Playlist: 10 TEDWomen talks for Earth Day

Earlier this week, I had the privilege and honor to plant trees with the daughter and granddaughter of environmentalist Wangari Maathai. In recognition of her life’s work promoting “sustainable development, democracy and peace,” Maathai received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. She was a lifelong activist who founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977.

At that time, rural women in Kenya petitioned the government for help. They explained that their streams were drying up, causing their food supplies to be less secure and longer walks to fetch firewood. Maathai established the Green Belt Movement and encouraged the women of Kenya to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood, and receive a small monetary token for their work. Through her efforts, over 51 million trees have been planted in Kenya. Although Maathai died in 2011, her daughter Wanjira continues her work improving the livelihoods of the women of Kenya and striving for a “cleaner, greener world.”

This Earth Day, the work of Professor Maathai and the Green Belt Movement is an inspiration and a “testament to the power of grassroots organizing, proof that one person’s simple idea — that a community should come together to plant trees, can make a difference.”

With that in mind, here are 10 TEDWomen talks from over the years that highlight innovative ideas, cutting-edge science, and the power that each of us has to safeguard our planet and make our world better for everyone.

1. Climate change is unfair. While rich countries can fight against rising oceans and dying farm fields, poor people around the world are already having their lives upended — and their human rights threatened — by killer storms, starvation and the loss of their own lands. Mary Robinson asks us to join the movement for worldwide climate justice.

2. Ocean expert Nancy Rabalais tracks the ominously named “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico — where there isn’t enough oxygen in the water to support life. The Gulf has the second largest dead zone in the world; on top of killing fish and crustaceans, it’s also killing fisheries in these waters. Rabalais tells us about what’s causing it — and how we can reverse its harmful effects and restore one of America’s natural treasures.

3. Filmmaker Penelope Jagessar Chaffer was curious about the chemicals she was exposed to while pregnant: Could they affect her unborn child? So she asked scientist Tyrone Hayes to brief her on one he studied closely: atrazine, a herbicide used on corn. (Hayes, an expert on amphibians, is a critic of atrazine, which displays a disturbing effect on frog development.) Onstage together at TEDWomen, Hayes and Chaffer tell their story.

4. Deepika Kurup has been determined to solve the global water crisis since she was 14 years old, after she saw kids outside her grandparents’ house in India drinking water that looked too dirty even to touch. Her research began in her family kitchen — and eventually led to a major science prize. Hear how this teenage scientist developed a cost-effective, eco-friendly way to purify water.

5. Days before this talk, journalist Naomi Klein was on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, looking at the catastrophic results of BP’s risky pursuit of oil. Our societies have become addicted to extreme risk in finding new energy, new financial instruments and more … and too often, we’re left to clean up a mess afterward. Klein’s question: What’s the backup plan?

6. The water hyacinth may look like a harmless, even beautiful flowering plant — but it’s actually an invasive aquatic weed that clogs waterways, stopping trade, interrupting schooling and disrupting everyday life. In this scourge, green entrepreneur Achenyo Idachaba saw opportunity. Follow her journey as she turns weeds into woven wonders.

7. A skyscraper that channels the breeze … a building that creates community around a hearth … Jeanne Gang uses architecture to build relationships. In this engaging tour of her work, Gang invites us into buildings large and small, from a surprising local community center to a landmark Chicago skyscraper. “Through architecture, we can do much more than create buildings,” she says. “We can help steady this planet we all share.”

8. Architect Kate Orff sees the oyster as an agent of urban change. Bundled into beds and sunk into city rivers, oysters slurp up pollution and make legendarily dirty waters clean — thus driving even more innovation in “oyster-tecture.” Orff shares her vision for an urban landscape that links nature and humanity for mutual benefit.

9. Beverly + Dereck Joubert live in the bush, filming and photographing lions and leopards in their natural habitat. With stunning footage (some never before seen), they discuss their personal relationships with these majestic animals — and their quest to save the big cats from human threats.

10. Artist and poet Cleo Wade shares some truths about growing up (and speaking up) and reflects on the wisdom of a life well-lived, leaving us with a simple yet enduring takeaway: be good to yourself, be good to others, be good to the earth. “The world will say to you, ‘Be a better person,’” Wade says. “Do not be afraid to say, ‘Yes.’”

TEDWomen 2018 Updates

If you’re interested in attending TEDWomen later this year in Palm Springs, California, on November 28–30, we encourage you to sign up for our email newsletter now to stay up to date. We will be adding details on venue, sessions themes, guest curators and speakers soon. Don’t miss the news!


