Quentin Cooper: Hello and good afternoon from the Royal Geographical Society in London where we’ve come in answer to a postcard. This postcard, I’m saying this because we have an audience here as well, and I’m waving a green postcard at them. That it’s green I think is significant. I can’t remember exactly when I got but it was handed to me sometime last year, probably at some sort of science event, and on one side it has in big letters ‘INTERDEPENDENCE DAY’. Now that was the first I’d heard of an attempt to devote an entire day to collective brain storming on bridging the gap between our individual daily lives and the enormous planetary challenges that we’re faced with, things like climate change, poverty and environmental destruction.
The thinking, which is outlined on the other side of the postcard, was that too often when we hear about such global threats, what comes across is the risk of a common fate but not the possibilities of common action, but through creative collaborations we can perhaps come up with new interconnected, interdisciplinary, interdependent strategies and solutions. It’s a bold and optimistic all in it together so all pull together vision, and the postcard I got all those months ago was also bold and optimistic enough to propose a date for the first Interdependence Day, July 1st 2006, which is today. Although if you’re hearing this in our 4.30 Thursday slot on Radio 4 it’s last Saturday. So just this once we’re not live and unlike us you know the result of the England-Portugal game which is kicking off just before we finish.
It was Gandhi who said interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self sufficiency - so what can this one day do for that ideal? With me at the Royal Geographical Society are four panellists to discuss this and slightly more importantly perhaps come up with some new ways to interlink the economic, the social, the ecological and the scientific to alter the world for the better. Each of the interdependent panel independently does so many things I’m going to take the easy way out and get them to introduce themselves, starting with Professor Martin Parry.
Martin Parry: Right, I’m Martin Parry. I work for the IPCC, which stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I’m Chairman of Working Group 2, which is concerned with impacts and adaptation.
Quentin Cooper: Thank you very much indeed and next Professor Doreen Massey.
Doreen Massey: Hello, I’m Professor Doreen Massey. I work in the Geography Department at the Open University.
Quentin Cooper: Bill Thompson.
Bill Thompson: I’m Bill Thompson. I’m a writer on technology and particularly concerned with the social impact of the internet and all the other networks we’re building. I used to be a programmer, that’s now recovered, and I still run some websites.
Quentin Cooper: And finally Sir Mark Moody-Stuart.
Mark Moody-Stuart: I’m Mark Moody-Stuart and I’m a geologist and I spent most of my working life working for Shell, of which I was eventually Chairman. After retiring I’m now Chairman of a major mining company.
Quentin Cooper: Thank you, that is our panel.
Quentin Cooper: And as already mentioned that’s our audience. I won’t get you all to introduce yourselves, that’ll take far too long. I will start though by asking each of the panellists what you make of this first Interdependence Day. What its ambitions are, whether you agree with them. Sir Mark, I’ll start with you.
Mark Moody-Stuart: Yes, I do, I think interdependence is really a sense of community. It’s a sense of a day on which we don’t say what are they going to do about it but what are we going to do about it.
Quentin Cooper: Bill Thompson.
Bill Thompson: Well the idea of interdependence has a long history. The only details is that Coleridge first coined the term, some hundreds of years ago, and so it’s great to see us finally taking it more seriously and bringing people together to actually try to grapple with some of these issues. I know upon the internet if you look out on the web you’ll find many declarations of interdependence, many discussions about what it means and how the network can help it, and I’d rather hope today we see some clarification of those issues.
Quentin Cooper: Doreen.
Doreen Massey: Yeah, I think part of the point is precisely to push the term interdependence a bit. I think often we think it just means that if I do something it’ll have consequences around the world or that we can all interconnect or something like that. I think it’s quite a challenge actually taking interdependence seriously. It means we can’t even be what we are without people and things around the rest of the planet. The places that we live can’t be what they are without the places around the rest of the planet. So interdependence is a real challenge, taking it seriously means really changing the way we live in the world, and I think it’s a challenge to perhaps the dominant economic orthodoxy at the moment, which is one of very great individualism, the economic individual. Interdependence challenges that whole notion right from the start.
Quentin Cooper: Okay we’ll come back to that and following you, Martin your thoughts on this day.
Martin Parry: Yes, it’s a challenge, I agree with Doreen, but I think also it offers an enormous opportunity as well. A thriving interdependent movement I think offers huge opportunities to solve in the area I work, the problem of climate change, because we have to think of solutions that touch upon everyone’s lives that come from all corners of the planet and will involve interdependence if we’re going to meet the challenge of climate change.
