From Fake News to Climate Crisis: Whom Do We Trust 2019


It’s been a bit more than a year since I last wrote on these pages, as the Whom Do You Trust 2018 conference was wrapping up. But it seems to be a different era.

Catherine the Great, other Czars and Czarinas, adorn the walls of Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University


Every night now, the temperature dips close to freezing. We Americans are over the shock of saying the words “President Trump,” but newly amazed that we could breeze into Russia with no more than the usual airport hassles - the filling out of poorly copied forms with nearly indecipherable questions, the snarling security guards - seem to have evaporated in one year’s time. The organizers are the same, Americans from Track Two and Esalen Institute, and Russians from Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University, an older crowd glad to see each other again. But most of the early 20-something students, 25 Russians and 19 Americans, are new to our gathering.

Dulce Murphy (President and Found of Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy) and Dr. Valerii M. Monakhov (Associate Professor, Chairperson. Founder and originator of the first Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Russia )

And our themes are new. Still peering at the present and the future through the lens of trust, while casting a wary eye at the effects of media on our souls and psyches, we focus this year on topics the students have identified as dangerous: climate and environment; migration and immigration; nuclear proliferation; and cyber threats. In the coming days I will be offering a few highlights of the events and the people, including short videos (hopefully!) of interviews with the wise ones, young and old...


Our host Dr. Valeriy M. Monakhov, Associate Professor, Chairperson, Founder and originator of the first Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Russia, said in his kick-off speech, “our capacity for reason is now challenged,” as he pointed to a book named “Liquid Reality.” True, but among these scholars and students, most of whom are fluent in English and Russian, accord is easy to find on at least one reality: climate change is real.

"People do even what you think is impossible"

With no one dissenting, Masha Vorontsova of the International Fund for Animal Welfare was able to give the gathered group some tips on how to accomplish big goals. “People do even what you think is impossible,” she commented. Using her successful campaign to ban the clubbing of baby Harp Seals as a guide, she advised us to “find the target who can make it happen,” and then be 100% prepared to go for it. With social networks, memes, stickers and tee-shirts all in pl