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Oct 18

POPTech Conference 2007 – “The Human Impact”

by Chad, Conferences, Comments Off on POPTech Conference 2007 – “The Human Impact”

Oct 18

October 18, 2007

Jessica Flannery of

Jessica Flannery ( is speaking during the “Innovation From the Bottom Up” session and is wowing the POPTech audience. Her enthusiasm is infectious; she’s vibrant, passionate, and articulate about what she and her husband Matt have done to enable *anyone* to make a business loan (with as little as $25) to entrepreneurs in Third-world countries, enabling them to rise out of poverty.

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From Kiva’s website: “Jessica first saw the power and beauty of microfinance while working in rural Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda with Village Enterprise Fund and Project Baobab on impact evaluation and program development. Jessica has spoken widely on microfinance and social entrepreneurship, and has shared the vision for in more than 30 countries worldwide. Jessica holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA in Philosophy and Political Science from Bucknell University.”

However, what you get from hearing Jessica speak firsthand, and not just from reading the Kiva description on the web, is how one person’s vision can make a difference, impacting the world in an incredibly positive way. When I first pondered the theme of this year’s POPTech, I was bracing for the “downer” of how humanity is negatively impacting the planet as we expand and consume more and more. But then one gets to listen to this young middle-class woman from the Midwest, and how she made her vision come alive to positively impact people’s lives far and wide, using the Internet.

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What also impressed me was how her life was changed just from hearing one person: Muhammed Yunus, the founder of the Gremeen Bank. She said that hearing him speak and getting to talk to him was what inspired her. She ended up quitting her job at the time and moving to Africa to do her dream, which was to work in microfinance in Africa.

Pretty amazing…

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Chris Jordan’s Visuals at the POPTech 2007 Conference

Chris Jordan is using the medium of photographic arts to show us the sheer scale and magnitude of waste from consumerism. I just saw a photo of what two million plastic bottles (used in the U.S. every five minutes) looks like. The reason he uses photography to convey his message about the impact of human waste on our world is to try and move people emotionally, instead of just intellectually. It’s working.



Chris’ current exhibit, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait, is about the impact American consumerism and greed have on our culture and our planet: “Collectively we have given in to greed and made the gaining of wealth our cultural priority. This comes at the expense of what some people hold most sacred: our connectedness to ourselves, to each other, and to our planet.

What strikes me is that we have 300 million people in the U.S., and an export of a consumerism philosophy that is spreading around the planet. As I look at his images, I realize that the waste being depicted is but a fraction of what the world produces. For example, China and India have 3 billion people adopting our American way of life; they alone represent half of the planet. These countries want American prosperity too, and the impact of consumerism from these populations hasn’t even begun to be felt yet.

He asks us to consider how many of these millions of plastic bottles are for… water, which we Americans can get out of our tap that is better quality than what has been flown/shipped by airplane from other places in plastic bottles. Did you know that “Dasani” water is bottled by the Coca Cola company, with much of it sourced from the Detroit River? When you drink Dasani, you’re getting tap water from Detroit.

Why not buy something like a Nalgene bottle, and fill it/reuse it with water from home?

I’m BACK! It’s exciting to be here at the POPTech Conference. It’s my annual pilgrimage to take in ideas and images from remarkable speakers from all over the world, in the tiny hamlet of Camden, a beautiful village with a delightful harbor halfway up the Maine coast.


This year’s theme is “The Human Impact” – exploring some of the many ways human beings impact—and are impacted by—the world and each other. This is the description of the conference from the Poptech website:

The dialogue will cover a wide range of topics, from new ways of measuring humanity’s global impact and the promise of bottom-up solutions to global poverty, to the future of the oceans and the dialogue between Islam and the West.We’ll get a deep look at where ideas come from – reviewing startling new scientific insights into the mind and brain, and examine the origins of creativity, innovation, and the essence of human nature.

Next, we will turn our attention to where our ideas are made real: the “systems of civilization” that govern our lives. From human habitats, resources and material culture to the political processes that frame our shared agendas, we’ll take stock of where we are and where we’re going.

We’ll conclude by looking at the inspiring ways new ideas, technologies, and approaches are being used to transform the world—from the bottom up (versus from the top down).

As always, there will be incredible performances, spirited discussions and surprises woven throughout. We will leave Camden with a reframed sense of ourselves, the systems we rely on, and the dynamics of positive change.

It’s my 8th year at POPTech, and it began with a homecoming of sorts at the Hawthorne Inn and the wonderful feeling created by the proprietor, Maryanne Shanahan. She is wonderful, and her inn is also a special reason for my journey every year to Camden.

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