The social role of conflict as it relates to this issue of climate change will lie in how seriously different parties take this issue. For many years, we've had the "tree huggers" who have tried to bring awareness to this issue while many others see it as not convenient (to crib Al Gore) or not specifically their problem. I think this is confounded by the fact that no one really knows what the end result of this crisis will be because no one has ever experienced it. Even with all the data and graphs and charts presented to us, we do not have a frame of reference for what the world will be like after another one hundred years of our current trajectory. Both sides have their positions and interests; hopefully a shared interest is continued life on earth. It is the positions of what is reasonably attainable that will drive the conflict on this issue.

"Many conflict resolvers have not looked at the world through conflict-colored glasses" (Cloke, 9). This is where the opportunity lies as once we take this view on the conflict, conflict resolution systems design can get its foot in the door to help make radical changes to the different parties' mindsets.

The major challenge is formal authority in the forms of governments, beaurocracy and big industry versus the more grassroots organizations that may have great ideas but have a hard time being heard. For instance, in the recent spill in the Gulf, there were hundreds of companies offering many inovative solutions for the various problems related to the oil spill but many complained that the beaurocracy wasted time and it was difficult to get to the real decision maker. Once the decision maker was reached, more issues of power come into play and more conflicts develop. In the meantime, the oil was still gushing and the problem was getting worse and worse.

I like Ken's suggestion from the You Tube interview of turning the discussion "90 degrees" and by using many mediators to help facilitate even very large conferences with thousands of participants. Using all the most basic techniques of reframing, clarifying questions, open ended questions, and the power of silence, this could help participants gain necessary understanding of the other side(s), even if they cannot ultimately agree. Having that "go between" would also help keep discussions on track, especially if time is of the essence, and mutually agreed ground rules might help engender respect where little or none had existed before. It is a very exciting idea.

Bibliography
Cloke, Ken. Conflict Revolution. 2010.

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Replies to This Discussion

Allison,
Great post. Bureaucracy does get in the way of social movements. To pass simple legislation involves tricky routes through our two legislative houses with everyone getting a chance to voice their concern. I think one possible approach to dealing with the bureaucracy is to continue to frame climate change in an endgame scenario. I think that is what Ken Cloke is attempting to do. But focusing parties on the conflict that is at the end of the climate change rainbow, we can do our parts as conflict resolution specialists in advocating for and allying with groups. And by teaching groups how better to communicate their concerns and worries, we can alter the discussion on climate change to focus on mutually shared interests instead of political propaganda, complicated data charts, and biases.

I'm actually worried when it comes to Ken's suggestion of multiple mediators. Multiple mediators, who, as independents, may present a neutral front, may in fact join together and become partisan. I think we have to look at it from a conflict engagement perspective. In order for mediators to become a part of something like this, one of two things must be true: A) the mediator has a vested interest in conflict resolution and truly is able to be a neutral, or B) the mediator has a vested interest in climate change and wants to advocate instead of mediate discussions. I also believe that, with the many other conflicts demanding the attention of conflict management specialists, mediators who find themselves involved in climate change mediations may find themselves advocating instead of mediating simply because they find themselves interested in the discussion. Mayer states that, "We can easily lose sight of how we feel about what we are being asked to do and focus instead on the "or else." This is natural...." (Mayer 2008, 16). Mediators drawn to the climate change discussion may have their neutrality compromised by their beliefs and views. Of course, this could be said for any type of conflict and neutral third party.

Mayer states that, "People can employ their power to create momentum for constructive dialogue and collaborative negotiations, or they can use it to beat others down and to prevent cooperation" (Mayer 2000, 70). This is one area in which I believe the work of conflict engagement specialists can benefit the overall climate change debate. By advocating not for a side, but for constructive dialogue to take place, we can use our power to create the momentum needed for constructive dialogue to take shape. I like what Mayer writes on page 63 of his book, The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution (I would underline this but for some reason, the website is not allowing that at the current time). "Containment and constructive engagement are simply not compatible" (Mayer 2000, 63). Throughout his book, Beyond Neutrality, Mayer continues to talk about how sometimes we need to let conflict grow and mature before we attempt to resolve it. I think this may be a large part of our role in climate change.

