Tony Juniper talk

Tony JuniperThere is a dangerous misconception that we have a choice between ecology and economic development. It comes from the White House, from No.10, from business – that nature and regulations to protect nature are a drag on business. But 100% of our services comes originally from nature – soil, biodiversity, water, resources.

“What has nature ever done for us?” Soil: food, carbon sinks and processing of pollution. Oceans: free food and jobs, powered by algae, carbon sinks, plankton helping to generate rain clouds. Overfishing and acidification are affecting the ecosystems. Upland peak bogs filter water for 10 million people in Bogota. The Catskills filter water for New York, saving £billions off water bills. Cloud forest ecosystems harvest moisture from clouds into the sub-soil sponge and into rivers that still supply Dar Es Salaam during the dry season. Ecosystems protect us from flooding. Remove forests and peat bogs, and flooding events become exponentially more serious, costing us £billions. Compare Hurricanes Katrina (killed 1,600) and Rita (killed 7 people a few weeks later about 400km down the coast). Katrina went ashore in an area where the natural coastal protection systems were degraded and destroyed.

One example… Vultures are becoming extinct in India due to chemicals injected into cows. 40 million vultures used to eat millions of tons of putrefying meat in the coutryside. But they have died and have been replaced by feral dogs, which are by no means fluffy pets. Higher incidence of rabies among this dog population leads to 50,000 extra deaths and a loss of $34 billion each year. [Hoping I’m reporting the right numbers – don’t quote me!]

Another example… Great tits eat caterpillars in Dutch apple orchards. 50% of the apple crop was found to be down to the activities of these birds. A lot cheaper and less damaging than chemicals.

We are developing all sorts of technologies based on what we have learnt from birds, animals and soils. Pollination is worth £billions. But it also highlights how nature is so interconnected. We should not just think in terms of protecting nature, although it has intrinsic value and does need protecting for its own sake. But we need to embed nature and its connections in all economic activities and systems, and in education and learning.

Satish Kumar talk

Satish Kumar featureBig grin and wave from Satish, and a big cheer from the audience.

Threesomes throughout the ages – Father, Son, Holy Spirit; mind, body, spirit; liberté, egalité, fraternité; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Satish comes with soil, soul and society. We come from and will return to the soil. We think we can control nature, but we are not nature’s rulers. We need to learn to revere nature because we are part of it – what James Lovelock calls Gaia. Sowing an apple seed in the soil is a ordertramadol much better investment than banking. Plant a tiny seed, and a tree generously bent with fruit will grow. And you don’t need a credit card to pick the apples!

Richard Dawkins says there is no such thing as soul or spirit, but everything has soul, and if we don’t care for the soul, we can’t care for the earth. “An artist is not a special kind of person, rather every person is a special kind of artist.” (Meister Eckhart) We have potential to be another Van Gogh, Shakespeare, or Gandhi. We need to look beyond the 9-5 office existence and take care of our souls.

We have been too focused on our own narrow identities and not enough on society. If Satish had walked on his peace pilgrimage as an Indian, he would have met a Pakistani. If he had walked as a socialist, he would have met a capitalist. But he walked without labels as a human being, and met other human beings. We need diversity, otherwise we will have no unity. But we need to avoid divisions – celebrate our diversity. Tourists always complain – laughter! Pilgrims celebrate. No more living as me me me me, my house, my job, my ego. Let’s be our true selves, and live on the earth as pilgrims. Earth is and you are, therefore I am. We are members of one earth community. That is society, and we are all members.

Soul, soil and society are three connected words in our interconnected world. Leadership is not going to come out of No.10 or the White House. We are all potential leaders, every one of us. Gandhi: “be the change you want to see in the world”. Speaking at TEDx is wonderful, but our words and our actions have to be consistent. So he gives us this new related trinity of soil, soul and society.


Jeanie Honey starts the introductions. “Welcome to the very first TEDx event in Exeter” gets a big cheer. Then Tom Dent emphasises the global phenomenon of TEDx – 700 organisers from over 90 nations in Doha, and the first TEDx talks in the Middle East. He met loads of inspirational people committed to making changes in their local communities. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. TEDx can empower you to make connections and work for a more sustainable world.

