Mar 03 | The Quants of Wall Street: Risk and the Ethics of New Financial Technologies

Who wins and who loses as Wall Street transforms from sweaty bodies on the stock exchange floor to quants and physicists designing swift, sleek stealth modes of moving financial data at a distance? What new opacities and inequalities accompany the rise of new financial technologies—such as Bitcoins, roboadvisers, and laser-linked data centers — the new coin and conduits of financial realms? The Science and Justice Research Center in collaboration with the Center for Analytical Finance and the Sociology Department host a discussion with industry, academic and NGO leaders on these critical questions about who benefits and who loses in the high tech worlds of today’s financial markets.

Sherry Paul CFP®, CIMA®, and CRPC®, Senior Vice President, Wealth Advisor, UCSC Alumna

Daniel Friedman, UCSC Distinguished Professor of Economics, Author of Morals and Markets

Anne Price, Program Director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative, Insight

Moderated by Joe Klett, Visiting Professor of Sociology, UCSC and Nirvikar Singh, Director of the Center for Analytical Finance, Distinguished Professor of Economics at UCSC.

Co-Sponsored by the Blum Center, Center for Analytical Finance, Center for Labor Studies, Cowell College, Re-Thinking Capitalism, and the Sociology Department.

12:00-1:45 PM | Engineering 2 room 180

"The Quants of Wall Street: Risk and the Ethics of New Financial Technologies"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
3 March 2016
Critical Listener Report by Andy Murray, Sociology

Sherry Paul CFP®, CIMA®, CRPC®, Senior Vice President, Wealth Advisor, UCSC Alumna

Daniel Friedman, UCSC Distinguished Professor of Economics, Author of Morals and Markets

Anne Price, Program Director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative, Insight

Moderated by Joe Klett Visiting Professor of Sociology at UCSC and Nirvikar Singh, Director
of the Center for Analytical Finance, Distinguished Professor of Economics at UCSC.

Co-Sponsored by the Blum Center, Center for Analytical Finance, Center for Labor Studies,
Cowell College, Re-Thinking Capitalism, and the Sociology Department.

This Science & Justice Working Group event was a relatively large affair, consisting of three
panelists and two moderators. Its attendees filled the large room, meaning there were too many
folks for the usual Science and Justice Research Center introductions. The participants varied in
their backgrounds. The first, Sherry Paul, is a UCSC alumna and a wealth advisor who works on
Wall Street. The second, Daniel Friedman, is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at UCSC.
The third, Anne Price, works out of Oakland for the Insight Center for Community Economic
Development, where she directs an initiative to address the racial wealth gap. UCSC faculty
members Joe Klett, Visiting Professor of Sociology, and Nirvikar Singh, also a Distinguished
Professor of Economics, served as moderators. The event was put on by a larger-than-usual
number of co-sponsors, showing that the matters of concern—wealth inequality and the winners
and losers of high tech finance—speak to many audiences. Jenny Reardon, Director of the
Science and Justice Research Center, provided some more specific framing questions in her
introduction: are the instruments and intricacies of finance capital too complex to understand? Or
are we simply not looking at them closely enough? If the latter is the case, what could cause us to
start looking, if such a major event the 2007-08 financial crisis wasn’t enough of an impetus?
After all, multiple people in the room had personal stories about home ownership and loss of
value suffered as a result of the crisis.

Sherry Paul opened with a few jokes about her time at UCSC and how she found her way back (a
story that, like the financial crisis, was linked to disaster and misunderstanding) before moving
into the meat of her talk. Paul discussed the democratization of financial access and situated her
role as a financial steward who helps to protect individuals and families from the risks of
markets. Nonetheless, she talked about her move into finance capital as moving “into the belly of
the beast” and to “the dark side.” She spent a lot of time focusing on the “humanity” aspect of
finance, rather than the “math,” noting that the latter is much easier to learn. She compared
Silicon Valley to Wall Street, noting its lack of inclusion of women and people of color, and
suggested that high tech finance, in a sense the marrying of Silicon Valley and Wall Street,
represents a second iteration of the Industrial Revolution. Ultimately, her main points were about
restoring and managing the human element of finance, better managing human behavior around
investment rather than turning to robotic financial advisers. In defense of what amounts to an
improved market rationality, she asserted that “markets tend to revert to the mean no matter what
point they’re at in an industrial revolution.” Nirvikar Singh followed up on Paul succinctly,
affirming that “technology is not a substitute for ethics.”

Daniel Friedman attempted to summarize “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of markets, asking
what they do and don’t do well, and how financial capital instruments change things. First, he
asserted that markets scale up well and that they aggregate their participants’ resources and
information. However, markets can “go bad” when cheating, exclusion, currying favor, and
buying influence occur. Friedman asserted that this can happen very easily, and was in fact
dominant in markets until about 200 years ago. Markets, he argued, are also prone to bubbles and
crashes. “The ugly” is that because of these tendencies, markets must be regulated, but this
impedes both “good” and “bad” finance. He talked about financial instruments that increase the
efficiency and scalability of trading at the expense of personal connections, arguing that such
technologies may increase market instability. He argued that changing the way in which time is
measured—“making time granular in a different format”—could solve some of the issues with
such high-frequency trading. He went through his final bits of advice quickly, advocating “smart
regulation” and proper incentives.