The world takes us exactly where we should be: 4 questions with Meagan Fallone

Cartier and TED believe in the power of bold ideas to empower local initiatives to have global impact. To celebrate Cartier’s dedication to launching the ideas of female entrepreneurs into concrete change, TED has curated a special session of talks around the theme “Bold Alchemy” for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, featuring a selection of favorite TED speakers.

Leading up to the session, TED talked with entrepreneur, designer and CEO of Barefoot College International, Meagan Fallone.

TED: Tell us who you are.
Meagan Fallone: I am an entrepreneur, a designer, a passionate mountaineer and a champion of women in the developing world and all women whose voices and potential remain unheard and unrealized. I am a mother and am grounded in the understanding that of all the things I may ever do in my life, it is the only one that truly will define me or endure. I am immovable in my intolerance to injustice in all its forms.

TED: What’s a bold move you’ve made in your career?
MF: I decided to leave the two for-profit companies I started and grow a nonprofit social enterprise.

TED: Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
MF: The women in my family who were risk-takers in their own individual ways: they are always with me and inspire me. My female friends who push me always to dig deeper within myself, to use my power and skills for ever bigger and better impact in the world. I am inspired always by every woman who has ever accepted to come to train with us at Barefoot College. They place their trust in us, leave their community and everyone they love to make an unimaginable journey on every level. It is the bravest thing I have ever seen.

TED: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?
MF: I would tell myself not to take myself so seriously. I would tell myself to trust that the world takes us exactly where we should be. It took me far too long to learn to laugh at how ridiculous I am sometimes. It took me even longer to accept that the path that was written for me was not exactly the one I envisaged for myself. Within the things I never imagined lay all the beauty and wonder of my journey so far — and the promise of what I have yet to impact.

The private TED session at Cartier takes place April 26 in Singapore. It will feature talks from a diverse range of global leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers, exploring topics ranging from the changing global workforce to maternal health to data literacy, and it will include a performance from the only female double violinist in the world.


More TED2018 conference shorts to amuse and amaze

Even in the Age of Amazement, sometimes you need a break between talks packed with fascinating science, tech, art and so much more. That’s where interstitials come in: short videos that entertain and intrigue, while allowing the brain a moment to reset and ready itself to absorb more information.

For this year’s conference, TED commissioned and premiered four short films made just for the conference. Check out those films here!

Mixed in with our originals, curator Anyssa Samari curated a week-long program of even more videos — animations, music, even cool ads — to play throughout the week. Here’s the program of shorts she found, from creative people all around the world:

The short: Jane Zhang: “Dust My Shoulders Off.” A woman having a bad day is transported a world of famous paintings where she has a fantastic adventure.

The creator: Outerspace Leo

Shown during: Session 2, After the end of history …

The short: “zoom(art).” A kaleidoscopic, visually compelling journey of artificial intelligence creating beautiful works of art.

The creator: Directed and programmed by Alexander Mordvintsev, Google Research

Shown during: Session 2, After the end of history …

The short: “20syl – Kodama.” A music video of several hands playing multiple instruments (and drawing a picture) simultaneously to create a truly delicious electronic beat.

The creators: Mathieu Le Dude & 20syl

Shown during: Session 3, Nerdish Delight

The short: “If HAL-9000 was Alexa.” 2001: A Space Odyssey seems a lot less sinister (and lot more funny) when Alexa can’t quite figure out what Dave is saying.

The creator: ScreenJunkies

Shown during: Session 3, Nerdish Delight

The short: “Maxine the Fluffy Corgi.” A narrated day in the life of an adorable pup named Maxine who know what she wants.

The creator: Bryan Reisberg

Shown during: Session 3, Nerdish Delight

The short: “RGB FOREST.” An imaginative, colorful and geometric jaunt through the woods set to jazzy electronic music.

The creator: LOROCROM

Shown during: Session 6, What on earth do we do?

The short: “High Speed Hummingbirds.” Here’s your chance to watch the beauty and grace of hummingbirds in breathtaking slow motion.

The creator: Anand Varma

Shown during: Session 6, What on earth do we do?

The short: “Cassius ft. Cat Power & Pharrell Williams | Go Up.” A split screen music video that cleverly subverts and combines versions of reality.

The creator: Alex Courtès

Shown during: Session 7, Wow. Just wow.

The short: “Blobby.” A stop motion film about a man and a blob and the peculiar relationship they share.

