TED2023 Kicks Off with Good News

A white man with brown curly hair and glasses holds up three fingers as he speaks on the TED stage. Behind him are two large monitors.

Good Good Good is in Vancouver this week covering TED2023. This article is part of our ongoing, exclusive coverage of the conference, with more interviews and stories to come. Follow along here all week, or on social media with our hashtag #GGGatTED.

TED2023 has begun. The annual conference has made its Vancouver debut, with a theme of ‘Possibility,’ bringing together the biggest minds in AI, climate action, creativity, and more. 

People walk into a theater, under the TED2023 Possibility banner.
TED2023: Possibility begins in Vancouver, BC. Photo courtesy of Ryan Lash / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

But perhaps our favorite part? TED’s emphasis on good news.

In fact, the conference kicked off with a “good news bulletin,” introduced by Head of TED Chris Anderson and presented by Future Crunch editor Angus Hervey.

Hervey, the very first speaker of TED2023, is an economist, journalist, and co-founder of Future Crunch, which covers breakthrough progress in human rights, global health, and science (otherwise known as good news). 

Anderson set the scene, intentionally leading the TED2023 charge with a celebration of progress, and, well, possibility. 

A white man in a blue shirt and blue sweater vest speaks in front of a crowd on the TED stage.
Chris Anderson kicks off TED2023 in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Jasmina Tomic / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

“Most news is shaped by an unfortunate asymmetry about the world, which is that good things happen slowly; it takes a long time to build something good in our chaotic universe,” Anderson said. “Bad things happen quickly. Good things can be blown apart in an instant.”

He continued by reflecting on the mainstream approach to news.

“If you have a news bulletin where the question you’re asking is ‘what is the most dramatic thing that happened in the last few hours?’ most of those things, it turns out, are going to be bad. What would happen if you took a different approach and instead asked ‘what is the most significant thing that has happened in the last year?’”

TED2023 clearly aims to reframe that daily thirst for the most hard-hitting news and zooms out to reveal a picture of nuance, progress, and hope.

After introducing the segment, Anderson invited Hervey to the stage, where he sat behind a classic anchor desk, a compelling TV studio theme song initiating his talk. 

A white man with brown hair, glasses, and a blue shirt sits at a desk on a stage, a large monitor behind him.
Angus Hervey speaks at SESSION 1 at TED2023: Possibility. Photo courtesy of Jasmina Tomic / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

The highlights of TED2023’s good news report

The war in Ukraine has accelerated climate action in Europe.

Hervey kicked off his simulated news broadcast with a look into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While putting into perspective the experience of millions of displaced Ukrainians, and the massive toll of the war, he reminds the audience that this conflict has indeed accelerated climate action.

“Europe has doubled down on green energy,” he summarized. “Last year for the first time ever, wind and solar overtook gas, nuclear, or coal as the continent’s largest source of electricity. Analysts say, as a result of the war, Europe’s timeline for ditching fossil fuels has accelerated by up to a decade.”

The United States has invested $90 billion into renewables and electric vehicles.

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States has also greatly impacted the future of climate action.

Hervey shared that the U.S. investment in renewable energy and electric vehicles puts the country on track to getting 80% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by the end of this decade.

China is installing enough solar panels every day to cover the area of New York’s Central Park. 

A white man with a beard, glasses, and a denim shirt, sits at a desk.
Angus Hervey speaks at SESSION 1 at TED2023: Possibility. Photo courtesy of Gilberto Tadday / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Beating both Europe and the U.S. in climate action, China’s speed of solar installation is a sure sign of progress. 

“At the current rate, China will reach its climate targets years ahead of schedule,” Hervey said. 

Last year, eight countries eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease.

While responses to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to generate headlines, often less publicized are the efforts to eliminate tropical diseases. Hervey names Togo as a leader in these efforts, as the country eliminated four diseases last year, including Trachoma, the leading preventable cause of blindness worldwide. 

“Go Togo,” he quipped.

Other diseases eliminated in these countries include Guinea Worm and African trypanosomiasis. Today, 600 million fewer people require treatments for these tropical diseases than they did in 2010. 