Anne Price began her talk by noting that she was “probably going to be the oddball.” Her
discussion focused on accumulated, structural inequalities. These racial inequalities mean that
simply guaranteeing access to financial markets is insufficient if greater wealth equality is indeed
the goal. She framed the push for racial wealth equality as about “movement building” and
“pulling the curtain back.” She portrayed finance capital as a siphon deliberately designed to take
wealth from people. Metaphors and language were very important to her framing of markets, and
she insisted that language that grants agency to “the economy” obfuscates how “people create
and make deliberate changes to the economy.” She argued against viewing economics as
something that just happens, and instead viewing it as a series of choices, often motivated by
emotion rather than facts. Price received loud applause at the end of her talk, the loudest of the
event.

During the questioning, each of the panelists solidified their positions. In response to a question
from Nirvikar Singh about robotic financial advisers, Sherry Paul argued that she was against
them because they would deepen existing inequalities, allowing people to capitalize on a lack of
trust. She again argued for changing the way people approach markets and advocated having the
“greedy investor [not be] the assumed and presumed definition.” In response to a question from
Joe Klett, Dan similarly reasserted that there needs to be an ethical foundation for finance
capital, or it will not work—though it was not entirely clear what “working” meant in this
instance. Returning to discourse, Anne Price lamented that the housing crisis was a missed
opportunity to talk about the roles of the government and personal responsibility in markets.
The transition to audience questions made it clear that there was a notable tension between a
more favorable, optimistic view of markets—such as that espoused by Sherry Paul and Daniel
Friedman—and those who made the argument that inequality is an inherent feature of a market
system—as Anne Price did. This tension was the most notable of the event, as most of the
audience questions came from sociology graduate students and professors. After noting the
growing inequality in Silicon Valley, a few audience members asked if there was an inherent
logic to markets that means that they require the existence of an underclass, or if the problems
could be fixed through some form of regulation. These questions were greeted with an
acknowledgement of their scope, observations that time was limited, and laughter. This really
exposed the rift in beliefs about markets, made all the more clear when a sociology graduate
student pointed out that in in order for markets to “always recover” as Paul had asserted they do,
they require intervention in the form of taxpayer money. “Is the market becoming a religion?” he
asked, echoing Price’s earlier points about the importance of discourse—in this case about faith
in the ability of the market to “recover”—and about paying attention to the actual economic
decisions that people make.

These themes, of the logic of markets, and the role of individual agency and action versus
economic structure, proved to be the sticking points. These points were reiterated in the brief
closing statements that each panelist made. Price most walked the line between individual
agency and inherent logics, paying a great deal of attention to longstanding structural
inequalities, while also emphasizing the choices that people deliberately make to change the
economy. Paul, on the other hand, argued that there is no inherent logic to markets, that they are
merely “systems being created by people.” Despite this, she also acknowledged that capitalism is
fundamentally selfish, but returned to market optimism by asserting that we need to figure out a
way for “selfishness to allow us to work together.” Friedman seemed to err more on the
structural side, finishing by saying that markets could potentially function well and stay in
recovery for a long time, but that it was the nature of markets that there would be periodic crises.
While we ran out of time on this particular day, these tensions between the agency of individuals
and institutions, structures, and logics—longstanding in the social sciences—can provide plenty
of fodder for future conversations: about how people make markets and how markets make
people, and about what kinds of futures the new technologies of finance capital are helping usher
into existence.

Feb 24 | Graduate Training Program Informational Meeting

The Science and Justice Research Center will host an Informational Meeting on our internationally recognized interdisciplinary Graduate Training and Certificate Program:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

12:00 – 1:45PM

 Graduate Student Commons 204

Our Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) is a globally unique initiative that trains doctoral students to work across the disciplinary boundaries of the natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities and the arts. Through the SJTP we at UC Santa Cruz currently teach new generations of PhD students the skills of interdisciplinary collaboration, ethical deliberation, and public communication. Students in the program design collaborative research projects oriented around questions of science and justice. These research projects not only contribute to positive outcomes in the wider world, they also become the templates for new forms of problem-based and collaborative inquiry within and beyond the university.

Spring 2016 Course:
Science & Justice: Experiments in Collaboration
SOCY/BME/FMST 268A & ANTH 267A
Prof. Jenny Reardon
Wednesdays 10-1, College 8 301

Students from all disciplines are encouraged to attend
Prior graduate Fellows have come from every campus Division.

13 Represented Departments:
Anthropology, Biomolecular Engineering, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Environmental Studies, Film and Digital Arts, Digital Arts and New Media, History of Consciousness, Literature, Philosophy, Physics, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology

As SJTP students graduate they take the skills and experience they gained in the training program into the next stage of their career in universities, industry, non-profits, and government.

