When you’ve lived in countless cities, dozens of countries, and even aboard the International Space Station, “home” can be a tricky place to pin down.
To Colonel Chris Hadfield, though, home is a feeling.
“Home is where I can exhale,” Hadfield says from a cottage on an island near Sarnia, Ontario. “There’s a comfort and a sense of peace. I’m exhaling more than I’m inhaling.”
“I’ve lived in Russia, the United States, Venezuela, in six or seven provinces. But I find where I grew up — where I’m sitting right now — that’s where I exhale the most.”
Hadfield finishes the thought with an exaggerated exhale and a one-sided grin.
This mid-summer moment of peace comes between book signings, concerts, and speaking arrangements, and, for the first time since 2019, the in-person return of Elevate Festival.
Running from September 20 to 22 in Toronto — another place Hadfield has called home — the annual festival will connect innovative thinkers, industry leaders, and creative minds who sit at the intersection of arts and technology.
“People are ready for the exchange of ideas and the interaction with other people, and how that just percolates into new directions in life,” Hadfield tells Daily Hive.
“That’s so much of what Elevate is — it’s a chance to bring a bunch of bright people together and give them an opportunity to learn about stuff and run into people they wouldn’t have run into otherwise — sort of like a crucible of tech and artistic ideas.”
Hadfield, a co-chair and founding board member of Elevate, will be joined at this year’s festival with the likes of Venus Williams, Andre De Grasse, and Michele Romanow.
There will be authors and entrepreneurs, investors and artists, and CEOs and influencers. They’ll talk about NFTs and the Metaverse, climate change and sustainability, how you can find an investor for your startup, and how the world can feed eight billion people.
Above all, Elevate will serve as a meeting place wherein discussion will swirl around the solutions to society’s greatest challenges.
“A fresh take on an old idea is not only really interesting and invigorating, but it’s really what we need right now as well,” Hadfield says, pointing out that it was recently 40°C in the UK and that, while some parts of the world get that hot, “There’s this thing called latitude.”
“Can someone look at an old problem and realize there has been an advance in technology, or culture, or both, that allows us to address this thing in a new way? That’s what we need.”
Daunting? Yes. Impossible? No.
“We’re not going to solve the world’s problems by hoping or by meeting,” Hadfield says. “But they’re not unsolvable. We created them, we can do the opposite. It’s going to take our brightest and most creative technological minds to come up with something different.”
“You have to inspire people to be creative. You have to allow people not just to despair or to criticize. The hard thing is to fight the fight in order to create change. And that’s at the very heart of what Elevate sets out to do.”
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Further to helping affect change is Hadfield’s work with the Open Lunar Foundation, an organization that, through policy and partnerships, aims to create a peaceful, cooperative future for all life on the Moon.
Advances in technology (or culture, or both) have already made access to space cheaper and safer, and they’re about to make getting to the Moon “much simpler,” too.
“Imagine if we just discovered a continent bigger than Africa, and it had no life on it at all. Imagine what the mining companies would be thinking, and the science people, and everybody, really. That’s what the Moon is. But it’s just been too hard to get to,” he says.
“The Open Lunar Foundation is looking at how we ought to do this cooperatively as a planet. So to me, [people living on the Moon] is not just a technological thing, but a sociological thing — how is it that we will settle other planets? Whose laws do we adopt? How do we cooperate? What are the common standards? How do we do this?”
And if other life has already settled on those other planets? Hadfield believes we’re “on the verge” of such a discovery, as Curiosity drills into the depths of Mars’ red soil and the Europa Clipper mission edges closer to launch.
For now, though, life remains on this Pale Blue Dot, and Hadfield’s on a peaceful little island near Sarnia. At least until September 20.