Yesterday I played hooky from school. No, I did not go to the beach; I did not take a walk in the park; I did not even go fishing (tempting as that is!). Instead, I played the best kind of hooky. I went to TedxAtlanta Re:Solve.
What a collection of speakers! What a day of synthesis and learning! In lieu of copying down my notes from the session, I’d rather review them and try to do some synthesis myself in examining a particular thread that I thought ran through each session: the idea of LOCAL.
LOCAL Band (Athens Ga): The Modern Skirts bookended the session with some incredible tunes. This will be my next itunes purchase, guaranteed! Their harmony and off kilter beat mesmerized me.
The first presenter, Logan Smalley, the creator and director of the film, Darius Goes West , charmed the Tedsters with two fascinating ideas: 1) Use a movie to start a movement which he has done with his documentary about Darius (a LOCAL from Athens, Ga!); 2) Sideways marketing might be just the way to get audiences to care about an idea more than they care about a product. These ideas are so relevant to ways we might be able to solve LOCAL issues because just about anyone can apply them with paractice.
Next, Daron “Farmer D” Joffe stood up with two compelling solutions to some of the problems presented by “Big Agriculture”: 1) Eat LOCALLY, so locally in fact that he encourages us to grow our own food in raised garden beds. 2) Close the circle. Farmer D has created compost that helps to close the circle and keep LOCAL growers in the black– local farmers grow veggies, they sell the veggies to Whole Foods, Whole Foods takes the wasted/unsold/rotten veggies and gives them to Farmer D who makes compost out of them, Farmer D provides compost for the local farmers. What a SOLUTION!
Third, David Butler, a design guru who acts as the VP of Global Design for Atlanta‘s LOCAL (and GLOBAL) company, Coca-Cola, used the metaphor of big waves in surfing to help us understand the perspective needed to solve “wicked” problems of design and brand marketing. Surfing big waves in Florida will be very different from surfing big waves off the coast of Australia. Currently, he’s metaphorically surfing Australian type monsters as he endeavors to set up an effective system for promoting Coca-Cola across the globe.
Mills Snowden from Team American HyPower polled the audience: “How many of you would like to have a car that gets 100 MPG?” Most hands shot up in enthusiasm. “Guess which is the best selling car in America?” Murmers and guesses bubble up from the audience. “The Ford F150.” Mills and his partner, Kristen Cahill worked together to solve the problem of making a 100 mpg automobile, and were serious top level contenders in the Automotive X Prize Competition. I know in Georgia, the Ford F150 is a popular car, but perhaps we LOCAL Georgians can change that by putting our money where our mouth is with respect to energy and transportation!
Last before the break, Harrison Dillon wowed audience members with his talk about how he turns water into wine. Just kidding, but it’s almost as good. He’s figured out how to turn algea into oil. He broke down the good, the bad, and the ugly about the U.S.’s dependence on oil, and the ugly came from the fact that 1/5 of the oil that Americans purchase and consume comes from countries that are hostile and dangerous towards us. He and his company provide a solution to this problem: LOCAL oil made in the USA. His process could eliminate our harmful reliance on foreign oil.
After the break, Ryan Gravel showed us how infrastructure can be sexy, especially in LOCAL transit. Gravel came up with the idea for the Atlanta BeltLine for his thesis for his Masters in architecture and city planning from GA Tech. The ideas behind the BeltLine stem from a desire to make Atlanta’s city plan more like that of Paris: walkable, using efficient transit, and filled with green space. The BeltLine reverses the idea of urban sprawl; instead, it promotes locality and accessibility for Atlantans.
Tad Leithead explained the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 50 forward plan, as they start to tackle large LOCAL problems including Water, Aging Services, Transportation, and Education. He encouraged Tedsters to put our passions into action in order to help our city, now and in the future.
Jim Hartzfeld, the Managing Director of LOCAL company InterfaceRAISE, has tackled the tough issue of sustainability in the business world, looking at the people, the place, the product,and the profit. He prompted the audience with the question, “what is your company doing for the environment?”, noting that the way that we see the world has more influence than what we do. What we do gets attention, but behavior follows the vision. He is helping Georgians and other business leaders, start to create conditions where businesses can find their door into sustainability.
Atlanta LOCAL Sam Williams, the President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, shared three positive stories about how Atlanta Business leaders helped solve significant problems in the city by working together and with the government to effect change. He touched on the work of the Atlanta Action Forum in the 1972 conflicts about bussing; he related the success of Atlanta CEOs in saving Grady Hospital; he reminded us of the story of John Brock and Tim Lowe as they worked with the government on the current water situation with Lake Lanier. His talk provided hope and outlined steps that we can take to help business leaders work with government leaders to make Atlanta better.
Finally, New Orleaneas powerhouse Anne Milling, one of the founders of Women of the Storm, closed the session with a bang, promoting the Be The One Campaign which is working with Congress to provide funds to restore the wetlands of Louisiana. She helped LOCAL Atlantans see how the degradation of the wetlands in Louisiana actually affected us, from the loss of energy that comes from the region to the seafood we all enjoy and will miss if the area is lost.
Finally Chef David Larkworthy of LOCAL favorite restaurant 5 Season’s Brewery, provided us with delicious LOCAL dishes including fairy tale eggplant and pulled pork barbecue. YUM!
I learned: Atlantans and Americans are coming together to solve problems of energy, problems of environment, and problems of narrative that we face today.
We can solve these problems together, especially if we synthesize the ideas from today’s TedxSeries: use media to start a movement; use local resources; create a well designed system to tackle a problem; if a solution doesn’t exist, don’t be afraid to go out and invent one; some of the most boring problems can be fun to tackle; use your passion to prompt action; enlist great leaders to move you along; and stand up for what you want, locally and as a nation, and shout those desires to the government! Finally, we cannot do any of this on an empty stomach– food for the body fodders food for the mind.