What’s it like to live with locked-in syndrome? One family’s experience

Rabbi Cahana writes: “You have to believe you’re paralyzed to play the part of a quadriplegic. I don’t. In my mind and in my dreams every night I Chagall-man float over the city, twirl and swirl, with my toes kissing the floor. I know nothing about this statement of man without motion. Everything has motion. The heart pumps, the body heaves, the mouth moves, the eyes turn inside-out. We never stagnate. Life triumphs up and down.” Image: Kitra Cahana

Three years ago, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana suffered a rare brain stem stroke that left him fully conscious, yet his entire body paralyzed. It’s a condition known as “locked-in syndrome.”

Last month, TED Fellow Kitra Cahana spoke of her father’s experience at TEDMED (watch her talk, “My father, locked in his body but soaring free”), revealing how her family cocooned Rabbi Cahana in love, and how a system of blinking, in response to the alphabet, patiently allowed him to dictate poems, sermons and letters to his loved ones and to his congregation.

Kitra began documenting her father’s recovery in photographs and video, creating layered images that — in contrast to her photojournalistic work — are more abstract and emotional. “I wanted to try to find a way to take photographs that reflected the mystical things that were happening in the hospital room,” she says. “How do I explain, in a photograph, the power that another human being has to either add or detract from the healing of another person? I started a process of trying to tell a story in images.”

As Rabbi Cahana began to regain his ability to speak, Kitra started recording his voice. She is now in the process of developing this body of work for an exhibition to help raise support for his ongoing care and rehabilitation.

Below, see Kitra’s stunning images — accompanied by her father’s poems — and hear more about the thoughts behind them. But first, a Q&A with Rabbi Cahana himself, in which he describes his own experience.

My dream state is closer to G-d than any open-eyed watch of how foreshortened my wingspan might be. I feel awake and alive and follow through with what my body can’t seem to do. It’s not pretending when I say I believe this is only temporary. It is my open-aired will that makes these three years seem like only a blink. And still I see the world stumble by and I criticize its footwork. I still believe I walk more gracefully. After all, who among us is really sure-footed?

Rabbi Cahana, on being locked in

Can you tell us what happened, from your point of view?

In July of 2011, upon returning from a weeklong visit to my mother and sister’s home in Houston, I had a stroke that shut down my body into a complete paralysis besides my mind and my uneasy use of my weakened, blurred eyes. Locked-in syndrome, they called it. “The air weighs a hundred pounds,” I wanted to say to anyone who was interested.

I was not in discomfort. I felt the sensation of touch on me, and surrounding me. I was sure that I had a helmet over my head to safeguard me. My neck itself seemed to weigh fifty pounds. A mysterious tortoise-shell immediately clasped me and kept me safe whenever needed. With my torso secure, my limbs felt doubled — the wooden petrified ones tethered by leather straps to ones jumping and slapping around. It was my duty to bring these fiery, spirited, animated parts to merge with my outer deadwood. I worked incessantly through sleepless nights and tyrannical days to fuse the miniature into the large. I kept hearing sirens from outside the hospital interrupting this task. It took about a year until each member became whole again, until they became one.

It took me three and a half months to get off the artificial breathing machine. That was my first miraculous victory. The next task was to get my epiglottis active. They wanted to give me thickened food — puréed this-and-that — whereas I wanted raw vegetables and fruit. I was denied the right to drink water for months over months. Water is the source of life, that which I craved most as an elixir. I dreamt of it. I tasted it. I could sense the coldness and the raw beauty of thirst — parched parts quenched. These days I eat whatever I want, whatever I am blessed with. I have a good physio who stands me upright, and a speech therapist to bring out the voice.

How would you describe your mental and emotional state during the time of being locked in?

The stroke transcended me. I don’t know much about it except that I was replanted into the ground and found my discombobulated bodyparts spread across the landscape. My holy work of these last three years has been to re-unify from a central whirlwind of light — dizzying, upside-down, topsy-turvy. I want to grow this plant of mine out of the underground. I imagine this is what every seed sees before it proceeds.

Doctors live by science and statistics. Rabbis live by inner spirit and G-dliness. Nobody has ever asked me what it’s like to have a paralyzed digit — fingers that lead a motionless existence. I, too, refrain from asking: “How does it feel to handle dried-up bones? Do you fear a life without movement?” But this is the under-exchange of everyone in touch with those who can’t touch back. My biggest loss is the gentle caress that I once could give.

