During the week of 11th of April 2019, I had the luck to be able to attend the Spring World Bank / International Monetary Fund meetings as guest, due to a well-placed letter from the head of GWU’s economics department.
The actual meetings were dry, with topics having names such as Illuminating Economic Growth: Tapping Big Data to Improve Growth Information or Boosting Growth through Diversity in Financial Leadership. Dry, but understandable because the broad audience the spring meetings attracts ensures jargon has to be understood by different groups. The trouble with this is, the sense that one is living in a bubble is very tangible the entire time. One gets the sense that the status quo is not being contested very much here, or that current politics is influencing decision making.
This ranges from talks on East Asian development ignoring the growing Sino-American conflict, to a talk on automation that was definitely not given by someone versed in machine learning or tech policy in general. I also got to hear an amusing rant from somebody in the fin-tech field saying the fin-tech academics of the World Bank were always repeating themselves.
Only the David Attenbourgh talk felt as if the outside world had an actual influence.
On the 11th, Christine Lagarde and David Attenbourgh had a one and one talk in IMF HQ1 on climate change and what people should do about it. His take was rather optimistic, and one that I agree with. He stated that if man created this problem, man can solve this problem, and that we have done this before. He mentions the end of whaling and the restoration of whale populations across the ocean as an example of this.
David Attenbourgh after the talk began to live narrate some of the scenes from his latest documentary, Our Planet. In one particular scene, he narrates the plight of some walruses on the Arctic Sea, huddling on an Arctic island because their traditional ice floes have disappeared. The first sight of seeing those walruses trample each other was sad, but not the event that broke the crowed. In the 2nd half, he narrates a scene where several walruses begin to climb up a cliff for space to rest. He then proceeded to narrate the tragic end, which is the walruses falling of the cliffs, to their deaths.
The entire audience gasped in utter shock when this was presented. The look of pure horror was present in everyone’s face in the room as he narrates the bounces and various movement that the walruses make as they plummet.
It says a lot how people sympathize with things as for all the talk on various development goals, or how Nigeria, the DRC, India, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia have 50% of the world poorest population, it took walruses falling off cliffs to get an actual emotional response.
This response to climate change feels understandable however. The day before, a article in the Financial Times Extinction Rebellion: inside the new climate resistance talked about the climate protest movement in the United Kingdom called Extinction Rebellion which is protesting climate change in the United Kingdom. While the Extinction Rebellion and IMF set don’t have much overlap, at least for both parties, climate change and its consequences have provoked an emotional response.
The meetings were interesting to attend overall, and I was happy I was able to go. However, it felt disappointing that the entire place had the scent of ignoring the actual conditions of the world.