Awareness, Education, and Action

TED Talks are streaming lectures (usually about 18 minutes or less) from expert speakers dealing with issues surrounding education, business, science, technology, and creativity. TED believes in the power of ideas to change attitudes and lives, and as an extension of their platform, the organization runs TEDx events to share innovative talks within communities. On Thursday, August 4th, I was excited to attend TEDxNashville’s HealthNext event thanks to and listened to lectures covering interesting innovations in healthcare like needle-sized robotic surgical equipment, system reforms, and preventative solutions for diseases like HIV and cancer.

Gary Gaston, the executive director of the nonprofit Nashville Civic Design Center, gave a particularly impressive lecture. Gaston spoke about community design, educating children about city planning, and processes for eradicating childhood obesity. In the course of his talk, Gaston introduced the work of Dr. Richard Jackson of the UCLA School of Public Health. Dr. Jackson is a leading voice for better urban design for the sake of good health, and as a pediatrician he has conducted extensive work in the environment’s impact on wellness, particularly relating to children.

Now, why is this important?

With the global crisis of hunger contrasting the United States’ dilemma of obesity, urban development may provide insight into bridging these two vastly different but related health crises.

Gaston and his fellow urban developers could help eradicate childhood obesity in America by incorporating spaces that would allow children to learn hands–on the importance of agriculture and food preparation. These experiences would provide children with a broad range of skills that would expand beyond just working in the soil. Education about the glycemic index and other factors that impact the metabolic process would help young people make dietary choices based on understanding versus scarcity.

Eventually, we could take the successful urban development case studies and implement them into Third World countries whose residents are experiencing famine in what the UN is calling “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis” with 20 million people currently at risk of starvation. What is missing? Funding? Organization? A plan? The awareness? The US Department of Agriculture is spending most of its time, resources, and technology experimenting with drought resistance where crops are intentionally bred to survive on less water, grow larger, and mature faster. How large does a sweet potato need to be, and why are so many valuable resources being allotted for technology that is not being implemented for the greater good?

There needs to be a shift in focus to the problems of the masses as opposed to a mindset that views agriculture through lucrative lenses. Let’s put systems into place that focuses on mobile greenhouses that could sustainably function in Third World countries. If the next problem is water, then let’s pour serious resources into molecular conversion.

All this is to say that the technology exists to alleviate the world’s suffering. What is needed now is a moving force that looks at humanity with compassion and equality.

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