How Can We Move to Low-carbon Research at Carleton?
Moderated by Marie-Odile Junker (Linguistics and Language Studies)
Aviation has a disproportionately large impact on the climate system. Since 1990, CO2 emissions from international aviation have increased 83 per cent and there is no formal plan to reduce aviation emissions. Academic researchers are among the highest emitters, as a result of emissions from flying to conferences, project meetings, and fieldwork.
Questions for Discussion:
What are the forces that make us fly?
What incentives might make us fly less?
How can we address these issues at Carleton and encourage a low-carbon culture at the university?
We will examine some initiatives existing elsewhere and discuss possible initiatives for us at Carleton University.
You shouldn’t ‘teach the controversy’ about something that shouldn’t be controversial
December 18, 2016 12:00 AM
By Jonathan Zimmerman
According to a 2014 survey, half of people in the world haven’t heard of the Holocaust. Among the other half, about one- third don’t believe it actually happened. They think it’s a lie or a hoax, spread by Jews and their allies to promote pro-Israel sentiment and other political agendas.
And since there’s such wide disagreement on whether there was a Holocaust, we should debate the question in our schools. Right?
Wrong. Although there are lots of Holocaust deniers out there, the best-informed people know that it happened. We shouldn’t pretend that there’s a real debate about it, which gives the deniers more credence than they deserve.
And that brings us to climate change and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. In an article published earlier this year, Mr. Pruitt maintained that human-made climate change should be presented as a question rather than a fact.
“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Mr. Pruitt wrote. “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress.”
Mr. Pruitt is correct about the extent of climate change, which scientists continue to debate. But there is no debate about whether it’s connected to human behavior. Questioning that premise is akin to questioning whether the Holocaust happened, because almost all credible expertise lies on one side. It’s not — or shouldn’t be — a question at all.
As Mr. Pruitt surely knows, more than 97 percent of climate researchers agree that humans are causing a rapid escalation of global warming. They don’t understand every dimension of it, because that’s how knowledge works. There are lots of things we don’t know about the Holocaust, either.
But nearly every credentialed expert on Earth asserts that people have contributed to warming it. And that consensus is as strong as historians’ agreement that millions of Jews were systematically murdered during the Second World War.
I’m not suggesting that Mr. Pruitt is as odious as the bigots and anti-Semites who continue to deny the Holocaust. But he does have something in common with them: a willful confusion of fact and opinion. A fact is a settled matter, about which informed people agree; an opinion is a matter of judgment, about which informed people disagree.
The distinction lies at the heart of the recent movie “Denial,” starring Rachel Weisz as Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt. The movie focuses on Ms. Lipstadt’s battle to expose the lies of David Irving, the best-known Holocaust denier of our time. But as Ms. Lipstadt confirmed in a recent interview, it’s about much more than that.
“If it has a takeaway, I would say it is [that] there are not two sides to every issue,” Ms. Lipstadt said. “Certain things are facts not to be debated. Slavery happened. The Earth is round. The ice caps are melting.”
And the ice caps are melting, of course, because human beings have warmed the Earth. We can and must debate what to do about that. Should we reduce our carbon footprint? How? And who should absorb the costs of doing so? But we can’t address these urgent questions unless we accept the premise of human-made climate change itself.
Ditto for the Holocaust, which also has raised hugely important questions. Why did it occur? Who should be held responsible? What can we do to prevent other genocides? Reasonable people will disagree in their answers. But we can’t have an honest discussion about them unless we acknowledge that the Holocaust happened.
And if we sow doubt about it, especially in our schools, we assault the idea of truth itself. That’s what teachers in Rialto, Calif., did in 2014, when they gave students pages from a Holocaust denial website as one of three allegedly “credible sources” on the subject. Students were then instructed to write an essay evaluating whether the Holocaust “was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme to influence public emotion and gain.”
Not surprisingly, given the sources they received, some students concluded that it never occurred. “They would have had to have killed 187 people an hour in order to kill 6 million people,” one student wrote. “Therefore, it is impossible.” Even more alarmingly, another student described the Holocaust as “a profitable hoax made by the Jews to obtain land, money and power.”
