Climate Change

The Panel: Are we heading for extinction? Humanity and the climate crisis

As I walked through the hallway of limestone and pillars, I felt a sense of excitement in attending the panel: Are We Heading for Extinction? Humanity and the Climate Crisis. The panel was held on the 12th of October in the Norwich Cathedral. I refused to let my eyes drop from the illuminated interiors of the church on my way to the venue. The lights shone on the architecture and made it magnificent at night. This grandeur was carried forward into the panel space, where I sat by the structure of Dippy the dinosaur and rising cathedral walls. It was as if I was wrapped in multiple time dimensions, experiencing the merge of different historical periods- the modern Diplodocus cast of Dippy, the medieval cathedral, and contemporary me.  

The panel was a space where the past and the present coexisted. I was put into a test to reconnect with history, then reflect and act upon the climate change challenge. Professor Jeff Price opened the panel by introducing the 5 previous mass extinctions and the loss of genetic diversity. He stressed the negative effects of rising temperatures, stating this would lead to a higher percentage of biodiversity loss. He urged us to live with nature and exercise stewardship.  

Professor Robert J. Nicholls, a researcher on flood and erosion management, introduced the audience to another factor of climate change: rising sea levels. On average, sea levels rise by a centimetre every year and predictions suggest deep uncertainty in the future. Here, Robert reminded us of a 1953 flood in Sheerness, Thames Estuary, and expressed the need to mitigate coastal hazards. 

Dr Rachel Carmenta carried on the panel by raising the importance of distinguishing between good and bad fire. As an environmental social scientist and ecologist, she specialised in the Amazon burning crisis and believed marginalised populations’ needs were as significant as stakeholders. We need to acknowledge fire can bring benefits to agricultural farming, yet some people misuse fire for profit.  

On the last note, Dr Rupert Read ended the list of presentations with philosophy. He encouraged the audience to practice cathedral thinking- to think about long-term sustainability for the future’s sake. We need to act collectively and look beyond the obsessions placed on ourselves. We need to take the initiative to gaze at these challenges, face them, and be woke.  

The panel provoked me to think about the intimacy between civilisation and nature. The two intertwined more than I thought they would. I believe by writing about this I can be part of the “we” who can evoke change. Writing could be a creative and didactical practice to probe climate thinking, and further, provoke questions on our inevitable future.

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Melody Chan

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May 2022
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