What Can We Achieve When Our Backs Are Against the Wall?

Pau Issel

Some of my favourite moments from TEDxSydney 2021

“What can we achieve when our backs are against the wall?”

Fenella Kernebone opened the first session of TEDxSydney 2021 with a question that struck straight to the core of what was to be an action-packed day.

The need for rethinking how we are in the world as a human race has never been this confronting, evident and urgent, and TEDxSydney took the lead again. Getting together an incredible line-up of reality-shapers, performers and films, they exposed Sydney and the world to different ideas and projects that are already waking us up to a new world full of possibilities.

Monica Gagliano, a pioneer in a new field of research called evolutionary ecology, approached this challenge with an exciting concept: “Solutions don’t come from well-manicured landscapes, they come from the not knowing”. We tend to think that not knowing is something we need to avoid. Is it that we don’t realise how much beauty and potential is in embracing uncertainty as not just one, but maybe the most effective way forward?

Her own surrendering practice led her to study the cognitive process of plants and animals to find out then they are all listening and responding to the sounds in their environments. Interesting? These sounds can be shared across generations to facilitate adaptation and buffer against adverse conditions.

Because knowledge equals possibility and possibility invites action, she created the Resonant Hearth project to develop tools and incubators to reproduce plants to the whole planet. As a result, reforesting our earth has never been more readily accessible and technically possible, not despite but due to her capacity, which is our capacity, to let uncertainty guide us. Fun fact she shared – plants can feel “dinner is coming” (aka water or sun), even before that happens!

Another epic moment was when Tracey Rogers explained that, even though blue whales are about to become extinct due to hunting, two new groups of blue whales have been discovered through bomb-listening stations. Yes, you read it correctly.

Blue whales produce a unique sound. Each of the diverse blue whales populations make a specific song. They discovered a new unique song dominating the Indian Ocean area. The sound then migrates to Sri Lanka, Western Australia, and then back to the Indian Ocean. It sounds like blue whales are staying with us for longer. 

Despite the good news, she explained and stressed the impact that global warming has on blue whales. The increased heat reduces the amount of phytoplankton that feeds the krill population, which blue whales eat—food chain 101.

After a banquet of thought-provoking speakers, films and performers, Tim Dean closed the first session, bringing to the table a solution to a big issue we are facing as a society: How being too convinced of our beliefs might actually be detrimental to morality evolution. 

I understand he is pointing to an entirely new skill we might need to develop as human beings: the capacity to hold different perspectives without getting caught in black and white thinking. The ability to stay flexible in the face of opposing viewpoints might be the key to evolving our morality and learning to relate differently with each other. That made me wonder what would be possible if we could listen to other people’s perspectives with openness instead of judgement. 

As Monica Gagliano said: “The ultimate goal is to really heal our minds so we can dream and imagine new possible worlds and inspire our hearts to reconnect the spirit of humanity with a sense of reverence and reciprocity to all life.”


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