Point A to Point B - It's a long road, but we're getting there

For a while now, we’ve been told that we need to do things differently if we want our children and grandchildren to have a clean planet to enjoy in the future. And yet, it’s become painfully clear that the efforts we’re making aren’t just for our children and grandchildren. They are for us, too. 

This month, we want to highlight three voices from the TEDx Universe that offer solutions on how to connect modern society while keeping sustainability at the forefront.

As the world reconnects in the coming years, we have the chance to revolutionize industries, spin our habits, and reshape the footprint of modern society. All we have to do is follow through.

Jeff Speck: The walkable city

Let’s think about your car for a moment. What does it mean to you—having your own set of wheels? Is it the power to go anywhere, at any time, unshackled by the constraints of public transport timetables? The feeling of the wind in your hair as you blaze down the highway? 

Or, perhaps, is it a slog of red lights and bumper-to-bumper frustration as Point B waits in the distance?

“The automobile that was once an instrument of freedom has become a gas-belching, time-wasting, and life-threatening prosthetic device that many of us need just to live their daily lives.”

-Jeff Speck

As urban designer Jeff Speck lays out in his 2013 TED talk, the writing is pretty much on the wall: cities built around automobile use are more polluted, less healthy, with weaker economies. Not only is the idea of suburban sprawl expensive for residents in terms of owning, fueling, and maintaining a vehicle…but when juxtaposed against long-term human health impacts, the automobile infrastructure, and the climate detriments—the cost becomes outrageous. 

Instead of piling on sustainability gadgets or reinventing the wheel, Mr. Speck suggests a seamless, back-to-basics approach: design safer, more condensed cities where the tables are turned. Walking should be the most convenient mode of transport, and ever-thinning streets should make cars feel inconvenient. In walkable cities, we’re all safer and healthier. But can we all commit to making it happen?

Tommaso Gecchelin: Car jumping: The future of transportation

If you’ve managed to overcome suburban sprawl by taking to the city, there’s a high chance that you’re personally acquainted with the drag of urban congestion. Once you hit the narrow streets of your dense city, you’re laced in teeth-grinding gridlock of traffic jams, honking horns, and last-minute messages to your boss that you’ll be just a few minutes behind schedule.

But what if you just jumped out of your car and took a faster route?

“With car jumping, we start with our own car, but afterwards, what if we jump to the car that is going to our same destination? Well in this case, things change a lot.”

-Tommaso Gecchelin

When Tommaso Gecchelin spoke at TEDxTUM in 2018, his idea about jumping from vehicle to vehicle in modern-day traffic caught attention—was it safe? Was it even realistic? Was he truly suggesting that we abandon our personal cars on the road and immediately buddy up to strangers in their cars, no matter who they might be?

Action-film moves aside, Tommaso’s idea takes a bit of a different approach: by utilizing carpool pods that drive autonomously, we can not only reduce the space we take up on roads, but also our footprint while we commute. And while “car jumping” may sound unorthodox now—is it really any more far-out than single drivers idling on congested roads for long stretches of time?

Annika Paul: A bold call for revolutionizing aviation

One day, we will freely and happily take to the skies again. We will breezily scan our boarding passes at the gate, cram ourselves into the jet bridge, plane pillows on necks, as children jump excitedly for a long-awaited vacation and other passengers snap selfies to upload to their Instagram Stories. And when we do, we will be confronted with the next New Normal: how our airlines—and the way we interact with them—have to change.

“Airlines—as we see them today—may not be the predominant business model any longer. And that would be a real game-changer. What would this new business model look like?”

-Dr. Annika Paul

During her 2019 TEDxTUMSalon talk, Dr. Annika Paul gave us an inside glimpse at how she and her colleagues are working to revamp the aviation industry—by going above and beyond.

As Annika explains, creating a more sustainable airline industry isn’t as easy as instituting a few quick changes. The entire business model will get reevaluated, the energy sources must be modernized, and every new aircraft itself needs a new fit to integrate the changes. And yet, despite these challenges, Annika and her team are determined to overhaul the industry. 

Because through pooling passengers, sharing aircraft, and utilizing a more sustainable fuel source, we can create a longer-lasting, more viable travel industry for decades to come.