Thursday, March 22, 2012

The architecture of climate policy: alternate representations of Kyoto

Normally, scientists travel around the world without paying too much attention to the places where they meet. But sometimes they take their time and leave the non-places like hotels and conference rooms. In their article "The wrong trousers. Radically rethinking climate policy", Gwyn Prin and Steve Rayner evoke the image of Kinkakuji, the Buddhist Golden Temple, in the Northwest of Kyoto. The sight of this temple teaches them a different lesson.
The "passing caravan of international diplomacy" teaches the public "on many aspects of its life and pleasures in censorious tones, and then told to save the planet." In contrast, the temple (and Zen-Buddhism) reminds the authors of the importance of particularities in contrast to the big solutions:
The approach to Kinkakuji, Kyoto’s famous Buddhist Golden Temple, in the north-west of the city, deliberately depresses expectations. The visitor is therefore unprepared for the splendour of the temple, and the impact of its shimmering form across the water that surrounds it being all the greater. That moment of unexpected discovery means that the memory of the beauty of Kinkakuji will live long in the mind. This is one example of a principle found across Zen architecture which tends to favour restraint—glimpses rather than panoramas—to evoke a more powerful effect: As Christopher Alexander and his colleagues put it, “The view of the distant sea is so restrained that it stays alive forever.”
 To learn more about their approach, just google the article. It's worth a read, and serves well as an intro to the Hartwell paper and the like. But what I like most is the contrast the authors evoke here between thinking about climate at large from a non-place and the insights you might gain from random glimpses outside the conference places / offices / institutions.


Werner Krauss said...

One of the most popular accusations on blogs is that one "follows an agenda" - skeptics, alarmists, oil industry, environmental groups, even state financed universities are sometimes blamed "to follow an agenda". I asked myself what this means and if "having no agenda" is the answer to "follow an agenda". But while it is easy to figure out what it means to follow an agenda, I wonder what it means to follow no agenda. When googling in search for help, I ended up in reading an interesting paper about Heidegger's term "Gelassenheit" and from there to a Buddhist (or Taoist?) state of mind of total awareness in meditation. Unfortunately, I forgot to bookmark the page.
To have NO AGENDA is not self-explanatory.

Werner Krauss said...

Oh, I found the text again:

It is about Heidegger's "Conversation on a country path":

"Martin Heidegger’s Conversation on a Country Path invites us to slow things down in order to understand the nature of thinking. Like Plato’s Phaedrus, Heidegger’s dialogue between a scholar, a scientist and a teacher takes place "far from human habitation", and this disorients us from familiar assumptions. Night has set in, the scientist notes. This compels (but does not force) concentration. The scholar observes that this leaves them time "for meditating by slowing down our pace." The idea under consideration--that the nature of thinking is to be found by "looking away from thinking"--is a "mystery" to the scientist. And to the teacher as well."

Far out and worth a read!