Debating climate, post factum

Back in Trondheim after a weekend in the capital. This year’s Norwegian Social Forum was a great success, with record attendance (1900 people!) and lots of interesting meetings. I attended one on the new wave of leftist Latin American governments, called 21st Century Socialism, where some attempts to point out further policy were made. Professor Heinz Dieterich at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City discussed equivalence economy, which is basically a money system where value is linked to work hours instead of market value. Very interesting, but I still need to chew on it before I make up my mind about it. Also in the panel was Alfredo Holguien (Polo Democratico) and Elin Volder Rutle (Red).

I was also present at one of the best attended meetings, on the current financial crisis. Professor of political economy and director of South Centre in Brussels, Yash Tandon, held a half hour presentation on the complicated financial acrobatics that have partly been the cause of the crisis. This was followed by Riaz Tayob (Southern & East African Trade Information Institute), Helene Bank (IGNIS) and someone from Oslo University College (I’m working on finding out who this was). The meeting was mostly descriptive, with few policy implication, but I’m sure all of us present needed a good walkthrough of what has actually happened the last couple of months.

Personally, I stepped in for Siri Hall Arnøy at a panel on the climate crisis and free market capitalism. As I expected in my last post, the panel was more or less in agreement. This allowed for a more concrete, solution-oriented discussion. The positions were more or less as follows:

Øystein Dahle (Worldwatch Institute): Only a significant reduction in Western consumption will make a difference in emissions, and consumption reduction can only be achieved with a significant reduction in work time/amount.

Emilie Ekeberg (ATTAC): If “today’s system ” is taken as free-market, free-trade capitalism, then the climate crisis can not be averted. ATTAC har long pushed for regulations in trade and speculations on capital.

Torstein Dahle (Red): The climate crisis is a result of the current system, and must be solved with system-transgressing measures. The fact that a country like Norway is pumping up precious resources like oil and gas and converting them to finance capital is itself a sign of the insane state of today’s capitalism. Investments in drilling activity are increasing. Red is the only party calling for a complete dismantling of Norwegian oil activity.

I was last out in the debate, and since I agreed with almost everything said to that point, I tried to emphasize some strategic points about the climate debate. Specifically, I think it’s important to conquer what I (unsuccessfully) dubbed “the arena of the possible”, where solutions are seen as real and possible. Today, that arena is very narrow, accepting only solutions that hardly cost money or effort. A deeper sense of urgency is needed, but even more a conception of the current situation as contingent and changeable*.

Participation from the audience was (mostly) useful, and we were challenged on concrete solutions. Some good measures were suggested, and most of them should be well within the current arena of the possible.

All in all, a good time was had by all.

* I wish had been as well-formulated during the panel as I am now, but c’est la vie.

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One Response

  1. Just a thought on the “I wish I had been as well-formulated during the panel as I am now”: I guess that’s the story of most our lives. As researchers especially, as much of our craft is to make precise formulations (aka nitpicking) to try to avoid confusion or to properly address an issue.

    But then, I also get the impression that now in 20-20-hindsight you actually have an important point there. And at least in your blog you have a snazzy phrase to conceptualize your ideas.

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