The format of a meeting always tells you a lot about the ideology of its organisers, and what they are looking to achieve (whether they can admit that – even to themselves – or not). MCFly editor Marc Hudson gets all philosophical and “meta” about the recent “Investing in Nature” seminar. (see Richard Leese’s welcoming address here).
In the Bad Old Days of Industrial Capitalism, where nature was not respected, venerated and Valued, then we would have been sat in rows, listening to the various big cheeses at the front telling us that while there were some problems, everything would be alright as long as the current system was refined and tweaked.
In the New Collaborative Days of post-Industrial Capitalism, where nature is most definitely being Valued, we sit… at round tables, with some of us having therefore to twist around on our seats to listen to the various big cheeses at the front telling us that while there are some problems, everything will be alright as long as the current system is refined and tweaked.
We have swapped a system that was at least honest about who talked and who listened for one which is uncomfortable for some, who have to pretzel themselves in order to fit, but with the same underlying result. But it LOOKS better, and that, after all, is the important thing… This is – like the meeting of the Airports Commission in the neighbouring room of the town hall a couple of months previously – nowt more than a redemption ritual.
I didn’t stick around for the “interaction” bit, but let’s just say this – the event ran for 2 and a half hours. There was a few minutes for questions. I asked “How is ‘biodiversity offsetting’ going to be different from carbon trading. I was told – in essence ‘that was intangible. This is local. Trust us.”
Hmm. Foundation, anyone?
The next question was even better – will we see a reversal of the trend of accelerating loss of biodiversity. The panelists waffled and said things like “hope to”.
Very very VERY unconvincing.
The medium is the message. There was only to be 25 minutes in the two and a half hours where we were supposed to ‘critically respond.’ After time for introductions on our tables, that presumably left closer to 15 minutes. And given that those in attendance are overwhelmingly in need of the good graces of our Lords and Masters, it seems vanishingly unlikely that anyone was going to say “this is nonsense.”
No – what will emerge, even if it’s not what the organisers tell themselves they want – is a timid rubber stamp. (See below for what happens if the rubber stamp bounces…)
The truth of the matter is this – the collapse of biodiversity is accelerating. Our “market mechanisms” will be every bit as successful at slowing the trend as they have been at slowing the increase in our carbon emissions.
These events are rituals. They are rituals of safety, rituals of redemption. People attend/participate/lend their good names to the process because, well, that’s just what people of their social class do. And they want to nudge the policies of the State in one direction or another. While, understandably, paying their mortgages.
All perfectly “reasonable,” and a theoretical improvement on the bad old days when policy discussions were held Behind Closed Doors.
But you can have a Reasonable Ritual that is totally inadequate to the scale of the problem.