Over fifty people attended, the first Oregon State University (OSU) Climate Network World Café, on October 30, 2012 at del Alma restaurant in downtown Corvallis. Attendees included OSU researchers, professors, scholars, and students who are interested and professionally invested in climate change. The World Café was designed to encourage an interesting and often unexpected range of ideas and discussions from a diverse group of people through small group conversations. Participants followed an assigned schedule in which they sat in groups of about four participants and discussed a certain question. After fifteen minutes, each participant moved to another table to discuss another question with a different set of cohorts. See the list of questions and participants here.
The evening was designed to promote meaningful conversations across disciplines, establish relationships, and create future collaborations. Environmental ethicists talked with resource economists, climate change negotiators talked with biological scientists, and social scientists talked with writers, all of them in earnest discussion about advocacy, adaptation, sustainability, emerging needs, and inter-disciplinarity. One participant compared the gathering to “nerve connections, when they make a connection the strength of the brain grows—this event is a beginning for synapse-building.”
Regardless of the specific question, one thing was clear: climate change is a critical problem that supersedes disciplines and thus requires the combined resources, experiences, and wisdoms of all disciplines. This was especially relevant regarding communicating climate change. Over and over participants mentioned the importance of both communication and connections in delivering science to the public, communicating the public’s needs to scientists and policy makers, and in communicating one’s work across academic disciplines. This event was a step toward creating such connections, developing community, and furthering such communications.
The Climate Network World Café was sponsored by the Environmental Humanities Initiative (EHI) and Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI). The Café fits squarely into the mission of EHI, which is to bring humanities scholars and scientists into close collaboration. Whereas OCCRI focuses solely on scientific research on climate change, their goal for 2012-2013 is to deepen connections at OSU, including within the humanities.