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Acknowledgement of context

By Matt Wicking

07 March 2016

Acknowledgement

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the context within which we gather. We meet at a time when the human species is having an unprecedented impact on the planet.

We do this at the beginning of this gathering as a reminder that the discussions we have here, the decisions we make and any actions we take as a result will have consequences for other people and other species – both those living now as well as future generations.

Some notes from Matt on the acknowledgement:

I use this acknowledgement (or a version of it) at most formal gatherings I host or MC. It is intended to follow on from an Acknowledgement of Country.

It’s important to note that it shouldn’t supercede or diminish the significant importance of an Acknowledgement of Country. Ultimately it would complement that messaging and can be connected to it. After all, we are all connected beyond culture and creed in our human-ness and our reliance on the more-than-human-world for our survival and prosperity.

The intent of this acknowledgement is to situate a gathering in time and to bring the future (and present) reality of our environmental predicament into the room. It purposely doesn’t mention the word ‘environment’, though, so as not to falsely separate ourselves from the more-than-human world of which we are an inextricable part.

It’s short and is intended to be flexible. It’s a basis for people to work with. While it doesn’t include explicit mention of biodiversity loss, or climate change, ocean acidification, land-use, human population growth, technology or urbanisation (for example), statements of fact on any of those topics can be included as desired to adapt it to a particular audience or context – suggested between paragraph 1 and 2. Some additional ideas that I incorporate include:
The human population is now over 7.3 billion people and growing, with over half now living in cities around the world we’re beginning to see the dramatic consequences of human induced climate change and resource scarcity. We are living through Earth’s sixth great extinction event, witnessing a dramatic loss of diversity of both other species and human cultures

Inequality is growing, with the 80 wealthiest people now controlling more wealth than the poorest 3 billion
I came up with the idea for an Acknowledgement of Context in 2014 and workshopped it with a group at a TippingPoint Australia forum. I’m open to people taking it and using it as they will and am interested in feedback.

Ultimately, I love the idea of conferences and AGMs, gatherings and meetings beginning with an acknowledgement like this that provides an important empathetic reminder of the big picture, the long term and our interconnectedness with each other (including other species). I believe these things are crucial ingredients for sensible discussion and responsible decision-making to take place.

 

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Matt Wicking is a creative force for change. Facilitator, singer, freelance environmentalist and sustainability leader, he’s worked with people in all sectors – business, government, the arts, education and more – helping to make good stuff happen. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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