Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Can a Letter from a Scientist Change Your Mind on Climate Change?

By Athina Bakirtzidis Singh

Prepare to be frightened, prepare to listen. You may be sceptical about how a session titled: Climate Change: Action Through Stories could have any impact on climate change. However, scientists Dr Ailie Gallant and Associate Professor Kevin Walsh, novelist Alice Robinson and media guru Dr Deb Anderson weave together emotions, creativity and climate change in a most compelling way. 


Alice did not set out to be a sci-fi writer or eco-novelist. She says “I grew increasingly uncomfortable as I went backpacking around the world…people were saying the weather was doing strange things”.  This included farmers, everywhere she went.  She found herself drawn to write about it, stating “I am happy to be grouped with writers grappling with this issue”.

Deb asks Alice if nostalgia for the past is what inspired her book, and she agrees, noting that perhaps looking back at the past at how the Earth used to be, could be an ideal to return to.  In contrast, Kevin warns that nostalgia is not always a good thing, some of the most dangerous political movements were based on nostalgia.  Ailie suggests that nostalgia can both “help and hinder” because our perception of the way the world was in the past may not always accord with reality. Was the past always better, bigger, cleaner, healthier?  Or is that just the way we choose to remember it? Very relevant points are raised, and audience questions are encouraged.

Ailie reveals that at first it was difficult for her to voice her personal opinion about climate change, because she was afraid she didn’t have all the necessary facts and figures. She suggests that perhaps not all voices that speak out on climate change need to make their point via figures and science: maybe stories are another way of doing this. “Some people are receptive to the data, some people are more receptive to the emotional side”.  She is happy there has not been any backlash to her position on this so far. 

This discussion is accompanied by an exhibition of letters written by academics, and scientists about their feelings on climate change.  The audience feels a sense of urgency after reading those missives. Are we hurtling alarmingly quickly towards our own destruction? This is a very relevant discussion which aims to change lives.  After reading the letters the audience is invited to write down how they feel about these issues, involving them in the discussion and influencing their perspective.

Edited by Isabella Ferra


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