In 2006 young Qatari students took Cameron Sinclair to see migrant worker camps. For the first time, he realised there were over 1.1 million migrants behind the headlines on new building projects. Mainly of Indian, Sri Lankan or Pakistani descent, these people pay a middle man thousands of dollars to get to the UAE, in order to make a better life for their families back home. Instead, they find themselves in a labour camp with inadequate water, no air conditioning and their passports taken away.
During the GFC, the construction industry went bust. Thousands of these workers found themselves without documentation, passports or tickets home. This talk is from 2009, but as recently as May this year, there have been reports of ongoing strikes over work conditions.
Sinclair challenges everybody who works in the industry to make a stand. If an engineer, architect, or building contractor arrives on site weekly to see this exploitation, aren’t they complicit rather than complacent?
Canada and Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil suppliers, only have fifteen years worth of oil left. It takes 500 years to produce the equivalent of the 30 billion barrels we use each year, meaning it’s a question of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’ it runs out.
After seventeen years of photographing industrial lands it occurred to Edward Burtynsky that oil is underpinning the rate of industrial development. He documented the arc of oil, from the ground to everyday usage, through a series of pictures which show everything from the wellhead to a car engine.
The overuse of oil is a massive danger to our society. Burtynsky used his skills as a photographer to raise awareness of this, and he encourages us all to use our various talents to the same end. In 30 years, let’s look back and say truthfully that we did as much as we possibly could.
Carolyn Porco was leader of the imaging team on the Cassini mission to Saturn. Two years before this talk, they’d discovered towering jets erupting from the South Pole of one of Saturn’s moons. After speculating that they were geysers, this implied the possibility of an environment within the moon. In the time since, the Cassini spacecraft has flown closer, enabling the team to find more complex compounds, such as salty water and formaldehyde. The circumstances are such that there may be the conditions to sustain life there. So, imagine the day when we’ll journey to one of Saturn’s moons!
Taylor Mali is one of the few people in the world to have no other job other than that of poet. In this poem, he delivers a comeback to those who’ve ever used the phrase, ‘Those who can’t do, teach.’ Inspirational stuff for teachers everywhere.
How tuneful can one TED audience be? In ‘Notes and Neurons: in search of the common chorus’, Bobby McFerrin uses the pentatonic scale to show how our brains are wired to play certain notes, corresponding to his movements. Interestingly, every audience he’s seen gets it.