Meeting TED: TEDx Sea Point

This weekend, I met Ted in person for the first time. I’ve seen Ted online plenty of times, and each meeting has left me full of ideas, but we’ve never actually been in the same room at the same time. Now, I’ve had a whole day with Ted – or at least, with TEDx – and I’m hooked.

TED is all about sharing big ideas to change the world, through the twice-yearly conferences and online presentations. TEDx is the global spin-off, 3000 independently organised one-day events that cluster beneath the huge TED brand. They revolve around a central topic, with speakers demonstrating a multitude of views, opinions and responses to the subject: TEDx Sea Point, at Cape Town’s harbour side, was entitled Who Moved My Sushi, using the ocean as inspiration. Here’s the explainer video from excellent Cape Town-based Blink Tower:

The immaculately organised TEDx Sea Point brought us marine biologists, photographers, journalists, artists, eco campaigners, educationalists, TV presenters, musicians, researchers, community workers and fishermen to all speak about their perspectives on the environmental, social and political challenges in protecting and celebrating the world’s oceans.

Adventurer Chris Fischer began with a video that had us sliding down our seats in horror – an over-produced American movie trailer about a man travelling the ocean with his family, wrestling Great White sharks.

Thank God it turned out to be rather tongue in cheek: the man is a serious inspiration, an entrepreneur who uses his TV productions to fund research which in turn effects serious policy change about marine issues. He’s poured $8million into ocean research through Ocearch, instigating an  electronic tagging programme for Great Whites.

A ‘informal’ fisherman, a marine ranger (who risks his life catching abalone poachers) and a major crimes detective (who investigates the international fraud in overfishing by legal conglomerates) gave us three angles on fishing, while an angler gave us a fourth. I’d have liked to hear more from the informal fisher, who voiced the views of local family men making a living with small catches – he felt he was unfairly labelled as a poacher, and had no forum to change this perspective or provide alternative solutions.

Energetic Paralympic swimmer Achmat Hassiem had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he told the story of surviving a shark attack: “I’ll just jump on his back,” he remembers thinking – but the shark was quicker, and he lost his leg. Hasn’t stopped him from championing the protection of sharks.

Meanwhile, champion free-diver Hanli Prinsloo urged us to embrace our inner seal, and start exploring the world under the sea.

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I loved learning about biomimicry, where the study of the way the natural world operates inspires and informs how we solve human design problems (instead of ‘who moved my sushi’ think’ how does my sushi move?’)

India’s Dr Supraja Darhini discussed her TREE Foundation’s approach to turtle conservation, working with the local community to conserve and educate while encouraging economic development and poverty alleviation. Her teams have released 100,000 turtle hatchlings back into the ocean.

German-born social scientist Sibyelle Riedmiller was tired of seeing marine reservations being badly managed, so she set one up herself, Chumbe Island Coral Park off Zanzibar.


The TEDx Team

Much credit to the voluntary team behind TEDx Sea Point: it was a well-thought out programme, with excellent venue management and a great showcasing opportunity.

From artist Mak1One’s seascape mural on the stage to the projections and artwork hung around the lobby, there was a clear encouragement of inspiration and discussion as delegates and speakers mingled and networked.

Loved the quirky fish hats the presenters wore – and the Fish Mob that they ran, a flash mob in cool Camps Bay while dressed as giant prawns. Prawn Stars, all of them (their pun, not mine.)

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On a side note, I am extremely jealous of the TEDx flags they had outside the venue – Design Indaba had them too. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years in Edinburgh, to promote cultural events outside of the Festivals.

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