Each June at the National Geographic campus in Washington, D.C., something extraordinary happens … something uniquely “National Geographic.” Hundreds of National Geographic Explorers, bold individuals with transformative ideas supported by funding from the National Geographic Society, trek in from all corners of the world for the ultimate convening: the National Geographic Explorers Festival.
Over the course of seven days, this assemblage of innovators from a variety of fields and disciplines showcase how their discoveries and ideas are creating solutions for a healthier and more sustainable future, all in support of the Society’s vision of moving us toward a planet in balance.
But this is not just an event for the Society’s Explorers. Joining the Festival are like-minded changemakers from a cross section of business, philanthropy, academia and conservation.
The Festival is made possible thanks to the support of National Geographic’s global exploration partner, Rolex. Together, National Geographic and Rolex are committed to a Perpetual Planet — one that can sustain life for humankind and the species with which we live.
Many in attendance at the Festival are also actively partnering with the Society to address the world’s most pressing problems. A major focus of this year’s programming will highlight National Geographic’s commitment to preserving the natural world and its partnership with the Wyss Foundation on the Campaign for Nature, which aims to inspire the protection of 30 percent of the planet by 2030.
Asked why National Geographic convenes this impressive gathering each year, the Society’s President and CEO Tracy R. Wolstencroft said: “National Geographic has traditionally explored to discover and understand. Today, we explore to discover, understand and catalyze action toward a planet in balance. By bringing our Explorers together, National Geographic aspires to ignite the collective change required to tackle the pressing issues threatening our planet with actionable solutions.”
One of the hallmarks of the week is the presentation of the National Geographic Awards, which this year takes place Wednesday, June 12, at Lisner Auditorium on The George Washington University campus. This inspiring event honors trailblazers who are leading the charge to protect the world for future generations.
Among those being honored at this year’s ceremony are members of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project team, who will receive the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year award. Led by National Geographic Fellow Steve Boyes and Angolan ichthyologist and National Geographic Explorer Adjany Costa, this intrepid group trekked through uncharted regions of Angola to conduct comprehensive surveys of the critical river systems that feed the Okavango Delta in Botswana in order to inform the protection of the Okavango River Basin.
This year also marks two firsts, including the first-ever National Geographic Philanthropist of the Year award, presented to Hansjörg Wyss, founder and chairman of the Wyss Foundation, who, through the Wyss Campaign for Nature, has committed $1 billion to help communities, indigenous peoples and nations preserve 30 percent of the planet in its natural state by 2030. The Society is also inaugurating the Gilbert M. Grosvenor Educator of the Year award, which will be given to National Geographic Fellow Kavita Gupta.
Other inspirational individuals who will be recognized are:
- President of Seychelles Danny Faure and former President of Seychelles James Michel — Planetary Leadership Award;
- Computer Science Professor Fei-Fei Li — Further Award;
- Photographer Lynn Johnson and Journalist David Quammen — Eliza Scidmore Award for Outstanding Science Media; and
- Conservationists Tomas Diagne and Patrícia Medici — National Geographic Society/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation.
From June 11-13, the public will be able to capture the magic that is Explorers Festival via livestream. To learn more about the National Geographic Explorers Festival and to see a schedule of the speakers and discussions being livestreamed, please visit nationalgeographic.org/festival.