Navigating the language of Resilience

climate-communication-AGU_JPGLANGUAGE is something that has been a slight preoccupation of mine at this conference and is also a theme that has been raised during a number of the sessions as well.

On a personal level, I have tried to dust off my rusty capacity to function in German, linked to my part-German heritage. The various accents and languages mingling in the corridors over the past days are also music to my ears and a reminder of how much I enjoy such international gatherings.

On a professional level, we had both Spanish- and French-speaking partners presenting during the congress, and were lucky enough to work with ICLEI to arrange for simultaneous translation.  While on I feared the multilingual aspect of our sessions might be cumbersome, I also felt strongly about the importance of facilitating contributions from non-anglophone speakers and making spaces for them to share their experience and expertise. I think it was a success, so un gros merci et muchas gracias to the brilliant translators for their assistance!

On a more intellectual level, I was struck by how often we ended up in a discussion on how to talk about climate change. How to engage communities and/or policy makers on adaptation in a way that would prove productive, convincing, accessible, or as Cristobal Reveco put it, sexy?? In panel C2 on examples of researcher-practitioner collaboration, Nathalie Jean-Baptiste was frank and said that in order to have effective collaboration, researchers have to “change their language”. Her presentation was also refreshingly light on jargon and infused with passion as she compared the theory about “where the magic happens” in the science-policy interface, versus the messy, circuitous path to effective collaboration. Andrej Steiner evoked poignant metaphors and got me laughing with the stories he wove into his presentation. He noted the importance of intermediaries who can bridge between climatologists and practitioners and help provide a translation of sorts between highly scientific climate analysis and here-and-now concerns of city-level planners and decision-makers. The need to involve communication specialists in work on adaptation was raised by Dymphna Javier.

illo_weathermanAfter the sessions concluded, a few of us debated the value of an ever-evolving adaptation/resilience lexicon over drinks. Is it more useful to frame adaptation as Climate Compatible Development? Admittedly, this framing resonates with many of us working in developing country contexts. What of other catch-phrases that have emerged; Low Carbon Growth, Climate Proofing, Climate Smart Agriculture?? Conceptually of course they frame the issues in unique ways, but we couldn’t help wondering how this growing list of jargon may serve to confound those at the municipal/ community level who we’re trying to engage toward an ultimate aim of increased resilience????

The conversation will no doubt continue on this the last day of a very stimulating congress!!

Heidi Braun

Program Officer

Agriculture and Environment

International Development Research Center (IDRC)