Quentin Cooper: I mean one of the most often cited examples of interdependence comes from your field Martin, it comes from climate science, it’s the butterfly effect, you know, the so called thing where a butterfly flapping its wings over Kaiserslautern can cause a tornado or not over Lisbon, and this shows us not only how interlinked we are but how tiny local effects could affect things globally, so that shows how difficult it is to come up with any reliable strategy.
Martin Parry: That’s right, not only butterflies in Germany but butterflies here about Germany, you know, what may be happening in Germany in a few minutes time, absolutely. Well the interconnnectedness of the climate change issue, in causally, as you imply, the butterfly effect, as it were, is well recognised. But more importantly I think the impacts are so interdependent they’re going to touch upon all of us, they’re going to touch upon us in very different ways, the impact upon different people and the way they respond to that and are affected by that are going to fall back on us, through for example immigration, movements of people, increased poverty or reduced poverty, increases and reductions in standard of living in all different parts of the world.
Quentin Cooper: So how do you unpick if you like the butterfly effect? We know that something like that can have dramatic and unforeseen consequences but if we are here today genuinely trying to come up with strategies and plans, how do we safeguard against well intentioned efforts having disastrous consequences?
Martin Parry: Well we have to understand at all different levels I think of the effect, at the individual level and scaled up, the village level, the town level, the state, the government, the international. All different levels of understanding in science, and all that science successfully and effectively communicated to people through people like Bill here, and I’d like to hear him, what he says about that, and then put together in a package that really makes sense rather then pulls apart in different directions. Because that’s the problem isn’t it, we have a lot of efforts often pulling in different directions in environmental management and resource management at the moment, and interdependence to me means achieving success in pulling all in the same direction.
Quentin Cooper: Bill, since you have been name tagged by Martin, I will turn to you. I suppose the reason he’s labelled you on this is because of the internet, the internet is this thing that can in theory pull these threads together, save us constantly reinventing the wheel thousands and thousands of times in different places and share our solutions.
Bill Thompson: I’m glad you used the word ‘potentially’ there of course because it’s also a source of great confusion and disinformation as well. What the network can do is enable us to understand more about people around the world, the situation they find themselves in, the impact of our effects, the effect of what we do on their lives and how that works, and it can also help us to start to unite the levels that Martin was talking about to see how these things link together. I mean I actually, I believe that technology has to be part of the solution here, that we can’t just say, you know, we can’t reject advanced technology. If we’re going to think of a way forward, it has to be one that allows for the design, manufacture, distribution of advanced information processing systems of some sort, the continuing existence of the internet and all those sorts of things, and we’ll need to find a way firstly to do that in an environmentally responsible way, and there are major issues there, and then we need to find ways to use that technology to reach far more then the relatively small proportion of the human population that currently has access. One billion people have access, that’s five billion people still need to be connected to the network in order for it really to have the sort of transformational impact that it could do.
Quentin Cooper: So we need not just the advanced technology but the advanced thinking. Rather then letting the technology make us lazy, we need to think what the impact will be, what the consequences, who it’s working for, who is isn’t.
Bill Thompson: Absolutely, a really good technology is one that disappears from view, that you don’t notice. The problem with so many of the technologies we have today is they disappear from view and end up in landfill. We can’t let that happen either.
Quentin Cooper: Doreen, one of the big words that we’ve been fretting over, over the course of today, has been globalisation. Is it a good thing, is it a bad thing, is it just a thing?
Doreen Massey: It depends what form it takes. I mean the word globalisation to me just means that the world is becoming more interconnected, including in some of the ways that Bill’s just been talking about, so cultural connections, socioeconomic connections and the environmental. I think it gets used today for the particular form of globalisation that we’re experiencing at the moment, which is a way of organising the economies of the world through an economic theory which believes in the orthodoxy of the market, market relations will do everything, and which believes that the state should withdraw from all arenas of life, except from providing the conditions for the market to operate. It’s the economic doctoring of individualism that I referred to earlier.
So, beware, would be my advice when you hear the word globalisation being used. It might be being used in that very general way of just saying yes we should become more interconnected, more interdependent. It might be being used to refer to the specific form of globalisation we have at the moment, dominated by big companies, dominated by financial corporations, leading I would argue to very severe inequality and a deficit of democracy around the planet, and when it’s used in that way, the kind of pretending it’s being used in the more general way can fool us into going along with it.
Quentin Cooper: It sounds like one of those words you need to take out of the dictionary doesn’t it? If you can use it to say, if you say globalisation is a bad thing and then you can unpick it to mean yes I mean that kind of globalisation which is bad or I mean this kind of globalisation which isn’t bad, doesn’t it cease to have any useful meaning?