The school district eventually apologized for the assignment, which gave authority to a lie by questioning a fact. And that’s precisely what Scott Pruitt, by asking whether humans contributed to climate change, wants our teachers to do.
He’s not alone, of course. Just as tobacco companies tried to undermine the scientific consensus on cigarettes and lung cancer with specious “debates” about it, so have Mr. Pruitt’s allies in the energy industry sponsored nationwide campaigns to challenge accepted science on human-made climate change. And it’s working. According to a survey of science teachers published in February, nearly one-third “teach the controversy” by telling students that the question remains open.
That’s a lie, too, and we do our students a huge disservice when we pretend otherwise.
As Deborah Lipstadt reminds us, there are not two sides to every issue. The Holocaust really happened. The Earth is round. And the icecaps are melting.
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania and is the co-author, with Emily Robertson, of “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools.”
President-elect Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and a “Chinese hoax.” He has promised to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate treaty and to “bring back coal,” the world’s dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuel. The incoming administration has paraded a roster of climate change deniers for top jobs. On Dec. 13, Trump named former Texas Governor Rick Perry, another climate change denier, to lead the Department of Energy (DoE), an agency Perry said he would eliminate altogether during his 2011 presidential campaign.
Just days earlier, the Trump transition team presented the DoE with a 74-point questionnaire that has raised alarm among employees because the questions appear to target people whose work is related to climate change.
For me, as a historian of science and technology, the questionnaire – bluntly characterized by one DoE official as a “hit list” – is starkly reminiscent of the worst excesses of ideology-driven science, seen everywhere from the U.S. Red Scare of the 1950s to the Soviet and Nazi regimes of the 1930s.
The questionnaire asks for a list of “all DoE employees or contractors” who attended the annual Conferences of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – a binding treaty commitment of the U.S., signed by George H. W. Bush in 1992. Another question seeks the names of all employees involved in meetings of the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon, responsible for technical guidance quantifying the economic benefits of avoided climate change.
It also targets the scientific staff of DoE’s national laboratories. It requests lists of all professional societies scientists belong to, all their publications, all websites they maintain or contribute to, and “all other positions… paid and unpaid,” which they may hold. These requests, too, are likely aimed at climate scientists, since most of the national labs conduct research related to climate change, including climate modeling, data analysis and data storage.
On Dec. 13, a DoE spokesperson told the Washington Post the agency will not provide individual names to the transition team, saying “We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department.”
Energy’s interest in climate
Why does the Department of Energy conduct research on climate change? A better question might be: How could any Department of Energy fail to address climate change?
Established in the 1940s under the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the US national labs’ original assignment was simple: Design, build and test nuclear weapons and atomic energy. Since nuclear bombs create deadly fallout and reactor accidents can release radiation into the air, weather forecasting and climate knowledge were integral to that mission. Therefore, some labs immediately began building internal expertise in “nuclear meteorology.”
When high-flying supersonic transport aircraft were proposed in the late 1960s, the labs used climate models to analyze how their exhaust gases might affect the stratosphere. In the 1970s, the labs applied weather and climate simulations developed for nuclear weapons work to analyze urban smog and the global effects of volcanic eruptions. Later, the labs investigated whether nuclear war might cause dangerous climatic effects, such as catastrophic ozone depletion or “nuclear winter.”
The Trump questionnaire harks back to the McCarthyist “red scare” of the early 1950s, when congressional committees and the FBI hounded eminent scientists accused of communist leanings.
A principal target of suspicion then was J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who led the Los Alamos atomic bomb project, but later opposed nuclear proliferation. Oppenheimer chaired the General Advisory Committee to the AEC, direct ancestor to the DoE – and saw his security clearance unjustly revoked following humiliating hearings by that same AEC in 1954.
Many other physicists were also “repeatedly subjected to illegal surveillance by the FBI, paraded in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, charged time and again… with being the ‘weakest links’ in national security, and widely considered to be more inherently susceptible to communist propaganda than any other group of scientists or academics,” according to a history by author David Kaiser, on suspicions of atomic scientists in the early days of the Cold War.
