Sunday, July 1, 2012

Top 10 TED Talks - 1 - How Inequity Harms Us All

There are scores of brilliant, inspiring TED (that is Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks on almost any subject you can imagine.  There are probably dozens on sustainability and related issues.  I have used several TED talks as tools in lectures and classes to illustrate points, because many of them are done by brilliant people who have devoted their lives to one particular area of study, and I (as a generalist) could never put together such a perfect, concise presentation on the issue.

So I have decided to share my favorites with you, in no particular order.  The first is a video that really cemented in my mind what it means to talk about equity.  Social and Economic Equity are always listed as some of the primary elements of sustainability, but are often nebulously defined.  They also tend to be stated as desired outcomes a priori, unable to be justified or measured against the real world.

In this 16 minute talk, Richard Wilkinson distills some of his research into a very clear and succinct argument for greater equity as a goal in our societies.  Wilkinson studies issues of equity as they relate to health, crime, and even much more difficult to pin down measures such as "social cohesion" as the Professor Emeritus of social epidemiology at the University of Nottingham in England.

One of my favorite parts is when he contrasts Japan and Sweden, and shows how two completely different systems and approaches in two wildly different cultures end in strikingly similar results.

I think this video is particularly poignant in the United States right now, since our demographics have been trending toward less and less equity for decades.  The 99% movement may not have any cohesive leadership, mission or plan, but they have felt in an emotional and unscientific way what Wilkinson has come to through years of study: the gross inequality of our current system is bad for everyone.

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