Opportunities include graduate Certificate Program, experience organizing and hosting colloquia series about your research, mentorship, opportunities for research funding and training in conducting interdisciplinary research at the intersections of science and society.

For more information on the Science & Justice Training Program, please see: http://scijust.ucsc.edu/training/

Feb 23 | Reading Group and Conversation with Lesley Green

Reading Group and Conversation with Lesley Green

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

10:30 – 12:30

Oakes College Mural Room

The Science & Justice Research Center will host a reading group and conversation with Lesley Green with the theme of the post-colonial challenge to environmentalism, specifically marine knowledge between coastal communities and scientists, issues of urban baboon management, and the relations between plants, people and health. The focus of our discussion is to draw from these articles in order to reflect on science studies in contemporary South Africa, current struggles to decolonize South Africa’s universities, and the challenges and possibilities for transdisciplinary knowledge collaborations in contested ecologies in the global South.

Lesley Green is an Associate Professor in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Cape Town, and director of the graduate research center called Environmental Humanities South.

Readings can be found at the following links:

  1. The Changing of the Gods of Reason: Cecil John Rhodes, Karoo Fracking, and the Decolonizing of the Anthropocene
  2. Contested Ecologies: Dialogues in the South on Nature and Knowledge
  3. Fisheries science, Parliament and fishers׳ knowledge in South Africa: An attempt at scholarly diplomacy
  4. Plants, People and Health: Three disciplines at work in Namaqualand

Feb 17 | Soil Health and its Maladies: Field Notes with Farmers in the Global South

Industrial agriculture most often focuses on what we can see – that which is above ground, such as yields, production, cropping systems, and profits. Plant physiologist, David Wolfe, calls this a “surface chauvinism”, or the tendency to think that what we see on the surface tells the whole story when equally or more important is what goes on out of sight and below ground. Soil health is emerging as an alternative perspective among scientists and international agricultural development agencies to unsettle dominant perceptions of soil as simply a growth medium for crops that emerged along with the Green Revolution and its emphasis on “improved” seeds and agri-chemicals. Growing attention to soils as living bodies (perhaps with rights to flourish and determine their own course) suggests we need to repair or build anew our relationships with what some soil practitioners refer to as “the skin of the earth”.  Before we ask if “soil health” is a useful paradigm to inform this kind of reparative work, it is prudent to inquire: What is soil? Then: What is health? Who decides if a soil is healthy, and for whom does it matter? Where do the boundaries of soil health begin and end? Is there a continuum between soil-human-ecosystem health? Many farmers also find themselves in a transitional moment in which the destruction of their livelihoods is vitally linked to the destruction of local soils. How might the agricultural practices of diverse rural communities be informed by concepts of “soil health” - and not only health-oriented paradigms? We draw upon our research with small farmers in Uganda and Colombia to discuss the way emergent ideas about “soil health” may serve to build collaborations between soil scientists, agricultural extensionists, and farmers in the global South. We also explore how a concern for soils pushes us beyond human-centric frameworks, and towards understanding the shared ecological nature of justice, ethics, well-being, and food production.

Co-Sponsored by the departments of Anthropology and Environmental Studies

Kate Scow is Professor of Soil Science and Microbial Ecology in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis. She is Director of the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility that hosts the Century Experiment (http://asi.ucdavis.edu/rr). Scow’s research program investigates the role of soil microbial communities in providing ecosystem services in agricultural and polluted ecosystems.  Specifically, she investigates linkages between diversity and greenhouse gas emissions, responses of soil functional diversity to long-term management practices, effects of co-contaminants in organic amendments on soil communities, and works extensively in Uganda on irrigation and soil management for enhancing vegetable production for smallholder farmers.

Kristina Lyons is Assistant Professor of Feminist Science Studies at UCSC with affiliations in the Department of Anthropology, Latin American and Latino Studies, and the Science & Justice Research Center. She is currently working on a book project entitled, Decomposition at Life Politics: Soil Practitioners and Vital Spaces in the Colombian Amazon. This manuscript is based on more than ten years of fieldwork in Colombia where she engaged in an ethnography of human-soil relations across laboratories, greenhouses, gardens and farms with soil scientists in the capital city of Bogotá, and small farmers in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of Putumayo. She has worked closely with rural social movements in southwestern Colombia, and her work has focused on the ways soils become (or not) matters of concern within the militarized U.S.-Colombia "War on Drugs" and its discontents.

