Do-Fest 2018: Sharing Innovative Solutions, with Nature as our Guide


As he welcomed the assembled crowd of scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, diplomats, artists, activists, and journalists to Emerson Collective’s second-ever Do-Fest, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper framed the aim of the event in ambitious terms: Prepare “to collaborate at the speed of trust,” he said. The four-day gathering, held September 12­–16 at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, Calif., offered a chance for this remarkable group of “Doers” to creatively and courageously chart new solutions and accelerate plans to address the systemic changes afflicting nature, our communities, and our climate. Held concurrently with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Do-Fest helped facilitate engagement with this passionate network of Doers and served to recharge their collective resolve.

Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at Google X • New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman • Shyla Raghav of Climate International

Reframing the Problem

Astro Teller, captain of moonshots at Google X, issued a challenge to the Do-Fest community to kick off the week: to act “responsibly irresponsible” and “patiently impatient” in addressing the planet’s greatest problems. Watch here

New York Times columnist and author of Thank You for Being Late Thomas Friedman walked the audience through the hypothetical campaign that Mother Nature might run in a presidential election—and how she would win. Her platform? To sell climate adaptation and remediation, he said, we have to start with community. Watch here

Shyla Raghav of Conservation International underscored the Do-Fest theme in discussing the need to address the root causes of climate change and adapt to its impacts: Nature Is Our Guide. “Restoration and reforestation are critical for ensuring the regenerative capacity—the absorptive capacity—of our planet,” she said. Watch here

As Founder of Project Drawdown, Paul Hawken described the effort of pinpointing when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begins to decline on a year-to-year basis. The result is Project Drawdown, the most comprehensive proposition to reverse climate change. Watch here

Former President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Larry Brilliant of Ending Pandemics, and Adnan Amin of IRENA discuss promising progress, global initiatives, and "the third pole," a new frontier in climate challenges. Watch here

Embracing Indigenous Knowledge

Solutions to many of the planet’s most pressing environmental concerns may be found in indigenous communities. One of the most eagerly anticipated highlights of Do-Fest, both symbolically and visually, was the welcoming of a boating crew from the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who made landfall at Cavallo Point after sailing 2,500 miles from Hawaii on their entirely wind- and solar-powered vessel Hikianalia. The voyage, named Alahula Kai o Maleka Hikianalia, was captained by Lehua Kamalu, who navigated by stars and ocean currents on their 23-day journey. Watch here

Anthropologist Wade Davis traced the traditions of Polynesian navigation, from colonization through today’s revitalization of the ancient practice led by the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “Polynesians were the greatest navigators in history,” he said. Watch here

Separately, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, discussed injustices that indigenous communities face around the world, particularly regarding climate change. Though such communities have least contributed to global warming, she said, “they are the ones who suffer the most adverse impacts” of it. Watch here

Architect and designer Bill McDonough • Elemental Excelerator CEO Dawn Lippert with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii’s Kahi Pacarro, Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch, and Adidas Vice President for Brand Strategy Jochen Denninger • COO of Saildrone Sebastien de Halleux, Earth Genome Co-founder Dan Hammer, Tom Ingersoll, project director at the Environmental Defense Fund, and Ceres Imaging account executive Jenna Rodriguez

Looking to the Seas

Humanity’s relationship with our oceans was a central focus of Do-Fest, and exploring what we must do to protect them. Architect and designer Bill McDonough explained how design-centered thinking can be used to reframe our approach to protecting our oceans. By shifting our mindsets around carbon as a toxin, he suggested that one solution to human-caused deterioration of the natural world lies in redesigning plastics for a “circular economy” in which materials are designed with their next use in mind. Watch here

Elemental Excelerator CEO Dawn Lippert hosted a thought-provoking panel discussion about what’s on the horizon of ocean upcycling with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii’s Kahi Pacarro, Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch, and Adidas VP of Brand Strategy Jochen Denninger. Watch here

The “Measure the Treasure” panel focused on the potential of technology to help us better understand and measure the natural world, whether on land, sea, or air, with Sebastien de Halleux, COO of Saildrone; Earth Genome cofounder Dan Hammer; Tom Ingersoll, program director of MethaneSAT at the Environmental Defense Fund; and Ceres Imaging account executive Jenna Rodriguez. Watch here

Ariel Ekblaw, founder and lead of MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative • Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO and founder of Acumen; Jonathan Cedar, cofounder and CEO of BioLite; Lesley Marincola, CEO of Angaza • Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab

Power to the People

In his keynote address, Joi Ito of the MIT Media Lab discussed the need to apply design-focused thinking to build more resilient systems, and made a compelling case for shifting our cultural paradigm to bring more doers into the tent. Watch here

Ariel Ekblaw, who leads the MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative, issued a rallying cry to activate the next generation in scientific research. Her organization engages teenagers from historically underrepresented groups to design and launch data-collecting satellites. Watch here

A trio of leaders working toward energy access talked about bringing new technologies that enable clean power to those living off the grid: Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of Acumen; Jonathan Cedar, cofounder and CEO of BioLite; and Leslie Marincola, CEO of Angaza. Watch here

Edward Norton, CEO of Baswood, and Terry Tamminen, CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation • Aradhna Tripati of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA • David Ige, Governor of Hawai'i and Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington • Former Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz in discussion with California Senator Kevin De Leon and Hawaiian Congressman Chris Lee

Elemental Justice and Equity

Building the just and equitable world we seek requires a commitment to working across the aisle, whether in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors—a theme that was repeated by a wide range of Doers. Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, State Representative Chris Lee of Hawaii and State Senator Kevin De Leon of California discussed ways in which legislators can lead the way toward a carbon-free future, from pushing industry through statute and policy to winning public support from constituents. Watch here

Reducing carbon emissions requires not only sound public policy, but also a market that doesn’t reward the worst offenders, according to governors Jay Inslee of Washington and David Ige of Hawaii. Both spoke with Dawn Lippert, CEO of Emerson’s Elemental Excelerator, about aligning the two. Watch here

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, moderated a panel discussion on the political mainstreaming of nature and gaining bipartisan support for policy that strengthens the environment with former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; Pat Wood of Wood3 Resources; and ClearPath Founder and CEO Jay Faison. Watch here

Actor, entrepreneur, and activist Edward Norton, the cofounder of CrowdRise and data analytics startup EDO, spoke with Terry Tamminen, CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, about how improving eco-literacy is at the heart of ensuring access to clean water. Watch here

That call for the importance of education was echoed by Aradhna Tripati, professor and director of the Center for Diverse Leadership in Science at UCLA, who stressed the crucial need for inclusion of people from underrepresented groups in higher education, particularly in the green scientists. Watch here

Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change • Former astronauts Anousheh Ansari, Leland Melvin, Nicole Stott, and Ron Garan

The Time is Now

Christina Figueres, founding partner at Global Optimism, spoke with a tone of optimism and urgency in her closing-day keynote address about how the world must come together in this moment to forge ahead. “It is no overstatement to say that the morality of humankind is embedded in the timing with which we address climate change,” she said. Watch here

Two former top administration officials exemplified the unity, innovation, and collaboration required to tackle our climate challenges. Megan Smith, CEO of shift7 and former U.S. chief technology officer, and Gina McCarthy, the former US EPA administrator and now director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, stressed that in order to convince Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, and elsewhere to see climate change as a threat to humanity, it’s time for us to act as one. Watch here

Former astronauts Anousheh Ansari, Leland Melvin, Nicole Stott, and Ron Garan take us on a journey to present their new initiative aimed at inspiring humanity to come together around positive action. Watch here

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