We live in an increasingly globalized society, where what happens anywhere on the planet has the potential to impact billions of lives across countless countries. This reality has direct implications on businesses, organizations, and universities. Those who lead them must stay informed on what’s happening in our complex world.
To boil down our news cycle to three succinct points is a vast oversimplification. But in the interest of your sanity and ours, and in order to give you a useful level of detail about a few of the most pressing developments, we’re going to do just that. Let’s take a closer look at the crisis in Afghanistan, climate change, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — what’s new, what are the implications for the event industry, and who is leading the response.
The Rising Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan
After a costly two-decade war, the United States initiated its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Roughly two weeks before this was set to complete, the Taliban swept across the nation and effectively seized control, capturing Kabul and all major cities in just a matter of days. According to reporters in the country and military experts, the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces offered little resistance.
In anticipation of the militant group’s enforcement of draconian measures — especially laws limiting the rights of women and girls — as well as fears of revenge violence against those who supported the former government, thousands of Afghans have fled or are attempting to flee the country, and millions of others are living in fear of what’s to come.
As the situation continues to unfold, the world has tuned in to heartbreaking but impressively in-depth news coverage made possible by reporters who have risked their own safety, as well as other subject experts and advocates who have worked around the clock to bring audiences up to speed on what is happening and urge global leaders to take action.
Journalists And Foreign Correspondents
Journalist & Chief International Correspondent for CNN
Clarissa Ward is CNN’s chief international correspondent based in London. For more than 15 years, Ward has reported from front lines across the world – from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen to Ukraine to Georgia (during the Russian incursion in 2008) and Iran. Recently, she has been one of the leading reporters throughout the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, giving millions a look inside the situation.
Ward was named 2019 Reporter/Correspondent of the Year by the Gracies, she is the author of “On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist,” a memoir that details her singular career as a conflict reporter and how she has documented the violent remaking of the world from close range.
Award-Winning Journalist, New York Times Best-Selling Author & Documentarian
Sebastian Junger is the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of “WAR, The Perfect Storm, A Death in Belmont, and Fire.” He is also the acclaimed director of the documentary films Restrepo and Korengal. As a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and as a contributor to ABC News, he has covered major international news stories and has been awarded the National Magazine Award and a SAIS Novartis Prize for Journalism.
Junger’s critically acclaimed documentary Restrepo, co-directed with photojournalist Tim Hetherington, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and received the 2010 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Restrepo documents the war in Afghanistan by reporting from soldiers’ perspectives. Its massive success inspired Junger to produce Korengal, which highlights the psychological effects soldiers must overcome during deployment and the emotions they are afflicted with when returning home.
Military And Terrorism Experts
Quadruple Amputee & Retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant of the 82nd Airborne
Travis Mills is a retired United States Army soldier who became a quadruple amputee while serving in Afghanistan. He now speaks across the country, motivating others to live by his motto: “Never give up. Never quit.” He has also established a foundation to build a retreat for other special-needs veterans injured in combat and their families.
Mills’ experience overcoming the obstacles of being a quadruple amputee has also been documented in his New York Times bestselling memoir, “Tough As They Come,” and the documentary Travis: A Soldier’s Story.
Afghan Politician & Women’s Rights Activist; Member of Parliament; Vice President of the National Assembly
Fawzia Koofi is an Afghan parliamentary lawmaker, accomplished author, and internationally known outspoken advocate for the rights of women and children, democracy, and moderate Islam. She is the first female in the Afghan parliament to be elected as Second Deputy Speaker, and she heads the parliament’s Women Affairs Commission. Not only has Koofi humanized the otherwise faceless international discussion of the struggles and abuse of Afghan women, but she is also at the forefront of educating the international community about what the consequences would be for her, and other advocates of reform, should the international community and their security forces be withdrawn.
Koofi started her political career in 2001 when she began to promote a “Back To School” campaign targeted at the rights of women in Afghanistan to an education. By 2002 she took employment as a Child Protection Officer with UNICEF, and in 2005 she was elected as a parliamentary representative for Badakhshan province, her native region in the rural mountains of northern Afghanistan.
