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Jonathan  Foley

Jonathan Foley

Expert on Global Sustainability, Food Security, Freshwater & Climate Change

Biography

Dr. Jonathan Foley is a world-renowned environmental scientist, author, and public speaker. His work is focused on understanding our changing planet, and finding new solutions to sustain the climate, ecosystems, and natural resources we all depend on. Read More >

Foley’s groundbreaking research and insights have led him to become a trusted advisor to governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and business leaders around the world.  He and his colleagues have made major contributions to our understanding of global ecosystems, food security and the environment, climate change, and the sustainability of the world’s resources. He has published over 130 peer-reviewed scientific articles, including many highly cited works in Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2014, Thomson Reuters named him a Highly Cited Researcher in ecology and environmental science, placing him among the top 1 percent most cited global scientists.

A noted science communicator, his presentations have been featured at hundreds of international venues, including the Aspen Institute, the World Bank, the National Geographic Society, the Chautauqua Institution, the Commonwealth Club, the National Science March in Washington, D.C., and TED.com. He has also written many popular articles, op-eds, and essays in publications like National Geographic, the New York Times, the Guardian, and Scientific American. His writing has been featured on the covers of National Geographic, Nature, and Scientific American. He is also frequently interviewed by documentary filmmakers and international media outlets, and has appeared on National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour, the BBC, CNN, and in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Salon, WIRED, and the HBO documentary on climate change Too Hot Not to Handle.

Foley has won numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, awarded by President Clinton; the J.S. McDonnell Foundation's 21st Century Science Award; an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship; the Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America; and the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award. In 2014, he was also named as the winner of the prestigious Heinz Award for the Environment.

Foley is currently Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences. In this role, he leads the greenest museum on the planet and one of the most future focused scientific institutions in the world.  Previously, he was the founding director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota, where he was McKnight Presidential Chair of Global Environment and Sustainability. Prior to that, he was Gaylord Nelson Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, where he founded the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE).

Originally from Maine, Foley enjoys nature photography, hiking, kayaking, and exploring new places. He lives in San Francisco. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TedTalk: The Other Inconvenient Truth

Speech Topics

PlanetVision: A Global Plan to Build a Better, More Sustainable Future

Climate change… Extreme weather events… Tropical deforestation… Worldwide overfishing… Plastics in the ocean… Collapsing water supplies… Emerging threats to our health, economy, and security… Read More >

The news on the global environmental front is grim. But what if there was a practical plan, based on the latest science, that could turn it around, and help us build a better future? That’s what PlanetVision is all about. PlanetVision is a multi-faceted set of solutions – focused on fixing the world’s food, water, and energy systems – that can help us pivot to a better, more sustainable world.

Rich with the latest insights from science, emerging solutions from every part of the globe, powerfully motivating stories of hope, and beautiful images and multi-media, this presentation speaks to many different audiences. Different versions of this presentation can engage influencer groups (focused on solutions that businesses, governments, and international nonprofits can achieve) and general public audiences (showcasing what everyday people and communities can do to help address our environmental problems).

The presentation draws from Foley’s extensive experience in global environmental solutions, and his pathbreaking work in global food systems, climate change, and sustainability. The presentation also leverages critical investments in museum exhibits, educational materials, web media, and a forthcoming book that Foley has been developing during the last year. Read Less ^

Fixing the Global Food System

The world’s food system faces enormous challenges. First, even as we grow enough food to feed everyone today, nearly 800 million people still go hungry because of crushing poverty and failed institutions. Second, as the world’s population, affluence, and appetite for rich foods increases, the current food system may face major challenges in meeting these demands. Finally, the current food system is completely unsustainable, and is a major driver of global environmental problems – including climate change, tropical deforestation, biodiversity loss, water depletion, and pollution. We have to do better. Read More >

In this presentation, Foley outlines a 5-part solution to fixing the global food system, showcasing new ways to feed our growing world while protecting Earth’s natural environment for future generations. Based on cutting-edge science – led by Foley and featured in the world’s leading scientific journals and media outlets, including TED, Scientific American, and the covers of Nature and National Geographic – this plan shows how governments, businesses, non-profits, communities, and everyday citizens can all be part of a better food system.

