Illustration of the world meltingTuesday, January 24, 2017
4:00-6:00 PM
SJRC Common Room (Oakes 231)


The terms “post-fact”, “post-truth”, and “post-reality” are now being used to label the new era we have entered. We are already seeing the erasure of climate data from servers and websites [1], and purveyors of the truth, including climate scientists, journalists, and academics are being put on warning. (The Climate Scientists witch-hunt [2] and the Professor Watchlist are just two of many indicators). Data refuge efforts are underway [3] amid concerns that the incoming administration will wage a war on scientific expertise [4].

At the same time that it is of upmost importance that facts, truth, and reality be asserted to counter the normalization of lies and fake news used to obscure the truth and manipulate the public, there is a large body of scholarship showing the non-innocent and often times harmful use of these terms in ways that collude with the forces of power, including colonialism, racism, militarism, etc.

We are creating this cluster to help us think through these issues during these extraordinary times.

Convened by Karen Barad, our first meeting is Tuesday Jan 24 4-6pm. This first meeting will focus the question of what these terms (fact, truth, reality) signal to each of us in relationship to our own research. We anticipate that these terms will spark a variety of different associations depending on our fields of study. Please join us.

[1] “DNR purges climate change from web page,” by Lee Bergquist (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 28, 2016) http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2016/12/28/dnr-purges-climate-change-on-web-page/95929564/

[2] “Trump Transition Ask Energy Dept. Which Employees Work on Climate Change,” by Christopher Dean Hopkins (NPR, Dec 9, 2016)

[3] Q&A: Michelle Murphy, the U of T professor who’s racing to preserve climate-change data before Donald Trump takes office,” by Steve Kupferman (Toronto Life, Dec 16, 2016)

“Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump,” by Brady Dennis (Washington Post, Dec 13, 2016)

“Scientists prepare to fight for their work during ‘the Trumpocene’” by Sarah Kaplan (Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2016)

[4] “How Trump Could Wage a War on Scientific Expertise,” by Ed Yong (The Atlantic, Dec 2, 2016)


Jan 24 Objectivity Justice Notes

Jan 23 | Film Screening: KONELĪNE: our land beautiful

Best Canadian Documentary, Hot Docs 2016

konelineTRANSCENDENT… epic spectacle. […]She lets the camera hunt for art in every frame, mining veins of abstract beauty rather than sharp nuggets of political narrative”  Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s

ASTONISHING, stunningly beautiful. […] Equal parts sigh, song and cry.”  Linda Barnard, Toronto Star

BREATHTAKING, gripping. […] Finds beauty in unexpected places.” David Perri, The Northern Miner

WINNER of the Best Canadian Film of 2016 at the HOT DOCS Intl’ Film Festival, KONELĪNE: our land beautiful brings its sensual and visceral ride to UC Santa Cruz:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Humanities 2, room 259  4:30PM

KONELĪNE Trailer: https://vimeo.com/180675200

Celebrated for using art to seek beauty and complexity where you least expect to find them, KONELĪNE (pronounced Ko-na- lee´-na)  is garnering rave reviews for its fair-minded and cinematically stunning exploration of northwest British Columbia and the extraordinary people who move across that land.  Set deep in the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation, KONELĪNE captures an epic canvas of beauty and complexity as one of Canada’s vast wildernesses undergoes irrevocable change.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Nettie Wild, KONELĪNE delights in exploding stereotypes with scenes of breathtaking spectacle. Heidi Gutfrucht, both a big-game hunter and fierce environmentalist, swims her 17 horses across the unforgiving Stikine River. A Tahltan First Nation diamond driller bores deep into the same territory his elders are fighting to protect.  And a white hunter carries a bow and arrow while a Tahltan elder shoots moose with a high-powered rifle.

Cameraman Van Royko won the 2016 Award for Best Documentary Cinematography from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers for KONELĪNE, which is shot and projected in wide screen with surround sound.

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a cinematic poem that cuts through the rhetorical roar of our times. It’s turning heads and changing minds. Don’t miss it.  96 mins with conversation to follow.


KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a Canada Wild production, produced in association with Telefilm Canada and the Rogers Group of Funds through the Theatrical Documentary Program; Super Channel; Canal D, a division of Bell Media Inc.; Knowledge Network; The Canada Media Fund; developed in association with The National Film Board and Creative BC; produced with the participation of Rogers Documentary Fund; the Shaw Media/Hot Docs Completion Fund; the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit; and the Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC.

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.

Oct 07 | It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action

How do conceptions of time inform our perceptions of anthropogenic climate change and influence the political and societal will to respond? How can an appreciation for the timescales of civic policy help scientists to frame their findings for effective social change? How can we render scientific data actionable while retaining the depth of temporal knowledge? This presentation and panel discussion will provide an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the effects of human behavior on different timescales. By bringing together these different perspectives, we aim to theorize how perceptions of time can help communities, such as UCSC, implement both long- and short-range environmental goals and allow for more active engagement with environmental issues.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director, UCSC Office of Sustainability

Zoey Kroll, Internet Communications Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment

Adina Paytan, Research Professor, Institute of Marine Sciences, UCSC

Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Carolyn Branecky (Earth and Planetary Sciences) and Samuael Topiary (Film + Digital Media)

Read Rap Report > It's About Time

October 7, 2015 | Physical Sciences Building, Room 305 |   4:00-6:00 PM 

It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action
SJWG Rapporteur Report
7 October 2015
Rapporteur Report by Carolyn Branecky & Samuael Topiary
The Panel Discussion
At this Science & Justice Training Program event, Zoey Kroll, Adina Payton, and Elida Erickson
discussed how different perceptions of time influence the ways they communicate anthropogenic climate
change to broader publics and the implications of this communication for political action. Carolyn and
Topiary moderated a discussion with the three panelists, followed by a question and answer discussion
with the audience. By focusing on the timescales that define each of the panelists’ efforts, we explored
some of the possibilities as well as the limitations on both communication and action which face the
environmental movement today.

The panel began with a presentation by Zoey Kroll, who provocatively suggested that ten seconds
was the timeframe she is most guided by in her work as the Internet Communications Coordinator at the
San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDE). In suggesting that she has about ten seconds to
capture the attention of the average visitor to the SFDE website, Kroll stated that her work was defined by
her ability to communicate quickly and simply. Thus, she sees quickness as essential to working on the
long-term goals of municipal transformation. The SFDE provides easy to understand guidelines for
recycling and composting to help SF city dwellers and businesses to implement new city ordinances, such
as the plastic bag ban.

Dr. Adina Paytan, UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences Research Professor, focused on the
techniques she uses to communicate the impact of human activities on the ocean environment. She
explained how her research spans a wide range of temporal scales, observing natural processes that occur
in one season to environmental change that evolves over millions of years with spatial scales that range
from the molecular to the global. Although her work explores these multitudes, she explained how she
relies upon human lifespans to communicate the gravity and relevancy of her data. Using the benchmarks
of generations within her own family, she plots the changes in ocean acidification levels, noting the wide
change between the years when she was born and when her daughter was born. Using these personal
markers in her research data graphs, Paytan suggests that in talking about long-term issues, she finds it
essential to put her data into the perspective of a human generation, stating that a 100-year lifespan is
about as much as people can really understand in terms of rates of change.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director at UCSC’s Office of
Sustainability, focused on institutional timescales at the university, stating that the Office of Sustainability was established seven years ago by students, focusing on the problems of food waste. She discussed the ways that timescales for environmental action can differ among the groups that she works with. On the one hand, college students want to see change happen within their 4-year term at the university and have been successful in some cases at catalyzing that change within their time here. Yet, from the administrative side, sometimes institutional policies, such as building permits in the case of one student project, can defer or prevent the implementation of creative solutions. In drawing a distinction between student timeframes and administrative timeframes, Erickson raised the issue of how working with committees has its own kind of timeframe and challenges, and suggested that working with administrators was the least fun part of her job. She also noted that the ambition and perspective of students wanting to achieve environmental goals on a student timeframe can help to push the administration to move faster than they might otherwise to implement environmental policy changes.