Award-Winning Afghan-American Journalist & Author
Fariba Nawa, an award-winning Afghan-American journalist, covers a range of issues and specializes in women’s rights and conflict zones. She is based in Istanbul, Turkey, and has traveled extensively to the Middle East, Central, and South Asia. She lived and reported from Afghanistan from 2002 to 2007, and witnessed the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. She has also reported from Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, and Germany. She has a Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies and Journalism.
A frequent speaker on Middle East and South/Central Asian issues, she has participated in talks at the World Affairs Council, Commonwealth Club, major universities, and has been interviewed by prominent television and radio networks. Her book, “Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords and One Woman’s Journey Through Afghanistan,” a mix of memoir and reportage about the drug trade in Afghanistan, was a finalist for the 2012 PEN USA award for research nonfiction.
Entrepreneur, Technologist, Investor, Impact Leader & Co-Founder of the Malala Fund
Shiza Shahid is an entrepreneur, technologist, expert investor, and impact leader. Shahid co-founded the Malala Fund with Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and led the organization as founding CEO. She focused on creating access to high-quality education for all children around the world.
Shahid is now the co-founder of Our Place, a mission-driven e-commerce startup focused on getting people to connect more by cooking and sharing food together. Our Place is creating products and telling stories that celebrate cultural traditions and reinvest in communities through the lens of food and home-cooking. Because home-cooking is where cultures are most authentically represented and love is most fully expressed.
Climate Change Report Paints A Grim Future For Our Planet
Among a crowded news cycle, it’s possible that climate change news has gone unnoticed. Unfortunately, the threat to the environment, human lives, and the global economy has not decreased. Whether you’ve seen the headlines or not, the effects of climate change are still unfolding all around us.
In northern California, wildfires are raging out of control, incinerating large swaths of forest and destroying homes. For the first time ever, officials have declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, which roughly 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico depend upon as their source of water. Meanwhile, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated definitively that human-caused climate change is worsening extreme weather across the world.
It’s not a time to throw up our hands and give up hope, scientists say, but some drastic measures are needed to mitigate the damage that’s happening and on the way. That’s why it’s so crucial to give a platform to climate scientists and other experts who devote their lives to educating the public and advocating for real solutions.
Atmospheric Scientist, Professor of Political Science & Director of Climate Science Center at Texas Tech
Katharine Hayhoe is an accomplished atmospheric scientist who studies climate change and why it matters to us here and now. She is also a remarkable communicator who has received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet award, the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize, the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award, and been named to a number of lists including Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Thinkers, FORTUNE magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders and the United Nations Champion of the Earth in Science and Innovation.
Her writing has appeared in a broad range of outlets including the New York Times, Wired, O Magazine, and Chatelaine. Her TED talk, “The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it” has nearly 4 million views, and her most recent book, “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World,” will be published by Simon & Schuster in Sept 2021.
Climate Scientist, Geobiologist & Climate Policy Scholar at Rutgers University
Robert Kopp is an expert climate scientist who serves at Rutgers University as Director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. His research focuses on past and future sea-level change, on the interactions between physical climate change and the economy, and on the use of climate risk information in decision-making.
He is an author of the Fourth National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s forthcoming Sixth Assessment Report, as well as a director of the Climate Impact Lab. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a recipient of AGU’s James B. Macelwane and William Gilbert Medals, as well as the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA)’s Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal.
Chief Environmental Research Scientist at Environmental Health Research Associates, LLC.
Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington is a highly accomplished and successful environmental epidemiologist, expert environmental engineer, environmental historian, and clinician with over 30 years of research experience working on the impact of industrial pollution on human health. She successfully implemented the Research Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Superfund, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for effluents and solid waste derived from power generation sources (space and terrestrial systems) for both private industry and NASA.
She is a published author and the creator and editor in chief of the first international environmental health disparities journal, Environmental Justice. She was the first African American historian to study and publish a formal history of environmental injustices in the United States in 2006.
