TEDx Event Hosted Great Talks on the BP Oil Spill. But Now What?
(Photo: KK+ via Flickr)
Monday’s TED talk on the BP oil spill did an exceptional job of educating the converted. But with a conference full of people who want to see the Gulf of Mexico cleaned up in a responsible manner, what’s the next step?
They Hit Folks Wit’ the Knowledge
The conference hosted 320 attendees and 20,000 live stream web viewers, said organizer Nate Mook. With just a dozen other volunteers, Mook and Dave Troy put the event together.
Before sounding like a completely attention deficient ingrate, let me first go over some of the finer points in the talks.
Mike Tidwell (CCAN) and Phil Radford (Greenpeace) came through in grassroots organizer form—witty, oratorically robust, and with a clear picture. Tidwell narrated his own exploration of the “galaxy” of offshore oil platforms in the Gulf, for scale.
(John Francis wailed on his banjer before taking the stage. Photo: KK+ via Flickr)
John Francis made an example of himself, giving an account of his 17-year vow of silence, disuse of automobiles, and a pilgrimage across the U.S. in protest of an oil spill in the 1970s.
Some of the conference’s most inspiring bits were from entrepreneurs who spoke about their progress in various markets of renewable energy.
Mike Mendez, VP and bioengineer for the Sapphire Energy, revealed the algae fuel producer’s concept for an “energy crop.” Jigar Shah, founder of the SunEdison solar power company, suggested in his segment every one person can make a difference.
But not even one of the speakers acknowledged that they were preaching to the choir.
Where Do We Go From Here?
(Taking a few minutes to sass BP. Quite productive. Photo: KK+ via Flickr)
It was informative and motivating, but as far as future action goes it felt like sitting in another living room, coffee shop, or pub, having the same discussion that millions of Americans have been having with each other since April 20. This time it was saturated with PhDs, and first hand reports from the Gulf’s tainted waters and shores.
So where do we go from there, once the pub’s taps are shut for the night? Do we stumble around in the dark streets, as we’ve been doing, giggling and kicking over government signs and defecating on BP’s doorstep? Hopefully not.
It’d be such a shame to get arrested on their behalf.
We could become entrepreneurs…
The X Prize Foundation laid down a very tangible opportunity in the TedxOilSpill conference. VP Francis Béland talked about his nonprofit’s mission to “create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity,” through competitions. The first competitor to achieve a given goal wins an ‘X Prize’ award, of $10+ million. In the next five years, the Foundation aims to raise $100 million to issue in ten different prizes.
Fabulous. Money certainly has a way of drawing brilliant problem solvers out of the woodwork.
One widely-sung note of optimism from this whole oil spill disaster is that it will bring out the environmentalist in many more Americans. I think that’s true. I haven’t heard of anyone denying (even on Faux News) that the oil spill in the Gulf is a heinous thunder-blunder (which is, coincidentally, what happens when someone gets the ThunderCats into a bar room brawl), and that it is BP’s ultimate responsibility, not taxpayers.’
People know that the oil will bring a merciless beat-down to nature, economy, and health in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s already happening.
Shah said in his speech that we can’t count on the activism tactics of 30 years ago to work today, but rather we need clever new solutions. Americans have the wherewithal to go after the worst environmental disaster in their history. And they damn certainly don’t need permission to do it. They need to organize.
There are so many promising sprouts of grassroots action—fishermen, health care workers, cleanup crews, lobbyists, community leaders, parishes, journalists, etc.—that could use a well-informed action network. At the very least, the expert constituency could storm Capitol Hill. The information alone is pitifully meaningless if we don’t use it.
If we needed aloe vera to cool our inflamed souls in the wake of this mess, then the TedxOilSpill conference certainly delivered.
Already at day 72 of the crisis, it’s time for action.
“We are working now on ways to keep the the energy moving forward and will be making announcements in the coming days and weeks,” wrote Nate Mook in an email, “This catastrophe is just beginning, so it will be a process.”
(Christen Lien serenaded the audience with sea-like sounds from her classically trained hand. Photo: Pinar Ozger.)