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  • Earth Optimism × Folklife Studio Brings Science to the Stage

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    As part of the 2022 Festival’s Earth Optimism × Folklife program, scientists, conservationists, and other leaders in the field will discuss the most pressing issues facing our planet and innovative solutions at the EO × Folklife Studio sessions. From recycling to cycling, the conversations will engage with interesting ideas and present audiences with ways to positively work for a better planet.

    Over the course of two weeks at the Folklife Studio, this mini-conference within a festival will hope to inform and inspire in-person and virtual attendees alike. See the schedule of sessions below, then join us on the National Mall or on our YouTube channel. American Sign Language interpretation and live, real-time captioning is provided for each of these sessions, both in person and online.

    Journey to Zero Waste: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle will kick off EO × Folklife Studio on Thursday, June 23 at 1 p.m. with a group of powerful women leading the charge to zero waste. The discussion features Stephanie J. Miller, the author of Living the Zero Waste Lifestyle, the 80/20 Way, who will talk with climate justice advocates and other trendsetters across fabrics and the maker movement. This session will be streamed live and is presented in partnership with Amtrak.

    Corridors and Connectivity: Animals and Humans in Harmony will follow at 3 p.m. on June 23, when speakers will discuss how the animal need for a space to move and the human need for a landscape to live can coexist in peace. This discussion will bring together community leaders and technology experts working in Africa and the Great Plains of North America to set aside corridors so animals and humans can thrive side by side. This session will be streamed live and is presented in partnership with Mr. Neil Anthony.

    Later on June 23 at 4 p.m., Planes, Trains, and Bikes: How We Get Around will address how transportation creates a web between work, communities, and around the world. This discussion will feature entrepreneurs and leaders from railroads, airlines, and bike share operations across the United States, Europe, and South America in dialogue about transportation’s ability to bring our past and future together while lowering our carbon footprint. This session will be streamed live.

    Money vs. Nature: Sustainable Finance Solutions will start the EO × Folklife Studio sessions on Friday, June 24, at 1 p.m. This discussion will dive into how financial institutions are now committing to enhancing nature, rather than polluting it, upon realizing the consequential role the environment plays in the economy. The conversation will feature financial pioneers and entrepreneurs from Europe, the United States, and the Pacific Islands who will discuss how sustainable finance can promote climate solutions. This session will be streamed live

    A white man with gray hair and beard, wearing glasses and blue dress shirt, poses next to a framed display of butterflies.
    Sean Carroll, vice president for science education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will take part in the “Changing the Narrative” conversation.
    Photo courtesy of Sean Carroll

    Following will be Changing the Narrative: Doom & Gloom Yields to Creativity & Possibility at 3 p.m. on June 24, a discussion on how, amid fear and negativity in our daily news about climate, nature, and our communities, we can stay focused on what we can do. The session will feature Smithsonian Under Secretary for Science and Research Ellen Stofan and head of HHMI Tangled Bank Studios Sean B. Carroll as they discuss changing the narrative across science and storytelling, and inspiring the next generation to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. Stofan will then interview Irene Amoke, Eisenhower Fellow and executive director of the Kenya Wildlife Trust, about her programs that are changing the narrative for the next generation of African conservation leaders. The future-focused dialogue will be livestreamed and is presented in partnership with Re:wild.

    On Saturday, June 25, at 1 p.m., It’s Electric! What’s Working in Transportation will feature a conversation about the growing E-transportation movement moderated by Zahra Hirji, executive reporter for Bloomberg Green. Experts in the field will discuss the accessibility of electric infrastructure for cars and trucks and how soon urban and rural communities will be able to truly rely on E-transport. This livestreamed session is presented in partnership with Ford Motor Company.

    Fiber and Fashion: Green Is the New Black will follow at 3 p.m. on June 25 and feature a discussion led by curatorial director Matilda McQuaid from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. McQuaid and designers, marketers, and futuristic fashion powerhouses will engage in dialogue about traditional and modern clothing materials and practices that are reshaping what we wear to be in harmony with the planet. This session will be livestreamed and is presented in partnership with Ms. Anne Keiser and Dr. Douglas Lapp.

    On Sunday, June 26, at 11 a.m., Ways of Knowing, Ways of Living: Exploring Faith and Conservation will bring together faith leaders across different traditions to explore common ideas around protecting our shared natural heritage and successful conservation practices. The discussion will engage with how many faith practices and tribal traditions command respect for nature and teach life lessons from the natural world. This session will be streamed live and presented in partnership with Shared Earth Foundation.

