TEDx Editors’ Picks: 4 great talks for the week

For this week’s Editor’s Picks, we’ve chosen four very different talks from four continents. The challenges they’re looking at may be familiar, but we like how the speakers bring new ideas and perspectives.

 

A new self-identity for Africans: Panashe Chigumadzi at TEDxJohannesburg
Panashe Chigumadzi is a young storyteller from Zimbabwe on a mission to redefine what it means to be African. Self-identity in many African countries has been skewed by the influence of colonization, she says, and in order to reclaim a sense of African identity, she urges people to use the power of new technology and social media to create positive cultural identities with uniquely African stories.


A better way to win the war on drugs: Bart de Koning at TEDxEde
Is the war on drugs worth fighting? Maybe, says Bart de Koning, if we can look at it with new eyes. Despite concerted efforts, he explains, criminal justice systems haven’t stopped the supply and demand of illegal drugs. Instead, academic research has found that well-funded mental health facilities offer the only effective solution to what is ultimately a problem of addiction. In the war on drugs, this compelling call to action may offer a new way forward.

Battery-powered fridge empowers Indian farmers: Sam White at TEDxBoston
In a country where most farmers don’t have refrigeration, how do you get milk to market before it spoils? At TEDxBoston, Sam White shows off a new battery-powered fridge solving that problem in India — even in areas without reliable electricity — making it possible to keep milk safe longer.

The mathematics of weight loss: Ruben Meerman at TEDxQUT
When you lose weight, what happens to the fat and where does it go? It seems so obvious… and yet, we weren’t sure either. So check out Ruben Meerman’s entertaining talk from TEDxQUT and figure out the chemistry of what exactly happens when the numbers on the scale start going down.

Editor’s Picks: 4 TEDx Talks on building the city of the future

This Friday, TED is throwing this big TEDCity2.0 event in New York -- looking at the past, present and future of cities. For our Editor’s Picks this week, we’re hosting our own tribute to urban innovation with four talks that explore some of the big questions facing our cities today. Each speaker has worked on a challenge unique to their community, and their solutions may surprise you — from houses that float in Boston Harbor to streetlights home to carbon dioxide-sucking microalgae. Here’s how they’re shaping the city of the future:

Turning urban youth into global citizens: Angela Jackson at TEDxProvidence
Angela Jackson saw the lack of opportunities for New York’s most disadvantaged children and knew she had to help improve the quality of public education. The Global Language Project gives students the chance to become proficient in a foreign language, equipping them with useful skills, broader cultural horizons and the chance for a better future. 

Glowing streetlamps that absorb COwith algae: Pierre Calleja at TEDxLausanneChange
French biochemist Pierre Calleja has invented a streetlamp which doubles as a habitat for microalgae that consume carbon dioxide. In fact, microalgae are responsible for producing half the oxygen in our atmosphere. These beautiful lights are not only practical, but this symbiotic technology could help in the fight against rising carbon emissions and climate change.


Pop-up houses improve South African slums: Andreas Keller at TEDxWWF
Andreas Keller set out to improve the appalling conditions of South Africa’s slums. With effective insulation, proper ventilation, and solar power replacing dirty fuels, iShacks provide a much healthier and safer temporary accommodation for some of the poorest urban citizens in South Africa. And, the program helps locals get involved in the design and management of their neighborhoods.

Floating neighborhoods reimagine coastal living: Brian Healy at TEDxBoston
Sea levels are rising, and coastal homes are now at risk of flooding. Architect Brian Healy thinks we can avoid disaster by building our houses right on top of the water — an idea so crazy he thinks it just might work. He shows off his designs for floating residential complexes built out of lightweight concrete tubes. With communal living spaces and even wetland courtyards, neglected city harbors could become lovely places to live

Today’s TEDx Talk: Building schools in Afghanistan

Growing up in Afghanistan, Mohammad Khan Kharoti was the first in his family who had the chance to go to school. At TEDxConcordiaUPortland, he shares how he’s now returned to Afghanistan — which still suffers from one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world — to build schools and give girls and boys the chance to receive an education like he did.

Happy International Literacy Day!

Today is International Literacy Day, so we’re celebrating the value of reading and writing for people around the world.

A staggering 774 million adults in the world cannot read or write — two-thirds of them women. Low literacy increases the risk of poverty, child mortality, and gender inequality. It costs governments billions of dollars in healthcare costs and lost labor, and it prohibits sustainable development, peace, and democracy.

But global literacy rates are improving, especially amongst young people. To honor the day, here are two of our favorite talks that celebrate the history of literature, and how it can transform the lives of people in the toughest places.

1. A Brief and Wondrous History of the Literate Life

A distinguished literary critic and professor of English, Seth Lerer presents a hilarious and informative talk at TEDxUCSD about the history of reading and writing in all its different forms. He’ll make you get really excited about William Carlos Williams, St. Augustine, and badly-written undergraduate emails— they’re all linked in a beautiful, unintentional allegory.

2. Shakespeare in Shackles: Transforming Prisoners’ Lives

Laura Bates, an English professor at Indiana State University, has spent the past twenty-five years teaching the works of Shakespeare to prison inmates — many of them in solitary confinement. The results have been transformative: prisoners have been given the chance to experience formal education, often for the first time. And in coming to understand how Shakespeare’s depiction of violence resonates with people who have actually experienced it, Bates says she’s learned to look at his plays in a completely new way.