The Matrix and the virtual world of conferences

Aisling Irwin

Aisling Irwin
Consultant news editor, SciDev.Net

It was refreshing to hear a talk from Anthony Giddens, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, in the UK. After the railings of scientists, someone who can throw some light on why their prophecies fall on deaf ears is always welcome.

Image from the Matrix

Green illusion: the parallel world of "The Matrix" mimicks the relationship between the conference and the world outside, suggested UK social scientist Anthony Giddens

Giddens invoked the film, The Matrix, to illustrate what he sees as two parallel and unrelated worlds: there’s the world of international conferences and then there’s real life, which continues, unabated, on its disastrous paths.

“When you look at those negotiations as they unfold,” he said, referring to events such as the climate change negotiations in Durban in November 2011, “to me they exist in a sort of simulated world where success is determined in terms of how far you keep the negotiations going.

“Then there’s the real world where things look very bleak.

For example, he said, “for all the talk of the green economy and green growth, there is not a single green economy in the world”.

Giddens is pinning any remaining hopes he has on other fora — “states, groups of states, regional agreements”.

“I hope that developing countries might play a bigger role as leadership countries.

And he is also hopeful for networks — of cities, of youth, of ‘transition towns’.

These, to adapt a saying of the Beatles star John Lennon, are where life is happening while the conferences are busy making other plans.

This blog post is part of our Planet Under Pressure 2012 coverage — which takes place 26–29 March 2012. To read news and analysis from the conference please visit our website.

5 Responses to The Matrix and the virtual world of conferences

  1. roadie says:

    I am sorry, but I followed the talk, and while the speaker called for action less than talk, the only thing he could offer… was talk… I would expect concrete actions, proposals… rather than rhetorical slogans…


  2. Simon says:

    For example, he said, “for all the talk of the green economy and green growth, there is not a single green economy in the world”.

    I wonder why? Perhaps it’s because no-one really knows what ‘green’ means, or ‘green’ cannot coexist with any form of government, except perhaps totalitarianism/dictatorship.

    Reality is that ‘green’ is wishful thinking that will never happen. Reality is that ‘green’ has been hijacked by any and every left/liberal person/organisation that wants to exert control and extract tax – to stifle free thought and self-determination, including national governments, EU and the UN.

    Robust, sustainable solutions are found when people are left free to ‘just get on with it’. Free, innovative people spot demands in the economy, develop economic solutions, and adapt when conditions change. Governments and supra-national bodies can never, repeat never, dictate and enforce solutions that will be successful. Why? because they are hampered by political dogma and mindsets which close down thought to the ‘allowed view’, rather than opening up dialog and thinking to allow creativity. We would have a much better world if the UN and EU did not exist; an end to politically driven thought programs; and the removal of the majority of national government departments that just get in the way of free people trying to make their lives better.

    Am I optimistic? No, not whilst government and SN organisations continue to assert increasing rule, regulation and tax. However, like all such ‘pies in the sky’, they eventually collapse when reality sets in. We ask “what is sustainable?” That’s the wrong question. We should ask “What’s not sustainable?” The answer: The schemes of man.

  3. Várias pessoas estão cobrindo o evento, e num deles achei um post bem legal de Aisling Irwin ( sobre uma das palestras. Ponto mais interessantes: o palestrante Anthony Giddens diz que…

  4. Aisling Irwin says:

    Still, I think he shed some light on why scientists’ talk has not been leading to action.

  5. roadie says:

    Nothing but talk, talk, talk… He was the kettle telling the pot it’s black… Give me one concrete example what he recommended scientists to do, to have greater impact on actions needed. Just one!

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