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TED WHAT? Not Just Idle Chatter

By June 12, 2013April 24th, 2016234 Comments

by Julie Howell

On Sunday, November 11, 2012, from 4-6 pm about eighty individuals attended the first TEDxTopanga conference (x=independently organized TED event) at the Community House. The theme of the event, which was limited to 100 people, was Tapestry of Life – How our decisions affect our world. The organizer was Emma Moore, a Topangan, and CEO of Fundamental, a web development and design firm.

For those readers unfamiliar with TED conferences, a little background. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design – in recognition of the convergence of these heretofore disparate disciplines. Begun in 1984, TED was the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, architect and graphic designer who coined the phrase “information architecture.”

The first TED conference featured among other presentations, a demo of Sony’s brand new compact disc and Lucasfilm’s new 3-d graphics. It was an inspiring, but money-losing event. Wurman and his partner, Harry Marks wary and exhausted didn’t try the format again until 1990. This time the world was ready for them, and they were ready to open the event to a variety of presenters from divergent fields, including Frank Gehry, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, and Bono. However, held annually as an invitation-only event (with no PR or advertising budget) in Monterey, CA; it was still a well-kept secret.

Purchased in 2001, from Wurst by Chris Anderson (self-described media entrepreneur), the event has stayed true to its commitment to “the same format, the same breadth of content, the same commitment to seek out the most interesting people on earth and let them communicate what they are passionate about, untainted by corporate influence.” [TED website] However, the scope has broadened and become more international (there is now a TEDGlobal conference held annually in different countries); there is a TED prize awarded to an individual who wants to change the world; and TEDTalks are now available free online to anyone in the world (with access to a computer). Annual conferences are held in Long Beach/Palm Springs and Edinburgh, Scotland. For more information (and there is so much more), or to watch the talks (which are limited to a convenient eighteen minutes or less) go to

Now, fast-forward to 2012, and TED finally (physically) reaches Topanga, thanks to Emma Moore’s great effort. Emma is an accomplished entrepreneur who in the spirit of TED brought together four passionate speakers and managed the entire event. Sponsors included Chryssa Lightheart, Fundamental, Royer Studios, Whole Foods, Topanga Catering Company, PhotoBooth Montage, and Delicious food and drink were donated by Topanga Catering, SuperFood Cuisine by Julie Morris, and Whole Foods.

Jack Sekowshi, served as master of ceremonies for a fairly fast paced event which included live speakers and two TED talks projected via computer. The first speaker, Alexandra Paul, gave an excellent and compelling presentation on population control – both the dire consequences of doing nothing and the possibilities afforded by taking positive action. By announcing that she had chosen not to have children because of her profound concern about the effects of over population, particularly in this part of the world where we use a majority of the resources, she personalized the conversation and made it just that much more impactful.

Rebecca Amis, founder of the Muse Schools, discussed innovative education and how we can “inspire students to live consciously with themselves, one another and the planet,” thus creating a future generation of responsible world citizens. Again, Rebecca used personal examples to bring her point home.

Joseph Rosendo, host of PBS’ Travelscope and traveller extraordinaire, described his early days as an actor and how he merged that desire to tell stories with his love of travel and need to make a living. Probably the most poignant part of his presentation came when he described the current state of war torn Rwanda and how its people have come together following one of the worst genocides the planet has ever witnessed. Called Umuganda (translated – a day of service), this is a day, once a month when all Rwandans gather together to work on a public service project – building bridges, roads, buildings, etc.

The final speaker, Peter Jay Brown, a renowned producer of such shows as Real People and Entertainment Tonight, spoke passionately about positive activism and the need for all of us to stand up to the negative voices in the world. Paraphrasing here – When people tell you not to do it, that’s the time to go for it. Peter is best known for his stint on Discovery Channel’s hit show, Whale Wars, but has been active in the Sea Shepard Conservation Society for over 25 years. His compelling feature length documentary based on his experiences, entitled Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, is available online.

The two TED videos, shown via computer, were Weekday Vegetarian. A must-see for anyone who wants to be a vegetarian, but can’t make a complete commitment. The other was a talk on Succeeding With More Sleep. Here Arianna Huffington made a strong argument for the benefits of a good night’s rest for the benefit of all mankind.

This inspiring event was further buoyed by the in-person connections the audience made during breaks and before and after the event. Being surrounded by people who want to listen to ideas, break barriers, and change the world leads to a stimulating crowd. It also inspired discussions about Topanga creating its own Umuganda and all of us working harder to stop the destruction of our environment, whether it’s along the boulevard with herbicides or the use of rat poison for convenience. The ideas were provocative and the energy was boundless.

All of the talks will be available on the TEDxTopanga website soon. There is a great deal of information to be garnered online that cannot be covered here. Just be careful, these TED talks are addictive and you just might end up spending a lot of time exploring ideas you didn’t even know existed. All audience members look forward to the next TED xTopanga Conference. Thank you Emma Moore and all who contributed for your hard work.

Thank you Tyler Olson for photography.
Thank you Jay Farbman for shooting the event with Royer Studios.