Low Carbon Conference in Stirling

Interesting things I heard yesterday at the Low-Carbon Conference held in the Iris Murdoch Centre at Stirling University:

  • the tools you build to look for stuff shape not only what you find, but the way you then look at the world at large. It isn’t just finding what you expect or want to find, it changes the way you think and speak about looking and responding. And, as the tools you build are shaped by your intentions, they aren’t ever neutral. And as we can’t ever rise about our intentions, what we can do is to be aware of them, ask ourselves if they are the only ones, and if anyone else has a take on the situation we should also be listening to.
  • venture capitalists aren’t all about the figures and the bottom line. What they want from a new project is a good story. I suspect they will do the figures themselves, so I’m not letting them off just now, but the point is that venture capitalists are looking for imagination and possibilities, so the world is less closed and pragmatic than we might imagine.
  • Orkney is self-sufficient in renewable energy, but can’t necessarily deploy it in ways that improve the quality of life for a population who suffer heavily from fuel poverty. The interesting consequence is that Orkney people are very knowledgeable, and come together in many diverse ways to make things work. Also that co-operation is time-consuming, because community is something that is not a given – it has to be worked for.
  • Environmental studies have their fashions like everything else. It’s not cool to be green any more – ‘blue humanities’ (i.e. study of water bodies) is where it’s at. There is a serious point here, as we can’t just see the sea as the space between the important bit, but —–
  • Scotland is unusually open to arts and creativity, and has a lot of networks outside the establishment. I’ve often thought this, but it was nice to hear it confirmed by people outside Scotland. One example is this community arts project: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/four-kilmarnock-men-set-perform-9690917
  • if you thought that academics need to be more adventurous, less hide-bound and prescriptive, less top-down in the way they address environmental problems, these people are already on it. I said so to one of them, and he said they are not all like that, but basically, I left thinking the future might be in good hands.

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