By Allen Best
Whistler will host TED
WHISTLER, B.C. – Oh the joy. The TED conferences are moving northward along the West Coast, with a new central headquarters in Vancouver and a satellite conference in Whistler beginning in March 2014.
You haven’t heard of TED? Where have you holed up, Rip Van Winkle? As one person in Whistler told the community’s Pique Newsmagazine, TED seems to be everywhere: in the news, on the Internet, even in a recent episode of the television drama “Gray’s Anatomy.”
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) consists primarily of bright people who talk well. Roots are in California’s Silicon Valley, and for many years the conferences were held in Long Beach, with a satellite conference in Palm Springs.
The conference’s mission statement has big arms: “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.”
In 1984, at the first conference, the Macintosh computer was demonstrated. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have presented, as has author Malcolm Gladwell, software and Internet innovators Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and the list goes on and on.
Not just anybody can show up. Membership is required, at an annual cost of $6,000, and it’s by invitation only. You can, however, watch the lectures for free on the Internet.
Vancouver’s conference will draw 1,200 to 1,400 delegates. The Satellite TEDActive event at Whistler’s Fairmont Hotel will have 700 people.
Why would Whistler and its most prestigious hotel work hard to host an event during March, when typically strong demand already exists?
Most guests will stay mid-week, explained Victoria Dyson, director of marketing and sales for the hotel, but there’s also the benefit of association.
“You can’t put a dollar amount on the exposure that this will be bringing to our hotel and to Whistler, if you look at the legs this has,” she told Pique. “It’s been hosted for five years at La Quinta at Palm Springs, and we’ve got a contract for two years, 2014 and 2015 — and we’re hoping that this will be continuing for a few more years after that as well.”
Barrett Fisher, chief executive of Tourism Whistler, said hosting the conference will expand Whistler’s global reach.
“It attracts high-profile, thought leaders from around the globe, and what better place to host that than Vancouver and Whistler?” she said. “It will not only attract hundreds and hundreds of participants, but it will ensure that we’re on the map from a forward-thinking perspective…”
Houston, we have a sighting
KETCHUM, Idaho – Pam Houston a few decades ago lived in the Colorado mountain town of Fraser, which sits cheek by jowl with Winter Park, and washed dishes for a living. That was before “Cowboys are My Weakness” and a bunch of other books, the most recent of which is “Contents May Have Shifted.”
In advance of a visit to Ketchum, she was asked by the Idaho Mountain Express what it means for a writer to have a book out in paperback.
“For me it means that instead of going to the cities my publisher sent me to on the hardcover tour, I get to go to the cities where my real fans live, like Ketchum and Telluride and Juneau,” she said. “Which usually means I get to bring my dog.”
Houston splits her time between her ranch near Creede, in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, and California, where she teaches writing at the Davis campus. She tells the Mountain Express that a writer – whether a memoirist, a novelist, or a poet or a short-story writer – needs to have a natural affinity and some “some serious training in working with the language.”
“Having a story is only one part of the equation, and I would argue the much smaller part, or I would at least argue that we all have a story,” she says. “Knowing how to make that story beautiful and compelling on the page, knowing how to shape it into something others can have access to, is far more important than the story itself.”
Paleoecologist charts changes
JACKSON, Wyo. – If the 1930s were also hot, last year was one for the record books in large portions of the West. But more important is how this fits in with 30 years of steady heating, says Bryan Shuman, an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Wyoming.
The current warming, he tells the Jackson Hole News&Guide, in advance of a lecture there, is comparable to that which occurred when the last ice age ended abruptly 11,000 years ago. But unlike that time, change in the sun’s radiation and the Earth’s orbit do not explain the current warming. The only probable explanation is the fossil fuels being burned, sending heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Much of that carbon comes from underground in Wyoming, particularly from coal.
“We really are experiencing meaningful change,” he told the newspaper. “It’s impossible to explain how this state became warmer without saying carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases played a part in the warming.”
Shuman runs a paleoclimate and paleoecology lab, which means he and his students examine past climates and the vegetation and animals that inhabited those times.
On his website, Shuman explains that examination of the past shows that Wyoming and other Rocky Mountain states have historically experienced extended periods of drought.
Tree-ring data from the Colorado River Basin has revealed extended periods of drought, lasting several decades, 1,000 years ago. But by studying the evidence of how lakes in the mountain headwaters have changed, he and his students believe that dry periods of the deeper past exceeded the severity of these megadroughts. Since the glaciers receded, dry periods have persisted for centuries, even millennia.
Nor are these small changes. In the mountains along the Colorado-Wyoming border, Shuman has found evidence that lakes have gone down 30 percent or more for centuries or even longer during the last 4,500 years.
In other words, what we think of as average won’t necessarily stay that way. The climate is usually on the move, and this time we’re juicing the change with a double latte of greenhouse gases.
BANFF, Alberta – Greenhouses are going up in ski towns. In Banff, the municipal government has dedicated a portion of a rooftop parking garage for erection of a greenhouse. One already exists, and it has been such a hit that the Banff Greenhouse Gardening Society thought a second enclosure, which costs $35,000, would be good, explains the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
The society members justify the green house by explaining that it could “further enhance the opportunities for growing organic local produce, strengthen interaction amongst community members, and increase knowledge around food security and gardening.”
WHISTLER, B.C. – When a municipal government announces the events getting subsidies, there will always be winners and losers. Such was the case in Whistler.
A big winner was Readers and Writers, which got $30,000. That’s small potatoes, but then the festival has existed on a shoestring. Organizers told Pique Newsmagazine that they are ecstatic.
Not so happy were producers of WinterPRIDe, the gay ski week held in Whistler. The festival, now in its 21st year, attracts enough people to have a $4.5 million impact on Whistler, supporters say. But without a boost from the city government, they warn they may just have to fold up their tent.
Whistler, said organizer Dean Nelson, is competing against Vail, which is well-heeled enough to have a major comedian, Drew Carey, at its gay ski week.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, a judge at the recent Mr. Gay Canada competition, said she would be disappointed if the gay skiers go elsewhere. Whistler, she said, offers an “inclusive atmosphere.”
Other festivals getting part of the $1 million doled out by the municipality include the Ironman ($250,000), Tough Mudder $112,000 and Crankworx ($80,000.