Aspen Institute energy and environment program director David Monsma said there are about 7 billion reasons to take part in the conversation at the fourth annual Aspen Environment Forum.
The annual conference of environmental thinkers, energy industry leaders and the general public is scheduled to kick off at the end of May.
This year the four-day event is focusing on the challenges Earth will face as its population passes the 7 billion mark in 2011.
“We’re trying to look at the carrying capacity questions for the planet,” Monsma explained Friday. “What does a growing global population beyond 7 billion mean for issues like climate, clean air, clean water and food?”
Presented in partnership with National Geographic, the Environment Forum has since 2008 brought together experts from business, science and government to discuss the 21st century’s environmental challenges. Those conversations have largely centered around climate change and energy issues.
This year, Monsma said, the conversation is focusing on how the stress of a growing human society has impacted the natural world and how humans can sustainably adapt to an increasingly resource-challenged planet.
“What’s different this year is we’re trying to talk about how we meet the needs of, not only future generations, but current ones,” he said.
The meeting of minds, he said, is more about ideas than marquee names, though the conference does have a handful of environmental superstars on its dais, including returning participant and author/activist Bill McKibben.
“This is not a celebrity-driven forum” Monsma said. “This is an issue-driven forum.”
Among the speakers this year are Lonnie Johnson, a NASA scientist and inventor of the SuperSoaker water gun, Stewart Brand, editor of the “Whole Earth Catalog,” and Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey.
General forum passes are available to the public for $1,500.
Single $20 tickets are also available for special evening events each night of the conference, including film screenings, panels and a June 1 presentation by John “Planetwalker” Francis, who walked across America over the course of 17 years and wrote the book “The Ragged Edge of Silence.”
The Aspen Environment Forum kicks off on Monday, May 30 with Bill McKibben discussing recent disasters like the Japan earthquake and Gulf of Mexico oil spill at the Paepcke Auditorium with Stewart Brand, World Bank biodiversity adviser Thomas Lovejoy, Terry Garcia of National Geographic and Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post.