7 Mar 2007
Notes from the Meeting of International Forum on Globalisation – Day Two.
The second day was, like the first, an unbroken but wonderful IFG-athon, with lots of talks and no breaks. There were some fascinating talks and insights, to which, once again, my dreadful notetaking and occasionally heavy eyelids will do little justice beyond giving you a taste of the kinds of things covered. The first session was called “Campaigners Roundtable, Strategic Policy Concepts and Proposals, targets, tactics and opportunities”. The first speaker was the wonderful Caroline Lucas MEP. Her talk was called “Assessment of Negotitations and Proposals”. She began by asking “will we go down in history as the species that spent all its time monitoring its own demise?”
She pointed out that as environmentalists we have largely failed to make a compelling case for change, that trying to scare people into change is insufficient. She quoted the playwright Steve Waters, who said “this inability to connect trauma in the biosphere with the small print of our lives stalls the necessity for radical change”. We have to get better, she argued, at selling a vision of a post-carbon world, and not shy away from the macro-economic issues.
Jennifer Morgan argued that we need local action, but we also need big action, we need to utilise every single scale. It is not enough, she argued, to think that we can retreat to the local and put up a fence (somewhat misunderstanding, I felt, the localisation argument). Beyond this, I must confess, my notetaking become somewhat sporadic. Andrew Pendleton talked about the need for the developing world to develop as part of Contraction and Convergence, which earned a stinging rebuke from Vandana Shiva, who argued that that process is basically one of dispossession and appropriation, which merely leaves these nations with less resilience and further to fall when oil peaks. Steve Kretmann’s talk was excellent, and was posted here a few days ago.
The second block of talks, of which I took no notes at all, were regional perspectives, offering insights from around the world. Jerry Mander then introduced the idea of the creation of 12 working groups to explore different aspects of what had been discussed thus far. I ended up in one called “What Can We Do Now?”, which was looking at relocalisation and how we can support and enable it. This was a small group with David Fleming, Megan Quinn, Colin Hines, Erica Hope and Jerry Mander. We spent a very enjoyable hour or so discussing how best to trigger localisation initiatives from the ground up, and what the top down approach that came down to meet it might look like. It was very enjoyable and interesting.
After lunch each group fed back its findings and conclusions. The closing talks tried to pull the many threads of the weekend together. Wolfgang Sachs spoke of the need to keep climate change as the central issue as it is motivating most people at the moment. Satish Kumar gave an impassioned talk about the need to apply the concept of non-violence to climate change and peak oil. Climate change is violence against the biosphere… our Western society model is violent, and our duty is to respond with non-violence. He quoted Gandhi when he visited the UK, who when asked what he thought of Western civilisation replied that he thought it would be a good idea. Herbert Girardet stressed the need to act on a range of scales, and the role of the cities in a low-carbon future, including some of the great work he is doing with cities around the world.
That was more or less it. Apologies for not keeping a stunningly accurate record of events and of all the salient points raised over the weekend (of which there were many). It was amazing to spend time around such a gathering of people from around the world with so much to say on these important issues. As at many conferences, some of the most impressive conversations happened in what little breaks we had, and there was some great networking to be had. What really struck me was how the whole concept of Transition Towns seemed to be the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, that the international and national responses to globalisation were quite well formed, but not much was happening in terms of how to engage communities in the process, and so the TT model slotted in neatly to the existing thinking. As at the Soil Association conference, it really seemed to sieze the imagination.
Thanks so much to the organisers for the invitation to such an extraordinary event. It was a very memorable weekend.