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Take time out from your day to be inspired

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 April 2012 at 11:34 am

Reading the papers or watching the news these days is pretty miserable. It brings a deluge of things that have gone wrong, and despite being a fervent news junkie, I find myself tuning out more and more often. So it was wonderful to spend last Friday being inspired by 20 amazing people who spend their time looking at how we can make the world a better place to live, rather than analysing the problems to death.

Martin Luther King didn't say "I have a nightmare" pointed out Nic Marks, of the New Economics Foundation in his talk about the Happy Planet Index. He's so right. And spending a day hearing about other people's dreams - and what they are doing to make them come true is thoroughly uplifting.

Satish Kumar took it further, quoting Ghandi, he advised that we should "be the change we want to see in the world". He introduced an new trinity for our time: soil, soul and society. He argued that the soil is nature's bank, and an apple seed will give a better return than HSBC - pointing out that when you pick an apple, the tree will never ask you for your Visa card.

His theme of putting nature at the centre of things was also key to Tony Juniper's talk: what has nature ever done for us? He called for the economy to be seen as a wholly owned subsidiary of ecology, rather than dominate all decisions as it does now.

This was a theme which would be returned to later when Nic Marks attacked the way economics measures success. Quoting Robert Kennedy he said "Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile".

Tony Juniper has a dream too. It's that a natural history GCSE is introduced as a compulsory part of the curriculum, and to recognise that humans are at the centre of it - not outside.

Peter Cox, a climate scientist at Exeter University, outlined how there were some quick wins in slowing climate change, if we focus on reducing methane emissions instead of carbon dioxide in the short term. 40% of these escape from landfill and traditional power stations, and could be prevented. Dealing with this would give us 10 more years to deal with reducing carbon dioxide emissions he said.

We returned to the theme of the importance of ecology at the end of the day when Polly Higgins spoke about her dream of introducing a law of ecocide as the 5th crime against peace. We should prioritise people and planet above profit, she said. But currently it is the law that companies must put profit first. A law of ecocide would supercede that.

This is just a snapshot of some of the talks. They will all be loaded to the TED website in due course, should you want to be inspired too. But I will leave you with the one that is most relevant to the theme of this blog: William Kamkwamba from Malawi spoke about how he harnessed the wind. Watch and be inspired:



Photo: TEDxExeter

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