How Slums Can Save The Planet


Some people see a squatter city in a city like India and the desperation overwhelms them: rickety shelters, little kids working or begging, filthy water and air (think Slumdog Millionaire). Stewart Brand, on the other hand, sees these places and is encouraged. A pioneering environmentalist, technology thinker, and founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, Brand has certainly had a unique life. He has founded a number of organizations including The WELL (an online community for intelligent, informed people from throughout the world) the Global Business Network (which explores global futures and business strategies informed by the sorts of values and information which Brand has always found vital), and the Long Now Foundation (an organization committed to promoting long termism and better thinking). Besides the accolades that may appear on his resume, this dude has lived a heck of a life. He is no spring chicken either, coming in at a healthy 74 years of age (but he looks much older). He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and then went on to study biology at Stanford. He then enrolled in the Army, where he was a parachutist and taught infantry skills. After his service ended, he studied design and photography in San Francisco. Around that time, he also participated in a legitimate scientific study of then-legal LSD. Brand could very well give an awesome talk on that experience alone. If this next part isn’t strange then I don’t know what is: he and his wife live on a 64 foot working tugboat (pictured above) that was built in 1912. He does all his work in a grounded fishing boat 100 yards away.

From reading about Brand’s work and his life, I guess you could say I was expecting something pretty interesting from him when I viewed his TED presentation on squatter cities. However, I found myself somewhat disappointed. He was a little dull to be plainly honest. I thought he would amuse me with an off-beat personality and just generally be a corny guy. But, he seemed normal and plain. I guess the only thing worthy of note was the subject of the talk itself (which is really supposed to be the first thing you look at in a speaker. However, I think the deliverance of the talk is just as important. Especially if the audience consists of students). Anyway, his talk centers on how the movement from rural areas to slums is actually a good thing for poor people and the environment. His counterintuitive thinking focuses on the fact that since these people are so desperate, they become more creative and collaborative to survive. The result (in Brand’s eyes): slums are the solution to poverty. Below is a link to his talk on TED:

Again, it is an interesting talk but if he came to Bucknell, I would have a problem with his level of connection with students. He’s older and little dry so it might be boring. However, the content of his talk could potentially be engaging and spark a great Q&A session. My overall rating for Brand is a B which I would bump up to an A- if he threw in stories and lessons learned from his younger years.

Empowering disadvantaged children through technology

In an academic environment such as Bucknell, it is easy to get sucked into the competitive nature of working hard in order to have a successful career in the future. What is often lost is the importance of helping those less fortunate then you are. I picked Nicholas Negroponte as a person of interest because I thought his non-profit organization was very inspiring. After graduating MIT with a degree in architecture, he was most interested in computers because he saw computers as a mixture of art and science. Negroponte was best known, during his career, for founding and directing MIT’s Media Lab. While his professional career is very impressive, I thought he was interesting because he took his skills in the field of computers and started a non-profit organization.

After Nicholas Negroponte established his success, he wanted to do something more meaningful to impact the future generations. He wanted to take advantage of all of his connections through the Media Lab in order to bring computers to children in developing countries. He thought that one of the most necessary tools for children to learn hands on was to teach them programming. The program, One Laptop per Child, was designed to give one laptop to every student who was a child in as many developing countries as the organization could reach. The organization is manufacturing a laptop called the XO, which is a wireless Internet-enabled pedal-powered computer costing about $100. It originally started in a school in Cambodia that was built and connected to the internet by Negroponte and his son. This program has been very successful and continues to spread throughout many countries as political leaders also share the importance of computers for children.

I found Nicholas Negroponte to be especially interesting to me because I worked for a  non profit last summer focused on helping children. I believe that One Laptop per Child is helping bridge the educational differences between children in developing countries and children in the developed countries. I think Negroponte would be an amazing person to bring to campus because his character and passion will help people reevaluate what is important to them. I think he would show Bucknell students through his passion, the importance of investing in education for children in developing countries and finding a sense of importance and purpose through giving back. I think students of all major will be interested in Negroponte’s talk and I think it will have the ability to open up students’ mind to look at the bigger picture of life.

This is a link to Nicholas Negroponte’s talk about One Laptop per Child on Ted Talks.

Negroponte on One Laptop

Shifting away from oil: A move toward a sustainable future

Amory Lovins is one of the world’s leading authorities on energy. In particular, he is an expert in regards to its efficient use and sustainable supply and would deliver a captivating sustainability-focused talk. I am an adamant supporter of all areas of sustainability and what can be done to make the world a “greener” place. Global warming is happening now. The effects are evident not only in the obscure places of the world like the North and South Pole but even here in the United States. Drastic storm systems and high off-season temperatures are becoming more and more frequent. My home town was just wiped out by Hurricane Sandy and it will take years to rebuild all that was lost. I am very close to these issues and I am always looking to raise more awareness.

