African Voices on Climate Change (24th-31st October 2011) caught my attention because of that second word: voices.
Recently the whole climate change debate has been mostly dominated by ‘climate deniers’ and those who deny their denials. A tale as old as time, we have progressive thinkers attacking conservative thinkers and vice versa. Both sides are incredulous when their arguments don’t result in immediate concessions from their opponents who concurrently try to put across their points in considerably louder voices on the other side of the room. After the decibel levels reach breaking point everyone involved tends to stop trying to talk about the actual issue and, instead, start insulting each other. Hilariously, I believe that this process is semi-euphemistically referred to as ‘constructive debate’.
I’m pretty sure you, like me, are sick to the teeth of it.
A recent New Yorker article on the Occupy Wall Street movement by the sublime Hendrik Hertzberg included this appraisal of what infuriates many observers of the protests – what the hell is it?
Occupy Wall Street is a political project, but it is equally a cri de coeur, an exercise in constructive group dynamics, a release from isolation, resignation, and futility. The process, not the platform, is the point.
The important thing isn’t that a new political party emerges or that a new political movement is founded or that new political leaders take over in Washington. All of those things might be nice but they are all rather besides the point. What people should be focusing on is something that this man voiced a few weeks ago:
Amongst some pretty fantastic attacks on Fox News and News International he says:
As far as seeing this end, I wouldn’t like to see this end. I would like to see the conversation continue.
It seems to me that this is a sentiment that should be screamed from the rooftops and in lecture halls and television studios all over the world. We do not want to hear the same arguments over and over and over. As Woody Allen might say – a conversation, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.
African Voices for Climate Change is an event designed to keep that shark alive – both figuratively and literally. Encouraging unusual or unheard voices to enter a discussion which is on the verge of going belly up (at least within mainstream discourse) can only be a good thing. It isn’t an event that will come up with a fuel source that supplants fossil fuels across the globe; if it does, great, but it’d still be an added bonus, a side event. What it will do is expand the debate, enliven the issue and maybe, just maybe, get politicians and media sources interested in something other than conservative vs. liberal point scoring. And what an infinitely more interesting world that would be.