May 30-31, 2019 | Indigeneity and Climate Justice

Indigeneity and Climate Justice

Thursday May 30 – Friday May 31

9:30-3:30pm – (schedule) (poster)

Arboretum Horticulture Hall II

The UC Santa Cruz Feminist Studies Department presents

a Feminist Science Studies Conference on Indigeneity and Climate Justice, organized by and Professors of Feminist Studies Karen Barad (Science & Justice Director of Teaching) and Felicity Amaya Schaeffer.

Thanks to Zoe Todd for the use of her artwork!

Thanks to Zoe Todd for the use of her artwork!

Anthropogenic climate change is the notion that human actions are the main driver of the current climate crisis. The identification of the anthropos as origin and cause of global climate change elides the fact that climate change is not, and has never been, a universal homogenous process produced by all humans and affecting all humans equally, or as if by chance, some communities more than others (e.g., because they just happen to be living in precarious places). Rather, driven by the forces of capitalism, colonialism, militarism, and imperialism, climate change has been and continues to be perpetuated by the few, while those subjected to precaritization and violence are made to disproportionately absorb the ill effects of “progress” and “development.” In other words, climate change has always been a matter of geopolitics and the ongoing precaritization of oppressed peoples, dominated lands, and other-than-human beings that are part of living landscapes. And lest we think of global climate change as a new phenomenon, a 2015 study of ice core samples reveals that European colonization of the Americas killed so many native peoples so rapidly (approximately 56 million in less than 100 years) that it cooled the Earth’s climate.

The 2019 UCSC Feminist Science Studies conference takes as its focus the theme of “Indigeneity and Climate Justice.” Climate Justice, as opposed to the more narrow framings of “environmental justice,” marks the consideration of the entanglement of ecological, cultural, social, political, geological, biological and other forces, understood as simultaneous and mutually constitutive. A shared concern among our esteemed keynote speakers is the question of how to respond to the challenges and potentials of collaborative engagements between Indigenous and non-Indigenous approaches to caring for the Earth.  We invite them to engage in conversation with each other and students, faculty, staff, and other conference participants about these pressing questions of multiple ontologies, epistemologies, and uneven responsibilities.

Free and Open to the Public.

Keynote Presentations – full schedule

From Environmental Case Study to Kin-Study: 
Weaponized Fossil Kin, Fish, Water, and Métis Legal Orders and Relationality in the Alberta Petro-Economy

Zoe Todd
Métis Scholar of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Canada
Visiting Professor of History, Yale University

Current and Future Effects of Climate Change on the Amah Mutsun Tribe: Local Steps to Take Now!

Valentin Lopez
Chairman, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band

Upside Down Country

Timothy Neale
Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow of Anthropology and Geography
Deakin University, Australia

Who Has the Right to Declare the Urgency of Addressing Climate Change?

Kyle Powys Whyte
Timnick Chair in the Humanities
Associate Proefssor of Philosophy and Community Sustainability
Michigan State University

Co-sponsored by: the UC Santa Cruz Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, The FMST Baskin Foundation Presidential Chair, Humanities Division, The Humanities Institute, the Center for Creative Ecologies, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies program, Research Center for the Americas, the Science & Justice Research Center, and the departments of Environmental Studies and Sociology.


‘Indigeneity & Climate Justice’ conference foregrounds how to care for rather than manage the earth

The Feminist Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz presented Indigeneity & Climate Justice, a two-day conference at the Arboretum on May 30-31, 2019.

In a campus news article, Barad described the difference between environmental justice and climate justice, noting that the latter also ‘considers the mix of ecological, cultural, social, political, geological, legal, and biological forces.’

The campus article can be found at:

More on the conference at:

Climate Conference Panel

Alum SJTP Fellow participates in Climate Justice: Linking Science to Just Action conference

On April 11th, Tiffany Wise-West, Science & Justice Training Program Fellow participated in the 6th Annual Climate Science Conference hosted by UC Santa Cruz held at the Rio Theatre.