Another Red Scare target was John Mauchly, a chief designer of the first American electronic digital computers and a founder of the computer company UNIVAC. Mauchly was investigated by the FBI and denied a security clearance for several years.
A much broader ideology-based attack on learning occurred in 1930s Germany, when the Nazis purged universities of Jewish and left-leaning scholars. Many German Jewish scientists emigrated to the United States. Ironically, the work of those immigrants in this country led to a massive increase in patent filings in their primary fields of science.
The Soviet Union had one of the worst histories of purging scientists whose work was considered ideologically impure. In the 1930s, the agrobiologist Trofim Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics, including the very existence of genes and DNA. He propounded, instead, the erroneous theory that an organism could pass on to its descendants characteristics acquired during its lifetime. Under this theory, Stalin and other Communist Party leaders believed, people who studiously practiced communist ideology could pass on their “improved” traits to their sons and daughters. They condemned mainstream genetics as metaphysical, reactionary and idealist.
Soviet ideologues also distorted quantum mechanics, cybernetics, sociology, statistics, psychology and physiology, often by violent means. From the 1930s well into the 1980s, tens of thousands of Soviet scientists and engineers were harassed, arrested, sent to the gulags, executed or assassinated when their conclusions did not align with official communist beliefs.
Climate science in the U.S. has already been targeted by government administrators. The George W. Bush administration of the 2000s literally rewrote scientific reports to weaken their findings on global warming.
In 2007 testimony, former officials of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) admitted to extensive editing of documents from the EPA and many other agencies “to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties or to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming.” And when scientists’ views conflicted with the administration’s official line that global warming science remained uncertain, the CEQ often denied them permission to speak with reporters.
Worries over dismissal or intimidation
The highly targeted nature of the Trump questionnaire – especially the requested lists of individual scientists and leaders – suggests preparations for another ideologically driven purge.
On the day it was revealed by Bloomberg, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) sent Trump a letter warning him that “an illegal modern-day political witch hunt” would create “a profoundly chilling impact on our dedicated federal workforce.” Thus far, it appears the Trump administration has not responded to media queries on the questionnaire.
Soviet-style government-sponsored violence seems highly improbable (though for years, some high-profile climate scientists have suffered death threats). Instead, the incoming administration might indulge in large-scale summary dismissals, program cancellations and moving entire portfolios, not only at the DoE but also at NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s worth noting that despite considerable differences on regulatory policy, every president from Nixon and Carter in the 1970s to Bush and Obama in the 2000s supported the scientific work needed to discover, understand and mitigate climate change.
Basic research on energy, pollution and climate change – much of it carried out at DoE laboratories – is essential to clear-eyed policy, which must be based on solid knowledge of the true costs and benefits of all forms of energy.
The Department of Energy’s response
The Trump questionnaire violates American political norms by targeting individual civil service employees, many of whom have worked for the agency for decades through multiple changes of administration.
It strongly suggests that even if incoming administrators do not target individuals for retribution, these appointees will attempt to delete climate change from the roster of energy-related scientific issues.
The best way to resist this will be to contest the basic premise. Since virtually every energy-related issue has implications for climate change, and vice versa, attempting to separate climate change from energy policy would be completely illogical and counterproductive. To oppose that separation, all DoE researchers – not just climate scientists, but all scientists, lab technicians, staff, everyone involved in any way with research – should insist that their work requires them to consider the causes and consequences of climate change.
An all-hang-together strategy such as this would be brave and risky. Not everyone would join in. Many would fear for their livelihoods and hope to hang on by keeping their heads down. A handful might even sympathize with the incoming administration’s position. In the end, such a strategy might cost even more employees their jobs.
In Isaac Asimov’s 1941 short story “Nightfall,” scientists huddle in an astronomical observatory on Lagash, a planet with six suns. For many centuries, one or more of those suns has always been up. The current inhabitants of Lagash, bathed in perpetual daylight, have never seen stars or experienced darkness. As the story opens, the university director addresses a hostile reporter: “You have led a vast newspaper campaign against the efforts of myself and my colleagues to organize the world against the menace which it is now too late to avert.”