Conversation Following the Presentations
Both UCSC and the City of San Francisco have Zero Waste programs, whose shared goal is to
eliminate (in some sense of the word) waste by a given date. Kroll, representing the City of San
Francisco, and Erickson, representing UCSC’s Office of Sustainability compared the implementation of
these Zero Waste programs in a compelling way. Both of these speakers discussed the role which politics
plays in their work as well as the need to navigate institutional positions when strategizing on
communicating environmental action. Kroll suggested that she tends to think and work from a citizen
point of view, rather than from a City government's administrative perspective. Erickson suggested there
was a difficulty with fast change, suggesting that UC-wide initiatives, such as Zero Waste, which are
mandated from the top down, often leave people in the middle having to adjust.For example, UCSC is
“crawling” on a campus-wide composting due to the undesirability of a bin next to offices. She suggested
that while the voice of students can push the administration to be more responsive, it can also be pushed
aside more readily. Kroll suggested that in San Francisco, the idea of Zero Waste 2020 produces
excitement and creates a sense of a goal for people to work toward. She notes that to date, San Francisco
has achieved an 80% diversion rate and that 10% of the outlying waste has to be addressed with producer
responsibility laws.

The panel discussed the difference between achievable goals and “impossible” or aspirational
goals, such as Zero Waste, and mused about the ways in which achievable goals helps to foster personal
action, while “impossible” goals can be useful to galvanize a larger community movement. This line of
thinking was interrogated by Anthropology PhD candidate Kristin Lawson, who questioned the role of
time in relationship to differences between institutional and individual action. Kroll responded that
institutions and municipalities can affect change at the procurement level and spoke about the high
purchasing standards held by the City of San Francisco, which publishes a directory for approved sources,
which in turn, provides a pathway for industry to move in this direction. Kroll also discussed the way that
her personal experience of working on a collective urban farming project with a 2-5 year timeframe
demonstrated how working toward specific goals can head off a sense of numbness and disempowerment
that comes from doom and gloom climate change predictions. She added that, in San Francisco, one
hears is a lot of talk about “disruption” as a solution and she wonders if the feeling of urgency (about
climate change) must be combined with the experiences that help one feel one’s actions are making a
difference. Kroll focuses on how to make her work be as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Paytan picked up on the issue of “doom and gloom,” stating that she feels scientists need to be
more solution-oriented when communicating the negative consequences of their research, such as rapid
climate change, species extinction, and environmental destruction. Dr. Karen Barad (UCSC Feminist
Studies) pushed Paytan on the ways in which scientists communicate their work using standard notions of
time, questioning “the seduction of clock time” and its tie to capitalism. Barad wondered about the
temporality of urgency and its relationship to doom, questioning whether there might be a way to discuss
urgent time, which is not tied to doom, but rather allows the past and the future to carry more meaning.
Paytan countered that, although we receive distressing data about climate change, our planet has been
around for four billion years and has been through other huge changes, stating that she personally finds
comfort in knowing that we humans are not going to be here forever. Barad countered that she is not
comforted by how this kind of philosophical nihilism is often taken up politically, especially considering
the unevenness of how the planet is being damaged and by whom. She noted that scientists often have
lively alternative conceptions of time and can think about temporality more richly when our hands are not
tied to “clock time.” Barad continued by suggesting that although something like sea-level rise happens
at a certain rate within a fixed frame, the consequences of that rise are experienced very differently by the
people living in rich countries than in poor ones and wondered whether these effects should be put in
words of time or social equality.

Towards the end of the panel discussion, PhD student Ella Ben-Hagai raised the question of
whether zero waste goals were paradoxical to the push for economic development and expansion in both
San Francisco and at UCSC. She also provocatively wondered whether the zero waste programs were
causing these two enclaves to become islands of “sustainability” and created zones of privilege or
whether there was some notion of zero waste mandates as being more “trickle down” kinds of strategies
for other places.

The panel discussion concluded with a question about the politics behind scientific research and
an acknowledgment of the importance of having interdisciplinary conversations between scientists, social
scientists and humanists and which include voices and experiences from both inside and outside of the
academy, in helping to further discussions about environmental action and in order to build new alliances
to build a progressive agenda.

Post-panel Discussion Reflections
Following this panel discussion, we received written comments from our panelists reflecting on moments
that stuck out to them. The following quotes come from this written feedback:

“It was interesting to hear candid words from Elida about what it's like to work within a
university context, ... how terms are defined or redefined as campaigns evolve (Can Zero Waste
really mean 95% waste diversion?). The role of the Science and Justice Program in bringing
together a dynamic audience and panel cannot be understated.

“Having social scientists, humanists and physical scientists on the panel contributed to a
fascinating exchange of ideas. As a scientist and particularly a geologist I tend to define time as a
precise measurement related to the rates of rotation of planetary bodies (the Earth and the Moon)
and it was very interesting and educating for me to hear how others regard time in a much more
subjective manner and that time could be by personal and even societal experiences. I also
learned a lot about the challenges people have when they have to communicate timelines to a
broad community and accomplish set goals, both the campus sustainability goals and the City of
SF environmental Stewardship (0-50-100 roots) goals are impressive!”

Feb 20 | Plant Intelligence or Plant Signaling?

In recent years, plant scientists have been increasingly interested in complex forms of plant behavior, including in the ways in which plants communicate with each other by long distance electrical signals and by vesicle mediated transduction of auxins and other chemicals. For some scientists, the capacity of plants to anticipate, remember, and learn, is best captured by the concept of plant intelligence, in the emerging field of ‘plant neurobiology’, which focuses on plants’ capacities to share important information. For some researchers, the very term ‘neurobiology’ is a potentially distracting anthropomorphism which diverts attention from the actual capacities of plants which they see as utterly different from human conceptions of intelligence. Anthropologist Natasha Myers has studied practices of anthropomorphism in the natural sciences, and described how anthropomorphism can enable research questions as well as limiting them. In this event, Elizabeth van Volkenburgh will present her research on plant growth and adaptation to stress and then engage in a conversation with Natasha Myers around what is gained or lost by seeing plant communication as a form of intelligence.

Hosted by Andrew Mathews

Read Rap Report > Plant Intelligence or Plant Signaling?

Listen to event >
part 1: 

part 2:


Natasha Myers, Associate Professor of Anthropology at York University, Canada, is Director of the Institute for Science and Technology Studies. As an anthropologist of science and technology, her research examines a range of visual and performance cultures alive in the contemporary arts and biosciences. Her forthcoming book Rendering Life Molecular: Modelers, Models, and Excitable Matter (Duke University Press, 2015) is an ethnography of an interdisciplinary group of scientists who make living substance come to matter at the molecular scale. It explores how protein modelers’ multidimensional data forms are shifting the cusp of visibility, the contours of the biological imagination, and the nature of living substance. With support from SSHRC and an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Government, she convened the Plant Studies Collaboratory to serve as a node for interdisciplinary research on plants in the ecologies and economies contoured by technoscience. In new work, she is investigating how the phenomena of plant sensing and communication are galvanizing inquiry in both the arts and the sciences.

