Category Archives: TED talk

Bioregional Agriculture in Colorado

“Our food system is broken. What kind of society do we live in that pays all of our farmers to grow the same five crops? —Adam Brock”

Adam Brock, who helped found Denver’s by-now-famous GrowHaus*, tells us that we need a bioregional cuisine here in Colorado not unlike the Cajun food found in the Gulf area. Because we live in a region with very little precipitation, we need to start listening to the land, because we can only get our crops that we do today by working against nature. By growing bioregional food here on the High Plains, we’d use less water and produce food with better nutrition. He suggests eating foods such as a salad made with Sorrel, Bison, and Nopali (Prickly Pear Cactus).

Brock explains that Colorado’s farmers have to play into the commodities markets to compete economically with a result that our state’s top crop is wheat, followed by corn, hay, millet, sorghum, and sunflowers. Showing us a pie chart of the state’s water allocations in 2011 (@3:35), 44 percent of Colorado’s water goes to irrigation for agriculture and 30 percent to power generation.

Here is his list of plants that he recommends we eat and plant in our gardens, because they are native and/or suited to our climate:

• Nopal cactus – prickly pear cactus
• Sunchoke (also known as earth apple or Jerusalem artichoke)
• Sorrel (lower right photo)
• Sea Buckthorn
• Currant
• Burdock
• Amaranth
• Goji berry
• Goumi
• Jujube
• Lovage
• Nanking cherry
• New Zealand Spinach
• Prairie turnip
• Western Sand Cherry
• Yellowhorn

Brock has a website (atriplex.org) which lists more plants he recommends for food that work with nature here in Colorado.

He is also instrumental in helping to plan Denver’s first public food forest.

You may listen to his great talk here:

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*The GrowHaus is a half-acre greenhouse in an under-served area of Denver which uses aquaponics to produce fresh greens and vegetables to its local community at prices “less than Walmart’s”.

Also recommended: Seattle creates a public food forest; Hardy Perennials for your small farm; and, Denver’s GrowHaus website.

Photos: Wikipedia and GrowHaus.

TED Talk: Charlie Rose Interviews Google’s Larry Page

This is quite a special TED talk, in which Charlie Rose interviews Google’s 40-year-old CEO, Larry Page.

I’ll highlight some of what they talked about in a few paragraphs, and then, the 23-minute talk is below.

Page says that “we are still in the very early stages of searching for information” and that “computing is ‘kind of a mess’” so he’s still very interested in the search process of finding the information that we as individuals are looking for, and to “have computing understand ‘you’.”

They discussed Google’s recent acquisition, DeepMind. Page said that voice, youtube, and video games are important, demonstrating that computers can learn from youtube enough to draw a cat from what they’ve learned, for example, and that a boxing video game shows that computers have become super-human, which can have real, useful applications. (!!!)

They talked about crossing the boundaries of computer science with neuroscience.

Page included quite a nice video segment of a farmer in Kenya who was losing his potato crop. He went to his local (dilapidated) cyber cafe to search potato diseases on the internet, which gave him hope. He uses the internet to help people, searching for a better life. He posts what he learns on a wooden notice board so its available to the “grandmothers”, too. “It is how we use it that will define us,” he said.

Because two-thirds of the people in the world still don’t have good access to the internet, Page is looking into using balloons to get access points up cheaply, saying “we can build a world wide mesh of these balloons that can kind of cover the whole planet.” Then, technology can show the way to change the world.

I liked how he explained several times during the interview how he, himself, had learned of the technology which he described through his own internet searches.

They had a discussion about security and privacy, the government, medical records, and providing people with choice, mentioning the use of the incognito mode in Chrome, for example.

Next, the conversation moved to transportation. He explained what led him to his interest in automated transportation: for safety reasons; and, for space-saving reasons (LosAngeles is half parking lots and roads and most cities are not far behind and this is a crazy way to use our space). He wants this to happen quickly, and thinks it’s possible, saying that they’ve driven 100,000 miles automated, now. BUT, he also loves bicycles, and all Google employees have access to free bicycles. He thinks someday bicycle travel might be efficiently placed above the street traffic.

Page likes the word additionality, an economic concept.

Additionality: Net positive difference that results from economic development intervention. The extent to which an activity (and associated outputs, outcomes and impacts) is larger in scale, at a higher quality, takes place quicker, takes place at a different location, or takes place at all as a result of intervention. Additionality measures the net result, taking account of deadweight, leakage, displacement, substitution and economic multipliers. (source: wikipedia)

He says that the more you learn about technology, the more you learn what’s possible, but that invention is not enough, we need implementation.

He’s dismayed that so many people think that companies are evil, saying that corporations are an agent of change if they’re run well, and, that “we need revolutionary change, not incremental change.”

To close, Rose asked Page what he asks in all of his interviews, “What state of mind has served you best, or, what quality in you has enabled you to think about the future and at the same time change the present?”

Page answered by saying that he’s looked at what companies do wrong, and found that more companies are failing today, because “they’ve missed the future.” So for me, I just focus on “what is the future really going to be, and how do we create it” and then I cause our organization to focus on that.