full transcript
"From the Ted Talk by Naomi Klein: Addicted to risk"

Unscramble the Blue Letters

I just did something I've never done before. I spent a week at sea on a research vessel. Now I'm not a scientist, but I was aoanminpyccg a remarkable scientific team from the University of South Florida who have been tracking the travels of BP's oil in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the boat we were on, by the way. The scientists I was with were not studying the effect of the oil and dispersants on the big stuff — the birds, the turtles, the dolphins, the galmorous stuff. They're looking at the really little stuff that gets eaten by the slightly less little stuff that eventually gets eaten by the big stuff. And what they're finding is that even trace amounts of oil and dispersants can be highly toxic to phytoplankton, which is very bad news, because so much life depends on it. So contrary to what we heard a few mohtns back about how 75 percent of that oil sort of magically disappeared and we didn't have to worry about it, this disaster is still unnodilfg. It's still wkrniog its way up the food chain. Now this shouldn't come as a srsipure to us. Rachel Carson — the godmother of medron environmentalism — warned us about this very thing back in 1962. She pointed out that the "control men" — as she called them — who carpet-bombed twnos and fileds with txioc insecticides like DDT, were only trying to kill the little stuff, the intcess, not the birds. But they forgot this: the fact that brids dine on grubs, that roibns eat lots of worms now saturated with DDT. And so, rboin eggs failed to hctah, songbirds died en masse, towns fell silent. Thus the title "Silent sinprg." I've been trying to pinpoint what keeps dwnarig me back to the Gulf of Mexico, because I'm Canadian, and I can draw no anseacrtl ties. And I think what it is is I don't think we have fully come to terms with the meaning of this dsitsear, with what it meant to witness a hole ripped in our world, with what it meant to watch the contents of the Earth gush forth on live TV, 24 hours a day, for months. After telling ourselves for so long that our tools and technology can control nature, slednudy we were face-to-face with our weakness, with our lack of control, as the oil burst out of every attempt to contain it — "top hats," "top kills" and, most memorably, the "junk shot" — the bright idea of finrig old tires and golf balls down that hole in the world. But even more striking than the ferocious power emanating from that well was the recklessness with which that power was unleesahd — the carelessness, the lack of planning that characterized the opeitaron from drilling to clean-up. If there is one thing BP's watery improv act made clear, it is that, as a culture, we have become far too willing to gamble with things that are precious and ircealprlabee, and to do so without a back-up plan, without an exit strategy. And BP was hardly our first experience of this in recent years. Our leaders barrel into wars, telling themselves happy stories about cakewalks and welcome paareds. Then, it is years of delady damage control, fkratnseinnes of sieges and surges and counter-insurgencies, and once again, no exit strategy. Our financial wizards routinely fall victim to similar overconfidence, ccoviinnng themselves that the latest bubble is a new kind of market — the kind that never goes down. And when it inevitably does, the best and the brightest reach for the financial equivalent of the junk shot — in this case, throwing massive amounts of much-needed public money down a very different kind of hole. As with BP, the hole does get plugged, at least temporarily, but not before exacting a treodemuns pcrie. We have to figure out why we keep letting this happen, because we are in the midst of what may be our highest-stakes gamble of all — deciding what to do, or not to do, about climate change. Now as you know, a great deal of time is spent, in this country and around the world, inside the climate debate, on the qieosutn of, "What if the IPC scientists are all wrong?" Now a far more relveant question — as MIT pshcyisit Evelyn Fox Keller puts it — is, "What if those scientists are right?" Given the stakes, the ctlamie crisis clearly calls for us to act based on the precautionary principle — the theory that holds that when human health and the environment are sialfcnnigity at risk and when the potential damage is irreversible, we cannot aroffd to wait for perfect siincteifc certainty. Better to err on the side of cuiaton. More overt, the burden of proving that a practice is safe should not be placed on the public that would be harmed, but rather on the industry that stands to profit. But climate policy in the wealthy world — to the extent that such a thing exists — is not based on precaution, but rather on cost-benefit analysis — finding the course of action that economists believe will have the least impact on our GDP. So rather than asking, as precaution would denmad, what can we do as quickly as possible to aiovd potential catastrophe, we ask bizarre questions like this: "What is the latest possible moment we can wait before we begin seriously lowering emissions? Can we put this off till 2020, 2030, 2050?" Or we ask, "How much hotter can we let the planet get and still survive? Can we go with two degrees, three degrees, or — where we're currently going — four degrees Celsius?" And by the way, the aoissmtupn that we can safely control the Earth's awesomely complex climate system as if it had a thermostat, mknaig the planet not too hot, not too cold, but just right — sort of Goldilocks style — this is pure fantasy, and it's not coming from the climate scientists. It's coming from the economists imposing their mechanistic thinking on the science. The fact is that we simply don't know when the warming that we create will be utterly overwhelmed by febedcak lpoos. So once again, why do we take these crazy risks with the pouicres? A range of entalpianxos may be popping into your mind by now, like "greed." This is a popular ealxntapoin, and there's lots of ttruh to it, because taking big risks, as we all know, pays a lot of money. Another explanation that you often hear for rssneecelsks is hubris. And greed and hubris are intimately intertwined when it comes to recklessness. For instance, if you happen to be a 35-year-old banker taking home 100 times more than a brain surgeon, then you need a nritraave, you need a story that makes that disparity okay. And you actually don't have a lot of options. You're either an incredibly good scammer, and you're getting away with it — you gamed the system — or you're some kind of boy genius, the lekis of which the world has never seen. Now both of these options — the boy genius and the secmmar — are going to make you vastly overconfident and therefore more prone to taking even bieggr rsiks in the future. By the way, Tony Hayward, the former CEO of BP, had a plaque on his desk icbneirsd with this inspirational slogan: "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" Now this is actually a popular plaque, and this is a crowd of overachievers, so I'm btetnig that some of you have this palque. Don't feel ahmeasd. Putting fear of