The conference, Climate Justice: Linking Science to Just Action brought together diverse perspectives and offered insight into connecting the best science to actions that will help all communities respond to changes in climate.

The recording can be found at:

Tiffany Wise-West is the sustainability and climate action manager for the City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Program. Wise-West received a PhD in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz.

Refer also to:

S&J Training Program Fellow [Wise-West] joins delegation in DC to advocate for more graduate training funding

Wise-West’s 2010 Training Program project on Climate Cluster I: Thinking Through the Technical Fix

April 20, 2017 | Data Under Threat: Rescuing Environmental Data in the Trump Era

Thursday, April 20, Noon-1pm
2nd Floor Instruction & Outreach Alcove
McHenry Library

In recognition of Endangered Data Week, Dr. Lindsey Dillon will discuss her recent experience as a coordinator of a network of academics and non-profits monitoring potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy data at the onset of the Trump administration.

Discussion will follow the presentation. Bring your lunch, questions, observations and experiences. Learn about data rescue efforts such as the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), the End of Term Web Archive, #DataRescue, DataRefuge, DataLumos, and Open Access Week.

Dr. Dillon is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCSC where she is affiliated with the Environmental Studies Department and the Science & Justice Research Center. She is also chair of the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), “an international network of academics and non-profits addressing potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy, and to the scientific research infrastructure built to investigate, inform, and enforce.”

Endangered Data Week (April 17-21, 2017) is a new, nationwide effort to raise awareness of threats to publicly available data.

Jan 29, 2016 | 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.

Apr 23, 2014 | De-Extinction: Building Future Worlds with Extinct Organisms?

For decades, conservationists have worked to minimize human impacts and restore landscapes. Today, global climate change threatens the efficacy of their efforts, prompting them to consider interventions that many would have deemed heretical—and technologically impossible—only a generation prior.

De-extinction, the proposed revival or re-creation of extinct species using synthetic biology, has recently become a focal point in these debates. On April 23, 2014 the UCSC Science and Justice Working Group will host a symposium, “De-Extinction: Building Future Worlds with Extinct Organisms?” Panelists include Beth Shapiro (Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC and National Geographic Emerging Explorer) Oliver Ryder (Director of Genetics and Kleberg Chair, San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research), Paul Koch (UCSC Dean of Physical & Biological Sciences, Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences), and Brian Switek (science writer, National Geographic blogs) and Allen Thompson (Oregon State University, Philosophy). Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita, UCSC History of Consciousness Department) will provide closing commentary.

Proposals for de-extinction have sparked many conversations in bioethics and conservation science. Our hope for this symposium is to deepen the discussion by engaging questions of science and justice. We will consider the fundamental principles that shape our visions of a flourishing future for all species on the planet, and re-examine longstanding questions about the constitution of and proper relations between science, technology, and nature. The question at the center of our discussions will be: What kind of future world(s) do we want to make, and what role, if any, should engineered species have in it?

In the first panel, “Conservation and Biotechnology: For Whose Good?” speakers will explore the role of biotechnology in conservation efforts. While conservation historically has focused on the well-being of non-human species and systems, biotechnology mostly has been directed at advancing human ends. Yet many conservationists are now eager to adopt new biotechnological tools to aid their scientific research and conservation agendas, including some who favor de-extinction and possible spin-off techniques. We will discuss what challenges may arise as conservationists make use of scientific infrastructures and ethical concepts that mostly have been directed to the betterment of humans.

The second panel, “Science, Media and Spectacle: How Does Media Support, Threaten, or Change the De-extinction Agenda?” will explore the powerful imaginaries of de-extinction that have animated the public conversation. Media spectacle is central to de-extinction.  The question for the panel will be:  relates to scientific practice, policy and funding.

De-extinction has captured public attention in a way that other conservation topics rarely do. The past year has seen a proliferation of media coverage of the topic, including cover stories in the National Geographic Magazine and New York Times Sunday Magazine, a TEDx conference, and is the subject of a vibrant twitter discussion (#deextinction). Such attention and excitement brings in funders and participants, but also may generate conflict with other conservation research, practices and goals.  Excitement generated by this coverage often overlooks the central question: Which values, research agendas and techniques should guide conservation practices and our collective multi-species futures in an age of extinction?

