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TEDGlobal 2007 Session 6: Listening to Nature

Posted by: June Cohen

The day’s journey continued with anthropologist and geneticist Spencer Wells, who had us riveted with details of the Genographic Project, a landmark study he’s leading for National Geographic, tracing human origins to their roots in Africa. By collecting DNA samples from people around the world (especially groups of indigenous people), he’s determined the genetic origins of humanity going back over 50,000 years. “What we’re trying to do is create a family tree for everyone alive today.”

Simon Mwacharo followed, with the story behind the wind-powered turbine he invented. He’s determined to bring power to the poorest rural areas in Africa, and that means turning toward alternative, renewable energy sources and inexpensive, readily available materials.

Next up: A living legend. Bi Kidude, the 90-something singer from Zanzibar, sang her heart out with the equally legendary Culture Musical Club of Zimbabwe, while young women shook and shimmied around her. All I can say is: Wow. 90+ and still rocking out. If that’s not inspiring …

Well, if that’s not inspiring, well Jane Goodall always is. The legendary cast a spell on the room, with her gentle voice and steadfast mission: To save the chimpanzees — and the jungle — she loves, against the steady progression of habitat loss and climate change. “When I look at my granchildren and think about how we’ve harmed this planet since I was their age, I feel a kind of desperation.” Still, she finds reason for optimism. “You can’t come to a conference like TED and not have hope, can you? I’m hopeful, because nature is amazing resilient … Seemingly dead tree stumps — if you stop hacking them for firewood, in 10 years you can have a 30 ft tree.” A standing ovation, of course. (If you’re following along from home, you can catch her 2003 TEDTalk here.)

For more extensive descriptions of each talk, see Ethan Zuckerman‘s real-time posts on Spencer Wells, Simon Mwacharo, and Jane Goodall and Bi Kidude.

Watch for these talks on TED.com beginning midsummer 2007.

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