failure out of your mind can be a very good thing if you're training for a triathlon or preparing to give a tleadtk, but personally, I think people with the power to detonate our economy and rvagae our eogcoly would do better having a picture of Icarus hanging from the wall, because — maybe not that one in particular — but I want them tiknhnig about the possibility of faiurle all of the time. So we have greed, we've got overconfidence/hubris, but since we're here at TEDWomen, let's consider one other factor that could be contributing in some small way to societal recklessness. Now I'm not going to belabor this point, but studies do show that, as investors, women are much less prone to taking reckless risks than men, precisely because, as we've already haerd, women tend not to suffer from overconfidence in the same way that men do. So it turns out that being paid less and perasid less has its upsides — for society at least. The flipside of this is that canttnlosy being told that you are gifted, cesohn and born to rule has distinct societal downsides. And this problem — call it the "perils of privilege" — brings us closer, I think, to the root of our ccvltoelie recklessness. Because none of us — at least in the global North — neither men nor women, are fully exempt from this message. Here's what I'm talking about. Whether we actively believe them or consciously reject them, our culture remains in the grips of certain archetypal stories about our supremacy over others and over nature — the narrative of the nwely discovered frontier and the conquering pioneer, the narrative of manifest destiny, the narrative of apocalypse and salvation. And just when you think these stories are fading into history, and that we've gotten over them, they pop up in the strangest places. For instance, I sulebmtd across this advertisement outside the women's washroom in the kanass City arpiort. It's for Motorola's new Rugged cell phone, and yes, it really does say, "Slap Mother Nature in the face." And I'm not just showing it to pick on Motorola — that's just a bonus. I'm swnhiog it because — they're not a sponsor, are they? — because, in its own way, this is a csars version of our fnidnuog story. We slapped Mother ntruae around and won, and we always win, because dntoaimnig nature is our destiny. But this is not the only fairytale we tell ourselves about nature. There's another one, equally important, about how that very same Mother Nature is so nuurirntg and so rlsnieeit that we can never make a dent in her abundance. Let's hear from Tony hawryad again. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of oil and dispersants that we are ptuintg into it is tiny in relation to the total weatr vumole." In other words, the ocean is big; she can take it. It is this underlying assumption of limitlessness that makes it possible to take the reckless risks that we do. Because this is our real master-narrative: however much we mess up, there will always be more — more water, more land, more untapped rceueross. A new bblube will replace the old one. A new technology will come along to fix the mseses we made with the last one. In a way, that is the story of the settling of the acmriaes, the supposedly inexhaustible frontier to which Europeans escaped. And it's also the story of modern caiilpatsm, because it was the wealth from this land that gave birth to our economic sstyem, one that cannot survive without peutepral growth and an unending supply of new frontiers. Now the polberm is that the story was always a lie. The Earth always did have limits. They were just beyond our sights. And now we are hitting those ltimis on multiple ftnros. I believe that we know this, yet we find ourselves trapped in a kind of narrative loop. Not only do we continue to tell and retell the same tired stories, but we are now doing so with a frenzy and a fury that, frankly, vreges on camp. How else to explain the cuutalrl sapce occupied by Sarah Palin? Now on the one hand, exhorting us to "drill, baby, drill," because God put those resources into the ground in order for us to exploit them, and on the other, gloyring in the wilderness of Alaska's untouched beauty on her hit reality TV show. The twin message is as comforting as it is mad. ignroe those creeping fears that we have finally hit the wall. There are still no limits. There will always be another frontier. So stop woinrryg and keep shopping. Now, would that this were just about saarh Palin and her reality TV show. In environmental circles, we often hear that, rather than shifting to renewables, we are continuing with business as usual. This asemessnst, unfortunately, is far too optimistic. The truth is that we have already exhausted so much of the easily accessible fsiosl feuls that we have already entered a far riskier bsuesnis era, the era of extreme energy. So that means drilling for oil in the deepest water, including the icy Arctic seas, where a clean-up may simply be impossible. It means large-scale hydraulic fracking for gas and massive strip-mining operations for coal, the likes of which we haven't yet seen. And most controversially, it means the tar sands. I'm always surprised by how little people outside of cndaaa know about the alrebta Tar Sands, which this year are projected to become the number one source of imported oil to the United States. It's worth taking a moment to understand this practice, because I believe it speaks to recklessness and the path we're on like little else. So this is where the tar sdnas live, under one of the last magnificent baoerl forests. The oil is not liquid. You can't just drill a hole and pump it out. Tar sand's oil is sliod, mxied in with the soil. So to get at it, you first have to get rid of the trees. Then, you rip off the tspoiol and get at that oily sand. The prcoses requires a huge anumot of water, which is then pumped into massvie toxic tailing ponds. That's very bad news for local indigenous pelope lviing dwsarenotm who are reporting almirngaly high cnecar rates. Now looking at these images, it's dclfuifit to grasp the scale of this operation, which can already be seen from space and could grow to an area the size of England. I find it helps actually to look at the dump tkurcs that move the earth, the largest ever built. That's a person down there by the wheel. My piont is that this is not oil drilling. It's not even miinng. It is tisatrreerl skinning. Vast, vivid landscapes are being gutetd, left monochromatic gray. Now I should cnosefs that as [far as] I'm cencoernd this would be an abomination if it ettmied not one particle of carbon. But the truth is that, on aarevge, turning that gunk into cdrue oil produces about three times more greenhouse gas pollution than it does to produce conventional oil in Canada. How else to diecsbre this, but as a form of mass insanity? Just when we know we need to be learning to live on the surface of our pnealt, off the power of sun, wind and waves, we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest-emitting stuff imaginable. This is where our story of endless growth has taken us, to this black hole at the center of my ctnuroy — a place of such planetary pain that, like the BP gusher, one can only stand to look at it