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TEDx Laguna Beach to explore ocean, Earth and humanity

Speakers offering solutions to preserve the planet through topics such as ocean conservation, design, education and spirituality are gathering Sunday, April 21, at the newly revived Rivian South Coast Theatre in Laguna Beach for the city’s first TEDx talks.

The theater, a Laguna Beach icon, had sat idle in recent years while city leaders decided how to best use the space. Rivian stepped in and renovated the 1930s-era building, turning it into a communal space.



The 13 speakers Sunday will come from around Southern California and the nation to talk on themes related to the ocean, Earth and humanity in recognition of Earth Day.  The event is called TEDx Laguna Beach, with the x meaning it’s an individually organized event, said Rich German, a local ocean conservationist who got the license from the nonprofit behind the TED Talk movement to host the event.

There will be live speakers and TED Talk videos to inspire discussions and connections.

German, the founder of Project O, a nonprofit with the mission of protecting the ocean and the life within it, is joined by Laguna Beach producer Bedonna Smith and environmental activist, producer and surfer Steve Reiss in hosting the event.

“A lot of people are jaded and afraid of the future and humanity,” German said. “I want to inspire hope, action and solutions that exist. It’s easy to get caught up in fear. If this can inspire hope and change, I’ll call it a great success.”

Among those speaking are Laguna Beach locals such as Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation; Steven Brittan, president of the Laguna College of Art & Design; The Rev. Rod Echols of the Neighborhood Congregational Church; and Logan Teeple, a Laguna Beach High senior.

Others in the lineup include Alan Salazar, a storyteller and tribal elder of the the Fernandeño Tataviam and Ventureño Chumash tribes; civil rights attorney Annee Della Donna; and Nancy Caruso, a marine biologist who recently participated in a count of albatrosses on Midway Island and regularly works on projects in Marine Protected Areas along the Southern California coast.

Brittan said he will speak about the planet’s future through the prism of education – some 700 students attend the arts and design college – encouraging the focusing of education in universities on a curriculum that engages students to act and employ a “creative and artistic” mindset in solving present and future challenges.

“This generation of students that are deeply anxious have a different approach of how they want to be taught,” he said. “They want education to be relevant and be given tools to problem-solve. They want to be part of the solution, and not be passively taught.”

That mindset, Brittan said, keeps him excited about working in the academic world.

“They could be the first generation that turns our humanity around, rather than being the last generation,” he said.

Fellow speaker Bodhi Patil, 21, is a student who is studying environment and sustainability and management at the University of British Columbia. He exemplifies what Brittan sees in the younger generation and its ability to make a difference.

Patil grew up in Indonesia and the Middle East and, as a youth, developed a great passion for the ocean and its protection, he said, especially after an experience swimming through a coral reef and marveling at the marine life he saw there.

He calls himself a Gen Z ocean-climate “solutionist” dedicated to improving the interconnectedness between ocean and human health. He is the founder and CEO of Inner Light and is working to empower a generation to build resilience from the inside out for the well-being of people and the planet.

As a young person, his goal is to positively impact the planet and bring people together “so we can reach our climate goals and create a future where humans and nature can co-exist in harmony,” he said.

Also participating is Sarah Bedolfe, a marine scientist with Oceana, speaking on how science and technology can help save endangered species and create a more sustainable relationship with ocean resources.

“Californian waters were once riddled with destructive fishing gear, such as drift gillnets, which were meant to catch swordfish but sadly also indiscriminately killed other wildlife,” she said in giving an example. “Today, innovative deep-set buoy gear enables fishers to harvest swordfish without the collateral damage.”

Bedolfe will discuss Oceana’s role in transforming this fishery and how those lessons can be applied elsewhere.

“Thanks to strategic research and innovation, coupled with broad collaboration and smart regulation, we can protect the endangered and iconic species we all love,” she said, “while securing sustainable fisheries livelihoods.”

All the talks will be submitted to TEDx, a grassroots initiate known to be about “ideas worth spreading,” and published at and

Source: Orange County Register

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