Thanks for your post Allison,

Norris Ham
Allison this is a very insightful post. I especially like how you address our fears of the unknown in paragraph 1. I struggle with Cloke's suggestion(s) of taking global issues and mediating them because as we learned at residency in July, mediation is a voluntary, private and confidential process. As I stated in my post, most of these issues have been politicized, televised, and publicly scrutinized which can interfere with the mediation process as a whole. Would you agree that it would be more beneficial to societies and cultures to have the large well-attended conferences be an information sharing event in which case mediators or facilitators could engage parties in dialogue rather than a confidential forum? What if some of the lawsuits that have been, or may be filed against BP end up in mediation; are we as a collective society (mediators, environmentalists, business owners, tourists) going to be OK with that outcome or will we want to be informed and have the chance to internally process the information and use our own power of morality about the events? I can see where some would argue that to have global issues brought to mediation is like sweeping them under a rug; that is a very powerful tool and like you said formal authority entities would likely have the advantage.

Respectfully,

Kim
Hi Norris, thanks for the feedback. Agreed, bureaucracy can really slow things down and cause distractions. I'm thinking about the Patriot Act and how it morphed from being a protection for us to having so many tacked on pieces of legislation that very few people knew at the end what was actually in the approximately 2000 pages of the Act. Or, the healthcare bill. There are tons of examples.

I would be interested in Ken's thoughts on exactly how the systems design would be as he did not get very specific on this point. It would be a danger for getting off point or having other items enter the discussion on such a scale that nothing could be truly accomplished. That would have been a good thing to have covered in the call on Thursday.

Norris Ham said:
Allison,
Great post. Bureaucracy does get in the way of social movements. To pass simple legislation involves tricky routes through our two legislative houses with everyone getting a chance to voice their concern. I think one possible approach to dealing with the bureaucracy is to continue to frame climate change in an endgame scenario. I think that is what Ken Cloke is attempting to do. But focusing parties on the conflict that is at the end of the climate change rainbow, we can do our parts as conflict resolution specialists in advocating for and allying with groups. And by teaching groups how better to communicate their concerns and worries, we can alter the discussion on climate change to focus on mutually shared interests instead of political propaganda, complicated data charts, and biases.

I'm actually worried when it comes to Ken's suggestion of multiple mediators. Multiple mediators, who, as independents, may present a neutral front, may in fact join together and become partisan. I think we have to look at it from a conflict engagement perspective. In order for mediators to become a part of something like this, one of two things must be true: A) the mediator has a vested interest in conflict resolution and truly is able to be a neutral, or B) the mediator has a vested interest in climate change and wants to advocate instead of mediate discussions. I also believe that, with the many other conflicts demanding the attention of conflict management specialists, mediators who find themselves involved in climate change mediations may find themselves advocating instead of mediating simply because they find themselves interested in the discussion. Mayer states that, "We can easily lose sight of how we feel about what we are being asked to do and focus instead on the "or else." This is natural...." (Mayer 2008, 16). Mediators drawn to the climate change discussion may have their neutrality compromised by their beliefs and views. Of course, this could be said for any type of conflict and neutral third party.

Mayer states that, "People can employ their power to create momentum for constructive dialogue and collaborative negotiations, or they can use it to beat others down and to prevent cooperation" (Mayer 2000, 70). This is one area in which I believe the work of conflict engagement specialists can benefit the overall climate change debate. By advocating not for a side, but for constructive dialogue to take place, we can use our power to create the momentum needed for constructive dialogue to take shape. I like what Mayer writes on page 63 of his book, The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution (I would underline this but for some reason, the website is not allowing that at the current time). "Containment and constructive engagement are simply not compatible" (Mayer 2000, 63). Throughout his book, Beyond Neutrality, Mayer continues to talk about how sometimes we need to let conflict grow and mature before we attempt to resolve it. I think this may be a large part of our role in climate change.

Thanks for your post Allison,

Norris Ham
Allison, I would have liked to hear less on the issue and more on Ken's suggestions for facilitating a conference geared toward making changes. I think his presentation was great, but did not go far enough, at least in terms of our learning objectives.

