I never expected to give a TEDx talk. I love public speaking and give talks often, but before applying, it had never once occurred to me I might ever be on the TEDx stage. To be honest, even once I applied it didn’t really occur to me that I would give a talk for TEDx. Those videos seemed far away from me and my life- academic, big thinkers talking to an audience in an unknown land about innovation. Except of course, there are actually several TEDx chapters here in Colorado, the oldest being TEDxCherryCreek.
So I got to do this strange thing, and it felt awesome. It gave me this incredible opportunity not just to share an idea, but to really cultivate an idea. I spend a lot of time in meetings talking about racism, anti-racism, and environmental justice as they relate to the broader conservation movement, and while I like to think I was already well-spoken on these topics, I hadn’t ever sat down and clarified my bottom line ideas and values. Through the process of practicing my talk, getting feedback, and digging in on a big idea, I now have a 12 minute speech I could give at any time. I also have a thesis, key supporting ideas, action ideas to make progress, all about moving forward on anti-racism as we also move forward on environmental progress. I am now better armed in every space I occupy to discuss and defend the critical work of environmental justice.
In addition to this truly enlightening process, I also had the distinct pleasure of giving my speech to an unattended theater. To ensure we were “COVID-safe” each of us could bring limited guests, shuttled in and out in between speeches. I had my moment of glory in front of about 7 people who were physically present. There was no big dinner after. There was no team bonding for the talkers, no big family celebration, no networking with strangers in the hallway. In this way, my TED experience gave me another realization- I’m sad to be in a pandemic. As completely basic as that sounds, I hadn’t really let myself have that thought before October. In March, my work moved online, but I kept my job; I stopped going into my parent’s house, but they live here so I saw them in yards; I stopped going out to dinner, but I learned to cook new things. I was so busy counting my blessings and pivoting to the next new thing, I hadn’t stopped and felt the real gravity of our collective and global crisis. After my moment of largely online glory, the quiet of the rest of my day was deafening. I missed an audience, I missed a celebration, I missed connecting with the other incredible TED talkers that day.
The climate crisis will start taking away opportunities soon, too. As I write this, thousands have been evacuated due to the Calwood Fire west of Boulder. These types of crisis will only get worse, and black and brown communities willbe left with less social safety nets to recover from increasing climate disasters. As sad as I am to be missing people now, I have to hold on to hope we will seize a moment, learn from this hard time, to create the types of economic equity needed for all communities to be resilient to this pandemic, and to the climate crisis.