Doreen Massey: A lot of politics is battles over words, and there’s a battle at the moment over what globalisation means and how it should be used. I don’t think we should be anti-global. I mean I take it we’re here today on a day about interdependence. We are for the global, we are for the international, we are for planetary interdependence, there’s no way I want to be anti-globalisation. But I am very anti the way in which the current form of globalisation is leading to such horrendous inequalities and lack of democracy and disempowerment amongst people around the planet.
Quentin Cooper: Mark, we’ve established that globalisation means different things to different people but what does sustainability, what does interdependence mean to the corporate and business sector?
Mark Moody-Stuart: Well it means looking at not just the economic consequences but the environmental consequences and the environmental inputs and outputs and also the social impacts of what we do, and people sometimes say it’s striking a balance. It’s not really striking a balance. It’s like a three legged structure and if one of the legs is weak the structure is weak. So there are things which you have to meet certain standards of in order for success to be delivered. Any organisation, be it a church, a NGO, a community group, needs to look after its economic leg, it’s not just corporations. Without that they tend to collapse without the financial ability, but that’s not enough.
Quentin Cooper: But in recent years we’ve seen a lot of multinationals, large corporations go to great trouble to change their logos, their ads, even sometimes their policies to show their green credentials. Is this a sincere change of heart? Is this leadership from the business community or this is all about image control?
Mark Moody-Stuart: I think it’s a little bit of all of that. I mean it depends where you are and who you are talking about. I think it’s, if you think of what the object of a corporation is, for a corporation, for a company, a business to be successful, it has to provide something which people either want or need, and unless we do that we will fail. So listening to what the views of society, if you’re an energy company, society as a whole is actually, are your customers, they have wants and needs, and there are consequences of those; some negative consequences and some positive.
Quentin Cooper: But aren’t the shareholders their more immediate customers so they might be prepared to sacrifice the long term good of or survival of the planet for the sake of a dividend in two years’ time?
Mark Moody-Stuart: Well, yes, but unless you again keep some sort of balance. People always say it’s all in favour of the shareholders. You take Anglo-American and just look at the numbers.
Quentin Cooper: Anglo-American we should stress is the name of the mining company you’re Chairman of.
Mark Moody-Stuart: Which is a mining company I happen to be Chairman of at the moment. We pay about a billion and a half in dividends to our shareholders. We pay to our employees in Africa alone $3bn. We pay to our suppliers in Africa alone $7.5bn. This is not an unbalance, and we pay to, you know, in taxes in one form or another to governments more then we pay to our shareholders. So this is not a completely shareholder driven objective. But if you don’t give your shareholders any money, in the end they’re going to get fed up and the company will fail.
Quentin Cooper: Let’s look at the question from a different angle, accepting that there has been progress by these large companies, large natural resource companies, is there still the great majority of the way we get our energy, is there still room for improvement?
Mark Moody-Stuart: Yes, enormous room for improvement. I mean I would agree with Martin, I think one of the great challenges of interdependence is in fact climate. The bulk of the way that we produce our energy, which is essential for development for modern ways of living, for even reasonable standards of living to meet some of the objectives that were being talked about, much of that energy comes from fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide, which have an effect on the climate, and we can’t stop doing it. It would be catastrophic to stop doing it, but we need to look and see how we can change and decarbonise our energy. But one can only do that in a sense of interdependence with cooperation between governments and consumers. Governments I think need to, and I agree with Doreen about markets, markets on their own will clearly not deliver some things. They will not deliver these changes unless you have a regulatory framework which guides the creativity of the market, which is enormous and very powerful, in the right direction. Without that, we get there in the end but it’ll probably be too late.
Quentin Cooper: Or the end will get there before we do. Doreen.
Doreen Massey: Yeah, I mean you said things that people want or that they need, I mean there is also of course things that people can be persuaded to want. So I mean one thing that we should put on the agenda here which crosses between human globalisation and the ecological issues is consumerism. I mean turbo consumerism it was called recently and what that is doing to the planet and how we can in some way look that in the eye. But I’d like to ask you, I mean you were talking about kind of divvying up the proceeds of resource extraction between shareholders and companies, and the countries where those resources are, why is it that so many countries which have so many resources remain so desperately poverty stricken?
Mark Moody-Stuart: Well, we’ve just in a group of mining companies, because this is an important question, if you look, not just look at GDP, which the sort of normal Sachs resource curse material looks at, but you look at other aspects reflecting poverty eradication and so on, we looked at thirty-three countries, about half of them show benefits and half of them show the opposite. So clearly this is a far from perfect situation. What we have to do then is collectively look and see why does it work in some areas and why doesn’t it work in others. One of the major failures is actually a failure of governance. You are injecting large amounts of funds into countries where there aren’t the structures and the capacities to utilise those funds effectively.