for so long. As Jared Diamond and others have shown us, this is how cointiviailzs commit suicide, by slamming their foot on the accelerator at the exact mnemot when they should be putting on the brakes. The problem is that our master-narrative has an aewsnr for that too. At the very last minute, we are going to get saved just like in every Hollywood movie, just like in the Rapture. But, of course, our secular rlogiein is technology. Now, you may have noticed more and more headlines like these. The idea behind this form of "geoengineering" as it's called, is that, as the planet heats up, we may be able to shoot sulfates and animluum particles into the stratosphere to reflect some of the sun's rays back to space, thereby cooling the planet. The wackiest plan — and I'm not making this up — would put what is essentially a garden hose 18-and-a-half miles high into the sky, suspended by balloons, to spew sulfur dioxide. So, solving the problem of pollution with more pollution. Think of it as the ultimate junk shot. The serious scientists iovvneld in this research all sersts that these techniques are entirely untested. They don't know if they'll work, and they have no idea what kind of terrifying side effects they could unleash. Nevertheless, the mere mention of geoengineering is being greeted in some circles, particularly media circles, with a relief tinged with euphoria. An escape hatch has been reached. A new frontier has been found. Most importantly, we don't have to change our lifestyles after all. You see, for some people, their saoivr is a guy in a fwlonig robe. For other people, it's a guy with a garden hose. We bdlay need some new setiros. We need stories that have different kinds of heroes willing to take different knids of risks — risks that coronnft recklessness head on, that put the piuenrratoacy principle into practice, even if that means through direct action — like hundreds of young people willing to get arrested, blocking dirty power plants or fighting mountaintop-removal coal mining. We need stories that replace that linear narrative of endless gtworh with circular ntieraarvs that remind us that what goes around comes around. That this is our only home. There is no escape hatch. Call it karma, call it physics, action and ricaoetn, call it precaution — the principle that reminds us that life is too precious to be risked for any pfoirt. Thank you. (Applause)

Open Cloze

I just did something I've never done before. I spent a week at sea on a research vessel. Now I'm not a scientist, but I was ____________ a remarkable scientific team from the University of South Florida who have been tracking the travels of BP's oil in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the boat we were on, by the way. The scientists I was with were not studying the effect of the oil and dispersants on the big stuff — the birds, the turtles, the dolphins, the _________ stuff. They're looking at the really little stuff that gets eaten by the slightly less little stuff that eventually gets eaten by the big stuff. And what they're finding is that even trace amounts of oil and dispersants can be highly toxic to phytoplankton, which is very bad news, because so much life depends on it. So contrary to what we heard a few ______ back about how 75 percent of that oil sort of magically disappeared and we didn't have to worry about it, this disaster is still _________. It's still _______ its way up the food chain. Now this shouldn't come as a ________ to us. Rachel Carson — the godmother of ______ environmentalism — warned us about this very thing back in 1962. She pointed out that the "control men" — as she called them — who carpet-bombed _____ and ______ with _____ insecticides like DDT, were only trying to kill the little stuff, the _______, not the birds. But they forgot this: the fact that _____ dine on grubs, that ______ eat lots of worms now saturated with DDT. And so, _____ eggs failed to _____, songbirds died en masse, towns fell silent. Thus the title "Silent ______." I've been trying to pinpoint what keeps _______ me back to the Gulf of Mexico, because I'm Canadian, and I can draw no _________ ties. And I think what it is is I don't think we have fully come to terms with the meaning of this ________, with what it meant to witness a hole ripped in our world, with what it meant to watch the contents of the Earth gush forth on live TV, 24 hours a day, for months. After telling ourselves for so long that our tools and technology can control nature, ________ we were face-to-face with our weakness, with our lack of control, as the oil burst out of every attempt to contain it — "top hats," "top kills" and, most memorably, the "junk shot" — the bright idea of ______ old tires and golf balls down that hole in the world. But even more striking than the ferocious power emanating from that well was the recklessness with which that power was _________ — the carelessness, the lack of planning that characterized the _________ from drilling to clean-up. If there is one thing BP's watery improv act made clear, it is that, as a culture, we have become far too willing to gamble with things that are precious and _____________, and to do so without a back-up plan, without an exit strategy. And BP was hardly our first experience of this in recent years. Our leaders barrel into wars, telling themselves happy stories about cakewalks and welcome _______. Then, it is years of ______ damage control, _____________ of sieges and surges and counter-insurgencies, and once again, no exit strategy. Our financial wizards routinely fall victim to similar overconfidence, __________ themselves that the latest bubble is a new kind of market — the kind that never goes down. And when it inevitably does, the best and the brightest reach for the financial equivalent of the junk shot — in this case, throwing massive amounts of much-needed public money down a very different kind of hole. As with BP, the hole does get plugged, at least temporarily, but not before exacting a __________ _____. We have to figure out why we keep letting this happen, because we are in the midst of what may be our highest-stakes gamble of all — deciding what to do, or not to do, about climate change. Now as you know, a great deal of time is spent, in this country and around the world, inside the climate debate, on the ________ of, "What if the IPC scientists are all wrong?" Now a far more ________ question — as MIT _________ Evelyn Fox Keller puts it — is, "What if those scientists are right?" Given the stakes, the _______ crisis clearly calls for us to act based on the precautionary principle — the theory that holds that when human health and the environment are _____________ at risk and when the potential damage is irreversible, we cannot ______ to wait for perfect __________ certainty. Better to err on the side of _______. More overt, the burden of proving that a practice is safe should not be placed on the public that would be harmed, but rather on the industry that stands to profit. But climate policy in the wealthy world — to the extent that such a thing exists — is not based on precaution, but rather on cost-benefit analysis — finding the course of action that economists believe will