Throughout this process, the air I breathe has been full with open prayers of love, with eyes upon me, soothing, cooing soft-spoken kindnesses. My family wiggles my flapping shoulder blades to revive them. My congregation visits me as if agreeing that nothing has happened; there is no loss, there is only us today and our future. We all ease each other’s lives. I am wondrously happy for the privilege of seeing life in this dimension. I capture miracles in instants. Challenge is privilege. It is a privilege to live this story.

The images Kitra takes of you feel very vulnerable and reflective. Did your father-daughter relationship change dramatically after the stroke?

I am in awe of Kitra’s art and her desire to unstiffen what is locked up. She finds communities of the locked-away; she researches for breakthroughs and latest up-to-date machinery and medical advances. She speaks the language of negating the impossible. She champions me through pitfalls and traps of institutional clumsiness. She sees me already walking through the streets; she chaperones me down the halls of my returning. It is wondrous to never be defeated. Transformation is celebratory.

I loved Kitra the same in the instant of her birth. She created me as a father that day. I’ve only begun to emerge as she nurses me and nurtures me up to a sense of knowing what it means to be alive. My love for her and all my children has deepened in the emergency status. There is only intimate language in the presence of a precious person of your own issue. The privilege of parenthood is even more daunting than the responsibility. I am overwhelmed with the gratitude of being remade in my children’s image now that they are adults. I tell them I see G-d’s face when they present their loving glow. They are the Sabbath candles themselves.

You wrote texts to go with each of Kitra’s images. To whom are they addressed? They seem to be meditations on consciousness rather than communication. After your illness, was all your communication in this form?

After coming to consciousness, the mind narrowed to simple whispers. I was bare-faced and raw matter. The blessing ‘to bless’ in Hebrew is “Yisai Adonai Panav Elecha,” or “May G-d lift your countenance.” “Ya’er Panav Elecha v’Chuneka.” “May G-d’s light illuminate your face and bring forth your grace.” Or as King David said, “From G-d’s divine light we see light.” At the moment of arising from the stroke, I felt G-d lift my face and pierce into an inner glow. I spoke to that light and from it all at once. I understood that everyone gets this brilliant radiance early in life, and I know that it’s a mere temporary flash to return to again and again. This is enlightened consciousness. It’s a flash that I ever try to retrieve.

All my writings are love songs to G-d. I only have thanks. G-d has given me a future again. And this is a glimpse (the marvel) of eternity’s touch.

Your texts refer to a passionate love. Is this about the love between husband and wife, or love for the divine?

Both. G-d’s challenge to each human being is to reach the fullest extent of your capacity to love and ever grow it, ever test it, ever push it. That’s why we are created and how we continue creating ourselves. The passionate love of me to my wife, my wife to me, is an embodiment of the challenging love that the Almighty presents before us. How much of the heavenly abode do we bring into our love? Loving [my wife] Karen, she loving me, brings us to seek the Almighty’s presence. When I pray to G-d I ask to find Karen. When I’m near Karen, I ask her to help me discover the Creator of Life. This is love language. It doesn’t matter what state of disrepair the body is in. This is the heart’s fullest reach. Nothing has changed in our love for each other. I am alive because I live for Karen’s eyes upon me once again.

Rabbi Cahana writes, “Oh my wife. I belong to you. I see the skin fold hurry under your eyelids. I want to be your sleep. I walk along your long grace. Your bones are hard to everyone’s stance but not to my fingers’ touch. There are tender demands when you open your lips, your tongue, your teeth. Your teeth are teaching my empty throat. Am I only just now breathing? G-d has given me this. We are face, two legs, alike. We have no weight. Wherever we are, the world is turning. This is nonesuch time.” Image: Kitra Cahana

To read the full interview, including a Q&A with Kitra Cahana, visit the TED Blog >>>

We need to talk about Ebola: Jon Gosier launches EbolaDeeply.org

ebola_deeply_bipu5g4f_1411410576413 (1) “It all depends on what we do in the next few weeks,” said infectious disease expert Chikwe Ihekweazu, speaking on Ebola at TEDGlobal 2014. What happens next: will the number of new Ebola cases grow or plateau? And how can the world know the right thing to do?

