Well, well, well, what can I say about yesterday’s TEDx Tauranga Event?  Nothing other than AWESOME would be the only answer!!

I know that we organisers had one heck of a great time seeing 9 months of work come to fabulous fruition, and it looked to me like the audience had a great time too?   I know we saw many of you dancing in the aisles and up front, centre stage to Alice Sea and Aaron Saxon!

Dancing up front to Alice Sea and Aaron Saxon

Dancing up front to Alice Sea and Aaron Saxon

Wow, wow, wow was all we could say as the hours passed yesterday and ironically, the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams kept repeating over the speakers during the hourly breaks. Taurangians (coining a new word here), organisers and audience members alike were spotted in various areas doing the happy dance to Pharrell as the day successfully unfolded.  Being one of the many volunteer organisers on this event, I can honestly say I was so proud to be a part of this awesome enterprise!

The day started with a very eager sold-out crowd of 505 Taurangians, and various TED fans from around New Zealand making a break for their seats through the doors of the ASB arena at 1pm.

Head Organiser Sheldon Nesdale took centre stage to MC the event.  His fun and light-hearted style of humour and enthusiasm set the mood for everyone to relax and enjoy.

Sheldon Nesdale (Licencee, Head Organiser, emcee)

Sheldon Nesdale (Licencee, Head Organiser, emcee)

And Sheldon made his yearly promise to the audience, which, would be fair to say that most were achieved:

  1. You will hear new ideas
  2. You will meet new people
  3. You will cry at least once
  4. You will laugh at least twice
  5. You will clap until your hands are raw

All achieved except maybe for one – I don’t think there was too much crying, and if there was, it was crying with laughter from Sheldon’s jokes.

Sheldon also mentioned something about the guarantee of TED talks always leaving you with a sense of hope and inspiration, that we too can actually change the world in some unique way and make a dent in the universe.

Promises and guarantees were delivered through the talks of the incredible line-up of speakers and performances from the entertainers we were graced with.  The 15-minute talks and entertainment left us changed, with much to think about.  New ideas were sparked– ideas, that didn’t go away in seconds or minutes.  These were ideas that stayed in our psyches, planted seeds and will maybe eventually move us into action in some place in our lives.  The 9 talks all had an unintentional thread of themes that flowed throughout.  And, this happened naturally in the selection of high quality speakers, based on who was the most profound.  The overall themes were based around health and well-being, connection and caring—relating to the planet, people and animals.  So the talks got us thinking, and the entertainers added FUN and creativity to the mix.  We were dancing and laughing in the midst of it all.

So, did we leave feeling happy and hopeful and thinking about cool new ideas?  You better believe it!

Upon the backdrop of a spectacular set design, by Benjamin Parkinson, that resembled a constellation of stars upon an open night sky through a black and red TEDx living room;

The line up for the day went like this:

1. Ben Warren

Talk Title: Modern lives are longer lives? Why that might NOT be true for you.

Email: ben@bepure.co.nz
Website: www.bepure.co.nz
Phone: 0800 873 787

Ben Warren

Ben Warren

Ben started by telling us that if you have anything wrong with your body right now, chances are it’s your nutrition.  He then told us the story about his own journey as a professional golfer and coping with a major back problem.  What he would find out from a coach and health expert on the course was that his back problem was probably related to an allergy to dairy, and she could tell this by his posture, shape and breathing in his golf swing.  When Ben trialled taking dairy out of his diet, he was so transformed, that he became obsessed with learning about nutrition and went on to study it with a vengeance, laying down the golf clubs.  He now speaks worldwide about nutrition and owns the business BePure.

Ben then drew a picture for us of the startling real statistics of the rising rates of cancer in New Zealand, diseases on the rise, chemicals in our food and drinking water, facts about processed carbohydrates and the damage on our insulin production, and most importantly for New Zealand; the vitamin deficiencies in our food and soil within New Zealand.   He also discussed how different differing cultures, races and ancestral physiology have differing nutritional needs and we should learn about our own.

Luckily, he left us with ways to take responsibility for our own health and these were his suggestions; learn about what is right for your own body, grow or buy your own organic food, eat organ meats for optimal nutrition, cut out the carbs, sugar and gluten.  Be healthy and live free of health problems.

I felt healthier just listening to him!

2. Manu Prakash [TED.com Video]

Talk Title: A 50 cent microscope that folds like origami [Watch Video]

Manu Prakash

Manu Prakash

Watch Manu Prakesh’s clever little talk on a nerdy little microscope folded like origami that allows you to see the vertebrae of a mosquito, or the details of an insect’s compound eye.  This simple little invention is innovative and revolutionary for science and microscopy and may just change the way we study the world.  Get folding!

