Web roundup III: outrage, belief, monsoon assemblages and anthropocene as science fiction

So Much Is Happening - Politics, Publications, Blogs, Practical Tips - And This Roundup Provides A Selective Overview Of Exciting Human Climate-Change Developments.

Please email me at heid.jerstad@ed.ac.uk with finds/tips for the next roundup :)


Twitter has been humming with outrage at the recent Bret Stephens piece in the New York Times on climate change. I was inclined to be tolerant until I read it and wondered where the editor was/what the NYT is coming to (along with everyone else who had been commenting along these lines on twitter). Stephens compares climate science to election polls, intimating that if one can be wrong (i.e. Clinton was predicted victory in November 2016), then the other may as well be wrong also. This opens up for an interesting Science and Technology Studies style line of thought that perhaps glaciers and sea levels are making decisions as to whether to melt or rise based on TV debates - I’d be happy to publish a piece along these lines here. Perhaps the climatic equivalent of TV debates is in fact something else - whale song maybe, or fungal root connections - something scarce and perhaps the melt/rise is about an attempt to reinstate communications in a quietening world (re: Rachel Carson). Or perhaps Stephens just wasn’t paying attention to the lack of logical connections in his argument. 

Ryan Anderson’s piece in honour of Earth Day came before the NYT piece, but looks at these issues of doubt and belief in the context of US environmental politics where there are cuts to state departments related to these issues and the Department of Energy has been asked not to use the term climate change. Anderson questions the emphasis on evidence that some people respond to denialists with, referring to David Roberts at Vox, who says we shouldn’t be paying attention to beliefs but to actions. What is being enacted by the denial and what is being blocked or slowed down? He (Anderson) then returns to anthropology, saying we need to see how particular institutions become trustworthy in the first place, quoting Shirley Fiske (specifically her book chapter in Actions to Transformations) who said that we should be focusing on the problems we have in common rather than using science to alter beliefs and behaviours. We need to watch out for blaming supposedly ignorant others, he concludes. 

Some of these 'others' are taking the conversation to the communities and demographics where denialism is strongest. For Jerry Taylor, a climate-change-denier-turned-advocate, his relationship with the evidence over time shifted his views, and now he makes the case for climate change as hedging the risk to conservatives. Similarly, Katherine Hayhoe talks in this podcast about her work on how to talk to people with very different understandings about climate change, and compares the climate change question with the creationist issue in terms of similarities and differences. 

Susan Crate has been working on these issues for years (see for instance her piece on the bull of winter and her review piece on climate change work in anthropology), and recently wrote a piece called Storying Climate Change on the Anthropology News website about the human imminence of stories and the personal relationships people have with places as an important step in bringing climate change home to people. 


The University of Westminster has got a project called Monsoon Assemblages, where researchers will work on the monsoon and airs in Chennai and Delhi. I went to part of their Monsoon+airs workshop on the 21st of April, which was invigorating, with plenty of inspiring weather chat! And great papers: Stine Simonsen Puri on rain and wind bettors in Rajasthan, Harshavardhan Bhat on airs in Delhi, Hannah Swee on cyclones in northern Australia.


Speaking of conferences, the Swanson Bubandt and Tsing piece Anthropocene as science fiction and scholarship-in-the-making (open access), on anthropocene conferences is excellent - covering not only content but also thought heritage and theoretical approach and mood. I think this should be a regular item every few years (with rotating authorship) for people to fill in gaps and those who prefer not to fly around the world. 


Lastly, the Royal Anthropological Institute call for environmental anthropologists has led to a goodly database, now searchable by keyword (I tried weather, which only came up with five results, which was interesting). Highly recommended, and if you aren’t already on there, it’s worth considering.

What else is happening? Let me know at heid.jerstad@ed.ac.uk!