Featured Speakers

We’re pleased to introduce the 2014 SXSW Eco Featured Speakers. Our Featured Speakers are among the foremost experts in their fields. Their valuable insight draws new connections between issues standing between us and a sustainable future. These discussions will take place daily during our regular programming schedule. Stay tuned as more speakers are announced.


Elizabeth C. Babcock, Ph.D

Elizabeth C. Babcock, Ph.D

As Chief Public Engagement Officer and Roberts Dean of Education, Elizabeth C. Babcock, Ph.D is responsible for creating and implementing engaging exhibits, public engagement and education programs for the California Academy of Sciences. She seeks to ignite a lifelong curiosity about—and love for—the natural world among all of the visitors, students and educators who come in contact with the institution. The first person to fill the Academy’s newly-endowed Dean of Education role, Babcock is responsible for ensuring that the Academy's current and future exhibits remain fresh and engaging for approximately 1.5 million visitors of all ages each year from the Bay Area and around the world.


Christine Bader

Christine Bader

Christine Bader is the author of The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil, and a visiting scholar at Columbia University. After earning her MBA from Yale in 2000, Christine joined BP and proceeded to work in Indonesia, China, and the U.K., managing the social impacts of some of the company’s largest projects in the developing world. In 2006 she created a part-time pro bono role as advisor to the U.N. Special Representative for business and human rights, a role she took up full-time 2008-11. Christine competed in the 2002 World Ultimate Frisbee Club Championships, but now finds her athletic glory jogging along Manhattan’s Hudson River and after her toddler twins.

The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist

We hear a lot about what big companies have to do to ensure a sustainable future. But what is it like to be one of the people who actually has to do it? What are the biggest challenges in pushing for change from deep inside the belly of the beast – and what are the keys to success? How do you maintain faith in your work when things go horribly wrong? Christine Bader shares stories and reflections from her nine years with BP, and the experiences of her Corporate Idealist peers in other industries.


Dr. Robert Jensen

Dr. Robert Jensen

Dr. Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to his role at UT Austin where he teaches courses in media law, ethics, and politics, Jensen is also a board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. As an author, Jensen's most recent books include Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue; and We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out. Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film "Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing," which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist.

Coping with the Cascading Crises of World

With economic and ecological crises deepening, more people are facing the harsh reality that modern high-energy/high-technology ways of living—along with the economic system out of which they emerged—have to change if the Earth is to sustain a large-scale human presence in the future. If the American “way of life” is incompatible with a sustainable future, how do we start to talk about—and create—a new way of being in the world? In this talk, Robert Jensen will tell the story of a “plain radical,” a person whose political and personal choices offer a painfully honest but hopeful example.


Jenny Rushmore

Jenny Rushmore

Jenny Rushmore is passionate about helping people live more sustainable lives. As Director of Responsible Travel for TripAdvisor, Jenny developed and leads TripAdvisor GreenLeaders™, which helps TripAdvisor’s community of more than 260 million travelers plan greener trips by highlighting accommodations engaging in environmentally-friendly practices. The program launched in April 2013 in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, ENERGYSTAR and the United Nations Environment Programme, and is now the largest green hotels program of its kind in the U.S. with nearly 4,000 participating properties across the country, including chains like Marriott, Hilton and Intercontinental Hotel Group, as well as small family-run B&Bs and inns. In March 2014, TripAdvisor expanded the program into Canada and Europe for the first time, following its rapid growth in the U.S.

From Niche to Mainstream: Bringing Green Travel to the Masses

Most travelers believe that hospitality businesses’ eco-friendly practices are important, but they lack the information they need to plan a greener trip. Learn how TripAdvisor is solving this problem by bringing transparency to the travel industry and encouraging its large and passionate community of millions of travelers to make more sustainable choices. The session will offer tips on how brands in every industry can help transform sustainability from something that has traditionally been a niche practice into a mainstream activity.


Nikki Silvestri

Nikki Silvestri

Nikki Silvestri is the executive director of Green for All, an organization working to build a more inclusive, healthy and sustainable economy. Prior to joining Green For All, she served as executive director of People’s Grocery in Oakland, where she led efforts to cultivate economic and environmental justice within the food sector. She holds a master’s degree in African American studies from UCLA, and is originally from Los Angeles.


Jessy Tolkan

Jessy Tolkan

Jessy Tolkan currently serves as the Global Director of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Development. While currently focused on creating markets shifts in the auto-industry with an eye towards ensuring a more sustainable planet, Jessy has spent the last decade as an activist and movement leader working to build progressive change in the United States. With an expertise in helping nonprofit and advocacy organizations scale their efforts, budgets, and staff talent, Jessy has consulted with some of the leading social change organizations in the United States including: The Working Families Organization, New Organizing Institute, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, GetEqual, HeadCount, 1sky, 350.org, Groundswell, and Wellstone Action.