On Monday April 24 OtherWise and RUW organised the screening of The Uncertainty has Settled’. Afterwards there was a Q & A session with director Marijn Poels and Rik Leemans: professor Environmental Systems Analysis (WUR) and IPCC scientist. Lilly Zeitler wrote a small recap of this event for us!
Climate change has become an issue that is ‘sign, sealed and delivered’ with little discussion in scientific circles as to whether its origins are anthropogenic or not. An oft-cited figure is that of 97% scientific consensus that climate change is man-made. But what about the other 3% asks documentary filmmaker Marijn Poels? As a self-proclaimed left-wing liberal, Marijn decided to listen and document their dissenting points of view with an open mind.
In fact, his journey began at his in-laws small village in Germany where farmers were affected by EU climate-energy policy, increasingly growing biofuels and neglecting traditional crops. From here, Marijn began a critical investigation into the politicisation of climate change.
OtherWise and Ruw are organisations dedicated to promoting critical thinking. As such, this film provided the perfect opportunity to rattle the scientific establishment with an outsiders’ critical view. And rattle it did.. In the heated discussion in the Q & A with the director that followed the film screening, Wageningen scientists were not amused that climate sceptics were given a platform and a voice. As a fellow viewer, I asked myself: Could it be that science itself is becoming so dogmatic it is not willing to listen to anyone that does not agree with conventional understandings? It certainly appeared so in the discussion, with some scientists not wanting to let anyone else speak or be heard.
In the discussion, Prof.dr. Rik Leemans said he would not recommend the film to his students. To which, a startled audience muttered in their seats. Indeed, why should Wageningen students not be exposed to radically different points of view from the scientific establishment? How would silencing this debate further critical thinking at WUR?
Perhaps climate change is not an issue that is as signed, sealed and delivered as we thought? Not if it still has the power to get under people’s skin. And not if scientists are so close-minded they are not willing to listen to opposing points of view in an open debate.
Of course climate change is a sensitive topic. And of course scientists dislike misrepresentation of scientific facts. However, freedom of speech remains a valuable tenet in western societies. To forsake this is no small matter. Perhaps it is not even climate change that is the issue, but the right to express one’s own voice no matter how dissenting and controversial it may be.
And isn’t silencing dissenting voices even more dangerous, since this will only strengthen them? If anything, the rise of right wing extremism in western Europe should have taught us that. Meanwhile, western Europe prides itself on its pluralistic societies. So then why not create space for all voices to be heard? And why not create this space both within science, as well as greater society?
Luckily, this event in its own small way could create such a space, even if it met with fierce opposition from some scientists. And the full house suggests that there is a demand for such spaces and interest in hearing unconventional standpoints. The next step will be listening to one another openly and respectfully, regardless of how much we may disagree.
All in all, this film screening gave everyone something to think about, be it climate change, the structure of the scientific establishment or the fundamental rights of our society. There was food for thought for everyone!