The “menace” in question is nightfall, which comes to Lagash just once every 2,049 years. That moment is now upon them. Only one sun remains above the horizon, its last light rapidly fading due to a total eclipse – predicted by the scientists, but ridiculed as unfounded in the press.
In the gathering darkness, a mob bent on ruin marches on the observatory. The scientists do not expect to survive. They hope only to preserve enough knowledge and data that “the next cycle will start off with the truth, and when the next eclipse comes, mankind will at last be ready for it.”
A dark time is coming to American climate science. Trump’s mob of climate change deniers has begun its march on our present-day observatories. Like the scientists in “Nightfall,” we must do our utmost to ensure that after the coming eclipse, “the next cycle will start off with the truth.”
U of T to co-host “guerrilla archiving event” to protect climate data from impending Trump presidency
This Saturday, the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania are set to co-host a “guerrilla archiving event” to preserve and protect climate data from an impending Trump presidency in the US. “Access to government information is so important,” says Sam-Chin Li, a government information librarian at the University of Toronto who will be giving advice and direction for the event. “It’s really a foundation for a function of democracy. And we’re seeing all those things disappearing in front of our eyes, so how can we stand there not working?” Li adds that the threat of governments deleting information and evidence is not unfounded, as she was involved in archiving many Canada government websites whose information could have been lost under federal order in 2013.
An event regarding human rights, climate justice, and Indigenous land and water defense rights:
Follow-up Discussion: Opposing Carleton IRRG and Criminalization
Tuesday, November 22
University Centre Room 279
Description: This event will feature a presentation on the IRRG, the people affiliated and its promotion of police powers and national security laws against political activities, as well as a brief presentation on government “counter-radicalization” measures targeting youth and students, particularly Muslims. This will be followed by open discussion on the topic including what the Carleton community would like to do next to hold the university to account for its support of the IRRG. All those who took part in the protest or supported the action taken are encouraged to join in and bring a friend.
Students Protest CU Symposium on Criminalizing Land and Water Protectors
– November 16, 2016, Unceded Algonquin Territory
Last night, students and community members protested a Dean’s Lecture included in the “2016 Symposium on Security and Infrastructure Resilience” at Carleton University. The protest lasted 1.5 hours until the event was cancelled. Students acted in solidarity with Indigenous communities such as Standing Rock, North Dakota or Muskrat Falls, Labrador, and others across Turtle Island who are being criminalized for affirming their right to decide over resource developments in their own territories.
The Carleton University “Infrastructure Resilience Research Group” (IRRG) held the Symposium with private industry groups, law enforcement and security agencies, and law professionals as training for dealing with “natural resource development projects and protests targeting critical infrastructure.” The official theme was “The Challenges of Dealing with Natural Resource Development Projects and Activism.”
The two-day, $600 per head Symposium featured workshops on “the threat environment, relevant legal provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act [the widely-opposed Bill C-51] and other pertinent elements of the criminal code, the prosecutorial experience in cases involving violent acts targeting critical national infrastructure, the adjudication record, and overall lessons learned.”
Martin Rudner, the IRRG coordinator and moderator of last night’s panel falsely referred to student opposition as a “violent protest.” Additionally, he also suggested that one of the purposes of the IRRG is to “protect Aboriginal people from themselves.” This paternalistic attitude shows no respect for Indigenous people, their communities or their causes. We cannot condone those who frame Indigenous protestors and protectors as terrorists.
The activities of the IRRG Symposium are directed towards facilitating state violence against Indigenous communities. One recent example is the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick in October 2013, where community was subject to violent attack by police and private security agents for affirming their rights. As well, a November 8 APTN report revealed that the RCMP has been tracking dozens of Indigenous people considered “threats” for their stand in defence of rights.
Activities carried out by the IRRG are not academic and have no place on university campuses. Political problems require political solutions. They require a political process that recognizes Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty and rights. Attention should be given to solving problems on a nation-to-nation basis rather than suppressing Indigenous voices.
Furthermore, Carleton University’s official acknowledgement of its presence on unceded Algonquin territory rings hollow when it allows such events to take place on campus with official sponsorship. We urge the Carleton Administration to refrain from sponsoring or allowing such events in the future.
