Dr. Christopher Golden, Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, Linda Hwang to Join Filmmaker Sylvie Rokab on Opening Night

When Director Sylvie Rokab screens her award-winning film, Love Thy Nature, at 7 p.m. on October 16 at the Center for the Arts, she won’t be alone. Leading authorities on the health benefits of nature will be with her.

Christopher Golden, PhD, Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, and the Trust for Public Lands’ Linda Hwang will join Ms. Rokab for a conversation about the connection between public health and the health of the planet.

All four are participants in this year’s SHIFT, which is making the business case for “nature as medicine.” Their discussions will provide a broader context for Ms. Rokab’s film and the SHIFT Festival itself.

Tickets for the evening, and for the rest of The 2019 SHIFT Festival, may be purchased here

Narrated by Liam Neeson, Love Thy Nature underscores how deeply we’ve lost touch with nature – and takes viewers on a cinematic journey that shows the ways a renewed connection with nature is key to our personal health and that of our planet.  

Before the film starts, Dr. Golden, Ms. Hwang and Dr. Bhatnagar will provide a global context for its message.

Dr. Golden, an ecologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an explorer and fellow at National Geographic, investigates the nexus of trends in global environmental change and human health. 

Linda Hwang is the Managing Director of Strategy and Innovation for the Trust for Public Land, developing long-term strategy for one of the world’s largest conservation organizations.

Widely credited with spearheading the field of Environmental Cardiology, Dr. Bhatnagar is The Director of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, which unites a multidisciplinary group to turn scientific discovery into actionable knowledge that can help build healthier cities. 

The three will join Ms. Rokab onstage for a moderated conversation about the connection between planetary and public health.

When asked about the questions she hopes to pose to her colleagues, Ms. Rokab was quick to respond.

“I want to ask Dr. Bhatnagar, ‘To what extent is public health a function of a healthy planet, and vice versa?’ For Ms. Hwang, ‘What specific ways can we use technology to reconnect people to nature in a time of intense urbanization?’ And Dr. Golden: ‘How do we create sustainable sources of nutrition and preserve ecological balance at the same time?’”

A warm, funny cosmopolitan, the filmmaker seeks hope and possibility in the midst of environmental crisis—qualities she imbues in the internationally lauded film.

How? Take, for example, biomimicry—technological innovations inspired by nature. A key subject of the film, biomimicry is illustrated with the example of the morpho butterfly, the wings of which are devoid of pigment.

“Artificial pigments are toxic,” Rokab says. “Innovators are mimicking the structure of the butterfly’s wings to create color without using toxic dyes.”

Or take climate change and photosynthesis. “Scientists are looking to photosynthesis to figure out how to capture greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.”

These are a few of the examples of innovations occurring across industries that mimic the workings of nature, according to Rokab. And that is cause for optimism.

“Nature is sustainable, biodegradable. Nature knows how to create technologies in a way that benefit whole ecosystems.”

She quotes Leonardo da Vinci: “Those who are inspired by a model other than nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vein.”

With modern technology, “We’re trying to reinvent the wheel, but everything we need has already been invented by nature. We have the possibility of revolutionizing our industries by observing the 4.5 billion years of R&D that already exist in the natural world.”

The film, she says, is also an invitation to audiences to reawaken their innate knowledge of nature and deepen our connections.

“Nature is the ultimate muse, the ultimate lover. We’re wired to connect to it—it’s in our DNA. The intent of the film is to make people realize that.”

“I purposely tried to create a film that lures people in, that seduces them,” she continued. “It’s very visual, very immersive. I wanted to make them yearn for spending time outdoors.”

Before and after the film, Ms. Rokab will join her colleagues in the proceedings of SHIFT.

Dr. Golden will make the opening keynote for the Festival earlier that day, at 2:30 p.m. at The Center for the Arts.

Both Dr. Bhatnagar and Ms. Hwang are being honored as official selections of the 2019 SHIFT Awards—Dr. Bhatnagar for his work with The Envirome Institute, and Ms. Hwang for The Trust for Public Land’s geospatial data and analytics services.

“I’m looking forward to the insights from these inspiring thinkers on how nature as medicine makes perfect business sense,” says Ms. Rokab.

Tickets for the 2019 SHIFT Festival may be purchased here. For more information, visit www.shiftjh.org.

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