Category Archives: TED talk

MIT’s Kent Larson Shows Us a Glimpse of a More Efficient Tomorrow

At present, urbanization around the globe appears to be an unstoppable trend.

Architect Larson wants us to have the good things we like about cities and remove the bad things like too much space for cars and emissions. Using old-Paris as an example, neighborhoods are set up providing compact urban cell inhabitants of 20,000, or so, with everything they need in just a 5 or 10 minute walk.

He says that the city design of the 50s and 60s which is continuing to be built, is obsolete. The innovations that could make the city of the future more desirable will work a lot like a small village of the past.

He did not discuss food in particular, although he shows some urban farming on a top level space. Food stores would obviously be included in his compact urban cells.

In this video, Larson discusses:

  • “Robot” apartments with movable walls
  • Folding cars
  • Driverless cars communicating with pedestrians
  • Melbourne Laneways
  • Boulder’s bike paths and bike-share program

TED Talk: Richard Resnick on Genomic Advancement

Genome work is coming at us rapidly and it won’t be stopped.

In this accessible talk from TEDxBoston, Richard Resnick shows how cheap and fast genome sequencing is about to turn health care (and insurance, and politics) upside down.

At 7:00-7:30 minutes Richard Resnick shifts from talking about curing human disease to plant genomics and feeding the world, saying that it will only be possible by utilizing genomic tools and that he feels morally obligated to utilize them.

"The Sun" Interviews Stewart Brand

I was absolutely delighted to read this lengthy interview of Stewart Brand in my September 2011 subscription issue of “The Sun”. Brand was a forefather to the environmental movement of the 60′s and 70′s. He knows his subjects, is a realist, and is not afraid of taking a stance. He has plenty to say about agriculture and favors scientific use of GMO’s citing important advancements which have been made to date. He makes as much sense as anyone I’ve read and so it led me to check out his 2009 book Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, at my local library yesterday.

You probably already know that one of Brand’s controversial stances is his strong endorsement of nuclear energy. In this interview, he describes his 2001 trip to Yucca Mountain and his belief that storage of nuclear waste there would be safe. (He must be disappointed this week.) He is somewhat of a technological optimist, stating that the environmentalist stance has long been one of heroic despair and that it is time to move on from that view that we are in a tragedy that cannot be fixed.

In my opinion, reading the whole thing would be worth your buying the magazine this month.—KM

Since I also often notice hypocrisy in foodies, by that I mean those who spend their time leisurely while pretending to know how others should be growing their food to eat, I enjoyed this statement from Brand, who supports GMO’s:

Artisanal farming and slow food are really good only in areas where the biggest nutritional problem is obesity. In most of the world you have nutritional issues like not getting enough vitamin A, and the dominant lifestyle is still subsistence agriculture, which has been romanticized by some environmentalists as the right way to live. Indeed many of us tried it in the sixties. By and large it sucked. [Laughs] Few people lasted three winters, because it was so damn hard.

Here are a few predictions that he makes:

I think we have thirty years before we face disaster: Europe, North America, and China becoming unable to grow food, mega wildfires, melting glaciers.


I believe we will see a peak population of between 8 and 9 billion. Then it will go down. … Everything depends on the rate at which climate change lowers the planet’s human carrying capacity. If it lowers capacity to less than 8 or 9 billion, then we are looking at serious resource wars and loss of life.


I’m expecting that we’ll attempt to dim the sun because we’re realizing that we’re not going to slow down the production of greenhouse gases fast enough.

For more, the following is the TED talk that Brand gave to the U.S. State Department prior to his book release in 2009. [At 13:00 begins the part about GMO's.] One of his big subjects is the implication of this world’s growing cities and what that means, quite an important subject.

Next, is his most recent TED talk, produced in June 2010, a debate on nuclear energy:

Brand’s BIO @ TED

How Do We Feed the World Without Destroying it? TED Talk on Agriculture.

Professor Jonathan Foley is the Director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of the Minnesota who focuses on the behavior of complex global environmental systems and their interactions with human societies. In particular, Foley’s research group uses state-of-the-art computer models and satellite measurements to analyze changes in land use, ecosystems, climate and freshwater resources across regional and global scales.

Foley says that agriculture is dominating our planet; that it is affecting water quality and leading to loss of biodiversity; that it rivals climate change in importance. Forty percent of the earth’s land surface is now devoted to agriculture; 70% of water; and 30% of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere due to human activity are due to agriculture. He asks, “How are we going to double global agriculture? Remaining lands are in sensitive areas of biodiversity. We need to freeze the footprint of agriculture and increase production through right methods. Since we have to eat, how we can minimize the negative impacts of growing food?

Note that at 14:20 is a 2 minute video that I’ve featured here before that is well worth watching put out by the Univ. of Minnesota.

What do we need to do?

  1. Incentives for farmers
  2. Precisions agriculture
  3. New crop varieties
  4. Drip irrigation
  5. Gray water recycling
  6. Better tillage practices
  7. Smarter diets
  8. Global collaboration, all parties at the table: industrial, organic

h/t Dennis Dimick