From innovative technologies upgrading our buildings to age-old Aboriginal wisdom on fire management and more, the five speakers of Session 6 of TED Countdown Summit 2023 offered transformative insights on how we can redefine our relationships to both our stuff and the world, with a focus on sustainability and resilience.
The event: Talks from Session 6 of TED Countdown Summit 2023, hosted by TED’s Logan McClure Davda and Lindsay Levin
When and where: Friday, July 14, 2023, at the Fillmore Detroit in Detroit, Michigan
Speakers: Josephine Philips, Aruna Rangachar Pohl, Oral McGuire, Donnel Baird, Gopal D. Patel
The fashion industry emits more carbon than travel from all airlines worldwide, combined. And all those clothes we toss in the charity box to make room for new ones? Many end up in landfills in Ghana or buried in a pile in the Atacama Desert so big astronauts can see it from space. To make fashion more sustainable, Josephine Philips says we need to buy less and value more the clothes we already own. When a shirt is torn, we should repair it, not toss it. Before giving away that old sweater, we should recall every experience we’ve had while wearing it, plus the time, labor and resources that went into making it — from the field that grew its cotton to the hands that stitched it together. When we value things correctly, she reminds us, we’re less wasteful, which reduces our negative impact on the planet.
Sustainable development leader Aruna Rangachar Pohl takes us on the long journey of one of India’s most beloved snacks: biscuits — revealing how the production of these treats and other highly processed goods that rely on industrial farming are hurting the planet and our health. Armed with a vision to rejuvenate productive landscapes in India equitably and sustainably, Rangachar Pohl established the India Foundation for Humanistic Development, and she shares stories of small-scale farmers in their incubator who are joining forces, acting as shareholders and purchasing resources in bulk together. Training farmers to adopt natural practices and calculate their carbon sequestration with a focus on revenue, Rangachar Pohl shows how green production really pays off. By creating a climate-resilient agricultural sector where people’s rights are protected, farming can mean a greener, tastier and healthier future for everyone.
“I acknowledge fire as a friend, as a part of my being and my spirit,” says Oral McGuire, a fire practitioner and member of the Mangarda Balladong Nyungar First Nations in southwestern Australia. A professional firefighter for 18 years, McGuire acknowledges the threat uncontrolled fire can pose to our natural environment. Connecting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and practices, he shares the importance of applying the right kind of fire in a sacred practice known as “kaarl-ngariny,” to maintain the health and balance of the land. By protecting and preserving nature through proper fire management, McGuire says can heal the spirit of the land and promote biodiversity at the same time.
Powering the United States’s 125 million buildings accounts for 30 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. To make matters worse, older ovens, furnaces and hot water heaters have been found to leak benzene, methane and nitrogen dioxide into homes, threatening the health of those inside. Energy upgrader Donnel Baird aims to solve this problem by moving buildings off of fossil fuels and onto renewably sourced electric power. His company BlocPower has trained thousands of people to install tech like solar panels, electric induction ovens and heat pumps. The company also works with financing to plan electrification costs into a home’s mortgage in an effort to make it more affordable, and with data accessibility so homeowners can understand the electrification plan they need.
To tackle the climate crisis, we’ll need to keep building resiliency and momentum. Gopal D. Patel is here with some good news: there’s already a time-tested, millennia-old framework to do just that. As cochair of the United Nations Multi-faith Advisory Council, Patel mobilizes faith communities for environmental advocacy and action around the world. He explains how the ideas and wisdom of faith traditions can apply to the climate movement, namely in three areas: nourishing and uplifting community; finding rituals and tradition that give a sense of belonging; and working with purposeful action. You don’t have to be religious to take advantage of these learnings, Patel says: they’re guides for anyone looking to advance climate action with a sense of renewed purpose and intention.