Reliable news about the outbreak has been hard to find, especially for people fighting the disease in their homes and villages, but also for the rest of us who want to know what’s going on and whether to worry. Which is why TED Senior Fellow alum Jon Gosier has launched EbolaDeeply.org, a curated news feed that mixes journalism, experts and citizen reports to create a more informed global dialogue. We asked Gosier to tell us more:

What is EbolaDeeply, and what problem are you trying to solve?

EbolaDeeply.org is a nonprofit “impact journalism” project that aims to provide better information on the current Ebola outbreak to Western media, while providing health information and alerts to rural African communities. It was designed to give perspective on the outbreak by aggregating news, data, analysis and expert opinion. EbolaDeeply was founded by CNN anchorwoman Isha Sesay, who is from Sierra Leone, and Lara Setrakian, founder ofNewsDeeply and SyriaDeeply. Other people on the founding team include myself and Bahiyah Robinson (Appfrica), James Andrews (TrueStory) and Azeo Fables (NewsDeeply).

The flow of information on EbolaDeeply includes articles being published on the outbreak, citizen-generated information from social media, as well as expert information that’s been curated from academia, peer-reviewed studies, and so on. There’s a timeline of events. There are other contextual aids that let readers quickly grasp what’s going on.

We’re also convening global leaders at a very high level. (For instance, read this interview with Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.)

The other aspect of what we’ll do is an intervention strategy, a campaign to get public health information to the people on the ground in affected African countries.

What are some of the problems you’ve seen?

First of all, the Ebola outbreak was completely ignored for far too long. It was talked about a little bit, but not with the seriousness that it deserved. Part of this was just lack of information: Western media weren’t talking to local media, and local media had its own oversights. But once the story did become massive, the problem then became that the Western media outlets didn’t understand the complexities of what was happening in Africa, which feeds public ignorance.

If you go to CNN’s coverage of Ebola right now and visit the comments section, for example, you see a bunch of people saying all sorts of ignorant and enraging things. At the same time, they don’t really have any exposure to people who are actually living through this. It feels like the situation has become completely dehumanized.

Can you give me an example of what kind of misinformation is problematic?

Well, one misconception is that the medical capacity isn’t there in Africa to deal with this. It is, in some areas. For instance, Nigeria dealt with it very swiftly.

The real challenge is misinformation in the more rural communities — where, when loved ones die, it’s part of the custom to wash and bury the corpse. Washing someone’s body who’s died from Ebola is treacherous, right? Ebola is passed through fecal matter and blood and saliva. So that fundamental local misunderstanding is part of the problem.

To read the full article, visit the TED Ideas blog >>>

Lightsabers at the ready! Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014

Usman Riaz is not one to sit still. Between stage appearances at Monday’s Fellows talks, Tuesday’s late night performances, and the TEDGlobal main stage on Friday, filmmaker, composer and multi-instrumentalist Usman Riaz put together this little slideshow of Fellows (as well as TED Fellows director Tom Rielly and TED director Chris Anderson) on stage — revealing them as the Jedi masters they are. Farewell from Rio!

Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014: TED Fellows create data-rich, interactive maps of eye care in rural India (and Peru!)

At TED2014 in Vancouver, TED Senior Fellows Eric Berlow, David Gurman and Kaustuv De Biswas debuted MAPPR – a cloud-based tool that lets anyone create and publish shareable, interactive network visualizations on the web. (See “How data constellations tell a story: MAPPing the TED Fellows network and the conflict in Syria“) Since then, the company has embarked on a variety of projects, applying MAPPR to understand everything from creative traits among high performers in the United States to marine ecosystems off the coast of Chile and healthcare delivery systems in India.

Here at TEDGlobal, Senior Fellows Kaustuv De Biswas and Anthony Vipin Das, consultant ophthalmologist at the LV Prasad Eye Institute, India, sat down and created a MAPP for the Eye Institute’s 127 clinics spread across the four states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka, in India (see video above). The MAPP helps visualize the infrastructure and referral interactions in eye-care delivery services in real time. We asked them to tell us more.

First of all, what does the LV Prasad Eye Institute do?