On your marks, get set…

Five minutes to go, and Holst’s Planet Suite is playing over the sound system. The theatre is practically full, which it should be, as the event was sold out 3 months in advance. There is an incredible buzz of excited conversation and almost palpable anticipation. Welcomes and introductions to kick us off, including two minutes of introduction to TEDx and Tom Dent, one of the team members, talking about his trip this week to the global get-together of TEDx organisers in Doha. Then Satish Kumar is our first speaker in the first session on The Big Picture…

Speaker rehearsals

2.45 It’s the afternoon before the big day, and I’m wandering around Exeter University’s main campus between the Great Hall and the Northcott Theatre. The Northcott is the venue for the talks. The Great Hall is the break-out space for refreshments and networking, the sponsors’ stands, a book shop (hurrah!) and the TEDxExeter Creating Connections stand.

3.00 I’m sitting in on the speaker rehearsals in the Northcott, wondering how best to blog tomorrow. My laptop is from the steam age and only has wifi, but there’s no wifi in the Theatre, so I won’t be able to post during the sessions. I could post using 3G smartphone, but my typing will be illiterate. And I don’t want to steal the thunder of the tweeters, so I’ll aim to complement their soundbites with my beautifully crafted text 😉 Thankfully at least there are power points, so I don’t have to worry about batteries.

3.10 I’ve got to know well the first minute of Polly Higgin’s talk, as the audio-visual people are trying to sort out her microphone. She’s just been told to stop breathing so much.

3.15 There is a roving photographer, recording all the speakers as they get used to the space and practise their talk. Polly is continuing, but I’m trying not to listen to the content, as I want to listen in context tomorrow.

3.30 Everyone has disappeared, and Polly finishes with only me as an audience. Where’s the action gone? Ah, here comes Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

3.35 The stage dressing is very simple but effective, with the logo under the screen. One of Kagemusha Taiko’s great drums stands off to the left waiting for their mallets to bring it to life. The speakers have a podium and two screens at their feet showing their slides and a countdown clock, and there is a classic TEDx red circle. I wonder how many will stay within the circle, and how many will break out. A man has just come in with bits of podium. I think they’re rebuilding it as we go.

3.40 Hugh and Tobit are discussing Hugh’s slideshow – action shots of a successful mackerel fishing trip.

3.45 Now here’s Peter Cox, but he’s going to have to wait a wee while before he gets on.

4.00 Scilla Elworthy has arrived, but Peter hasn’t even got on yet. We’re running behind now.

4.05 Satish Kumar too. The backlog is building. Great photo opportunity of Satish, Scilla, Jeanie and Claire sitting in a row in the auditorium.

4.10 Peter Cox – blink and you miss him. But climate change scientists are so used to speaking with slides.

4.20 Mike Dickson has just asked whether anyone in the audience ever wanted to be Superman and rescue damsels in distress. Me, I’d prefer to be Superwoman and maybe rescue knights in distress – or maybe not depending how I feel on the day. Satish follows that up with a critique of the French revolution slogan. “Liberté egalité fraternité… but what about the sisterhood, the motherhood?” He says he’ll talk until the clock runs down, and then stop. Love him. And now Mike’s back with a slide of Brendan Routh as Superman, together with the soundtrack. Great juxtapositions.

4.35 A bit of a hiatus. Rob Hopkins managed to sneak in without me noticing, and Chris Anderson has arrived too. Scilla is next up, and has just complimented Jeanie on everything she and Claire have created here, and the positive atmosphere that is already in the theatre. Seconded! Round of applause for the introduction to her talk. Chris next.

4.45 As curator of TED, Chris knows everything about what makes a good TED talk, and he’s got some very slick slides. At the moment some of the screen is out of focus, but the audio-visual team assures him that it will be sorted out at the end of the session.

5.00 Rob’s done now, so only Tony Juniper to go, and he’s not arrived quite yet. Time for me to head off and test out the Wifi in the Great Hall. Hasta la vista.