The symposium builds on a series of ongoing Science & Justice Working Group conversations about justice in a more than human world.


2:00-2:15       Introduction

2:15-3:30       Panel I: Conservation and Biotechnology: For Whose Good?


Oliver Ryder (Director of Genetics and Kleberg Chair at San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research; Adjunct Professor of Biology, UCSD)

Paul Koch (Dean of Physical and Biological Sciences, UCSC)

Beth Shapiro (Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC)

3:30-3:45       Break

3:45-5:45       Panel II: Science, Media and Spectacle: How Does Media Support, Threaten or

                      Change the De-extinction Agenda?


Allen Thompson (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Oregon State University)

Brian Switek (Freelance Science Writer and Author, Phenomena-National Geographic)

Jake Metcalf (Assistant Director, Science and Justice Research Center, UCSC)


Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, UCSC)

5:45-6:00       Conclusion

Wednesday April 23, 2014 | 2:00-6:00 pm |Engineering 2, Room 599

A UCSC campus news article appears here.

"De-Extinction: Building Future Worlds with Extinct Organisms?"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
23 October 2014
Rapporteur Report by Lizzy Hare and Tracy Ballinger
This symposium sought to extend conversations about de-extinction to questions about
justice. Symposium organizers Jake Metcalf, Lizzy Hare, and Tracy Ballinger asked symposium
speakers to consider the question: What kind of future world(s) do we want to make, and what
role, if any, should engineered species have in it? The symposium was split into two panels. The
first panel, Conservation and Biotechnology: For Whose Good?, featured Oliver Ryder (Director
of Genetics and Kleberg Chair at San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research and
Adjunct Professor of Biology, UC San Diego), Paul Koch (Dean of Physical and Biological
Sciences, UCSC), and Beth Shapiro (Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,
UCSC). This panel explored what we should expect as biotechnology is brought to bear on
conservation problems, and how these disciplines’ visions of a more just future for humans, nonhuman
species, and ecosystems might converge or diverge.

Science & Justice Research Center director Jenny Reardon provided opening comments.
She asked us to consider how we have come to this moment of world-building, and to what is at

The first speaker, Oliver Ryder, presented examples from the Frozen Zoo, which is a
biobank that is collecting and archiving frozen tissue, DNA, gametes, and even viable diploid
cells from threatened and endangered species. The Frozen Zoo and similar projects aim to
facilitate the genetic rescue of critically endangered species by expanding genetic diversity and
increasing a population base. Ryder suggested that genetic rescue projects are preferable to
“true” de-extinction, and that really what needs to be done to save species is to save ecosystems
and habitat. Technological interventions, such as captive breeding, genetic rescue and
translocation can help, but will not ultimately prevent extinction of the species’ habitat simply
does not exist.

Paul Koch began his presentation with the reminder that extinction is forever. Even if deextinction
technology was able to produce a perfect genetic match with the extinct species
(which it will not) that was successfully brought to term using the help of a compatible surrogate
(which is unlikely) we still face a significant challenge with regard to proper socialization. He
reminded us of the case of the California condor which developed a troublesome affinity for
humans despite extensive efforts to properly socialize the chicks. While this might seem a minor
nuisance, it could ultimately be a significant social challenge. He asked us to imagine, for a
moment, how conservation efforts would handle the public relations difficulties that might come
from hundreds of thousands of de-extinct passenger pigeons swarming the skies over our cities
and defecating on our cars. Because de-extinction would create organisms “inspired” by the
dead, Koch asked the audience to consider de-extinction as an “act of artistic creation.” Because
of this, he suggested that de-extinction needs to justify itself, especially because most of the
supposed benefits of de-extinction could be achieved at a lower cost and with a higher
probability of success if they are done through rewilding efforts. Like some perspectives on deextinction,
re-wilding accepts that the nature/culture dichotomy is no longer a useful way to view
the world, because humans have made significant changes to virtually every landscape, and
therefore it is humans’ moral obligation to care for that world, even if it means treating it as a
managed landscape. Creative landscape management can work to preserve species and
ecosystem services, thus over time reducing the need for intensive efforts like de-extinction.

