Camden Conference in the World-April 2020
Although everything before the coronavirus is now labeled BC and seems like ancient history, 2020 Camden Conference speaker Jason Rezaian has built a strong bridge across the BC-AC (after coronavirus) divide: “I survived solitary confinement. You can survive self-isolating,” is the headline for a Washington Post column in which Rezaian harks back to the confinement in an Iranian prison that he described at our conference to provide suggestions for getting through this period of near- or total confinement for so many. You should limit your time online, read books, exercise, plan for the future and, most importantly, “find as much as you can to laugh about each day. I promise you there are opportunities all around you. If I could find them in solitary confinement, you can find them in your living room.”
Another 2020 speaker, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, has leapt from her Camden Conference focus on misinformation about elections to misinformation – or rather needed information — on the disease that now consumes our attention. Jamieson, who earlier did research on public perceptions of the Zika virus, argues that with serious diseases, debunking myths and parsing the accuracy of every statement is not the most important thing. “Right now, it doesn’t matter if people aren’t 100% accurate about everything that has to do with Covid, but we do need people to engage in the protective behaviors to minimize the spread,” she told Inside Science.
The coronavirus has nonetheless moved to the top of the list of concerns for the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is providing “physical, digital, and psychosocial safety advice” to journalists in this unprecedented crisis. “Every journalist is a coronavirus journalist, and we need to make sure that governments allow reporters to do their work safely and without fear of reprisal during this public health crisis,” says CPJ Advocacy Director and 2020 Camden Conference speaker Courtney Radsch.
Proving Radsch’s point about all journalists being coronavirus journalists, Camden Conference alumni Cas Mudde from 2017 and Natalie Nougayrède from 2018 have joined the debate on the topic in the pages of The Guardian. Mudde takes issue with use of the word “war” to describe global efforts to contain the fast-spreading virus and the frequent liberal contention that this societal crisis could slow or even halt the spread of populism. Nougayrède, a convinced Europeanist, proposes “a Europe-wide citizens’ online campaign for solidarity in the age of the coronavirus” as a means to help immunize people across Europe against “the nasty undercurrents of nationalism that are lurking under the surface.”
Some are taking a more local approach. Amid the closures and transport disruptions that mark the moment, people are looking increasingly to local agriculture to compensate for feared shortages in the months to come. Beloved 2014 Camden Conference keynoter Fred Kirschenmann provided a hopeful view of the outlook for “regenerative agriculture” – even while reminding us of the dangers of climate change – just before the crisis grabbed the spotlight from these arguable related and equally important global issues.