3.  James Ross

Talk Title: Learning differently: What if words in every book leaped up and came to life?

Email: knowdyslexia@gmail.com 
Phone: 027 2788 983
Facebook: Know Dyslexia Charitable Trust

James Ross

James Ross

How do you go from school dropout to finding power in seeing words in three dimensions?  Well, James had the story and came to the stage announcing that he was a dyslexic.  He shared his trials of struggling with reading and writing for many years, assuming he was simply “dumb”, and inventing strategies to survive the embarrassment.  In the midst of en engineering career, a colleague told him he thought James may be dyslexic.  It wasn’t until he was 33, he discovered that he was 100% a visual learner or “dyslexic” and the relief poured in, as well as the passion to learn all about it.  He was then taught to examine words three dimensionally, modelling the letters in clay.  This was a jaw dropping moment for him, learning that 20% of the population was this way, gifted actually, and struggling with the flat and linear words on the page–so flat, that they would actually disappear when he read them.  But when he was able to see words in 3 dimensions, he broke through the “disability” and now helps teachers learn how to teach the gifted visual dyslexics with 3D learning all over New Zealand.

This was an inspiring and touching story James brought to TEDx, and in his story he taught the audience a lot about how each of us “see” words as well.  James demonstrated to the audience an exercise, which revealed if each individual saw in words or in pictures, or both.  The answers for each of us were truly awakening.

4.  Calista

Email: calista@outlook.co.nz
Phone: 027 280 5028

Wow.  I was awe struck by this ever so young beauty who stood confidently and humbly up on stage announcing that she is not motivated by money or fame, but by the love of the performing arts.  As a 15 year old Tauranga local who was a finalist in New Zealand’s got Talent last year, that’s a pretty impressive attitude.



Calista sang perfectly 4 songs, and two that really stuck out for me were were the song “Price Tag”, by Jesse J and “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, a popular song from the 1964 musical Funny Girl.  To pull off either of these songs is a huge feat, and she did it beautifully with her big voice that can reach any note without a hitch.  This Tauranga superstar blew the TEDx audience away.  It’s a given that this young lady has an incredible future ahead of her, so watch this space!

5. Dr Ian G. McLean

Talk Title: Love your children? Keep their enemies close.

Email: tawakix@hotmail.com

Dr Ian McLean

Dr Ian McLean

“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles… if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”  This was the opening quote from Dr. Ian G. McLean stated, from Sun Tzu,  “The Art of War”, an ancient Chinese book on military strategy.  How would this apply to me, I wondered?  I don’t have any enemies?

The enemies are more subtle than that, I would learn.

From the wilds of Canada, through warzones in the Middle East to small town New Zealand, Biologist Dr. Ian G. McLean explained through a series of his own travels and experiences, how our ability to adapt our behaviour to whatever threatens us will allow us to survive in the face of adversity.  Through his journeys around the world starting with biology trips to Canada where grizzly bears were his threat, to supporting the clearance of land mines in the Middle East—an environment he had to operate in for 5 years—he learned to “know” his enemy and to live next to it.

What are some of the threats we have in New Zealand, he asked?  Traumatized post-earthquake and flooded Christchurch, economically stripped small towns of NZ like Featherston and Kaikohe, Kawerau, where suicide rates are high.  Are these places offering us a chance for hope or leading our kids and families to withdrawal and drop out of society?

Dr. McLean chooses the former, and states that if we know the enemy and teach our kids to know the threats, we will be resilient and not defeated.

6. Ron Finley [TED.com Video]

Talk Title: A Guerilla gardener in South Central LA [Watch Video]

Ron Finley

Ron Finley

Watch this humorous and inspiring video from a true “Gansta Gardener” who is leading the movement of bringing fresh fruit and vegetable gardens to the concrete jungle of South Central Los Angeles.  His gardens, in this compromised area of Los Angeles have become a tool for transformation in the neighbourhood.  “Gardening is the most defiant act in the inner city”, says Finley.  “We gotta make this sexy, and plant some shit!”  Definitely, worth a watch!

7.  Vicki Kelly

Talk Title: The Three-second Kiss: Why our future depends on it.

Email: vikki@vikkikelly.com

Vikki Kelly

Vikki Kelly

Vicki opened with the story of her brother calling her in a state of panic in the middle of the night after Googling his health problems over the Internet.

