"Why do the poor continue to stay poor?"

Keynote Discussion Round

This is arguably the most important part of any public presentation – the opportunity for the audience to engage, comment, and challenge the speakers.

Keynote discussion round

The comment that really stuck out to me from the audience was an attendee from Ghana, who countered the optimism of the presenters by asking “Why do the poor continue to stay poor?”. This is obviously a tough question to try and answer, as no single person or country is responsible for this continued global injustice.

Another comment from the crowd stated that “solidarity has come a little late…but is still welcome”. This is an important reminder that there may still be some resentment circulating between the North and South concerning any possible exploitation or injustice that citizens of developing countries may have experienced.

An attendee from Nigeria also spoke out, asking the keynote presenters how they would go about convincing someone in a developing country to try and conserve resources “when that person does not have enough of that resource to begin with”. This is a fair point, because it is very easy for someone from a developed country, rich in comfort and resources, to be pushing conservation strategies.

I think the presenters tried their best to answer these questions, but they are honestly so complex and unanswerable, that how could a single person ever hope to satisfy the asker?

Michael Hauser also made a provoking observation: “What is really new about what we are talking about? What is being presented today that wasn’t here 20 or 30 years ago? Is it enough for research questions to simply be repeated?”. This was humbling to emotionally process, because, as David Molden said earlier in his presentation, “it’s not the mountain communities that are making glaciers melt, it’s us, it’s me, buying plane tickets to attend events like this”. We have a responsibility as the fortunate attendees of this conference, to make the most of our privilege, education, and opportunities.


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