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TEDxBigSky: Meet the speakers Pt. 3

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Introducing the 2022 TEDxBigSky speaker lineup

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Whether it’s saving an entire ecosystem starting with one species, or facing trauma for personal growth, this issue’s featured TEDxBigSky resilient speakers provide more fuel for inspiration. Meet Jan Winburn, a journalist and teacher with four decades of reporting behind her; Briana Lynn, who will explore six “microstories” through her traumatic past in the form of spoken word, slam poetry and deep breathing; and Tom Spruance, a conservation activist who will discuss the power of the ripple effect.

Be sure to purchase your tickets to this inspiring two-night speaker series, available at tedxbigsky.com.

Jan Winburn

In September of this year, an Amtrak train derailed along the Montana Hi-Line, killing three and injuring dozens of others. Jan Winburn, who has been a journalist for 40 years, was at the time teaching a class of journalists at the University of Montana when it occurred, and had the opportunity to work with one of her students as they reported on the tragic incident. Through the student’s work, she was able to see a concept of journalism play out that she’s been teaching, and one she’ll cover in her upcoming TEDxBigSky talk this January.

“Coverage that comes so quickly after an event is informing you,” Winburn said. “Coverage that comes much later, when a person has had an experience and has had some time to make sense of it … what can we gain from that?”

Her UM course, titled “The worst day ever: Writing about trauma,” took a deep dive into these later iterations of reporting, what she calls Act 2 journalism, and explores coverage of trauma and loss. Trauma, she explains, is something almost none of us are shielded from, especially coming out of this pandemic.

“There’s a reaction to trauma, but that is kind of all it is in the beginning,” Winburn said. “It’s with the passage of time that we can understand things better. And I think that’s true of everything … like what we’ve gone through with this pandemic.”

Winburn believes that instead of shying away from traumatic news, that we actually have a lot to gain from letting it in, if the journalism is done well. On par with this year’s theme, that’s where she believe resilience comes into play.

“I think it’s about growing from experience,” she says of the word.

Briana Lynn

Briana Lynn believes resilience is an intentional choice. The Reverend, who went through a month program to become a minister and practices nature-based spirituality, will center her TEDxBigSky talk around six “microstories” from her own life experiences. It’ll be a mixture, she says, of spoken word, slam poetry, deep breathing and fun.

“We have to take the energy of every traumatic event on the planet as an expression of someone’s unresolved trauma,” Lynn said.

Her own traumas, she candidly discusses, are disordered eating, walking out on a narcissistic and abusive relationship and discovering shamanism. Her recovery from these experiences is deep seeded in her current way of life, which emphasizes community support—Lynn lives in a community of eight other people who share 1.5 acres of land in Los Angeles they call The Mother Tree.

“This American dream that we’ve been sold isn’t working for anyone, so what is actually wealth, what is actually value?” Lynn said. “To me it’s to be in a thriving community where what I do contributes to the greatness and beauty of others and the greatness and beauty of me.”

Lynn calls The Mother Tree an experiment, and is quick to explain that their situation is ever evolving to the community’s needs and lessons. What she is adamant about however, is the power of this year’s theme.

“Resilience is not an accident,” Lynn said. “It’s a very intentional choice to not to live as the victim.”

Tom Spruance

Avid fly fisherman and president of the Spruance Foundation, Tom Spruance believes the key to saving the ecosystems around Big Sky and other booming mountain towns relies on something called the ripple effect. A supporter of the Gallatin River Task Force, Jack Creek Preserve and Yellowstone Forever, his fear has always been that developers will gain the upper hand and pave away natural beauty—an attribute that brought many here in the first place.

Spruance’s talk will follow a line of thinking outlined in American journalist and founder of Mountain Journal Todd Wilkinson’s newest book (out in April 2022), “Ripple Effect.” The idea behind a ripple effect is that by concerting efforts toward the success and rejuvenation of a single species, you can return the natural balance of an entire ecosystem.

“Let’s say you don’t like fish, but let’s say you like eagles or osprey or otters,” Spruance said. “The interesting thing about the return of cutthroat trout, is because of the lake trout removal efforts, you’re bringing back the natural balance that those animals are used to.”

This isn’t an attack on local developers, Spruance explains, but is rather about establishing a compromise that allows for growth while preserving the natural habitat of local animals. Right now, he believes we’re moving in the wrong direction.

He urges residents of Big Sky to not give up, but to hunker down and help determine the future of our ecosystem—his definition of resilience.

“The reason all of us came to Big Sky was because of the natural beauty of the place, but yet there is that financial benefit of the growth and development,” Spruance said. “There’s a conundrum that faces the families and business owners; they are benefitting from the growth and development, but yet that growth and development is causing an impact.”

“I’m hoping people don’t just give up hope,” he adds.

This is part three of a four-part speaker introduction series. Read part one and part two.

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