TEDxTartu: How to Save Yourself and The Planet

Halliki works as a volunteer at the Foundation for Science and Liberal Arts Domus Dorpatensis, nominated as the Civil Society of the Year 2011 in Tartu and Tartu county.

TED talks have always been very inspiring to me, so I was quite excited when I was walking to TEDxTartu last Saturday morning. I was wondering what kinds of interesting ideas I would hear and what people I would meet. However, I was also a little bit nervous that my expectations might be too high and that I might be disappointed in the end, but fortunately that was not the case.

Speeches varied from very concrete ideas on what you can do for your own health every day, to more complicated issues, like how to save the planet.

Do you think that great ideas come from just sitting down and thinking until something strikes you? Perhaps not. Steven Johnson can tell you how ideas are formed. It’s a good introduction to something which has the punchline “Ideas worth spreading“.

TEDxTartu 2011: audience and the stage

Photo: Maanus Kullamaa


The first speaker, Marju Lauristin, declared boldly that half of today’s (Estonian) education should be virtual. This would enable children to learn at their own pace and follow their own interests. What is more, it would make going to school more fun, because the children who are slower or faster at learning something don’t lose interest.

It could also serve as a tool to connect average Estonian children, kids whose first language is not Estonian, but have to study in the language, and those who live abroad with their parents, but would like to continue using their mother tongue, etc. They can search for what interests them, share it with friends, talk, ask questions, and have a discussion about it. Something similar is in the works at Khan Academy. Somehow it was really cool to hear these ideas from someone who is not twenty-something and has actual, long-term teaching experience.

Marju Lauristin was not alone in the idea that today’s educational system is getting old. Roy Leighton said that it’s not important anymore what you know, but how you can use the knowledge you have access to. It’s not important to learn, but to develop your brain, because all the information children need is available on the Internet. Knowing how to apply it makes the difference and schools should keep up with that.


Trash to Trend is an upcycling project that was introduced to us by Reet Aus. After Aus had finished studying fashion design, she felt that she did not want to be a part of something producing so much waste, so she started to make designs out of…basically, trash. She is also working on a system that could bring together manufacturers who produce textile waste and those who can make use of it.

Now, on to curing the planet. Eero Paloheimo told us to change our view of our planet. He said that the planet is sick, and that we, the people, are the illness. It is time to stop being the illness and start acting like a doctor. He also gave us an “easy“ three-step recipe for doing so: 1) join the armies – in a defensive war against dangers of the future; 2) new industrial revolution – energy, traffic, land-use and production should be revolutionised; 3) preventive cures – renew values, as buying lots of things and just throwing them away when they are still useful is not very wise. Also, owning a big car is a bit ridiculous.

To me all of this sounded a bit abstract, but for him it might not. Eero Paloheimo has been designing EcoCities, cities that will not need anything from the outside world. Instead, the cities are designed so that all of their needs for energy and goods are fulfilled by systems inside the city.

audience at TEDxTartu 2011

Music by Jarek Kasar (or maybe you know him as Chalice?). Listen to some examples of his music here.

After that came the lunch break, where we were placed into tables randomly and were encouraged to talk to other people at our table – they even placed theme cards at every table to minimize possible excuses. This could be a beautiful beginning of collaboration.


We listened to Robert Lang’s TED Talk from 2008 on how they combined origami and mathematics in a way that became useful in medicine, space technology, and elsewhere.

Dan Bogdanov drew us a picture of a future in which we wouldn’t have to worry about information that is stored somewhere about us. It is actually possible to divide a piece of information between three locations, so that any piece by itself is worthless. In this way, if someone sees just one piece of it, it’s useless to them. In the future we do not have to worry that our personal information might end up in the wrong hands. Get some more information here.

Heikki Haldre talked about every Internet shopper’s dream – the Fits.me robot – and how they were able to get it this far. He left us with the thought that we should start thinking bigger, because it takes the same amount of energy as thinking small. We should also talk about what we want to do. I think sharing ideas can be helpful in finding people who are inspired by it – this may lead to bringing them to life.

audience at TEDxTartu 2011

Photo: Maanus Kullamaa


A worldwide sitting epidemic is on the loose and it is actually a major problem. A lot of people sit almost the entire day and recreational sport does not compensate for it. Ragnar Viir brought this to our attention in his 18-minute speech. Among other things, sitting can weaken your heart, and lead to thrombosis and muscle atrophy.

I’m really happy that he also showed us the cure – he spread his yoga mat on the stage and lay down. Now you have to move your upper limbs and lower limbs two minutes for every hour of sitting. I love the idea, and I think workplaces should make use of this simple exercise. I guess the only problem now is making it socially acceptable.


Rein Veidemann moved us with 10 Estonian sentences that he thought have been important throughout history. Henrik Relve showed us the most interesting or breath-taking sights in Estonia through a traveller’s perspective. These included the woods, bogs, Europe’s biggest boulder, and so on. I must completely agree that bogs are probably one of the most beautiful places to be.

TEDxTartu finished with sweet music from Mari Pokinen.

The main idea I got from all of these inspiring people was that maybe I don’t have to have all the answers to life’s questions, but it’s good to have the questions. It seemed that this is what brought these people where they are now.

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