SJRC Director Andrew Mathews contributed to a recently published Perspectives piece in Nature Climate Change (pdf here) detailing how anthropologists can contribute to understanding the social and political dynamics of climate change. In this piece, Barnes et al. identify three types of insights anthropologists are well suited to provide.
First, the discipline draws attention to the cultural values and political relations that shape climate-related knowledge creation and interpretation and that form the basis of responses to continuing environmental changes. These insights come from the in-depth fieldwork that has long been the hallmark of anthropology. The second contribution is an awareness of the historical context underpinning contemporary climate debates — a result of archaeologists’ and environmental anthro- pologists’ interest in the history of society–environment interactions. The third is anthropology’s broad, holistic view of human and natural systems, which highlights the multiple cultural, social, political and economic changes that take place in our societies. Societal dynamics, as drivers of change, always interact with, and often outweigh, climate change — an issue that needs recognition for the success of public policies.
The authors note the challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration that Science & Justice has also worked to address. Varied temporal and geographic scales, differing approaches to qualitative and quantitative work, and contrasting commitments of the values of specificity and generalization for understanding phenomena can sometimes put social and natural sciences at cross purposes. However, when gathered around shared and pressing problems, the friction between disciplines can be made productive rather than detrimental or competitive. They write,
Ever more serious challenges to scientific understandings of climate change and policy responses — in both domestic and international political arenas — make the climate science and policy community more open to inputs from the social sciences. This Perspective argues that anthropology could play a central role in this, by offering methods to access the social, cultural and political processes that shape climate debates. Just as anthropologists can learn from climate science about the changing environmental conditions we live in, so too can climate scientists learn from anthropological research.
Science & Justice aims to foster just such cross-disciplinary collaboration and literacy, bringing together multiple forms of expertise to address major problems in contemporary science and technology.
SJTP Fellow and Environmental Studies doctoral student Tiffany Wise-West filed this report from a lobbying trip to Washington, DC with the “UC in DC” program. The statements made in this piece are her own opinions and not those of any UC-affiliated advocacy group.
In late May, 2013 a delegation from UCSC joined other UC campus delegations for UC in DC day, advocating to Congress for strong and sustained federal funding of graduate research and education. Over 26,000 graduate researchers are partially supported by the $3.1 billion in federal research funding annually, representing two-thirds of total research funding awarded to UCs each year. With over 7% of the nation’s PhDs being awarded from the UC system, UC leads the way in building the intellectual capital necessary to fill the 2.6 million jobs in California projected to require advanced degree by year 2020.
Graduate training, long a focal area of the Science and Justice Research Center, will be impacted by cuts to federal discretionary funding in the next fiscal year as a result of the sequestration mechanism put into law by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Additional discretionary cuts to research, education, and health programs will be accomplished in future years by decreasing the total funds available for annual appropriations. Without a change to or repeal of the sequestration law, the following impacts to graduate education will go into effect:
· Deep cuts through year 2021 to key agencies funding graduate research opportunities such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, USDA, NASA, Department of Defense, and others.
· Reductions in student aid support will occur as the number of Pell Grants awarded decrease through year 2021 and interest rates for new federal students loans could increase from 3.4 to 6.8% after July 2013.
Obviously failure to “build the brain trust” has the potential to stifle technological innovation and could be economically damaging for the State. Chancellor Blumenthal, in his Open Forum piece in the May 9, 2013 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, frames this issue in terms of UCSC’s cancer genome research and asks how we, as a society, cannot afford this research that is so clearly in the public’s interest. Thus, crucial social justice questions are also associated with the current funding situation. Societal human health impacts aside, the inability to maintain or increase funding to graduate programs and grant-making agencies will have dire impacts on prospective graduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds or communities with respect to affordability and accessibility of healthcare.
Moreover, as Senator Harkin’s (D-Iowa) Education Policy Advisor pointed out, the Senator believes that education should never be treated as a discretionary expense but rather always speaks of it in terms of an investment in a self-perpetuating source of innovation, an economic driver and equalizer. As long as Congress thinks of educational funding as an “expense” vs. an “investment” and continues to make choices that prohibit pathways to advanced degrees, generations of Americans may accept the notion that advanced degrees are simply “out of reach” and be dissuaded from pursuing them.
So, what are our options? Outside of aggressive advocacy with Congress to improve the situation through legislative means, UC delegates informed Senator Feinstein (D-CA) that UC is working to enhance early and robust alumni contribution campaigns and foster public-private partnerships in research funding as a means to deal with continual uncertainty and reductions in funding. While these actions can make significant contributions, they do not begin to reach the order of magnitude required to offset the divestment of federal funding in graduate research and education. Congressional representatives from districts in which UCSC is located all explicitly support UC’s graduate research funding agenda. But with such a divided Congress, it is unlikely that legislative action will succeed in maintaining or increasing funding levels.
The next opportunity to weigh in on this issue is at the state level by contacting your legislator to support the increases proposed for UC in Governor Brown’s proposed, revised state budget that was released on May 14, 2013 and will be voted on by the legislature on June 14, 2013.
Andrew S. Mathews, Director of the Science & Justice Research Center and Associate Professor of Anthropology, received the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award from the International Studies Association’s Environment Section for his 2011 book Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests (MIT Press). The Harold and Margaret Sprout Award recognizes the best book in the study of international environmental problems in the preceding two years. Mathew’s book traces the hundred year history of how the science of forestry arrived in the forests of Mexico and was transformed by indigenous communities who live and work in forests.