2018 Smith Nature Symposium
The Way of the Rain
Award Recipients: Robert Redford and Sybille Szaggars Redford
Robert Redford has been a voice for nature since the beginning of his career. He is an advocate for environmental causes and the visionary behind the creation of Sundance Preserve, more than 3,000 acres of protected land in Utah.
Sibylle Szaggars Redford has dedicated her life’s work to creating art informed by her spiritual consciousness of our connection to life, the land, and the world by raising awareness of our environmental unsound practices.
Prior to the benefit dinner and presentation at Brushwood Center, guests this year were treated to a very special performance entitled “The Way of the Rain–Voices of Hope for Brushwood Center.” This performance was an homage to our planet Earth and told the artistic story about the formation of the Universe, the evolution of all galaxies, and eventually the birth of the unique and beautiful Planet Earth with all its elements. This version of The Way of the Rain is a creation of symphony, choir, solo voices, film, art, and spoken word. Click here for more information on the 2018 event.
2017 Smith Nature Symposium
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative
Keynote Speaker: Florence Williams
An intrepid investigation into nature’s restorative benefits by a prize-winning author.
For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.
From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates the science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. Delving into completely new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.
In her keynote address, Florence Williams presented material from her new book, The Nature Fix, about the science behind why access to nature and green space is essential for human health. Partly drawing from assignments for National Geographic and Outside magazines, she explored how different countries are medicalizing nature and why everyone from schoolchildren to veterans of war to the urban poor can benefit. Attendees heard elegant stories of lives being changed, health being restored, and the conquering of debilitating mental health disorders through mindfulness in nature.
2017 Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Deborah Lahey
2016 Smith Nature Symposium
Range Mapping-Overlapping Habitat for Birds and People
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Drew Lanham
J. Drew Lanham describes himself as “a man of color in love with the natural world… a writer, birder, hunter, and naturalist wandering on the edge of the Blue Ridge in the Upper Piedmont of South Carolina.” He is also the Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University, serves on board of directors of the Aldo Leopold Foundation, and is a thoughtful and nationally-respected voice on the deep connection between ethnicity, land and conservation. In Range Mapping—Overlapping Habitat for Birds and People, Dr. Lanham will consider the prevalence of critical bird habitat in and around minority communities. His insights make it clear that successful conservation of many bird species, and the land upon which those species depend, requires a more diverse constituency within the environmental community.
2016 Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Judith Stockdale
2015 Smith Nature Symposium
Rachel Carson and the Origins of Environmentalism
Keynote Speaker: William Souder
William Souder, author of The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, spoke about the pioneering scientist and author’s impact on the world of conservation and beyond in his keynote address at the 2015 Smith Nature Symposium. Rachel Carson loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world. Silent Spring was a chilling indictment of DDT and other pesticides that until then had been hailed as safe and wondrously effective. It was Carson who sifted through all the evidence, documenting with alarming clarity the collateral damage to fish, birds, and other wildlife; revealing the effects of these new chemicals to be lasting, widespread, and lethal. Silent Spring shocked the public and forced the government to take action, despite a withering attack on Carson from the chemicals industry. It awakened the world to the heedless contamination of the environment and eventually led to the establishment of the EPA and to the banning of DDT. By drawing frightening parallels between dangerous chemicals and the then-pervasive fallout from nuclear testing, Carson opened a fault line between the gentle ideal of conservation and the more urgent new concept of environmentalism.
2015 Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Award Recipients: Victoria and George Ranney
2014 Smith Nature Symposium
What Killed the Mammoths: Ancient DNA and Mass Extinctions
Keynote Speaker: Beth Shaprio
What makes species go extinct? Can you clone a mammoth? Evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro analyzes the genes of ancient plants and animals to trace the complex relationship between environment, extinction and the evolution of species. The discovery two decades ago that DNA could be extracted from fossil remains launched a new field of study ― molecular palentology. Using DNA recovered from these remains, it was possible to trace the evolution of species on a molecular level, actually watching evolution as it happens. By understanding how populations and species evolve, that information can be used to make decisions on how to better manage problems such as species extinction or habitat destruction. An international expert on ancient DNA, Shapiro has worked with DNA from mammoths, dodos, passenger pigeons, and other extinct species.