With the growing problem of busy-ness, stress, a dependence on technology, phones, gadgets, etc. the World Health Organization has predicted stress related illnesses to rise to catastrophic levels by the year 2020.   Being plugged into Google, games and online obsessions, we are becoming unconnected to each other and more connected to cyberspace, losing our ability to be present in nurturing our relationships and loved ones.

So, to redirect our busy lives and attachments to our phones, Vicki led us down a new path — The path to an exercise in mindfulness.  Mindfulness is available to us all.  We can reverse this process– by  PUCKERing  Up(Pause, Unplug, Connect, Kindness, Engage, Rest)  with Vikki to rediscover this lost art and improve our relationships with each other.  So, the audience was led into a few minutes of connecting with the person sitting next to them and staring into each other’s eyes, then  . . . a warm embrace for about 30 seconds.

I can honestly say, that it was really refreshing!  And it worked for me!  And the fun part was looking over at 500 people hugging at the same time!

8.  Alice Sea & Aaron Saxton

Email: aliceseamusic@gmail.com

Wow, wow, wow.  What a thrill these two creative musicians were!

Alice Sea + Aaron Saxon

Alice Sea + Aaron Saxon

Alice Sea is young a Tauranga local Composer and multi-instrumentalist; she has been sweeping her sound waves across our shores since 2008. She uses an array of instruments when performing including the didgeridoo, tin whistles, djembe, finger harp, guitar, blues harp, ukulele, flute, vocals & synthesizer.  Creative, different and utterly awesome was the experience of listening to her and Aaron!

They performed 4 original songs:

  1. The first by Aaron about a surf break in Mexico—sounded like you were there, experiencing the wave itself and riding the adrenaline filled wave iteself!  A Spanish sounding guitar medly raced victoriously against the leading of Alice’s voice singing “rrrreeba!”
  2. Alice wrote the second song about her visions of mermaids out at Rabbit Island that came to take her away from her Urban existence.  This was my favourite!  Again, the creative sounds and changing of instruments brought us to swimming with mermaids.
  3. The third song, well, I missed the title, because I was distracted with her cool looking “snail didgeradoo” instrument.  Whatever the case, it worked and the song was a hit, which compelled Sheldon Nesdale and half the audience to dance their way down to the front of centre Stage!
  4. The dancing continued into a song about “evolution” with various ape calls.  The fun was watching everyone!  Genius!

9. Dr. Rodney Ford

Talk Title: Daily bread: Can ANY human body handle gluten?

Email: rodney@rodneyford.co.nz
Website: http://www.DrRodneyFord.com

Dr Rodney Ford

Dr Rodney Ford

This was the talk that got the standing ovation and changed everyone’s eating habits for the rest of evening.

Gluten – friend or foe? Over the course of 15 minutes Dr. Rodney Ford, MB. BS. MD. FRACP, and a pioneer in the field of paediatric food allergies, convinced an audience of 500 that nobody is equipped to digest gluten.  How did he do it?  By using legos!  He showed us what the indigestible gluten protein, represented by the lego, is chased by the antibodies that our systems create to combat the gluten.   High antibodies in the bloodstream show how are bodies attempt to attack the radical gluten molecules.  The protein damages the lining of the intestines, and causes nerve and brain damage.  His proof was in his stories of children and patients, his own life and family, and the research on children and people that has produced results.  Once called the crazy doctor for his stance on gluten, he is now being heard and listened to by experts around the globe.

But, it is up to us, to make the choices for our children our own health and, Dr. Ford believes that abundant health can be achieved by anyone who eats the appropriate foods.  So, why take the risk of eating this protein that is not meant for our bodies, states Dr. Rodney Ford.  I know I was convinced!

10.  Eric Whitacre [TED.com Video]

Talk Title: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong [Watch Video]

Eric Whitacre

Eric Whitacre

Take the time to check out this talk from a Emmy award winning composer, (who looks more like a California surfer) who created virtual choirs around the globe.  He attracted the voices of talented singers from all over the world and sliced together the voices on video through sound engineering.  The result:  the sound of angels singing!  Don’t miss this one!

11. Puawai Cairns

Talk Title: Forgotten grandfathers: Newly discovered stories from the Maori men of World War 1

Email: Puawai.Cairns@tepapa.govt.nz

Puawai Cairns

Puawai Cairns

Pauwai brought the touching story of her journey as curator for the Gallipoli installation at Te Papa, in Wellington.