Indigenous sovereignty is not terrorism, protestors are not criminals, and activities such as the IRRG Symposium are not welcome at Carleton University
In Rust: The Longest War, Jonathan Waldman claims that, for those who “yield to rust, find beauty in rust, capitalize on rust, raise awareness of rust, and teach about rust, work is riddled with scams, lawsuits, turf battles, and unwelcome oversight. Explosions, collisions, arrests, threats, and insults abound.” Rust is the underside of cosmopolis. Rust belts follow industry and its corrosions; the parasitic Rust fungi are enemies of agriculture. And yet there is an irenic side to rust: it inspires contemplation, the search for beauty, and the effort to defend what is threatened. As an agent of time, rust sponsors stories of collapse-and-recovery, evolution-and-extinction, but it also questions them. Narratives of progress that see rust as the enemy are not universal. In Japanese aesthetics, for instance, sabi is the beauty of natural aging and aged materials; what is new is not as lovely as what has weathered. In a time obsessed by environmental apocalypse, rust may reveal other trajectories for cultures of recovery. Resurget Cineribus, “It Will Rise from the Ashes,” is the motto of Detroit—our host city.
Long associated with steel, car culture, and the music of Motown, Detroit is also a site of struggle for racial and environmental justice, against depopulation and “ruin porn,” and for the preservation of artistic heritage. A nexus of encounters between indigenous nations and the French fur trade, it became a locus of the Great Migration, “white flight,” and gentrification. Water-rich on the strait between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, Detroit and its neighbors struggle against corroded infrastructure and government corruption. For all those reasons, Detroit is an ideal place to confer about rust, resistance, and recovery. We invite participants to interpret the conference theme as broadly as possible and to imagine their work in terms of content and form. We particularly encourage non-traditional modes of presentation, including hybrid, performative and collaborative works; panels that minimize formal presentation in favor of engaged emergent discussion; interdisciplinary approaches; environmentally inflected readings of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, film, theatre and other media; and proposals from outside the academic humanities, including submissions from artists, writers, teachers, practitioners, activists and colleagues in the social and natural sciences.
All proposals must be submitted by December 12, 2016. We will evaluate your proposal carefully and notify you of its final status by February 15, 2017. If you are a panel organizer and would like a panel CFP posted to the ASLE website, please use the online submission form here: http://www.asle.org/panel-calls-for-papers/.
Note: you must be or become a member of ASLE by the time of registration to present at the conference. Join or check your membership status at http://www.asle.org/.
In 1973, forest ecologist C.S. Holling introduced the concept of resilience to describe the ability of an ecological system to withstand, absorb or fortify against disturbances in a way that still maintains its basic structures. In recent years the concept of resilience has been extrapolated to a wide array of fields, from education, health science, and psychology to global finance, economic policy, and national security. In these contexts, resilience is often mobilized as a moral category that either affirms or denies the vital worth of things in and of themselves. Focusing on resilience situates critical inquiry within an already troubled state of affairs, a disaster in medias res, but it also “favors the cheery, the chipper, and the ignorant who dwell in bliss. It tells us to just keep shopping through the apocalypse” (Alaimo 2). The concept of resilience is especially salient today as we witness the immense stress that human activity has had on the earth’s systems. It can, on one hand, give us a vocabulary to describe and explore a system’s capacity to survive rapid and unpredictable change, but on the other hand, it also carries a warning that natural systems can reach a point of no return.
Resilience theory has most commonly been applied to the capacity of human populations and ecological systems to survive acute and slow disasters, but other animals also live and die alongside humans. With this in mind, the purpose of the 2017 John Douglas Taylor Conference is to generate a discussion of how the concept of resilience functions within discourses of animal life: How has resilience shaped the way we think about animal life? What might it mean for certain organizations and institutions to label a particular species as resilient? What kinds of forces are animals resilient to and how are these forms of resilience characterized by social institutions? This conference will also call attention to what happens when animals are characterized as lacking resilience, to discourses of extinction events and collapse, and to how we might view such “events” as models for expectations of the future of the anthropocene.
