In this year’s closing remarks, the discussion surrounds the topic of stories – those that are untold, mistold, or drowned by noise.
The audience was shown the preview of a documentary film entitled The Island President that featured then-Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed on the tackle against climate change. Elected as President in 2008, Nasheed was forced to resign last February following a coup d’état. Unable to attend the Forum, he made a video appearance at the Skoll World Forum with a message of hope and concern.
“This is a big world with far bigger countries than mine so you might ask yourself why any of this matters. It matters because the Maldives is a bellwether for some of the world’s most important issues. My country has become well-known for some of the frontline state in the battle against climate change. Our islands sit just 1.5 meters above the ocean and are especially vulnerable to sea level rise,” said Nasheed.
“What happens to the Maldives today happens to the rest of the world tomorrow.”
Nasheed also expresses his concern over nations engaging in democratic change.
“Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office.”
“Just because the Maldives is small doesn’t mean it should be a small story,” said Zoe Williams, Columnist at The Guardian, as she introduces the panel.
Continuing with the discussion about climate change, Carl Pope, Senior Strategic Advisor of the Sierra Club, explains how the story has been told in North America for 30 years.
“There is this very complicated scientific phenomenon called global warming or climate change, we can’t decide which; which means that every time you light up anything you are actually killing somebody in Bangladesh and should feel bad about it. And if we don’t do something about it, something we can’t quite measure yet won’t happen in 30 years to somebody you’ve never met, and as a consequence, it is time for shared sacrifice,” said Pope.
The problem with this approach is that it is not motivating and it is not the whole truth. Pope explains that the implicit story that is told in this approach is that fossil fuel is burned because it is good for us in every other way and would make not doing so a sacrifice – they are the “key to economic empowerment, the secret to growth, and what makes a country great”. The reality is that fossil fuels are not cheap, despite being told they are. They are used merely out of habit and to change that behavior, we need to think about telling a different story.
Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, explains that the media tends to look at issues through the prism of right versus left.
“You cannot look at the biggest problems of our time through this prism,” said Huffington.
“We really need to fight that because I feel that if we look at everything as right versus left we marginalize positions that need to be mainstreamed in order to be successful in an accelerated way.”
Huffington also describes the importance of staying on top of stories and repeating them in order to make a difference.
“Mainstream media often suffers from ADD. The new media suffers from OCD.”
“I learned that impossible problems aren’t impossible, they’re just very hard,” said Stephan Chambers, Director of the MBA, Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, as he concluded the closing plenary.
“I learned that being outrageous matters. I learned that cracks are where the light gets in. I learned that we must tap into the timeless to solve the urgent.”
Chambers describes the emotional roller coaster that was this year’s Skoll World Forum.
“I have cried everyday this week. And remember as I tell you this, that I’m male, and British.”
“I smiled at you all and your demonstration that what it takes to change the world isn’t, in the end, mostly about facts and money. In the end, it’s mostly about people and collaboration.”
Visit the Skoll World Forum website to view complete videos.
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