4:00 - 6:00PM, Engineering 2 room 599

"Soil Health and its Maladies: Field Notes with Farmers in the Global South"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
17 February 2016
Rapporteur Report by Vivian Underhill
In an integrated, back-and-forth conversation, Lyons and Davis discussed soil, health, and their relationships with ecosystem and human dynamics. A product of their ongoing conversations since 2008, their interdisciplinary approach shifted from the micron-scale to global climate regulation, crossing and complicating scales of thinking, and showed the co-transformation of each other’s work through that long collaboration. Beginning with how they each know soil from their respective intellectual backgrounds and engagements with academia and farmers, they asked: what is soil? Then, what is health? And what do we mean by soil health, especially in regard to dominant perceptions that link soil with industrial agriculture? Scow, whose work focuses on soil microbial communities and their role in providing ecosystem services, provided her definition of soil as a “natural body of solids (mineral and organic), liquid, and gas that occurs on the land surface, occupies space, and is characterized by distinguishable horizons or layers, which are the function of additions, losses, transfers, and transformations of energy and matter.” Yet soil also includes the entanglement of life within its mineral/organic matter matrix, including a tremendous diversity of microbes, insects, fungi, animals, plants. As such, soil calls into question divisions between species and between living organisms and nonliving matter.

Lyons then discussed her engagement with Colombian scientists’ sampling and sampleprocessing practices, and the processes of alienation that occur through the act of sampling and processing soil – from removing it from the ground, removing its water content, sieving for individual size fractions, to burning off organic matter. In this way, the soil sample becomes only a representation of the original soil, produced through its engagements with the scientists, and loses its original complex relationality with the soils and ecosystem around it. Scow agreed, noting also the immense heterogeneity of microenvironments within a single soil. Referring to influential soil scientist Hans Jenny’s assertion that soil is a living system, she asked provocatively: “Is soil alive, because it takes in oxygen and breathes out carbon dioxide? Or is it just a place where living things live?”

Dr. Lyons then discussed soil’s relation to colonial histories, the emergence and development of
capitalism, and the Green Revolution, and how even soil science is deeply immersed in histories
and logics of colonialism. For instance, in the export of guano (a fertilizer high in nitrogen,
phosphate, and potassium derived from sea bird and bat excrement) from Peru to exhausted
European soils, we see a literal extraction of land from a colony to empire. She discussed how, in
Colombia, militarized growth-oriented development, the Colombian War on Drugs, and USAID
crop-substitution plans often circle around the soil, but do not often take up soil explicitly in that
discussion. Because of these geopolitical dynamics, soil becomes a matter of economic concern,
often tethered to a specific kind of agriculture that is more akin to soil mining than agriculture
per se. She also discussed how these tactics force farmers into specific relationships with soil that
mimic those of the Green Revolution and industrialized agriculture, severing the complex
dynamics of growth and decay that sustain small farmers’ relationships with the ecosystems and
soils with which they work and live. Kristina argued to bring the integrality back to the fore in
the way we understand soil.

Scow then discussed the ‘rocky history’ of the term ‘soil health,’ and its emergence as a term
within scientific and resource-management communities. Though embraced by the NRCS
(National Resource Conservation Service), there has been significant debate about what it means.
It may present an opportunity to return to a conception of soils as living beings themselves, with
their own requirements for health and well-being, yet what does this look like when implemented
on large scales? Scow explained that soil scientists currently measure a range of physical,
chemical, and biological parameters meant to indicate soil health, and asked: what is the
benchmark condition against which these parameters are measured to determine their relative
health? Further, in basing soil health on discrete measurements, what interrelations are lost?
What can’t be captured in these human-centered ways of studying and categorizing soils?

Lyons explained that for the small farmers with whom she worked in Colombia, there is no
stable entity called soil. Rather, they argue for selva-based farming, in which relationalities
between humans, plants, and soil are retained and nurtured, as an alternative to state-based
militarized agriculture or extractive industries. From here, they struggle to rebuild local food
autonomy and livelihoods and are engaged in struggle against USDA taxonomic standards that
label these soils as “poor,” leading state-based economic growth initiatives to plan for extractive
industry in the region.

These examples bring to the fore a range of questions about soil health, and what we mean by
that term. What is health, and health for whom? What do militarized and economized models of
health do to modes of living well and living well together? What gets taken up and what gets
occluded when we think about health as a paradigm to think and live with? What alternative
ways of living well and dying together might create a more capacious sense of health?

Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, UCSC) pointed
out the importance of thinking first about access to soil and land in conversations about humansoil
relationships and their degradation or health. She also suggested the possibilities that come
with thinking about healing, as an active process in relation to the soil, as opposed to the more
static ‘health.” Lyons responded that the immediate struggle is always to remain in place, not to
be displaced. As farmers transform their land and their farms, different possible worlds are at
stake as they resist the capitalization of farming. This process in itself is an immensely healing or
transformative process, but access to the soil in the first place is always necessary to then engage
in that healing process.

Birgit Müller (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research) added her experience with
attitudes about soil health in regard to Canadian biotech farming, in which a discourse of caring
goes hand in hand with large-scale industrialized farming and widespread pesticide use. This
entanglement of harm and care applied directly to the discussion of the definition of “health:” is
health related to high crop yields, or to the actual wellness and function of the soil itself? Lyons
pointed out the ways in which discourses of “health” is often used to mobilize logics that support
the continuation of harmful practices.

