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Eight great TED Talks for geography lovers

Eight great TED Talks for geography lovers
24 Oct
Ever since 1984, when the first TED conference took place, this non-profit organisation has been devoted to spreading ideas through engaging presentations. We’ve rounded up eight of the most informative, hopeful and inspirational TED talks suitable for fans of geography

Andrés Ruzo: The boiling river of the Amazon

‘Go out, be curious. We live in a world where shamans still sing to the rhythm of the jungle, where rivers do boil and were legends do come to life,’ proclaims geoscientist Andrés Ruzo. As a young boy living in Peru, Ruzo was told the story of a river, deep in the Amazon, where the water boils. Excitable and determined, this is the story of his quest to find that mythical river and his enduring belief in the world’s wonder and beauty. Good for anyone with the heart of an explorer.


George Monbiot: For more wonder, rewild the world

Popular environmental writer and activist, George Monbiot, presents the case for rewilding in this upbeat talk. Based on a 1995 case study in which wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, Monbiot seeks to demonstrate that bringing back missing plants and animals, even carnivorous ones, has the power to invigorate ecosystems. This is the case for stepping back and letting nature decide, passionately and hopefully told.


Suzanne Simard: How trees talk to each other

Ecologist Suzanne Simard reveals the way that trees communicate and co-operate. Talking the listener through her 30 years of research in the Canadian forests (during which she had to keep a close eye on the grizzly bears) she explains the processes that enable trees, even those from different species, to share information by passing water, nutrients, chemicals, hormones and defence signals from root to root. Though Simard initially struggled to get research funding for her outlandish theories, her perseverance has fundamentally updated our understanding of forests and the ways that trees socialise.


David Gallo: Underwater astonishments

More than a decade old and with more than 14 million views, David Gallo’s footage of deep-ocean creatures is a TED classic. By now, most people will have seen similar creatures in more modern documentaries, but Gallo’s footage of a perfectly camouflaged octopus is still worth a marvel.


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Parag Khanna: How megacities are changing the map of the world

Global strategist Parag Khanna presents his theory of ‘connectography’, a world in which we are more connected than ever before. Utilising glowing maps and graphs, he demonstrates how economic ties and digital connectivity are now more powerful than national borders – how even countries at war are investing billions of dollars in each other’s supply chains and infrastructures. ‘Geography is no longer destiny,’ he says. ‘We evolve into a world where people can rise above their geographical constraints.’


Kristin Poinar: What’s hidden under the Greenland ice sheet?

The answer to this intriguing question – a vast pool of water – may at first feel a little underwhelming. But as glaciologist Kristin Poinar explains its significance, that feeling changes to one of wonder and a twinge of alarm. Just six years ago scientists had no idea that this huge aquifer, trapped under the ice, existed. Now, satellites and radar are revolutionising our understanding of the ice sheet and its connection to our ever-rising sea levels.


Danny Dorling: Maps that show us who we are (not just where we are)

Never underestimate the power of a map. Social geographer Danny Dorling uses cartograms created by his colleague (and long-time contributor to Geographical) Benjamin Hennig, to show us a familiar picture, contorted in a very different way. These are maps that expand and shrink based on the data fed into them, whether it be the global population or the amount of water that falls on the planet. Each serves to demonstrate the ways that our world is changing and the power of the global community.


Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie seeks to prove how impressionable we all are when confronted with a single story about another country. Brought up in Nigeria, she explains that her early consumption of Western children’s books led her to believe that girls like her did not belong in literature. She likens her personal misunderstandings to the single story fed to Western audiences about Africa – one that tells of a beautiful landscape ravaged by poverty and war. Poverty can be a single story, she says, but it must not remain so, because all it does is highlight that which makes us different and mask that which makes us the same.

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