ICE blogs

December 28, 2009

Sustainability - not change - the priority

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 3:10 pm

Robert Beckett considers the implications of the recent Copenhagen Climate Change conference for communication ethicists

The recent Copenhagen Climate Change conference - COP 15 - proved a milestone, bringing together 192 nation states to confront a new class of global issues. Two communication insights are now vitally important for the success of the Copenhagen agenda.

Instead of talking about climate change, a single specialised science susceptible to scientific doubt, all communicators need to talk about global sustainability - a label for 40-50 interlinking sciences, or narratives, which together, present a clearer picture of the issues and are far less susceptible to dispute.

The argument is not whether climate change is beyond question, but that a wider variety of global and national economic and natural systems are deeply threatened. There is little scientific doubt that global population is exploding, the ice caps are melting, that many fisheries and forests are reaching a terminal point, or that 25 per cent of the species on earth are threatened by human activity and so on.

If everyone of conscience were to focus not on climate change but on global sustainability we might stop the climate change lobby fixating on a single issue and seeking selective evidence to stop all subsequent change. This problem is connected to another: namely the influence of specialists and lobbyists on a political system that is simply incapable of managing the quantity of information to evaluate and coordinate such a change.

Secondly, to address the complexity of social and environmental issues, all people have to be included in the political process itself, and to make these decisions themselves. The conceit of representative politics (even at Copenhagen level) can be stated with one simple figure. Despite calls for a smaller House of Commons, each British MP, on average, represents 100,000 people. That’s a bigger crowd than fits in Wembley stadium. Imagine one person, standing in the centre of a stadium of such magnitude and saying: ‘I promise to represent your views.’

Every citizen (please let’s not talk of stakeholders, consumers or customers) needs to represent themselves in their own fully operational democratic community. Consider this: no permanent full time government employees, only part time, semi-permanent citizens working for their communities. We’d wipe out unemployment in one go, solve the problem of educating our under-qualified citizens (on-the-job training) and include everybody in the big debates about sustainability (local education, transport, food, clothing and housing taken care of, not by Whitehall, but by the town hall).

The conceit of centralisation is no longer valid, because the technology of our age, the computer, stimulates the opposite effect. We’d expect to recreate coordinating governance at the global, regional, national, sub-regional and local levels, with no extra resources, because the system efficiencies and higher rates of innovation will create a far wealthier system, simply due to the magnified benefits of greater inclusiveness, increased participation, higher education levels, greater capacity for innovation etc.

Cries of socialism will be directed at such a plan, while a response is straightforward. Socialism and capitalism are outdated 19th century labels for larger historic ideas by which to navigate human social and economic action. We need to move beyond labels and to create new communities founded in low consumption of resources, individual and familial well-being and peaceful coexistence between nations and communities guaranteed by transparent and inclusive self-governing technologies and a minimum body of rules.

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