So sometimes they get misspent, sometimes they get stolen, and one of the challenges for us as companies is where does our responsibility stop? We used to think, I used to think that if we did a decent job, we paid our taxes honestly, we didn’t bribe anyone, we handed the money over to the Government, and the Government took it and blew it or in the worst case stole it, that that was an issue for the nationals of that country. Well that actually is an untenable situation because, although it’s not our responsibility, it’s absolutely our problem, which is where we have to work with others to try and see whether we can solve it.
It’s a bit like if you’re a fare paying passenger on a ship, and the captain of the ship through inebriation or incompetence is putting the ship on a rock, saying well I did my bit, I paid my fare, I’m not going to help with the pumps, that’s clearly short sighted and not in the interest of the shareholders, as it were, but equally you don’t want the fare paying passengers driving the ship. So there has to be, we have to do it in conjunction with others and resist the temptation.
Doreen Massey: You make it all sound so nice. I mean I don’t think the fact that there are certainly bad governments in various countries of the world lets us off the hook.
Mark Moody-Stuart: No, I agree.
Doreen Massey: I mean the meaning of interdependence really has to be looked at seriously here, and what is going on is an unequal interdependency, and there is no doubt that the first world and oil companies and resource companies get more out of this deal than do the other countries. I mean think of what people like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and Evo Morales are trying to do now in Latin America and the outrage in the rest of the world.
Quentin Cooper: We should explain this is about renationalisating.
Doreen Massey: They’re renationationalising. They’re taking back into national hands. Chavez is trying to redistribute oil wealth back to the poor of his country. There is outrage, how can you possibly behave like this.
Quentin Cooper: Mark, adding another level to this of course is that it’s not often when you get onto the ground level as simple when you’re dealing with complex regimes. I mean take an example, say a mining company wants access to a site that’s rich in gold but the area is controlled by a very dodgy militia, they might pay them money in order to get access to that area which would then be used to fund arms so the dodgy militias next killing spree, as you’re well aware this isn’t a hypothetical example, this is something the Human Rights Watch have produced a detailed report about a subsidiary of your company Anglo-American doing in the Congo.
Mark Moody-Stuart: Correct. First of all, let’s take Hugo Chavez and the distribution of wealth. The tax rate on many, you say the oil companies derive most benefit, that’s complete nonsense because the tax rate in many cases is in the high eighties percent. In Nigeria, for example, when the oil price hits $26, none goes to the oil companies. So it’s, there’s both the question of what is equitable distribution, what’s a fair reward and then what happens to those funds. The issue of people working in dodgy governments and dodgy situations, of which there are many because resources happen, tend to happen in such countries, occur, that requires some governance.
So things like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, things like the collective efforts on voluntary principles of security and human rights, which are a form of interdependence. This is NGOs or the Kimberley Process, this is NGOs, companies and governments getting together to say how can we actually fix and control and introduce systems which prevent these abuses happening. We need to look kind of on the positive side. I could go into the Human Rights Watch report. I’m happy to do so. It actually involves a subsidiary of Anglo-American, a company in which we have a 50% shareholding, which in a country where informal mining, according to Human Rights Watch, informal mining, nothing to do with the international companies, is taking something like $60m of gold from the DRC (the Democratic Republic of Congo) into Uganda and exporting, that’s $60m, much of which controlled by militias, nothing to do with the international oil companies.
We began in, international mining companies, sorry, I’m forgetting my past, we began, Anglo-Gold began to explore in there with the cooperation of the government and we discovered, Anglo-Gold discovered that they had paid in taxes at an airport a kilo of fifty cents a kilo, about $1,000, and at gunpoint they had $8,000 taken off them. Human Rights Watch concluded that this was funding the militia. If you set $9,000 or $10,000, detected by our own systems against $60m this is frankly laughable.
Quentin Cooper: Bill, can technology save us from ourselves? We’ve seen the example here of how rapidly we can go from talking in great big idealistic terms to it getting very grubby and messy and convoluted by the time we get down to humans on the ground and the way that we are?
Bill Thompson: Well it can help. I think nothing’s going to save us from ourselves apart from ourselves. In the end it comes down to the grubby human beings on the ground actually deciding to do things differently. The technology in this context can help just by making that sort of information available by allowing that sort of conversation to happen. For the information that Mark is providing to be available to a wider audience for the facts and people’s interpretations of them to get out there and to reach people all over the place and allow the sorts of conversations that we’re trying to have here today to happen on a much broader scale.
I think the real benefit of today’s technologies, communications technologies is that they are available to more and more people. They allow a sufficient basis of information and up to date information to be made available to any who cares enough to look, for them to start thinking about how they’re going to change their lives, thinking about where they’re going to put pressure both on governments and on corporations, how they’re going to differently regulate the markets, how we’re going to channel the creativity that Mark was talking about in ways that might actually benefit some of these countries that have historically suffered so much under the weight of oppression.