have the least impact on our GDP. So rather than asking, as precaution would ______, what can we do as quickly as possible to _____ potential catastrophe, we ask bizarre questions like this: "What is the latest possible moment we can wait before we begin seriously lowering emissions? Can we put this off till 2020, 2030, 2050?" Or we ask, "How much hotter can we let the planet get and still survive? Can we go with two degrees, three degrees, or — where we're currently going — four degrees Celsius?" And by the way, the __________ that we can safely control the Earth's awesomely complex climate system as if it had a thermostat, ______ the planet not too hot, not too cold, but just right — sort of Goldilocks style — this is pure fantasy, and it's not coming from the climate scientists. It's coming from the economists imposing their mechanistic thinking on the science. The fact is that we simply don't know when the warming that we create will be utterly overwhelmed by ________ _____. So once again, why do we take these crazy risks with the ________? A range of ____________ may be popping into your mind by now, like "greed." This is a popular ___________, and there's lots of _____ to it, because taking big risks, as we all know, pays a lot of money. Another explanation that you often hear for ____________ is hubris. And greed and hubris are intimately intertwined when it comes to recklessness. For instance, if you happen to be a 35-year-old banker taking home 100 times more than a brain surgeon, then you need a _________, you need a story that makes that disparity okay. And you actually don't have a lot of options. You're either an incredibly good scammer, and you're getting away with it — you gamed the system — or you're some kind of boy genius, the _____ of which the world has never seen. Now both of these options — the boy genius and the _______ — are going to make you vastly overconfident and therefore more prone to taking even ______ _____ in the future. By the way, Tony Hayward, the former CEO of BP, had a plaque on his desk _________ with this inspirational slogan: "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" Now this is actually a popular plaque, and this is a crowd of overachievers, so I'm _______ that some of you have this ______. Don't feel _______. Putting fear of failure out of your mind can be a very good thing if you're training for a triathlon or preparing to give a _______, but personally, I think people with the power to detonate our economy and ______ our _______ would do better having a picture of Icarus hanging from the wall, because — maybe not that one in particular — but I want them ________ about the possibility of _______ all of the time. So we have greed, we've got overconfidence/hubris, but since we're here at TEDWomen, let's consider one other factor that could be contributing in some small way to societal recklessness. Now I'm not going to belabor this point, but studies do show that, as investors, women are much less prone to taking reckless risks than men, precisely because, as we've already _____, women tend not to suffer from overconfidence in the same way that men do. So it turns out that being paid less and _______ less has its upsides — for society at least. The flipside of this is that __________ being told that you are gifted, ______ and born to rule has distinct societal downsides. And this problem — call it the "perils of privilege" — brings us closer, I think, to the root of our __________ recklessness. Because none of us — at least in the global North — neither men nor women, are fully exempt from this message. Here's what I'm talking about. Whether we actively believe them or consciously reject them, our culture remains in the grips of certain archetypal stories about our supremacy over others and over nature — the narrative of the _____ discovered frontier and the conquering pioneer, the narrative of manifest destiny, the narrative of apocalypse and salvation. And just when you think these stories are fading into history, and that we've gotten over them, they pop up in the strangest places. For instance, I ________ across this advertisement outside the women's washroom in the ______ City _______. It's for Motorola's new Rugged cell phone, and yes, it really does say, "Slap Mother Nature in the face." And I'm not just showing it to pick on Motorola — that's just a bonus. I'm _______ it because — they're not a sponsor, are they? — because, in its own way, this is a _____ version of our ________ story. We slapped Mother ______ around and won, and we always win, because __________ nature is our destiny. But this is not the only fairytale we tell ourselves about nature. There's another one, equally important, about how that very same Mother Nature is so _________ and so _________ that we can never make a dent in her abundance. Let's hear from Tony _______ again. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of oil and dispersants that we are _______ into it is tiny in relation to the total _____ ______." In other words, the ocean is big; she can take it. It is this underlying assumption of limitlessness that makes it possible to take the reckless risks that we do. Because this is our real master-narrative: however much we mess up, there will always be more — more water, more land, more untapped _________. A new ______ will replace the old one. A new technology will come along to fix the ______ we made with the last one. In a way, that is the story of the settling of the ________, the supposedly inexhaustible frontier to which Europeans escaped. And it's also the story of modern __________, because it was the wealth from this land that gave birth to our economic ______, one that cannot survive without _________ growth and an unending supply of new frontiers. Now the _______ is that the story was always a lie. The Earth always did have limits. They were just beyond our sights. And now we are hitting those ______ on multiple ______. I believe that we know this, yet we find ourselves trapped in a kind of narrative loop. Not only do we continue to tell and retell the same tired stories, but we are now doing so with a frenzy and a fury that, frankly, ______ on camp. How else to explain the ________ _____ occupied by Sarah Palin? Now on the one hand, exhorting us to "drill, baby, drill," because God put those resources into the ground in order for us to exploit them, and on the other, ________ in the wilderness of Alaska's untouched beauty on her hit reality TV show. The twin message is as comforting as it is mad. ______ those creeping fears that we have finally hit the wall. There are still no limits. There will always be another frontier. So stop ________ and keep shopping. Now, would that this were just about _____ Palin and her reality TV show. In environmental circles, we often hear that, rather than shifting to renewables, we are continuing with business as usual. This __________, unfortunately, is far too optimistic. The truth is that we have already exhausted so much of the easily accessible ______ _____ that we have already entered a far riskier ________ era, the era of extreme energy. So that means drilling for oil in the deepest water, including the icy Arctic