The creator: Laura Stewart

Shown during: Session 7, Wow. Just wow.

The short: “WHO.” David Byrne and St. Vincent dance and sing in this black-and-white music video about accidents and consequences.

The creator: Martin de Thurah

Shown during: Session 8, Insanity. Humanity.

The short: “MAKIN’ MOVES.” When music makes the body move in unnatural, impossible ways.

The creator: Kouhei Nakama

Shown during: Session 9, Body electric

The short: “The Art of Flying.” The beautiful displays the Common Starling performs in nature.

The creator: Jan van IJken

Shown during: Session 9, Body electric

The short: “Kiss & Cry.” The heart-rending story of Giselle, a woman who lives and loves and wants to be loved. (You’ll never guess who plays the heroine.)

The creators: Jaco Van Dormael and choreographer Michèle Anne De Mey

Shown during: Session 10, Personally speaking

The short: “Becoming Violet.” The power of the human body, in colors and dance.

The creator: Steven Weinzierl

Shown during: Session 10, Personally speaking

The short: “Golden Castle Town.” A woman is transported to another world and learns to appreciate life anew.

The creator: Andrew Benincasa

Shown during: Session 10, Personally speaking

The short: “Tom Rosenthal | Cos Love.” A love letter to love that is grand and a bit melacholic.

The creator: Kathrin Steinbacher

Shown during: Session 11, What matters


TEDFilms: Four new short films premiered at TED2018

For the TED conference this year, we wanted to entertain attendees between talks — and support and encourage up-and-coming filmmakers. Meet TEDFilms, a new program for promoting the creation of original short films.

Executive-produced by Sinéad McDevitt and led up by TED’s director of Production and Video Operations, Mina Sabet, the short films acted as a creative palate-cleanser during the speaker program, a short blast of humor, beauty and awe.

Each film is less than two minutes, and genres range from experimental art and documentary to PSA and dark comedy. Enjoy!




As light passes through defective glass, beams split into color spectra, causing ‘diffraction grating’. For the first time ever in film, we get up close and personal with this visual phenomenon in a series of beautiful chromatic abstractions.

Director: Shane Griffin

Music: Gavin Little

With special thanks to:
Ed Bruce at Screenscene
Los York




Illusions for a Better Society
Could visual illusions be a cure for polarization?

Aaron Duffy
Lake Buckley
Jack Foster

Director of Photography: William Atherton

Production Design: Adam Pruitt

Creative Partner: SpecialGuest

Production Company: 1stAveMachine

Dave Kornfield
Andrew Geller
Matt Snetzko

Music: Bryn Bliska




It’s Not Amazing Enough
The pressures of having to make an amazing film sent this deadpan deep-voiced award winning filmmaker into a crippling spiral of self-doubt and comic indecision.

Director, Writer & Producer: Duncan Cowles





A.I. Therapy
After 100 years of progress, AI bots have finally become too human for their own good.

Mother London

Directors: Emerald Fennell & Chris Vernon

Director of Photography: Ben Kracun

Production Design: Jessica Sutton

VFX: Coffee & TV


Screen gems: The art onscreen at TED2018

A monumental part of what brings the TED conference to life is the speakers and the amazing ideas they share on the TED stage. But here’s a riddle: What also shares the spotlight with each person who spends their 3 to 18 minutes speaking on the red dot? The magnificent session art, of course!

TED has collaborated with design firm Colours & Shapes since 2014. They are the minds behind the mesmerizing animated art seen at the start and throughout each session, which is tailored specifically to that session’s theme.

We caught up with Colours & Shapes in their hometown of Vancouver, BC, to learn more about the process behind an integral part of what’s brought TED2018: The Age of Amazement to life.


A globally changing landscape forms the backdrop for Session 4, the Audacious Project. Over the course of the evening’s session, the light slowly fades onscreen.

Q: Tell us about your team and company:

Colours & Shapes was founded in 2012 by Gordie Cochran and Anthony Diehl. We actually sort of stumbled into it. We saw an opportunity to leverage our diverse backgrounds in film, events and tech to craft amazing, meaningful experiences. Our passion has really been to architect “moments” that stick with you; moments that resonate with that deep “why” behind any event or experience.

Q: Take us through the creative process: from receiving the prompts to fruition … were there technical considerations or concerns you had to troubleshoot?

