Playlist TEDTalks

Playlist: 10 talks that show why politicians need to focus on the environment

With just three weeks to go before the 2012 presidential election in the US, eyes around the world are on the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. As shown in last night’s debate, the election may well come down to a few key issues. So what matters most to Americans? The TED Blog read this Gallup poll on the issues that citizens want the next president to prioritize. Conveniently, these are topics that speakers often address on the TED stage. So, every week until the election, we’ll bring you a new playlist focusing on one of the top-rated issues.

One of the most significant issues for Americans is concern for the environment – specifically, curbing the rapid rate of global warming. In this poll, 73 percent of Americans said that this was an “extremely important” or “very important” priority from their perspective.

To help spur some thinking — and maybe even inspire some action — we’ve compiled some of our most striking talks about the environment.

Al Gore warns on latest climate trends
In this talk from TED2009, Al Gore delivers jarring facts about global warming with footage of ice caps melting in real-time and rising water levels throughout the world. He debunks the myth of “clean” coal and presents truly clean alternatives.

Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic
“Let’s talk trash,” says Capt. Charles Moore. In this talk, also from TED2009, he illustrates how we are living in a “throwaway” society with a plastic addiction. Tracking the migration of our trash, we find that they end up in massive patches of waste in the ocean that then washes onto our shores.

Vicki Arroyo: Let’s prepare for our new climate
Vicki Arroyo knows it is important to be realistic when it comes to climate change. In this talk from TEDGlobal 2012, she says that we need to start preparing for the dangerous effects now, as farmers’ dry spells are leading to threats of national security all around the world. Here, she shows examples of proper preparation, from communities who haven’t ignored the need to adapt.

Richard Sears: Planning for the end of oil
While we’re on the topic of adapting to the climate crisis, Richard Sears lays out a plan to prepare for the inevitable extinction of oil. At TED2010, he expresses the need for innovation that will take us from this age to the next.

Tristram Stuart: The global food waste scandal
In this compelling talk from TEDSalon London Spring 2012, Tristam Stuart takes us through his crusade against food waste, which began when he was 15-years-old and trying to feed his pig. The key to combating our global food hemorrhage, he says, is to make it socially unacceptable to waste food.

Dan Phillips: Creative houses from reclaimed stuff
Dan Phillips is a master of recycling. Making beautiful homes from others’ garbage, he takes us through the rooms he built from soda cans, items found in antique stores, and even eggshells. At TEDxHouston 2010, Phillips describes the social forces that lead us to pollute instead of reuse.

Lucianne Walkowicz: Look up for a change
Lucianne Walkowicz directs our eyes sky-wards in this talk from TEDxPhoenix. As she describes the dangers of light pollution, she shows us the swiftly declining beauty of space — a thing we don’t even realize we are missing out on.

Jason Clay: How big brands can help save biodiversity
In this talk from TEDGlobal 2010, Jason Clay explains that, in our consumer culture, corporations actually have a lot of power to do good. Through transformation, he assists big companies in revamping their structures in order to make more with less — a resource-friendly approach.

Graham Hill: Why I’m a weekday vegetarian
Ever unsuccessfully tried to be a vegetarian? Graham Hill has too. In this talk from TED2010, he shares why he became a “weekday veg” — to help stem the harmful environmental impacts of eating meat, without having to go all the way. With this strategy, Graham cuts his meat intake by 70 percent, and still gets a burger when he really wants one.

Natalie Jeremijenko: The art of the eco-mindshift
Natalie Jeremijenko is head of the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic at NYU – whose purpose is to give patients prescriptions to heal their environments. At Business Innovation Factory, she shares how this effort to combine public art and engineering is addressing environmental issues.