E. Van Volkenburgh majored in Botany at Duke University (B.S. 1973), and worked for two years as a technician, at the Smithsonian Botany Department and at the Duke University Phytotron. She obtained a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the University of Washington (Ph.D. 1980) and was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, Urbana (1980-81), University of Lancaster, UK (NATO Fellow 1981-82), and the University of Washington (1982-1985). Following two years as Research Assistant Professor, she was hired as an Assistant Professor in Botany at the University of Washington (1987) where she remains as Professor of Biology, and Adjunct Professor of Environmental and Forest Science. Her research is focused on the physiological mechanisms regulating cell and leaf expansion in plants. This work includes photobiology, electrophysiology, and connections to ecophysiology and agriculture. She is also exploring the new field of plant behavior, and leads the Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior.

Co-Sponsors: Departments of Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Literature, and Sociology.

"Plant Intelligence or Plant Signaling?"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
20 February 2015
Rapporteur Report by Samuael Topiary
In this provocative presentation, a packed house audience was treated to a fascinating
exploration of the ways in which one biologist is exploring the idea of plant intelligence.
Prof. van Volkenburgh presented her long time research into the ways in which corn and pea
crops deal with stress. In this work, van Volkenburgh studies the differences between wild
and cultivated plants in their responses to light exposure and water conditions in order to
understand the genetic aspects of drought tolerance. Comparing growth rates under different
light conditions, she was able to understand that plant photoreceptors that absorb blue & red
light are not chlorophyll but rather that the plant’s cells manage their growth based on light
and water conditions. She further explained that for certain strains of poplar and corn
hybrids, growth rate predicts yield and that certain types of commercially bred corn seed can
be shown to have less advantageous yields under drought conditions since light signaling
pathways influence growth rate. She thus concludes that high yield corn hybrids, which had
been selected for density and shade avoidance have inadvertently limited the (wild) corn’s
natural drought tolerance. She also demonstrated the ways in which corn, although
genetically perennial, has been bred as an annual and thus modern maize hybrids are not as
sensitive to light.

Van Volkenburgh concluded with a quote from Ambrose Bierce (1909) who suggested that
plants belong to the philosopher's class. She suggested that if we can increase our awareness
of what plants do, we might be able to breed plants that can deal with food scarcity in

Natasha Myers, explained that she had originally trained as plant molecular biologist before
becoming an anthropologist. She explained that in her work, she studies stories about
energetic process and plant stress and suggested that there is a whole literature connected
with plant signaling and behavior, which addresses how plants respond to wounding,
environmental change. In looking to plants coping mechanism, Myers suggest that we can
learn how to cope with environmental changes. She also suggested that this is an
opportunity to imagine that plants are experimenting with ways of living and that whether or
not we accept that plants think, as we understand this term, we can see that plants also cope
with and transform in relationship to their environments.

Myers asked the audience to consider what we learn about curiosity from the ways that
plants explore the world? She pointed out the issue in the language we use to talk about
plants: whether to speak about plant behavior in a passive or an active voice, and how the
language we use points to the problems of telling stories which situate plants as agents with

How do we talk about plants' interestedness? Wary of the temptation to anthropomorphize
and raising the issue of its taboo in plant neurobiology, Myers challenged us to play with
and against this concept. She asked us to consider what is possible and to think about the
role of the passive voice in sciences, questioning whether conceptions of intentionality are
allowed into stories of biology. Van Volkenburgh responded to this provocation by asking
what anthropomorphizing means; whether it involves imbuing an object with human traits or
“my own human traits”? Highlighting the professional risks of being taken seriously as a
biologist, van Volkenburgh stated that she felt anthropomorphizing limited possibilities by
risking adding bias or limiting what could be imagined as possible within biology.

Myers followed up this idea by exploring the use of analogies as ways of opening up our
understandings of biology. She suggested that stories about interspecies co-evolution, such
as the intermingling of the wasp and orchid physiologies, offers new possibilities for
understanding. And yet, she points out that the literature seems to police pleasure. She
suggests that the scientific proscription against agency mirrors certain concepts in the social
science and humanities, such as theories by Foucault, which suggest that we have no
freedoms, and that this conceptualization is echoed in conceptions of biology, such as we are
just what our genes want. Myers asks: “does anything that is not human have intention?”
She suggests that if we push a little further and “plantify” our imaginations, perhaps
understandings of plant phenomenon can change our conceptions about ourselves.

Myers and van Volkenburgh discussed reasons to “plantify” concepts of communication and
cognition as offering possibilities to test assumptions currently in place in animal behavior
models. Van Volkenburgh cited Philosophy of Plant Cognition by Paco Calvo as a book
which draws attention to ways people look at plants and explores the concept of plants as
reactive as compared with humans as proactive. She suggested, rather, that we think of this
as a spectrum and matter of degree and preference; undermining the notion that humans
have some special or unique role in evolution and encouraging us to see all biological
organisms as connected. She suggested that there are two ways of looking at cognition: a
bottom up way of learning which accumulates the info that constructs knowledge; and a
difference way, where consciousness knows something in general and then takes info and
compares it with what comes as surprising or inconsistent with that vision and where the
element of surprise drives learning. In this second philosophy of cognition, plant cognition
is a better way to look for that kind of approach to knowledge and learning.

When asked about her feeling about the book The Secret Life of Plants, van Volkenburgh
revealed that it was the book that made her apply to grad school. However, she said that
funding at the NSF dried up and careers were sidelined and that she wasn't only one who
received pushback from older plant physiologists against this way of thinking. She said,
however, that what arborists, farmers and vegetable gardeners know what they know and
that she has had an arborist bend her ear about this kind of knowledge, but that generally,
scientists are not open to it.

Myers talked about research on electrophysiology done in the late 19th century in India,
looking at the behavior and misbehavior of metals and plant irritability, and how that line of
inquiry was denigrated by colonial science and racism. This line of research got swept up
into the interest in what psychotropic plants can do to humans. However, she suggests, now
is the moment for the re-legitimization of plant neuro-physionomy.

Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, UCSC)
stated that this panel brings up questions of metaphor and language, such as those used in
primate behavior studies where competition was quantifiable and friendship was ‘woo woo’.
She suggested that the “machinomorphic” language, which is seen as non-anthropomorphic,
really does the opposite. Haraway questioned the use of the word “neuro-physionomy,”
suggesting that changing the “neuro,” (which she suggested is “over-owned,”) might be too
up hill, but wondered if there were other words which could get at "the stuff plants are up
to" which are less colonized. Van Volkenburgh responded that the choice of the name was a
product of organizational compromises. Haraway followed up by asking her what are the
words she would use if she had control over the scene? Van Volkenburgh spoke about
another possibility which had been floated but it was felt the name had to be something that
is commonly recognized to mean 'what plants are up to.' Myers interjected that plants are
so much cooler than humans and why denigrate plants with these human terms? Why put
plants on level of consciousness when they're going to lose; they'll always be lesser us. She
asked why not foreground those things that plants can do that we can't and attempt to and
foreground these capacities, like photosynthesis, which would bring out another sensibility
of plant capacity and thus implicitly suggest how unskilled we are?