Vipin: LV Prasad Eye Institute is a WHO Collaborating Center for Prevention of Blindness, a not-for-profit organization based in Hyderabad, India, that has served over 18 million patients in the past 27 years. Currently, we have 127 eye care centers across four states in India, with a unique innovative Eye Health Pyramid Model in which vision centers in remote rural villages feed into more centralized secondary centers called the Village Vision Complex — which are in turn connected to tertiary centers in cities. This referral pattern helps deliver eye care services more efficiently to the under-served in rural India.

How will MAPPR help your work?

Vipin: Using MAPPR, we were able to quickly develop a prototype MAPP of our network to visualize connectivity between the different centers, patient movement, referrals, and a host of other factors relating to how these centers interact. In the future, we will be able to integrate this with our existing electronic medical record system — EyeSmart EMR — for real-time analysis. Another exciting possibility would be to overlay performance metrics on top of these networks, which will let us design optimal solutions for eye care delivery.

Kaustuv, how else are you using MAPPR to help Fellows with health care projects?

Kaustuv: We’ve built a prototype for UK-based ophthalmologist Andrew Bastawrous [see his TED Talk: "Get your next eye exam on a smartphone"], who’s researching efficient healthcare delivery networks in Lima, Peru. It maps clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals as a large dynamic referral network. When a patient visits a clinic, they’re either serviced there or referred to another location based on the severity of the case and availability of trained staff. MAPPR immediately enables the visualization of these referral networks. Right now, we’re working on algorithms and interfaces to identify possible bottlenecks in the system, to help balance resources in real time. Along with Vipin, we’re also exploring opportunities with the Healthcare Innovation Cell, Ministry of Health, Government of Telangana, to apply modern data science approaches to healthcare delivery in India.

Below: see a MAPPR prototype of the Lima Network with Andrew Bastawrous.

Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014: Bassam Tariq’s short film tackles the polio problem in Pakistan

Bassam Tariq’s creativity knows no bounds. He broke his Ramadan fast and blogged about it at 30 Mosques in 30 States, filmed an award-winning documentary feature These Birds Walk in Pakistan about a runaway boy and an ambulance driver — then became a Halal butcher in the East Village. In his hugely popular talk on the Fellows stage at TEDGlobal 2014, Tariq explained that while these projects may seem bewilderingly disparate, what drives his work is a desire for an authentic representation of the humanity of the Muslim community.

Recently Tariq, who has a background in advertising, produced this moving short film (see above) as a public service announcement aimed at Pakistani migrant workers living in the United Arab Emirates, encouraging them to get their children vaccinated. The film is currently being shown in cinemas and migrant camps in the UAE, on in-flight entertainment on flights between the UAE and Pakistan, and on Pakistani television. He tells the Fellows blog about Pakistan’s polio crisis and how he approached this delicate yet important subject.

Why did you make this film? 

Polio in Pakistan is an escalating health crisis because people are reluctant to vaccinate their kids. Their mistrust stems from the discovery that the CIA had been pretending to vaccinate while gathering swab samples to find out where bin Laden and other Taliban leaders were. Because of that, the Taliban is now killing health workers.

After the success of These Birds Walk on the festival circuit, I was approached by the Gates Foundation and Image Nation, an Abu Dhabi film group behind Flight and big Hollywood movies, and was commissioned to do a piece that would speak to Pakistani men working abroad, as well as within Pakistan, about polio. Pakistani migrants are predominantly men, are usually marginalized and spoken down to when it comes to media messaging. So for us, it was important to be authentic and empathetic, and be a voice from home, when speaking about something as serious and urgent as polio.

A still from A Leap of Faith, Bassam Tariq's short film encouraging Pakistani fathers to vaccinate their children against polio.

A still from A Leap of Faith, Bassam Tariq’s short film encouraging Pakistani fathers to vaccinate their children against polio.

Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014: 5 things Patricia Medici wants you to know about tapirs

Baby tapirs are born with stripes and spots – "like a watermelon," says tapir conservationist Patricia Medici. Sadly, they lose these markings as adults. Photo: Liana John

How can anyone not love that face? Baby tapirs are born with stripes and spots – “like a watermelon,” says tapir conservationist Patricia Medici. Sadly, they lose these markings as adults. Photo: Liana John

On Monday, at the TEDGlobal 2014 Fellows stage, Brazilian tapir conservationist Patricia Medici called for the protection of the elusive yet ecologically essential South American lowland tapir. Curious, we asked her to share more about this species and the dangers they face. She gives us a few facts to remember about these fascinating animals.

