CASCADING DEBATE AT THE SCIENCE GALLERY BENGALURU

BRIEF OVERVIEW

These Cascading Debates, consisting of two events on 14th and 16th of July 2022 were hosted by the Science Gallery Bengaluru, India. Being part of the global Youth Symposium organized by Science Gallery International, the first event revolved around a truly hot question: What might earth look like in 30 years if we continue living the way we do right now? The second event was a part of Art and Industry, a program funded by the British Council. It focused on the coal industry and its contradictions between modernity, prosperity and environmental degradation in Jharkhand, the region with the largest coal reserves in India.

The multiple recommendations for action resulting from these debates will be further discussed at the Planetary Health Plenary Table at the Falling Walls Science Summit 2022 and included in the Cascading Debates report to be launched in the beginning of 2023.

CONTEXT

With the Earth 2052: Hot or Not debate, the Science Gallery in Bengaluru addressed the effects of climate change in a 90-minute talk. These effects are experienced all around the world today, highlighting the urgency to change the situation. The workshop by the Xperimenters at Science Gallery Bengaluru displayed and discussed a rather speculative visions of the Earth in 2052, as conceptualised by young adults in India. These visual depictions thus served to be facing the present and finding ways in which the year 2052 might not be characterized exclusively by the destruction of nature and global warming.

The Black Coal / White Cube debate then discussed a global problem at a regional level, taking a closer look at India’s main coal mining area, Jharkhand. Coal, that combustible black rock brought up from the depths of the planet to generate energy, is fraught with the greatest contradictions in Jharkhand: On the one hand, the region with India’s largest coal reserves has rapidly modernized and industrialized through mining, and the mines promised prosperity and employment opportunities. On the other hand, coal mining irreversibly damaged the environment.

PROCESS

The workshops gathered several participants from students to experts. The debate dealing with the Earth 2052-topic took 90 minutes and has taken place completely digital. Whereas the Black coal / White Cube-event was an one-hour-workshop, which was held in the Bangalore International Centre.

After a brief introduction, the Cascading Debate on Earth 2052: Hot or Not immediately went into medias res: As we experience the effects of climate change all around the world, the situation does not tolerate any delay. Thus, the 90-minute workshop by the Xperimenters at Science Gallery Bengaluru displayed speculative visions of the Earth in 2052, as conceptualised by young adults in India: Arjun Yadav, for instance is a communication designer with a keen passion for human-computer interaction (HCI); Jyotsna Iyer, a student of political science working as data journalist; Samyukta Prabhu, a MBA student who worked for health start-ups; Snehaja Venkatesh, a young chemist interested in building bridges between science and public.

The second event, Black Coal / White Cube also featured young voices of scientists and artists living in India. Arnika Ahldag, Ronny Sen, Dhiraj Kumar Nite and Shanthamani Muddaiah as speakers and Shrabonti Bagchi as moderator made this event an interesting collaboration between a curator, a writer, a social scientist and artists. It shed light on the confluence between art and the mining industry. Moreover, the event highlighted the need to open and support spaces outside the mainstream system – especially in India, where such alternative spaces are rare, as participants emphasized in their feedback on the event.

Many of the questions raised during the event Earth 2052: Hot or Not revolved around a collective sense of hopelessness about climate change. It was therefore less about how climate change could still be stopped, and more about how to initially deal with this feeling of powerlessness, as despite the hybrid format and digital participants, most of the people in the workshop were young persons from Bangalore. The event underlined the necessity to create spaces to openly discuss the intersections of mental health and climate change.

The workshop Black Coal / White Cube combined the topics coal, capital and catastrophe with the need for artistic output. The discussion encouraged bringing art and activism closer together and underlined the power of art to document problematic connections of business with mining and environmental destruction in a relevant way – for researchers, historians and the broader public alike.

DEBRIEFING & FEEDBACK

The workshops held at the Science Gallery Bengaluru attracted overtly young participants from India, who appreciated a forum for their questions on the past and the future. The combination of science and art was also very positively received.

Nevertheless, also some critical voices were heard, as some participants were frustrated on behalf of the young adults in the audience and stressed that regarding the year 2052, the responsibility for combating climate change must by no means rest solely on the young shoulders, but that a change of mindset must occur among everybody in every place, especially among older generations.

ABOUT SCIENCE GALLERY BENGALURU

Science Gallery Bengaluru (SGB) is a non-profit public institution for research-based engagement targeted at young adults. SGB works at the interface between the natural and human sciences, engineering and the arts through a Public Lab Complex, ever-changing exhibitions, and mentorship programs in India’s third largest city.

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