    Sun-Powered Solutions will be hosted on June 26, at 1 p.m. and will be led by Bloomberg Green executive editor Aaron Rutkoff. Rutkoff will be joined by Nancy Bechtol, who leads the greening of the Smithsonian’s twenty-one museums, and other experts and community leaders championing solar-power infrastructure as they discuss the latest developments in solar power across urban and rural communities. This session will be livestreamed.

    Later in the afternoon at 3 p.m. on June 26, Livelihoods and Landscapes will engage with how people around the world are restoring animals, plants, and trees in their landscapes and seascapes for future generations and are finding creative ways to make a living through that work. The dialogue will feature visionaries and changemakers from the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States. This session will be livestreamed and is presented in partnership with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios.

    Rural Renaissance: Revitalizing America’s Hometowns through Clean Power on June 27 at 1 p.m. will imagine thriving rural communities in the United States where local, renewable energy sparks investment, vitality, and equity. Panelists from Island Press and Groundswell will discuss the pathways to clean power in rural America and strategies for achieving them. This session is presented in partnership with Island Press and will not be livestreamed.

    A Black woman wearing black T-shirt and orange waders smiles, looking off into the distance, standing in front of a blue body of water with green trees in the distance.
    Imani Black, founder and CEO of Minorities in Aquaculture, will take part in the “Ambitious Oyster” conversation.
    Photo courtesy of Imani Black

    The Ambitious Oyster: Coastal Restorations for Communities and Nature will start the EO × Folklife Studio’s second week at the Festival on Thursday, June 30, at 1 p.m. CNN climate correspondent Bill Weir will be joined by a host of people restoring oyster colonies, fisheries, and recreation areas along our coastlines, including MacArthur prizewinner Kate Orff. Orff will discuss her Living Breakwaters project in New York Harbor, while local leaders rejoice in the revival of oysters and fisheries in the nearby Chesapeake Bay. This session will be livestreamed and is presented in partnership with Amtrak.

    At 3 p.m. on June 30, Partnering for Solutions will dive into what winegrowers, electric trucks, soil carbon, cow poop, and artificial intelligence have in common. Innovators and actors in sustainability who are working on projects to build a better future for crops and communities will outline these connections in the livestreamed session and is presented in partnership with Roger W. Sant and the Honorable Doris Matsui.

    Food for All: Equity, Access, and Justice on Friday, July 1, at 1 p.m. will feature chefs, food marketers, and church leaders discussing ways they overcome food deserts, improve access to nutritious foods, and run food programs for people experiencing food insecurity, including wars and natural disasters. This session will be livestreamed.

    On July 1 at 3 p.m., CBS correspondent Rita Braver will interview Smithsonian movement ecologist Jared Stabach at Tech Breakthroughs for Animals and Communities about advancements in monitoring animals and ecosystems. Panelists at the session will discuss how satellite technology is being reimagined to better understand the planet, and how local communities are applying technology in their everyday lives. This dialogue will be streamed live and presented in partnership with United Airlines.

    A Black with dark dreads and beard smiles, arms crossed, posing among plants in a bright greenhouse.
    Artist Tyler Thrasher will participate in the “Creativity for the Planet” conversation.
    Photo courtesy of Tyler Thrasher

    Creativity for the Planet will kick off the sessions on Saturday, July 2, at 1 p.m., highlighting the artists, artisans, and creators at Earth Optimism × Folklife who are helping transform perceptions of nature and how to conserve it. Participants will discuss how they use their art to inspire the conservation of marine life, rainforests, and even spiders. This session will be streamed lived and presented in partnership with Sacharuna Foundation.           

    What Is Sustainable Food Production? is the final EO × Folklife Studio session, at 3 p.m. on July 2, looking into the dramatic process of food production in a discussion moderated by NASA Earth Science director Karen St. Germain. The panelists will include Honest Tea’s Seth Goldman, American Farmland Trust’s John Piotti—featured in the recent BBC Follow the Food series—and Forever Oceans chef Mark Allison. This session will be livestreamed.

    We invite you to join these conversations in person and online and hope that you continue asking questions and forming solutions in your own communities.

    Annabella Hoge is an intern with the 2022 Folklife Festival’s media team. She is a rising senior at Georgetown University studying American studies, anthropology, and journalism and hails from Los Angeles, California.

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