Text negotiation for non-practitioners
I found it quite hard to explain to my wife why a single sentence (successfully inserted in the text by the way!) will cause under-fed, caffeinated and fatigued FESers at the Rio+20 conference. On the way to Rio I thought on how best to explain the roadmap of having an idea and keeping it on the final declaration, so my shot at this was to use something familiar to her, the salsa garden we planted this spring.
It is easy to visualize the life cycle of a salsa garden; all you need is tomatoes, cilantro, onions and peppers. For explanation purposes I’ll only address three stages needed to grow your own salsa. First, going to the supermarket to buy the works; second, planting the seeds in the right pot; and third taking care of the seedlings to be able to prepare our home made salsa in a few weeks.
At the supermarket we encountered so many options of products regarding soil, fertilizers, pot sizes and materials, that to trying to understand our options we got overwhelmed. All of them came with bright messages regarding the benefit of the use of the product. To be honest, encountering so many “essential” options for growing your salsa garden was overwhelming.
The second information load came from the wide options for plant pots. We could get pots made out of plastic, or natural fibers or clay. In the end pots are just a vehicle to allow us for growing our salsa garden, right? So for the ultimate goal, does it really make such a difference? Needless to quantify the amount of time we spent arguing about the best-suited option for the planting the seeds.
At last, we needed to come up with a plan to take care of our seedlings whence sprouts showed up. Should we keep records of who waters the plants, and how often? Or should we just trust that either one of us will take care of the plants. Should they be at the window or inside?
In the end, we spent so much time arguing about such matters that perhaps we were missing the point. I say this because what we should really had argued about was the needs of the plants we were growing. For example, the water needs, the nutrients, the soil, and the sunlight, among other things plants we wanted needed to grow.
With this example, I tried to explain to her the life cycle of our simple text proposal for the Rio+20 negotiation text. At this point, the discussions are trying to decide every single detail that accompanies the goal of having the best homegrown salsa. The challenge is that there are so many different kinds that making your mind on which recipe and then on the process of getting it to your table takes a huge effort. So this is why deciding on a single sentence takes much time, just picture the whole text!