The Environment

My Expectations for the Aspen Environment Forum

June 18, 2012

Each year, at the start of the Aspen Environment Forum, I am asked the same question: What outcome do you expect from the Forum this year? My answer changes and is sometimes different depending on who is asking, but really it is the same.

Environmental professionals now exist in all sectors; there are hundreds of environmental advocacy organizations, businesses, institutes, and foundations. All have experts on some facet of how we interact to protect, contemplate, or manage the environment. There are just as many perspectives (and opinions) on how human society should interact with the natural world, although there is woefully little or no conspicuous agreement on any particular direction forward.

We invite a lot of different people to the Forum, and therein lies the answer to this vexing question: The Aspen Environment Forum, presented in partnership with National Geographic, is a conversation about the future with informed, diverse, and engaged participants about better understanding and defining the course of environmental choices and trade-offs we face. That very human conversation never ends. I don’t believe it ever should.

What outcome do I hope for? Gore Vidal put it this way in another context: “To the extent that you’re allowed to express your ideas, they are apt to fall upon fertile soil, and you may set off a chain of reaction that you’ll never know about.” I believe this is true about the Forum. We have tilled the soil well with our partners at National Geographic for curious ideas that will soon find their way into the Aspen Environment Forum. I trust the process.