Climate Change Activist; Author; Founder & Co-Executive Director of Youth-Led Climate Action Group “Zero Hour”
Jamie Margolin is a Jewish Colombian-American organizer, activist, author, public speaker, and filmmaker. She is co-founder of the international youth climate justice movement called Zero Hour that led the official “Youth Climate Marches” in Washington, DC, and 25+ cities around the world during the summer of 2018. Zero Hour has over 200+ chapters worldwide and has been a leading organization in the climate movement. Margolin’s the author of a book called “Youth To Power: Your Voice and How to Use It,” which has been translated in many languages and sold all over the world. The book serves as a guide to organizing and activism.
Margolin is also a plaintiff in the Our Children’s Trust Youth v. Gov Washington state lawsuit, “Aji P. vs. the State of Washington,” suing the state of Washington for denying her generation their constitutional rights to a livable environment by worsening the climate crisis.
Indigenous Climate Activist, Hip-Hop Artist, Author & Youth Director of Earth Guardians
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an advocate, leader, activist, and hip-hop artist. He has been on the frontlines of the climate and environmental movement since the young age of six6. Recently named TIMES Next 100, Martinez has felt called to change the narrative on what it means to be an activist from an early age. Still a teenager, he has spoken multiple times at the UN, addressed the General Assembly, and spoken on panels with the likes of Bernie Sanders, Van Jones, Shailene Woodley, Bill Mckibbens, and Pharrell Williams.
Martinez has been a guest on the “Daily Show” with Trevor Noah and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” He has also been featured multiple times in Rolling Stones on PBS, Showtime, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Upworthy, The Guardian, Vogue, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, CNN, MSNBC, HBO, VICE, as well as photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
Social & Climate Justice Advocate
Zelalem Adefris is a public health professional with a passion for addressing racial health and wealth disparities, building climate resilience in frontline communities, policy development, community organizing, strategic planning, research, and program monitoring and evaluation. Her current position is Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Catalyst Miami, where she works to lead out the organization’s policy, advocacy, and community leadership initiatives focused on building equitable community resilience in Miami-Dade County’s low-wealth neighborhoods.
Adefris is also a Co-Chair of the Miami Climate Alliance and a Philanthropic Trustee of the Solutions Project. She holds an MPH in Global Environmental Health from Emory University and a Bachelor’s degree in Community Health from Brown University.
CEO of REFORM Alliance, CNN host, Emmy Award-winning Producer & NY Times Best-Selling Author
Van Jones is the CEO of REFORM Alliance, a social entrepreneur, CNN political commentator, and host of “Redemption Project” and “The Van Jones Show” on CNN. Famous for his heart-felt election night coverage, Jones showed up as the voice of reason for people in red states and blue throughout the volatile 2016 political season. In 2019, Jones and his team at #cut50 succeeded in passing the FIRST STEP Act (a bipartisan Federal bill that the New York Times calls the most substantial breakthrough in criminal justice in a generation).
In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama. In this role, he helped to lead the interagency process that oversaw the multi-billion dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors. He is a prominent voice for green jobs and sustainability. Provocative and cutting edge, Jones delivers a viable plan for solving the two biggest issues facing the country today—the economy and the environment.
Adventurers And Nature Enthusiasts Who Educate
Executive Director of Honor the Earth
Winona LaDuke is an internationally renowned activist working on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy, and food systems. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is a two-time vice presidential candidate with Ralph Nader for the Green Party.
As Program Director of Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice with Indigenous communities. And in her own community, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based nonprofit organizations in the country, and an expert in the issues of culturally based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy, and food systems. In this work, she also continues national and international work to protect Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering.
Canadian Indigenous Clean Water Activist
Autumn Peltier is a 16-year-old Anishinaabekwe and citizen of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, a member of the First Nation of the Anishinabek Nation, and located on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario. She is a water protector, also referred to as a Water Warrior, who has been advocating for the protection of Nibi (water) and Mother Earth since the age of eight. She was inspired and mentored by her Great Aunt Josephine Mandamin, former Chief Water Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation. She is rooted and guided by the Seven Grandfather Teachings in all of her endeavors.
