INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Argus MAY 17, 2010 - by Ian Ray
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Corn Exchange, Brighton, May 16
Volcanic ash clouds, strike threats, gruelling military entanglements abroad, the perceived failure of Copenhagen, looming environmental catastrophe... there is plenty of grist to the pessimist's mill in the news agenda.
For this talk, festival guest curator Brian Eno convened a group of people with the aim of spreading some good news about where the human race finds itself in 2010.
It's a daunting, perhaps insurmountable challenge in these cynical times, but there was a sense here that if the audience wasn't entirely convinced by the destination, then the panel was going to pack in some thought- provoking scenery along the way.
Eno himself argued that we're moving towards a more co-operative global climate, that young people today, reared in a digital age, are internationalist by instinct.
Paul Ingram is the executive director of BASIC - the British American Security Information Council - which advocates negotiated nuclear disarmament. He pointed to the recent steps taken by the USA and Russia, while psychotherapist Jocelyn Quinnell, a key player in the Kids Company, formed something of a testimonial about the inspiring effects hers organisation has had on vulnerable young people.
For me, it was James Thornton, director of Client Earth, lawyer and Zen Buddhist priest who provided the most insightful comment. His organisation gives free legal horsepower to other environmental organisations, and - recognising our lazy equation of cynicism with intelligence - his argument was less about having lots to be positive about today, and more in finding things to be optimistic about.
His overriding message was that we need to find a new narrative, a new story to impose on our behaviour today.
Not many reasons for optimism, then, but some for trying to be more optimistic.