People & Planet: Conversation Series

2020 has brought both challenges and change, hurdles and momentum. It’s on all of us to ask: How did we get here? What can we learn? And where will we go from here?

One thing is clear: It’s all connected. Join us for a series of conversations exploring the many intersections of our changing global climate and the human and natural systems that also shape our world. Past topics include the planetary health framework – and the connection between biodiversity loss and emerging infectious disease.

These streaming conversations are free and open to all. You can submit questions in advance during registration, and we’ll also hold time for live Q&A. Please note: While these events are free, advance registration is required to access the Zoom platform. Look for links below to sign-up through Eventbrite.

We hope you can join us! Questions? Ideas? Drop us a line at

Fall 2020 Conversations

Wednesday, December 9,
12:00 p.m. CST

Earlier this fall, Ensia kicked off the Troubled Waters series, a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. We generally consider our water to be safe — and for the most part it is — but as Seattle-based science journalist Lynne Peeples wrote in the lead story for the series, “Across the U.S., drinking water systems serving millions of people fail to meet state and federal safety standards. Millions more Americans may be drinking unsafe water without anyone knowing because limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are too high, the contaminants it contains are unregulated, or their drinking water source is too small to fit under EPA regulations.”

This People & Planet webinar will bring together Lynne along with two Minnesota-based experts: Mae Davenport, Professor, Department of Forest Resources, and Director, Center for Changing Landscapes, University of Minnesota, and Tannie Eshenaur, Water Policy Manager, Environmental Health Division, Minnesota Department of Health. The conversation will be moderated by Todd Reubold, Associate Director, IonE and Publisher, Ensia, to discuss the state of water in Minnesota and beyond. The discussion will tackle questions such as:

  • How concerned should we be with our drinking water in this country?
  • Where are the hotspots for contamination in Minnesota and beyond?
  • Who is most impacted by different drinking water contaminants?
  • How are different systems — including private well water — impacted?
  • What are the most pressing contaminants of emerging concern?
  • What’s being done to ensure everyone has access to clean, safe drinking water?
  • And more – add your questions during registration!

Monday, August 31,
12:00 p.m. CST

Photographs of produce composting in fields, juxtaposed with images of sparsely stocked supermarket shelves and lengthy lines at food banks. Meatpacking plants declared essential businesses – and also hotspots of infection. The pandemic has made the vulnerabilities and inequities of our food systems impossible to ignore.

How might we build more resilient, equitable food systems? Join our guests for a conversation exploring this urgent and complicated question. We’ll dig into the continuum of global to local food systems, implications for sustainability in supply chains, and creating a system that serves us all.

This panel’s speakers:

  • Jennifer Schmitt, IonE Lead Scientist who specializes in agricultural supply chain sustainability across the U.S. meat and commodity crop sectors.
  • Kathy Draeger, Statewide Director U of M Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships. Research includes rural food distribution, local and regional food distribution, and rural grocery store persistence.
  • Chris Fields, President, Fields Produce & Foods Inc *Unfortunately, Mr. Fields had to cancel his participation.
  • Moderated by Melissa Kenney, IonE Associate Director for Knowledge Initiatives and expert in sustainability decision support