A toll on the planet

A few years ago I stumbled upon The Earth From Above [Vu Du Ciel], a collection of aerial photographs by Yann Arthus Bertrand. My jaw dropped to the floor. I was in awe. Not just of Yann’s genius – which is exemplary – but the mind boggling view of the earth I had taken for granted.

More than pretty pictures, these images tell a compelling story of the state of our planet.

To wit: The Eye of Maldives, an atoll [coral reef surrounding a sunken volcanic island] that is at risk from changing tides and temperatures, as well as the ravages of tourism. As a reference point, atoll formation may take  up to 30,000,000 years.

The future of health and medicine is here

The tag line was bold and mundane all at once.

It has probably been used at innumerable conferences before this one. But when the gathering in question is TEDMED 2012, the world takes notice.

How would some of the best minds (70 speakers, over 1000 delegates) give new meaning to a discipline mired in financial, ethical and scientific stalemate? What mind-boggling breakthrough would emerge from this three-and-a-half day idea orgy?

Not that I needed any convincing. As a proud, longstanding TEDaholic, having my scholarship application accepted was all I needed to pack my bags and head to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the new home of TEDMED.

I came. I saw. I took in the grandeur of all the historic conference locations: the Opera House, the Library of Congress, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Building Museum.

I left with some invaluable connections, a couple of personal insights, and a few memorable ideas.

Mindfulness Without Borders

“The first step toward peace-building is through looking inward, cultivating your own inner peace and then, looking outward to bring peace to the world.

As Mindfulness Ambassadors you are joining hundreds of council members from around the world who stand for kindness and compassion – driving positive impact in your community”.

With that encouragement and inspiration to volunteer as a future mindfulness -facilitator, I left the day long Exploration workshop conducted by Mindfulness Without Borders, a non-profit organization founded by Theo Koffler and boasting an advisory council that includes Deepak Chopra andDaniel Goleman.

No woman no cry

Maternal health is not a topic I spend much time thinking about, yet I found myself completely captivated at the recent Canadian public premiere of No Woman No Cry, a documentary film by Christy Turlington Burns.

Hosted by the team at Grand Challenges Canada with Christy in attendance, the film provided some fascinating insights into both the evolution of Burns from supermodel to activist, and the state of pregnant women worldwide.

Following the experiences of four pregnant women in four different corners of the world (Tanzania, Guatemala, Bangladesh and the U.S.), the film immediately draws you in and keeps you firmly engaged thanks to content that is extremely visceral and authentic.

Rediscovering wonder at TED 2011

My dream of attending the TED Conference came virtually true today.

Thanks to the TEDxToronto team and the generosity of the Center for Social Innovation (CSI), Day 2 of the ongoing TED 2011 conference was made freely accessible to a handful of TED enthusiasts via live webcast.

We cozied up at the CSI digs in downtown Toronto and immersed ourselves into the wondrous world of game-changing innovators and thought leaders gathered presently in Long Beach California. There is something truly magical about the synergies of being part of a live event, and it was a thrill to witness both the poise and gaffs of the speakers in real time.

For me, there were two highlights from today’s sessions:

First, the fact that TED curator Chris Anderson  experimented with guest curation, inviting none other than Bill Gates to choose & moderate the four speakers that made up the “Knowledge Revolution” section. Gates did a tremendous job and his enthusiasm was clearly evident and infectious.

Self-breathing pig lungs and a soprano

Toronto continues to surprise me. I’m constantly reminded of what an amazing hub of innovation and research it is – from environmental, technology and social entrepreneurs to trailblazers in medicine, we’ve got them all!

Organ transplantation has become an increasingly important area of intrigue for me in recent years, and so I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the miraculous exploits of the Lung Transplantation team at the Toronto General Hospital, led by thoracic surgeon Dr. Shav Keshavjee.

Building on a rich tradition of hosptial firsts (first single and double lung transplants and first artifical lung), Keshavjee is currently tackling the mind-boggling problem of decay in lungs harvested from donors before they reach the recipient. He has developed a successful Lung Perfusion system that enables preservation of the organs for up to six hours outside the donor body.

But he hasn’t stopped there.

TEDxToronto 2.0

Centered around the theme that “an idea without action is just an idea”, TEDaholics across Toronto were treated to a bigger, better, and definitely shinier TEDx event today!

Paul Crowe (co-founder) and his team pulled out all the stops: from the fashionable location Glenn Gould Studio, MTV hosts, amazing stage design & set production, traditional TED style chocolate breaks to the live webcast across numerous satellite locations worldwide, they had it all!

Earth Day Reflections

Did you know that nearly 2.4 million lbs of plastic enter our oceans every minute?

In honor of Earth Day, I’m posting some videos from two of my favorite websites to help you take a moment and reflect on the state of the planet.

Inspired by oceanographer Charles Moore’s discovery of the Pacific Garbage Patch, artist Chris Jordan’s talk at Poptech! 2009 brings the horrific reality of this statistic to light in his characteristically poignant and devastatingly brilliant photographs.

TEDaholics rock Toronto!

Idea sharing from leading edge thinkers & doers in Toronto? Check.

Peak neuronal activity & surge in inspiration? Check.

ODing on the best chocolate in town & amazing after-party? Check.

Bonding with like-minded TED addicts & forging amazing connections? Invaluable!

As one of the select 100 attendees, I’m still riding the high from the first ever TEDxToronto event, held on Sep 10, 2009 at the Theatre Passe Muraille. It was a privilege and delight!

The masterminds behind the show, Paul Crowe and Tyler Turnbull (with the help of an awesome organizing committee) pulled off what we’re all hoping is an annual celebration of ideas and ode to the TED Conference.

For those who might be new to it, TED talks provide a platform for the greatest visionaries and thinkers across disciplines to come together and share brilliant insights that are literally shaping our collective futures. Driving this amazing gathering is the belief that “there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea”.

 The theme for TEDxToronto “What’s Next?” elicited a whole spectrum of responses as diverse as the speaker list.

Move over Gen X and Gen Y: Generation G is in!

At their annual “We Day” event attended by thousands of student leaders across the country and celebrities alike, Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger like to rouse a popular refrain: “We are the generation we’ve been waiting for!”

Not an empty cry that one.

As founders of Free The Children, they have managed to turn a six member team of 12 year olds outraged by child labor back in 1995 into the “Me to We Generation” – the world’s largest network of children helping children through education. Five hundred schools in 45 countries and counting, the organization continues its mission of empowering young minds to look beyond themselves and make a change.