This is the session where the winners of this year's TEDprize (whose names were announced in October) will reveal their "wishes". The TEDprize was introduced in 2005 and is an award given annually to three people that, in the words of TED curator Chris Anderson, "have shown that they can, in some way, positively impact life on this planet". Winners are granted a wish - no restrictions - that they get to express in front of the TED audience, asking for help in realizing it; and they receive 100'000 USD to use towards their wish.
TEDprize 2005-06 update
TEDprize Director Amy Novogratz is on stage to introduce the prize and give an update on past awardees.
She starts by announcing a new website for kids "about looking after the planet", which grew out of the TEDprize awarded in 2005 to photographer Ed Burtynsky (see the video of his speech). The site, MeetTheGreens.org (image right) launches today.
Larry Brilliant won the TEDprize last year, and said he wanted to build a global system to detect new diseases or disasters as quickly as it emerges and enable rapid response (I have chronicled this idea in detail here, and here is the video of his TED2006 speech). Since he unveiled his wish, he has become head of Google.org (the nonprofit/forprofit philanthropic arm of Google); seed funding has been raised to begin building the system, known as INSTEDD (International Networked System for Total Early Disease Detection); lots of pro bono work is coming from the TED community and from the health and disaster prevention community. (Contacts with Canada's GPHIN team, which Brilliant put forth as model in his speech last year, have instead been rare). In March they will be doing a pilot project: a simulation involving 6 countries, including Vietnam, Thailand and a province of China, about responding to a pandemic.
Architecture for Humanity's founder Cameron Sinclair was another 2006 winner and wished "to create a community that actively embraces open-source design to generate innovative and sustainable living standards for all" (summary and video of his TED2006 speech). In response, Sun Microsystem has mobilized several of its engineers and specialists (and other companies such as Hot Studio and AMD, as well as many individual TEDsters, have contributed) to build the Open Architecture Network (image left), which is launched today: an open and collaborative forum to enable designers, builders, architects, donors and volunteers to collaborate in improving housing conditions for those in need around the world.
The third 2006 winner was filmmaker ("Control Room") Jehane Noujaim, who wished to "bring the world together for one day a year thorugh the power of film" (summary and video of her TED2006 speech). Since, hundreds of offers of help were received, and Pangea Cinema Day is programmed for May 2008, as a three-hours live event distributed simultaneously around the world. It will be a day featuring speakers, music and dozens of short films selected via a global competition (run online, a user-generated event).
TEDprize 2007 winners
The winners of this year's TEDprize are photojournalist James Nachtwey, biologist E.O. Wilson (author of "The Diversity of Life"), and former US president Bill Clinton. Their wishes have been matter of speculation lately, but so far have remained confidential.
Nachtwey -- he is presented the prize by actress Goldie Hawn -- has covered more wars than most, being a witness to the world's horrors. He has been described as a "one-man human rights watch",
and he is an activist photographer: "the primary function of my photos
is to be in mass-circulated publications during the time that the
events are happening, to become part of people's daily dialog and
create public awareness".
I was a student in the 1960s, a time of social upheaval and idealism, he says. Pictures had a strong impact on me: about the war, politicians were telling us a story, and photographers another. I believed the photographers. They not only recorded history, they helped change history. Change became not only possible, but inevitable. In the face of poor political judgment, journalism and photojournalism put a human face on issues which from afar can appear abstract or ideological. What happens at ground level, far from the halls of power, touches individuals one by one. Photojournalism gives a voice to those who don't have a voice. The right balance is to be found between market considerations and journalistic principles. Every story does not have to sell something: there is also a time to give. I wanted to be a photographer in order to be a war photographer. But I understood that war photography would necessarily be intervention photography.
He shows pictures he took in Northern Ireland, Central America, Palestine and Israel, the Balkans, South Africa, Somalia, Sudan ("use of starvation as a means of genocide") and many other places, including New York on September 11. I am a witness and I want my testimony to be honest and uncensored. I also want it to be powerful and eloquent and do justice to the people I'm photographing, he says. I saw the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, and it was the most uplifting thing; the next day I traveled to Rwanda and it was like taking the express lift to hell. Some 800'000 people were slaughtered, while the international community remained silent. My work has evolved from being concerned mostly with war to cover social issues as well (orphans in post-communist Romania, for example, or industrial pollution elsewhere in Eastern Europe, crime and punishment -- prisoners -- in America).
The pictures below were taken by Nachtwey in Chechnya, Afghanistan and South Africa:
Photographing the rubble at Ground Zero on 9-11 I realized I had
been covering the same story for 20 years, and the attacks on NY were
its ultimate manifestation. In its suffering, the Islamic world has
been crying out, why haven't we been listening? When the war in Iraq
was imminent, I realized that the US troops would be covered by others,
so I decided to photograph the invasion from inside Baghdad. When
Marines started rounding up bank robbers, they were cheered by the
crowd: a short-lived moment. I covered wounded US soldiers and realized
that good people have been put in a very bad situation for questionable
My TED wish: there is a vital story that needs to be told and I wish for TED to help me gain access to it and then help me come up with innovative and exciting ways to use news photography in the digital era. (BG note: yes, it is vague, but James can't reveal in public the precise story he has in mind, but clearly it's a about a place that's difficult to access, politically, diplomatically and logistically, and a story that's not being covered).
Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson
is the other winner of the TEDprize 2007. He was 13 when he discovered
in Alabama the first known US colonies of fire ants, and from there he
has become one of the world's most distinguished scientists. The Guardian called him "Darwin's natural heir". He is the author of "The diversity of life", his recent work has focused on the impact human activities have had on life on the planet. The award is presented by Stewart Brand.
Says Wilson (that's him giving his speech in the picture at left): I've come on a special mission on behalf of my constituency, the millions of trillions of insects and other small creatures, to make a plea for them. Please keep in mind that if we would wipe out insects from the planet - which we are trying hard to do - the rest of life would disappear within a few months. Out of my study has emerged an ambition crystallized in the wish I am about to make. The variety of genes on the planet in viruses and bacteria is likely to exceed that of all the rest of life. We know that some bacterial species are capable of almost unimaginable extremes of temperature, changes in environment, and more. They are in the process of disappearing under the HIPPO juggernaut: Habitat destruction (climate change), Invasive species (fire ants, pathogenic bacterias, etc), Pollution, Population growth and Overharvesting that drives species into extinction. Human-forced climate change alone could eliminate a quarter of species within the next half century. We need to settle down before we wreck the planet.
So my TED wish: I wish we will work together to help create the key tools that we need to inspire preservation of the Earth's biodiversity. Let is call it the encyclopedia of life. It is an encyclopedia that lives on the Internet and is contributed to by scientists and amateurs, it has an indefinitely expandable page for each species, available to anyone. Some scientists have started this effort, I wish you will help them to make this real. To start, someone has already donated the domain name "eol.org" (Encyclopedia of Life).
Do I dare writing three words describing the other TEDprize winner of this year? Former US president. Bill Clinton is certainly one of today's most recognizable and powerful global personalities. He has reinvented himself after leaving the White House in 2000 to become a credible champion of global interdependence through the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative (for a look at how Clinton operates, read David Remnick's great article published last September in the New Yorker). The TEDprize is presented to Clinton by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com.
Says Clinton: We live in a world that's interdependent but insufficient, in at least three ways: It's highly unequal, both in developing and in developed countries. It is unstable, because of the threats of terrorism, WMD, diseases, and growing vulnerability. It is unsustainable because of climate change, resources depletion and species destruction. When I think of the world that I would like to leave to my daughter, it's a world that moves aways from these three insufficiencies. People like us who are not in public office have more power to do good that in any time in history - thanks to the Internet, to NGOs.
What we have been trying to do, working first in Rwanda and then in other places, is to develop a model for rural healthcare in poor areas that can be used for a whole range of health issues, that can first be scaled for the whole nation in Rwanda and then implemented in other countries, a model that does the job (delivers healthcare) and does it at a price that allows countries to sustain the system without foreign donors over the long term. In a world with no systems, with chaos, everything becomes a struggle. The person who has done the best job of this, building a system in a poor area, is Paul Farmer (Partners in Health), who has built systems in Haiti and elsewhere (BG note: Farmers' work is chronicled in the great book by Tracy Kidder "Mountains Beyond Mountains"). Systems are what we need; in Rwanda we are trying to build a healthcare network. We started about 18 months ago, developing paid community health workers, ensuring that people who have AIDS or TB are properly diagnosed and treated, working about bringing clean water and sanitation and providing nutrition, and moving people up the health chain if they have problem of a severity that requires it. We went from 0 to 2000 people treated for AIDS; about 40% of all the people who need TB treatment get it; we started the first malaria treatment program that they ever had there; clinics have been created that are well-equipped and solar-powered. We estimate that this system could be developed across Rwanda for the equivalent of 5-6% of GDP. We are now working with PIH and the Ministery of Health in Rwanda to scale this system up, and are starting projects in Malawi, Tanzania, and other countries: to save as many lives as possible, but do it in a systematic way. We need initial upfront investment to train doctors and nurses, to set up the infrastructure, etc. But over a 5-10 year period we will eliminate the need for outside assistance.
My wish: help in creating a better future for Rwanda by assisting my foundation, in partnership with the Rwandan government, to build a sustainable, high quality rural health system for the whole country, that can then be a model for other countries. We have a chance here to prove that a country that almost slaughtered itself out of existence (while “none of us, most of all me, did anything to help") can practice reconciliation, reorganize itself, focus on tomorrow and provide comprehensive healthcare to its citizens. My belief is that this will help us build a more integrated world, a place where we all want our grandchildren to live in.
The TEDprize award ceremony ends with music from singer Paul Simon (as in Simon & Garfunkel) and his band.