Posted February 28, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in Campus Life


The first floor of Seminar II B overflowed with students waiting to watch TEDx on February 26, forcing the excess to relocate into live webcast rooms around the school.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), a nonprofit organization, lends its name to independently organized events worldwide that support their mission of making short lectures on “ideas worth spreading”. TED Talks are accessible to the general public over the internet.

Unlike the major TED talks given at conferences around the world, the independently organized TEDx focused on the Puget Sound area specifically. The lectures and speakers all had connections to Evergreen and the Olympia area.

Evergreen graduate and cofounder of the Sustainability in Prisons Project, Dan Pacholke and Graduate Research Assistant Andrea Martin, from the Masters of Environmental Science program, discussed the drive to introduce environmentally friendly practices in correctional facilities.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project has led to changes at some Washington State prisons like establishing composting facilities, diverting more waste into recycling plants, and producing some food for consumption on-site. These decisions have saved the Department of Corrections, for which Pacholke is the assistant secretary, tens of thousands of dollars.

During the time that the project has been in action, violence levels amongst inmates has decreased, Martin and Pacholke claimed. Engagement in education and bringing nature and conservation to the prisoners are key components of their mission. One particular way that the group has engaged inmates is by getting them involved in conservation programs. The endangered Oregon Spotted Frogs, Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies and several plant species have been raised in correctional facilities.

Scott Bergford, founder of Scott Homes Inc, spoke about creating energy efficient homes and retrofitting pre existing homes to be more conservative with their energy usage. “A lot of times people think of energy efficiency as being homes that are not very pretty”, Bergford pointed out, but he strives to make homes with less environmental impact, higher aesthetic value, and lower cost to homeowners both upfront and in energy bills.

A pre-recorded talk from a previous TED conference by Rob Hopkins, who refuses to fly, was next in the lineup. He discussed the Transition Network, an “open source” conglomeration of local chapters working towards reducing dependency on oil. There is a local chapter of the Transition Network here in Olympia.

Ron Johnston Rodriguez of Plugin North Central Washington advocated the use of “electric vehicle tourism” as a strategy to attract tourists to the region. “We need to start driving vehicles that don’t use fossil fuels,” he asserted, as 48% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the area are from gas and diesel from cars and trucks. He has been working on converting Stevens Pass into the first national scenic byway to become electric vehicle ready.

Dr. Shallin Busch, a research ecologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presented data about the acidification of the ocean due to carbon dioxide emissions, and how it’s dissolving the shells off of ocean invertebrates. Dr. Busch discussed how these shellfish are culturally and financially significant to the Puget Sound, especially to local tribal entities.

Kim Gaffi of Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB) advocated for educating our youth about where their food comes from with hands-on programs working on improving their senses of self and community while learning natural science and valuable farming skills. When referring to the challenges that face us today, Gaffi said that it is “like a big steaming pile of manure. And as a gardener, there’s nothing I’d rather find in my garden than [a big pile of manure].” She expressed optimism that, from the struggles of today, we will find fertilizer for the growth and meaning of tomorrow.

By Troy Mead