Beth Stephens, Professor of Art, identified herself as an ecosexual, tree hugger and talked
about doing workshop in which the participants hug trees and playfully asked about whether
the tree can consent? She suggested that watching a cellist hug her cello, or seeing books, or
the wood molding in the room, demonstrated the generosity of plants. She said that plants
are giving us oxygen and food, and what are flowers if not the ultimate in play—the
genitalia of plants? Stephens said that if we took anthropomorphizing seriously, we would
have to take responsibility for all the destruction of plants that we have wrought. She
followed up by asking about the possibility of plants using different types of signals,
wondering if they could use dishonest signals and whether plants have any capability of
intention? Van Volkenburgh responded that her definition of signal was rudimentary and
that a signal for her means only incoming information. Myers clarified that plants are
responsive to information coming from their environment, such as changes of temperature,
light, and heat. In plant behavioral ecology, plants generate bouquets and create an
atmosphere of senses that can be picked up and turned into signals for other plants and
animals. In this sense, dishonesty would be a kind of mimicry that thwarts the signal as
information, in other words, a kind of disinformation. This notion is of honest and dishonest
is stuck in a model of the world with internal vs external realities, in which organisms can
fail or succeed in representing and is based on a representationalist model of the senses.

Myers continued this line of thinking by asking: “why begin with doubt?” Plants can pay
attention and they have a willingness to stick it out. Their sensory antennae are such that if
they fail to pay attention, they are dead. Why not think of plants as beings that are sensing
and changing their environments and are anticipating the future. In this way, Myers
suggests, plants have a model of the future, seen in the vernalization process. Sunflowers
can be thought of as anticipatory, opening to where sun will come up. We have to shift our
assumptions about these concepts and think about what they might need to know about the
world to cultivate different kinds of respect for these organisms.

Feb 11 | Collaborating to Learn about Wicked Problems: Water, Food, and Energy in Rural India

Ashwini Chhatre, Professor of Geography at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Senior Research Fellow/Visiting Professor at the Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad presented a talk about sustainable development in rural India as a wicked problem.  Hosted by Andrew Mathews, SJRC Acting Director, the discussion following the talk was moderated by Ben Crow, Professor of Sociology, UC Santa Cruz.

A wicked problem is difficult or impossible to solve because of complex interdependencies, and the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem reveals or creates other problems. This is particularly true for agriculture-based rural livelihoods in India’s vast hinterland, which require tightly, connected household strategies to secure water, food, and energy under the shadow of an unpredictable monsoon regime. Interventions to improve rural livelihoods, with the best possible intentions, fail to have an impact in an unacceptably high proportion of cases, and often produce unintended and undesirable consequences for society and the environment. For example, an intervention to increase organic manure to improve soil fertility can easily set off a cascade where cowdung is used as domestic fuel. Women will have to collect more firewood, perhaps from farther forests, decreasing forest condition. The firewood will be of inferior quality, increasing adverse health impacts from indoor air pollution. Greater workloads for women will translate into higher classroom absenteeism and some girls will drop out of school completely. The diversity of disciplinary lenses required to simply outline the boundary of such a cascade is challenging enough; to try and bring these diverse perspectives to bear on improving the actual outcomes is a herculean task. But the pattern of outcomes is not unusual at all. Such a pattern with respect to a long list of well-meaning development interventions can only be described as shooting in the dark, and occasionally shooting ourselves in the foot. This requires a creative response to the design and evaluation of interventions for improvement of rural livelihoods. It requires harnessing research, education, and practice in ways that enable a learning-while-doing approach to sustainable development. By definition, wicked problems do not have a solution. The sustainable development challenge can, however, be formulated as one of identifying the combinations of interventions necessary in specific contexts that improve the possibility of improvements and reduce the incidence of adverse outcomes. This presentation describes such a collaboration between NGOs, researchers, and public agencies in India, with an emphasis on the challenge of producing a body of knowledge that is credible, legitimate, and salient with all relevant actors across multiple scales.

Ashwini Chhatre has recently relocated from the University of Illinois to India from the US to serve on the faculty at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Ashwini has an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Delhi and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University. In between, he spent 11 years working with local communities and social movements on democratic governance of natural resources in India. Ashwini was the Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Fellow in Sustainability Science at Harvard University during 2006-07, and serves as a faculty member in the Department of Geography, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2007. Ashwini’s research investigates the intersection of democracy with environment and development, with a more recent focus on rural livelihood dynamics in rainfed systems across agro-ecological and socio-political contexts. Ashwini has co-authored one book and published articles in Science, PNAS, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Conservation Biology, Journal of Peasant Studies, World Development, and other journals.

Ben Crow is a professor of Sociology at UC Santa Cruz. He trained and worked as an engineer in London and Africa, and was an activist and volunteer in South Asia, before becoming a social scientist. His PhD is from Edinburgh University in Scotland, and he taught at the Open University in UK and at Stanford and UC Berkeley before coming to UCSC. He has done research on conflict and cooperation over international rivers in South Asia, leading to a book Sharing the Ganges: the politics and technology of river development; on traders, township markets and the making of social classes in rural Bangladesh (Markets, Class and Social Change: Trading Networks and Poverty in South Asia); on global inequalities (The UC Atlas of Global Inequality (online) and The Atlas of Global Inequalities, with Suresh Lodha). His current work explores how access to household water in low-income urban settlements shapes the time and constrains the prospects of poor households and how the global idea of adequate water access promoted by international institutions - ‘safe drinking water’ - limits understanding and social change to improve water access and reduce poverty.

"Collaborating to Learn about Wicked Problems: Water, Food, and Energy in Rural India"Wednesday,
SJWG Rapporteur Report
11 February 2015
Rapporteur Report by Samuael Topiary
Professor Chhatre provided an introduction to the “wicked problems” of sustainable development in rural India
where attempts to alleviate poverty and malnutrition and develop new approaches to agricultural development can
create unintended consequences. He provided us with stories, lessons and insights from his work on
interdisciplinary approaches which seek to link disparate perspectives from academia, journalism and NGO work in
order to change attitudes, restructure public investment in agriculture and produce desirable outcomes.
Professor Chhatre began by explaining that wicked problems are ones in which there is no clear solution to a
problem and that all efforts to address this problem create or reveal more problems. He suggested that this situation
creates a boundary problem whereby issues cascade across disciplines and make the original problem seem
impossible to address. In attempting to seek solutions to the huge issue of rural poverty and malnutrition in India,
Prof. Chhatre described a three-pronged approach in which small-scale “proof of concept” projects are created in
seven different locations in India. He stressed the importance of the scale of each project, which had to involve
several thousand people, in order for the scale to be large enough. These pilot projects involved the integration of
multiple layers of interventions: approaching the issue of rural poverty and malnutrition by intervening in different
aspects of agriculture and food distribution. These multiple layers include soil, seeds and water access, converged
with public investments. The multidisciplinary approach of his work included economic analyses of agricultural
subsidies (who receives what subsidies and where) as well as of food storage systems and places in which food
waste occurs.

Professor Chhatre described a system-wide approach to analysis which includes environmental cost considerations
and can generate alternative ideas, such as implementing incentives which advocate for better food production (what
plants can be most environmentally efficiently grown where) and the distribution systems (how can transportation
and storage needs be modified by growing more food locally). He stressed the importance of collaborating with
government agencies in order to generate knowledge and change behaviors, as well as the importance in generating
knowledge which captures the complexity of rural livelihoods. This approach thinks about agriculture in relation to
other systems and is founded on place-based knowledge about local cultures which can bring an awareness of
unintended negative consequences and can make improvements that learn from problems. This approach, a learning
while doing approach, leads to a research framework which can thus make claims about what works and what
doesn’t work.

After discussing this approach as a general interdisciplinary framework for research, Chhatre described three
concepts that “get in the way,” and serve as ideological blindspots which naturalize the status quo in ways that are
difficult to see. These concepts are 1) the Discount Rate as a predictor of the future; 2) price as indicator of
scarcity; and 3) productivity per hectare as a measure of performance. In each case, the economic assumptions
which underlie the capitalist system at work in agriculture are seen as obstacles which must be understood,
debunked and overcome.