As the vice president of the Environmental Club here at Bucknell, I am always looking for ways to make our campus more green. Our initiatives include promoting people to conserve water, use less electricity, recycle, etc. Lately we have been hoping to enlist some more outside help because it gets to a point that our badgering of people as they walk through the LC Mall just doesn’t work anymore. Bucknell could really use the advice of Amory Lovins to raise awareness on the issues of the dependence of the United States on oil.

In his talk, “A 50 Year Plan for Energy,” Lovins drives home the point that we must leave oil before it leaves us. Not only should we start saving electricity, but we should also be making it differently. This is a talk that describes the steps that can be taken to allow the United States to no longer be dependent on oil and coal by 2050. When I first heard him suggest that figure, I was pretty apprehensive to believe that we could change that quickly. I still think Lovins is a little too naïve in how simple he believes this challenge to be, however, his proposals have a lot of possibilities. His talk outlines the sectors in the United States that need to change. He also discusses the solutions, but directs his listeners to read his book Reinventing Fire to get the full details of all the suggested solutions. Perhaps if we were able to get Lovins to speak at Bucknell, we could also have him do a book signing after the talk. That will promote more people to read his book prior to the talk and simultaneously spread more awareness. Just remember that peak oil is around the corner and more people should really be listening the ideas of Amory Lovins!

The Fifth Domain of Warfare

Everyone knows technology becomes more and more advanced every day.  When the new Iphone or computer comes out, everyone becomes excited about its new functions and applications. Every one automatically assumes technology can only help our lives become easier and essentially safer. However, people neglect to acknowledge that technology is becoming more advanced all around the world, even in foreign countries that threaten the United States.

Shane Harris is expert on Cyber National Defense and an award-winning author and magazine journalist. His book The Watchers won the Helen Bernstien Book Award for Excellence in Journalism and was claimed top 10 books of 2010 by the Economists.   Shane earned the 2010 Gerald R. Ford Prize in for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. In addition, Shane worked for the National Journal and Government Executive magazine and currently works for The Washtonington Magazine.

The link above leads you to his February 23rd, 2013 speech entitled “The New Cold War: Hackers, Drones and Cyber Spies.” In this speech he claims that the “Global War on Terror” is over and we have shifted to a new era. This new cyber and technological war far involves new military tactics that Obama already utilizes: Drones (unmanned air-crafts). In addition, this new era added “cyber space”  to the traditional  four domains of land, water, air and space. As a result, Obama’s Administration’s responsibility involves defending America’s cyberspace, both military and civilian.

Harris starts by discussing the possibility of a cyber-attack on America’s financial industry and the horrific impacts on our economy. Most interestingly, Shane then talks about how China already penetrated the CIA Department of Defense’s contractors’ computers and stole classified information about a fighter aircraft. As a result, the Defense Industrial Base Initiative was implemented to ease collaboration between private sector and government agencies to ensure better cyber security. He explains how this represents an alliance between the business industry and government because the industry is threatened by foreign powers in which the government can only help through cyber security.

In addition, Harris tells about Obama’s November 2011 speech revealing the government’s concern for the Chinese government and Russia entities stealing information from not only the government, but US companies. Harris also discusses that the US government may have also use cyber warfare to combat Iran’s nuclear power through the ‘Struxnet virus’ that delayed their nuclear program for months and maybe even years.

Harris then discusses how this new warfare demands the use of drones. Currently, drones are becoming more and more complex and soon will be self-run and able to work in teams with other drones to accomplish missions. However, China also invests in developing more complex drones for military use. But drones will not only be used in military domains, in the near future drones will be part of our everyday lives through crop-dusters and cargo planes. This creates another issue because if terrorists pursue hacking into these drones they could alter its task and create danger.

With students and faculty becoming more and more submersed with the internet and technology, Shane Harris gives valuable insight to what our future may hold. Essentially, everyone is impacted by this cyber threat and needs to become more aware of it. Before I researched his speech, I never knew China’s threat through cyber domain. This crucial topic becomes overlooked by the media because it is relatively new and has been overlooked for the past years. Potentially, the business industry that Bucknell students will enter in the coming years has the potential to change drastically. Students not only would like to hear about this, but really need to hear his speech to learn more about what our futures will be like.  Overall, Shane offers interesting and valuable advice about the future that people rarely ever think about.