With sustainable tourism as its theme, Whistler's first TEDx conference is about to beam its message to thousands who will hear it from afar.
Organized by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, TEDxWhistler is the first of its kind to take place in town. It's just one of several events put on by TED, a non-profit organization devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading," according to its website.
It works like this: TED conferences are somewhat exclusive affairs, admitting people by invitation only, but that's where it ends. Once organized, the conferences are accessible to anyone who wishes to see them via the TEDTalks video site, totally free.
Whistler's contribution to the TED movement is titled "Tourism's Place in a Sustainable World" and is meant to look at more environmentally responsible ways to travel in the future, according to Naomi Devine, a conference organizer and Whistler2020 Sustainability Coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
"TED's pretty inspiring as far as conferences go," she said in an interview. "This is a place where there's going to be a lot of focused discussion."
Previous TED conferences have hosted high-profile speakers such as Bono, Richard Branson and even filmmaker JJ Abrams. More intellectual speakers have included Richard Dawkins, Hans Rosling and Frank Gehry.
The Whistler conference has intellectual heft of its own. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis will be participating. Davis is an anthropologist who has lived alongside indigenous peoples all over the world and documented their cultural practices in various media.
Devine said Davis was chosen because he can help stimulate discussion on the cultural aspects of sustainability.
"Tourism and travel is something that connects us as human beings," she said. "There's a lot of interesting questions and intentions that arise.
"We asked and (Davis) was interested and he's generous with his time and he was happy to come and speak at TEDxWhistler."
But Davis isn't the only one who'll be speaking at TEDxWhistler. Also on the bill are Mark Angelo, a river conservationist who has travelled close to 1,000 rivers on six different continents as a kayaker and rafter.
Now chair of the Rivers Institute at BCIT, he's the founder of World Rivers Day, an annual event which attracted millions of participants to last September's event alone. British Columbians may also recognize him as a critic of B.C.'s run-of-river projects, which divert parts of streams into pipes to generate electricity and then return water to the river afterward.
Other speakers include Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of Gap Adventures and an early proponent of adventure tourism. Founded in 1990, his company sought to deliver an "authentic travel experience" that went beyond all-inclusive resorts, according to the TEDxWhistler website.
"We had a quite wide net that we cast out," Devine said. "We were looking for people that we thought could speak to responsible tourism and bringing these whole ideas together and people who have direct experience with the topic."
People interested in attending must have applied for an invitation. People could come up with a vision of what travel will look like in a sustainable world in a video or 300-word written submission and submit it at www.tedxwhistler.com . If your vision was inspiring enough, you may be invited to attend. There will be 30 seats up for grabs. Submissions were due Jan. 31 at 5 p.m.
The conference itself takes place Feb. 18 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Even if you don't get to attend in person, the conference will be livecast online. Details are yet to come.