Watch the video of Anna Frost’s talk at TEDxExeter 2016.
Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.
Videos about Persistence
Live blogs about Persistence
Ann 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.
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
Now 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.
Kirsty has fallen in love with the potato, but her story starts with a dining hall… at New College Oxford. The oak ceiling is marvellous, but recently had a beetle infestation. What to do? The college forester said that the original builders of the hall centuries ago had also planted a grove of oak trees to plan for the future.
According to the Brundtland Commission, sustainable development is “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Kirsty and others tried to take young people’s perspectives to the UN Climate Conference at Poznan in Poland. But she felt powerless affect the processes amid many other competing interests. Her ‘fear dragon’ reared its head, and she came away feeling dispirited.
But 3 months on, she and the other campaigners went to the next UN conference. Instead of taking answers, she took questions, specifically, “how old will you be in 2050?” She wanted to invite the delegates to think differently and actually live the questions on what they were trying to do.
We’ve been having a bit of a climate change party, thinking we won’t have a hangover. But future generations are going to bear the brunt of that hangover. And that’s why Kirsty’s trying to bring young people into the process. Living the questions creates a space to say we don’t know what the answers are, but if we work together in that dark space, we might be able to work them out.
Fear can hold back, or it can motivate, like Kirsty’s efforts to address her fear dragon. Vulnerability TED Brené Brown said: “courage is to speak your story with the whole of your heart”. St George slayed the dragon. But St Martha tamed the dragon – that is courage.
Taming the fear dragon took lots of energy. We are going to need to live with the whole of our heart. We are going to need courage. It’s OK not to know the answer. So Kirsty hopes that we will all have courage. So when she is 66 in 2050, she can look back from her rocking chair on stories of living the question with the whole of our heart. Which will be a remarkable cure for any hangover she might have woken up with.
UK Youth Climate Coalition on Twitter
Think2050 on Twitter
Kirsty is also on Twitter