Gillian (last name and affiliation unknown) pointed out the complicated biopolitics of thinking
through the heterogeneity of the soil matrix itself. For instance, pathogens, viruses, and
destructive species are also part of the soil’s complex relations. Should these pathogens also be
counted as part of the life that should be nourished, and how does thinking about life as not
always harmonious complicate our notions of health and human/soil relationships? Lyons
responded that this point brings up the questions of living and dying well, and the role of
decomposition in that cycle. She said that defining weeds and pests is a constant negotiation:
what needs to die in order for what else to live? But with the farmers she works with in
Colombia, there’s a sense of dying differently, in order to live differently: with dignity, in place,
unseparated, still in complex relations with the rest of the system around you. This mobilizes a
different scheme of biopolitics and necropolitics than what we usually think with.

Carol Shennan (UCSC, Environmental Studies) pointed out the problem of separating out the
soil in the term ‘soil health.’ There’s a difference between soil health and ecosystem or habitat
health, but they are intricately linked to each other and can’t easily be separated. Further, who
decided the kinds of benchmarks to be used for soil health? Scow argued for a more localized
and nuanced process of deciding health, rather than broad taxonomies. She pointed out that terms
like sustainability and soil health are not valuable in their actual scoring potential, but rather
because they catalyze thought and discussion about what they might mean.

This led to a conversation about the role of funding in the use or disuse of terms like soil health,
and their definitions. For instance, if the USDA has funding for scientific work, then projects
will be built around USDA terminology. Scow pointed out that broadly speaking, public policy
has largely not been directed toward soil until recently with AB 32 (a California bill to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions from all sources across the state) and growing interest in the role of
soil in carbon sequestration. Lyons explained that in Colombia, soils are not part of
environmental legislation. They appear partially in legislation on forests, water, etc, but not on
their own. In public policy, they only have some form of value because of their relations with
other aspects of their ecosystems, which brings up a range of ontological questions for soil
scientists and farmers: how can soil, a distinctly relational entity, and soil scientists, hold
political leverage on its own?

Related Readings:
The Roots of Your Health: Elaine Ingham on the Science of Soil by Lynda Brown
Soil and Human Security in the 21st Century by Ronald Amundson, Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Jan
W. Hopmans, Carolyn Olson, A. Ester Sztein, Donald L. Sparks

Jan 29 | Communicating Science to the Public: How does the experience of long-term nuclear waste disposal prepare us to think about climate engineering?

A conversation between Jane Long (California Council on Science and Technology's California's Energy Future committee) and Joseph Masco (University of Chicago, Anthropology).

Climate change is forcing us to think about how we might produce safe energy, and how we might mitigate the impacts of energy use upon the earth system. As these earth system changes are becoming increasingly apparent, in what is coming to be called the Anthropocene era, scientists and engineers are increasingly being drawn into policy processes.  From problems of disposing of long-term nuclear waste, to contemporary geoengineering projects that might remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or reduce incoming solar radiation, scientists and engineers have become hybrid political/technical actors.  Jane Long, an eminent science/policy figure will describe her work on characterizing and communicating the risks of long term nuclear waste disposal and on her more recent work on climate mitigation and geoengineering, and will reflect on her experiences as an engineer who came to work at the interface of science and policy. Joe Masco, an anthropologist at the University of Chicago will describe the influence of histories of atomic energy on American culture and science policy and will interview Jane Long about her career.

Jane Long has had an eminent career working at the interface of engineering science and policy. She has been currently chair of the California Council on Science and Technology's California's Energy Future committee, and recently retired from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where she was Associate Director at Large for Energy and Environment and Fellow in the LLNL Center for Global Strategic Research.  Earlier in her career, she served on the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Board on Radioactive Waste Management and chaired the National Academy of Sciences Committee for Fracture Characterization and Fluid Flow Systems. Jane Long has a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Mineral Engineering from the University of California Berkeley, and is the author of numerous books and articles, including the book Rock Fractures and Fluid Flow; Contemporary Understanding and Applications.

Joseph Masco is Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences in the College writes and teaches courses on science and technology, U.S. national security culture, political ecology, mass media, and critical theory. He is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), which won the 2008 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the 2006 Robert K. Merton Prize from the Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology of the American Sociology Association. His work as been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His current work examines the evolution of the national security state in the United States, with a particular focus on the interplay between affect, technology, and threat perception within a national public sphere.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology.

Engineering 2 Room 599 1:00 - 3:00PM

"Communicating Science to the Public: How does the experience of long-term nuclear waste
disposal prepare us to think about climate engineering?"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
29 January 2016
Rapporteur Report by Lizzy Hare
At this Science and Justice Working Group event, Jane Long (contributing scientist for
the Environmental Defense Fund, Visiting Researcher at UC Berkeley, Cochair of the Task
Force on Geoengineering for the Bipartisan Policy Center and chairman of the California
Council on Science and Technology's California's Energy Future committee) and Joe Masco
(Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago) discussed possibilities for climate
engineering and public perceptions surrounding these ideas. Science and Justice Research
Center Associate Director Andrew Mathews welcomed the audience and introduced the
participants, explaining that both Long and Masco have conducted extensive research in nuclear
politics and share a capacity to communicate to different kinds of audiences.

