Though he lives in San Miguel de Allende in the highlands of central Mexico, young entrepreneur Julio Cambron has strong passions and roots that run deep here on the East End. That’s because he spent much of his youth in Sag Harbor, where he attended Stella Maris Regional School and Pierson Middle-High School before returning to his native Mexico.
“We lived in Pine Neck. I came here when I was 5 and left for college at La Salle University in Mexico City,” explained Mr. Cambron in a recent interview in Sag Harbor. “I loved it there and stayed with my mom, dad and brother.”
But Mr. Cambron still has connections on the East End, and he returns often to visit his godfather, artist Oscar Molina, who lives in Southampton.
“I’ve been coming back here for the last three summers,” said Mr. Cambron, who helped film and document footage in the slums Kenya for a foundation last year, and this year decided to help the Long Island community. “This year, I decided I was going to do something. … I want to give back to the area, because Sag Harbor and this country gave so much to me.”
That “something” is the first-ever TED event on the East End, which will be held at the Southampton Arts Center on Saturday, September 22. Called TEDxShinnecockHills, Mr. Cambron is producing the half-day conference with support from Mr. Molina, and the theme of the day is “Stasis: Conjecture-Meaning-Solemnity-Action.”
Named for the ancient Greek theory, “Stasis” features a lineup of 10 or so speakers involved in issues related to sustainability and progress, both at the regional and national level.
“It’s not ‘stasis’ as stagnant—it’s more like reaching equilibrium or harmony in society,” Mr. Cambron explained. “The conference is mostly geared toward climate change, green energy and moving forward.
“With all this turmoil now, I felt I wanted to do something that was non-political and non-religious.”
For those unfamiliar with the concept, TED Talks are short, powerful presentations given by innovators and creative thinkers who share ideas, insight and philosophy on how to make the world better. TED stands for “technology, entertainment and design.” Held in big cities and small towns across the globe, TED Talks are available for viewing online afterward and have developed a huge following.
Mr. Cambron comes from a background of working in the corporate environment but in recent years has transitioned to a lifestyle that revolves around producing nonprofit events that build cultural bridges. Though he has never before directed a TED event on his own, in San Miguel de Allende, Mr. Cambron is deeply involved in the creative life of the community and has worked alongside event producer Klaudia Oliver to present TEDx events there, including TEDxWomenSanMigueldeAllende.
Wherever talks are offered, the ultimate goal of TED is to spread new and exciting ideas. The events are administered by TED Conferences LLC, a nonprofit organization based in New York City and Vancouver, Canada. That’s who Mr. Cambron worked with in securing the licensing for TEDxShinnecockHills, which was filed under Mr. Molina’s name, as residency in the district is required for the creation of any new TED chapter. Mr. Molina is also the main financial sponsor of the event.
Mr. Cambron explained that the “x” in the title indicates that this TED event is independently organized, but the vision is the same: to share inspiration and spark conversation in the community.
More complicated is the story of where the Shinnecock Hills moniker came from for this TED outlet.
Mr. Cambron explained that, originally, he had hoped to use the name “Southampton” for his license, but found it was already taken by a TED team located in the town of the same name in England. He also liked the idea of using “the Hamptons,” but the TED organization felt that name was too regional and would not allow for other talks to be presented on the South Fork.
“Then the TED organization suggested ‘Shinnecock Hills.’ That was a little scary,” admitted Mr. Cambron, who was concerned how the Shinnecock Indian Nation would react to the use of the name. So he reached out to Roberta Hunter and Marguerite Smith, members of the tribe, to get their opinion.
“I wanted to get their OK. I didn’t want friction,” he said. “I explained what we were doing, and they were so supportive.”
Because the overarching theme of this Saturday’s event is sustainability, in many ways, it makes sense to tie the Southampton TEDx conference into the local Native American culture, given its focus on environmental sensitivity and awareness of the need to preserve natural resources for future generations. Shane Weeks, also a member of the Shinnecock Nation, will participate in the event.