Her mission was to find the “lost” or forgotten soldiers, who now would be great grandfathers,  of the Maori contingency from Gallipoli.   How did she do it?  Through none other than social media and Facebook. Her slides showed the Facebook posts unfolding the story of the whereabouts of the families and ancestors of these men.  The results were astounding as the responses from family came pouring in and she began to piece together the missing links.  Grandchildren were instantly found, and the locked away stories of these men re-appeared.  The research had paid off, bringing the connections of the families back, the stories to preservation at Te Papa and a enriching of our Maori culture in New Zealand.

I was so moved by this talk and loved the connection of the Maori people, and understanding the extraordinary contribution that Maori made to WWI and a British empire.

12. Marty Hoffart

Talk Title: Still a clean, green New Zealand? Three opportunities to rescue our slipping image.

Email: marty@wastewatchers.co.nz
Website: www.wastewatchers.co.nz
Phone: 027 2302 256

Marty Hoffart

Marty Hoffart

Marty is co-founder and trustee of The Environmental Education for Resource Sustainability Trust (EERST), Chair of the Community Recycling Network (CRN) and is the director of a Tauranga based waste minimisation consultancy Waste Watchers Ltd.

Marty began by sharing some of the basic shocking facts about recycling verses sustainability; he said recycling is actually very simple, sustainability sounds too hard and becomes a barrier for people to do anything.  But the truth is there has been slow progress in NZ to effectively recycle compared to the rest of the world. There are 3 very toxic things in the NZ environment and landscape that currently not enough is being done about.  They are scrap tires, electronic waste and beverage containers, which end up in our waterways and ultimately the environment.  Do you know how many discarded tyres there are in the landscape of NZ? 7.7 million per year.  What happens to your old TV when it goes to the dump?  Nothing.  But it’s full of toxic materials.

He then gave some great ideas on how we could deal with waste in New Zealand.  He used the comparison of his native country Canada and other OECD countries, where there are advanced recycling fees on tyres and electronics so that they can be recycled without charges at the end of their useful lives. With deposits on beverage containers, there is an incentive to pick these up from gutters, and not stuff them into council rubbish bins, as people are given money in exchange for the recycled goods.  We were challenged even further to consider the fact that a program like this can be done here in New Zealand by our government with current legislation.

He closed with: “if you can’t recycle, reuse or compost it, you simply shouldn’t be making it”.

13. Nicole Masters

Talk Title: Down and Dirty: A pile of reasons to fall in love with soil.

Email: nicole@integritysoils.co.nz
Website: www.integritysoils.co.nz
Phone: 027 4523 900

Nicole Masters

Nicole Masters

Nicole Masters is an official soil expert, an Agroecologist actually.  And she taught the audience the most interesting facts about soil and why we all need to get down and dirty and protect our most valuable natural resource that is slowly being compromised and diminishing.

In 15 awe-inspiring minutes, we learned life really is in the soil.  We humans actually come from soil, and that most religions and cultures believe that this is so.  We learned about the microscopic tandigrades, an “alien like microbe” that lives in the soil and live within us, that strengthens the health of the soil and human immunity.  We learned that our human interruption of these creatures in the soil, is threatening our future through foods and directly through our health.

And we were left with many reasons why taking action to save the health of our soil offers a wide range of benefits not only to the environment but also to society as a whole.  So, did we fall in love with soil?  Absolutely!  Time to get dirty!

14.  Dr. Liza Schneider:

Talk Title: Sustainable healthcare for our pets: Why the answer is not in the bag.

Email: info@holisticvets.co.nz
Website: www.holisticvets.co.nz

Dr Liza Schneider

Dr Liza Schneider

Dr. Liza Schneider’s dream was to always be a vet. Coming from South Africa and growing up with the wonderful wild array of animals of her native country, she was in awe of the strength and ability for animals in this country to survive, and sustain optimal health in the arid, dry and harsh landscape.  This fascination would become the basis for her work later in life when she moved to New Zealand, and set up a holistic vet practice.

What she found in her work with animals here was that the modern pet society of eating processed pet foods, or the same garbage that humans ate, the same drugs that humans used for many of the same diseases and illnesses, that animals were really suffering and many were becoming resistant to the drugs and remedies.  So, she went back to her roots and thought about ways to help these urban animals live better lives.

As she shared many testimonies about different animals, like Cranky the Cat, her stories were about helping the animals get back to natural diets, fresh air and moderate exercise.  When she went back to basics, using what nature has provided for us to help the animals, they would get better.  Her message: If you mess with nature, it may come back to bite you.

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