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TED2009

Yann Arthus-Bertrand: A wide-angle view of fragile Earth

February 4, 2009

In this image-filled talk, Yann Arthus-Bertrand displays his three most recent projects on humanity and our habitat -- stunning aerial photographs in his series "The Earth From Above," personal interviews from around the globe featured in his web project "6 billion Others," and his soon-to-be-released movie, "Home," which documents human impact on the environment through breathtaking video.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand - Photographer
With photography, Yann Arthus-Bertrand has captured the beauty of the Earth. Through video and film, his latest projects bind together ecology and humanism. For him, it's all about living together. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I have a big impact on the planet
00:13
to travel here by plane.
00:16
I emitted, in the atmosphere, nine tons of CO2;
00:19
that is the weight of two elephants.
00:26
I came here to speak about ecology,
00:29
and I emitted as much CO2
00:32
as a Frenchman in one year.
00:35
So what do I have to do?
00:38
I have to kill a Frenchman when I come back at home?
00:40
(Laughter)
00:42
I have to do my carbon offset in another way,
00:44
like I do every time.
00:47
(Laughter)
00:49
In fact my work is to show
00:52
our impact on our planet.
00:57
I'm going to show you some examples
01:01
of the last pictures I've done
01:03
in the last year.
01:05
Alberta sand oil, a lot of pollution.
01:09
You know the problem;
01:14
we don't want to believe what we know.
01:16
In Alberta people work nonstop,
01:22
24 hours by seven
01:25
to extract as much oil
01:28
as they can.
01:30
We know about the end of oil.
01:32
Oil sand is not a long-term solution.
01:35
But we use three times more oil
01:39
than we find every year.
01:43
We don't want to believe what we know.
01:45
Deny.
01:47
Coral reef in New Caledonia.
01:49
100 percent of the coral
01:53
may be wiped out before 2050
01:56
because of global warming.
01:59
And you know how coral are very sensitive to temperature,
02:01
and are very important for the biodiversity of the sea.
02:05
North Pole. I've done this picture last summer.
02:11
It was impossible to do this picture 15 years ago.
02:15
Now there is a new way open between Atlantic and Pacific.
02:19
The thickness of the Arctic
02:25
decreased more than 40 percent
02:29
since 1960.
02:32
There is a new face of Kilimanjaro without ice.
02:37
Sad picture.
02:41
It lost 80 percent of its ice.
02:43
According to scientists,
02:46
in 100 years
02:48
all the mountain glacier will be gone.
02:51
Glaciers are very important for the life on earth.
02:54
Like Al Gore told you,
02:58
two billion people live on the water
03:00
from the glacier of Himalaya.
03:02
Return of fish men.
03:05
One fifth of human kind
03:07
depend on fish to live.
03:12
Today now 70 percent
03:15
of the fish stock are over-exploited.
03:19
According to FAO,
03:22
if we don't change our system of fishing
03:26
the main sea resources will be gone in 2050.
03:29
We don't want to believe what we know.
03:33
The beautiful picture, by [unclear] in Africa.
03:37
One human of six
03:42
have not enough to eat in the world.
03:44
One billion people have not enough to eat.
03:47
In Africa, corn is one of the main foods in many places.
03:50
Here in America,
03:56
90 percent of the corn cultivated
03:58
is used to feed animals or to do oil.
04:02
Palm tree plantation in Borneo.
04:07
Every year we lose 50 thousand square miles in deforestation.
04:11
Refugee camp in Darfur.
04:21
Today we have 20 million refugees in the world.
04:24
According to the U.N.,
04:28
we speak about 250 million refugees
04:30
in 2050.
04:33
I always show my pictures in the street.
04:39
We have done already 100 exhibitions in the cities.
04:42
But how to understand the world
04:45
without the voice of people?
04:49
Landscape was not enough.
04:52
It was obvious to me to do another work.
04:55
I launched a project named Six Billion Others.
04:58
I sent around the world six cameramen
05:03
asking the same question,
05:06
the same crucial question,
05:09
about life.
05:11
We have done five thousand interviews.
05:13
I'm going to show you this.
05:16
Man: The most beautiful thing that has happened to me in life?
05:24
It's when my dad told me, "Here, I give you this girl as your fiance."
05:27
Woman: Love? Love is nice if you can have it.
05:34
Second Man: Romeo and Juliet, Sassi and Panno, Dodi and Diana, Heer and Ranjha,
05:38
this is love! Third Man: My greatest fear is ...
05:41
Woman: You're asking me a hard question.
05:44
Fourth Man: I live happily because what else should I do?
05:46
Fifth Man: The first thing I remember ... (Sixth Man: That's how I learned, by my mother,)
05:49
Fifth Man: ... from my childhood, (Sixth Man: that you should respect humans.)
05:53
Fifth Man: we were having fun, biking. (Sixth Man: I will never forget those words.)
05:56
Seventh Man: We invented stories, we flew around the world, while remaining in our attic.
05:59
Eighth Man: I had a big laugh today.
06:05
Ninth Man: You see, family is ... it's awful.
06:07
10th Man: In the word life, you have the life.
06:12
11th Man: Who am I? Isn't that the biggest question?
06:14
12th Man: If I was to go back to Iraq
06:20
and speak to the people,
06:22
I'd have to bow down and kiss their feet.
06:24
Just as that woman tried to kiss my feet
06:26
when we were taking her sons.
06:29
I feel ashamed.
06:33
And I feel humbled
06:36
by their strength.
06:38
And I will forever feel a need
06:40
to make reparations to Iraq.
06:43
Second Woman: Dad, Mom, I grew up.
06:50
You shouldn't worry about me. Dad doesn't need to go to work.
06:54
My family ... What can I say?