Beth Shapiro echoed many of the same concerns as the panelists before her. She began
by reiterating the infeasibility of de-extinction projects. In many cases, the kinds of cells that
would be necessary simply aren’t available. Chimeras, hybrids, or other forms of organisms
“inspired by” extinct species would be a best-case scenario. Even if this “best-case” scenario
was made possible, there would continue to be other issues. Like Ryder and Koch, Shapiro
pointed out that in many cases we still have not addressed the cause of the extinctions. Habitat
loss continues to be an issue for most threatened species, and global climate change will only
exacerbate this issue. The case of the California condor is a good example of the challenges that
are faced when efforts are made to release animals from captivity that have never been in the
wild and lack proper socialization and behavior training. Curiosity has been invoked as one of
the driving forces behind these efforts, but we need to seriously consider whether curiosity is a
sufficient justification for the suffering and tremendous expense of de-extinction efforts.

In the brief question and answer period after the first panel, Micha Rahder mentioned that
much of the attention around de-extinction has been directed at charismatic species, such as
passenger pigeons and wooly mammoths, but less exciting species might be responsible for
integral ecosystem services. Donna Haraway asked a similar question, wondering about the
microbiological assemblages of extinct species. Shapiro said that this was something that
researchers had considered, but that funders play a large role in pushing for big, charismatic
species. Ryder confirmed this, adding that there is also a bias toward mammals because
researchers have a better understanding of how those might be grown in a laboratory setting. As
for the microbiome of de-extinct species, Shapiro said that it really wasn’t a matter of concern
yet since de-extinction remains such a far-fetched idea.

The Second panel, Science, Media and Spectacle: How Does Media Support, Threaten or
Change the De-extinction Agenda?, featured speakers Allen Thompson (Associate Professor of
Philosophy, Oregon State University), Brian Switek (Freelance Science Writer and Author,
Phenomena -National Geographic), and Jake Metcalf (Assistant Director, Science & Justice
Research Center, UCSC). This panel examined how media spectacle relates to scientific practice,
policy and funding.

The second panel began with Allen Thompson. Thompson proposes that de-extinction be
thought of as “luxury conservation” because most of the considerations of it are technoscience
oriented and, as Koch argued, there are easier, cheaper, and more effective methods for
conservation. Thompson argues that we should instead focus our limited resources on
minimizing future extinctions and increasing the adaptive capacity of extant species. These
efforts might take the form of fairly intensive management strategies, such as assisted migration.
They might also require us to radically reconsider the value of things like novel ecosystems,
which have previously been something conservationists sought to eradicate, but now may be
thought of as valuable because they preserve wildness or resiliency. Thompson ended his talk by
asking us to take the anthropocene concept seriously, and to think about what it requires of
human communities.

Brian Switek offered a change of pace and tone from the other presenters. As a science
writer, he has a good sense of how to engage a diverse audience, and he was successful at
capturing the attention of the attendees with jokes and anecdotes about his work on deextinction.
He talked about how de-extnction has captured public attention in part because it
deals with charismatic megafauna, but also because it serves as a good example of broader
concerns that the public has about science. Most people immediately think of Jurassic Park
when they think about de-extinction, and after some sense of the wonder and spectacle of the
technology, the next thing that people recall is the “Dr. Frankenstein aspect”. That is, people are
concerned that scientists may not be asking themselves key ethical questions. Switek feels that
to some degree, public interest in de-extinction is more about this issue of trust and ethics in
science than it is about a sheer fascination with mammoths. He suggests that we should keep this
in mind during the symposium, and recognize that there is much to learn from the phenomenon
of de-extinction besides actualizing the possibility of making a new species.

