On Monday, 19 October, 2009 I had the privilege of coordinating a panel discussion the relationships between culture and climate change as part of a series of events held by David Buckland and members of the Cape Farewell Project (UK – international) and the British Embassy and British Council in Rome in conjunction with the Rome Film Festival. With artists David Buckland and Dan Harvey and architect Peter Clegg, the initiative was able to put leading scientists from ENEA, ISES and the CNR together with activists from the WWF and the Legambiente, policy makers from the Senate commission on climate change, the city government of Rome as well as representatives from the business community. While points of departure on the issue of man’s role in climate change differed greatly – from those who believe that man has little role in the causes, to those believe that man’s role is fundamental – it was very interesting to see the different perspectives on the issue from science, business, policy and art. The truly beautiful thing was that all participants seemed to agree that Italy must develop an Italian message regarding this issue and that the message must be communicated better to young people in particular. Participant scientists themselves underlined the lack of accessible communication from the scientific community to the general public – underlined differently, but compatibly by both Prof. Zorzoli of ISES and Prof. Prodi of the CNR. All parties agreed that the arts have a significant role to play in communicating the questions of climate change/human communities and the environment.
My role as coordinator, for which I whole-heartedly thank the British Embassy and British Council for inviting me, allowed me a rare opportunity to experience the different modes of expression – from the formal to the provocative. As a teacher in language and culture for business, it was particularly interesting for me to hear from representatives from the business community and local public administration – that is, from the people who live through business processes, calendars, programming and planning and the problems of implementation and return. I must say, I was well impressed. At the same time, at the same table, modes of communication from the scientific community were also extremely interesting and productive. In our hybrid course, from an interdisciplinary point of view, I heard many people say many compatible things that could easily fall into cause for argument because of their relative cultures not only of communication, but because of their working cultures. That’s an important point. We generate and perpetuate cultures through lived experience and practice. This is huge engine for cultural change, but it means that we have to internalise new cultural values as we experience them. For example, most of us experience scheduling. We have university, business, agency and government timetables that we must respect. The cultural approach to timetables may become problematic in communication between these sectors, however, because each sector makes axiomatic assumptions about how to use timetables and which decision-making processes to apply to them. A scientist, for example, may be given a certain budget to test and experiment a new material, process or system in any given field – leaving the results up to the process of inquiry. Business, however, doesn’t have that luxury – results must be planned beforehand and decisions are made early on in the development stage whether to pursue an innovation or not. Politics, obviously, has its own motives for scheduling – naturally so. Questions of global importance and complexity, but local and territorial result are incredibly difficult to discuss because we associate ourselves with global trends in culture from different axiomatic perspectives. This is where David Buckland and Dan Harvey made a fantastic point – art, both visual and musical (also literary and others) can transcend some of these boundaries by accessing common human emotions. It’s fascinating. Marketers know that this is the case, but if we call the process marketing we alienate many other forms of knowledge and communication. We must not do this any more. We must respect our divergent cultural heritages, both regional ones and sectoral ones, and learn how to add new forms of intercultural communication. This is fantastic. David Buckland spoke of a new Renaissance. This is exactly what Cape Farewell is doing, and what we all have the opportunity to do – to step outside our sectors and learn from others as well. Do you study language? Read psychology, history and anthropology! Read about developments in science and technology!!! Do you study business? Read sociology, psychology, geography, demography – and of course science and technology!!! The industrial age allowed western societies to create boxes – intellectually as well as physically. We must not only think outside these boxes, we must realise that the walls aren’t really there. I invite comments from anyone who cares to contribute to this conversation on the relationships among climate change and environment, business and economy, politics and society and culture and expression. Our language at present must divide them into categories – does anybody want to create a new language?
All the best to everyone – I look forward to hearing from you!
Culture and Climate Change
October 21, 2009 by Cullen