Seven sessions on climate change in K17

Eva Rexach

02 June 2017

Climate change is already a reality and many are the symptoms that show it, from the emergence of vegetation in Antarctica to the alterations in the planet temperatures. At Kosmopolis we wanted to reflect on this and we offered several talks about climate change, because facing climate change involves talking and accepting other changes.

The great success of the Paris Summit in December 2015 was that, for the first time, the participating countries were committed to restrict the rise in global temperature by 2 degrees. But a year and a half later, this agreement has been broken in part because the president of the United States, the second bigger greenhouse gases emitting country, has decided to withdraw. Despite the efforts of Barack Obama, who signed the agreement, the new president is convinced that “the concept of climate change was created by and for the Chinese to make the United States a less competitive country“, so his decision is not surprising at all.

Despite Trump says, Climate change is already a reality and many are the symptoms that show it, from the emergence of vegetation in Antarctica to the alterations in the planet temperatures. But it is not a new subject: from the scientific world, Humboldt, two centuries ago, spoke about it with less evidence than we have now, and also in Literature there were writings on the subject in the earliest examples of climate-fiction literature, in the 20’s of the last century. At Kosmopolis we wanted to reflect on this and we offered several talks about climate change, because facing climate change involves talking and accepting other changes. There are changes in the perception of our place in the world, changes in our roles in society, changes in the way we understand our relationship with the rest of the species that inhabit the planet and that also suffer the effects of what is, to a great extent, a consequence of human actions.

The talks we present you are the reflections of five experts in different subjects, a theatrical show and a poetic session on what inspires nature and the effects of the presence of the human species on the planet. Seven ideas offer different points of view on a topic that has been pretty much discussed and that we hope will help you to see the world with different eyes.

Change is changing. Timothy Morton

Timothy Morton, creator of the term “dark ecology”, philosopher and writer, offered an inaugural conference dedicated to changing the change. To some this is a positive change, because you can sunbathe in Moscow, and for others is a negative change, as it implies an increase of temperatures in places where they are already very high. For Morton, there is a difference between the human being as an individual and the human being as a member of a species, whose actions affect the planet when carried out on a large scale. Ecological consciousness, Morton said, means that we are capable of acting and thinking to a wide variety of levels in a space we share with other beings of the planet.

A life dedicated to plants. Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren is geobiologist and one of the 100 most influential people in the world according to TIME magazine, despite dedicating herself to a discipline that, as she explains in her autobiographical book Lab Girl, is based on curiosity.

Hers is not a science with immediate practical applications, but consists of the observation of the most powerful inhabitants of the planet: plants, beings whose absence would make life impossible. Hope Jahren’s talk was a journey through the fascinating world of plants, leaves and trees. “For every tree you see, there are 100 underground that have not yet grown”.

Intelligent plants. Stefano Mancuso

Stefano Mancuso, one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of plant neurobiology, also talked about plants but it was to make us discover that the expression “to be in a vegetative state” is not exactly what it really means: neither plants are inanimate nor static beings. Mancuso showed us how plants move, how they deceive other plant species, how they camouflage themselves, how they learn about their environment, how they mimic it and survive and how, definitely, they apply intelligence. And, moreover, it was a chat full of humor.

The sensitivity of animals. Carl Safina

The human brain is bigger than the chimpanzee’s one, and that’s why we are more intelligent. But, what about the dolphins, who have a brain even bigger than ours? With an approach like this, the talk of Carl Safina, doctor in ecology, raised the idea of other intelligent beings, sensitive and with more points in common with us than we think. “We are the same as the rest of mammals”, he said, “it’s just we have a different form. We are all family”. Animals, even if they are not aware as we are, also feel the effects of climate change and, so we must count on them when we talk about the future.

The future is on Earth. Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the most renowned science-fiction authors, and TIME magazine considered him “a hero of the environment” because his stories are about a future in which climate change and the evolution of our species are protagonists. In this talk with his fellow writer Ian Watson, Stanley Robinson explained why it is absurd to want to colonize Mars: in his opinion, the human species is not prepared to live in other planet apart from Earth. “The Earth is the only planet we have for now. Let’s focus on it”, he said. For the author of the Trilogy of Mars, talking about climate change is positive because the more you talk the more solutions you will be looking for. His was a literary point of view that, despite being fiction, is still a realistic one.

The show of climate change. Agrupación Señor Serrano

With a totally different approach, the theater company Agrupación Señor Serrano presented a show in process that will be released between July and October 2018 and which is a reflection on the climate crisis and the future of the planet through a false theatrical documentary. “Even if we had known that we were heading towards the abyss, we would not have done anything to change it”, says a false Slavoj Žižek at the beginning of the show. With the help of audiovisuals, off screen voice and the suggestive music of Nico Roig, Kingdom is a metaphor on climate change through a show that will evolve as well as the planet itself.

The greenest poetry. Green Slam

The last session dedicated to climate change was a poetry competition, more specifically a slam poetry. Several participants, coming from different places, declaimed texts inspired by change, climate, nature or forests. It was a festive and inspiring day in various languages and literary traditions, because climate change is, like poetry, a universal phenomenon.