Long began the discussion by introducing her own work and background. She described
her dynamic career as “a quest to work on every controversial issue in Earth Sciences”. Long’s
involvement in nuclear waste began when she was working at the Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory (LLNL) and was assigned to design a hydrologic modeling system that could help
determine the location for waste storage for the Hanford project. She recalled her frustrations
about the political nature of the project, and compared it against a similar project in Sweden. In
the U.S., the first step in the process of determining where nuclear waste would be stored was a
senate bill. That bill stipulated that the waste would have to be stored in one of five possible
locations. It was determined in Washington that the waste would be sent to the state of Nevada,
which lacks political power due to its small population base. Long and others at LLNL were
then tasked with finding an appropriate location within Nevada. In Sweden, the decision about
where to place nuclear waste began by first tasking scientists with determining the criteria for a
best possible location, and then determining which areas in Sweden most closely matched those
criteria. For Long, the Swedish case represented a safer and more scientifically rigorous
decision-making process.

During her career at LLNL, Long also had the opportunity to work on climate change and
climate engineering projects. This included a report written for the Department of Energy that
looked at the feasibility of climate engineering and included recommendations from
nonscientists. Working on this project was “the hardest thing [she’d] ever done in [her] life”,
because of the difficulty of communicating across disciplinary and ideological lines. The
process of writing the report caused Long to become increasingly concerned with vested
interests. People are often aware of the possibility of economic vested interests, but less so the
scientific and institutional interests that are involved when entire careers and institutions are
dependent on researching one project, something she sees as a legacy of the Cold War emphasis
on big projects like nuclear weapons development.

Masco then explained his interest in nuclear waste and climate engineering. He argues
that the Manhattan project changed the way the U.S. relates to the future by presenting two
options: either the future ends abruptly in nuclear war or technoscientific projects could solve
problems systematically until a form of utopia is achieved. These two competing visions for the
future existed side by side for generations in a sort of schizophrenic state. During this time, the
Civil Defense project instructed people in unifying around fear and collective imaginaries about
nuclear technologies. The Civil Defense model stumbled and failed after the disaster at Three
Mile Island, rendering it ineffective against new existential concerns such as climate change.
There is no longer an optimistic sense that technology will lead us towards utopia, but yet there
are certain problems, such as the question of how to store nuclear waste that require
technological solutions.

One of the unifying threads between nuclear waste disposal and climate engineering is
that both issues require the contemplation of deep futures, a timescale that Masco suggests is too
long for engineering and too short for geology. Long said that the challenge of contemplating
deep futures is that they require a different way of framing the issue, a different ideology.
According to Long, an ideological approach is necessary because people don’t think analytically,
but ideologically. The issue of ideology became central to the conversation, and was returned to
later in a discussion about planetary boundaries.

The Stockholm resilience institute proposed a concept of planetary boundaries that could
be regulated and monitored by global governments. This proposal was brought up by Masco,
who thinks that reframing future concerns as planetary boundaries is an extraordinary shift in
thinking that takes us away from assuming a framework of unlimited growth. Such a framework
had come to be the norm during the “petrochemical era” that relied on inexpensive fossil fuels to
drive technological developments and economic growth. Long is less enthusiastic about the
idea, citing concerns that people in ecology, and especially the Breakthrough Institute, reject this
framework. They are still committed to the idea that technology will overcome, and that is in
part, she believes, because it provides possibilities for facing the challenges of the future. Long
says that she agrees with this position, in part because she believes that climate change
mitigation alone is insufficient to prevent widespread disaster, so climate engineering could be
an important tool.

In concluding the conversation, Long reiterated her position that climate engineering is
another crucial tool that can help prevent climate change disasters in the future. Masco said that
he is inclined to agree, but cautions that engineering cannot be thought of as a “fix” to the
problem. It needs to be thought of as one potential tool in a broader set of changes that include
widespread ideological change of the sort ushered in by the Civil Defense project of the midtwentieth
century. Rather than teaching nuclear fear, however, such a project would instill belief
in and respect for planetary boundaries as fixed conditions that technology cannot outrun.

Jenny Reardon and SJRC appear in Le Monde

Jenny Reardon, sociologist between science and justice

Jenny Reardon sitting in the forest

Jenny Reardon, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz on October 11, 2015. (Photo by Maurice Weiss/Ostkreuz for LE MONDE)

LE MONDE SCIENCE ET TECHNO

Editor’s note:

Below is an English translation of a profile of Jenny Reardon, professor of sociology and director of the Science and Justice Research Center at UC Santa Cruz. It was published Jan. 11, 2016 in the French daily newspaper Le Monde. The original in French may be found at the Le Monde site.