Quentin Cooper: Martin, Bill’s just said there we can’t rely on the technology and ultimately it’s down to us, and one of the us’s that we seem to be most relying on are the scientists. Now I’m not going to waste precious time here debating whether or not climate change is happening, we’ll take is as read, 95% or more of the scientific community agree, probably a large chunk of those have been saying so for at least ten years. The question is couldn’t they have done more to spread that message rather earlier and bought us some more time to deal with the problem?
Martin Parry: Well there’s a natural tendency amongst scientists to be cautious and say always we need more work, you know, we need more money to do more work, that sort of thing, and that’s often been read by, interpreted by the political community as a call to wait as it were before action, and the problem I think we confront now is at what point, you know, is there not just sufficient knowledge but more than sufficient knowledge and that any more waiting is a downside, represents a real negative. No, I don’t think Quentin that the scientific community has in anyway, not sure you’re implying this, but at fault in being slow to put the message out. I think if anything I think built that up now, we’ve been weak in the area of communicating knowledge. Those who’ve now specialised in the public understanding of science I think now have a proper role to play, and that’s accepted by the purists. You know, we don’t look down on them at all as we used to perhaps ten years ago, though that maybe is a criticism of us.
So that issue about communicating to the public and to lines of action the policy community I think has been strengthened in the last ten years and will be strengthened more. But I guess most scientists now believe there is certainly sufficient knowledge for some key actions to be taken, and delay in some of those actions does have real important things to play out down the line, and if I may one of those is not just in the area of climate change itself but in the area that Doreen I think was getting at, which is of poverty and inequality. Because the impacts of climate change, in a sense any of the impacts of resource degradation and resource depletion tend to play out on the poor, on the marginalised, those who are less well able to adapt, and I think this is where the interdependence brings us back to the globalisation issue.
Because I agree with Doreen here and less with Sir Mark that the issue is to me, the downside of globalisation as it’s been pushed now, is that it naturally tends to leave those who are less well able to compete to raise themselves up to the ever higher standards, the ever higher block to jump as it were, and there is an increasing risk of large chunks of the world being left behind, marginalised, not necessarily further impoverished but staying at an impoverished level, relative to increasing prosperity elsewhere, and that is where the real threats coming back to the field I work in of climate change are. They are not on us where we speak now in the Royal Geographical Society in London, they are on the more poor, in areas which are politically marginalised, not necessarily some are poorly governed, not necessarily but marginalised in all respects and in all respects less able to adapt; less of a toolkit in the back of their pocket to respond to it. This is where I think, in a sense, interdependence and the climate change issue come together.
Quentin Cooper: But Doreen to do an Orwellian sum up of what Martin’s saying, I think a rough summary is that all of us are interdependent but some of us are more interdependent than others.
Doreen Massey: Well the lines of interdependence are unequal, yes. I mean I think that’s one of the points of trying to think interdependence both in terms of things like climate change and biodiversity, and in terms of social globalisation, we have to think them together. You already said, Martin already said that the impacts of climate change are going to fall mainly on the poor. It’s also the case that it’s very difficult to ask for solidarity to think about our planet in a situation which is so unequal. Why should India and Mali and Chad not have the living standards of us or Californians?
You know, even within this country, we turn around and say, and I say it myself, we should not take cheap flights to Europe, and I don’t, I go by train. But then the upper-class have been going with BOAC flights around the planet for years, why shouldn’t the working class that’s now got enough money do that? So unless we can establish a greater degree of equality, a sense again of an us, that there is such a such a thing as a society, and we are not only isolated individuals, we can never create any kind of solidarity or political constituency to face up to the kinds of problems that we’re talking about here on the physical side.
Quentin Cooper: But I wonder if we were having this meeting today, not as Martin’s pointed out in the Royal Geographical Society in London but say in Africa, I wonder what themes of interdependence the key ones would be there?
Doreen Massey: I think a lot of the themes would be similar. I think the attitudes would be different in a sense. I’m sure there would be more anger. I’m sure there would be more desperation, I’m sure there would be more boredom with some of the solutions that are on offer because they’ve probably heard them, you know, one of these speeches before. And I think it is very much up to us not to act as though we are some generous first world benefactors.
Quentin Cooper: Because we’ll also taking not just their natural resources, their human resources, aren’t the healthcare workers often coming to the UK?