Given that animal resilience has not been substantially taken up within critical animal studies, human-animal studies, literary animal studies, ecocriticism, or the environmental humanities, we welcome submissions that engage with resilience in any number of theoretical, sociological, anthropological, textual, historical, political, activist, ethical, or artistic methods. We also encourage non-traditional forms of presentation including collaborative papers; panels that reduce presentation time to encourage discussion; panels that make use of creative limitations (for example: micro-themed, timed, or word-limit response panels); interdisciplinary approaches; proposals from thinkers outside the humanities, such as submissions from artists, writers, community practitioners, veterinarians, activists, and colleagues in the social and natural sciences. Papers may address topics and questions including, but not limited to, the following:
The Aesthetics of Resilience: Environmental and evolutionary aesthetics; bio-/eco-aesthetics; Representing ideas of resilience, disruption/disturbance, disaster; aestheticizing loss and recovery; anti-anthropocentric (re)presentations.
The Economics of Resilience: Bio-politics of resilience; animal capital; economizing decline and recovery; conservation politics and economies; commerce and species loss; neo-liberal (re)shapings of biota; community networking as strategic resilience; the labour of loss/disaster.
Emblems of Resilience: Animals as models/metaphors/metonymies for resilient humans; human ‘nature’ as exceptional resilience; speciation resilience and social Darwinism; genetics, postgenomics and the future of human resilience.
Intersecting Resilience: Animal resilience as it intersects across race, gender, sexuality, class, (dis)ability; relationships between marginalized humans and animals; postcolonial resilience;
Multispecies Resilience: Sites of intrusion/permeability; liminal animals/humans; co-existence as resilience; the resilience of companion species; empowering the animal; Object Oriented Ontologies, intersectional spaces and bodies.
Pesky Resilience: Microbiopolitics; the exhaustion of infestation; non-charismatic animals; the resilience of invasive species; resilience to extermination as a detriment to humans; urban animal studies; animal intelligence as resilience to humans.
Precarious Resilience: Precarity as a condition of resilience; teleologies of resilience; the condemnation and resignation of species; identification of species “at-risk”.
The Resilient Anthropocene: Extinction and elegy; discourses of ‘failed’ resilience; proleptic/anticipatory mourning; categorical/taxonomic vs physical loss; the resilient after-effects of extractivist mindsets; ecological crises of futurity; the value of speculation.
Resilient Memory: Natural history; taxonomy; resilience in historical periods, histories of ecology and resilience; geological and social histories of ecological entanglement; historicizing animals.
Transnational Modes of Resilience: Ecological citizenship; borderless bioregions; animal/human refuge; the Indigeneity of resilience/resistance; decolonizing ecological relations.
Individual paper submissions should include a 250-350-word abstract clearly articulating your thesis and its relation to the conference theme. For non-traditional forms of presentation and whole-panel submissions please include a 250-word summary of your theme and a list of presenters. For the sake of blind peer review, please include all contact information and institutional affiliations on a separate title page. All proposals must be submitted by November 1, 2016. We will evaluate your proposal carefully and notify you of its final status by January 13, 2017.
Organizers: Eric Nost (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Jenny Goldstein (Cornell University)
Discussant: Luke Bergmann (University of Washington)
Date and location: April 5-7 2017, Boston, MA
Conservationists around the world are turning to new data collection, modeling, and visualization software they believe may help “save the planet”. For some conservationists, data paucity and irregularity may constrain environment governance more than political will, capacity, or legitimacy (e.g. Hsu et al. 2012). At the same time, corporations are developing new software for intensifying resource extraction or managing their use of ecosystem services. In both cases, as actors extend their use of new digital tools and grapple with big data, they run up against the social and technical limits of existing data management platforms, standards, and institutions – the data infrastructure. This session explores the making and un-making of data infrastructures by which conservationists and corporations – as well as development practitioners, scientists, and state planners – generate scaled, uneven, and actionable knowledge about the environment. In particular, we are interested in: contestation around data infrastructures that respond to or remake material environments; performative effects and surprising failures of data infrastructures (Bowker 2000); and the conditions under which technical approaches can further “appropriate,” just outcomes instead of re-entrenching state and capitalist power (Fortun 2004).