2014 Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Joel Greenberg
2013 Smith Nature Symposium
Pieces of the Sky: Spring Migration as Science and Magic
Keynote Speaker: Kenn Kaufman
Every spring season, extraordinary numbers of birds move northward across the face of North America. Their pathway spans the entire width of the continent, and even extends far offshore. Some of these birds travel many thousands of miles, and their numbers run into the billions. These little travelers perform remarkable feats of strength, endurance, and pinpoint accuracy in navigating across land and sea. And yet, most of the time, this vast parade goes completely unnoticed by most human beings. After traveling the world to observe migratory birds, internationally renowned birder, conservationist and author Kenn Kaufman has spent the last eight spring seasons on the shores of Lake Erie, and he is now writing a book about the phenomenon of spring migration. In this program, heavily illustrated with pictures and maps, he will share some perspectives on these tiny migrants and their huge journeys.
2013 Friends of Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Douglas F. Stotz
2012 Smith Nature Symposium
Lessons From the Prairie
Keynote Speaker: Wes Jackson
Wes Jackson is president and founder of The Land Institute, an organization dedicated to developing an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops.
Drawing knowledge from the way the world has worked for millions of years, Wes seeks to farm in nature’s image by shifting away from the use of monoculture annual grains (like wheat) to inter-mixed (polyculture) perennial grains. Holding degrees in biology, botany and genetics, he is a leader in the international sustainable agriculture movement and has been recognized as a Pew Conservation Scholar and a MacArthur Fellow, as well as presented with the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) for outstanding vision and work on behalf of our planet and its people.
2012 Friends of Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Steven Apfelbaum
2011 Smith Nature Symposium
Keynote Speaker: Bill Browning
Bill Browning is one of the green building and real estate industry’s foremost thinkers and strategists, and an advocate for sustainable design solutions at all levels of business, government and civil society. His expertise has been sought out by organizations as diverse as Fortune 500 companies, leading universities, non-profit organizations, the U.S. military and foreign governments. Bill was a founding member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Board of Directors, and he has served as an advisor on high-profile demonstration projects including Wal-Mart’s Eco-mart and the Greening of the White House.
2011 Friends of Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: William D. Sturm
2010 Smith Nature Symposium
The Business of Being Green
Keynote Speaker: Will Raap
Will Raap is dedicated to developing enterprises that generate economic and social opportunity while protecting natural resources. Raap shared his experiences both with Gardener’s Supply and his numerous environmental restoration and sustainability initiatives. One of the largest on-line catalog and gardening companies in this country, Gardener’s Supply Company enjoys sales of over $60 million and employs more than 250 people.
2010 Friends of Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Steve Bartram
2009 Smith Nature Symposium
Keynote Speaker: Will Allen
MacArthur Fellow and former basketball pro Will Allen is challenging the way we think about farming and food delivery systems. Committed to the vision of full access to fresh, healthy, local, affordable food in underserved, urban communities, Allen founded Growing Power in Milwaukee in 1995. Allen’s thoughtfully integrated urban farming model provides a platform to address not only sustainable cultivation, production and food-networking practice, but also environmental and social justice issues.
2009 Friends of Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Barbara Whitney Carr
Keynote Speakers prior to 2009:
2008 Peter Annin
2007 Karsten Heuer
2006 Joe Duff
2005 Sy Montgomery
2004 Joel Sartore
2003 David Allen Sibley
2002 Lincoln Brower
2001 George Archibald
2000 Terry Root
1999 Lester Fisher
1998 John Fitzpatrick
1997 Peter Raven
1996 Peter Dunne
1995 Donald & Lillian Stokes
1994 Jack Horner
1993 William Cronon
1992 Melvin Tuttle
1991 Richard Clark
1990 Senator Gaylord Nelson
1989 L. David Mech
1988 Neil Rettig & Bill Kurtis
1987 John Fitzpatrick & Bill Kurtis
1986 William Burger & Tom Cade
1985 George Archibald & Kenneth Nebenzahl
1984 Joseph Hickey & Roger Tory Peterson
Award Winners prior to 2009:
2008 Cameron Davis
2007 Gerald W. Adelmann
2006 Chicago Wilderness
2005 Debra K. Moskovits
2004 John Rogner
2003 George B. Rabb
2002 George Ranney, Sr.
2001 John W. McCarter, Jr.
2000 Adele Simmons
1999 Andrea S. Moore
1998 William J. Beecher
1997 Melvin A. Traylor
1996 Fran Harty
1995 Bill Kurtis
1994 Roy O. Gromme
1993 Abbott Laboratories
1992 Susan Spears
1991 Barbara C. Donnelley
1990 E. Leland Webber
1989 Maxine Hunter
1988 John Fitzpatrick
1987 Nancy Ryerson Ranney