TED talks are my favorite videos on YouTube besides funny animal videos. I guess TED talks are my favorite videos to watch when I want to feel productive. Because I just started a new law job (yay!) that is super writing-focused and has a billable hour requirement, I am spending a LOT of time in an office.. at a desk.. staring at a computer monitor. To stay somewhat sane, I have (a) brought a cactus into the office, whom I have named Four Ninety-Nine for reasons you’ll probably figure out on your own; (b) displayed a few pieces of my own art to remind me of other things I like to do (See cover photo); and (c) started working my way through every TED talk in existence.
*Note: My absolute favorite talk of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert’s, entitled “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” It is honest and candid, but presented seamlessly and covers a fascinating array of topics- from the author being afraid of seaweed (same, girl – mushrooms) to the Greek origins of the idea of a creative genius. It is truly a work of art and half of the views are mine……… OKAY FINE I am going to play it while I write the rest of this post.
Anyway, I’ve compiled 15 talks that talk about elephants, conservation, or related issues that I think are still presented in an awesome way. (There are some talks out there that I think have the right message, but are boring.)
Now I can’t write because I keep going back to the youtube tab to watch Elizabeth Gilbert… BRB.
Alright so here are the 15 talks that made my list, in no particular order and with unhelpful insights attached to each. Enjoy!
Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell – “Family Structure of Elephants”
This lady has researched elephants for 20 years, so her two videos are like cliff notes on how elephants live their lives. Basically, elephants are just like us and have big personalities – go figure.
Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell – “The Secret Lives of Elephants”
When elephants feel threatened, sometimes they point their butts at you and “sniff” over their shoulders.. so cute.
Andrew Stewart – “Are Elephants Worth Saving?”
Apparently we can fit more people into Fenway Park than there are Asian elephants left on earth… what. I like his perspective on human/elephant conflict: he observes that the people living in elephant range countries have the same right to protect themselves from elephants as we do to protect ourselves from, say, bears. And so, conservationists need to do better taking into consideration the needs of the human inhabitants of range countries. I also like his reminder that elephants are a super keystone species in that they support whole ecosystems. He says if you are going to pick ONE species to save, elephants are the best candidate. Save elephants → save land → save plants → save other species. He also reminds us that America is the second largest ivory market behind China. Come on!
Dr. Susan Canney – “Punch Above Your Weight: Mali Elephant Project”
She talks about supporting and growing an elephant conservation project in a place affected by war… with a dope accent.
Patrick Freeman – “Elephant Rumbles”
AH this guy loves elephants so much! He studies them but also makes poetry about them. This is an artistic piece followed by a quick reminder at the end to not buy ivory. I love it.
Alex Gendler – “Why Elephants Never Forget”
A cute and informative lesson on elephants, how they can have PTSD and why their memories are good. Note the manipulative elephant eyebrow raise at 2:48.
Brad Spanbauer – “A World Without Elephants”
A great talk but honestly I am just excited to finally know how to pronounce the word “baobab.” Apparently it sounds like “bay-oh-bab.” I’ve been guessing, usually saying “bow-bab” the three or so times per year I use the word. Not relevant.
Josh Plotnik – “How Can Elephants Inspire Children to Think Critically?”
I remember reading this guy’s NPR interview when researching elephants in law school. This talk is cute and thoughtful. And, he did research at Emory! Huzzah
Johan du Toit – “An Idea for Humanity, from a considerate elephant”
I really like this one. He says we should be more considerate and uses elephants as an example of how to do that. Apparently his little daughter was at a watering hole when a herd of elephants showed up to drink, and one elephant made the rest of them stand back while the little girl scrambled away from them. Like, they waited respectfully for her to finish her business even though that was totally their turf. So sweet. And, he says if all of humanity started behaving like the average American, we would need 4 earths to sustain that behavior. Ugh, truth hurts.
George Monbiot – “Re-Wild the World”
See for yourself.
Corneille Ewango – “Hero of the Congo Forest”
This guy’s grandfather was a poacher, so he grew up helping poach endangered species. Now he works to combat poaching. He also mentions that a lot of materials we use, we don’t realize have a bad effect on the environment. Like, materials in our cell phones F up the congo. Humans are the worst how did we get to this point
Damien Mander – “Modern Warrior”
Far and away the most quotable of all these talks. Also, this guy has “Search & Destroy” tattooed across his chest. He begins the talk powerfully, saying about animals, “Their suffering is my grief.” He also talks about humans suffering from speciesism and Peter Singer’s equal consideration of interests, which I got really into in law school. This guy is a super bad ass.
Damien Mander – “From Sniper to Rhino Conservationist”
Starts off with a story of a baby rhino named Piglet CAN YOU EVEN
Geraldine Morelli – “Wildlife Conservation and the Art of Letting Go”
In a brilliant French accent, she talks about two ways to love animals. The first type is really a fascination with animals where we put our interests first, and the second is wanting what is best for the animals. Take one guess which one is better for the animals. While working with monkeys she befriended one named Gizmo, and talked about having to “let go” when Gizmo was being assimilated back into the wild. And, I agree with her observation that now, we don’t need to watch animals in captivity. We have webcams like the ones in Kruger National Park to watch animals in real time. There is literally no excuse anymore to keep large species in captivity.
Ron Kagan – “Animal Welfare and the Future of Zoos”
He was director of the Detroit Zoo when they gave up their elephants because they weren’t thriving there. It was a bold step at a time when elephants brought a lot of money to zoos. He talks about this at 14:55.
Through an internship a few years back, I got to go to Detroit and tour the zoo with him after hours. I remember getting choked up seeing an alligator in a really small enclosure, and even more upset watching the polar bears crawl around in the summer heat. While I’m proud of the zoo for taking steps to educate people about animals and elephants in particular, I just can’t get over the rest of the species that remain in captivity, in enclosures too small and unnatural for them to thrive. Blah.
Hope you enjoyed these!