“It means that in just over a decade, a significant portion of humanity has been liberated from a devastating burden of suffering and death,” Hervey said. 

A malaria vaccine has been approved as safe and effective — and it’s getting licensed for distribution.

A man speaks on stage at a desk with a large screen behind him
Angus Hervey speaks at SESSION 1 at TED2023: Possibility. Photo courtesy of Jasmina Tomic / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

The new malaria vaccine is a life-changing treatment, and while the progress to make it took some time, its impact will be far-reaching and fast.

Just four days before Hervey took the stage, Ghana licensed this vaccine for distribution, and just eight hours before the briefing, Nigeria followed. Both countries will vaccinate all children under the age of three. 

In response to a round of applause, Hervey took a deep breath and took off his glasses — overcome by the palpable hope and possibility before him.

The United Nations has agreed on a global pact to protect 30% of the planet by 2030. 

Not only has the UN reached an agreement to protect biodiversity, but member nations have also agreed on a legal framework for the protection of marine life — the High Seas Treaty — after decades of negotiations. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the ship has reached the shore,” Rena Lee, the President of the UN Conference said in the announcement of the treaty. “I can say that this has been the learning journey of a lifetime.” 

The government of Canada partnered with First Nations to create Canada’s largest Marine Protected Area

Earlier this year, Canada announced the creation of the Tang.ɢwan — ḥačxwiqak — Tsig̱is Marine Protected Area, just off the coast of Vancouver. It will contribute an additional .88% to Canada’s marine conservation target of conserving 25% of the country’s marine and coastal areas by 2025. 

“That’s the coast of West Vancouver,” Hervey said, pointing into the audience. “That’s less than 150 kilometers from where we all are right now.”

The largest river restoration project in U.S. history kicked off last month. 

Working with the Yurok and Karuk tribes, California and Oregon officials have set in motion the largest river restoration project in American history. It will revitalize nearly 400 miles of the Klamath River. 

“None of it is enough,” Hervey said. “But these are big victories. They show us that destruction is not inevitable, restoration is possible, and that nature will recover if we can just give it the opportunity.” 

Major international gains have been made for social and political freedom. 

A white man with brown curly hair and glasses holds up three fingers as he speaks on the TED stage. Behind him are two large monitors.
Angus Hervey speaks at SESSION 1 at TED2023: Possibility. Photo courtesy of Jasmina Tomic / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Since the beginning of 2022, major human rights victories have swept the globe. According to Hervey: 

  • 5 countries have abolished the death penalty (Kazakhstan, Papua New Guinea, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, and Malaysia)
  • 6 countries have ended child marriage (Phillippines, Cuba, England, Maritius, Wales, and Zambia)
  • 4 countries have banned conversion therapy (Canada, New Zealand, France, and Greece)
  • 4 countries have legalized homosexuality (Barbados, Singapore, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda)
  • 11 countries have strengthened reproductive rights (India, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Kenya, England, Wales, France, New Zealand, San Marino, and Spain)

“The fight for equality continues,” Hervey said. “But progress is happening, even if we don’t hear much about it.”

What would it look like if the world was filled with more good news?

A smiling white man with brown hair and a denim shirt stands in front of a large screen.
Angus Hervey speaks at SESSION 1 at TED2023: Possibility. Photo courtesy of Jasmina Tomic / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

At Good Good Good, we’re obviously big fans of good news. But we’re also big fans of every other publisher that shares good news — because we believe that the world needs more of it. 

“Imagine if this was the news,” Hervey said on stage at TED. “Along with the usual death and disaster and division, we also got to hear these; the stories of hope and healing — and not just another dog on a surfboard.” 

Although there are loads of factors that make our complicated human brains lean towards negativity, we have the power to embrace an information-sharing approach — and a news-consumption approach — that levels good news and bad news as equals. 

“The thing is, this is the news. These stories — they’re happening,” Hervey said. “It’s just that we don’t hear as much about them. When you find them, the world can suddenly feel like a very different place.”

Header photo courtesy of Jasmina Tomic / TED / (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

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April 18, 2023 12:00 PM
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