Jake Metcalf begins by pointing out that much of the ethical inquiry in media coverage of
de-extinction has been limited to the question of should we or shouldn’t we, as if it were as
simple as pushing a big red button. He explains that framing the question in this way is actually
deceptive because it implies that we have a lot of knowledge about the future, and therefore put a
lot of responsibility on that particular decision. De-extinction disrupts our sense of temporality
and permanence, but it can also teach us about our own sense of care in the present. He asks us
to think about how de-extinction can help us to understand how we might better care for the
world such that threatened creatures or de-extinct creatures are able to thrive. Following up on
some of the ideas that Thompson presented, Metcalf suggests that de-extinction is entangling us
with new, caring bonds.

Final comments were provided by Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita of
History of Consciousness, UCSC). She begins her comments by asking, “how can we change
the story?” Her proposed method for changing the story is to “thicken the we” who are included
in the stories. In order to do this, we must ask: who cares, and who and what is at stake? And we
need to cultivate the capacity to respond. This is what she means by response-ability. Haraway
says the present needs to be thicker. If we are imagining futures, let’s imagine wildly and think
critically about our ideals. As an exercise, she asks the audience to imagine a future in which
each person is the caretaker and spokesperson for a given species and may carry some of that
species’ DNA in their genome. Is this a future that we want? At this point, she returns to one of
Reardon’s introductory comments about mourning and loss. Haraway reminds us that death is
very important, and that de-extinction is very much about the denial of death. She encourages us
to think of new narratives with which to think about death, including species death, as an integral
part of life.

Nov 10, 2010 | Climate Cluster I: Thinking Through the Technical Fix

The scope of climate change science has expanded from projections of long-term weather trends to include proposals to technically “fix” the climate, such as geoengineering and carbon mitigation strategies.  Like climate modeling, proposals for technical remediation contain scientific uncertainties that translate awkwardly in the political sphere.  This situation compounds the difficulties in planning for future climate conditions.  The Climate Cluster’s fall panel discussion will explore several interrelated themes that arise in discussions of technical approaches to climate change including consensus, uncertainty, indeterminacy and model downscaling.  We will also focus on the possibilities of creating, integrating and communicating climate change research through mechanisms such as climate modeling and geographical information systems (GIS).

Andrew Mathews, Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Technopolitics & Environmental Institutions)
Michael Loik, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies (Plant & Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change)
Barry Nickel, Lecturer & Director of the Center for Intergrated Spatial Research, Environmental Studies (Spatial Ecology & Geospatial Tool Development)
Bruce Daniels, PhD Candidate, Earth & Planetary Science (Science of Climatology & Hydrology)

Moderated by Tiffany Wise-West, Ph.D. Student, Environmental Studies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | 4:15 p.m. | E2 Room 599

“Thinking Through the Technical Fix”
A Panel Discussion Presented by the Climate Cluster
SJWG Rapporteur Report
10 November 2010
The panelists began by discussing ways to improve the predictive power of climate models and other tools that scientists use to predict the impacts of climate change in habitats and species. Some of the challenges that were identified by Barry Nickel, Michael Loik and Bruce Daniels for improving climate change predictions were 1) improving the resolution of climate models which at the moment fail to capture important local variability 2) capturing variables in dynamic systems. Andrew Matthews raised the concern that “more knowledge doesn’t necessarily make the uncertainty go away, sometimes it makes even worse.” With this comment, Prof. Matthews is referring to the political uncertainty that surrounds scientific issues such as climate change that have widespread implications for a variety of stakeholders.

The panelists proceeded by discussing some of the sources of uncertainty and how they affect their respective work.

Barry Nickel stressed the distinction between uncertainty in measurements and uncertainty in understanding. He referred to the chain of uncertainty that is created when GIS models incorporate and combine various global climate models (GMCs). He concluded by saying that “his world is filled with uncertainty.” He also stated that that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to new forms of knowledge.

