TED2 Talk on Global Change



In 1981, the company I founded, InterNetwork, Inc. (INI), started working with NASA to raise awareness on global change issues. NASA was launching different satellite sensors to study the earth, including TOPEX in 1978, to observe the global oceans. This was the real beginning of the remote sensing revolution to study the earth from space. Many satellites collected huge amounts of data about the earth’s physical and biological environment, including sea and land surface temperature, ice cover, water vapor, wind speeds, topography, vegetation, and other important parameters.

Working first with NASA, then with NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration), and the US Geological Survey, INI helped disseminate these important images through a series of publications including the groundbreaking publication, Earth System Science: Overview (1986). These publications, along with numerous international scientific papers, raised the alarm that the world needed to address the issues of global change shown in the extensive satellite time-series data (ranging from ozone depletion, diminishing polar sea ice extent, increasing desertification, etc.).

I saw an opportunity to raise environmental awareness through all this satellite imagery along with then revolutionary changes in communication that the digital New Media were creating. As a result of presenting these new technologies at Robert Redford’s Greenhouse Glasnost conference (1989), INI became pioneers in the emerging Digital New Media

Working with the cutting-edge digital media companies (e.g., Aldus Pagemaker, MacroMind VideoWorks, Apple Hypercard), INI helped develop these new print, animation, and multimedia technologies focusing on environmental themes. I was invited to many different conferences covering environmental, technology, and design themes, such as the first TED Conferences. I used these platforms to raise the alarm about global warming and other global change issues such as desertification, ozone depletion, and acid rain. Al Gore, then a US Senator, invited me to present at the US Senate and later at his Interparliamentary Conference on Global Environment (1990). One title, Arctic Data InterActive (done with Denise Wilthsire at the USGS) received the Presidential Design Award from Bill Clinton at a White House Ceremony in 1994.

My book with Kevin Kelly, Embracing Earth: New Views of Our Changing Planet (Chronicle, 1992) presented Earth satellite images in striking four-color coffee-table format. This acclaimed book was published in the US and four foreign-language editions and was part of the raising awareness effort that included the Earth Summit Rio Conference in 1992.

In January 2014, I found an old laser disc of my TED2 talk shown here. It was a thirty- minute talk that featured many of the exciting, new multimedia techniques that INI was developing. Only ten minutes of the 30 minute talk were recorded at TED2. The final part of the presentation, Reflections, brought a standing ovation (music by Nicholas MacConnell and P.R. Stevens). I spent decades raising awareness about the impending crisis of global warming, that unfortunately, has now passed into reality. It is a great tragedy that the sustained efforts of so many dedicated scientists at government agencies and academic institutions were not heeded. It appears that current levels of carbon dioxide are reaching irreversible levels for stopping global warming/climate change and that the only way forward is to try to mitigate the impending, enormous global impacts on planetary ecosystems and human societies (www.co2now.org)

Los Angeles Times on TED 2 (1990)
Earth System Science: Overview (1986)
Greenhouse Glasnost, NY Times (1989)
Interparliamentary Conference on Global Environment (1990)
Embracing Earth: New Views of Our Changing Planet (1992)


Copyright 2005-2015, Payson R. Stevens. All rights reserved.