Doreen Massey: Exactly, well there’s an absolutely classic issue. When we go to the doctors and the nurses, say from Sub-Saharan Africa or West Africa, it’s great for us, and if we’re Londoners it’s part of that fantastic multicultural identity which is London. But it also means that London and our Health Service is being subsidised by training that has been paid for by countries who can far less afford to pay for it. So that moment of engagement at the reception desk or whatever it is with the nurse from Sub-Saharan Africa, also means that there’s one less nurse in some rural health centre in West Africa or somewhere. And that I think is what interdependence really means, it’s our very ordinary daily implication in the ability to be ourselves depending on other people.
Now what I think we should do in that situation, because this is a kind of issue which can be appropriated by the right or the left, is not stop immigration of those nurses to us but is to pay the country from which those people are coming restitution for the fact that they are actually subsidising our Health Service and make sure that that restitution, to answer one of your points, Mark, is to make sure that that restitution goes into their health services. It’s almost like saying okay, if say a Sub-Saharan African country and ours have huge exchanges between our health services, their nurses are coming to us and we’re depending on them, let’s consider it almost as one for health service for this. We’ll take globalisation seriously and say that barriers should fall and if you send your nurses to us we will pay you for them.
So what we have to be thinking about, and I think this is very different from thinking about aid. Aid can put us in a position, I’m not against aid, but it can put us in a position of power, we can make it conditional, and it also ignores the relations that have produced the need for the aid in the first place. Whereas paying restitution or trying to change the way in which we make the world more unequal actually accepts our responsibility in producing the inequality in the first place. We’re not totally responsible, the responsibility is spread around the planet but we are massively implicated and especially in Britain and even more in London particularly by that long Imperial history.
Quentin Cooper: So it’s a shift from benefaction to symbiosis.
Doreen Massey: Yes.
Quentin Cooper: Mark, can you see this working in a business model?
Mark Moody-Stuart: Yeah, I mean I’m tempted to say that what Doreen is proposing is actually a kind of market solution.
Quentin Cooper: I’m sure she wouldn’t be horrified by that thought.
Mark Moody-Stuart: I know, she wouldn’t, but, and I think we think we need solutions like that to invest in training, to increase the supply as it were so that only surpluses would move. Just going back to what Martin said, I mean one of the issues of poverty eradication, if you look at the areas of the world that are eradicating poverty and that have eradicated poverty, China and to a lesser extent India, they are doing so, and in doing so they are using more energy, and part of the challenge is that in order to do it we need more energy, and as you need more energy you have an impact on the climate. And I don’t believe that in the role of interdependence that it’s a saleable proposition in western democracies to say that you will have to lower your standard of living. It might, it may come to that but I don’t think it’s a saleable democratic proposition.
So what I think you have to do is propose solutions, to get a unity saying we have to limit the rise of carbon dioxide, there are mechanisms for doing this, some market mechanisms, that there are technologies which can be developed to address and routes down which we can go but in order to do this we are going to have to use regulation to channel the market in the right direction. Now that’s uncomfortable for business because we business people hate regulation. Actually we don’t think about it very much because, as Doreen said, we need it, markets don’t operate without decent regulation, and what we need is regulation which doesn’t mandate the outcome, it says the direction in which we want to go and doesn’t pick technologies. But the danger is that regulation will start picking technologies, the market should be left to choose the technology as long as it’s a carbon reducing technology.
Quentin Cooper: Bill Thompson, there’s clear parallels here since technologies been talked about, not only in directly what Mark’s saying but also in the fact sometimes with our technology, it presents possible solutions but the way we go about producing it is often more destructive in the first place.
Bill Thompson: Indeed it is, I mean I think that you’re right, Mark to say that a regulated market and one in which the outcomes are not sort of set in advance by government does make a lot of sense. The reason I despair sometimes about the possibilities of developing technologies which will help us have a carbon reducing future is that we still seem to be making all of the same mistakes. If we look at some of the technologies that have been developed in the last twenty years, when we’ve been aware of the issues of environmental damage and climate change, look at what goes into our mobile phones. Look at their dependence on rare metals like tantalum and the way they’re manufactured but can’t easily be taken apart and they can’t easily have the materials extracted from them.
Quentin Cooper: Same for LCD screens.
Bill Thompson: LCD screens are a disaster waiting to happen. All of those nice LCD screens we are buying and replacing our old cathode ray monitors with, in five, ten, fifteen years’ time when we throw them away. They are phenomenally difficult to recycle or to reuse, to break down, the damage that’s going to come from them when we start getting rid of them is going to be enormous. We should have seen that one coming, we could have seen that one coming, it’s only in the last five or ten years we’ve really been manufacturing them in large quantities, and yet we didn’t.
So whenever I feel that yes technology’s going to help us solve the problems I look at the mistakes we continue to make and wonder how we’re going to persuade the people who are building these cool new toys to actually accept the interdependence, to accept their responsibility at the design stage of the prototyping stage, to think okay when this finally has to be, you know, when this tool, when this nice new piece of technology comes to the end of its life what will happen to it then?