Sustainable Exeter

We’ve had a post on Interconnected Exeter, so it’s time for one on Sustainable Exeter. I’m cheating slightly, because it draws on the series of posts on how to simplify your lifestyle, and reach out to your neighbours and local community. So I thought I’d couch it in terms of ten challenges, which if you accomplish them, would help make Exeter a more sustainable city. And becausethey could involve some substantial lifestyle changes, they definitely are challenges because. Here goes making a difference…

Challenge 1
Insulation insulation insulation
Call the Energy Saving Trust to find out what grants are available, and help your neighbours apply

Challenge 2
Get hold of an electricity monitor and find out how much your appliances guzzle
Exeter City Council has some you can borrow

Challenge 3
Switch to a green energy supplier
Switch to Good Energy, quoting GE243, and they will donate to Transition Exeter

Challenge 4
Generate electricity as a community
Just Power for Communities, based in Exeter, specialises in solar panels on community buildings

Challenge 5
Sell your car, walk, cycle, use public transport, and join a car club
Exe Co-Cars has cars in Exeter, Topsham and Taunton

Challenge 6
Shop at local stores, and keep 80% of what you spend within the local economy
…instead of sending 80% out of the local economy, when you shop at supermarkets

Challenge 7
Buy local and seasonal food
Check out the Real Food store and café in Exeter, and look out for the Love Local Food van

Challenge 8
Grow your own food in your back garden
Get involved with Exeter Community Agriculture, Broadclyst Community Farm, or the Harvest project

Challenge 9
Share your stuff, and get to know your neighbours
Check out Freecycle, Ecomodo and Streetbank

Challenge 10
Switch to an ethical bank
There’s a branch of the Co-operative Bank in Exeter

The Last Planning Meeting

Speaker rehearsals – check

Advance presentations – need a prod

Stage dressing – check

Audio-visual techie stuff – check

…not forgetting the Count Down Clock – check

Travel and parking – check

Press – check

Sponsor stands – check

Printing – check

Team lanyards – check   yay! go team!

Registration – check

Creating Connections stand – check

Security – check

Filming and photography – check

Blogging and tweeting (bleeting?) – check

End of the day party – check!!

Wash-up meeting – check

Everything else – check check check

Less than two weeks, and counting

It’s getting so close now, and to whet your appetite, we’ve (drum roll……..) published the Programme.

The day is going to be fantastic. Jeanie and Claire have done a wonderful job in putting the Programme together, having to juggle all sorts of constraints and difficult decisions.

Starting with a draft list of speakers, their proposed titles, and performers, and an idea of the timings of start, finish and breaks, the main challenge is to give the day a coherent flow. Should the four sessions be themed? Or might there be an interesting way of juxtaposing subjects? Jeanie and Claire decided on the former. So then, what should these themes be? How can the talks and performances be combined to connect with each other, and keep the audience on the edge of their seats?

The timing is going to have to be ruthless. Talks are limited to 12,15,18 minutes, and some of the performances timed to the half-minute. What to do about the difficult ‘graveyard’ slot after lunch? How best to ensure everyone stays to the end? How can the TED Talks be squeezed in? And which TED Talks? There are so many possibilities, but they have to be the right length, and combine well with the live talks.

It’s really hard, when contacted late in the day by someone who would make a brilliant speaker on a fascinating subject, to say that the programme is so jam-packed that it would be impossible to shoe-horn them in. Especially when you’ve already realised that there isn’t room for a TED Talk on the oceans, which is such a vital area of concern.

We’re just going to have to run another TEDxExeter next year!

Go on

If you’re reading this, the thirteenth in our series on making connections and working together, you know how to surf the world-wide web. But… “There are 8.2 million people in the UK who have never used the internet. It probably doesn’t surprise you that 6 million of these people are over the age of 65, and about buy accutane online south africa 4 million come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Digital champions give their time to help some-one else get online and discover the web. It might just be an hour, and in that time you could help someone find work and improve skills, find information, or keep in touch. They provide a short course in the basics, including in how to motivate someone, and where they can get further advice and support.

Go on… help someone else get connected.