By Nisha Pillai, Conference Moderator
Looking back on Planet under Pressure I can’t help feeling a touch dazed. What an extraordinary event to have moderated at, with the next Earth Summit, Rio +20 looming on the horizon. The sheer scale of the conference was mind-boggling, as three thousand people – scientists, NGOs, policy makers, a sprinkling of business folk and about a hundred journalists – descended on London’s ExCeL Centre from the four corners of the world. Yet somehow the level of debate was mostly high, the boiled-down, ten minute-long presentations were the most memorable I’ve encountered at many a conference, and the electronic questions, despite my initial misgivings, were a triumph…
A short digression on the use of social media and electronic questions, if I may. With time of the essence at such a vast event, the Planet under Pressure organisers decided early on to abandon conventional questions from the floor – and rely entirely on electronic questions sent in via Twitter, or text/sms, or directly through our live webstreaming page. And it worked! Reams of questions poured in: well over five hundred over the four day event. That, plus the ability to scan the questions on my ipad, gave me a far better chance to connect the audience to our plenary speakers and panellists than if I had simply called on random contributions from the floor. It also meant that a further three thousand or so people joining the conference via the live webstream could also participate by sending in their comments remotely. Best of all was: “no mic hogging from the floor”, as one tweet so memorably put it.
Other personal highlights: Sandra Diaz’s beautiful slides illustrating her presentation on biodiversity in peril; Lord Giddens of LSE’s humane wisdom; Bina Agarwal from Delhi University’s plea for small scale projects involving women; Richard Wilkinson’s persuasive evidence on how equality, not growth, is what delivers wellbeing; Oran Young and Maria Ivanona, who did the seemingly impossible and made governance interesting, even imperative. But the biggest surprise was Anne Glover, chief scientific advisor to the European Commission – was there ever such a blunt, outspoken, kick ass advisor as she?
Those are some of my personal takeaways from the crazy jamboree that was Planet Under Pressure. Please take a moment to add your own comments below – how was it for you?
PS: And I made a whole family of new friends too. From the IGBP: Wendy Broadgate, Owen Gaffney, Reed Evans, Hilarie Cutler, and my ace Twitter guru, Andrew Merrie. Also, Priya Shyamsunder, Felix Dodds and Nigel Cameron, not to mention the incomparable duo, Lidia Brito and Mark Stafford-Smith, plus always smiling, ever so helpful, John Ingram.
My Takeaways from Planet Under Pressure was published 3 April 2012 by Nisha Pillai at Nisha Pillai’s blog site with the author’s permission.