seas, where a clean-up may simply be impossible. It means large-scale hydraulic fracking for gas and massive strip-mining operations for coal, the likes of which we haven't yet seen. And most controversially, it means the tar sands. I'm always surprised by how little people outside of ______ know about the _______ Tar Sands, which this year are projected to become the number one source of imported oil to the United States. It's worth taking a moment to understand this practice, because I believe it speaks to recklessness and the path we're on like little else. So this is where the tar _____ live, under one of the last magnificent ______ forests. The oil is not liquid. You can't just drill a hole and pump it out. Tar sand's oil is _____, _____ in with the soil. So to get at it, you first have to get rid of the trees. Then, you rip off the _______ and get at that oily sand. The _______ requires a huge ______ of water, which is then pumped into _______ toxic tailing ponds. That's very bad news for local indigenous ______ ______ __________ who are reporting __________ high ______ rates. Now looking at these images, it's _________ to grasp the scale of this operation, which can already be seen from space and could grow to an area the size of England. I find it helps actually to look at the dump ______ that move the earth, the largest ever built. That's a person down there by the wheel. My _____ is that this is not oil drilling. It's not even ______. It is ___________ skinning. Vast, vivid landscapes are being ______, left monochromatic gray. Now I should _______ that as [far as] I'm _________ this would be an abomination if it _______ not one particle of carbon. But the truth is that, on _______, turning that gunk into _____ oil produces about three times more greenhouse gas pollution than it does to produce conventional oil in Canada. How else to ________ this, but as a form of mass insanity? Just when we know we need to be learning to live on the surface of our ______, off the power of sun, wind and waves, we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest-emitting stuff imaginable. This is where our story of endless growth has taken us, to this black hole at the center of my _______ — a place of such planetary pain that, like the BP gusher, one can only stand to look at it for so long. As Jared Diamond and others have shown us, this is how _____________ commit suicide, by slamming their foot on the accelerator at the exact ______ when they should be putting on the brakes. The problem is that our master-narrative has an ______ for that too. At the very last minute, we are going to get saved just like in every Hollywood movie, just like in the Rapture. But, of course, our secular ________ is technology. Now, you may have noticed more and more headlines like these. The idea behind this form of "geoengineering" as it's called, is that, as the planet heats up, we may be able to shoot sulfates and ________ particles into the stratosphere to reflect some of the sun's rays back to space, thereby cooling the planet. The wackiest plan — and I'm not making this up — would put what is essentially a garden hose 18-and-a-half miles high into the sky, suspended by balloons, to spew sulfur dioxide. So, solving the problem of pollution with more pollution. Think of it as the ultimate junk shot. The serious scientists ________ in this research all ______ that these techniques are entirely untested. They don't know if they'll work, and they have no idea what kind of terrifying side effects they could unleash. Nevertheless, the mere mention of geoengineering is being greeted in some circles, particularly media circles, with a relief tinged with euphoria. An escape hatch has been reached. A new frontier has been found. Most importantly, we don't have to change our lifestyles after all. You see, for some people, their ______ is a guy in a _______ robe. For other people, it's a guy with a garden hose. We _____ need some new _______. We need stories that have different kinds of heroes willing to take different _____ of risks — risks that ________ recklessness head on, that put the _____________ principle into practice, even if that means through direct action — like hundreds of young people willing to get arrested, blocking dirty power plants or fighting mountaintop-removal coal mining. We need stories that replace that linear narrative of endless ______ with circular __________ that remind us that what goes around comes around. That this is our only home. There is no escape hatch. Call it karma, call it physics, action and ________, call it precaution — the principle that reminds us that life is too precious to be risked for any ______. Thank you. (Applause)

Solution

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  49. moment
  50. resources
  51. glorying
  52. process
  53. gutted
  54. robin
  55. emitted
  56. deadly
  57. trucks
  58. failure
  59. plaque
  60. putting
  61. price
  62. fuels
  63. downstream
  64. alberta
  65. space
  66. confront
  67. scientific
  68. canada
  69. topsoil
  70. significantly
  71. modern
  72. working
  73. months
  74. demand
  75. resilient
  76. mining
  77. ancestral
  78. problem
  79. answer
  80. thinking
  81. amount
  82. birds
  83. nurturing
  84. betting
  85. stress
  86. perpetual
  87. firing
  88. drawing
  89. ignore
  90. capitalism
  91. explanations
  92. sarah
  93. assessment
  94. fields
  95. water
  96. civilizations
  97. fossil
  98. surprise
  99. showing
  100. describe
  101. parades
  102. difficult
  103. cultural
  104. solid
  105. religion
  106. disaster
  107. irreplaceable
  108. robins
  109. heard
  110. towns
  111. profit
  112. hatch
  113. suddenly
  114. stories
  115. narratives
  116. feedback
  117. ashamed
  118. accompanying
  119. afford
  120. involved
  121. glamorous
  122. messes
  123. mixed
  124. avoid
  125. climate
  126. tedtalk
  127. bigger
  128. badly
  129. americas
  130. dominating
  131. ecology
  132. bubble
  133. planet
  134. point
  135. ravage
  136. savior
  137. recklessness
  138. convincing
  139. airport
  140. inscribed
  141. caution
  142. concerned
  143. relevant
  144. likes
  145. explanation
  146. people
  147. chosen
  148. average
  149. praised
  150. physicist
  151. living

Original Text