Michael Loik explained how the biogeochemical models, which he uses in his work are driven in part by GCMS to which they incorporate biological functions to find out, for example, whether changes in precipitation would lead to increased vegetations in a specific area. In his work, one of the great challenges stems from matching the ‘simple’ results of the biogeochemical models with the complex matrix of biological and ecological found in-situ. Loik stated that him and his lab embrace uncertainty in their field design by often testing opposing hypotheses as they relate to climate change

Bruce Daniels discussed how most models are parameterized (i.e. averaged) to reality. He also reframed the conversation by emphasizing the importance of trust over that of scientific certainty. He explained that trust has a lot to do with knowing what scientists are actually doing and developing relationships over time.

Andrew Matthews then asked about the credibility of trust and whether we can trust a scientists based on their academic accomplishments and affiliations. He concluded by saying that modeling is concerned with the technical side of imagining futures, but not concerned enough with how these futures are taken up by politics and social system.

Collaboration & Communication
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists to talk about the type of collaborations that they have been involved in and the publics with whom they communicate.

Bruce Daniels, Michael Loik and Barry Nickel all talked about collaborating with and communicating their findings to professors in various departments on the UCSC campus and other non-academic groups in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area.

Bruce Daniels talked about the importance of seeing the needs of our surrounding communities, even needs that they don’t know they will have yet.

Andrew Matthews talked about the importance of using ways to communicate findings that the public can use in the way they use information (e.g. a poster can be better than an article). Andrew Matthews expressed his opinion that social scientists are sometimes “poorly socialized” and don’t cooperate as much as natural scientists. He spoke of forced collaborations and the ethical questions they raise.

IPCC Scandals & Consensus
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists their opinions regarding the recent IPCC scandals dubbed ‘climategate.’

The panelists talked about how politics play an important role in the IPCC.

Michael Loik emphasized that sloppiness was at the root of the scandals and that the IPCC is the best climate change science that we have. He also said that framing and portrayal are ultimately key as the scientific process must go through political filter.

Andrew Matthews asked: What kind of institutions would be able to make better use of the facts hat we do have? He also argued that really good data has often come out of really sloppy processes and that nobody would have picked up on the IPCC sloppiness if they hadn’t been looking for ways to discredit the IPCC as a knowledge-making institution.

Bruce Daniels stressed the difficulty of reaching a consensus that threatens vested interest.

The panelists concluded by suggesting that the IPCC should perhaps include a media section in their assessment reports that would facilitate communicate their findings to the public.

Michael Loik also brought up some examples of successful science-policy collaborations such as the Montreal Protocol.

When panelists were asked how each of them reached consensus with their colleagues, they spoke of comparing various models as well as comparing models to past and present climate and conditions.

Michael Loik also spoke of using synthetic meetings for people to bring their data from their field studies and use meta-analysis to quantify common themes. Andrew Matthews that in his field consensus seems to be reached when others can relate to the story you are telling.

Shadow Politics
Tiffany Wise-West asked Andrew Matthews to explain his use of the term ‘shadow politics.’ Matthews explained that when you create a model, you also create, consciously or not, an imagined institutions/actor that can use that model.

Barry Nickel added to that by remarking that the unintentional creation of the politics around “what we do” actually has ramifications for “the work that gets done.”

Science and the Public
The conversation then shifted to talking about the importance of how climate change science is presented to the public and about the dangers of the public misusing scientific tools when these become too accessible to non-experts.

A person in the public brought up the idea of multiple publics and the importance of focusing on those publics that are most worth communicating to. He also talked about the difference between ethos, logos and pathos, and about how pathos is the real challenge to tackling the challenges of global climate change.

Bruce Daniels proposed the idea of creating a public forum to take climate change science on the road and to the general public. Another member of the public brought up the importance of literacy and science literacy in particular.

In conclusion, Karen Barad asked about the kinds of uncertainty that should we care about and about the ways in which we can deconstruct the word uncertainty to make it helpful to us.

Bruce Daniels compared the uncertainty around climate change to the uncertainty of investing in market stocks – an uncertainty which doesn’t freeze people.