1. Tapirs are considered living fossils. They’ve been around since the Eocene, having survived several waves of extinction. It’s pretty amazing they’re still around, especially as they reproduce very slowly — with a gestation period of 14 months — and only one offspring is born at a time. If a certain population’s numbers decline due to deforestation, disease, hunting, roadkill, and so on, it’s very hard for the population to recover. In fact, it reaches a certain point where there are no populations to speak of, only individuals lost in the landscape. They can be persistent and adaptable in isolation, which is why they’ve managed to survive for so long, but their genetics get compromised.

2. Tapirs are called “gardeners of the forest.” Tapirs move great distances between various kinds of habitats as they travel from forest to forest, providing a functional link between them. They eat fruit in one place, swallow the seeds, walk long distances, and defecate on the way — creating a genetic flow between habitats. Many other animals play this role, but because tapirs eat enormous amounts of fruit, they distribute an enormous quantity of seeds. Forest structures and diversity would be very different without the presence of tapirs.

3. Even though South American lowland tapirs are threatened, it can be hard to convince people that this is the case. These tapirs live in four different biomes: in the Atlantic forest, in the Pantanal, in the Amazon, and in the Cerrado. Their wide distribution makes people think that tapirs are plentiful, but in reality, the biomes are not connected — there’s only 7% of the Atlantic forest left, and the Cerrado is going pretty much the same direction. The edges of the Amazon are being cleared as we speak. So really, we have only small, isolated populations of tapirs in South America. Still, every year conservationists must fight to keep the lowland tapir on the IUCN list.

4. Tapirs, which happen to be South America’s largest land mammals, are hunted for their meat, demolishing populations within the Amazon. A recent study of indigenous hunting practices in the Amazon revealed that the areas immediately surrounding a particular tribe were devoid of mammals. There are huge gaps with no tapirs, peccaries, agouti, everything — in a place where deforestation hasn’t even started yet.

5. If you want to call someone a jackass in Brazil, you call them a tapir, or “anta” in Portuguese  misjudging the animal as stupid and not worthy of saving. I prefer to compare tapirs with jaguars – powerful and majestic – but unfortunately people in Brazil don’t care about tapirs. That’s something I am working hard to change.

 

Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014: Susie Ibarra plays Rhythm Cycles

Here’s a treat for you. Above, watch TED Senior Fellow Susie Ibarra work a drum solo like you’ve never heard. Last night, Ibarra played two richly melodic, complex, and passionate pieces (of which this is a snippet) as part of the all-Fellows late-night lineup at TEDGlobal 2014, including appearances by Usman Riaz and Bill “Blinky Bill” Sellanga. Curious about the composer and percussionist’s striking style, we asked her to tell us more about this work, and about her creative process.

Tell us about the drum solo pieces you played last night. They seemed like complete compositions in their own right, unusual for solo drum.

The short pieces I played last night are from a new solo program, Rhythm Cycles, that I’m currently composing and performing. I hear and see them as small cells of structured rhythmic and melodic compositions for drum set. For live performance, I also memorize and break open to improvise in sections. Constructing rhythms for these pieces, I’m practicing polyrhythms that ask my body to feel and deliver layers of narrative simultaneously. Time, melody, texture, harmony and space inform these cycles of rhythm. More specifically, I’m drawing from historical and cultural references in drum culture, choosing certain melodies and rhythms derived from various world traditions. It’s not necessary for the listener to know the details of these traditions, but I’ve placed their intentions in each cycle, each narrative piece, so that the listener can experience the rhythms cycling through the compositions.

Your work sounds both improvised and composed, but it’s very hard to tell with percussion!

Yes, I’m both a composer and improviser. But what determines how I work depends on who the musicians are, what instruments they play, what purpose, musical environment or ensemble I’m creating music for. My background is in both oral music traditions of jazz and Philippine Indigenous percussion as well as Western classical music. This influences my performative and notation practices, too. In composition, there’s time to return to refine the development of the piece until it is decidedly final. Even this can happen in stages of formation. In improvisation, I have time to improve my performance vocabulary in practice on my instruments — but my musical performance on stage is ever-changing, influenced by my experience and the environment of that specific moment. 