I just did something I've never done before. I spent a week at sea on a research vessel. Now I'm not a scientist, but I was accompanying a remarkable scientific team from the University of South Florida who have been tracking the travels of BP's oil in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the boat we were on, by the way. The scientists I was with were not studying the effect of the oil and dispersants on the big stuff — the birds, the turtles, the dolphins, the glamorous stuff. They're looking at the really little stuff that gets eaten by the slightly less little stuff that eventually gets eaten by the big stuff. And what they're finding is that even trace amounts of oil and dispersants can be highly toxic to phytoplankton, which is very bad news, because so much life depends on it. So contrary to what we heard a few months back about how 75 percent of that oil sort of magically disappeared and we didn't have to worry about it, this disaster is still unfolding. It's still working its way up the food chain. Now this shouldn't come as a surprise to us. Rachel Carson — the godmother of modern environmentalism — warned us about this very thing back in 1962. She pointed out that the "control men" — as she called them — who carpet-bombed towns and fields with toxic insecticides like DDT, were only trying to kill the little stuff, the insects, not the birds. But they forgot this: the fact that birds dine on grubs, that robins eat lots of worms now saturated with DDT. And so, robin eggs failed to hatch, songbirds died en masse, towns fell silent. Thus the title "Silent Spring." I've been trying to pinpoint what keeps drawing me back to the Gulf of Mexico, because I'm Canadian, and I can draw no ancestral ties. And I think what it is is I don't think we have fully come to terms with the meaning of this disaster, with what it meant to witness a hole ripped in our world, with what it meant to watch the contents of the Earth gush forth on live TV, 24 hours a day, for months. After telling ourselves for so long that our tools and technology can control nature, suddenly we were face-to-face with our weakness, with our lack of control, as the oil burst out of every attempt to contain it — "top hats," "top kills" and, most memorably, the "junk shot" — the bright idea of firing old tires and golf balls down that hole in the world. But even more striking than the ferocious power emanating from that well was the recklessness with which that power was unleashed — the carelessness, the lack of planning that characterized the operation from drilling to clean-up. If there is one thing BP's watery improv act made clear, it is that, as a culture, we have become far too willing to gamble with things that are precious and irreplaceable, and to do so without a back-up plan, without an exit strategy. And BP was hardly our first experience of this in recent years. Our leaders barrel into wars, telling themselves happy stories about cakewalks and welcome parades. Then, it is years of deadly damage control, Frankensteins of sieges and surges and counter-insurgencies, and once again, no exit strategy. Our financial wizards routinely fall victim to similar overconfidence, convincing themselves that the latest bubble is a new kind of market — the kind that never goes down. And when it inevitably does, the best and the brightest reach for the financial equivalent of the junk shot — in this case, throwing massive amounts of much-needed public money down a very different kind of hole. As with BP, the hole does get plugged, at least temporarily, but not before exacting a tremendous price. We have to figure out why we keep letting this happen, because we are in the midst of what may be our highest-stakes gamble of all — deciding what to do, or not to do, about climate change. Now as you know, a great deal of time is spent, in this country and around the world, inside the climate debate, on the question of, "What if the IPC scientists are all wrong?" Now a far more relevant question — as MIT physicist Evelyn Fox Keller puts it — is, "What if those scientists are right?" Given the stakes, the climate crisis clearly calls for us to act based on the precautionary principle — the theory that holds that when human health and the environment are significantly at risk and when the potential damage is irreversible, we cannot afford to wait for perfect scientific certainty. Better to err on the side of caution. More overt, the burden of proving that a practice is safe should not be placed on the public that would be harmed, but rather on the industry that stands to profit. But climate policy in the wealthy world — to the extent that such a thing exists — is not based on precaution, but rather on cost-benefit analysis — finding the course of action that economists believe will have the least impact on our GDP. So rather than asking, as precaution would demand, what can we do as quickly as possible to avoid potential catastrophe, we ask bizarre questions like this: "What is the latest possible moment we can wait before we begin seriously lowering emissions? Can we put this off till 2020, 2030, 2050?" Or we ask, "How much hotter can we let the planet get and still survive? Can we go with two degrees, three degrees, or — where we're currently going — four degrees Celsius?" And by the way, the assumption that we can safely control the Earth's awesomely complex climate system as if it had a thermostat, making the planet not too hot, not too cold, but just right — sort of Goldilocks style — this is pure fantasy, and it's not coming from the climate scientists. It's coming from the economists imposing their mechanistic thinking on the science. The fact is that we simply don't know when the warming that we create will be utterly overwhelmed by feedback loops. So once again, why do we take these crazy risks with the precious? A range of explanations may be popping into your mind by now, like "greed." This is a popular explanation, and there's lots of truth to it, because taking big risks, as we all know, pays a lot of money. Another explanation that you often hear for recklessness is hubris. And greed and hubris are intimately intertwined when it comes to recklessness. For instance, if you happen to be a 35-year-old banker taking home 100 times more than a brain surgeon, then you need a narrative, you need a story that makes that disparity okay. And you actually don't have a lot of options. You're either an incredibly good scammer, and you're getting away with it — you gamed the system — or you're some kind of boy genius, the likes of which the world has never seen. Now both of these options — the boy genius and the scammer — are going to make you vastly overconfident and therefore more prone to taking even bigger risks in the future. By the way, Tony Hayward, the former CEO of BP, had a plaque on his desk inscribed with this inspirational slogan: "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" Now this is actually a popular plaque, and this is a crowd of overachievers, so I'm betting that some of you have this plaque. Don't feel ashamed. Putting fear of failure out of your mind can be a very good thing if you're training for a triathlon or preparing to give a TEDTalk, but personally, I think people with the power to detonate our economy and ravage our ecology would do better having a picture of Icarus hanging from the wall, because — maybe not that one in particular — but I want them thinking about the possibility of failure all of the time. So we have greed, we've got overconfidence/hubris, but since we're here at TEDWomen, let's consider one other factor that could be contributing in some small way to societal recklessness. Now I'm not going to belabor this point, but studies do show that, as investors, women are much less prone to taking reckless risks than men, precisely because, as we've already heard, women tend not to suffer from overconfidence in the same way that men do. So it turns out that being paid less and praised less has its upsides — for society at least. The flipside of this is that constantly being told that you are gifted, chosen