Oysters, lawns, and man’s relationship to water on the table

Water Views Festival’s Keynote Speakers

The five keynote speakers at the Water Views Festival, hosted by The Independent, which will take on the crisis of water quality on the East End and around the world, have been announced. The event will be held at 10 AM on November 11.

Here is a brief look at the keynote speakers and their backgrounds.

Michael Ogden is the founding director of Natural Systems International, based in Santa Fe. The company provides expertise on biotechnology and engineering in all things water, in the United States, and around the world. That includes the treatment and reuse of wastewater, storm water management, the restoration of large bodies of water, and protecting and increasing the supply of drinkable water around the world. One of the innovations NSI is advancing is the creation of artificial or “constructed” wetlands to treat wastewater, using the same tools as are found in nature.

Edwina von Gal is an East Hampton-based, semi-retired landscape designer and founder and president of the Perfect Earth Project. To von Gal and the Perfect Earth Project, a beautiful lawn is a bio-sustainable, toxin-free lawn. Architectural Digest described the nonprofit organization in 2016 as one that “seeks to free the world from chemicals, one lawn at a time.” Her landscape design company has worked with notable artists and fellow designers across the East End. She told The New York Times in 2007, “Nature conservation is an artistic, scientific, and intellectual process — and one that involves getting dirty, literally.”

Murray Fisher is founder and chairman of the Billion Oyster Project. It is his goal to restore New York Harbor to the pristine, complex body of water Henry Hudson first came upon in 1609. In colonial times, the harbor was famous for its oysters and oyster reefs. The city was once known as the oyster capital of the world, Fisher says.

Those oysters colonies found in New York Harbor cleansed the water as they removed algae, phytoplankton, and nitrogen from it. BOP has partnered with businesses, such as Whole Foods, and restaurants in the city, who donate empty shells to BOP to help form the reefs needed to seed oysters. BOP also partners with New York City public schools, whose students regularly monitor the growth of the oysters being seeded in the harbor. “An adult oyster filters, conservatively, in the summer time when they are feeding, a gallon of water an hour,” Fisher told the “PBS News Hour” last year. If BOP succeeds, Fisher said, the waters in New York Harbor will be completely filtered every three days.

Beth Rattner is the executive director of the nonprofit Biomimicry Institute. She has explained biomimicry in interviews as “the process of mimicking life. How do we look to nature for design inspiration for the problems we humans have?” One example she gives is the invention of Velcro by Swiss engineer George de Mestral. De Mestral was walking with his dog in the woods in 1941 when he noticed burdock seeds were clinging to his dog’s ears, as well as his clothing. When he examined the seeds, he realized they were covered with tiny hooks, enabling the plant to propagate by going along for a brief ride on passing animals. “My goal is to keep all the remaining species alive and well, while creating a new jobs economy,” she has said.

Gaelin Rosenwaks is an ocean explorer and photographer. “The ocean is my soul,” she told The Independent earlier this year. She is the founder and head of Global Ocean Exploration. “Climate change and warming temperatures and increased acidity is a problem facing everything in the ocean. Nothing is not going to be touched,” she said. She founded GOE in 2008 to share her passion for ocean exploration and conservation. She also believes it important that scientists work closely with the professional fishing community. “They understand the ocean. Their livelihoods depends on it.”

To reserve a seat or for more information about the event, send an email to waterviews@indyeastend.com.

t.e@indyeastend.com