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Interviews: Joe Smith - Open University

Updated Wednesday, 5th July 2006

Joe Smith, an academic at the Open University, explains the thinking behind the Interdependence Day event.

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Joe Smith discusses how artists, policy makers, academics and politicians come together to consider the environment, climate change and changing biodiversity and how the threads are interconnected.


Copyright The Open University


Joe Smith: Well, some of us got together some time ago to talk about the state of environment and development debates. We came from a mix of academic and campaigning and media backgrounds. Something we all felt in common is that these debates really have run out of steam. They all feel very tired, there’s very little feeling and emotion about them, very little energy in them, and we wanted to make a bit of space, both some thinking space for some new conversations between different partners bringing together artists, policy people, political people, academics, to look at environment and development issues in a new light, and the trigger word for us was interdependence. We wanted to look at both globalisation and environmental change issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss. We wanted to look at the ways that in both of these cases there are long threads of connection between both people in one part of the world and another, but also people in the present and in the distant future, in the case of climate change or biodiversity loss.

So what we find is that people respond strongly to the word interdependence, and of course we fell upon happily a cute title that responds directly to independence day, which if you like in itself was in the late 18th Century a call to rethink the boundaries of politics; really we’d like to make some space to do the same job again.

Interviewer: And so far how’s it going?

Joe Smith: Fantastic, we’ve had a morning of really fascinating workshops, ranging from ethical consumption to young researchers thinking through the consequence of time for their work, through to the Dirt Café, which was a full scale meal prepared by some of the best chefs in London, and the participants in the meal were a group of experts on food and regeneration who were thinking through the interconnections between everyday economic choices and the frame of decisions that are made around them, and our culture, and the things we feel strongly about, and the things we feel we can respond to emotionally. We’re now moving into the open public event in the afternoon and, fingers crossed, it’ll all flow smoothly. We’ve got a really fantastic mix of activities dotted around the Royal Geographical Society.

Interviewer: And what’s the one highlight that you’re particularly looking forward to today?

Joe Smith: There are two things that I’d pick out as I have the programme sitting in front of me. I think the opening session’s going to be fantastic. We’ve got a really very peculiar mix of declarations of interdependence. We have an economist of happiness, Richard Layard. We have a historian of football, who’s going to tell us the story of globalisation through football. We have pioneers from the Fair Trade movement and ethical banking, and to round it off some puppeteers. So I think that’s going to be a rare treat, a really rich mix. But at a very different scale, rather more participative, participants are invited to go along and take a car key and scratch the picture of extinct animals from 150 million years ago, who of course now are fossils and providing us with fossil fuels, scratch those images into a car, which will be scrapped at the end of the day - I think that’s going to be rather a satisfying treat.

Interviewer: Joe Smith, thanks very much.






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