and born to rule has distinct societal downsides. And this problem — call it the "perils of privilege" — brings us closer, I think, to the root of our collective recklessness. Because none of us — at least in the global North — neither men nor women, are fully exempt from this message. Here's what I'm talking about. Whether we actively believe them or consciously reject them, our culture remains in the grips of certain archetypal stories about our supremacy over others and over nature — the narrative of the newly discovered frontier and the conquering pioneer, the narrative of manifest destiny, the narrative of apocalypse and salvation. And just when you think these stories are fading into history, and that we've gotten over them, they pop up in the strangest places. For instance, I stumbled across this advertisement outside the women's washroom in the Kansas City airport. It's for Motorola's new Rugged cell phone, and yes, it really does say, "Slap Mother Nature in the face." And I'm not just showing it to pick on Motorola — that's just a bonus. I'm showing it because — they're not a sponsor, are they? — because, in its own way, this is a crass version of our founding story. We slapped Mother Nature around and won, and we always win, because dominating nature is our destiny. But this is not the only fairytale we tell ourselves about nature. There's another one, equally important, about how that very same Mother Nature is so nurturing and so resilient that we can never make a dent in her abundance. Let's hear from Tony Hayward again. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of oil and dispersants that we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." In other words, the ocean is big; she can take it. It is this underlying assumption of limitlessness that makes it possible to take the reckless risks that we do. Because this is our real master-narrative: however much we mess up, there will always be more — more water, more land, more untapped resources. A new bubble will replace the old one. A new technology will come along to fix the messes we made with the last one. In a way, that is the story of the settling of the Americas, the supposedly inexhaustible frontier to which Europeans escaped. And it's also the story of modern capitalism, because it was the wealth from this land that gave birth to our economic system, one that cannot survive without perpetual growth and an unending supply of new frontiers. Now the problem is that the story was always a lie. The Earth always did have limits. They were just beyond our sights. And now we are hitting those limits on multiple fronts. I believe that we know this, yet we find ourselves trapped in a kind of narrative loop. Not only do we continue to tell and retell the same tired stories, but we are now doing so with a frenzy and a fury that, frankly, verges on camp. How else to explain the cultural space occupied by Sarah Palin? Now on the one hand, exhorting us to "drill, baby, drill," because God put those resources into the ground in order for us to exploit them, and on the other, glorying in the wilderness of Alaska's untouched beauty on her hit reality TV show. The twin message is as comforting as it is mad. Ignore those creeping fears that we have finally hit the wall. There are still no limits. There will always be another frontier. So stop worrying and keep shopping. Now, would that this were just about Sarah Palin and her reality TV show. In environmental circles, we often hear that, rather than shifting to renewables, we are continuing with business as usual. This assessment, unfortunately, is far too optimistic. The truth is that we have already exhausted so much of the easily accessible fossil fuels that we have already entered a far riskier business era, the era of extreme energy. So that means drilling for oil in the deepest water, including the icy Arctic seas, where a clean-up may simply be impossible. It means large-scale hydraulic fracking for gas and massive strip-mining operations for coal, the likes of which we haven't yet seen. And most controversially, it means the tar sands. I'm always surprised by how little people outside of Canada know about the Alberta Tar Sands, which this year are projected to become the number one source of imported oil to the United States. It's worth taking a moment to understand this practice, because I believe it speaks to recklessness and the path we're on like little else. So this is where the tar sands live, under one of the last magnificent Boreal forests. The oil is not liquid. You can't just drill a hole and pump it out. Tar sand's oil is solid, mixed in with the soil. So to get at it, you first have to get rid of the trees. Then, you rip off the topsoil and get at that oily sand. The process requires a huge amount of water, which is then pumped into massive toxic tailing ponds. That's very bad news for local indigenous people living downstream who are reporting alarmingly high cancer rates. Now looking at these images, it's difficult to grasp the scale of this operation, which can already be seen from space and could grow to an area the size of England. I find it helps actually to look at the dump trucks that move the earth, the largest ever built. That's a person down there by the wheel. My point is that this is not oil drilling. It's not even mining. It is terrestrial skinning. Vast, vivid landscapes are being gutted, left monochromatic gray. Now I should confess that as [far as] I'm concerned this would be an abomination if it emitted not one particle of carbon. But the truth is that, on average, turning that gunk into crude oil produces about three times more greenhouse gas pollution than it does to produce conventional oil in Canada. How else to describe this, but as a form of mass insanity? Just when we know we need to be learning to live on the surface of our planet, off the power of sun, wind and waves, we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest-emitting stuff imaginable. This is where our story of endless growth has taken us, to this black hole at the center of my country — a place of such planetary pain that, like the BP gusher, one can only stand to look at it for so long. As Jared Diamond and others have shown us, this is how civilizations commit suicide, by slamming their foot on the accelerator at the exact moment when they should be putting on the brakes. The problem is that our master-narrative has an answer for that too. At the very last minute, we are going to get saved just like in every Hollywood movie, just like in the Rapture. But, of course, our secular religion is technology. Now, you may have noticed more and more headlines like these. The idea behind this form of "geoengineering" as it's called, is that, as the planet heats up, we may be able to shoot sulfates and aluminum particles into the stratosphere to reflect some of the sun's rays back to space, thereby cooling the planet. The wackiest plan — and I'm not making this up — would put what is essentially a garden hose 18-and-a-half miles high into the sky, suspended by balloons, to spew sulfur dioxide. So, solving the problem of pollution with more pollution. Think of it as the ultimate junk shot. The