David Bradley, owner of Atlantic Media Co., kicked off the 2012 Aspen Ideas Fest with advice to festival goers on how to avoid a bear attack should they get sidetracked from one of the hundreds of sessions, and instead spend time enjoying Aspen’s wildlife.
“How many pass holders will be staying in tents?” asked Bradley in the festival’s opening session on Wednesday evening.
The Greenwald Pavilion, filled with about 800 pass holders, speakers and sponsors, remained silent.
“That’s largely reassuring,” said Bradley, poking fun at the attendees’ inability to survive in the wild as he entered a humorous speech on bear attacks.
Bradley’s short lecture had informative statistics — such as the fact that the likelihood of a person being attacked by a bear decreases if he or she is with six or more people, and increases if the person happens to be a zoologist.
In a festival that prides itself on the range of topics it covers, the interesting, but apparently non sequitur speech, was indicative of what festival goers can expect to discover over the next six days.
“You should go see anything you know nothing about,” advised Kitty Boone, vice president at the Aspen Institute and the primary organizer of the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Exposing yourself to concepts and ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t know about is the point of the festival, she said.
Per tradition, 15 different speakers presented a smorgasbord of ideas, like requiring all high school students to take a journalism 101 course so that they can understand how to interpret news, as well as a new law that would require 41 senators to be present everyday in Congress for a filibuster to be effective.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the Atlantic, presented the last idea, which asked that festival speakers add more humor into the discussions so that the world remains optimistic.
“We need more jokes,” Goldberg said. “Try to lighten up a little bit.”
The Aspen Ideas Festival runs today through July 3. The festival is divided into two overlapping four-day sessions that are available to pass holders. Individual tickets are available to the public for a number of programs that are offered in town and at night on the Aspen Institute campus. Tickets and information on public sessions are available at www.aspenideas.org/festival/public-tickets .