Following Prof. Chhatre’s presentation, Ben Crowe asked how is he able to work with economists in the face of his
underlying critique of standard economic ideologies. Chhatre responded that he cannot collaborate with economists,
but rather he finds it more productive to work with philosophers. Because he questions underlying assumptions
about Economic Growth and “fetishized” assumptions about India’s rate of growth (generally understood to be 5.5%
annually), Chhatre suggested there would be no need to confront tropes of economic growth if people are better fed
and that the question for India should be focused on equity and distribution of wealth rather than growth. He also
suggested that one road to amelioration of India’s poverty issues is in open outcomes, where farmers have the option
of going to market on their own terms. A number of questions in the audience focused on labor issues and the notion
of the aspirations of young people growing up in rural areas.

Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, UCSC) asked about the issue of
scale and Chhatre’s early suggestion around thinking about abundance, rather than being trapped with scarcity
thinking. Chhatre responded by explaining that in order for NGO’s to act as a substitute to government and to
become an agent for government change takes a long time. The instinct for NGO’s is to help people directly, but this
does not produce long-term, systemic change. Therefore, Chhatre suggests there must be new approaches tried.
One of these approaches is using middle school children for data collection and reporting. For example, they have
the school children collect rain fall data and when certain flowers start blooming. In this way, they reduce the need
for expensive monitoring equipment, and include students in the process; allowing them to visualize ideas for
themselves and seeing themselves as the drivers of change.

Andrew Mathews asked how to avoid creating wicked problems. Chhatre clarified that his approach reframes
situations not as choices between but rather as a choice to put together elements differently in such as way that a
system of public investments can be put in place and combined in ways which work locally so that it is possible for
these new approaches to happen. For example, in creating an incentive for farmers to use organic manure in order to
replace chemical fertilizers they have to work through the cascades of effects that this change will create. So, being
able to see that this change in fertilizer means that the use of cow dung will be diverted from its previous use as fuel
which will also mean that women will have to spend more time transporting the dung to the fields and collecting
firewood or shift to inferior fuels. In other words, this shift to organic fertilizer will end up increasing a burden on
women and could also result in increasing girls’ absenteeism from schools. People intervening in soil don’t think to
ask about the state of the local forest or whether girls go to school. Chhatre’s approach shifts from a focus on
singular intervention to combining multiple interventions, which can account for the energy deficit and therefore
combine the shift to organic fertilizer with kerosene subsidies, so the cascade effect can be nipped in the bud and
women’s labor valued. This approach necessitates asking what else is missing and how to monitor that? Mathews
points out that this focus on multiplicities avoids “empty world thinking.”

The conversation continued with other questions about water systems and questions which address new ways of
understanding the legacy of the Green Revolution. Haraway added that this approach emphasizes actual knowledges
and practices of actual workings over modeling and abstractions or theory. She suggested that we have outmoded
notions of knowledge and that this complex systems theories in which multi-factor processes allow us to let go of a
certain need for precision. She stressed the importance of interdisciplinary communication and expressed optimism
for this approach.

Is Bamboo the Next Green Gold?

 "Is Bamboo the Next Green Gold? Balancing the Needs of Vernacular Builders, Non-human Forest Dwellers and Green Architects in the Age of Sustainability"

One of the fastest growing plants in the world; bamboo has emerged as a silver bullet for sustainable design and architecture. However, bamboo also has long been used in artisanal construction in Asia and South America, where it is part of important ecological and cultural systems. Its commercialization brings us back to a now familiar problem: How should we manage nature without damaging the systems that bring us these materials? Can bamboo satisfy all its lovers or – like sugarcane for ethanol – will it become the next green gold? Darrel DeBoerJennifer M. Jacobs and Rudolf von May will examine this significant problem, while focusing on tropical bamboo as an emerging case study.

Panel speakers

Darrel DeBoer is a leading figure for Architects for Social Responsibility and Green Building, who was named by Metropolitan Home magazine in 2001 as “one of the 100 most influential designers” and by Natural Home magazine 2005 one the 10 “Green Architects.” In thirty years of practice, he has used structural bamboo, straw bales, earthen & lime plasters, earthen floors and salvaged materials in an effort to find alternatives to toxic or scarce materials used more often today. Darrel has written and co-authored seven books on building with these materials, including Bamboo Building Essentials and The Art of Natural Building. In addition, he has taught sustainable building techniques through UC Berkeley Extension, the Academy of Art University, Merritt College, the County of Alameda and the City of San Francisco. See his work at: http://www.deboerarchitects.com/

Jennifer M. Jacobs is a biologist, who has studied bamboo forest biodiversity in Peru’s Amazonian region. Her latest research focused on beetle community ecology in bamboo forests. In collaboration with Rudolf von May, she co-authored the article titled: "Forest of Grass: Discovering Biodiversity in the Amazon's Bamboo Jungles" in the Journal of Natural History. Jacobs is also interested in teaching environmental education in K-12 schools.

Rudolf von May is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley, who grew up in the rain forest region of Central Peru and has studied frogs living in bamboo forests. For the last 15 years, in collaboration with other scientists, he has been tracking amphibian biodiversity in the Andes-Amazon region. This research has been featured in National Geographic and Los Angeles Times, among others (see video at: https://sites.google.com/site/rvonmay/).

Co-Sponsored by the Departments of Anthropology, Politics, and Sociology | Hosted by Luz Cordoba

November 19, 2014 | 4:00-6:00PM | Engineering 2, room 475

"Is Bamboo the Next Green Gold?: Balancing the Needs of Vernacular Builders, Non-human Forest Dwellers and Green Architects in the Age of Sustainability"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
19 November 2014
Rapporteur Report by Luz Cordoba
First, Jennifer M. Jacobs and Rudolf von May presented their research on Guadua
bamboo ecologies in the southwestern Amazon. Creating a “patchy” topography, Guadua
bamboo is a fast growing clonal plant that creates mono-dominant patches that span more than
300 square kilometers. Yet, in the southwestern Amazon, Guadua bamboo adds to the
heterogeneity of the rainforest by sheltering and interacting with a diversity of species.
Bamboo, Jacobs stated, experiences mass flowering and collective die-offs, even when
patches are non-contiguous. Luz Cordoba asked how are egregious flowering and collective dieoffs
temporally coordinated across these disconnected patches of bamboo? Jacobs responded that
some theories suggest that there is speciation among patches. Darrel DeBoer, our third presenter,
pointed out that the Guadua Jacobs referred to are smaller varieties. Larger varieties reproduce
mostly asexually because the seeds of the largest species of Guadua are not viable. He stated that
“if you go back far enough (to study these patches) you may find that an entire species is one
plant.” Most of these bamboos spread asexually through a rhizomatic root system, which give
rise to new bamboo culms. Through this underground system, one individual may spread and
“colonize” large and often non-contiguous territories, creating new patches. Despite its
separation from the mother plant, these patches are temporally synchronized, which results in a
species dominating different territories, but also disappearing at once.

Bamboo forests, Jacobs suggested, are largely understudied, particularly in the area of
genetics and ecology, but during the last twenty years, recent advancements in satellite
technology have allowed researchers to study large patches in the Amazon. Researchers
speculate that the spread of bamboo forests may have come from wild fires or native people’s
swidden agriculture. For instance, the study of mound formations in Argentina has shown that
pre-Columbian people worked with bamboo. Jacobs’ research on Enema Pan (rhinoceros beetle)
was inspired by these anthropological discoveries. In the Southwestern Amazon Jacobs and von
May found similar mounds in bamboo forests. Upon excavation of these large mounds, they
found E. Pan. E. Pan, working at the base of the Guadua bamboo, shreds open the culm,
exposing its sap and allowing other insects to feed off the sap. The male E. Pan forms the mound
when digging its burrow. The male beetle then guards the burrow at its entrance. Jacobs
speculates that they feed on Guadua and use these tunnels to raise their larvae.

