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Blog blog!

Again, in 2012 and 2013, I collated links to blog posts and photos. So as I’ve created a rod to beat my own back, here we are again. Please let us know of any more out there, and watch this space…

At the frontier

will789gb questioned Simon Peyton Jones’ emphasis on computer science rather than technology.

verbal onslaughts was at the event with her two flatmates and a friend all the way from Prague. She picked out some highlights, pretty much most of the day!

Speaker Claire Belcher hopes that “if just one person in that audience, which included several school groups is able to say ‘wow I never knew that about wildfires’ and it sparks one persons interest and perhaps another via the internet then that’s how ideas start spreading.”

… speaker Patrick Alley summarises his talk, describing “How the logging industry tricked us into financing our own destruction”.

… and Chromatrope describe how they filmed the event and why they are on board for 2015!

Picture this

“Here comes @TEDxExeter”, a Vine behind the scenes from former speaker turned team member Andy Robertson.

Tweet tweet!

Thanks everyone for tweeting before, during and after the event. The last two years, I collated some Tweflections on the day, so I guess it’s now a tradition. Here are some from this year.

Everything was awesome!

@MichelmoresLaw : @blondedigital @TEDxExeter – Amazing Day! Inspirational speakers. Plenty to think about.

@SaksExeter : @ClaireKennedy24 @TEDxExeter @Saragibbs2000 @JeanieHoney it was such an amazing day and you did the most incredible job THANK YOU all xxx

@ExeterCCM : .@TEDxExeter Thank you so much for an inspiring, moving and thought-provoking day… Brilliant… You done good… #TEDxExeter #Exeter

@dacors : @TEDxExeter a perfect programme of philanthropy, politics, parenting, poles, prosthetics, postman pat & p-p-p-poetry. pic.twitter.com/2TkbqH4UU0

@honeyscribe : Thanks @TEDxExeter for inspiring day yesterday. A heart-warming reflection of desire & actions that make positive changes to people’s lives.

@diane_boston : great day yesterday @TEDxExeter … so much food for thought but also inspiration to act …. thanks to the whole team

‏@nickex5 : Well @tedxexeter was great. Interesting & inspiring with plenty to go away and think about.

@robjglover : Fabulous #TEDxExeter yesterday – yet another quality production from the @TEDxExeter team

@Sarah_L_Vickery : @TEDxExeter A day of inspiration to act locally and globally. Came away with an idea to follow from every talk. Thank you.

@rachelwh1te : I thoroughly enjoyed last Friday. It was insightful and inspiring. Brilliant organisation on the day too. Thank you @TEDxExeter

Difficult to pick out highlights

@saratraynor : A highlight of #TEDxExeter was @harrybakerpoet performing 59 – a love story involving prime numbers http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ-WUU_Q_Ig … @TEDxExeter

@CEWilmot : Brilliant words @TEDxExeter Friday @globalwitness Patrick Alley co-founder 2014 TED Prize winners. Spread their Wish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1O97HZev7A&feature=youtu.be …

@Emmajadebird : Congratulations @cryurchin! MT “@TEDxExeter: Images of @cryurchin speaking at #TEDxExeter http://ow.ly/i/53nX1 http://ow.ly/i/53nXe ”

@thehallexeter : @harrybakerpoet you killed it @TEDxExeter Are there any poetry slams in the SW?

@AmbiosLtd : Inspirational #TEDxExeter Ann Daniels, N & S pole talk @TEDxExeter. Physical adventure And global climate change data pic.twitter.com/MZlbP6xTSM

‏@phillmaddick : @harrybakerpoet – Amazing performance today at @TEDxExeter – Standing ovation from me

‏@phillmaddick : Amazing talk for fair trade technology from @CongoCalling @TEDxExeter @BandiMbubi @ExeterNorthcott #TEDxExeter pic.twitter.com/xIGG0FPCAC

@SaHobson : Lighthearted highlight of @TedxExeter the #Exeter School Vocal Ensemble singing ‘Postman Pat’ #TedxExeter #Postmanpat pic.twitter.com/kqT5D1zJwh

@SaHobson : Inspirational day at @TEDxExeter. @BandiMbubi calling us to demand fair trade technology #fairtrade #TEDxExeter pic.twitter.com/zcc2uVAH9K

@Sarah_L_Vickery : @AnnDanielsGB Thank you for the great @TEDxExeter talk & giving me the inspiration to act to improve marine ecology. Plus you are awesome!!

@robjglover : Slam Poet @harrybakerpoet was awesome at #TEDxExeter well done that man!

