TED Conversations

Bernelle Verster

Merah Mas Industrial Biotech, University of Cape Town, Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research - CeBER


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How do we best integrate food security, cities & urban design, and water management to create something beyond sustainable?

This year the UN World Water Day, 22 March 2012, considers the link between Water and Food Security. You would agree that we can’t really consider this link without simultaneously considering energy, and how cities function, and then how all of this is affected by climate change etc …, one needs to consider all these aspects together. A deeper systems approach and institutional collaboration and communication is needed.

The Young Water Professionals (YWP) and friends are hosting a conversation around the systems approach of how food and water interact at the University of Cape Town, South Africa on 29 March 2012.

This is a complex matter for academics to discuss, and yet, the key to progress is to communicate these interlinking issues to the public in a way that empowers civic groups to see the bigger picture and take informed action (or plainly, inspires). It is in this context that we are hosting a conversation around water and food security. Water ties us all together. This TED conversation explores the conversation further, and we are partnering with TEDxCapeTown to potentially take thoughts arising from this conversation further as a multi-year action & outcome based social campaign, in the run up to Cape Town being World Design Capital in 2014.

The conversation will kick off with Carolyn Steel's TED talk 'How food shapes our cities' to place the conversation into context, and will take place with specific context to Cape Town.

The conversation in Cape Town will include several academics - Jane Battersby, Tania Katzschner - practitioners - Shannon Royden-Turner, as well as science journalist Leonie Joubert who is currently publishing a book on this topic.


Closing Statement from Bernelle Verster

While some of the comments here were hard to swallow at first, looking back at it, it was very informative. We're working on it. The main conversation that this was built around can be found here: http://www.aquaduct.org.za/tedxcapetownsalon-foodwatercities-29-march-2012.html

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    Apr 2 2012: Absolutely. But action that fits in the big picture, and not just a feel good project that pleases the funders (Aka no AId.). I get what you're saying about YWP & poor website content. This is a big reason I started with TEDx. One huge thing we got from this conversation was to create a common language between researchers and decisionmakers. Not dodge the complexity to get a simple 'clean and affordable drinking water' that looks good on a website, but engage with the complexity to see how all the links fit together. Developing this common language involves lots of science journalists who are trained to talk a common language, with a good working relationship with the researchers (and not swing an angle to be sensationalist), and this will also result in better website information. Whereas we can easily blame the YWP websites for getting too caught up in the challenges and not having any projects or solutions to show (or not showcasing the projects they are involved in), we can as easily blame the Aid industry, like the carbon credit industry to oversimplify and so contribute to the problem (http://www.ted.com/talks/david_damberger_what_happens_when_an_ngo_admits_failure.html). Anyways, watch this space, we're trying to find a better way.

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