International conference

Transformation in a changing climate

Centre (un)conference on spurring change amid environmental challenges

Climate change is considered by many to be the greatest challenge to humanity. It is a "perfect storm" that lead to unprecedented social and ecological impacts unless urgent measures are taken. Change, or specifically, transformation is needed.

An international conference that took place in Oslo 19-21 June 2013 looked to pull together the knowledge that we have on transformation. Gathering some 300 researchers, policy makers, students and practitioners from a variety of fields and interests the conference dealt with the topics "What is transformation", "How do we do transformation" and "How to make transformation just, deliberative and equitable".  

Download high-res pictures from the conference here

Related articles:
First day summary: Setting the scene
Second day summary: How do we do transformation in practice?
Third day summary: How to make transformaiton just, deliberative and equitable
Extreme dialogue: "Hell doesn't sell"
An introduction to the conference "Transformation in a Changing Climate

Setting the scene
Centre science director, Carl Folke, gave a plenary talk on his perspectives on transformation on the first day of the conference. Reminding us of the importance of ecological literacy, Folke admitted he was "embarrassed as a human" that we in two generations have created a mindset where we believe we can live without nature and act independent of the biosphere.

"The challenges that we are facing now, of staying within planetary boundaries, stabilizing the climate and solving issues of equity and conflict, are what can be called 'hyper-complex': they have aspects of social complexity, dynamic complexity and emerging complexity", explained Karen O'Brien from the University of Oslo, one of the initiators of the conference in a framing talk to set the scene for the first day of the conference.

"It is, however, not only the problems that are non-linear, the same goes for the social processes leading up to solutions," O'Brien said.

Spurring engagement
The unconferencing format offered everything from an extreme dialouge and plenary discussions to open space events and bread baking. The idea behind the format was to inspire involvement and participation, something that went hand in hand with the topic of how to do transformation.

"Transformation is often a result of the right constellation of people coming together and doing something that ends up having a huge impact," said centre researcher Per Olsson in his framing talk on the conference’s second day.

Shaping transformation
Asun St. Clair from CICERO held a framing talk where she pointed out that transformation can be for the better or for the worse and that it is we as humans who will decide, bringing our values into decision-making.

The third and final day of the conference also offered a fitting topic for a discussion set in Norway: "How to Transform an Oil-Based Society into a Sustainable Society?"

"Norway became famous for environmentalism with the publication of the Brundtland report in 1987. In the thirteen years that followed, the country tripled its oil production," Helge Ryggvik explained.

Now with elections in Norway coming up next year, it was noted several times during the conference that climate and oil are treated as non-issues, and are still not addressed in political debate.

The importance of engaging people was one of the focus point of the discussion, and a central topic throughout the conference.

Karen O’Brien said in her framing talk on the first day of the conference that all it takes is a ten percent change in a network to start a transformation of the whole. This means that we have good chance. If the politicians are not ready, others can get engaged.

Published: 2013-06-27