@ChrisDavisCLX : Great talk @AnnDanielsGB loved having you with us. @ExeterNorthcott

@Sarah_L_Vickery : @invisibleflock absolutely loved your talk at @TEDxExeter yesterday thank you #whosestreersourstreets Where can I see #bringthehappy?

@AnnaLodgeALC : Mums and Dads #FF @ParentPerspec great talk from Fin at #tedxexeter today. Sage words and sound advice.

Our speakers and performers liked it too!

@ParentPerspec : @saratraynor @ClareBryden @TEDxExeter had a great time! Thanks Sara you’ll have to see how you can use me to help out next year! 🙂

@vinaynair : Back to London after stunning day at @TEDxExeter. A special thanks to team and the utterly inspirational @ClaireKennedy24 & @JeanieHoney

@harrybakerpoet : Still buzzing from @TEDxExeter – inspiring to know there’s such incredible people out there already changing the world. Videos to follow!

@Fionn_Connolly: Really enjoyed singing in the choir @TEDxExeter. My favourite moment- @harrybakerpoet ‘Paper People’ #TEDxExeter

Looks like tickets for 2015 will be like gold dust

@MariaBowles : @TEDxExeter I definitely want to be there for #TEDxExeter 2015, my flatmates and I have already decided 🙂

@suscred : @TEDxExeter Inspirational day yesterday. Congrats to the organisers and all the volunteers. Looking forward to next year!

@thehallexeter : Dont usually dish out advice but set alarm for 1/11/14 labeled ‘Buy tickets for @TEDxExeter 2015’ U missed a treat. pic.twitter.com/1dn4naiHZZ

@DramatherapySW : Thank you @thehallexeter for reminding us to also spread the word to our members. Alarms set for 1/11/14 ticket sales for @TEDxExeter 2015

@MrsBoyson : Thank you @TEDxExeter – we had a wonderful time today. They all said “can we come again next year?!”

Thinking about sponsoring?

@TEDxExeter : BIG thank you to our sponsors @WebsitesAhoy @Sonic_Group @SouthernhayHome @ExeterMBA @EgremontGroup @StormpressExe #TEDxExeter

@TEDxExeter : BIG thanks to our sponsors @WilkinsonGrant @Chromatweet @SunGiftSolar @AnTech_Ltd @SouthWestWater @SaksExeter @Jimmillar1975

@SaksExeter : Absolutely loved today @TEDxExeter another incredible independent #TED event this time we were able to help sponsor pic.twitter.com/Bft0gdV2yu

@ExeterCCM : Last Friday I attended amazing @TEDxExeter.. Check-out great future #TEDxExeter sponsorship opportunities.. http://tedxexeter.com/sponsors/ #Exeter

@dacors : @TEDxExeter Danke! Choose D for Dacors and we will deign to donate some dashing designs for your delegates’ details in 2015. Deal?

Good Morning Devon! TEDxExeter on BBC Radio

BBC Radio Devon spoke to Ann Daniels and Patrick Alley before their talks at TEDxExeter, and the interviews were broadcast during the Good Morning Devon programmes over the weekend.

On Saturday’s programme you can hear Ann Daniels talking about ocean acidification for 4 mins at 01:27:02.

On Sunday’s programme you can hear Patrick Alley talking about the Global Witness logging campaign for 4 mins at 50:19. He can also be heard in the news bulletins at 7am (at 2:33) and 8am (at 1:03:04).

Both programmes will be available on the BBC iPlayer for seven days after their live transmission.

Patrick Alley talk

Patrick Alley featureAnd so to our last talk, from Patrick Alley of Global Witness, recipients of the TED Prize.

He’s here to talk about a perfect crime, involving a whole host of shady characters. Some are obviously shady. Others wear suits and look like you and me. They destroy habitats, and people’s lives and lifestyles. They are involved in industrial logging in the Tropics.

Logging can be divided into criminal and legitimate, much the same except that the latter has better PR.

Patrick visited Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge return, earning millions of dollars from the trade in illegal logging. Later he was in Liberia, where Charles Taylor used income from logging to prop up his regime. Taylor doled out the rainforests to a coterie of business men. As the logs and money flowed out, the arms flowed in. When Taylor’s timber trade was subject to UN sanctions, the business men escaped intact, or carried on in the Congo.

What makes the crime so perfect is that the shady characters are propped up by less shady characters.

The big myth is that industrial logging in the Tropics brings sustainable development. It is neither sustainable nor does it bring development. It has created the euphemism “sustainable forest management”. In the last decade, Cambodia has lost its forests faster than anywhere, and a generation of farmers has been forced off the land. This despite the World Bank’s involvement. The war ended in 2003 in Liberia, but the problems haven’t been solved, and discontent is growing again. But if sustainable forest management can’t work in a small country, where can it work?