You mentioned formal authority in your post. It goes beyond just our country. Obviously the US can't correct the problems on its own, and you have varying degrees and styles of formal authorities with which to deal across the globe. Getting everyone to first agree there is a problem, then agree it needs to be solved and lastly how to solve it is a huge endeavor indeed.

Allison Powell Sharpe said:
Hi Norris, thanks for the feedback. Agreed, bureaucracy can really slow things down and cause distractions. I'm thinking about the Patriot Act and how it morphed from being a protection for us to having so many tacked on pieces of legislation that very few people knew at the end what was actually in the approximately 2000 pages of the Act. Or, the healthcare bill. There are tons of examples.

I would be interested in Ken's thoughts on exactly how the systems design would be as he did not get very specific on this point. It would be a danger for getting off point or having other items enter the discussion on such a scale that nothing could be truly accomplished. That would have been a good thing to have covered in the call on Thursday.

Norris Ham said:
Allison,
Great post. Bureaucracy does get in the way of social movements. To pass simple legislation involves tricky routes through our two legislative houses with everyone getting a chance to voice their concern. I think one possible approach to dealing with the bureaucracy is to continue to frame climate change in an endgame scenario. I think that is what Ken Cloke is attempting to do. But focusing parties on the conflict that is at the end of the climate change rainbow, we can do our parts as conflict resolution specialists in advocating for and allying with groups. And by teaching groups how better to communicate their concerns and worries, we can alter the discussion on climate change to focus on mutually shared interests instead of political propaganda, complicated data charts, and biases.

I'm actually worried when it comes to Ken's suggestion of multiple mediators. Multiple mediators, who, as independents, may present a neutral front, may in fact join together and become partisan. I think we have to look at it from a conflict engagement perspective. In order for mediators to become a part of something like this, one of two things must be true: A) the mediator has a vested interest in conflict resolution and truly is able to be a neutral, or B) the mediator has a vested interest in climate change and wants to advocate instead of mediate discussions. I also believe that, with the many other conflicts demanding the attention of conflict management specialists, mediators who find themselves involved in climate change mediations may find themselves advocating instead of mediating simply because they find themselves interested in the discussion. Mayer states that, "We can easily lose sight of how we feel about what we are being asked to do and focus instead on the "or else." This is natural...." (Mayer 2008, 16). Mediators drawn to the climate change discussion may have their neutrality compromised by their beliefs and views. Of course, this could be said for any type of conflict and neutral third party.

Mayer states that, "People can employ their power to create momentum for constructive dialogue and collaborative negotiations, or they can use it to beat others down and to prevent cooperation" (Mayer 2000, 70). This is one area in which I believe the work of conflict engagement specialists can benefit the overall climate change debate. By advocating not for a side, but for constructive dialogue to take place, we can use our power to create the momentum needed for constructive dialogue to take shape. I like what Mayer writes on page 63 of his book, The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution (I would underline this but for some reason, the website is not allowing that at the current time). "Containment and constructive engagement are simply not compatible" (Mayer 2000, 63). Throughout his book, Beyond Neutrality, Mayer continues to talk about how sometimes we need to let conflict grow and mature before we attempt to resolve it. I think this may be a large part of our role in climate change.

Thanks for your post Allison,

Norris Ham
I do think that climate change efforts will be more effective if directed towards the grassroots. The way I see it, most people are not sufficiently knowledgeable about climate change. Unfortunately, most of the discussions are going on among above-average persons who have already taken a position on one side of the aisle or another. Consequently, the average citizens who are in a position to greatly influence the discussion by electing the right leaders are left too confused to know what is really going on. So, maybe this is where neutrals such as mediators and facilitators can play a role. By mediating and facilitating discussions between the different sides of the aisle, mediators and facilitators will contribute to ensuring that only the facts get to members of the grassroots. By this, I mean that the electorate will be provided with untainted information. This will avoid the types of issues that came up recently involving some experts in climate change.

While ken Cloke's idea of multiple mediators may seem strange, that may actually be the best way to handle the situation. These mediators can work large groups in conferences for better results than what an individual mediator would be able to achieve.

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