serious scientists involved in this research all stress that these techniques are entirely untested. They don't know if they'll work, and they have no idea what kind of terrifying side effects they could unleash. Nevertheless, the mere mention of geoengineering is being greeted in some circles, particularly media circles, with a relief tinged with euphoria. An escape hatch has been reached. A new frontier has been found. Most importantly, we don't have to change our lifestyles after all. You see, for some people, their savior is a guy in a flowing robe. For other people, it's a guy with a garden hose. We badly need some new stories. We need stories that have different kinds of heroes willing to take different kinds of risks — risks that confront recklessness head on, that put the precautionary principle into practice, even if that means through direct action — like hundreds of young people willing to get arrested, blocking dirty power plants or fighting mountaintop-removal coal mining. We need stories that replace that linear narrative of endless growth with circular narratives that remind us that what goes around comes around. That this is our only home. There is no escape hatch. Call it karma, call it physics, action and reaction, call it precaution — the principle that reminds us that life is too precious to be risked for any profit. Thank you. (Applause)

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
junk shot 3
mother nature 3
tar sands 3

Important Words

  1. abomination
  2. abundance
  3. accelerator
  4. accessible
  5. accompanying
  6. act
  7. action
  8. actively
  9. advertisement
  10. afford
  11. airport
  12. alarmingly
  13. alberta
  14. aluminum
  15. americas
  16. amount
  17. amounts
  18. analysis
  19. ancestral
  20. answer
  21. apocalypse
  22. applause
  23. archetypal
  24. arctic
  25. area
  26. arrested
  27. ashamed
  28. assessment
  29. assumption
  30. attempt
  31. average
  32. avoid
  33. awesomely
  34. baby
  35. bad
  36. badly
  37. balloons
  38. balls
  39. banker
  40. barrel
  41. based
  42. beauty
  43. belabor
  44. betting
  45. big
  46. bigger
  47. birds
  48. birth
  49. bizarre
  50. black
  51. blocking
  52. boat
  53. bonus
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  55. born
  56. boy
  57. bp
  58. brain
  59. brakes
  60. bright
  61. brightest
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  63. bubble
  64. built
  65. burden
  66. burst
  67. business
  68. cakewalks
  69. call
  70. called
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  73. canada
  74. canadian
  75. cancer
  76. capitalism
  77. carbon
  78. carelessness
  79. carson
  80. case
  81. catastrophe
  82. caution
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  84. celsius
  85. center
  86. ceo
  87. certainty
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  90. characterized
  91. chosen
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  94. city
  95. civilizations
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  97. climate
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  108. confront
  109. conquering
  110. consciously
  111. constantly
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  116. contributing
  117. control
  118. controversially
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  120. convincing
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  129. crude
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  138. deciding
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  151. digging
  152. dine
  153. dioxide
  154. direct
  155. dirtiest
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  160. disparity
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  162. distinct
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  177. economic
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  273. genius
  274. geoengineering
  275. gifted
  276. give
  277. glamorous
  278. global
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  281. godmother
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  326. home
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  351. indigenous
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  355. insanity
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  357. insecticides
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  359. inspirational
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  412. meaning
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  415. mechanistic
  416. media
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  437. mother
  438. motorola
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  451. occupied
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  453. oil
  454. oily
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  607. sights
  608. significantly
  609. silent
  610. similar
  611. simply
  612. size
  613. skinning
  614. sky
  615. slamming
  616. slapped
  617. slightly
  618. small
  619. societal
  620. society
  621. soil
  622. solid
  623. solving
  624. songbirds
  625. sort
  626. source
  627. south
  628. space
  629. speaks
  630. spent
  631. spew
  632. sponsor
  633. spring
  634. stakes
  635. stand
  636. stands
  637. states
  638. stop
  639. stories
  640. story
  641. strangest
  642. strategy
  643. stratosphere
  644. stress
  645. striking
  646. studies
  647. studying
  648. stuff
  649. stumbled
  650. style
  651. suddenly
  652. suffer
  653. suicide
  654. sulfates
  655. sulfur
  656. sun
  657. supply
  658. supposedly
  659. supremacy
  660. surface
  661. surgeon
  662. surges
  663. surprise
  664. surprised
  665. survive
  666. suspended
  667. system
  668. tailing
  669. talking
  670. tar
  671. team
  672. techniques
  673. technology
  674. tedtalk
  675. tedwomen
  676. telling
  677. temporarily
  678. tend
  679. terms
  680. terrestrial
  681. terrifying
  682. theory
  683. thermostat
  684. thinking
  685. throwing
  686. ties
  687. time
  688. times
  689. tinged
  690. tiny
  691. tired
  692. tires
  693. title
  694. told
  695. tony
  696. tools
  697. topsoil
  698. total
  699. towns
  700. toxic
  701. trace
  702. tracking
  703. training
  704. trapped
  705. travels
  706. trees
  707. tremendous
  708. triathlon
  709. trucks
  710. truth
  711. turning
  712. turns
  713. turtles
  714. tv
  715. twin
  716. ultimate
  717. underlying
  718. understand
  719. unending
  720. unfolding
  721. united
  722. university
  723. unleash
  724. unleashed
  725. untapped
  726. untested
  727. untouched
  728. upsides
  729. usual
  730. utterly
  731. vast
  732. vastly
  733. verges
  734. version
  735. vessel
  736. victim
  737. vivid
  738. volume
  739. wackiest
  740. wait
  741. wall
  742. warming
  743. warned
  744. wars
  745. washroom
  746. watch
  747. water
  748. watery
  749. waves
  750. weakness
  751. wealth
  752. wealthy
  753. week
  754. wheel
  755. wilderness
  756. win
  757. wind
  758. witness
  759. wizards
  760. women
  761. won
  762. words
  763. work
  764. working
  765. world
  766. worms
  767. worry
  768. worrying
  769. worth
  770. wrong
  771. year
  772. years
  773. young