Quentin Cooper: Martin, I appreciate that climate science and mobile phone technology and whatever are not necessarily exactly your, it’s taking you out of your area, but is there anything that science can do to become more aware of the long term consequences, the environmental consequences when they’re at that early development stage?
Martin Parry: I’m not sure if I can actually answer that.
Quentin Cooper: That’s fair enough.
Martin Parry: What I would like to I think emphasise more is more research and thrust of understanding less on the climate science and more on aspects of social and economic vulnerability to the impacts that will come from changes of climate. And we fought a long and hard battle actually to get recognition in that area, but now I think there is important work going on, on impacts and adaptation, building up a science base as it were that politicians can act on.
Quentin Cooper: It’s unfair to try and sum up the mood across an entire area of science, Martin, but I’m going to have a go anyway which is, well the majority of climate scientists I speak to, their view on the best hope for the long term future seems to be regime change, pray, wait, hope that somebody, whoever replaces George Bush is better, is that as good as the strategy gets?
Martin Parry: Well, it’s certainly true, if you were to ask me what few or what single actions might be taken to change things, I would have said recognition by leading international politicians of our interdependence globally and a few decisions by powerful G8 type summiteers followed through in action, a little less gaming and a little more action in a sense could transform things. Now I don’t think that is characterising it as you were, which is just wishing, standing and wishing and hoping, but there is a set of actions that could be taken by the leading political community recognising global interdependence on emissions, on reducing vulnerability and on transferring the technology, the sort of kind that Bill was talking about, which is reducing vulnerability by building adapted capacity.
Quentin Cooper: Okay, well in fact that does rather neatly lead me to where I was thinking we might finish up because we now are nearly at the end, and I wanted to end on a sort of positive note. Bill Clinton has said that if the world can develop an ethic of interdependence routed in our common humanity then the 21st Century will be the most interesting, exciting, peaceful era in history. So I was going to try and get each of you to say how you think we might get there. So by the year 2100, by the end of this century, what’s your best case scenario for where we could be and what’s the single change that you think would be needed to get there. So I think Martin you’ve already answered the second half of that, the single change I think you’re talking about is regime change and what’s the best case scenario for the world we’ll be in by then?
Martin Parry: Well best case I would say we’ve survived. The Earth’s a little bit warmer by perhaps three quarters of a degree, a degree or so. We’ve stabilised concentrations of greenhouse gases by reducing emissions, those actions I mentioned earlier. We’ve still got another century or so to draw the world back to what it was in 1900 because we’ve warmed up by a degree and a half or so.
Quentin Cooper: So we’ve not solved everything but we’ve bought ourselves some time
Martin Parry: We’ve peaked possibly maybe another fifty ago of temperature and, but we’ve now got a big task ahead of us to cut the emissions further, bring down the concentrations and bring down the temperatures to what they were about fifty years before now. We’ll have cryogenically preserved polar bears and arctic foxes, with a bit of luck, and we can release them again in a hundred years’ time. But optimistically then what I would say is we have to expect some warming, it’s built into the system, even if we chop emissions off at the knees now, through very effective political action, there’s still a certain amount of warming that would have to, you know, that we must expect.
Quentin Cooper: Okay, I’ll leave the audience to imagine what Martin’s worst case scenario is like. Mark, same question to you?
Mark Moody-Stuart: Well, I would agree with Martin on the optimism that if one could within the next twenty-five years have started on the process of flattening out the curve, but for a business person the challenge is how do we actually supply the resources that will be needed, the energy resources, from all sorts of different, different areas, and how can we use the market to detect which are the most fruitful areas. And if you look at fruitful areas of in transportation, biofuels are encouraging but not the biofuels we have now which are competing with food stuffs and pushing up the price of sugar. It has to be biofuels from cellulose, and there’s some very exciting work done on that, and why is it being done, it’s being done through a market driven approach or a market driven expectation that there will be markets for these things. That won’t be enough. I do think we will need regulatory guidance to the market to encourage setting a price on carbon, because that’s what stimulates people.
Quentin Cooper: You almost sound as if you’re arguing that the nearer we get to the cliff edge the more sophisticated our braking systems will get because we’ll have to.
Mark Moody-Stuart: No, no, the problem is that you need, we need a lot of work now, and there is a lot of work going, there’s a lot of work being done on sequestration, which is an entirely interim solution because we have to find a longer term solution.
Quentin Cooper: Shoving carbon dioxide and other greenhouses away.
