Ideas Exchanged

TEDxTucson, a local branch of a global nonprofit effort devoted to sharing "ideas worth spreading," will be hosting an evening of talks from some of Tucson's most innovative thinkers next Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Fox Tucson Theatre.

TED, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, started in California in 1984, and has since spread around the globe. "TEDx" events, like TEDxTucson, are "really a smaller version of the larger TED global event," said Lewis Humphreys, organizer and curator of TEDxTucson.

This year's event has the theme "Wonder of We," and will focus on ideas regarding how Tucsonans can better work together, Humphreys said.

"The idea behind this whole event is to focus on our community's identity, and the idea that if we all work together ... we'll accomplish more," Humphreys said. "The more we collaborate, the more we'll make Tucson a better place."

Planned for the night are 12 speakers from diverse backgrounds. All of them have either gone to school in Tucson or call it home, Humphreys said.

For speaker Keri Sylvin, a partner with the Lewis and Roca law firm and a founder of Imagine Greater Tucson, speaking at TEDxTucson was "a no-brainer," she said. Her talk will focus on Imagine Greater Tucson, but she mainly wants to "get people to think about engaging in the community in a productive and forward-thinking fashion," she said.

TEDxTucson is a tremendous opportunity for people to hear different ideas, Sylvin said.

"The one thing we don't do very well as a human race sometimes is listen, and that's all that's required of this," she said.

For architect and artist Bill Mackey, also a speaker at TEDxTucson, the event is a great way to get involved with the community—and to collaborate.

"There's something that always happens from doing something like this," Mackey said. "You meet somebody, and you end up playing tennis with them or having coffee with them or doing a project."

Mackey is also an adjunct professor with the University of Arizona College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, where he worked with students to produce Food Paper Alcohol, a study/exhibit focusing on how those three ingredients flow through downtown Tucson.

"I'll talk about my ideas on infrastructure in the city, and personal choice, how what we do affects how space is created," Mackey said.

Kate Tirion, another speaker at TEDxTucson, is focusing on another aspect of Tucson's potential: as an arid-lands environment. Tirion—a permaculture consultant, designer and teacher—sees Tucson as a place with inspiring potential.

"This is not just an opportunity for Tucson, but really an opportunity to inspire arid-land environments around the globe," Tirion said. "The potential of showing how people can live really well, but within the means of an environment, is huge."

Tirion said that people need to think beyond just sustainability—where something "lasts or endures"—and ponder ideas of permaculture.

"What if we were to design an economy that emerged out of a deep understanding of what the resources are? ... It's a complex but really exciting possibility of what we can create," Tirion said.

For Tirion, TEDxTucson is an inspiring start. "This is really a great time for hope. We need to create a whole new future, and I think this is what this is about."

TEDxTucson will not just feature talks, Humphreys said. Music will be provided by local bands Silver Thread Trio and Entre Peruanos. There will also be a choral performance by the Sam Hughes Elementary choir, which will be singing a newly composed piece titled after the event itself, "Wonder of We."

Overall, the event is a response to a larger social movement, Humphreys said.

"It really fits into the bigger context right now of Occupy Wall Street and the tea-party movement, where the whole entire nation is reconsidering civic responsibility and how people engage in our community. I think it's quite timely that we're looking at and focusing on social collaboration and social innovation," Humphreys said. "Each of the speakers is going to be giving people ideas and tools that they can use in our community to be more resilient. The more we here in Tucson get to know each other and see each other and work together, the better our town will be."