Review: TEDxUniversityofGlasgow 2019 Conference

Galivanizers, SWG3, 2nd March 2019

The TEDx team of the University of Glasgow saw their biggest project come to life with their annual conference. This time, nine speakers came to share their thoughts and experiences, all relating to this year’s theme: ‘Wrong Way – Go Ahead’. For the occasion, attendees made their way to SWG3, where they were welcomed with, among other things, a list of tasks to achieve during the day. With advice ranging from “engage in a booth” to “give a standing ovation”, and after an interesting warm-up engaging the audience, there was no doubt that the conference would be inspirational on many levels.

The event started powerfully with a touching talk about human rights by Judith Robertson, who challenged the audience to fight for their values and beliefs, knowing that the road can be hard and bring discomfort. The next speaker, Mark Symes, tackled the conference’s theme from a different point of view: in his talk, he highlighted the importance of renewable energy sources for a sustainable future. Not only does more than 80% of energy we consume come from fossil fuels, we also do not seem to be running out of these. On the contrary, more coal, oil, and natural gas is available now than ever before, Mark stated against common beliefs. Facing a growing population, and thus a constantly increasing energy use, the goal of a sustainable future seems to drift further and further into the distance. It is therefore all the more important, Mark highlighted, to get involved and vote for those policies encouraging researchers and scientists in this field.

Leaving the audience inspired but slightly on edge and thinking about an uncertain future, Mark gave way to the next speaker of the conference: University of Glasgow graduate and founder of Freedom Bakery, Matt Fountain. After successfully completing his studies at Glasgow and receiving scholarships for Oxford and Cambridge, Matt decided he did not love what he was doing. After a gap year spent in the charity sector, he decided to change path in life by opening a bakery, the aim behind which goes deeper than the production of delicious bread and cakes. Aware of the correlation between employment and reoffending, Matt resourced a third of his work staff from former prisoners, proving that people’s backgrounds don’t have to stand in the way of their achievements.

Poet and film director Sean Lìonadh was up next, with a passionate approach to falling in love and going against society’s expectations when growing up gay. Miha Pipan followed with a talk exploring the importance insects might play in feeding the world population in the future, while Noor Sabha gripped the audience’s attention with a personal story about her struggle against society’s unrealistic expectations. After emphasising that “we were born to be different”, she gave up the stage for environmental lawyer Elisa Morgera. Accompanied by photographs and hand-drawn illustrations, she told the story of her trip to Argentina, through which she got to learn about indigenous communities and their fear of having to give up their land to the government for Lithium farming.

The eighth talk of the day was led by Paula Mcguire, an author and blogger whose life was turned upside down when she accepted the not-so-sad-truth: she excelled at failing, and even better, no one cared about it. This encouraged her to try new experiences. While not all of these turned out to be successful, by trying she found a new way to live her life to the fullest, and learnt to cope when things don’t go according to plan. Along with the acceptance of failing, Paula also learnt to stop comparing herself to others by bringing in her “own measuring tape”, stating that if you have to compare yourself, it should only be to your “own yesterdays”. If there is one advice we took away from this speech full of sarcasm it is that “failure can change your life for the better, if you let it”.

A challenging talk was the perfect follow-up after such a speech, and this is exactly what the audience got from Soumya Polavarapu. Being the last speaker of the day must not have been an easy feat, yet she did a great job, emphasising the importance of decolonising one’s mind, and leaving us with the duty to question our values and believes to make society really inclusive.

By the end of the day, the audience had been presented with countless different ideas, some live music, and unlimited caffeine, all of which could never have happened without the hard work of the TEDx team and their manager Katja Basaj, who rightfully took pride in what they have achieved.

[Lisa Lefebvre and Miriam Fittipaldi]

[Image credit: Wenxu Wei]

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