The Biochar Factor

Telling the Biochar Story at TED

As many of you may already know, I’ve been offered the distinct honor of speaking on biochar at TEDxBerkeley in February.  It’s a dream come true to me–I’ve wanted to speak at TED ever since I was first introduced to its amazing collection of inspiring humans several years ago.  TED is one of the things that makes me feel like it might be OK to bring a child into this world someday.  I’m serious.

TED is about storytelling.  When you hear a presentation at TED, it’s not “the technical potential of X” or “proving the business case of Y”.  It’s, “this is the story of how I came to be involved in researching the stickiness of gecko feet, and why that’s relevant to the world today, and you.”  The speakers lead you in with authentic and personal stories, and sneakily slip in technical data, specialized information, and inspiring perspectives along the way.  TED is great about providing ample information and support to speakers so that they can deliver “The Talk of Their Life” (no pressure…), including a “10 TED Commandments”, which include such guidelines as “do not sell,” “don’t flaunt your ego,” and “show us the real you.”

TED wants to hear about biochar.  And I want to tell them. This is an opportunity for the biochar story to be shared with a broader audience than it’s ever reached before.  I am incredibly excited to tell the biochar story, in a way that is also authentic to my experience with it.  Which brings me to ask:  what IS the biochar story?  Biochar is incredibly complex–there are so many angles to cover, so many potential applications and potential benefits, so many caveats and considerations to ensure that it is accurately represented (without the “Magic Bullet Flair” that so many tend to give it).

I have 18 minutes.  About 10 of those are going to lead into the story of how I was introduced to biochar and realized its incredible value to our world today (this story includes Burning Man, meditation, and a small barely-inhabited island off the coast of Lombok called Gili Meno.  Of course.); as well as the ancient history of biochar–how it has been dubbed the Secret of El Dorado; and how it helped to increase the Amazon Basin’s capacity to support larger populations than people thought possible.

Which brings me to my question for all of YOU:

What do you think the biochar story MUST include?

Please leave comments, including statistics, benefits, concerns, inspiring quotes, or stories about what inspires YOU about biochar.  The theme for this TEDx conference is “Engaging the World”, and I am particularly keen for insight on how you think we can best engage the TED community (and the 100,000+ watching live online Feb 19th) in biochar–without selling a product or asking for investment.  How do you think the civilian world can dig its teeth into biochar?  What story should we be telling to the world together, that will inspire both hope and pragmatism, and get people jumping off their chair to join the biochar movement?

If I nail this talk, there’s a good chance it will get placed on, for an even wider audience.  So help me out!  I see myself as a representative of a much larger community–I’m just the megaphone.  Lend me your voice, and I’ll shout it out to the world!

NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: While I am very grateful for your time in making suggestions and comments, I make no promise that I will be able to use all, or any, of your comments or suggestions.  Thank you for understanding this, as I work with the nuances of developing a compelling talk that is fluid and appropriate for the audience.



NEW POST:  Thank you to everyone for your insightful comments!  After receiving an extremely helpful coaching session from TEDxBerkeley’s speaking coach, I simplified and personalized my biochar story for this talk.  As she said, “TED wants 90% story. People connect with people more than they connect with ideas and facts. Tell them a story that they can connect with.”

Here is my story of biochar — how it found me, and why I decided to dedicate myself to helping bring the benefits of biochar to the world at large: