Humanity is facing a resource crisis on a monumental scale, so it was a small miracle that the speakers at this weekend’s TEDx remained upbeat. Despite a smorgasboard of talented creators, thinkers and change-makers who presented their twenty minute talks to a packed audience, two clear directives emerged from the talks:
– Connect. Engage. Interact. Spread the Word.
– Never ever, ever give up – no matter how overwhelming the odds. As individuals we have power.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that the oceans are in BIG trouble. The statistics are as mind-blowing:
– 80% of the oceans fisheries are over-exploited
– 73 million sharks are killed each year
– Less than 6% of coral reefs are protected.
Pick n Pay demonstrated their understanding of the issue by stepping up to be the Headline Sponsor to ensure this event could take place.
The speakers didn’t wade through depressing realities, instead idea generation, solutions and actions were on the menu. Here are some of the highlights from an awe-inspiring day:
Investigator JD KOTZE is a “simple policeman” on a big mission. His team is committed to bringing down powerful criminal forces who will stop at nothing to make a profit at the expense of our shorelines. Not just Chinese mafia but also the “Godfathers of the legal companies that are raping our oceans.”
Emmy Award winner, entrepreneur and explorer, CHRIS FISCHER, is a man who makes the impossible, possible. “There’s a big knowledge gap and not much time”. He and his team are “exploding the body of knowledge forward.” “There is no book on how to do this”. But Chris encourages us to dive in and to produce content that provokes thought. Collaborate. Shake things up. Inspire the next generation, and “don’t care about who gets the credit.” Chris believe that media can affect the next generation and will leverage change, “even if we gotta wait out the old timers.”
Fish ecologist Dr. CAINE DELACY is “burdened by the knowledge that what I see on my dives is not as it should be.” Where have all the fish gone? The answer is simple: Too many boats. Too few fish. Surprisingly “East Africa is doing a great job!” There are many No-Take Zones and protected marine areas off of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Anti-poaching ranger, VERNON MUNNIK, who puts his life on the line during his regular night-time patrols said, “You won’t imagine what it’s like to hide in the bushes – you’re scared for your life – it’s like the movies. It’s the business!” Murder, corruption, syndicates, druglords, violence – his team have their work cut out for them. Munnik points out that “poaching today is not only destroying our marine resources – it’s destroying or communities as well!” Many youths get involved in poaching to fund their drug and alcohol abuse.
“It’s my burning desire to see the ban of the single use plastic bag from being issued in stores country wide”, says the indefatigable HAYLEY MCLELLAN. But she reminds us that “plastic bags don’t pollute – human beings do.”
Filmmaker DAMON FOSTER knows that “a successful outcome is determined by engagement“. He proved it to the TEDx audience by showing a video of a man rubbing the nose of a shark much like one might scratch the head of a domestic cat. One could almost hear the shark purring.
Whether a thesis, a blog or simple tweet – as content creators, each one of us can affect thoughts and actions by successfully engaging with our audience.
Dr. SUPRAJA DHARINI initiated a movement that has rescued over 100,000 turtles. Watching a hatchling turtle make its way from beach to ocean, she is reminded never ever to give up. “Actions like this give us the strength and hope to carry on despite all the hurdles we face.” She believes that we need to reach out to as many people as possible to help them understand the interconnectedness of all things. “Live simply so that flora and fauna can simply … live.”
“The feeling that I’m getting from touching up that frog (the audience bursts out laughing) it took me an hour to get it right guys.” Connection is the key for KHONZANI LEMBENI the magician and teacher who had the TEDx audience spellbound. His goal is to take children into nature because when kids connect with nature they discover the magic and wonder in it. “Magic is for everybody. What’s happening in the ocean is magic”.
Marine biologist Dr. PAUL COWLEY encourages Angling competition organisers to implement a catch-and-release only policy. “Most species are collapsed or over-exploited” because the 1.2 million recreational anglers in the estuarial and nursery areas (in South Africa) are bringing fish stocks to its knees. Paul encourages anglers to seek “distinction, not extinction”.
Digital editor PAUL STEYN knows that “stories are how we identify with the world”, but readers have evolved. Today we must package small multimedia bite size bytes of information, using all the digital media tools at our disposal (sounds, music, text etc.) “There’s been a fundamental paradigm shift in the way users engage with content”. “Stop writing 300 word dissertations. Write a captivating story and let the power of social media do the rest.”
“Answer the little seal inside of you,” encourages Freediving champion HANLI PRINSLOO, “get into the water”. Hanli knows from experience that there is wholeness and fulfillment that comes from total submersion in water. “Hold that ocean in your hands and treasure it.”
ANDERS KOHLER pointed out that the current level of connection and interactivity has added an exciting dimension to data collection and sharing. “Today you just need to make an app – it’s a revolution”. The days of scientific results being “classified” are waning. “The academic world has lost contact and failed to keep a dialogue with us ordinary people. They were working for someone else”. But things are changing.
Smartphones + apps + data + social sharing = revolution
The worst and swiftest extinctions in history of the planet are happening “in front of our eyes.” Conservationist DUANE SILVERSTEIN believes that no idea is already too late. “When you have an idea – never give up on it”.
“My sushi was definitely moved”, says FIONA AYREST, a lawyer turned photographer who likes to capture the softer more comical nature of sharks in her photographs, knows firsthand the power of images to shape minds. “Once you’ve seen it you can’t un-see it. You feel it in your gut long before any sort of cognisance takes over.”
Marine biologist ELEANOR YELD HUTCHINGS suggests that communicating our passion for the oceans inspires change. “Communicate, educate, raise awareness” – it doesn’t matter how. Just do your utmost.
Big wave surfer CHRIS BERTISH has surfed the impossible waves under impossible conditions and survived impossible odds. He is the human embodiment of focus, drive and determination! “The universe wants you to succeed!” If you truly believe it, there’s no such thing as impossible. There’s always hope – no matter how small.”
CLAIRE JANISCH is a biomimicrist who can translate the genius of nature into innovative technological design. She gets her advanced hydrodynamics and physics lesson from a humpback whale and a tuna fish. “50 metre long Humpback whales can turn on a 1.5 metre axis. How? That’s like a double-decker bus doing pirouettes!” The field of biomimicry has the potential to revolutionise the impact that humanity has on the planet. Natural selection has optimized nature for efficiency and effectiveness. “The only thing we should poach from Abalone is ideas.”
Chef JUSTIN BONELLO reminds us that our quest for food is at the heart of the majority of the great evils in the world. “Feedlots are an ecological disaster.” Justin suggests that we don’t support a shop or restaurant that cannot answer these two simple questions:
– Where does it come from?
– What’s in it?
Collectively using our spending power, we (the consumers) have incredible strength.
Defender of sharks and Paralympic swimmer, ACHMAT HASSIEM, keeps a positive attitude despite all evidence to the contrary. “Think positive. It’s either the most amazingly friendly dolphin you’ve ever seen or a belly-filled seal!” says Achmat as he recounts the (hilarious) tale of the shark attack that left him legless.
The message came out loud and clear:
We’re in for the fight of our lives, but there’s always hope. Keep doing what’s right and beneficial for the planet. Do it against all the odds. Use the power of story-telling, social media and connection to incite action and drive change.
What’s your idea worth spreading?
Don’t wait for your invite to be a TED speaker – spread it!!
If you have an Internet connection and a web-enabled device you have all the tools at your disposal.
p.s. BIG THUMBS UP to the TEDxSeaPoint organisers who brought a fresh, fun, and inspiration packed TEDx event to Cape Town!