I've spent the last 2 days at Tipping Point Newcastle - tagline "the creative response to climate change". I must admit I signed up thinking of 'creative' in the broadest sense rather than 'creative industries' which was the focus. This left me a little worried whether my rather robust views on sustainability and practitioners of interpretative dance would mix. But there were plenty of other non-arts people - scientists, engineers and public servants - amongst the 200+ attendees, a good balance for sparking off debate.
The event got off to a pleasingly rambunctious start with a rather feisty debate between Tyndall Centre boss Prof Kevin Anderson and author of The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley. Anderson gave a rather terrifying view of our chances of meeting either a 2°C limit on temperatures (snowball/hell) and 4°C (outside bet) which exceed that portrayed by, say, the IPCC. Ridley told us climate change was slow and mild, not fast and dangerous. I was really disappointed in Ridley - he's meant to be at the intelligent end of the climate sceptic spectrum, but he indulged in all the sleights of hand and extreme cherrypicking of the lunatic fringe. As I couldn't critique his entire presentation within the timeframe, I pulled him up on just one trick to prove my point. He had plotted temperature data from the non-polar regions (HADCRUT) against the IPPC whole earth models (GISS) and concluded the world is warming slower than predicted. I pointed out the fraud here - the models are spot on if you compare like with like (see here). He retorted it wouldn't make any difference, I countered if that was so, why didn't he use the correct data and prove it ('cos he couldn't).
However one of the benefits of hearing Mr Ridley's individualist libertarianism was it balanced out a tendency towards dogmatic anti-capitalist rhetoric from some attendees. I was heartened by the number of people willing to challenge those green myths which are often based on just as flimsy evidence as those of the climate change deniers.
After the verbal sparring, Thursday was much more collegiate affair using Open Space to allow participants to propose their own topics for discussion and form break out meetings. I have read much about Open Space, but have never taken part - indeed one of the reasons for me being at the event was to try it out. Basically, those who want to discuss a topic write it down on a piece of paper and read it out. The pieces of paper get stuck to the wall below a letter - if you fancy a topic you find the group with that letter and if it doesn't live up to expectations you can drift off and find something that does. The results are summarised and pinned up on the wall so you can drift past with a coffee and get a flavour of the whole session very quickly. I loved it - no-one can complain the agenda was any good if they get to set it.
Overall there was a great cross fertilisation of thinking between the 'geeks' and the 'arty-types'. Many of the artists said they found the 'experts' brought clarity and a grounding to their thinking and the 'experts' got a better grasp of some of the cultural and emotional angles to what we are trying to communicate or implement. I even got interviewed as to my views on the book Solar by Ian McEwan for a PhD thesis.
A great event, very well organised (except for the coffee arrangements, grrr) leaving everyone I came across with a real buzz of enthusiasm. I'll explore some of the resulting issues I've got swirling around my head at more length next week when I've had a chance to chew them over.