Global citizens enacted democratic procedures on a planetary scale to address climate change.
The gap between policymakers and citizens is widening and our concerns are increasingly global. What can be done in the face of such a large threat as climate change, with its enormous and likely irreversible planetary consequences? Citizen advisors gathered in Boston in 2009 as part of World Wide Views to experiment with one possible model: the first planet-wide citizens’ deliberation in human history.
World Wide Views established sites in 38 countries, bringing together some 4,000 citizens from around the globe to bridge the widening democratic gap. Boston’s Museum of Science was selected as one of six U.S. locations, and with the support of Mass Humanities, invited a representative group of everyday people to deliberate about the issues at the core of the December 2009 UN negotiations on climate change. Armed with balanced expert information, much the same as was provided to UN delegates, they spent hours talking together in neutrally facilitated deliberations. At the end of the day, they voted on policy recommendations, and saw a striking alignment of principles despite varied and conflicting opinions at the outset.
Although World Wide Views on Global Warming dealt with an issue larger than any one nation, it answered many of the questions at the heart of our current theme, Negotiating the Social Contract. Is there such a thing as the “general welfare” or the “common good”? How does a member of a democratic society surmount the numerous barriers to participating in the negotiation of our social contract? How do we balance the rights of individuals with the obligation to mitigate environmental degradation and other social ills for future generations? World Wide Views experimented effectively with deliberative democracy, proving that thoughtful, committed citizens really can change the world.