To read more about Ibarra and her work, visit the TED Blog >>>

Mazda names four TED Fellows “Rebels with a Cause.” Psst: One of their new projects will get funded based on your vote

Andrew Bastawrous dreams of a bakery in Nakuru, Kenya, that will not only make delicious treats but raise money for subsidized vision care. Robert Simpson envisions First Responders, a program to make satellite data available to citizen scientists in crisis situations, to guide aid efforts from afar. Cesar Harada wants to create larger prototypes of his highly maneuverable sailing robots, designed to collect ocean data and clean up oil spills. Ryan Holladay imagines a series of artistic pit stops along California’s Highway 1.

At the end of October, Mazda will offer a grant to fund one of these four projects. Which one will it be? That is up to you. The grant will go to whichever project gets the most popular support online. Mazda is looking to celebrate — and fund — people who are challenging conventions to make things better.

Which project should you vote for? Read more about these four iconoclasts and their big ideas below.

andrew_bastawrous

Get to know: Eye surgeon Andrew Bastawrous
The Cliffs notes: Andrew Bastawrous is a TED2014 Fellow who created a smartphone eye exam app, PEEK, to reach people in Kenya who otherwise wouldn’t visit a doctor.
Inspiring quote: “In Kenya, 4 out of every 5 people who are blind don’t need to be.”
His new project: The Ujima Bakery, a social enterprise bakery that will employ locals in Nakuru, Kenya. It will offer up healthy foods, and proceeds help support free eye care in Nakuru.
What winning this grant would mean for his project: “This grant would help us accelerate the growth of the Ujima Bakery, which will generate profits to subsidize eye care to those in the area who cannot afford it. The grant will also be used to support St. Mary’s Hospital, where so many of our patients have received excellent care. This support may be in the form of a vehicle to enable more patients to be picked up, or funding towards their ongoing program until the bakery is generating sufficient funds for long-term sustainability. The grant would also enable us to start getting PEEK out there to those who need it most.”
Watch his TED TalkGet your next eye exam on a smartphone

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Get to know: Science crowdsourcer Robert Simpson
The Cliffs notes: Robert is a TED2014 Fellow who has created a way for everyday folks to contribute to science through the online platform Zooniverse. So far, users have discovered a galaxy and contributed to breast cancer research.
Inspiring quote: “The excitement that I feel as an astronomer when I discover something — I get to convey that to people who discovered for it for themselves.”
His new project: First Responders, which would make aerial photography data available to citizen scientists during disasters in real-time, so they can offer from-the-air help to first responders.
What winning this grant would mean for his project: “At the Zooniverse, we want to get into the humanitarian space and try to put our crowdsourcing platform to use to more directly help people. Imagine if, as well as donating money, people could give their time and brain power to help spot people in trouble, find access routes, or map other data crucial for the people on the ground. We’d love to make that happen, and the grant would kickstart those efforts.”
Read his TED profileYou found a planet!: Accelerating discovery at Zooniverse

cesar_harada

Get to know: Environmental inventor Cesar Harada
The Cliffs notes: Cesar is a TED Senior Fellow who created Protei, a sailing robot with open-source technology designed for efficient cleanup of oil and plastics from the sea. He looks for ways to use natural ocean phenomenon, like currents and wind, to curb disasters.
Inspiring quote: “The crazy person to me is the person who doesn’t take risks, who denies their own capacity to influence change in the world.”
His new project: So far, Protei prototypes have been small, autonomous vehicles about a meter long. Harada would like to make larger versions, to make the technology big enough for the open ocean and to see what happens when sailors and surfers are able to control its movement.
What winning this grant would mean for his project: “This grant would change everything for us. We would be able to build and operate a two-person boat and create larger autonomous sailing robots. It would also allow us to do more mapping around Fukushima, where the power plant exploded in 2011 about 100 kilometers away from my family. This is not a Japanese problem—it is a global problem. There will be more nuclear accidents in the future, and we need to be ready. For me, this is emotional because Mazda has its headquarters in Hiroshima. It’s a company built on the ashes of the nuclear bomb, a symbol of Japanese courage and vitality. Japan is now in a similar situation. To have Mazda support our work in healing the ocean, in helping the Tohoku region, in contributing to Japan rising from its ashes again—that would be a tremendous honor.”
Watch his TED TalkA novel idea for cleaning up oil spills