Peltier has gained national and international recognition and uses that platform to emphasize the connection of the Anishinabek to the land and water and their role to protect the lifeline of Mother Earth, and brings to the forefront the need for clean water for First Nations in Canada. Peltier understands that the work to protect Nibi and Mother Earth must happen immediately in order to secure a future for the next generations to come.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Far From Over
As of August 18, 2021, there have been more than 208 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases worldwide with 4.4 million deaths, according to the WHO Coronavirus Dashboard. The loss of life, human suffering, economic impact, and so much more has been nothing short of staggering. And until a few months ago, the world had some hope that things were moving in the right direction.
With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S., many were cautiously optimistic that the end of the pandemic was within reach, or at least that we’d seen the worst of it. However, underwhelming vaccination rates nationwide and the spread of the delta variant have seen cases of hospitalizations soar back to levels not seen for almost six months.
Businesses, organizations, and others are rightfully perturbed about what this all means for the coming months. The event industry is also pausing on in-person events again while this situation unravels, shifting many scheduled events back to virtual formats. These are the leading experts, healthcare professionals, and business speakers on all things COVID-19.
Nationally Recognized Leader in Public Health & Infectious Diseases Epidemiologist
Syra Madad, D.H.Sc., M.Sc., MCP is a nationally recognized expert and epidemiologist in public health and special pathogen preparedness and response. She is Senior Director of the System-Wide Special Pathogens Program at New York City Health + Hospitals, the nation’s largest municipal healthcare delivery system overseeing special pathogen preparedness and response efforts across 11 acute care hospitals in addition to post-acute/long-term care facilities and ambulatory care sites. She is Principal Investigator of NYC Health + Hospitals Institute of Diseases and Disaster Management, and is the Health and Safety Lead of the Enhanced Special Investigations Unit of NYC Test and Trace Corp.
Dr. Madad has been part of multiple infectious disease responses including Ebola, Zika, Measles, Candida Auris, and recently, COVID19. She has over 50+ publications and has been a guest speaker at over 70 scientific and medical conferences around the world. She is frequently quoted and appears on major media outlets.
Professor of Public Health at Harvard University
Dr. David R. Williams is the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also a Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. His prior academic appointments were at Yale University and the University of Michigan. He holds an MPH from Loma Linda University and a PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan.
He is an internationally recognized authority on social influences on health. He has been invited to keynote scientific conferences in Europe, Africa, Australia, the Middle East, South America, and across the U.S. The author of more than 475 scientific papers, his research has enhanced our understanding of the ways in which race, socioeconomic status, stress, racism, health, behavior, and religious involvement can affect health.
Physician, Public Health Innovator, President & CEO of HealthBegins
Dr. Rishi Manchanda shares breakthrough solutions to reinvigorate primary care in the U.S. and protect the future of our health by addressing the social and environmental conditions at the source of illness.
An expert at the forefront of a new generation of healthcare practitioners, Dr. Manchanda is transforming conventional care with a decidedly holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment. Credited with coining the term “upstreamist,” his philosophy focuses on identifying and treating the underlying issues that plague comprehensive patient health.
Chairman & Founder, Delphi Group; Business Author, Visionary Leader & Authority on Changing Technology
Tom Koulopoulos is chairman and founder of Delphi Group, a 30-year-old Boston-based think tank named one of the fastest-growing private companies by Inc. Magazine. He is also the author of 13 books, an Inc.com columnist, the past Executive Director of the Babson College Center for Business Innovation, the past director of the Dell Innovation Lab, and a professor at Boston University.
His insights have received wide praise from luminaries such as the late Peter Drucker, the father of modern management; Dee Hock founder of Visa International; and Tom Peters, who called his writing, “a brilliant vision of where we must take our enterprises to survive and thrive.” Koulopoulos provides both a context for understanding uncertainty and a toolset to use in navigating it.
CEO of Tomorrow, Futurist & Best-Selling Author of “The Algorithmic Leader”
Mike Walsh is the CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy on designing companies for the 21st century. For the past twenty years, he has been a leading authority on disruptive innovation, digital transformation, and new ways of thinking. As a global nomad from a diverse ethnic background, futurist, and author of three bestselling books, Walsh advises some of the world’s biggest organizations on reinvention and change in this new era of machine intelligence.
