through a “choose your own adventure” style activity where everyone evaluates how much "Earth" we all take up, and what the impact of continued growth will be on our society.

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Peter Mui, founder of Fixit Clinic, will talk about the right-to-repair movement and encourage all of us to fix and tinker with the products we buy, rather than tossing them in landfills. He also discusses the Fixit Clinic, where anyone can bring their broken electronics and get them repaired, with the goal of decreasing waste and encouraging people to hang on to the tools they use for as long as possible. James McBride, cofounder and CTO of Otherlab, will show off some of the innovative solutions he and his team are working on to reduce our use of fossil fuels and decarbonize the world.

Next, Patricia Hidalgo-Gonzalez, an assistant professor at UC San Diego, takes the stage to talk about our electrical grid and the goal of “making everything electric” to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. But that in itself is not enough, she says. Our goal must be to build resilient energy systems that can operate sustainably and incorporate clean energy solutions. She starts by discussing what we can do today, then takes us forward into what a clean, resilient grid will look like decades from now.

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While we're talking about clean energy, Alan Ahn, senior resident fellow of the Climate and Energy program at Third Way, an organization that advocates for nuclear power in any sustainable, climate-friendly energy mix, will take the stage. He discusses what, if any, future nuclear power has in the United States, and how recent events in Ukraine and Japan have changed people's perceptions of nuclear energy as a clean solution.

Next, WIRED managing editor Hemal Jhaveri chats with actor and producer Regina Hall and Sarah Shanley Hope, vice president at The Solutions Project, about on-the-ground solutions and actionable advice for individuals and communities to make a difference at home, where the impact of climate change will be felt the most. The panel will discuss everything from community gardening to advocating for climate justice. 

Closing out the session is Colette Pichon Battle, a climate activist, lawyer, and partner at Taproot Earth, who is on the front lines in the Louisiana bayou fighting to protect vulnerable communities from being quite literally washed away.

We hope that the day's conversations, interactive sessions, and presentations illuminate the urgency and importance that climate change presents to all of us. We also hope they put the spotlight on real people, just like you and I, who have real solutions, actionable suggestions, and practical tools to preserve and protect our world.

As always, you can read more of WIRED's climate coverage at wired.com/climate.

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