2020 Archive

People & Planet: Conversations that Make Connections

2020 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. This series of conversations explores 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, resilient food systems, drinking water contamination – and the connection between biodiversity loss and emerging infectious disease. Recordings of these conversations are available below.


Spring 2020 Conversations


Wednesday, April 29, 12:00 p.m. CST

Right now, it is easier than ever to see evidence of the systems that tether us all together and, in turn, to the natural world – from our food supply chains to the visible environmental changes unfolding around the planet. As we grapple with a pandemic, how might we approach these connections as a source of strength – and not perceived vulnerability?

Planetary Health is a rising educational framework and field that can lead the way. Propelled to prominence in 2015 by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lancet, Planetary Health emphasizes  the interdependence of human health and the health of natural systems. The 12 cross-cutting principles of planetary health range from systems thinking to global citizenship – and give us the tools and framework to promote a sustainable future for all.

Join Teddie Potter, Director of Planetary Health for the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, and Cathy Jordan, Associate Director for Leadership & Education at the UMN Institute on the Environment and Research Director for the Children & Nature Network, for a conversation with IonE Director of Communications Julie K. Hanus on:

  • How a planetary health perspective can serve us now
  • What leaders and organizers can learn from the framework
  • What children and young people can learn from the framework – and why they are an important audience
  • And why complexity can be a cause for hope

Monday, May 18,
12:00 p.m. CST

As journalist John Vidal wrote in a recent piece for Ensia, published in partnership with the Guardian, “Only a decade or two ago it was widely thought that tropical forests and intact natural environments teeming with exotic wildlife threatened humans by harboring the viruses and pathogens that lead to new diseases in humans like Ebola, HIV and dengue. But a number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases like COVID-19.”

This People & Planet conversation brings together experts including Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director — Asia, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW); Dominic Travis, of the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota; John Vidal, international journalist and former environment editor at the Guardian; and moderator Todd Reubold, Associate Director, IonE and Publisher, Ensia, to discuss the intersection of biodiversity loss, the global wildlife trade and the emergence of infectious diseases. The discussion will tackle questions such as:

  • What do we know about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Where are the global hot spots for future outbreaks?
  • What role does the wildlife trade — both legal and illegal — play in the spread of infectious diseases?
  • What can be done to prepare for or prevent the next COVID-19 crisis?
  • And much more!


Fall 2020 Conversations

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

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?