In Ken Cloke’s interview on Climate TV part II, he talks about conflict as an opportunity to change something that isn’t working for someone. As Eileen articulates in the instructions for the discussion, climate change “is arguably the largest scale, most profound conflict of all time…rife with conflict and debate on many levels”. Complicating matters more is the sheer number of individuals, countries, groups, and organizations involved in the climate change debate. Cloke, in his interview, suggests breaking down the large group of participants into small groups that have a mediator present during the group’s conversation. The mediator ensures information discussed gets passed onto the other groups. Mediators can assist in the exchange of ideas and information. Cloke continues to say that once people’s ideas are out, the process of creatively perfecting them can begin (Climate TV Interview).

The social role of conflict as it relates to the issue of climate change involves communicating with each other. This initial step of communication seems simple, however, thinking back to what causes conflict I’m reminded of the challenges we face in merely attempting to communicate with one another. Mayer (2000) states “Humans are very imperfect communicators…the main thing to consider here is how hard it is for individuals to communicate about complex matters, particularly under emotionally difficult circumstances” (9). The involvement of mediators in the climate change conflict could help to curb communication errors.

Furthermore, the social role of conflict as it relates to the issue of climate change should be to establish a safe environment where people can express their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions. Conflict brings to the surface a wealth of knowledge, and can be used as a brainstorming of sorts. People must be motivated to participate in this discussion and must strike a balance between “car[ing], but never that much” (Cohen 1980, 61). Cohen (1980) in his book You Can Negotiate Anything, addresses several types of power that might be useful in rousing individuals to join the climate change conflict (as this is something that affects us all). Cohen (1980) identifies powers such as identification, commitment, and investment. Cloke continues to urge us towards a collaborative approach where we can use our existing skills and develop new skills to resolve this conflict (Climate TV Interview).

Within the climate change conflict we have the opportunity for “analyzing problems, distinguishing options, choosing between them, presenting ideas and arguments for others to accept or reject, registering disagreements, negotiation differences, and striving for change in order to make ideals real” (Cloke 2010, 9). We must focus on being able to sit down and discuss issues with people with whom we don’t agree; the goal isn’t agreement (Cloke, Climate TV Interview Part III). People “will be unable to prevent, resolve, transform, and transcend chronic conflicts by unlocking them at their systemic social, economic, and political sources…unless opposing sides are able to listen, learn, and seek to understand each other” (Cloke 2010, 14). Opportunity lies in the ability to respectfully converse with others who don’t believe what you believe. Perhaps we need a new way of looking at our differences. “People generally assume that differences between two parties create the problem. Yet differences can also lead to a solution” (Fisher and Ury 1991, 73).

There are numerous types of power that are involved in the climate change conflict. First, formal authority exercised by government. Second, information power in the form of expert power exists in this conflict. Also key is “the actions people take to share, discover, or conceal information” (Mayer 2000, 55). Third, the power of association via political power plays a role. The forth type of power involves resources and the “control over or access to resources such as money, time, or labor...[as well as] the ability to provide or deny resources to others” (Mayer 2000, 56). Likewise, governments or other organizations might have the ability to provide rewards or sanctions for certain actions. Other potential power exercised by individuals, groups, or governments in the climate change conflict include the power of nuisance, procedural power, habitual power, moral power, structural power, and the perception of power.

A socially constructive dialog with regard to climate change would involve staying focused on the problem-solving game instead of turning the discussion into a power game (Ury 1991). The conflict involved in the climate change isn’t going to disappear, so “working on developing constructive patterns of power interchanges is critical to staying with conflict” (Mayer 2008, 9). Additionally, mediators or third parties can help the different sides “think through how they can be both powerful and humane, effective and considerate; how they can both protect their interests and preserve their relationships with the people they are in conflict with; and how they can do all this in a way that accords with their fundamental values” (Mayer 2008, 22). Furthermore, a constructive dialog needs to address the Wheel of Conflict and the 5 sources of conflict: communication, emotions, history, structure, and values and how each of those relates to the climate change conflict. Uncovering the needs and interests of people will deepen the discussion, once positions are set aside.

Cloke, Ken. Conflict Revolution. 2010.
Cohen, Herb. You Can Negotiate Anything. New York: Kensington Publishing 
 Corporation, 1980.
Fisher, Roger and William Ury. Getting to Yes. New York: Penguin Books 1991
Mayer, Bernard. The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution:  A Practitioner's Guide. San 
 Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, 2000.
Mayer, Bernard. Staying With Conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.
Ury, William. Getting Past No: Negotiating With Difficult People. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.

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