Keynote Speakers

Ruth DeFries is a professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University in New York. She uses images from satellites and field surveys to examine how the world’s demands for food and other resources are changing land use throughout the tropics. Her research quantifies how these land use changes affect climate, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, as well as human development. She has also developed innovate education programs in sustainable development. DeFries was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, one of the country’s highest scientific honors, received a MacArthur “genius” award, and is the recipient of many other honors for her scientific research. In addition to over 100 scientific papers, she is committed to communicating the nuances and complexities of sustainable development to popular audiences, most recently through her book “The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis.

Meera Subramanian is an award-winning journalist whose work has been published around the world, and her first book is A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka, published in 2015 by PublicAffairs (and as Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity by HarperCollins India). Her writing has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing and multiple editions of Best Women’s Travel Writing. She was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT (2016-17) and a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research fellow in India (2013-14), and she earned her graduate degree in journalism from New York University.

Professor Rebecca Tsosie is Regents Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law with the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program and Special Advisor to the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion for the University of Arizona. She has extensive experience working with tribal communities across Indian Country and currently serves as appellate judge for the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation's Supreme Court and San Carlos Apache Tribe's Court of Appeals.

Professor Tsosie teaches in the areas of property, federal Indian law, and tribal law and policy. In her role as special advisor, Tsosie helps advance diversity and inclusion in academic affairs, working collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students to advance cultural competency in the classroom and academic affairs. Tsosie's research interests include tribal self-determination within the U.S. constitutional framework, environmental justice for tribal communities, and intellectual property rights to cultural resources. She has previously taught courses across the IPLP curriculum, on federal Indian law, tribal cultural resource law, bioethics, and critical race theory. She is co-author of the federal Indian law casebook American Indian Law:  Native Nations and the Federal System.

Holly Jean Buck is a writer, geographer, and sociologist of the future, with a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University.  She’s currently a research fellow at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, where she studies the interactions between emerging technologies and social trends like artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, inequality, and climate change.  Her research focuses on social dimensions of both carbon removal and solar geoengineering, including environmental justice, gender, and humanitarian perspectives.  Her forthcoming book (Verso, 2019) examines best and worst-case scenarios for a world after climate engineering.

Deji Bryce Olukotun is the author of two novels and his fiction has appeared in five different book collections. His novel After the Flare won the 2018 Philip K. Dick special citation award, and was chosen as one of the best books of 2017 by The Guardian, The Washington Post,,, Kirkus Reviews, among others. His novel Nigerians in Space, a thriller about brain drain from Africa, was published by Unnamed Press in 2014.  He is currently the Head of Social Impact at the audio technology company Sonos and a Future Tense Fellow at New America.

Deji is an attorney with a background in human rights and technology. He has traveled to 30 countries and offers deep work experience in South Africa, Myanmar, and Haiti. He is currently the Head of Social Impact at the audio technology company Sonos. Before that he drove global campaigns to keep the internet open and free at Access Now, and worked at PEN American Center in the defense of writers around the world, with support from the Ford Foundation.

Virginia García Acosta is a social anthropologist (BA and Master) and historian (PhD) from Mexico. Since 1974, she has been a teacher and researcher at CIESAS (Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology) in Mexico City and was the General Director from 2004 to 2014. She has published over 100 articles and book chapters, either as a single author or as a coordinator, as well as 24 books in Mexico, the USA, Europe, South America, and China. She has also been Principle Investigator and Co-Principle Investigator for several research projects funded by Mexican and international entities. Her research relates to food history and disaster and risk from a historical-anthropological perspective, and her research interests center around earthquakes and agricultural disasters (hurricanes, floods, droughts, hailstorms, etc.) in Mexican and Latin-American history.

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences