5 Inspiring TED Talks for the Aspiring Environmentalist

As a student in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department at SLU, I’ve found it isn’t that difficult to feel pessimistic about the state of our common home- Earth. From islands of plastic in our oceans, to an atmosphere that’s trapping greenhouse gases at an alarming rate, it is easy to lose sight of what I’m studying to protect. When I feel like this, I look to professionals in the field and activists who share my vision for hope. To coincide with the climate strikes happening around the world, here’s five TED Talks that inspire me to continue on my path to protecting the planet, and hopefully inspire you, too.


1. Why I Must Speak Out About Climate Change | James Hansen

Image courtesy of TED Blog


Atmospheric physicist and professor James Hansen, who has been stressing the importance of recognizing climate change since the 80’s, explains his moral imperative to explain the effects of global warming, despite naysayers and agencies attempts to keep him quiet. When the topic of climate change can leave one to give up, the future- the same future that his grandchildren will be left with- reminded him to keep speaking out.


2. Seas of Plastic | Captain Charles Moore

Image courtesy of TED


In this still-relevant 2009 TED talk, Moore discusses how throwaway plastics and the culture surrounding it has harmed environments and the species within them, with a main focus on ocean biodiversity. He also demonstrates that ocean water more so resembles microplastic soup. Moore emphasizes the importance of global change for the ways in which we use plastics, before it is too late. I say it all the time: it’s not a bad idea to invest in a reusable mug!


3. Fashion Has a Pollution Problem- Can Biology Fix It? | Natsai Audrey Chieza

Image courtesy of TED


I love fashion. I don’t love the environmental impacts much of the fashion industry causes for the planet. Natsai Audrey Chieza, a fashion designer, doesn’t either. Within the industry production practices and as consumers, she strongly encourages ditching the products that are produced the most damaging ways, such as fast fashion or synthetic dyes released into the environment. Her TED talk examines these negative effects of fashion production and introduces biology-based methods of creation that reduce the harmful wastes and overall carbon footprint of the industry.


4. How Climate Change Affects Your Mental Health | Britt Wray

Image courtesy of TED


Britt Wray is a radio broadcaster, writer, and PhD candidate in Science Communication. Besides living out my dream life, she also gave a TED talk earlier this year about how climate change has an impact on mental health. The effects of climate change on the planet essential something we can visualize- the same cannot be fully said for the effects on our minds. A general anxiety about climate change is occurring, but what is worse, Wray explains, is that responses from the general public and decision making officials like resignation and conflict avoidance are growing as well. We cannot enact change on something we fail to acknowledge. There is something to be said about the rising correlation between mental health advocacy and environmentalism.


5. The Disarming Case to Act Right Now on Climate Change | Greta Thunberg

Image courtesy of NPR


It is nearly impossible to not know about or be in awe of 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. In this passionate talk about climate change by a young person who is guaranteed to live through the side effects, Thunberg reinforces the drastic changes that need to be made on a global scale if climate change is to be averted. She further goes on to admonish adults who act as decision makers for the future they are leaving behind. This TED talk, like all of Thunberg’s efforts, is a call to action. Children shouldn’t be left to clean up the messes being made. Thunberg, and all of the other young climate activists that do not have as large of a platform, give me hope that young people are ready for global change to protect our futures.



Whether your major is based in health, art, business, or anything else- we all live on this planet. We all have a duty to conserve and protect it. These TED talks inspire me to do exactly that, and I hope they do the same for you.