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We can see dialogue of the sterile kind going on everywhere – the sort which reduces national negotiators and UN officials to tears, or in everyday discourse, coloured by urgings in the media to dismiss the problem.

wlubeachflatSuggestions that nothing is settled, nothing is clear in climate science are powerful encouragements to shrug our shoulders.

The data are complex, the process is slow, the manifestations often remote. Despite this, some surveys do show public concern growing again, but here we encounter something really equivocal. We know and don’t want to know, want government action, but don’t want it to cost us anything, desire a safe future for our children, but are preoccupied with the close-up and perhaps more manageable insecurities of the present. We believe in justice but don’t want to face being the beneficiaries of injustice.

So there’s a momentous struggle going on around this subject, at a psychological as well as economic and political level. Its existence, and certainly its true ingredients, need to be better understood.

Resolving this huge clash of interests calls for the highest conceivable quality of dialogue – imaginative, generous, courageous, ruthless, determined and focussed. All these qualities are needed in order for it to have the fertility that is required. That fertility also depends on depth. The dialogue takes place in many spheres, within our minds, between individuals, and amongst groupings of every size, from the family to the international arena.

Given that all these spheres inter-connect, the search for a fertile process need not be inhibited by their scale and complexity. And the all too frequent sterility of polarised, ideologically entrenched and fear-driven debate can be used to instruct us, rather than make us despair.

CPA is aiming to promote the cause of fertile dialogue by highlighting two key, and closely connected, areas of interest: the role of journalism and the possibility of re-framing environmental concerns so as to free them from the shackles of ideology. To give a place to feelings of hopelessness, grief and outrage in the apparent impossibility of real listening without projection would bring some fertility.