Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pangea Day: Spend It With A Few Million Of Your Closest Friends

When I was a teenager, I had a surefire plan for world peace. Set up massive Marshall stacks every hundred yards or so all the way around the globe so the entire world’s population could sing along to the same song at the same moment. I was convinced that all the world’s injustices, misunderstanding and prejudices would just melt away under that unifying bond of song. It was the era of Coke’s “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” commercials, so it probably wasn’t the most original idea, but it was sincere. I really believed it would work. I just had no idea how it could be done. So like most people with an insurmountable goal, I forgot about it and began working on something more within my control, finishing college and amassing a mountain of debt before I was twenty-five.

Turns out, some other people had a similar idea (the global unity thing, not the debt), and clearly a whole lot more vision and fortitude because they actually made it happen. At the Ted Conference in 2006, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim revealed her wish to “bond people together, to cross borders, and to help understand the other” through a communal day of film. She invited other like-minded creative people to join with her in developing the concept. Pangea Day is the culmination of that dream.

This Saturday, May 10, in an unprecedented harnessing of technology and human spirit, people from all over the world will come together for four hours of global empathy building. The event will feature twenty-four short films, music and visionary speakers broadcast live from six locations—Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro. The entire program will also be streamed online.

Selected from among 2500 entries from more than a hundred countries, the films were chosen “based on their ability to inspire, transform and help us see the world through another person’s eyes.” They take on subjects ranging from war and poverty to Indian laughing clubs, embark on journeys big and small, show us determination in the face of adversity, and uncover hope in the most unlikely of places. Ultimately, they remind us of the underlying connections we all share.

Speakers include Queen Noor of Jordan, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, memoirist Ishmael Beah, Oxygen Network host Lisa Ling, and artist and computer scientist Jonathan Harris (check out his amazing talk at last year’s Ted Conference). And it wouldn’t be a global consciousness-raising event without Sir Bob Geldof who will perform his song “This Is The World Calling” with Eurythmics mastermind Dave Stewart. A performance by the rapidly emerging Iranian rock band Hypernova is a story in itself.

Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Cameron Diaz and David Blaine are among the celebrities who have thrown their support behind the global meet and greet, which you can watch online, on TV, on your mobile phone (though at four hours, I wouldn’t recommend it), or at one of more than 1000 events planned worldwide. Photos, videos and text messages from these events will be incorporated into the live broadcast making the whole thing a truly interactive experience.

My only suggestion to the event organizers: a different name. I know naming it for the supercontinent that existed before the land mass split apart is logical, but I can’t get past the fact that Pangea sounds more like a new strain of bird flu than a global unity fest. How about something a little more celebratory like "Fandanglobal" or "Popcorn For All"? In fact, could you actually make it rain popcorn during the event? That would be my second suggestion.

The Pangea Day website has tons of information about how and where to view the event, details about the films, speakers and musicians, and a lot of other really interesting stuff. Check it out.

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