University of Sydney tackles the big ideas at TEDxSydney 2012

28 May 2012

Professor John Crawford (right) discussing his work at the recent TEDxSydney 2012.
Professor John Crawford (right) discussing his work at the recent TEDxSydney 2012.

It was impossible to miss the University of Sydney's participation with TEDxSydney.

The thousand participants in the weekend's festival of ideas were confronted with some impressive installations in the theatre's foyer: a huge pile of earth, a cage of locusts and a motor vehicle littered with discarded fast food packing.

As Professor John Crawford explained, these represented the world's big challenges in the 21st century - soil security, overeating and obesity.

"If we continue with current agricultural practices, there will be no topsoil left on the planet in 50 years' time. And for the first time in human history more people in the planet are suffering the diseases of overnutrition than undernutrition. A staggering 1.6 billion are overweight or obese.

"The solutions to all these problems are interconnected," he told the lunchtime crowd. "And that is exactly the priority for the University's multidisciplinary research centres - the Charles Perkins Centre exploring the causes and effects of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, focusing on food security, climate change and financial stability."

TED - which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design- began in Silicon Valley in 1984 as a vehicle for technology business leaders to exchange ideas. Since then it has developed into a global non-profit think tank with the theme of "ideas worth spreading" and has spawned hundreds of independently organised events around the world.

"Ideas are powerful," says TED curator Chris Anderson. "They can give us a better understanding of the world we live in and can encourage people that it is possible to be involved as it changes."

This year the University of Sydney joined TEDxSydney as the exclusive education partner and was well represented amongst the presenters. Dean of the Business School Professor Geoffrey Garrett challenged Australia to abandon some wrongheaded myths about future superpower rivalries if it is to prosper from its economic and political links with China and the United States. He predicted a dramatic slowdown in China's economic growth and an ongoing tense but pragmatic relationship between the US and China based on economic interdependence, which be to Australia's advantage.

As well as co-host Julian Morrow, other University of Sydney alumni speaking at TEDxSydney included activist and entrepreneur Jeremy Heimans, philosopher Tim Soutphommasane, installation artist Lyn Wallworth, architect Gerard Reinmuth, musicians from FourPlay String Quartet Lara Goodridge and Tim Hollo, singer and songwriter Tim Freedman, founder of the Sydney Children's Choir and the Gondwana National Indigenous Children's Choir Lyn Williams, and singer with the Indigenous group the Stiff Gins Nardi Simpson.

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