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TED began in 1984 as a way to bring together people from the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design. The nonprofit has since expanded to host speakers from numerous specialties in venues around the world. Their mission is simple: Ideas Worth Spreading.

TEDx (x=independently organized TED event) offers organizers a framework to initiate local, grassroots presentations and discussions. TEDxTucson’s premier gathering took place on Friday, December 3 at the Rialto Theatre in downtown Tucson. The topic: Innovating Our Green Economy. Jane Poynter, a crew member of the historic Biosphere 2 project, hosted the evening.

Among many notable speakers were Dr. George Land of the Arizona Innovation Institute who compressed two million years of human history into a twelve month calendar. On that scale, human beings finally discovered fire by mid-November. All of the change and innovation of the last century would be compressed into the final moments on December 31. Most importantly, he stressed the significance of creative, innovative thinking to help guide us toward a sustainable future. By suggesting that we return to creative thought patterns from our earlier years, about age 5, we would stimulate innovative ideas by physically using larger portions of our brain, specifically activating the frontal lobe.

Bruce Wright discussed the current state of solar power innovation at the University of Arizona’s Science and Tech Park Solar Zone. The Solar Zone is on track to start producing enough solar-generated electricity to meet its own energy needs, as well as generating power for the Tucson community.

James MacAdam of the Watershed Management Group suggested something quite simple: less concrete = less water runoff = more urban green spaces.

Ever considered growing chemical-free food with artificial light and no soil? Josh Hottenstein of Verdant Earth Technologies discussed “containerized” growing systems that use 99% less water than conventional field-based crops. In fact, these systems are already being used by some Subway restaurants in Japan, providing fresh lettuce grown on location.

Jonathan Northover painted a hopeful picture for the future of all electric vehicles, one where cars might use interchangeable batteries at stations along America’s highways to reduce charging time. He left the audience, and Jane Poynter, drooling over the sporty, $60,000 Tesla S which will be available in 2012. The vehicle can travel up to 300 miles per charge, go from 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds, has no tailpipe emissions, and is built in California.

The message at TEDxTucson was upbeat, hopeful and encouraging, and every speaker left the audience thinking about prospects for the future. From entrepreneurship to regional policy to rainwater harvesting at our homes, the event set the stage for developing Tucson’s green economy, opening the doors for ideas and innovation. Only one question remains, how will you play your part?

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.