Von May finished their talk with a survey of the different species that inhabit the inside
of bamboo. He explained how a weevil makes a hole in bamboo, which opens it to other species.
Surprisingly, amphibians are a large group of species that live, reproduce or find shelter in
Guadua. In particular, he called our attention to a particular poisonous frog that uses the inside of
Guadua as a breeding space. In southeastern Peru, this small frog, less than an inch in length,
takes advantage of the structure of Guadua by laying eggs on the walls of the bamboo after
mating inside of it. The nodes of the bamboo are usually filled with water. The male frog looks
for available pools free of predators while carrying hatched tadpoles on their back. Von May
pointed out that this phenomenon of amphibians using bamboo as a breeding ground is not
particular of Peru, but takes place wherever there are these types of bamboos. To date, scientists
have documented at least another five species of amphibians that use Guadua bamboo as shelter.
Like frogs, there are a number of vertebrates, such as birds, that use bamboo as shelter, retreat
and breeding grounds. Von May concluded by pointing out that it takes millions of years for
such species to develop such strong relationships with plants like bamboo, “making us wonder
what would happen if the bamboo habitat disappears?”

DeBoer spoke about the importance of thinking about land use in today’s environment.
He stated, “there are millions of people who would accept living in really high density places in
order to save other land for other things.” In order to do that, DeBoer asked, “What do we need
to be building?” He thinks that we should be constructing as densely as possible buildings that
are “at least 4 to 5 stories high, as densely as possible.” In order to build sustainably, DeBoer
thinks the goal is to get “people to live in 25 units per acre.” This translates to about 1,500 square
feet per unit. He points out that under the right conditions, “transit works without subsidies when
you have 25 units per acre.” Sustainably constructing these spaces will depend also on the
materials we use. DeBoer highlighted how concrete is responsible for 8% all our greenhouse
gases and 30% of our energy goes to building and another 30% goes into transportation, so
building densely will save all of that energy, he argued. Bamboo is a perfect material to build
dense cities because some of its species, particularly, Guadua angustifolia, have strong walls that
can sustain human structures.

In reference to Cordoba’s question of how do you take a natural material like Guadua,
and use it without industrializing it, DeBoer explained that people have found techniques to
transform it without capital/energy intensive processes. Andrew Mathews asked DeBoer whether
he foresees people building their high-density bamboo cities next to their bamboo forests?
DeBoer responded that one way to see this is that one must grow as much bamboo as the area to
be built with it. So, “if you want a house this big, you plant that much bamboo.” And he, pointed
out an example in Asia where people were directed to grow bamboo next to their lots in order to
build their own homes. DeBoer continued to explain that to build with soft wood, the current
paradigm, would take a few acres to build the same house, partly because of the nature of the
fiber of bamboo. Mathews asked whether there are “big industrial projects to build with Guadua,
and is there a fear of destroying these large bamboo forests?” Von May said that in Peru bamboo
is used in small-scale projects but in Brazil there are paper projects where large tracks of bamboo
forests are cleared. In these last cases bamboo is very profitable. However, von May highlighted
that it is very common that people think of bamboo “as a weedy plant, a grass” and they are more
concerned with clearing up land for agriculture because it is more profitable. Kristina Lyons
added that one of the things that has been left out of the conversation are the legal structures that
forests farmers must adhere to in order to make decisions about what plants to cut. She stated, “it
all depends of what Amazons you are talking about, because they are many Amazons. The
Amazons are many worlds.” In Colombia, which still follows a colonial system, farmers must
clear 3 quarters of the land in order to obtain legal title over the land. Farmers want to
incorporate forestry into their farms but they cannot because of this, and if the forest is not
farmed, the mining and oil companies are free to exploit it. She pointed out that these policies do
not protect the forest, but mostly protect the rights of multinational corporations to exploit it.
Lyons raised an important point that we must be mindful of the geopolitical, constitutional and
economic forces that force people into certain relationships with the forest.

Lastly, Karen Barad pointed out the constant use of the verb colonize in order to describe
the ecologies of bamboo. She suggested that, as insiders, scientists get really used to using
certain terminology. Barad asked the scientists what they have thought may be the implications
of using this term, “and what epistemological and methodological issues may arise from the use
of that terminology?” Rudolf responded that in ecology and biology there are few
generalizations. One, he said, is the Island Biogeography where organisms that arrive from the
main land are conceived as colonizers. Thus, in ecology is common to describe organisms that
arrive from another place as colonizers and the process described as one of colonization. Jenny
added that although she uses this terminology, rather than colonization, she sees it as movement
rather than colonization. Barad commented that while she understood that this word has a
genealogy within the sciences, it, nonetheless, carries an array of meanings and assumptions that
take place without thinking about it. She commented that colonization “…is a term about
insertion, rather than a welcoming or a kind of invitation.” Barad’s pointed out that, “the words
we use as scientists do all kinds of work for us and they carry entire models with them…(they)
may be a vehicle for background assumptions.” Andrew added that thinking about beetles
colonizing bamboo makes us think only of a one way relationship, but, he asked, “is the bamboo
getting anything out of it?” Parasitization, he pointed out, is often not a one-way process and
thinking of it in this way we may pay more attention to the return not just the arrival. Karen
finished the conversation by summarizing this discussion with an important question. She asked:
What is not being asked as the result of that or being pay attention to?

ANTHROPOCENE CONFERENCE: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet

Can humans and other species continue to inhabit the earth together? Through noticing, describing, and imagining, we renew conversation about life on earth.

Full schedule: ANTHROPOCENE: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet

Video documentation of the conference: 

“Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet” begins Thursday evening with a talk by acclaimed science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. The talk has long been sold out, but simulcast video streaming will be available at two locations on the UCSC campus: the Humanities Lecture Hall (Room 206) and Social Sciences 1 Room 110. The talk and broadcast are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

“Through noticing, describing, and imagining, we renew conversation about life on Earth,” is how organizers describe the conference’s objectives.

Le Guin spoke of her views on the subject in an extensive interview with the Good Times weekly newspaper. “Well, we’re at a point where how many species go extinct everyday due to human interference? How many oil spills are we going to have? How many people are running around shooting school children with repeater guns? Things are not going well,” she said.

The conference was conceived by UCSC anthropology professor Anna Tsing and is co-presented by the UCSC Anthropology Department’s Emerging Worlds initiative and Denmark’s Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene project. The term Anthropocene is a new one, used to describe the geologic epoch defined by human disturbance of the earth’s ecosystems.

Last year, Tsing won a $5 million Niels Bohr Professorship from the Danish National Research Foundation with which she is establishing a program encompassing the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts in an exploration the Anthropocene.

Aarhus is Denmark’s largest and second oldest university. Founded in 1928, it is located about 120 miles west of Copenhagen. Tsing spent last fall quarter at Aarhus and will teach and conduct research there during the 2014-2015 academic year. She spent time at the university in 2010 on a Guggenheim fellowship.

The conference will continue Friday and Saturday with series of talks that are free and open to the public. All will be held at the Colleges Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room on the UCSC campus. A complete schedule can be found at anthropo.ihr.ucsc.edu.

