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Smithsonian Launches New Website Smithsonian Opinion

Smithsonian Secretary Hosts Roundtable Series Exploring Some of the Big Issues Facing the World

June 12, 2017

The Smithsonian Institution today launched Second Opinion (, a new digital platform that brings together thought leaders to explore critical issues facing the nation and the world. Second Opinion will explore a new topic four times a year through a variety of features. The topics are relevant to the Smithsonian’s areas of expertise, and because of the breadth and depth of the Institution’s resources, are examined from a variety of different angles and points of view.

The inaugural topic, “Forging the Future,” grew out of the recent Earth Optimism Summit that the Smithsonian hosted over Earth Day weekend this year. Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton hosts a roundtable discussion with a panel of experts from the Smithsonian and other organizations to discuss whether or not there is reason to be optimistic about the future of the planet and humanity’s place in it. Skorton and the panelists discuss human impact on the Earth and whether or not our species can adapt to the changes that are coming to the planet.

“The Smithsonian can and should take a more prominent role in convening discussions important to people, even when these reveal differences,” said Skorton. “Exchanging ideas in open conversations will enrich the exhibitions, research, programs and educational offerings the Institution produces.”

The panelists for the first roundtable are Denise Fairchild, president of Emerald Cities Collaborative; Anson “Tuck” Hines, director of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; Steve Monfort, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Jedediah Purdy, professor of law at Duke University and author of After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene; Catrina Rorke, senior fellow for energy policy at R Street Institute; and Mary Evelyn Tucker, cofounder and codirector of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University.

In addition to the roundtable discussion, other content on the site includes articles, a reading list, a short video featuring Smithsonian museum visitors answering the question “Are you optimistic about the Earth’s future?” and educational resources. Also featured is a conversation between Skorton and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City Mayor and co-author of Climate of Hope, about Earth Optimism. The “Vox Populi” section offers suggested questions and tips for people who want to host their own roundtable discussion on the topic or share their thoughts with the Smithsonian.

The next roundtable, which will debut later this summer, will explore the question “What does it mean to be an American?”

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Becky Haberacker
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Screenshot of new website