The creative process has been really wonderful. We love how open the TED curation team is to some pretty “out there” visual ideas. Our process was really all about understanding the session themes and curation and finding ways to to unpack “amazement” in each. We started with really rough sketches and motifs. We gave particular consideration to how we could use projection on the stage and the beautiful wood cases. We knew from the start that we wanted to treat the entire stage and screens as one unified canvas for content. We worked really closely with Mina, Mike and Martha to find just the right tone for each session. Our looks moved pretty quickly from sketches and moodboards to illustration and animation.

The creative process really followed the development of the sessions. As we learned more about the speakers and topics, there was so much great inspiration to draw on visually. From the unique red laser light in Mary Lou Jepsen’s talk to ocean exploration and intimate storytelling, we wanted each session to feel like the perfect space to hear each TED Talk. Our team worked incredibly hard in the weeks leading up to TED to produce all these diverse session environments. And we worked in a lot of different mediums! Traditional animation, illustration, film, compositing, VFX … At one point we found ourselves smearing around a lot of tea, cream and sugar in macro videography for one session look (Session 5: Space to Dream).

Q: What were you most excited about when you heard this year’s theme was Age of Amazement?

Love the theme! We were immediately intrigued and drawn in when we starting talking about this year theme. Each session really has its own way that it interacts with the theme in a way that is really fun and interesting. The early creative motifs we developed were all about exploring “amazement” through a variety of lenses: emotions, optical illusions, perspective shifts, shadow play, etc.

Q: The art for each session is based on the session title — any secret inspirations? (A little birdy told me about song lyrics inspiring Session 5 … are there others like that?)

  • There were a few sessions that we really wanted to tie into. The red laser light for Session 9: Body Electric is a nod to Mary Lou Jepsen’s talk.
  • Nerdish Delight is a playful nod to the ubiquitous “sexy tech product reveal” video. It’s all cool sculpted lines, slick materials and studio lighting … except we never get to see just what the product is!
  • “Wow. Just wow.” is an M.C. Escher-esque optical illusion. It’s all about the thrill of a perspective shift, that “wow” moment when you realize you are seeing something completely new and exciting.
  • “Space to Dream” really started as we asked ourselves, “What do astrophysicist daydream about?” We imagined ourselves staring into a cup of tea and losing ourselves in a waking dream about beautiful unseen corners of the universe. In one of our creative meetings with the TED team the lyrics to the Blondie song “Dreaming” came up: “I’ll have a cup of tea and tell you of my dreaming …” It’s a beautiful deep space daydream that is built entirely from filmed elements like tea, sugar, cream and food coloring. No actual nebulae were harmed in the filming of that session.

Q: Any “easter eggs” we should look for?

The Blondie song connection above is a fun one.

Session 10, Personally Speaking, is a session all about little scenes and objects that suggest a story, but don’t quite give you all the info. Sort of like the opening line of a good short story. The wood cases on stage and “rooms” in the session environment shift and turn.

Q: What do you want the audience to experience while watching your art?

In a word? Amazement! Our hope is that each visual environment serves to support the deep, intentional and thoughtful curation that has gone into each session for TED 2018. In working closely with the team at TED, we have worked to extract as many insights, themes, inspirations for each session and then have endeavoured to create visual environments that effectively captures the DNA of each session in thoughtful, creative and whimsical ways.


The shifting panels and details of Session 2’s screen reflects the session title: “After the end of history …”

Q: What are you most proud of from this project?

Definitely our talented team members! Producing great experiences and beautiful creative takes a team that can bend and bow with evolving ideas and creative discovery. Getting to partner with the brilliant team at TED and come alongside and be able to visually bring big ideas to life in the theatre has been a really fantastic and creatively rich experience for C&S. Hard to pick favourites from the content but we really love how the conference opener came out. Jorge Canedo Estrada’s sumptuous animation is second to none. Also, seeing Mike Ellis’ gorgeous illustration come to life in a crazy shifting 3D world in “Wow. Just Wow.” is something we could watch all day!

Q: How many people work on making this happen?

We pulled together a team of multidisciplinary creatives to built out the visual worlds for TED2018. We have collaborated with a team of illustrators, designers, animators and composers, 13 people total.

Q: Any interesting or fun stories you’d like to share that happened during the process?

The intensity of taking everything on with a short timeline, and then throwing the opener into the mix weeks before the event. This led to some long nights in animation! But seeing it all come to life in the theatre was incredibly rewarding.

Q: Anything I’m missing? Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you to Chris, Mina, Mike, Martha and the TED team for having us along for the ride this year!

Bright colors and natural motifs tell the story of Session 11, “What matters.”