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Get to know: Musical artist Ryan Holladay
The Cliffs notes: Ryan Holladay is a TED2013 Fellow who creates site-specific sound installations. With his partner Hays Holladay, he’s composed pieces activated by the National Mall in Washington, DC, and by Central Park in New York City.
Inspiring quote: “Think of this as a choose-your-own-adventure of an album.”
His new project: Holladay would like to create his largest location-aware album to date, one that spans the entirety of Highway 1 on the Pacific coast of the US. By teaming up with painters and designers, he wants to create a series of artistic pit stops along this famous road.
What winning this grant would mean for his project: “This grant would give us the ability to go further with our technology than we have in the past. Our projects have been a labor of love, and we’ve released all of them for free. Having no revenue from the apps posed a problem for us, as we weren’t able to update them as frequently as we would have liked. It has limited our ability to make the audio engine as robust as we know it could be. We’ve been so inspired by this beautiful stretch of highway along the Pacific coast, and we would love the opportunity to execute this concept of location-specific audio on a larger scale than we’ve done before and recruit other artists that we’ve always wanted to work with to help.”
Watch his TED TalkTo hear this music, you have to be there. Literally.

This story has been cross-posted from the TED Blog >>>

From a floating peepshow to a jaw-dropping medical demo: A recap of Fellows Session 2 at TEDGlobal 2014

Bill Selenga performing at the TED Fellows talks, Session 2, TEDGlobal 2014, South, October 5-10, 2014, Copacabana Palace Hotel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

In Session 2 of TEDGlobal 2014 Fellows Talks: a waterborne peep show in San Francisco, a triage app that saves lives, the architecture of death, and more!

The session starts with Bill “Blinky” Sellanga performing “Usinibore” solo on acoustic guitar. “It was a song I wrote in 2008 in response to the post-election violence,” he says, “when I was feeling very helpless.” The lyrics: “Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do. I can change the world.” This Kenyan producer and DJ fronts the musical collective Just-A-Band, which mixes genres like hip-hop, electronica and funk to make music for popular radio that give a voice to Kenyan youth. (Watch a video of Just-A-Band’s version of this song.)

Computational biologist Marcela Uliano da Silva is sequencing the invasive golden mussel’s genome to find the animals’ weaknesses and strengths. This mussel arrived in South America in the 1990s, choking river systems and causing millions in damages as it clogged power plants and water treatment facilities. At the same time, this mussel alters the transparency of water, allowing sunlight to penetrate and leading to toxic blooms, oxygen deprivation and massive fish deaths, homogenizing ecosystems over time. Uliano da Silva hopes to develop a genetic therapy that would prevent the mussels from being able to attach to substrates. This would target the mussel without the need for substances like chlorine, which don’t work well and harm the surrounding biodiversity in their own way. But the clock is ticking. At the moment, the golden mussel is only 150 km from the first river in the Amazon River basin, says Uliano da Silva. If the golden mussel gets there, it would spell disaster for the Amazon, which is also critically linked to the health of the rest of the planet.

Landscape architect Bradley Cantrell introduces a brand-new concept: engineered environments using computational landscaping. Current environmental construction is, like a prosthetic, functionally limited. It looks like nature, he explains, but it’s limited in function and can’t feel or respond to stimuli. In contrast, computational landscape architecture uses environmental sensing, computation and robotics, along with models, animations and illustrations built from data to gain a deeper understanding about how ecosystem dynamics work — to allow construction of landscapes that act as a natural extension of nature. He offers an example: a prototype of a Mississippi River spillway that can essentially “print” land, somewhat like an inkjet printer. The prototype opens and closes the spillway gates to divert water and re-shape and stabilize land forms. It keeps in mind support for plants and animals, while protecting cities from severe weather.

