The Smithsonian Institution’s Grand Challenges Consortia invite you to consider how humans are transforming the climate and environments of the Earth at an accelerating rate through agriculture, urbanization, transportation, the use of fossil fuels, and many other activities. Our global imprint, and the certainty that more than seven billion people will profoundly change the environment and biota of the planet for many generations to come, have led many scientists to recognize a new period of geological time called the Anthropocene, or Age of Humans. Restoring Anthropocene environments to pre-industrial conditions may be impossible, but the future need not be apocalyptic if we act soon. To make a livable Anthropocene, we must use our scientific knowledge to forecast environmental change and develop more resilient societies and cultural institutions that can adapt to the changes we can no longer avoid. This symposium features the views of leaders in the fields of climate, health, economics, and security who will consider the problems we face and offer possible solutions.
Speakers included James J. Hack, Director of the National Center for Computational Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, that provides high performance computing resources for tackling scientific grand challenges; Rachel Kyte, Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change at The World Bank; George Luber, Epidemiologist and Associate Director for Climate Change at the Centers for Disease Control; and Admiral Thad Allen, former 23rd Commandant of the USCG and coordinator of the federal response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Following each talk, a panel of Smithsonian scholars and thinkers discussed the issues raised by the presentation. A summation of the day’s discussion was provided by Thomas L. Friedman, award winning author and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times.