Mark Moody-Stuart: But interim solutions are also useful. Now I think we need creativity released. If I could just go back in ten years or so ago, when we started in major companies, major resource companies to put the price of carbon into our economic calculations, it didn’t make much difference to the economics, but it made a huge difference to the thinking of engineers because they started to build it into their calculations and come up with solutions. Now we need a lot more of that.
Quentin Cooper: See I like the way that you ask someone to ask somebody to speculate about 2100, then they’re going back ten years, that was very clever. Bill Thompson, another President, I think it was Abraham Lincoln said that freedom was the last best hope for Earth, I get the impression that you just sort of think that technology might be.
Bill Thompson: Technology can be a way to have freedom. So it’s not the technology itself. I mean I think it would be nice if the species is still around in a hundred years but, you know, the planet doesn’t need us, let’s face it. So, you know, optimistically for the Earth might be doing without the human race because we just cause so much trouble.
Quentin Cooper: That’s very big of you.
Bill Thompson: Optimistically for me and my family, however, I would quite like sort of to see Martin’s scenario, and I think the thing I would look to is that we would actually get away from the sense of individualism and actually have what Doreen called the sense of us, and I think technology can make that possible, I think the network can make that possible. If we look at what’s happening today with what are called social networking sites, like kids on MySpace and things like that, it gives you an awareness of other people, a connection to other people who are not geographically in the same place as you. We can extend that to the whole world. We can actually have a real emotional connection to the people who are directly affected by the consumer choices we make here in the privileged West who suffer because we take cheap flights to Europe, and I think if we grow, if we build that connection, it will make it much harder for those of us who do have the advantages, the benefits, to carry on doing the things that so disadvantage and damage other people, and that in itself will start to have an impact. It will mean there will be political support for the difficult choices that are going to be made, and I would hope that the connections we can make through the network would make that much more feasible.
Quentin Cooper: Just for anyone who may have had the same hearing problem I did, I worked it out that Bill did not say kids on mice space, as in a home ground for rodents, that was kids on MySpace. Right fine but it’s just that I had to do two passes of that one. And finally Doreen.
Doreen Massey: I guess it’s obvious by now, I’d like to see a much more equal world in economic and social terms, but also equally important a much more real …
Quentin Cooper: Hang on, I didn’t ask what your wish list was, it was you best case scenario that might get to it.
Doreen Massey: Okay that the world will be?
Quentin Cooper: Yeah, the world will be.
Doreen Massey: That the world will be a lot more equal in economic and social terms, and that we will feel less disempowered that there will be more serious democratic mechanisms by which we feel we can do something about the situation. I think in terms of how we do it, there’s all kinds of levels with which we act, one is about the big rules that currently run the world economy, I think we need seriously to change the rules of trade as they exist at the moment. On the one hand we know the rich countries don’t obey them anyway. Secondly, having equal rules for countries that are so dramatically unequal doesn’t anyway work; we want rules that are more flexible, more individually designed for particular countries, to allow them perhaps to put up protection barriers to develop a nascent industry.
If they want to grow an industry from one of their natural resources, they should be allowed to protect it for a while, so less of this simple imposition of one rule for all cases and a much greater presence of poorer countries in the grand institutions, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the IMF. We also need a radical reorganisation and control of the financial system, the global financial system, the volatility of it, the fact that it allows corporations and rich people not to pay any taxes, all of that stuff absolutely needs addressing. But at a completely different level, there’s that long hard slog of political campaigning in all kinds of ways to change the common sense about what the world could be and what other ways in which we could get there. I’m old enough to remember when it wasn’t common sense that everything should be privatised or commercialised, and we can change common sense again.
Quentin Cooper: Doreen, I’ll have a word with you afterwards about what I meant by one thing then but thank you. Doreen Massey, Bill Thompson, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart and Martin Parry many thanks. Thanks also to the organisers of this first Interdependence Day and to the audience here at the Royal Geographical Society in London and staying upbeat let’s finish with a line from Anais Nin: Dreams pass into the reality of action, from the actions stems the dream again, and this interdependence produces the highest form of living - amen to that.
Next week we’re back in the studio taking good pictures with bad bacteria. Take some nasty E.coli, give them a genetically engineered tweak so they metabolise sugar only in the absence of light and you can then coax them into producing high resolution black and white images. The E.coli camera is one of many eye popping ideas emerging from the hot new field of synthetic biology, which takes engineering principles and applies them to biology, and which we’ll be getting to grips with.
While that’s certain to be fascinating, what I’m less sure of, although Radio 4 listeners already know is the outcome of the England and Portugal World Cup quarter final which kicked off about half an hour ago now, and since it’s Saturday 1st July, as I say this, I have no idea what the outcome is. So having spent the day trying to unite the world, time to get back to dividing it into rival teams, come on England!