In order to sell the myth, the logging industry requires people to buy in. In Sarawak, a few have become rich using loans from international bank HSBC. The WWF believe logging is inevitable, and want to try to regulate it. But active members of the WWF scheme are involved in illegal logging and human rights abuse. The FSC rainforest logo on loo roll is also problematic. It’s another tool used by loggers to cover their tracks.

Forests are the world’s lungs, regulating water and climate systems. They are home to about half the world’s biodiversity. We can do something, if we regard the rainforests as a fundamental part of the biosphere that gives more value than the financial return. Brazil has recognised indigenous rights, returning power from vested interests to the local communities, a step in the right direction. Similar smaller steps are being made in Liberia. Some rich countries are paying poor countries not to cut the forests down, but more money is needed.

What can and should be done? End impunity, and prosecute the criminals. Stop governments financing destruction using our taxes. Campaign against banks bankrolling the destruction. Encourage WWF to do their job. They need to condemn industrial logging straight out. Reduce our soaring consumption.

Otherwise, we will all, loggers included, become victims of the perfect crime.

Claire Belcher talk

Claire Belcher featureClaire Belcher had to choose between her love of dance and her love of volcanoes. She chose to become a scientist. I approve.

Her job is to educate others, and to measure and quantfy things that help us understand our world better.

Typically our response to fire is about danger and devastation. But fire also does positive things for our planet, including regulating the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

Wild fires have been part of Earth’s history for over 400 million years. Claire studies rock layers to understand the incidence of fires. In the south west, there are coals around Bristol from swamplands, red rocks around Exeter from deserts, and the Jurassic coast around Lyme Regis. She has plotted amount of coals and red rocks over 400 million years, and this also indicates the state of the climate.

Red rocks are red because they contain iron oxide, rust. We can say that oxygen levels were lower during the formation of red rocks. What about coals? Photosynthesis releases oxygen into the atmosphere. (We eat plants, and breathe in oxygen, creating an overall balance.) Hence during times when there was lots of vegetation and lots of coal was formed, there was more oxygen in the atmosphere.

At the moment, oxygen forms 21% of the atmosphere. When coals were being formed, oxygen was 10 percentage points higher. 300 million years ago, earth’s system should have gone out of control. What regulated that, to keep oxygen within bounds? The hypothesis is that fire was the regulating force.

The more oxygen, the more fire, and vice versa. And more fires means less vegetation. Fewer fires means more vegetation.

The flammability of forests based on changes in atmospheric oxygen has changed throughout history. But is there any proof that fires have happened at the right times to suppress oxygen? The other by-product of fire is charcoal, which can be preserved for millions of years. So measuring charcoal in rocks can be used as evidence for fires. And the theory matches pretty well.

So fires can regulate oxygen, preventing it on geological timescales from getting too high or too low. What about the modern challenges? We have had a lot of wild fires across the globe, increasing in frequency and destructive power. So maybe ecosystems need to be managed in a way that recognises the relationship with fire. 

Ann Daniels talk

Ann Daniels featureAnn grew up in Bradford, went to a comprehensive, left school at 16, got a job, got married, had no aspirations… especially to having an idea that is worth spreading.

Having triplets changed all that. She realised that she could do anything! She saw an advert for ordinary women to go on a polar expedition. She had all the qualifications – she was an ordinary woman. She went on a weekend for applicants on Dartmoor, and was annihilated. But she then spent 9 months training, friends taught her how to read a map, and she went back to Dartmoor and got on the team, her biggest accomplishment!

She was on the first leg of a relay across the Arctic ocean. She spent 17 days walking in what she describes as a ‘crystal beast’, with blues and pinks, and booms of moving ice.

Coming back she and four other women hatched a plot to be the first British women team to reach the South Pole. They spent 61 days walking into the Antarctic winds, in incredibly low temperatures, but they made it.

She also realised that scientists actually work there, but before getting involved in science, she had another expedition to walk all the way to the North Pole. Temperatures were unprecedented: -70 degC with windchill, hauling 300lb sledges. And she realised why only 53 teams had managed to undertake the journey. Traversing the ice is harder than the Antarctic land. On day 37, they had gone only 69 of 500 miles. They suffered physical injuries, frostbite and gangrenous feet – unpleasant photo! One of the team had to leave on the next supply plane. They had to swim, in specially-designed orange suits. But again they made it, and set a world record for women reaching both poles.