Political ecologists have shown how economic forces and institutional cultures shape who is called upon to make environmental science, which perspectives are deemed legitimate, and the values and interests characterizing this knowledge. But as STS scholars have argued, knowledge production relies on sociotechnical infrastructures–proprietary and open source devices, embodied practices, and social institutions–that are variously ubiquitous but transparent, learned but reliable (Edwards 2007). While political ecologists have shown how environmental science generated with digital tools like GIS and remote sensing drives particular land management policies (Robbins 2001; Turner 2003), we aim to characterize the broader infrastructures supporting the use of these tools and how these infrastructures themselves are sources of contested policy and material change. Although much recent political ecological work on infrastructure has focused on tangible systems, we seek to apply insights from this work to digital infrastructure, with the help of research from STS and geographies of technology (Wilson 2011; Leszczynski 2012, Ash et al. 2015) to better understand the new social relations, regimes of governance, and natures brought about by changes in the management of environmental data. Work from developing world cases is especially encouraged.
We are particularly interested in presenters who address one or more of the following:
What it means to an environmental expert in the age of big data and how volunteered, crowdsourced data reconfigures environmental expertise (Eden 2012; Lave 2015)
How data infrastructure transforms environmentalism and generates ecological/geographical imaginaries (Easterling 2014)
How conservation organizations change when they become data brokers and/or managers
Misalignments and tensions between designers, managers, and users of environment-related data infrastructure (Oudshoorn and Pinch 2003)
Who bears the costs of maintaining digital infrastructure, who gets to be involved in creating databases, and who defines what data is valuable
How data management infrastructures operate within bureaucracies
Critical physical geography approaches linking data infrastructure regimes and specific ecological outcomes
Methodologies for researching digital infrastructures (Star 1999)
Histories of data infrastructure (Jackson et al. 2007)
We invite interested participants to send their title, 250-word abstract, and affiliation to Eric Nost (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jenny Goldstein (email@example.com) by October 15, 2016. We will notify accepted participants by October 22. As this session has a discussant, we will ask participants to circulate their papers several weeks prior to the conference.
We invite presentations of all kinds on the theme of “The World in 2050: Imagining and Creating Just Climate Futures” for an online, nearly carbon-neutral conference (described below) that will take place from October 24 to November 14, 2016. Coordinated by UC Santa Barbara, this conference is part of a series of events on “Climate Futures: This Changes Everything” [http://ehc.english.ucsb.edu/?page_id=11154]
The most pressing existential issue of the 21st century for humanity as a whole is the increasingly grim reality of climate change and our entry into a new era in the history of humans and the planet well signified by the Anthropocene. The changing conditions of life on Earth lie at the center of a storm of interconnected crises which include, among others, the precarity of the global economy, a widening deficit of political legitimacy, and cultures scarred by violence, from the most intimate interpersonal interactions to the most global realities of war-making.
Unlike either the justifiably pessimistic critical discussions or the unrealistically optimistic policy approaches that increasingly confront (or ignore) each other around the climate crisis, this conference will depart from our present ground zero by asking participants to experiment with perspectives on the multiple possible states of the world in mid-century and work back toward the present in an attempt to imagine, envision, enable, and collaboratively find or create some of the pathways to a more just – or just less worse – outcome for humanity by 2050.
Please note that this will be a nearly carbon-neutral conference. We believe that a conference that takes up the issue of climate change while simultaneously contributing to the problem to such a degree is simply unconscionable. Even a relatively small academic conference can generate the equivalent of 20,000 pounds or more of CO2 (chiefly from travel). To put that number in perspective, this is the total annual carbon footprint of ten people living in India, thirty-three in Kenya.
Consequently, this conference will largely occur online. Over a period of three weeks, starting on October 24 and running through November 10, accepted talks and other events will be available for viewing on the conference website. Q&A will also take place online during this period, as participants and registered attendees will be able to connect with speakers and each other via online comments and speakers will be able to reply in the same way. Both the talks and Q&A sessions will remain up on the website as a permanent archive of the event.