 

It is 1986 and Jenny Reardon is 13 years old. She lives in Kansas City in Missouri, a Midwestern state of the United States, when a Newsweek article draws her attention. It describes, according to scientific testimony, the consequences for the planet of changes in the ozone layer. Jenny Reardon begins a correspondence with scientific experts, designs experiments to study the effect of ultraviolet radiation on marine ecosystems, and states her results in a scientific paper. In the following year, these experiments earned her the Grand Prize for environmental science in the General Motors International Science and Engineering Fair, a competition that aims to encourage high school students to pursue scientific careers.  “Kansas City was not the ideal place to study marine biology but my father helped me set up a laboratory in the garage of our house. I designed experiments while watching, on a black and white television set, the ‘Oprah’ show, the talk show then in fashion,“ Reardon recalls with laughter.

Despite this early success, it is not in the sciences that this committed, 43-year-old woman excels today.  Rather, she works in the analysis of contexts in which the sciences are practiced. A professor of sociology, she directs the Science and Justice Research Center, created in 2010 at the University of California at Santa Cruz, a university known, since the 1960s, for its avant-garde works. The idea? To create innovative forums in which scientists and non-scientists alike are invited to think together about the meaning of common concerns, such as those of race, genetics or ecology. “Jenny has a special ability to listen. This has greatly strengthened her leadership,” says the historian of science Donna Haraway, who works at the same university and who participated with Jenny Reardon in the creation of the research group. “She knows how to gather experts from different disciplines and to get them to think about the deeper meaning of the jargon they use,” she continues. “What I admire in her work is that she is not content with only a critical analysis of what scientists do. Rather, she seeks to open new perspectives with them,” adds the historian of science Joanna Radin of Yale University. “Genetics sheds new light on the definition of the human being, but we cannot let the scientists work alone in their corner.”   “Jenny Reardon is impressive in her ability to build bridges between the social sciences and biology, in order to bring them together to have a broader vision of what they do,” adds geneticist David Haussler of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Initiated in theology

Creating bridges was not always easy for Jenny Reardon. She is the daughter of a former Jesuit priest who was one of eight children of a famous American cartoonist, Foxo Reardon.  A charismatic man, he introduced her to theology and taught tolerance, without disparaging too much its principles. Her mother was attuned to politics after traveling in Eastern Europe right after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  She was consequently not satisfied with just studying biology and, at the end of her studies, she was undecided between two directions: molecular biology as practiced in the laboratory led by geneticist Mary-Claire King at the University of California at Berkeley; and, science and technology studies, a new discipline that studies social, political and cultural influences on and of science, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  At this point, we are in the early 1990s and Mary-Claire King, who will later, in 2014, win the Lasker Award, already enjoys a strong reputation. She had just located the region in genome containing the BRCA1 gene, implicated in some hereditary forms of breast cancer. Yet, ultimately, Jenny Reardon chose to pursue the other direction.  “It was a very difficult choice. I declined to study in a prestigious laboratory located in a dream location and chose, instead, studies that do not interest many people. I felt I had betrayed those who believed in me,” she recalls.

A few years later, she returns to genetics, this time with new intellectual baggage. One subject was of particular interest to her: the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), a major project launched by prominent geneticists of the time, including Mary-Claire King, and supported by the US government and then, later, abandoned in the 1990s. The geneticists had nothing other than good intentions: to study the genetic diversity of the first peoples to better understand the origins and the intermingling of populations. But those studied did not see it this way. Accusing geneticists of considering them as objects of study and as “material for a patent,” leaders of Native American tribes in the United States vetoed the project. Some anthropologists blamed the project of using modern tools to revive nineteenth century, racist biology.

The history of the concept of race

In her book Race to the finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics (Princeton University Press, 2005), Jenny Reardon navigates these divisions to reposition the controversy in the history of the concept of race.  She situates the controversy’s origins in unresolved questions between geneticists and the rest of the population concerning the relevant criteria to be accounted for in any study of the human diversity.  “When you look back a hundred years, it appears that the science of the time was influenced by racial representations rooted in contemporary society and leading to the ranking of human groups. Although they deny it, the work of geneticists is still biased by the context within which they work,” says Gisli Palsson, an anthropologist at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. “Jenny was among those who went to the heart of the problem. Her book remains the best analysis of the subject.”

The Science and Justice project is based on that analysis. Promoting “slow science,” its goal is to involve all stakeholders in society to reflect on scientific and technological advances. And, thus, it seeks to lead stakeholders to anticipate the implications of these advances before they define social choices. In addition to multidisciplinary meetings, Science and Justice offers a degree to students from fields as different as sociology and physics, to have them collaborate rethinking fundamental and sensitive issues, such as the commercialization of genetic testing by the company 23andMe; or, the use of drones for military operations. “We try to bring these students together to take into account their respective ways of approaching a problem so that they might think in a way that is not polarizing,” explains Jenny Reardon. “We are living in a time when science exerts incredible power on how people are governed. At the same time, issues concerning equity have become acute. Science and Justice seeks answers to this question: what science do we need in this world?”

Jan 18 | TEACH! ORGANIZE! RESIST!

