TED Conversations

Closing Statement from Daniel Raven-Ellison

Thank you TED community for taking the time to join our conversation. I have been fascinated by the diverse range of contributions that have been made. The stories that have been shared are particularly powerful, with examples of how globalisation is impacting on the communities that we live in, visit and influence.

What is clear is that many of us are working from very different definitions of what 'local' means. Ronald Estrada describes local as "minimal, ecological, and symbiotic" while Iain Ellwood says it is more of "a state of mind not a geographic destination". This idea links well to Dustin Smith's suggestion that technology "changes who we spend time with, and allows us to choose "our own local".

The diversity of definitions of 'local' goes a long way to explain why we have so many different predictions about the future. Steve Knight had the most radical prediction, suggesting that personal air travel "will allow people to re-populate currently remote and unpopulated areas of the world". Pabitra Mukhopadhyay, Dorian Knus and many others share our concern that global forces are damaging local places and raise valid concerns for the future. These worries are met by many points that express the advantages of globalisation, including one by David Rogers who asks "Is the advantage of globalisation the ability to start a conversation anywhere in the world around common experiences?"

There have been a number of engaging solutions, including ways for tourists, travel companies and host communities to act more responsibly and sustainably. The common areas here appear to be high quality research, learning, education, empowerment and participation. Scan through to find some real gems.

Finally, thank you to InterContinental Hotels & Resorts for sponsoring this conversation. This specific discussion is closed, but you can follow the "Future of Local" project via Twitter on #FutureOfLocal. And we'll begin a new conversation on TED.com in the coming weeks.

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    Feb 24 2013: I've always thought that diversity in all aspects of life is closely related to health, on every scale - genetically, individually, culturally and globally.

    Although I admire and would encourage exploration, it is the expectations and the attitudes of those who follow on from the initial explorer that is cause for concern. As an explorer yourself, I would imagine that you too are appreciative of diversities in culture, landscape, flora and fauna when you first visit. But do you really think that once you have publicly written up your journals of where you have been, that others will not want to follow you? My worry would be the inevitable post-exploratory consequences. What would that aftermath look like when hordes of other people want to go and experience what you experienced at whatever cost and in a level of luxury that would likely be an affront to the indigenous people who live their lives in traditional ways?

    I don't want to pour water on your fire, but I think initial exploration is the initial stage of diversity deterioration - unless essential measures are taken to protect it by limiting the encroachment of Western ideals, diseases and commercialism - and the tempting but illusory idea that our lifestyle is better than theirs.

    Your mention of "changing destinations" in the name of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, does not fill me with a great deal of optimism for maintaining essential diversity at this point - unless I've missed something?
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      Feb 27 2013: In my view places are always changing. Internal and external influences will always change destinations, the places that we arrive at. I think that in many cases that's unavoidable and even an absence of organised change will result in a change of some kind.

      I totally agree with you that exploration has a dark history. My own take on exploration is that we are all explorers and that humans need to learn to do this more sensitively, with more empathy and care. That said, exploration and travel has great potential to improve things too.

      I'm really interested in your opening comment "I've always thought that diversity in all aspects of life is closely related to health, on every scale - genetically, individually, culturally and globally". I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this.
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        Mar 2 2013: Hi Daniel. I think that exploration can be partly responsible for corrupting the variation needed for the global environment to continue as a self-sustaining entity with robustness rather than frailty.

        It's hypothetical, but it seems to me that variances in cultural evolution play a big part in global well-being. Traditional cultures have evolved in tune with with the natural environments in which they live, and therefore variation at a genetic level would facilitate that basic mechanism of evolution. Evolution at that level follows a trajectory of symbiosis that goes with living by nature's rules.

        Western culture has effectively 'stepped off' that evolutionary trajectory and has created its own trajectory based on technology and globalisation. If variation exists, it would not necessarily be concomitant with how the human brain and human physiology has developed over hundreds of thousands of years. Neither does it bear much relationship to how the natural world is perceived (example: we see it as something to exploit, rather than something that supports - and therefore revered and worshipped).

        I wonder about this clash of cultures. I can't help thinking that the type of exploration that expects the trappings of western cultures wherever they choose to go, is inherently damaging to global health.

        When I visit remote cultures (and I have visited communities in Melanesia), I go as a guest. I eat what they eat, I do what they do, live how they live and even try to think what they think. At no point do I expect to 'change destinations' to suit my own home.

        I like your take on sensitive, empathic exploration, but I'm still not sure how it can improve things.
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          Mar 5 2013: My point about change is that no matter who we are or where we go, our influence will always change a place in some way. It may be a change for better, worse or both, but the change is always inevitable. Your trip may have been sensitive, but you will have still have contributed to some kind of cultural or economic change in that place. So for me, any visitor will change a place...

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