IdeaCity – the cerebral version of extreme adventure
Adventure in my life seems to follow a feast and famine cycle – I’m either living in a tent for months on end or sequestered in an office typing out a book. Last week I experienced the mental equivalent of the adventure feast: ideaCity. It’s billed as ‘Canada’s premiere meeting of the minds’ and its theme song, accompanied by a folksy tune and sung karaoke style, says it best: “IdeaCity is a place, where ideas come face to face.”
It’s a little like being back in school, except all the teachers are interesting and the parties are better. We spent 3 days listening to 50 speakers cover a range of topics from astronomy to religion to human rights to adventure. Robert Kennedy Jr. gave us hope for a greener future as he talked about countries that have profited from decarbonization and Obama’s plans to move America down a similar path. Rob Stewart, the producer of the documentary Sharkwater, told us how witnessing illegal shark fishing in the Galapagos sparked his journey to protect the maligned fish. The physician Richard MacDonald talked about fighting for dignified death, and how his peers, fellow octogenarians, are on trial for manslaughter after being arrested in a sting operation by a heavily armed swat team. We even laughed along with Albert Nerenberg, the laughologist who developed the Laughercize – an exercise where everyone laughs themselves to better health.
Colin wasn’t the only adventurer speaking and it was great to finally meet Ray Zahab, a name that may ring a bell with you because he and his team were our featured expedition in January.Ray and two friends sped to the South Pole in 33 days, shattering the previous speed record by 7 days.
It is the kind of event that makes you want to change the world and brings to mind Margaret Mead; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
But I went away with more than inspiration; I won the raffle and took home a telescope. I’m one of those people who’s never won a thing, not even $10 on a 649 ticket, and so it took a while to get over the shock. It’s the kind of telescope that makes all astronomers, from hardcore to amateur, salivate. When we were rowing across the Atlantic, I spent a lot of time staring at the sky and wishing I knew more about the constellations, and now it appears that ‘my wish upon a falling star’ has come true. And it’s thanks to the Khan Scope Centre and Dr. Jaymie Mathews, UBC professor and mission scientist, who by the way redefined my opinion of rocket scientist when he delivered his talk, more aptly described as a stand-up comedy routine, wearing a spacesuit.
So now that I’m back home, I feel like I should do more, make a difference, change the world.I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to do that, but I’m going to start by looking at the heavens.