06:59
At the moment, my family is very poor,
07:03
my life here in Shenzhen is just about showing myself that I can earn more
07:06
and to let my parents stay and have something to live on.
07:14
I don't want them to spend their whole lives in poverty.
07:18
If someday I can achieve something, I would like to say thank you daddy and mommy.
07:24
Thank you.
07:34
Thank you for having fed me and raised me,
07:37
and for making my life of today. Thank you.
07:40
13th Man: After seven years now of being in a wheelchair,
07:46
I've done more in life being in a chair
07:49
than out of a chair.
07:52
I still surf. I sail the world. I freedive.
07:54
After many people said I couldn't do that.
07:58
And I think that comes from connecting with nature,
08:03
connecting with the energy of life,
08:06
because we're all disabled in some way on the planet --
08:09
spiritually, mentally or physically.
08:11
I got the easy part.
08:15
14th Man: Let's say that you and me like each other.
08:20
You come from elsewhere.
08:24
You don't know me. I don't know you.
08:26
We talk without lying.
08:31
If I do like you, I give you one cow and many other things
08:33
and we become friends.
08:38
How can we make it all by ourselves?
08:41
(Applause)
09:02
YAB: You can also go to the website,
09:10
answer -- respond to the questions also.
09:12
Forty crucial questions.
09:15
Now I am going to speak to you about my movie.
09:17
For the last three years,
09:20
I was shooting the earth for the movie.
09:22
The name of the movie is "Home" --
09:26
"Maison."
09:29
It is about the state of the planet.
09:32
It's a fantastic story of life on the earth.
09:35
I'm very proud to show you the teaser.
09:39
Video: This Earth is four and a half billion years old.
09:42
These plants, several hundred million years old.
09:55
And we humans have been walking upright
10:00
for only 200 thousand years.
10:03
We've managed to adapt,
10:08
and have conquered the whole planet.
10:09
For generations, we've been raising our children,
10:15
not unlike millions of other species living beside us.
10:18
For the past 30 years
10:24
I've been closely watching the earth and its dwellers
10:26
from high up in the sky.
10:29
Our life is tied to the well-being of our planet.
10:31
We depend on water,
10:36
forests,
10:39
deserts,
10:41
oceans.
10:44
Fishing,
10:47
breeding,
10:49
farming
10:51
are still the world's foremost human occupations.
10:53
And what binds us together
10:58
is far greater than what divides us.
11:00
We all share the same need for the earth's gifts --
11:04
the same wish to rise above ourselves,
11:09
and become better.
11:11
And yet we carry on raising walls
11:16
to keep us apart.
11:18
Today our greatest battle
11:21
is to protect the natural offerings of our planet.
11:23
In less than 50 years
11:26
we've altered it more thoroughly
11:28
than in the entire history of mankind.
11:30
Half of the world's forests have vanished.
11:33
Water resources are running low.
11:36
Intensive farming is depleting soils.
11:38
Our energy sources are not sustainable.
11:43
The climate is changing.
11:46
We are endangering ourselves.
11:48
We're only trying to improve our lives.
11:51
But the wealth gaps are growing wider.
11:54
We haven't yet understood
11:57
that we're going at a much faster pace
11:59
than the planet can sustain.
12:02
We know that solutions are available today.
12:24
We all have the power to change this trend
12:30
for the better.
12:33
So what are we waiting for?
12:40
(Applause)
13:05
YAB: Luc Besson is the producer of the movie.
13:13
But it is not a normal movie.
13:17
The film is going to be distributed free.
13:21
This film has no copyright.
13:26
On the five of June,
13:30
the environment day,
13:33
everybody can download the movie on Internet.
13:36
The film is given for free
13:40
to the distributor for TV and theater
13:44
to show it the fifth of June.
13:48
There is no business on this movie.
13:51
It is also available for school,
13:54
cities, NGOs and you.
13:56
We have to believe what we know.
14:01
Let me tell you something.
14:05
It's too late to be pessimistic --
14:09
really too late.
14:12
We have all a part of the solutions.
14:16
To finish,
14:23
I would like to welcome
14:25
the 4,700th baby
14:29
born since the beginning of this talk.
14:32
Merci beaucoup. I love you.
14:38
(Applause)
14:40

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Yann Arthus-Bertrand - Photographer
With photography, Yann Arthus-Bertrand has captured the beauty of the Earth. Through video and film, his latest projects bind together ecology and humanism. For him, it's all about living together.

Why you should listen

Yann Arthus-Bertrand is perhaps the best known aerial photographer on the planet. He has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide of his seminal photo essay Earth From Above, a decade-spanning attempt to photograph all the vistas of the planet from the sky, whether by helicopter, hot air balloon, or anything else that flies.

Arthus-Bertrand seeks to uncover the story behind the landscape, not just create a pretty picture. Indeed, his subjects are not always photogenic -- his prints show poverty and strife as well as green tranquility; and everywhere in his work is the encroaching hand of humanity and its enterprise. He keeps close track of the coordinates of his locations, so other photographers may track their progress over time.

His newest project takes a different view -- focusing more closely on the people who live on this planet. Called 6 Billion Others, the project was a centerpiece of Pangea Day 2008.

With Luc Besson, he is working on the feature-length documentary Boomerang, to be shot in 60 countries.

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