The act of breathing is essential for the living things on Planet Earth. But to breathe is as much biological and mechanical as it is personal and emotional. Each breath tells a story, from joy to sadness, from hope to light. Every breath is a reminder of the life around us and that all life is part of a greater, interlinked system.
To explore the correlations between the different meanings of ‘’breathing” and the current environmental challenges societies are facing, UN CC:Learn partnered for the third time with TEDxGeneva to organize TEDxGeneva’s Breathing edition, a TEDx event that brought forward innovative ideas and put the environment and climate change action at the core of it. The event built on the collaboration UN CC:Learn has had with TEDxGeneva since 2021 and that has already resulted in two TEDxGeneva events: The Tide is Rising and Regeneration.
With the question “Who are the agents of change shaping a breathable future for all?’, the event set out to provide a platform for speakers with great ideas to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues, from water supply in drought-stricken areas to the deployment of new technology to foment conservation practices. In total, seven speakers from different parts of Europe took to the stage to deliver seven TEDx talks – 4 in French and 3 in English – to over 100 attendees at the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), in Geneva, Switzerland, on 1st December 2023.
The event kicked off with Mr. Noam Yaron, a Swiss eco-adventurer and swimmer who takes part in extreme physical challenges, such as the crossing of Lac Léman (over 80km) to raise awareness of the importance of nature and biodiversity conservation. Mr. Yaron highlighted how he improved his performance, both mentally and physically, when he learned ancient breathing techniques. He was followed by Ms. Fiona Beenkens an architect specialized in neuro-architecture, a new field that puts well-being at the core of architectural projects. She spoke about how neuro-architecture can contribute to tackling problems, such as anxiety, and help people feel safer in different environments.
After Ms. Beenkens, Mr. Paolo Mastrocola, an engineer specialized in water management, stepped on the stage to speak about the work he has been doing to improve the lives of the rural populations of Somalia’s drylands through the construction of natural dams. These natural dams have reshaped communities there, bringing potable water, employment, more biodiversity, and increased crop yields. Then Mr. Thierry Pick, a self-made businessman and creator of the “naturist business management” style, took over to speak about how he uses well-being as a criterion for his company’s growth and performance, and how this unique indicator can increase employees’ commitment, happiness and dedication.
Ms. Astrid Humbert-Droz, seamstress and student at the École Hôtelière de Genève, spoke about how Switzerland, the second largest fashion consumer in the world, could implement strategies, such as take-back programmes, to reduce the country’s staggering 100,000 tones of annual textile waste. She was followed by Mr. Thomas Elliott, founder of Restor, a spin-off start-up from ETH Zurich that uses technology to help make biodiversity protection and conservation economically viable for local people. Lastly, Ms. Giorda closed the evening by explaining how hypnosis can be used as a tool to shift people’s mindsets and encourage more sustainable lifestyles, with less consumption and more respect for nature and other human beings.
After the event, guests were invited to attend a post-event reception at IFRC itself, where they met and interacted with the speakers, and got an opportunity to network with the rest of the audience.