Event Report: Ecocities, adaptation and the Beach Boys…

Marc Hudson, co-editor of MCFly, went to a presentation about adaptation to climate change, and came away thinking we all have a lot of work to do.

Ecocities is a “joint initiative between the School of Environment and Development at the University of Manchester and commercial property company Bruntwood.” Set up in 2009, the idea is that an ‘adaptation blueprint’ will be produced for Greater Manchester. That blueprint is now overdue, [the final conference was delayed at short notice] but doubtless something will emerge. Hopefully its launch (pencilled in for May, invite only) will be better publicised and attended than Saturday’s effort.

The powerpoint presentation – which we hope to be able to link to soon – outlined the causes of climate change and the consequences for Greater Manchester. “The future” said the lead presenter, “is already here.” in the form of floods, summer storms and the like. Essentially we will get warmer drier summers and warmer wetter winters.
The presentation was followed by a useful Q and A with the audience, which was small enough for everyone to ask whatever questions they wanted.

However, the format of this event – as with the Thursday night Question Time event at which I found out about the event – was not unproblematic. Both events (and many others MCFly finds itself at) appear to have been based on the “information deficit” model. By that I mean there seems to be an assumption that the audience is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with facts by the people at t’front of the room and another assumption that the main reason people are not taking action is a lack of information. I think both of these assumptions are demonstrably false, but maybe that’s just me. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to see Ecocities – and others – challenging these assumptions in the format of their events.

It would also be nice to see Ecocities advertising its events more thoroughly, (there appears to have been no social media effort even aimed at Friends of the Earth, Environment Network for Manchester etc) because – now that any realistic hopes of global mitigation are dead – adaptation and resilience is going to be the name of the game. And Joe and Jane Public need to be aware of what’s going on, because this is not an agenda – I hope we can all agree – that is going to be sorted out by business and government on their own.

It would be very nice to see Ecocities putting health warnings on their comfortingly precise estimates about ‘winter rainfall could be up to 25% higher by…. peak temperatures could be over 34 degrees”. What kind of health warning? Oh, something like “All our predictions are based on an old estimate of how much carbon dioxide the species would pump into the atmosphere. That estimate now turns out to be somewhat low. Therefore, there is a small but significant chance that we will see bigger changes quicker than what we’ve written here. So it goes.” The Vonnegut reference at the end would be optional.

It would be even nicer to see explicit acknowledgement that there are going to be impacts from beyond Greater Manchester (refugees, water shortages, food shortages, potential civil unrest, energy prices spikes, global depression [both economic and psychological] etc etc)

And it would be especially nice to see ideas being propounded about some of the adaptive governance changes that are required, instead of endless pretty pictures of sustainable urban drainage systems. I’ve looked – as suggested – through the list of documents in the library (over 30 of them, apparently). With one “exception” – which I will blog about soon – there’s nothing in there that touches on how individuals and communities can start to revivify civil society in order to deal – with “adaptive leadership”, “collaborative leadership” etc – with a crisis that is going to need more than technical fixes. But maybe I am looking in the wrong places for these sorts of answers?

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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