Enhancing Strategic Discourse Systematically Using Climate Metaphors


Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service

Widespread Comprehension of System Dynamics in Weather Patterns as a Resource

Prepared in anticipation of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Paris, 2015)


There is considerable familiarity with the dynamics of climate and weather through the seasons and in different locations. These provide a rich source of metaphor, widely shared, and frequently exploited as a means of communicating subtle insights into social phenomena, strategic options and any resistance to them.

It is however now difficult to claim any coherence to the strategic discourse on which humanity and global governance is held to be dependent. This is evident in the deprecation of one political faction by another, the exacerbation of conflictual perceptions by the media, the daily emergence of intractable crises, and the contradictory assertions of those claiming expertise in one arena or another. The dynamics have been caricatured as blame-gaming, as separately discussed (Blame game? It’s them not us ! 2015). These dynamics are reflected to a high degree in movements of public opinion, as increasingly enabled by social media.

Many dialogue and discourse techniques are enthusiastically proposed (as “models”) and applied — typically subject to some form of intellectual copyright or franchising arrangement. In practice, they seem to have been largely irrelevant to the vicious cycles of current crises, especially those on a larger scale (Middle East, climate change, refugees, endangered species, nuclear weapons, trafficking in persons, corruption, drugs, etc). Arguably, they have also been inadequate to the many virtual wars that have been declared (Review of the Range of Virtual Wars, 2005). Typical of discourse at every level of society — from the individual to the global — is both the degree of definitive assertion and the essential circularity of argument. Vicious cycles of violence and crisis would seem to be naturally reinforced by vicious cycles of fruitless argument.

Given the psychological engagement and familiarity with weather and climate phenomena, and their use as metaphors to describe social dynamics, the question here is whether the systemic integrity of the phenomena is suggestive of insights that could be adapted to strategic discourse. The inquiry is a development of earlier explorations (Climate of Change Misrepresented as Climate Change: insights from metaphorical confusion, 2008). Given the challenge of authoritative directives, and their seeming ineffectiveness globally, the case for using metaphor more systematically might also be made more fruitfully as an exercise in playfulness — even game-playing (Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005).

The approach takes account of the possibility that thinking regarding climate change holds a vital key to rethinking remedial response. Weather metaphors may prove a vital means of clarifying the “whether metaphors” of relevant strategic decision-making. The concern here is systemic, namely the means of enhancing recognition of the known interrelatedness of weather phenomena, as previously discussed (Correlating a Requisite Diversity of Metaphorical Patterns, 2015). That discussion explored both Psychosocial unease and cognitive weather and Crises framed by weather metaphors.

In seeking patterns of coherence, however, the latter also explored the significance of a classical Chinese system which interrelates patterns of change specifically with regard to their relevance to decision-making (Cognitive implication in a Chinese system articulated through weather-related metaphors, 2015). That system is extensively based on metaphor expressed in poetic form. These help to reframe the polarizing tendency — in debate emphasizing assertion or denial in its various manifestations — where a richer framework may be appropriate, favouring recognition of both or neither.

The following is therefore an exploration of ways of rethinking current approaches to argument mapping, debate graphing, decision mapping and discourse analysis. It notably takes account of emerging insights into use of force-directed graph drawing, as previously described (Eliciting Memorable Spheres and Polyhedra from Hyperspace: integrative connectivity of problems, strategies, themes, groups or people, 2015). Any such focus on “spheres” echoes the aspirations to elusive, integrative globality — whose “nature” might indeed be best understood through metaphors from nature. That focus on “polyhedra” transforms into three dimensions the current dysfunctional binary preoccupation with taking “sides” in any dispute (Us and Them: relating to challenging others, 2009). Beyond such “sidedness”, the question is whether there could be memorable visual articulations of systemic complexity as a powerful catalyst for richer forms of discourse (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts — for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).

Given that strategy is fundamentally concerned with the time dimension, the argument goes further by exploring how the variety with which engagement is required could be fruitfully mapped onto four-dimensional forms so extensively studied in mathematics and the physics of space-time .How does a global civilization navigate the adaptive cycle of resilience through time?

Is the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (Paris, 2015) to be understood solely in binary terms of rise/fall, hot/cold, agree/disagree, transparent/unsaid, or positive/negative? Will it only engender an unmemorable 700-page, 40 chapter “non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan” — as with the long-forgotten Agenda 21 (1992)?

The case for polyhedral game-playing in discourse is provocatively highlighted here by the intense popular global preoccupation with a spherical polyhedron, namely the truncated icosahedron. This is the stitching pattern of the memorable soccer football, and about which there is universal consensus, despite being marred by long-denied corruption. The recognized importance of “interplay” then merits adaptation to patterns of cognitive discourse — and the possibility of stitching them together otherwise, as separately argued (Global Brane Comprehension Enabling a Higher Dimensional Big Tent? 2011). It is in this spirit that the widely appreciated metaphor of Spaceship Earth is usefully challenged by the possibility of the design implications of Timeship Earth — if civilization is indeed to travel viably into the future.

Continue reading the paper in the Original – laetusinpraesens.org


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Aug 2015.

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