While we realize that this will not replicate the face-to-face interaction of a conventional conference talk and Q&A, we believe that it will nonetheless promote lively discussion, as well as help build a community of scholars and activists with intersecting research interests and hopes for the world. An advantage to this approach is that individuals who would not otherwise be able to become involved in the conference owing to distance, daily life, or financial constraints will be able to fully take part. There will be no registration fee for the conference. Although this online conference will have its own carbon footprint, as data centers and web activity also require energy, we expect that this will be only a small fraction of that of a conventional conference, likely just 1-3%.
Instead of traveling to the conference to attend panels and deliver a talk, speakers agree to do the following:
1) Film yourself (or yourself with others) giving a talk of 15-17 minutes. The webcams that come with desktop and laptop computers have improved dramatically over the past few years. Aftermarket webcams with noise cancelling microphones, which can be purchased for under $50, often provide even better quality. It is also the case that most computers have video recording software preinstalled, such as Apple’s QuickTime. Consequently, it is now possible, and relatively easy, to record a talk of surprisingly good quality in your home, office, or just about anywhere. How easy is it and how good is the quality? A sample talk that explains the concept and process in detail can be found here: http://ehc.english.ucsb.edu/?p=12048.
2) Take part in your three-week online Q&A session by responding to questions raised by your talk. You will automatically receive an email each time a new question is posed. Only registered conference participants (this includes speakers, as well as others who register for the conference) will be posing questions.
3) View as many of the talks as possible, posing questions of your own to speakers. This is especially important, as this is how you will meet and interact with other conference participants. Given the subject matter, our goal is help establish relationships and to build a community. In this case, since travel has been removed from the equation, our hope is that this community will be diverse and truly global.
Abstracts of 250 words and a brief biographical note of about 150 words should be submitted as one document [Word or pdf, only please] by August 15 and attached in a single e-mail copied to both of the following e-mail addresses: conference co-organizer John Foran – firstname.lastname@example.org and our conference assistant Rick Thomas –EHCfellow@gmail.com.
We welcome all international submissions if the talks themselves can be either in English or subtitled (see below) in English. The Q&A will be in English. You should also please confirm that you have viewed the sample video and agree both to the above conference requirements and to allow your filmed talk to be posted to the conference website, as well as our Vimeo, YouTube, and SoundCloud accounts. As noted above, the talks will become part of a permanent conference archive open to the public.
Amara provides free closed captioning software that allows anyone to caption videos. As they note on their website, Amara makes it “incredibly easy (and free) to caption and translate your videos…. Amara is built by a nonprofit, 501c3 organization. We are driven by the mission to reduce barriers to communication and foster a more democratic media ecosystem.” Because it does not require a steep learning curve, Amara can generally be quickly learned. Since our goal is to have a conference that is accessible as possible, please consider using Amara to add closed captioning to your talk or have someone (perhaps a student intern or a tech-savvy friend) do it for you. If you will not be able to closed caption your talk, please note this when submitting your abstract.
Abstracts are due by Monday, August 15, 2016.
Participants will be informed whether their submissions have been accepted or not by Monday, August 29, 2016.
Videos of the talks will be due by Monday, October 10, 2016.
The online conference will take place from Monday, October 24 to Monday, November 14, 2016.
Representatives from the student group Divest UWinnipeg have criticized the school’s decision to pursue strategic alternatives to a full divestment from fossil fuels. The university has been consulting with the group for the past year. The group has asked the University of Winnipeg Foundation and pension board of trustees to end all investments in stocks and bonds of fossil fuel companies. This Monday, the school’s board of regents asked the foundation to instead create a responsible investment policy that applies environmental, social, and governance criteria. “The U of W’s choice not to divest from fossil fuels represents a contradiction with its commitments to sustainability, Indigenization and, ultimately, reconciliation,” said UWinnipeg Student Association Preisdent Kevin Settee. UWinnipeg Senior Executive Officer Chris Minaker responded that the school “has adopted a balanced approach to the divestment issue which is consistent with actions taken by other universities in Canada.”