The SJRC will be following along and participating in the many January 18th campus happenings at: http://teachorganizeresist.net/ActionList with keeping a keen eye on the first discussion:

Climate Change: Scientists Speak Out

10:30AM–11:30AM

Graduate Student Commons (above Cafe Iveta @ Quarry)

Panelist includes Prof. John Pearse, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department; Prof. Lindsey Dillon, Sociology Department; and Prof. Gary Griggs, Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Other sessions include: Islamophobia: Racializing Religious Identities, Participatory Budgeting and Democratizing the UC, What to do at a Protest?, Economic Inequality is About All of Us, Building Power: the role of students, immigrants, and workers in reclaiming democracy, “Know Your Rights: Everyone’s Basic Rights” with CARECEN SF, Queer Margins: LGBTQ Resistance in the Trump Era.

S&J Professors Karen Barad and Donna Haraway will present a co-initiated UCSC Values Statement at the closing event T.O.R.C.H. Townhall Closing Event (Teach. Organize. Resist. Change. Hope) from 4-6pm.

Please take the time to read, sign, and share the UCSC Values Statement!

About #J18 and Beyond

January 18, 2017, is a day to Teach, Organize, Resist. Poised between Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the presidential inauguration, J18 is an opportunity to affirm the role of critical thinking and academic knowledge in challenging Trumpism. On that day, we intend to teach about the agendas and policies of the new administration, be it the proposed dismantling of economic and environmental regulations or the threatened rollback of the hard-won rights that form the fragile scaffolding of American democracy. On that day, we intend to organize against the proposed expansion of state violence targeting people of color, undocumented people, queer communities, women, Muslims, and many others. On that day, we intend to resist the institutionalization of ideologies of separation and subordination, including white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and virulent nationalism.

#J18 is a call issued by departments, centers, and collectives at UCLA, including The Institute on Inequality and Democracy, RAVE or Resistance Against Violence through Education, African-American Studies, Chicana/o StudiesInstitute of American CulturesJustice Work Group, LGBTQ StudiesUCLA Labor Center, and The Undercommons.

Let it be known that on #J18 and beyond, universities, colleges, and high schools refused to bear silent witness to the politics of hate and fear; that in these times, these places of teaching and learning not only served as a sanctuary for its students and workers but also stood up to proclaim the power of knowledge on the frontlines of social justice.

Share your #J18 activity here:#J18 Event Registration

Twitter: @J18UCSC and @SciJust using #TorUCSC #J18 #J18UCSC #UCSCvalues

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/J18UCSC/

Information and Press Inquires: TeachOrganizeResist@gmail.com

UCSC information: j18ucsc@gmail.com

 

 

Genomics and Society Graduate Research Fellowship

UC Santa Cruz’s Sociology Department is pleased to announce a new graduate research Fellowship in Genomics and Society. Offered by the Sociology Department, the Science and Justice Research Center and the Genomics Institute with funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute, the GSGRF funds students interested in research at the interface of genomics and society. Today, genome scientists and social scientists at UCSC work together to create a scientifically and socially robust form of genomics that is responsive to the widest range of lives. The fellowship supports research in this unique interdisciplinary environment.

The fellowship includes a graduate student fellowship stipend at a graduate student researcher rate plus a research allowance of $800 per year to cover supplies and travel to one relevant academic meeting or research site. The fellowship is guaranteed for the first year, and it may or may not be renewed for subsequent years.

Eligibility: To qualify for this fellowship, you must be an applicant to the UC Santa Cruz Sociology Department (deadline: December 10), and a US citizen or permanent resident. We especially encourage members of the following underrepresented groups to apply: African American, Native Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaskan, Hispanic, Latina/o, and Chicana/o.

Selection criteria: The Genomics Institute in consultation with the Sociology Department will select fellows based on responsiveness to the goals of the RMI program, the academic record of the applicant, and the potential impact of the students’ research our understanding of the relations between genomics and society. (For more information on the RMI program see http://cbse.soe.ucsc.edu/diversity/rmi)

Application process: Students will be nominated for the fellowship through their Sociology application. Students have the option of discussing their proposed area of research in genomics and society in the Personal Statement.

For more information about the Fellowship program, please contact the RMI fellowship director, Zia Isola (email: zisola@ucsc.edu; phone: 831-459-1702).

Dec 12 | Science & Justice Training Program Certificate Reception

4:00-5:30 PM | SJRC Common Room, Oakes 231

Please join us in congratulating the graduate fellows on their achievements in completing the Science & Justice Training Program. This certificate provides recognition to current graduate students who have developed collaborative research methods for exploring the meeting of questions of science and knowledge with questions of ethics and justice. For more pedagogical information on the nationally and internationally recognized Science & Justice Training Program, please read Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice originally published in PLOS Biology.

Graduate students interested in the Science & Justice Training Program, please visit: Science & Justice Training Program.

Faculty interested in supporting the Science & Justice Training Program or for more information on our Broader Impacts Initiative, please read: Broader Impacts.