A Retrospective on Town Hall’s 2019/20 Season: Town Green

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As we prepare for a new season of programming here at Town Hall, we also want to take the time to reflect on the past season. Although it did not end up looking as we had expected, there were many accomplishments to celebrate.

One of those accomplishments is a seventh year of our Town Green initiative. Town Green is a cross-disciplinary series devoted to the environment, sustainability, and local wildlife. In addition to events with scientists, activists, and policy experts, Town Green also sponsors days of service and provides a forum for all of us to share thoughts, voice opinions, and activate ideas in our community.

We were pleased to present a wide range of over a dozen events during our 2019/20 season that fell under the Town Green umbrella. Here’s a look back at those:

Kicking off the season on September 24 was journalist Naomi Klein with Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in conversation about the idea of a Green New Deal, with insight from Klein’s book On Fire: The [Burning] Case for a Green New Deal.

The next day, writer Jonathan Safran Foer was in conversation with Town Hall correspondent Steve Scher about Foer’s book We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. Foer discussed his assertion that catastrophic climate change has resulted from the production of meat, and presented a call for collective action.

And in a third consecutive night of Town Green events, award-winning travel writer Isabella Tree joined us on September 26 to enlighten us on the trials and outcomes of her bold plan to let her farm go wild, with thoughts from her book Wilding – The Return of Nature to an English Farm.

A week later, journalist and author Florence Williams was in conversation with president/CEO of The Trust for Public Land Diane Regas about the positive effects of nature on the brain, based on her Williams’ book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.

One of the most effective ways of helping the environment is public transportation. Writer Christof Spieler was in the building to bring us his vision of some of the most important discussions in transportation, encapsulated in his book Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit.

Mycologist Lawrence Millman introduced us to the remarkable universe of fungi, drawing from his book Fungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom Lore, combining ecological, ethnographic, historical, and contemporary knowledge.

There are few remaining frontiers on our planet, but perhaps the wildest and least understood are the world’s oceans. Investigative reporter Ian Urbina joined us to share from five years of perilous and intrepid research in his book The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier.

Feeding a global population is an incredibly daunting endeavor. Senior researcher Timothy A. Wise was in conversation with bio-cultural diversity expect Million Belay to assert their belief that we must rely on small-scale farmers to show the way forward as the world warms and the population increases.

In a panel discussion moderated by Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds, Congresswoman Kim Schrier, entrepreneur Taylor Hoang, and PLU’s Director of Multicultural Outreach and Engagement Melannie Cunningham discussed food as a human right, and hunger as an absence of justice.

To celebrate a new multimedia book and campaign, We Are Puget Sound: Discovering and Recovering the Salish Sea, we hosted an evening to hear from some of the book contributors, like Mindy Roberts, Director of Washington Environmental Council People for Puget Sound; Leonard Forsman, the Suquamish Tribal Chairman; and Les Purce, the co-chair for the Orca Recovery Task Force.

Professor and author Robert H. Frank drew our attention to the threat of climate change, and recommended a possible solution for creating action around it: peer pressure.

Elephants are one of the most charismatic of megafauna. However, their rapidly declining numbers are troubling. But photographer Art Wolfe and author Dr. Samuel Wasser joined us to offer hope that all is not lost with inspiring accounts from their book Wild Elephants: Conservation in the Age of Extinction.

In an enlightening discussion, an all-star panel of experts answered the question: how are the health of soil, plants, bees, and humans connected? Panelists Elissa Arnheim, Anne Bikle, Dr. William DePaolo, and Dr. Jenifer Walke were joined by moderator Bob Redmond of Survivor Bee.

In conversation with Town Hall correspondent Steve Scher, professor and author Daniel C. Esty joined us with excerpts from A Better Planet: Forty Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future, a collection of essays on ecology, environmental justice, Big Data, public health, and climate change, all with an emphasis on sustainability.

We celebrated the magnificence of waterbird migration along the Pacific Flyway with authors Audrey DeLella Benedict, Dr. Robert Butler, Dr. Geoffrey Hammerson, and Gerrit Vyn.

Horticulturalist Ross Bayton presented a crash course in plant history, ruminating on the origin and significance of scientific plant names.

Is organic food really worth it? What does it mean if something’s labeled “Fair Trade,” or “Biodynamic,” or “Cage Free”? Health, nutrition and sustainability expert Sophie Egan joined us in conversation with environmental author Tim Egan to explore the world of ethical food choices, drawing from her book How to Be a Conscious Eater: Making Food Choices That Are Good for You, Others, and the Planet.

Acclaimed journalist Dahr Jamail joined us via livestream with a retrospective on his travels across the globe to observe the consequences of climate change, presenting his findings from his book The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption.

And rounding out the season, we were joined by investigative science journalist Sonia Shah to discuss how migration is an essential part of history, and how migration should not be seen as a source of fear, but of hope.


What were your favorites? Did you have any big takeaways from these events?

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