May 8, 2014 7-9pm at the Rio Theater
May 9, 2014 9-5:45pm in the College 9/10 Multipurpose Room
May 10, 2014 9:30-6pm in the College 9/10 Multipurpose Room

Climate Cluster III: Climate Science Communication and Skepticism

Why is climate change a hot button issue? Through an interdisciplinary conversation, this panel will explore the heated dynamics of climate politics. We will discuss many dimensions of climate science and politics and their relation to one another, e.g.: ideological polarization, climate ontology and epistemology, climate communication and scientific literacy.


Ronnie Lipschutz, Professor of Politics, UCSC

Chaone Mallory, Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University

Mark Snyder, Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC, Assistant Project Earth Scientist and Lecturer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | 4:30-6:30 PM | Engineering 2, Room 599


Climate Cluster III: Climate Science Communication and Skepticism
SJWG Rapporteur Report
25 May 2011
Moderator: Licia Peck
Ronnie Lipschutz, Professor, Politics, UCSC
Chaone Mallory, Assistant Prof, Philosophy, Villanova University
Mark Snyder, Lecturer, Earth & Planetary Sciences, UCSC

Q1: What do you know and how do you know it?

Mark: Studies climate systems using climate models. Fundamental question is how do greenhouse gasses enter atmosphere and how do we know it? We can use paleontological historical records to infer what past climates were like. We can also use isotopic tracking to determine a range of past carbon dioxide levels. How do we look to the future? We look to climate models. There are uncertainties associated with such models because we do not understand these processes completely, for example representation of clouds. We deal with these uncertainties through parameterizations, using expert judgment. Though there is uncertainty, we do know that temperature is indeed increasing. Question then becomes narrowing uncertainty.

Chaone: As an interdisciplinary-trained environmental philosopher, the kind of data we draw on and how we do it is different than natural and social scientists by thinking about the relation of bodies in place, i.e. the phenomenological experience in addition to empirical observations. Part of what counts also include what counts as knowledge, stories and narratives. In her work, she interrogates the knowledge and power, and who is included. Specifically, she explores TEK, traditional ecological knowledge, in native American cultures.

Ronnie: He is originally a trained in physics and energy but now his research has more to do with ontology. What are the assumptions that people bring to the table when they hear and process knowledge? How do we understand this process that we call science and what it generates. What do people bring to the table as foundational beliefs?

Q2: Why is the consensus of most scientists accepted in some arenas and discounted in others?

Ronnie: Politicizing is not a bad thing as it points to the fact that shape of politics is strange and gets back to foundational beliefs. Do you believe in God or something transcendental? Science becomes somewhat transcendentalist in that if you don’t subscribe and act, you die! Rather than life or death it is really a matter of deep seeded belief and meaning. For some reason climate change has become one of the ideological splits broadly, similar to how communism/capitalism were a split in past, perhaps much more than it deserves. What kind of role is it becoming?

Mark: To take Ronnie’s analogy of science as a religion, skeptics play the role of the heretic, by attacking small points that the average person doesn’t know. Skeptics might come from science background but not climate science and don’t usually conduct research but rather scrutinize science that is published.

Chaone: What material interests or psychological investments are threatened by accepting that climate change is real and we know it is happening? Agrees with Ronnie that if climate policy is political, that’s not a bad thing as it forces us to become explicit about the fate of the planet. If we acknowledge this, we can talk about the kinds of values we want to come down on.

Ronnie follow up: Using the term “interests” is problematic, because there are two sides. Secondly, he thinks more is stake than interests as we are talking about the long term benefits to people if we address this problem now. The problem lies at the level of meanings. Not just a question if it’s good for me or not but draws on the question of why am I here?

Chaone: Clarifies her thoughts on “interests.” Deeply invested in anthroprocentrism. Ronnie feels a worldview of anthropocentrism is very valid since we are the only species that can cause such destruction.

Mark: Belief in God or religion allows people to not be concerned about this. Are skeptics and deniers preventing some research from being conducted? Very difficult to justify validity of research in light of this.

Q3: How do you think your work might influence politics?

Mark: From a funding perspective, what we research is somewhat politically driven (i.e. NSF). Something that will be useful with politicians requires some dialogue. Long term projections of 30, 40 and 50 years are not aligned with politicians term cycles so thus they kick the can down the road. California has initiated this kind of
long-term thinking.

Chaone: Recognizing the politics in our knowledge process is important. References Val Plumwood, ecofeminist, perspective on care and respect of research in politics. Suggests that the role of non-natural sciences in influencing politics is less clear. What can philosophers contribute to this debate? Part of this is taking voices seriously, especially those outside of the traditionally authoritative powers.

Ronnie: “Why are academics so eager to give advice to politics when there is no indication that politicians listen?” Has to do with politics of research enterprise and retail politics (i.e. what goes on in DC). The kind of research that has impact is likely research that fits one or another proclivity out there and is used for political ends. With respect to philosophers, if he gets into debate with economist, he cannot debate solidly. However, if he debates an economist about ethics, he will have a leg up over the economist. This is where the argument needs to take place and there is a role for it. Simply, he does not think his work has an influence on politics. If we lived for 1000 years, we would have a very different perspective on this topic. There is a disconnect between time frames and valuation. Especially since people say, “the future never does anything for me.”

Q4: How does time come into play in your thoughts on climate change and science?

Chaone: Do we need to accept the fact that the future is always discounted? Is that the essence of being an economist or politician? Do we have a moral obligation to future generations? What are the properties and characteristics of a right holder? Presenting other scenarios than “politicians are never going to get on board.” Can we train the next set of politicians to consider this?

Ronnie: Very pessimistic. Politics as we understand it in democratic societies are driven purely by the next election. Public policy has a longer view but as a rule is rooted in economic terms and is constrained by the election cycle. An example: the best thing the president could do would be a $6/gallon tax on gasoline. He assures us that no one that did that would stand a chance of winning the next election. He has trouble seeing the way out of this. Time does play an important role. Our material interests play a big role also. We violate our biocentric beliefs hundreds of times every day. Must be deeply embedded in the norms of everyday life such that we don’t do those bad acts anymore.

Mark: He thinks of timescales of models and conditions in the future. Based on how economics, politics, technology transfer effect the world and thus the future world. Interesting that these more social science fields will influence the material and natural world.

Q5: In what ways does it matter if the public trusts the institution of climate science?

Mark: Believe in the public ranges from deniers to believers. In looking at those in between, those that are open to convincing, the trust is very important. For example, IPCC climate gate was a very specific way to create distrust in science. Clever and targeted way to do so. His climate change media training says that we should project a positive image going forward and that there are things we can do to improve the situation. Frame climate science to address the issues important to the target audience, i.e. jobs. Then you enter the role of advocate. Do we want to cross into that world and should we cross into that world?

Chaone: Who is the public? What are the spaces of the public sphere? The norms of social behavior are part of that space. We need multiple angles in approach.

Ronnie: Says Steve Schneider was trying to straddle the science/public advocate roles and it was a challenge. Once you cross the boundary into public advocacy you face rules. Communicating the bad stuff seems to work i.e. opportunity does not gain as much traction as fear. It’s about framing and telling persuasive stories people will accept, which sounds a lot like social engineering and propaganda. He points out that we are subjected to this everyday through advertisements, etc.

Q6: Can you make a recommendation as to how your discipline can help?

Mark: Physical science needs to focus on communication

Ronnie: He’d like his field to stop studying climate change and start focusing on environmental justice.

Chaone: Wants more study in philosophy and wants it taken seriously. Wants voices to be heard.

