Bringing back the woolly mammoth. TEDxChristchurch 2016: 360º is bringing the past to the present.

You don’t need a ticket to Jurassic Park to experience a bygone time. This year TEDxChristchurch is transporting attendees to the past to make a difference for the future. From the resurrection of species to the revival of discarded wind turbines for playgrounds to the restoration of New Zealand’s bird population, TEDxChristchurch 2016 has it all, minus the dinosaurs.

Today, TEDxChristchurch announced the next four speakers in the 2016 lineup: Dr. Amy Fletcher, Jos de Krieger, Sophie Rea and Grant Ryan.

We’re taught that extinction is forever – but scientists today are proving otherwise. Dr Amy Fletcher, associate professor in political science at the University of Canterbury is looking into the big questions around “bringing back” extinct species. As just one example, we’ve nearly completed sequencing the woolly mammoth genome and it is only a matter of time before scientists have the ability to “revive” extinct species, including the giant sloth, the saber-toothed tiger and New Zealand’s own giant moa.  

Dr Fletcher’s research and teaching, focused on life sciences and biotechnology, have helped shaped our understanding of wildlife, nature, animals, the role humankind has to play with de-extinction and whether we should be raising creatures of the Ice Age back from the dead. Are we overstepping stepping the field of science? What will become of our conservation efforts if we know there’s a backhand solution? And how far will resurrection go before we’re in the realm of dark arts?

Aiming to intervene before de-extinction becomes necessary, the ‘addicted inventor’ Grant Ryan is putting his energy into helping make New Zealand predator-free with The Cacophony Project. The creator of Eurekster, YikeBike and PurePods is harnessing yet more Kiwi ingenuity, using artificial intelligence and big data to eliminate pests and restore New Zealand’s bird population to its former glory. As James Cook’s botanist Joseph Banks explained, the singing of the birds ashore was the “most melodious wild musick [he’d] ever heard… the most tuneable silver sound imaginable.” Ryan is inventing new ways to bring back that soundtrack.

Further improving the quality of our environment, Netherlands-based Jos de Krieger and the team from Superuse Studios cleverly manipulate the disused into the useful, leaving nothing to spare. One of the team’s most publicised projects turned recycled wind turbine blades into a children’s playground. Five discarded rotor blades were cut up and into parts to serve as tunnels, towers, bridges, hills, ramps and slides. de Krieger and his team have reused other locally sourced ‘waste’: PVC cable reels into multipurpose storage, airplane seatbelts into fashion accessories – even a whole house made entirely of “waste” materials. de Krieger and his partners are pushing the boundaries of design and building methods while promoting the idea that sustainability, functionality and creativity all go hand in hand.

Finally, slam poet Sophie Rea is an up-and-comer to listen to. Taking out first place in the Christchurch Poetry Slam competition and the Rising Voices National Slam, Sophie will win your heart over as she did ours at TEDxYouth@AvonRiver in 2015. One of TEDxChristchurch’s youngest performers, Sophie reminds us that everyone has a story, and she conveys her message with power and conviction. Her words are beautiful to listen to while holding deep meaning and important lessons for society.  

Following the highly successful return to the CBD last year, TEDxChristchurch 2016: 360º will take place on 29 October at TEDxChristchurch Village, encompassing the iconic Isaac Theatre Royal and surrounding area. This year, the Village expands to include the new Centre for Music and Arts, The Piano, around the corner.

Youth memberships sold out within days but General Memberships are still available. The all-day event costs $189.00, which alongside the inspiring talks includes delicious food, the famous goodie bag, entertainment, free espresso all day, and more.

The non-profit event is choreographed by a dedicated team of more than 40 local volunteers. 

Seamus Dunn