Stephan Matthiesen

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End of Species - 18-25 August 2014

"End of species" is a monologue by Australian artist Richard Pettifer, arranged by ASCUS, the art-science collaborative, every day from 18th to 25th August 2014 at 8pm in Summerhall, interweaving his journey over land from Australia to Germany with Charles Darwin's famous journey. After the monologue, Richard had a "fireside chat" with a climate scientist - that was me.

Richard interviewed me about my thoughts about his monologue, climate change and the future of the world, and intense debates developed between us and members of the audience, covering everything from commemorating World War 1 (when the world slid into a disaster when society failed to understand new kinds of risks in a changing world) to the war in Syria (where one of the contributing factors to collapse was a long drought).

I probably learned more from the fireside chats with Richard and with the audience than they learned from me. Each evening Richard focussed on new topics and asked spontaneous questions, sometimes from angles different from where scientists would come from, leading to genuine debates and much food for future thoughts for all of us. The open, unscripted format allowed it to develop differently each evening, depending on the members of the audience and our own thoughts at the time.

It was our little contribution to try to break the boundaries between science, art and politics in an open, participatory way.

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