PopTech Blog

C.J. Huff and Vicki Arroyo on weather disasters

It's hard for most of us to understand diasaster and resiliency quite the way C.J. Huff (PopTech 2012) does. He is the superintendent of Joplin Schools. He was also on the job on May 22, 2011, when the infamous tornado ripped through his home town. At PopTech 2012 Huff recently discussed the compelling resiliency in Joplin that followed the apocolyptic disaster. Some of those lessons seem particularly relevant in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. "It is about tapping into the time, talent and treasure of our community," he said while describing Joplin's model for rapid, healthy recovery.

Huff was joined on stage by Vicki Arroyo (PopTech 2012), the executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center of Georgetown University Law Center. Arroyo  studies how cities can better design and maintain infrastructure to withstand weather-related catastrophes, another pertinent topic following Sandy.

And in a recent interview with PopTech, Arroyo highlighted a major question lingering in Sandy's wake. Why are there so many more weather-related disasters these days? “Can we please talk about what is happening?” Arroyo asked.

Arroyo told PopTech that she hopes Sandy will finally catalyze honest talk about the real problem. “More scientists are feeling comfortable that we are seeing more super storms that are very consistent with climate change. It is just happening sooner than we expected.”

Photo: NASAThat trend seems to make irrelevant the bickering about whether a single storm is attributable to global warming.  “When you heat something up, you’ve got more energy,” she said about increasing ocean temperatures. “I think we really have a wake up call here,” Arroyo said about Sandy. “We are living in a different world. We have got to get serious about reducing our emissions.”

Maybe that reality is starting to sink in. “There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement; that is a factual statement,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters after Sandy brought New York City to its knees. “Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.”

Reality: Last year the United States suffered through more than a dozen weather disasters like floods, hurricanes and tornadoes that each did over a billion dollars in damage -- more than occurred during the entire 1980s, according to Arroyo.

It’s also getting harder and harder to deny why all this is happening. We had better start dealing with reality, or there will be far too many people who need Huff's advice.

Huff's PopTech's presentation is here:


Arroyo's recent PopTech presentation appears below:

Photo: NASA

C.J. Huff on resilience in the aftermath of the unthinkable

C.J. Huff is the superintendent of Joplin, Mo. schools who led his district of thousands of employees and students through the recovery effort that followed the infamous Joplin tornado. “We had children in the rubble...and there is no worse feeling in the world,” he said about the moments after the storm. “I can tell you, at this time in my life, I had 7,747 kids that I was responsible for, and I could only account for my two children.”

Glowing umbrellas at PopTech 2012

Social media is buzzing about the performance group Pilobolus' project in a Camden amphitheater last night involving PopTech folks, Camden residents, and glowing umbrellas.

David DeSteno pries open the science behind human compassion


David DeSteno directs the Social Emotions Lab at Northeastern University where his research is pulling back the curtain to reveal some of the mechanics that drive human compassion. “It is not the severity or the objective facts of a disaster that motivate us to feel compassion and to help. It is whether or not we see ourselves in the victims.”

Champions at PopTech 2012

Claressa Shields won boxing gold in London last summer at age 17. Amy Purdy is a world-class adaptive snowboarder. The pair thrilled PopTech on Thursday.

How boxer Claressa Shields overcame adversity to win gold

Boxer Claressa Shields, age 17, clawed her way out of hardscrabble Flint Michigan to win the first ever Olympic gold medal for women’s middleweight boxing. She has won 31 fights -- and lost only one. “That fight made me work so much harder when I got back to the gym, even though I cried and I was sad. It made me hungrier.”

PopTech's Camden beauty

Attendees, speakers and Fellows are flooding into Camden, capturing the beauty of our town and harbor, and sharing on social media.

This week in PopTech: Get social at PopTech 2012

This week our annual showcase of world-changing people, projects and ideas commences in Camden, Maine. Whether you're joining us in Camden or watching the livestream at home, here are a handful of ways to maximize your PopTech 2012 experience.

  • We've compiled a cohesive PopTech 2012 Twitter list that includes PopTech staff, speakers, performers, Fellows and participants. If you're attending PopTech 2012, have a Twitter account, and you'd like to be added, let us know!
  • The official hashtag for this year's conference is #poptech.
  • If you are a Foursquare user, subscribe to our Camden Tips list for the inside scoop on where to find Wifi, a great cup of coffee or good eats. 
  • Pilobolus outdoor Umbrella Project is coming to town. On Friday night, Oct. 19, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., Pilobolus will enlist several hundred volunteers to participate in a large-scale, live performance using umbrellas fabricated with multi-colored LED lights created by the MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory. The performance will be simultaneously projected onto a large screen. Volunteers are welcome on the spot!

Image: #poptech on Instagram

Yossi Sheffi and the resilient enterprise

Yossi Sheffi explores the various flavors of redundancy, simplicity, flexibility and communications strategies businesses employ to make themselves resilient. “These are the most dangerous things; the things that have severe consequence and low probability…These are the events one worries about when one has to run a large organization.”

Extracurricular fun at PopTech

In addition to the riveting presentations, there is a lot of extracurricular fun at PopTech. Here is a small sampling of some offerings being discussed on social media.