Chilean-American queer artist Constance Hockaday is interested in water as an undefinable space of unfettered liberty. It upholds the idea that living beings have the right to own the space that their physical bodies occupy, and the right to freedom of movement. “The social order of land has forgotten these basic rights,” says Hockaday. Last summer, she explored these ideas in a floating peep show. She latched four 30-foot sailboats together, using their hulls as performance spaces. Here, she gathered exotic dancers and drag queens from two radical and celebrated San Francisco establishments that had closed within six months of each other: the worker-owned peepshow Lusty Lady, and the Latino gay bar Esta Noche. More than 600 audience members were ferried by sailors to see this floating show, many of whom had never been on the water, never been on a boat or never been to a peep show. To Hockaday, the event represented a tear in social order, and a gathering of people successfully conversing with the urban and natural environment on their own terms.

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Save the whales (and the humans too): A recap of TED Fellows Session 1 at TEDGlobal 2014

Patricia Medici speaks about the South American lowland tapir, an animal about half the size of a horse that deserves your deepest respect. Photo: Ryan Lash

It’s time for TED Fellows Talks, the Rio edition! Twenty TED Fellows and Senior Fellows opened the conference in the stunning Golden Room of the Copacabana Palace Hotel. In Session 1, learn more about a grassroots marine conservation movement in Madagascar, a vending machine that dispenses food staples in Chile and a new database of African genetics. Plus much, much more.

Pakistani composer Usman Riaz opens the Fellows session with his new piano piece, “The Creation of the Universe.” It starts out quiet and dreamy, opening out into a dramatic second movement. The multitalented Riaz is also a filmmaker and visual artist, and a sophomore at the Berklee College of Music.

Kuwaiti-born Palestinian photographer Laura Boushnak faced many barriers on her way to becoming a photographer. This inspired her to turn her lens on women in the Arab world who are also motivated to improve their lives through education, while confronting cultural and social barriers. In her project “I Read, I Write,” Boushnak addresses such topics as female illiteracy — which is quite high in the region — as well as educational reforms and political activism among university students. Often, her subjects — who hail from a wide range of social and economic situations — are reluctant to be photographed, but agree once Boushnak reassures them that they will serve as role models in their communities. Sometimes, Boushnak asks women to write their thoughts on prints of their portraits. She shares some of their words. “I sought education in order to be independent and not count on men for everything,” writes Aisha, a teacher from Yemen. And, from a Tunisian activist: “Question your convictions, be who you want to be, not who they want you to be; don’t accept their enslavement, for your mother birthed you free.”

Marine ecologist Alasdair Harris has a new metaphor for fish conservation: investment banking. When a few fish are allowed to reproduce in reserves, their fertility explodes. The bigger they grow, the more they produce, eventually swimming out of the reserve to replenish nearby oceans where people fish for food. With the simple and effective idea of marine reserves, says Harris, humanity could rebuild the world’s fish stocks — if we could manage to put a third of our oceans in reserve. This is a problem because, at the moment, only a small single-digit percentage of our oceans are protected, and it’s also hard to persuade people whose livelihoods depend on fishing to stop, especially where stocks are already low. Working with octopus fishers in Madagascan villages, Harris convinced one community to stop fishing in a portion of reef to allow local octopi to recover. People saw their long-depleted stocks come back, and watched the octopi grow to ten times their normal size. With this, villagers saw that they could rebuild their fisheries themselves, and the idea went viral. Now Madagascan fishing villages have created 63 permanent reserves in eight years — a fast-growing, locally driven conservation solution working for a quarter of a million Madagascans.

“Our world has many supherheroes,” says Brazilian graffiti artist and activist Mundano, “but they have the worst of all superpowers: invisibility.” He’s referring to catadores, Brazil’s waste pickers, who do the essential work of collecting recyclable materials for a living, pushing carts called carroças to haul materials away. In Brazil, catadores collect 90% of the waste that is recycledTo celebrate these unsung heroes, Mudano began decorating carroças with graffiti art, using color and humor to increase their visibility and stature in the streets, society and culture. He then created Pimp My Carroça, a crowdfunded event that invites everyone from physicians, podiatrists, hairstylists and massage therapists to offer services to catadores, while artists paint their carts with vivid graffiti and outfit them with reflective tape, horns and mirrors. The demand for this event grew to other cities, even outside Brazil, spawning an offshoot independent event, Pimpex — DIY events inspired by TEDx. To date, Mundano has painted more than 200 carroças, and has visited wastepicking cultures in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, South Africa, Turkey, the US and Japan. There are over 20 million catadores worldwide, Mudnano notes, and he challenges us to see them as a vital part of our society.

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