Ann got to know Pen Hadow, who is an explorer and scientist. He chose her to lead a team on the Arctic ice while he and another collected ice samples and took photos. What’s the point if we don’t do anything with information we collect? The photos are a way of sharing with the world. Every night they drilled and measured with a tape measure. They appeared on the News at Ten.

On the next expedition, she learnt about ocean acidification, collecting samples of water. Since the Industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide we have emitted has been absorbed by the ocean. The oceans have been a buffer, but at a cost. The water is becoming a weak carbonic acid, which is affecting coral reefs, becoming bleached and eroded. Other marine life is suffering, and humans will too, as reef protects us from winds and tsunamis. Phytoplankton can’t produce as much – the bottom of our food chain is being eroded.

We can make small changes that make a difference – buy locally, buy green energy, use the car less, make your home energy efficient, encourage each other to go through glass ceilings and realise our dreams.

Addendum

Here’s another bit of topical Twitter tennis with the Met Office, your friendly Exeter-based national meteorological service.

@TEDxExeter : Hi @metoffice we have @AnnDanielsGB polar explorer speaking at #TEDxExeter today, what is the current weather in the polar regions?

@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Greenland is forecasted light snow and temps between -1 and +1 C over next 5 days http://bit.ly/1maeG9x ^EC

@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Antarctica has light and heavy snow in the forecasts, temps between -5 and 0 C http://bit.ly/1jdrvjF ^ec

Positively balmy!

Ben Eaton talk

Ben Eaton featureFrom individual well-being to collective well-being, and the Bring the Happy project. Ben is an artist and interaction designer.

He asks us to take a moment to think about a happy moment: what is was, where it happened, and how happy you were on a scale of 1-10. For several weeks, Bring the Happy ran a pop-up shop in Exeter. People came in with their own moments of happiness, which were plotted on big maps using perspex rods of varying height.

There’s a bit of a lie emerging from the project: that happiness is more complicated that it seems. It’s a hook for conversations about the place where people live, which unpeel layers of meaning. The project started four years ago, when the recession was dragging town centres down and Britain was broken. Bring the Happy wanted to turn the vacant shops into community spaces. The stories all told us something unique about the way that we live. 

There are a lot of TED talks about happiness. Ben’s thinks that these try to tie people down into a model of happiness, which will lead society to be more productive and richer, and hence more happiness. To him, that sells happiness short.

The Bring the Happy project started in Leeds. As in many cities, slums were cleared in the 1930s and people moved into new flats or vertical villages, which became slums themselves, were destroyed, and communities were blasted across the city. But many of the happy memories were centred on those flats. So today, where are we building a space for emotion and memory in the towns and buildings we build? How do we accommodate and celebrate those? Too seldom do we have the freedom to graffiti our stories on our cities. They are our streets.

So take your happy memory and share it with the person next to you (after Ben has gone off stage!). And take that memory and use it as a lens for living your life in your place.

Fin Williams talk

Fin Williams featureNow we move from physical health to mental health. Fin focuses on the earliest connection we make: with our parents.

40% of us live stories that become prophecies and influence how we see the world. This is a problem, because they also influence the stories we tell our children. Hospitalisation for self-harm increased 68% in the last decade. Children have low well-being in the UK compared to other wealthy countries. We have become obsessed with progress, but has technology caused a loss of connection? If we are losing connection with our parents, then also losing connections with others.

We rely on what we receive. It’s hard to hear others if we haven’t been heard. We lose trust, and hence our curiosity and toleration for uncertainty. If we have limited ways of experiencing the world, we have limited ways to empathise.

Telling stories, or storying our lives, enables us to reflect and create new connections in our brains. A better understanding of our own experiences gives us empathy and compassion, and we can start to build communities.

Fin’s own story was negative up to aged 18, very rebellious and often grounded in her room. Her father worked long hours and was never seen; her mother ran the house and was disengaged. They coped by having strict control over their lives, and over their children’s. She suffered with anorexia and depression during her A’Levels. She went to university but became pregnant very early.

But she decided not to give up on her baby or her studies. Rebellion became determination and teamwork with her son. Her story changed. She started to remember good things about her childhood: her father building things, holidays and the fun fair. Her now-retired parents became supportive rocks in caring for her son. Rewriting the story changed challenge-in-opportunity into opportunity-in-challenge.

So write your own story. Look at the chapters, and what you learnt from them. Recognise the strength you’ve developed to survive. Ask where your funfair was. Tell someone your story, a friend who will listen without judging. A good story will help you become more resilient and trusting that that friend will be there for you.

Fin’s own story has just taken her out of the NHS, with the dream of turning her years of research into a new initiative to change children’s futures.