Sustainability and Environmental Education: Speaker Series Continues on April 15 and 22

The Mount Madonna School (MMS) public speaker series based on the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continues in April with two events, “Sustainable Development: The Climate-Energy-Equity Nexus” with Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh, Ph.D., on April 15, and “FishWise: Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems and the People Who Depend on Them” featuring Tobias Aguirre on April 22. Both events begin at 7:00pm

“Well-being varies strongly with energy consumption, resulting in an enormous gap between low- and high-consuming populations,” commented Diffenbaugh, a 1992 MMS graduate. “This energy poverty creates tremendous exposure to climate-related stresses such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and intense storms. The fact that pathways for closing the energy gap are likely to result in substantial climate changes, via the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), also creates critical tensions between development priorities and climate policies.

“With the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Paris Agreement, and national and non-state commitments to reach net-zero emissions within the next three to four decades,” he continued, “there is now ambition and urgency to transition to a low-carbon energy system while simultaneously increasing energy supply and access, and adapting to continued climate change.”

Diffenbaugh’s lecture corresponds to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action. The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The SDGs were set in 2015 by the UN General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

Then on April 22, FishWise CEO Tobias Aguirre, a 1994 MMS graduate, will discuss how a local nonprofit can have global impact.

“The oceans serve as the foundation for all life on the planet,” commented Aguirre. “They provide the air we breathe, the food many of us eat, and livelihoods and enjoyment for millions and millions of people. And yet, their sheer vastness, once seen as inexhaustible, makes them difficult to sustainably and equitably manage. Even worse, they are prone to illegal fishing, forced labor, and even modern slavery. Seafood, the world’s most traded commodity, is both the problem and the solution. In this seminar, we will explore the roots of these challenges, innovative partnerships and solutions that hold great promise, and ways in which the achievement of SDG 14, Life Under Water, might just hold the key to progress on all of the SDGs.”

All of the events in the Mount Madonna School’s Sustainable Development Goals speaker series are offered via Zoom. Tickets are available by donation, and can be ordered via the seminar series website, sdgspeakerseries.org.

“The world is experiencing a climate emergency,” commented Mount Madonna Head of School Ann Goewert, Ph.D. “The global climate emergency has wide-ranging impacts such as food and water insecurity, mass migration due to displacement and resource competition, and more frequent and intense climate-related natural disasters. All sectors of society should partner to reduce emissions and establish sustainable practices. At Mount Madonna School, we practice and educate our students about sustainability.”

Some of the lectures will be moderated by MMS students. Students and the audience will participate in meaningful conversations with guests – most of whom are Mount Madonna alumni – as well as friends who are working on critical societal issues.


Noah Diffenbaugh is the Kara J Foundation Professor and Kimmelman Family Senior Fellow at Stanford University. He studies the climate system, including the processes by which climate change could impact agriculture, water resources, and human health. Dr. Diffenbaugh has served the scholarly community in a number of roles, including as a current editor of the peer-review journal Earth’s Future, and as editor-in-chief of the peer-review journal Geophysical Research Letters from 2014-2018.

He has also served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and has provided testimony and scientific expertise to federal, state and local officials. Dr. Diffenbaugh is an elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and is a recipient of the James R. Holton Award and William Kaula Award from the AGU, and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. He has been recognized as a Kavli Fellow by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and as a Google Science Communication Fellow.


Tobias Aguirre, CEO at FishWise, sets the conservation vision and organizational strategy for this nonprofit sustainable seafood consultancy based in Santa Cruz. FishWise takes a holistic approach to sustainability and aims to transform how the global seafood industry does business in order to protect ocean health and workers’ rights, and to build a collaborative approach to conservation that results in effective business and improved social and environmental performance.

Aguirre serves on a number of advisory bodies and committees and is a board member of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, a global collective impact initiative designed to achieve several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He holds degrees from Stanford University and The School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where he specialized in nonprofit management and business strategy. His awards include the UCSD GPS 2018 Outstanding Alumnus award and the Conservation Alliance Spirit award, and was named a Seafood Watch Hero by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“One of the core tenets of Mount Madonna School is environmental stewardship,” noted Director of Upper School Shannon Kelly. “The physical location not only serves as a constant reminder of the beauty and power of nature, it also provides us a 375-acre classroom. I think that our students’ connection with the land is foundational to their commitment to sustainability and environmental justice. I am excited that MMS students have the opportunity to speak with individuals whose work has had a substantial impact in the realm of sustainability and environmental education.”


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Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications, mmsmarketing@mountmadonnaschool.org

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.