It was different largely because, unlike other gatherings focused on science and innovation, this was “a true hybrid forum” – bringing together people from a range of disciplines and cultural backgrounds.
Sir Peter, the chief science advisor to the prime minister, decried the “provincial thinking” that saw New Zealand too often “celebrate more people who leave New Zealand and succeed than those who stay in NZ and succeed”.
Those who did go overseas, he said, found, in business at least, that “our biggest asset in the world is we’re corruption free, we have high levels of integrity [across the gamut] … That integrity is our biggest asset in the world of business.”
And the same idea of of integrity needs also to pervade the doing of science, he said.
Much of the discussion at the forum had been about trade-offs – even if they weren’t always decribed that way.
“They are often portrayed as binary,” he said. “Actually it’s much more complex than that … Looking for optimal solutions for multiple demands – when the settings on any one priority affects the others … finding the best compromises, the best balance, the best trade-offs – whichever words you want to use – between competing demands.”
The political truth was that “big bang” change was unlikely; instead we need to work out how to develop “more adaptive processes” and a kind of “rapid incrementalism”.
“Connectedness and conversation remains at the heart of the challenge,” said Peter, before urging delegates to use the tools of participative democracy rather than expecting that it would be done on their behalf. Write to MPS. Email them. Lobby them. “It works … they respond.”
His conclusion: We have to “use science, intellectualism, scholarship, the humanities, far better than we have to advance NZ … and we need to be collective, and not reply on a few people to effect that change.”
But the final words of the Transit of Venus Forum went, of course they did, to the man who dreamt the whole thing up: Sir Paul Callaghan.
In clips from footage taken by Gaylene Preston before his death (well, obviously), Sir Paul reminded us of “the metaphor of the transit of Venus as a point to take stock, as a waypoint on a journey”.
“We have to take charge of our future,” he said. “We have no choice. If we are to survive we must do that.”
Love – it’s really why we’re here … There is a love that exists in humankind, it drives us forward, it gives us hope for the future … The idea that humanity might not survive to retain such ideas as love is unimaginable. Love surpasses all understanding … and that is the ultimate aim of humanity.