After opening with an appetizer devoted to health issues, the Aspen Ideas Festival will dive into the meat and potatoes offered in two separate main courses June 27 through July 3.
The eye-catching event, as with the prior nine Ideas Fests, is “Afternoon of Conversation” from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Monday. Hillary Rodham Clinton heads a star-studded lineup of speakers that includes Al Gore, David Petraeus, Tony Blair, PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi and Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust. Clinton, considered a possible presidential candidate in 2016, will be interviewed by Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson. Other journalists conducting interviews during the afternoon are Bob Schieffer, of CBS; Michele Norris, of National Public Radio; Andrea Mitchell, of NBC; and David Gergen, of CNN.
While “Afternoon of Conversation” is the headline-grabber, an attendee could throw a dart at the agenda and find something compelling over the next seven days. There were about 375 presenters featured over the entire festival, which opened with “Spotlight: Health,” which looked exclusively at global health and medicine issues.
The next two sessions of the festival will use presentations, slide shows, movies, panel discussions and in-depth interviews to explore topics such as “Confronting Climate Change,” “The Promise of Biotech,” “Arts” and “Global Dynamics.” The first session runs today through Monday. The second runs Monday through Thursday.
One session called “Fracking: Is There a Way to Fix the Fight?” will get at the heart of an issue fueling a fight in Colorado. Hydraulic fracturing of rock underground has transformed energy production in the U.S. but also spurred protests over the effects on water and air quality.
Colorado is the leading state for regulating methane and setting air-pollution standards, but many residents don’t feel the new rules go far enough. They are pushing to put issues on the November ballot that give more local control on the oil-and-gas industry.
Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp will discuss what they see next in the fracking fight during their discussion Monday.
The topics will delve into controversial subjects. A session Tuesday called “Facebook, Google and the Future of Free Speech” will explore civil liberties in the digital age. For example, who decides what comments constitute hate speech on Facebook?
“In this digital age, many of the most pressing questions about free speech arise in cyberspace,” the description for the session says. “And increasingly, the answers to those speech questions are defined in board rooms, rather than court rooms.”
Not only do some sessions dive into the controversial, but some also generate controversy. Monsanto President and Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann will be interviewed Tuesday in a session called “Agricultural Innovation as an Economic Game Changer.” He will discuss how biotechnology in agriculture contributes to market stability and aids in feeding an exploding world population.
But Monsanto also is reviled by activists who are suspicious of the health effects of genetically engineered foods. There are also concerns that Monsanto controls too large a portion of the seed market. It is uncertain if the interview will touch those topics.
Monsanto is one of the corporate sponsors of the Aspen Ideas Festival. Several sponsors have top executives participating as presenters at the festival.
While passes for the festival are sold out, there are several alternative ways for the public to absorb information. Tickets are still for sale for seven public events during Session 1. The list of events can be found at www. aspenideas.org/content/2014-public-events- schedule. Tickets can be purchased at www.aspenshowtix.com, the Wheeler Opera House or 970-920-5770.
Multiple sessions will be broadcast live each day. A full schedule will be updated regularly at www.aspenideas.org/content/watch-live.