Professor Neville Morley, from the University of Exeter, is working to show how the ideas of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides can help people understand war, politics and power.

Ancient Greek wisdom brought to COP26 to help improve climate change decision-making

Ancient Greek understanding of how people think will be available at the COP26 conference to help organisations make better decisions to tackle the global climate emergency.

An immersive experience drawing on Thucydides’ ideas about power, justice and negotiation is part of the official programme of events running alongside COP26, the so-called Green Zone. It is designed to help participants think about processes of debate and decision-making.

The COP 26 Green Zone will be home to more than 200 events hosted by youth groups, civil society, academia, artists, and businesses from across the UK and all over the world to listen, learn and celebrate climate action.

Professor Neville Morley, from the University of Exeter, is working to show how the ideas of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides can help people understand war, politics and power. His research highlights how Thucydides hoped to show the world is always complex and difficult.

Professor Morley is leading an AHRC-funded project to explore the dramatic potential of Thucydides' famous Melian Dialogue, normally read as a justification of ‘might is right’, and how this can help us better understand the dynamics of power, justice and negotiation. He has been working in collaboration with two theatre groups, Arch 468 and Fast Familiar, to develop and stage multiple versions of the Dialogue, and then to turn it into an interactive experience.

Professor Morley said: “We are really excited to be a part of COP26. We have worked hard to create something which offers a novel, engaging and thought-provoking way of considering climate change issues and the way we respond to them. We hope our immersive experience will be used by individuals, companies and public bodies as they engage with the climate crisis, and with change and uncertainty more generally.

“It might seem unusual to use ideas and writings from thousands of years ago to solve issues facing our society, but these lessons can really help companies today. This activity will help managers to think closely about their decision-making processes, and how to better highlight issues around risks and uncertainty. It will assist them as they navigate an uncertain world.”

The immersive experience created by Fast Familiar contains a blend of interactive discussion and digital ‘storytelling’. A small group of participants take on the role of an advisory board to a North American ski conglomerate. Carefully crafted video ‘testimonies’ draw the audience into the scenario, equipping them with knowledge about the company - which, like all winter leisure providers, is severely affected by our changing climate. The participants review information given to them via pre-recorded video and reading material, and make decisions to safeguard the future of their fictional company. The activity’s bespoke control system alters the trajectory of the scenario in real time, in response to participant decisions. In a world full of uncertainty and competing values, how will they know the right thing to do?

The performance will be running twice on Friday 12th November for anyone who would like to participate at the Green Zone at the Glasgow Science Centre.

Date: 4 October 2021

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