A prolific writer and commentator, Walsh’s views have appeared in a wide range of international publications including Inc. Magazine, BusinessWeek, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and the Harvard Business Review. His articles explore a wide range of cutting-edge leadership topics including data-driven decision making, agile organizations, algorithmic management, and AI ethics. Each week Walsh interviews provocative thinkers, innovators, and troublemakers on his podcast, “Between Worlds.”
Social And Mental Impact
CEO & Chief Happiness Officer at Delivering Happiness
Jenn Lim is the CEO of Delivering Happiness (DH), a company she and Tony Hsieh (the late CEO of Zappos.com) co-founded to create happier company cultures for a more profitable and sustainable approach to business. Delivering Happiness started as a book (New York Times and WSJ Bestseller which sold one million copies worldwide) and evolved into a business consultancy and global movement that has impacted and inspired companies and organizations around the world.
In her new book, “Beyond Happiness: How Authentic Leaders Prioritize Purpose and People for Growth and Impact,” Lim draws on her decades of experience in culture and strategy to translate it into a practical “how-to” framework for more sustainable workplaces and modern organization design. She guides all of us – no matter our title or role – on how to live more meaningful lives through the work we do every day.
Award-Winning Behavioral Science Expert & Clinician; Author of “RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress”
Dr. Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW, known as “Dr. Kris”, is an internationally recognized, award-winning behavioral science clinician, researcher, educator, speaker, and comedian from Boston, Massachusetts. As the Lead Faculty for Behavioral Science and Faculty-in-Residence at Northeastern University, Dr. Kris’s research and teaching interests include individual and organizational well-being and resilience, particularly for marginalized and underserved populations.
She is the author of “RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress,” winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Motivational Book of 2015, best-selling “Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking-Learn What it Takes to be More Agile, Mindful and Connected in Today’s World and the upcoming Worth the Risk: Learn to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World.” She is the host of Crackin’ Up: Where Therapy Meets Comedy and is a regular contributor to Psychology Today and Thrive Global. Dr. Kris’s work has been featured on NPR and CBS radio.
Leadership And The Future of Work
Strategic Futurist, TEDx Curator & Corporate Strategist
Nancy Giordano is a strategic futurist expert with a drive to help enterprise organizations and visionary leaders transform to meet the escalating expectations ahead. Recognized as one of the world’s top female futurists, she has spent her career building, shaping, and evolving a portfolio of $50 billion worth of major global brands. With the growing conviction of what will (and needs to) shift, executives value her unique abilities to sense and synthesize the terrain ahead and guide those ready to build more relevant and sustainable solutions.
With a career at three of the top global advertising agencies and as the founder of her own strategic inspiration company, Play Big Inc., Giordano has a rich history of advising and learning with some of the top companies in the world, including Nestle, Brinker International, The Coca Cola Company, Sprint, and Acumen.
Founder & CEO of FutureThink, Best-Selling Author of “Why Simple Wins,” Innovation Expert
FutureThink CEO Lisa Bodell ranks among the Top 50 Speakers Worldwide and is the best-selling author of “Kill the Company” and “Why Simple Wins.” She’s a global leader and expert on simplification, productivity, and innovation, whose keynotes leave audiences inspired to change and arms them with radically simple tools to get to the work that matters.
Bodell brings a compelling perspective to the sought-after topics of simplification and innovation to over 100,000 people each year. A thought leader and serial entrepreneur, her transformational message has inspired executives at top-ranked organizations such as Google, Cisco, Citigroup, and the U.S. Navy War College.
Have a positive impact. Book an expert.
The reality of our globalized society is truly a double-edged sword. While it can mean that civil wars in one country send ripples throughout the world, that carbon emissions can lead to devastating environmental and economic impacts across an ocean, or that a deadly virus spreads from continent to continent, it also means that the efforts we make in our own communities and careers to have a positive impact can reach just as far.
For event professionals, booking a leading expert to educate audiences and advocate on behalf of these crises is an immediate way to do your part. Not only are these experts available and eager to share their perspectives, but you can also book them in a relatively short time frame, bringing your audience a real-time view of one of these (or other) complex topics.
When you’re ready to get started, AAE is here to help. With our vast experience in virtual events and unparalleled service, we can help you to quickly book a top expert virtually.