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Learn to listen beyond barriers

A black marble-stepped stairway made a 180-degree rising arc up to the second floor of the Renaissance Centre in the arrondissement of Anjou in the east end of Montreal.

A black marble-stepped stairway made a 180-degree rising arc up to the second floor of the Renaissance Centre in the arrondissement of Anjou in the east end of Montreal. A blue tiled wall of water dropping five metres into a fountain pool accompanies the climb up.

Three large halls with names like Botticelli occupy the majority of the upper space. A common coffee bar backs on a glass wall which rises up to meet a skylight giving the whole common area an atrium effect.

Halls like the Renaissance Centre dot the east end of Montreal radiating outward from the Italian heartland of St. Leonard. Their main use seems to be hosting wedding receptions. The opulent interiors usually give way to exterior acres of asphalt parking lots, power lines, factories and other light industrial uses. The surroundings of these community halls seem to be in dramatic juxtaposition with the spectacles they host every week.

Every summer for the last five years Eva deGosztonyi, my wife, has organized week long seminars by Dr. Gordon Neufeld in Montreal for psychologists, teachers, social workers and others working with children. As a clinical psychologist Neufeld is well known to Yukoners. He is a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm from an attachment theory perspective.

Participants came to the Renaissance Centre from as far away as Mexico City and Teslin for Neufeld’s Level Two Intensive Seminar entitled Challenging Childhood Problems. (Teslin by the way is almost 2000 kilometres further away from Montreal by road than Mexico City!) Extra hands are always appreciated to pull off such a major event so I was dragooned by my spouse to assist with sundry tasks from setting up the lights for the videotaping of the seminar to shuttling participants to and from the nearest Metro.

In his opening remarks Dr. Neufeld reminded participants that there were three dominant approaches to child psychology: developmental, behavioral and medical. From his developmental perspective, a key variable in all human psychological problems is separation; the facing of the loss of proximity with those to whom the child is attached. Difficulties can also arise from simply the fear of the loss of attachment rather than being actually deprived of contact.

At the same time Dr. Neufeld lectured at the Renaissance Centre more than 1,500 world scientists were gathered at the Montreal’s Palais des Congres downtown for the Our Warming Planet MOCA-09 conference. Members of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans, the International Association for the Cryospheric Sciences and the The International Association for Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences listened to fellow experts present papers at symposia on topics such as Observations of High Latitude Climate Change and Polar Regional Weather and Climate Modelling (and Global Relevancy).

Oceanographers, glaciologist and climatologists, among other researchers, by meeting together is hoped will “get stimulated to attack climate problems with a fresh perspective” according to their conference package. What if Dr. Neufeld had addressed their conference and climate specialists had talked to the gathering at the Renaissance Centre? How would they have informed each others’ concerns?

Would Dr. Neufeld have pointed the MOCA-09 conferees towards the need to foster a greater sense of ‘attachment’ to our physical environment? Would he have noted that our separation from a nurturing relationship with the planet Earth lies at the root of our self-destructive behaviours?

Would the environmental scientists have told child development professionals that growing anxiety about the path of mutually assured environmental destruction we are on could be in great part allayed in children if they see their parents protecting them by being actively engaged in the search for solutions to our eco-problems?

From climate change to the development of a child, the pursuit of solutions to macro and micro challenges can inform each other. The continuum of responses needed to create a just, sustainable world for our children and their children must expand and expand rapidly. Learning to listen well beyond the normally accepted barriers of academic disciplines, cultural or geographic boundaries is essential.

Observations The International Association for Meteorology and Atmospheric High Latitude Climate Chan

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact

Namaste notes

Saturday, August 1 - Lammas is a Christian celebration of the first fruits of the harvest. This Celtic Christian tradition has syncretic roots in the more ancient pre-Christian Lughnasadh.

Sunday, August 2 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Suggested reading John 6:24-35.

Wednesday, August 5 - Raksha Bandhan is the Hindu festival honoring the family ties between brothers and sister.

Wednesday, August 5 - Lailat al Bara’ah, the Islamic Night of Forgiveness marks preparation for Ramadan through intense prayer to Allah for forgiveness of the dead.

Thursday, August 6 - An atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in 1945 killing as many as 80,000 mainly civilians.