2018 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Jonathan Foley

Guest Post by Daniel S. Feinberg, SEFS Staff Assistant and Ph.D. Candidate

On Thursday, April 26, SEFS had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, for the annual Sustaining Our World Lecture, along with a variety of other activities throughout the day. Dr. Foley studies global sustainability and is one of the most cited environmental scientists in the world.

Picture of Dr. Jonathan Foley.

Dr. Jonathan Foley

Dr. Foley’s visit began with an informal lunch and discussion that touched on topics such as the accessibility (or lack thereof) of scientific journals, as well as the need for scientists to inspire children from under-represented communities. He also expressed his appreciation for the intersection of science and art, which manifests itself through exhibits at the California Academy. Following the discussion, Dr. Foley spent the afternoon in individual meetings with faculty members to explore shared interests and potential opportunities for collaboration.

Although Dr. Foley began his lecture with examples of pressing environmental problems (e.g., methane pollution from cows), he went on to offer corresponding solutions (e.g., eating less red meat). He described the perceived state of political polarization in the U.S. and its implications for climate change, noting that many Americans are actually undecided and might still be swayed to support or oppose climate action.

Dr. Foley described himself as having hope for the future, without being blindly optimistic; he stressed that we (i.e., humans) must take it upon ourselves to create a better world, rather than waiting for an invisible hand to correct our errors. The California Academy’s Planet Vision initiative provides specific guidance for how we can start to make changes in our day-to-day lives.

Dr. Jonathan Foley is joined by SEFS students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends for dinner at Ivar's Salmon House after the lecture.

Dr. Jonathan Foley with SEFS students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends at Ivar’s Salmon House.

The evening concluded with dinner at Ivar’s Salmon House, where a combination of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends continued the conversation with Dr. Foley. As one of the students who attended the dinner, I had the chance to learn about various environmental career paths, such as academia and the non-profit sector. In addition to the extra time with Dr. Foley, I appreciated being able to chat with SEFS faculty outside of the classroom.

Watch the full UWTV recording of Dr. Foley’s 2018 Sustaining Our World Lecture here.