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Organic food, job hatred and weather forecasts usually aren’t topics of conversation on a Saturday night. But on Sept. 24 at Macky Auditorium, TEDxBoulder engaged students and community members for hours with monologues about “Time & Change”.
TEDx, an independent version of the TED Talks (available on YouTube), was a conference with 12 speeches and two musical performances about technology, entertainment and design. TED Talks curator Chris Anderson called the independent TEDx events “a conversation about our shared future.”
This notion was evident in all of the talks. Each talk was interconnected and conveyed one common message, summed up in
the program by a quote from Andy Warhol: “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Simply put, each presenter asked the audience to do one thing: change the world and do it now.
The evening started out on a heavy note with Leslie Dodson, a Ph.D. candidate at CU Boulder. She discussed the fine line between researching and reporting in developing countries. Daniel Epstein followed with the topic of “Developing Entrepreneurship”, how negative experiences can be the push a person needs to help the world. Despite the weighty subject matter of these two talks, they were both filled with hope for an improved world.
Chef Ann Cooper, director of Food Services for the Boulder Valley School District, riled up the crowd with her stirring speech about improving the food that children eat at school.
“I want to get you guys pissed off,” she said as people laughed and clapped. “We all want to change things, but if you aren’t pissed off, it’s not going to happen.”
Cooper’s speech was filled with hilarious moments and statistics that were enough to make any mother cry. Her passion for her work was palpable, especially when she was shouting sarcastic remarks about her nickname.
“They call me ‘The Renegade’,” Cooper said. “I guess it’s because I want kids to eat broccoli.”
The mood calmed down when Grammy Award-winning Kimya Dawson took the stage. Her rainbow-striped socks brightened her almost severe tone while she sang about taking action rather than acting like you will.
“What do I know?” she said as she took the stage. “I know about being nice and nervous. I know about being brave, so I’m going to sing about that.”
Although Dawson’s lyrics were about social injustices, she kept anger from entering her performance.
Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation, continued the message of action in her discussion on the American food industry’s use of genetic engineering. As a mother of four, she says that she knows that it can be difficult to put ideas into action, but that most times, it is worth the effort.
“None of us can do everything, but all of us can do one thing,” O’Brien said.
The next two presentations were interconnected through passion and learning. Kristen Wheeler told the audience to find their native genius (something that a person is best at) and use that genius to excel in their work. Alex Cruickshank, an early childhood educator, brought this same concept into the teaching sphere and said, “work with the children’s interests rather than fight them.” Because of Cruickshank’s work at her school, TEDx awarded her school a $1,000 check at the end of her presentation.
After the intermission, Jake Nickell, co-founder of Threadless T-shirts, started off the second session. He encouraged the audience to make something every day because what we make is our legacy.
“If your kids ask, ‘what were my parents good at?’ do you want the answer to be ‘watching YouTube videos’?” he said.
Glorianna and Mercina Tillemann-Dick, Denver natives and students at Yale University, had a dialogue about organ donations and the stigmas of an opt-out system. The women brought a bill to the Colorado legislature that they thought would increase organ donations in the state. Although their bill ultimately didn’t pass, they were proud that they had taken a step to change norms, following the theme throughout the evening.
Astronomer Phil Plait discussed why an asteroid impact would cause more economic harm than ecological harm to the world. Rather than scaring the audience with potential 2012 apocalypse theories, he humorously reassured them that Earthlings have a much better chance of avoiding asteroids than the dinosaurs ever did.
The second musical act of the evening, Denver-based folk musicians Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore, were both emotionally and musically engaging. O’Brien’s strong vocals were stunning and Moore’s guitar-playing worked well with her vocal styling. On top of it all, their lyrics perfectly supported the overall theme of the event.
Meteorologist Joel Gratz spoke about new ways to think about predicting weather.
“We don’t need more accuracy [in weather forecasting],” Gratz said. “We need to improve the interface between meteorologists and you.”
While dancing with an apple to “Lady in Red,” Joshua Scott Onysko, founder and CEO of Pangea Organics, discussed the importance of biomimicry, or innovation inspired by nature. Onysko said this could be useful for packaging goods to improve sustainability.
Wrapping up the conference, Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen, a restaurant on Pearl Street, examined the necessity of re-configuring the typical restaurant experience. He talked about fitting America’s fast-food culture while also giving consumers a healthier and more sustainable eating experience.
By the end of the night, I was inspired to go out and do something about the issues I care about. The event had done its job. As Andrew Hyde, curator and host of TEDxBoulder, said at the end of his introductory speech, “My job is to get us here [to the conference]. Yours is to bring us forward.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Avalon Jacka at Avalon.firstname.lastname@example.org.