As SXSW Eco concludes, I hope other students went home feeling as inspired, motivated, and hopeful as I did. This annual conference brings innovative companies and organizations from around the globe to create meaningful discussions centered around the protection and improvement of our environment through innovative business solutions.
Those of us in the Environmental Management and Sustainability Master’s program at St. Edward’s were fortunate enough to win tickets by enrolling the most students in the National Wildlife Federation’s EcoLeaders online community.
The conference was an incredible opportunity for students to learn more about some of the top environmental and sustainability organizations and businesses, such as sustainable agriculture, green start-up businesses, ecotourism, film companies using media as a tool to raise awareness, and many more. It was also a great way to establish professional contacts and ask your most pressing questions to the experts in the area!
SXSW Eco welcomed Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic’s Explorer-In-Residence and Ocean Explorer as well as Dr. Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of Energy as the keynote speakers of the conference. Dr. Sylvia Earle is one of my idols and having the opportunity to see her speak as well as personally meet her was an experience I will never forget. Her continuous efforts to save and protect our oceans and marine ecosystems have inspired me to become an ocean advocate and to encourage others to become active in the protection of our Earth’s vital support system.
The after parties sponsored by Plastic Oceans Foundation, PBS, and NatGeo Wild were more great opportunities for students to network and connect with other student and professional environmental leaders around the world.
A profound quote that left a lasting and thought provoking memory in my mind was from the last panel I attended- Nature is Speaking Campaign, a series of videos put together by Conservation International, to raise awareness that people need nature to survive. Peter Seligmann, CEO of Conservation International, stated that we need to wake up to the fact that when you go from 7 to 9 billion people, with fisheries collapsing at an alarming rate, with the extinction rate higher than ever before, starving people, and wars being waged over water; billions of people will be displaced and causalities will follow. It’s time to put our self-interest aside and have meaningful conversations, engage with one another, and come up with viable solutions for our rapidly changing environment.
I believe that this is the essential core of what SXSW Eco is all about. It is our turn to give ourselves a chance of survival. It’s only natural for man to want a cleaner, healthier, and safer world for us and for our future generations. We need to act now, while we still can.