by David Sittenfeld
On Saturday, September 26, groups of ordinary laypeople in over 40 countries around the world will deliberate and make recommendations in the first concurrent global citizen consultation on climate policy. This project, World Wide Views on Global Warming (WWViews) will provide public input for the upcoming December 2009 United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark. COP15 is a convention aimed to produce an international consensus on climate policy.
The Museum of Science, Boston is hosting one of the five U.S. deliberation sites for WWViews. The program is presented in collaboration by the Science Museum, the Brookfield Institute, and Boston University’s School of Environmental Health. To date, four main areas of work have been involved in bringing this event to fruition: fundraising, recruitment and selection of a diverse and representative group of participants, meeting logistics, and networking with policymakers, media, and other stakeholders to disseminate local and global results. Now that all the participants have been selected and planning for the events is nearly complete, Museum of Science, Boston is focused on plans to disseminate results in a way in which they will be heard. As a collaborative project between IGLO and WWViews, the Museum of Science, Boston and La Cité des Science in Paris will host a transatlantic conference between top climate policymakers from the European Union and the United States Government to share recommendations of WWViews participants and to consider how those results could impact negotiations in Copenhagen.
As the host of COP15, the Danish Board of Technology (DBT), with a long-standing history of including discussions and recommendations from the public in the formulation of public policy, is organizing conversations among laypeople to provide direct input to climate policymakers. This represents a new step in the public engagement work done by science centers around the world. Rather than focusing on public understanding of scientific principles, programs like WWViews engage the public in learning about, considering, and making informed recommendations on issues and policies that directly affect them. The importance of this work is being increasingly recognized in the informal education community. On June 19, 2008, delegates at the 5th Science Centre World Congress signed a declaration that proclaimed: We will actively seek out issues related to science and society where the voices of citizens should be heard and ensure that dialogue occurs.” WWViews is more than dialogue facilitation, it provides a well-informed and standardized method for the public to comment on one of the most pressing issues of our time.
David Sittenfeld is the regional project manager for WWViews-Massachusetts and manages the Museum’s Forum program, which engages citizens, scientists, and policymakers in deliberate conversations around emerging scientific and technological issues.