This presentation can be tailored to a variety of influencer audiences or general public groups. It leverages Foley’s long and extensive expertise in this area, where he is an established global thought leader, author, and speaker. Read Less ^

A Healthy, Just Society Needs a Healthy Planet

Our health is directly linked to the health of the planet. Read More >

Of course, we already know that local environmental quality – pollution in the air, water, and land around us – affects our health.  But now we’re learning that changes in the global environment – including climate change, the widespread degradation of landscapes and waterways, and the collapse of ecosystems – are beginning to affect the health of millions worldwide too.  In fact, changes in the global environment are already being linked to disease outbreaks, increases in heat-stress and heat-mortality, increases in asthma rates, and other health conditions.  Future changes in climate may also cause substantial sea level rise, increasing crop failures, water shortages, and the displacement of millions worldwide.

Sadly, these impacts tend to hit the most vulnerable among us – the poor, the very young, and the elderly – further exacerbating the differences between “haves” and “have nots” across the world.  This raises concerns about “environmental justice”, and how the lifestyles of the world’s richest people (especially our use of fossil fuels and natural resources) can lead to severe harm of the world’s poor.  These impacts are also seen as “threat multipliers” by international military and security experts and could pose incredible challenges during the coming century.

In this presentation, Foley reports on the emerging links between human health and the global environment, and their implications for international justice and security.  Reviewing the latest science and thinking on these issues, this presentation aims to inform influencer audiences and broader public conversations. Read Less ^

Why Businesses Should Care About the Environment

Former Senator Gaylord Nelson once said, “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” And he was right. For far too long, we have heard that we have to choose between jobs and the environment, or between having a healthy economy and a healthy planet. But that’s simply not true. Read More >

In fact, businesses and the larger economy need a healthy environment to thrive. Why? First of all, our economy depends on critical natural resources – clean water, healthy soil and farmland, growing forests, healthy fisheries, clean air, and abundant energy. But the economy also depends on less visible things that nature provides, called “ecosystem services” by scientists, including the pollination of our crops by insects, the cleaning of our water supplies by wetlands and healthy rivers, and the protection of our coastlines by coral reefs and mangroves. We would be nowhere without these free “services” from nature. Moreover, executives need to minimize the potential risks to their business – whether to their supply chains, their operations, their infrastructure and capital, or their distribution channels and customers – that may come from global environmental disruptions, including the impacts of climate change (more severe storms, more droughts and floods), sea level rise, depleted water supplies, widespread crop failures, and ecosystem decline. The “new normal” for business will be a time of managing these new risks.

In this presentation, Foley illustrates the importance of a healthy, stable environment to businesses and the larger economy. By uncovering the hidden economic value of nature – in terms of the natural resources, ecosystem services, and risk protection it provides – we can see ways to improve the long-term health of our businesses and our planet.

This presentation is ideal or influencer audiences, especially from the business community, and can be adapted to broader audiences as well. Read Less ^

Standing Up for Science is Standing Up for America

In recent years, we have seen an unprecedented increase in the attacks on science and scientists by powerful politicians and media figures. While attacks on facts and science might sound trivial compared to the larger political and social upheaval happening in America today, make no mistake about it: Attacks on facts, science, and scientists will hurt you, whether you are a scientist or not. Read More >

In fact, the so-called “War on Science” is going to affect everything — ranging from the safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. It will affect the kinds of diseases we get and the medicines we use. It will dictate what our kids are taught in school, what is discussed in the news, and what is debated in Congress. It will affect the jobs we have, and what powers our economy.

Science touches everything we do, which is why the “War on Science” is so serious. This is a war that needs to be won, for the future of our nation and our children.

Foley showcases the current state of the “War on Science” and different paths we can all take to stand up science, so that science can stand up for Americans – and improve our long-term health, economy, and security.

This presentation can be tailored to many different audiences, and it leverages Foley’s extensive writing and speaking on this topic – including op-eds and essays in Scientific American and the San Francisco Chronicle, numerous media interviews, and speaking at the first National Science March in Washington, D.C. As world-class scientist and the leader of the one of the world’s premiere science museums, Foley is one of the most respected voices on this topic. Read Less ^

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