Past Event

Climate, Hope & Science: shifting paradigms in spirituality, technology, finance and civic action

September 23, 2022
8:30 AM - 1:30 PM
The Lantern at Lenfest Center for the Arts (615 West 129th Street - New York, NY 10027)

Columbia Global Centers | Rio brings together Obama Foundation president, David Simas, key Obama Foundation Scholar alumni, and international climate leadership (such as Ailton Krenak) tackling the climate crisis through innovative approaches in, among other areas, civic engagement, opening data, and rewilding nature, for an engaged conversation with global leaders and activists on how three paradigms shifts could prevent the catastrophic impact of unchecked climate change:


  • Spirituality — Reappraise our approach to spirituality and what it means to be human as it relates to our planet and climate
  • Technology — Harness technology in the service of communities and climate justice
  • Finance and Civic Action — Restructured finance models and supporting civic action to promote positive climate impact.


The audience can expect a rigorous and engaged conversation that builds on participants’ experiences with local communities and is connected to leading scientific discoveries, analysis, and socio-political strategy. By deepening the dialogue between the Obama Foundation alumni and experts from Columbia University and beyond, the event will bridge Hope and Science to guide efforts toward the changes needed to address the symptoms and causes of the climate crisis.

Wafaa El-Sadr, Executive Vice President for Columbia Global, and Alex Halliday, Dean of the Columbia Climate School, will also deliver their remarks during the event.

Join us at The Lantern at Lenfest Center for the Arts (615 West 129th Street - New York, NY 10027), on the Columbia University in the City of New York campus, from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM EDT, on September 23.


Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required.





08:30 - 08:45 | Welcome Coffee


08:45 - 08:55 | Columbia Global welcomes speakers and guests
Wafaa El-Sadr, Executive Vice President for Columbia Global


08:55 - 09:00 | Why Climate, Hope, and Science?
Teresa Borges, Senior Program Manager of Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro


09:00 - 09:20 | Opening Remarks on Climate and Hope
David Simas, President of the Obama Foundation
Hope and climate action


09:20 - 09:45 | Opening Remarks on Climate and Science
Alex Halliday, Dean of the Columbia Climate School


09:45 - 11:00 | PANEL 1: Climate, Science & Spirituality

Guiding question: What does it mean to be human in a changing climate?

Ailton Krenak is a writer, journalist, philosopher, and one of the greatest contemporary leaders of the indigenous movement in Brazil. Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and a leading proponent of the view that science, philosophy, and spirituality are complementary expressions of humanity’s need to embrace mystery and the unknown. A native of Brazil, Gleiser was awarded the Templeton Prize – a prize also awarded to Mother Teresa and Dalai Lama – for his work at the intersection of climate and spirituality. Dr. Flavia Maia is an Obama Scholar (2020-2021), a Dalai Lama Fellow (2022-2023), and a climate feminist from the Brazilian Northeast, a global hotspot for climate change. Flavia Maia is the founder of Filha do Sol, a women-led and community-centered nonprofit on a mission to regenerate Nature across the Tropics and restore climate justice. In this panel, the three Brazilian thinkers merge art, feminism, indigenous wisdom, cosmology, and astrophysics to illuminate another possibility for the future of our species. Examining short documentary pieces offers insights into the intersection of climate, science, and spirituality. They propose a decolonial view of climate change that recognizes the tension between the critical moment humanity faces and its multiple possibilities.




Moderator: Flávia Maia, Obama Scholar 2020-2021


11:10 - 12:15 | PANEL 2: Climate, Technology & Communities

How can technology be in service of climate justice and communities? As technology enables climate activists to mobilize on unprecedented scales, it is critical to guard against its potential negative impacts, such as biases, as well as surveillance and extractive practices that exacerbate socio-economic inequality. Harnessing technology’s potential while protecting the human and digital rights of peoples most impacted by the climate emergency has become critical for climate activism worldwide. And as climate scientists seek to support climate action, there is a need to reflect on the inclusiveness and limitations of advanced climate modeling enabled by technology and advanced climate data analysis. In this panel, we will explore how climate science and technology can support climate activism while drawing lessons learned from world leading climate activists. We will discuss the relationship between climate scientists and climate activists in harnessing the collaborative, responsible, and inclusive use of technology from their respective perspectives.


  • Andrew J. Kruczkiewicz, Senior Staff Researcher at Columbia University, at the Climate School within the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, and Science Adviser at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center
  • Christian Vanizette, Founder, 
  • Dr. Christian Braneon, Head of Climate Justice at Carbon Direct, and Co-Lead of the Environmental Justice and Climate Just Cities Network at The Earth Institute of Columbia University

Moderator: Jean-Noé Landry, Obama Scholar, International open climate data activist and community organizer supporting and building new initiatives focused on the ecological transition and climate action and justice


12:15 - 13:15 | PANEL 3: Climate, Finance & Civic Action

Climate change affects the whole world but is not felt equitably. People living in developing regions and in social and economic vulnerability are the most impacted by climate change. Is it possible to rethink finance in a way that supports climate justice rather than contributes to deepening social and economic inequalities? How can civic action support communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis to advocate for more climate finance, adapt to a changing climate, and support global carbon mitigation efforts? Drawing from her experience in mobilizing the youth for sustainable development goals, the Obama Scholar Rosario Garavito lead a conversation about shifting paradigms on finance and civic action to support a systemic solution to the climate crisis.



  • Juan Guzmán, economist and youth climate activist from Colombia
  • Sandra Guzman, Founder of the Climate Finance Group for Latin America and the Caribbean (GFLAC)


Moderator: Rosario Diaz Garavito, SDGs activist, Founder & Executive Director of The Millennials Movement


13:15 - 13:30 | PANEL 4: Hope & Urgency: A Call to Action 

All around the world youth are at the forefront of civic action against climate change. Leading Friday for future activists delivers a message to keep us on our toe and take action with them as they lead the last hope.



  • Dominika Lasota, Polish climate justice activist
  • Viktoriya Ball Ukrainian climate and health justice activist; 
  • Hilda Flavia NakabuyeUgandan climate and environmental rights activist, Founder of Uganda's Fridays for Future movement. 
  • Xiye BastidaMexican climate activist and a member of the indigenous Otomi-Toltec nation.