The panel was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

Climate Cluster II Panel Discussion: Climate Change Scientists in the Trenches

Climate change science is attracting an exceptional amount of public interest, yet debates over the merit and implications of climate change research seldom unpack the complex set of practices and networks that make up this field. This panel will explore the multiple realities of conducting climate change science at a time of heightened skepticism and media attention. Panelists:

Jason Box, Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University

Jeffrey Bury, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC

Ken Mankoff, Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC

Lisa Sloan, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC

Click here or more information on the Climate Cluster.


Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. | E2 Room 599

Climate Cluster II: Climate Researchers in the Trenches
SJWG Rapporteur Report
24 February 2011
Lisa Sloan - Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC
Jason Box - Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University
Jeff Bury - Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC
Ken Mankoff - Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC
Moderator: Costanza Rampini

Rampini began by showing a cover of Rolling Stone, noting that the fact that climate change has made it to the same cover as Lil Dwayne shows how popular this topic has become. Rampini continued that most discussions of climate change don’t take the time to unpack for us for it means to conduct climate change science. The four panelists were introduced as scholars who could help the audience understand what it means to be a climate change scientist.

Rampini then asked the panelists to introduce themselves, briefly explain their work, and say whether they identify as a climate change scientist. (panelists' answers are paraphrased below)

Sloan: Emphatically, yes, I a am a climate scientist and I work on paleo climate. People on an airplance want to change their seat if you tell them you are a climate scientist. Knowing about the past can help you understand the envelope
of behavior the future might bring.

Box: I am a physical climatologist and geographer. I work in Greenland and technically yes I am a climate change scientist because I study climate and the climate is always changing. I want to make the physical science matter and so always want to bring it back to the human impacts. Otherwise the science is just for the science.

Bury: I identify as a social scientist, not a climate change scientist, but 3:1 is a good ratio for this conversation. I work on the Andes.

Mankoff: I am a climate change scientist to be. I am a computer scientist by training and I study how oceans warm Antarctica, and used to be a climate modeler before returning to school. I also volunteered for Al Gore’s group and gave custom live versions of An Inconvenient Truth, and the motivation was to get people to do behavioral change.

Rampini’s next question was about collaboration. She prefaced that, because climate change science generally involves transboundary collaboration whether over disciplinary boundaries or national boundaries. Collaboration can be very
fruitful and very challenging, and asked the panelists to share their experience with transboundary collaboration, especially and instances that were particularly successful or difficult.

Sloan: Not sure what you mean by disciplinary boundaries. Interdisciplinarity on this campus is pretty good and this campus is a good incubator for crossdisciplinary work. Last night I gave a talk to a senior center and this town is
pretty good at breaking down boundaries too.

Box: I want my department to have more impact and give back to society and not just do science for the sake of science. I am between physical and social science boundaries and I have talked with a social scientist in my Geography department
who sees climate change as the biggest issue out there, which is encouraging.

Mankoff: I have been warned against doing interdisciplinary work, for example I am discouraged from doing field work, but I am doing interdisciplinary work anyway.

Bury: I come at this from an International Relations perspective, and also see where I am coming from as transdisciplinarity. I work a lot with Peruvian scientists and have seen the Balkanization of the snow and ice people, i.e. different research teams who sneak in and out of the field and don’t want to talk to each other.

Box: I can confirm that I’ve similarly seen epistemological differences with the scientists in Peru as well, whereas in Greenland things are much friendlier.

Rampini then asked about how uncertainty manifests in the panelists’ work and how they deal with it.

Bury: uncertainty is one of the primary things we try to deal with in our work. The challenge is how to devise the right methods that get the confidence of scientific colleagues when measuring what goes on in Peruvian communities. There is
deep uncertainty about what future costs will be.

Sloan: uncertainty comes with science. The classic problem is that when we hear about the climate change debate people speak in absolutes, but scientists can’t do that. That’s a tough one to me.

Mankoff: I try to explain that a scientist doesn’t have to say that gravity is just a theory, but that doesn’t mean we don't think it’s happening when I talk to nonscientists. The other way I deal with it is with an error bar that gets spit out of a
software program.

Box: Science is only a tool, a way of knowing, and a quantitative statement should always be accompanied by an uncertainty measurement. The IPCC does an excellent job by qualifying each of its statements about uncertainty with a word (e.g. unequivocal, likely, very likely, etc.). Weather forecasters shouldn’t way “it’s going to rain tomorrow,” they should say “there’s a 95% chance it’s going to rain tomorrow.”

Mankoff: I will go so far as to say that species going extinct is bad, and I think this is more compelling, though subjective, than saying “we have observed a 90% decline”

Box: without a value system we are unable to make decisions, and perhaps the wall between left and right is that they simply have different value structures. This is a problem we need to consider if we want to get beyond it.

Rampini then noted how the ‘climategate’ scandal has been compared to the OJ Simpson trial. In the case of OJ Simpson, the large amount of evidence helped lawyers in finding flaws in the police procedures. Rampini then suggested the possibility that more information (or in the case of climate change, data) doesn’t make uncertainty go away but that it can make it worse. Rampini asked if the panelists thought the debate over climate change had left the scientific lab and
entered the political arena. She also asked what kind of role, if any, do scientists still have in these political debates.

Box: Sea level rise will have wider error bars in the 5th IPCC assessment and that will cause confusion for the public.

Sloan: Not sure that outside skepticism makes the science better. What is going on with Inhoffe is ugly, what is going on with the political side of things makes me think the scientists aren’t playing a decent role in the political arena so I feel

Bury: The scandals have taught me not to leave emails on the server. USAID’s whole program is now all about climate change and I brought them together with people from the World Bank. This story shows how the politicization of science in Washington has consequences for development.

Rampini then asked about audience, and whether the panelists had any experiences communicating their research to a general public or policy-makers.

Bury: I have been very impressed by how Box has communicated his findings about Greenland with lots of internet resources and being on a Greenpeace ship. What I’m working on is developing new formats for communicating findings to visually demonstrate glacier repression in the Andes. I won’t take USAID’s money but I do give them free advice. We have no skepticism in Peru, everyone there believes that climate change is taking place.

Mankoff: I have had people walk out of the room and say I am trying to poison them with CFL lightbulbs.

Box: Know your audience. I was sponsored by the UCC to talk with my congressperson about climate science. To speak with conservatives I couldn’t rely on the typical environmental message. Instead, it is wise to make appeals to patriotism, and ask them what we are leaving for our kids, speak in terms of stewardship and to speak of economic competitiveness, e.g. with solar manufacturers in China.
! !

Sloan: Make it local, that gives your audience a stake in what climate change might mean. E.g. say that Beach Hill in Santa Cruz may become Beach Island. The audience also asked a number of questions of the panelists. One participant asked whether the way the panelists conducted their work had changed in response to the skeptic movement, e.g. if there was more pressure for transparency.

Box: The more transparency the better.

Sloan: The NSF now wants a data management plan that includes how it will be archived so that anyone can access it, but this causing issues about how to pay for and manage the data management.

Bury: I also need a data management plan that will be public, which is difficult since I work with human subjects.

Other conversations that were prompted by comments from the audience included: the problem of translating knowledge into action (where even in environmental education one participant had noted substantial gaps between awareness and action); whether tackling the effects and causes of climate change were competing policy priorities; and whether scientists are invested in changing values and perhaps should think more about values. Mankoff commented that it is important to make both causes and effects policy priorities and that values do not come into the science, as that would not be science. Box noted that more than nine out of ten climate scientists come from a liberal perspective, and discussion on what should be done about climate change politically included references to “psychological warfare.” Bury noted that he studies the scientists and asks them to come to policy meetings with him, and that he also brings ethicists into the field with him. Discussion turned to the notion of objectivity as itself a value and the possibility of valuing objectivity.