Among the supporting sponsors of TEDxShinnecockHills is The Spur, the shared co-working space and innovation club in Southampton, which on Friday, September 21, will host a VIP dinner with the TEDx speakers and about 30 guests from 7 to 9 p.m. The evening provides an opportunity for speakers to meet one another, introduce themselves to the community, and meet some of the attendees for Saturday’s event.
Many of the speakers’ names will already be familiar to people living on the East End, while others are making a name for themselves on the national circuit for their innovative work.
Among the local voices taking part in TEDxShinnecockHills are green architect Bill Chaleff of East Hampton; Nicholas Palumbo, a mechanical engineer and a lifelong Southampton resident who serves as the executive director of sustainability programs at Suffolk County Community College; East Hampton’s Gordian Raacke, the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, who is working to accelerate transition to 100 percent renewable energy systems; and Springs-based landscape designer Edwina von Gal, whose work focuses on sustainability and creation of toxin-free environments.
“I recruited a lot of local speakers because I want to give them a voice for all the work they’ve put in here,” said Mr. Cambron of the lineup. “Bill Chaleff has been a role model. In an area that is about money, he doesn’t build second homes—he doesn’t care and has missed out on millions of dollars.
“It’s about the true work and meaning,” he added. “It’s about progressive thinking.”
While the nature of most TED presentations tends to be inspirational, and speakers are knowledgeable in their field, Mr. Cambron noted that not everyone will necessarily agree with what they have to say.
Among the nationally acclaimed speakers taking part is Sam Sternberg, who runs a research laboratory at Columbia University. Mr. Sternberg’s work involves gene editing, and his Southampton talk will highlight the revolutionary implications of scientists’ newfound power to precisely rewrite the DNA of plants, animals and humans.
“On one end, if you have diabetes traits in your family, he can say, ‘Let’s remove those,’” said Mr. Cambron, who reached out to Mr. Sternberg after seeing a talk he gave on the topic at a TEDmed session three years ago. “On the other side, someone might say, ‘I want a blue-eyed baby with light skin.’ You can edit humans and plants, and his work puts it at a level where anyone can have access to this stuff.
“We’re treading the controversial edge. … We need to accept everyone’s input,” he added.
Other national speakers will include Emily Atkin, a staff writer at The New Republic and expert in climate science and environmental policy; Fahad Khan, a Western-trained doctor who offers insight on the incorporation of ancient Eastern medical techniques into modern medicine; and Mary Beth Pfeiffer, an investigative reporter who reports extensively on ticks and Lyme disease, a topic of great urgency for East End residents.
Also speaking will be Himanshu Ragtah, co-founder of Profillic, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to revolutionize the research and development industry. His talk will focus on a topic that is the source of endless discussion on the East End—traffic—and he will share his ideas for a solution based on moving traffic not in two dimensions but three, through layers of tunnels.
Another speaker, Jerusalem-born Sevan Apollo Poetry, will address the idea of empathy and explain how his Challenge Day school workshops have been used to unite students against school violence and bullying.
“He has a national following. His talk might go viral,” Mr. Cambron said of Mr. Poetry. “It’s such a strong, emotional problem. Being empathetic and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can go a long way.”
With this first TEDx event, Mr. Cambron is looking to get the conversation started in this area. His long-term vision is to extend the model to all sorts of groups on the East End.
“If this goes well, there’s TEDxYouth for people under 21, and TEDxWomen—all these branches to create knowledge,” he said.
And who knows? One day perhaps a TEDxShinnecockHills event will inspire someone here on the East End so much that they are truly able to change the world.
TEDxShinnecockHills is Saturday, September 22, from noon to 5:30 p.m. at Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane. Tickets are $100, and only 100 will be sold. Also available are $250 tickets, which include admission to the VIP dinner on Friday, September 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Spur. For event details and up to date listings on speaker lineup, visit tedxshinnecockhills.org.
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