From TED Talks, Jared Diamond speaks on Why do societies fail? Taking lessons from the Norse of Iron Age Greenland, deforested Easter Island and present-day Montana, Jared Diamond talks about the signs that collapse is near, and how — if we see it in time — we can prevent it.
His best-known work is the non-fiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel (1998), which asserts that the main international issues of our time are legacies of processes that began during the early-modern period, in which civilizations that had experienced an extensive amount of "human development" began to intrude upon technologically less advanced civilizations around the world. Diamond's quest is to explain why Eurasian civilizations, as a whole, have survived and conquered others, while refuting the belief that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, genetic, or moral superiority. Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies do not reflect cultural or racial differences, but rather originate in environmental differences powerfully amplified by various positive feedback loops, and fills the book with examples throughout history. He identifies the main processes and factors of civilizational development that were present in Eurasia, from the origin of human beings in Africa to the proliferation of agriculture and technology.
In his following book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), Diamond examines a range of past civilizations and societies, attempting to identify why they collapsed into ruins or survived only in a massively reduced form. He considers what contemporary societies can learn from these societal collapses. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, he argues against ethnocentric explanations for the collapses which he discusses, and focuses instead on ecological factors. He pays particular attention to the Norse settlements in Greenland, which vanished as the climate got colder, while the surrounding Inuit culture thrived.
In Collapse, Diamond distances himself from the charges of "ecological or environmental determinism" that were leveled against him in Guns, Germs, and Steel. This is particularly evident in his chapter comparing Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two nations that share the same island (and similar environments) but which pursued notably different futures, primarily on the strength of their differing histories, cultures, and leaders.
Architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account "All children, all species, for all time." A tireless proponent of absolute sustainability (with a deadpan sense of humor), he explains his philosophy of "cradle to cradle" design, which bridge the needs of ecology and economics. He also shares some of his most inspiring work, including the world’s largest green roof (at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan), and the entire sustainable cities he’s designing in China.
Architect William McDonough practices green architecture on a massive scale. In a 20-year project, he is redesigning Ford’s city-sized River Rouge truck plant and turning it into the Rust Belt’s eco-poster child, with the world’s largest "living roof" for reclaiming storm runoff. He has created buildings that produce more energy and clean water than they use. Oh, and he’s designing seven entirely new and entirely green cities in China.
Bottom-line economic benefits are another specialty of McDonough’s practice. A tireless proponent of the idea that absolute sustainability and economic success can go hand-in-hand, he’s designed buildings for the Gap, Nike and Frito-Lay that have lowered corporate utility bills by capturing daylight for lighting, using natural ventilation instead of AC, and heating with solar or geothermal energy. They’re also simply nicer places to work, surrounded by natural landscaping that gives back to the biosphere.
In 2002 he co-wrote Cradle to Cradle, which proposes that designers think as much about what happens at the end of a product’s life cycle as they do about its beginning. (The book itself is printed on recyclable plastic.) From this, he is developing the Cradle to Cradle community, where like-minded designers and businesspeople can grow the idea. He has been awarded three times by the US governemt, and Time magazine called him a Hero of the Planet in 1999.
"His utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that — in demonstrable and practical ways — is changing the design of the world." Time
Bill Stone, the maverick cave explorer and diver — who has invented robots and rebreathing equipment to let him plumb Earth’s deepest abysses — talks about his efforts to build a robot to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa. …he’s also planning to mine ice, on Earth’s own moon, by 2015. (Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 17:55)
Photographer Gregory Colbert shares an astounding film from his exhibit, Ashes and Snow, and announces his new initiative, the Animal Copyright Foundation, which aims to collect royalties from companies using images of nature in their ad campaigns. For more than a decade, Gregory Colbert has traveled the world and collaborated with 40+ species to create "Ashes and Snow," the ground-breaking exhibition of more than 100 photographs and three films, housed in the Nomadic Museum. His remarkable sepia-toned images explore the relationship between people and animals, glimpsing a world in which humans live in profound harmony with the rest of the animal kingdom. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 18:42)