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:

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:

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?

Sea and Cities: Interdisciplinary Research in the Baltic

The Baltic Sea is one of the largest brackish water bodies in the world. It is an especially sensitive sea, because it is a shallow and semi-enclosed body of water that receives a considerable load of pollutants from the surrounding countries. The pollution of the sea has become one of the most important common environmental issues for countries in Northern Europe. Today's environmental problems are, however, the collective result of political decisions made in the past (not unlike the San Francisco Bay). Environmental historian Simo Laakkonen (Adjunct Professor of Social and Economic History, University of Helsinki) will draw from his experiences in directing multidisciplinary research networks in the Baltic Sea Region as he speaks about doing research on different spatial scales, time spans and with scholars representing science and technology. Maya Peterson (Assistant Professor of History, UCSC) will ask him to reflect upon his experiences of directing this interdisciplinary research group.

4:00-6:00pm | Engineering 2, 475 | October 15, 2014

"Sea and Cities: Interdisciplinary Research in the Baltic"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
15 October 2014
Rapporteur Report by Samuael Topiary
This presentation by environmental historian Simo Laakkonen provided an introduction to the
historical and political aspects of working and studying the ecological history and current state
of the Baltic Sea. One of the largest brackish water bodies in the world, the Baltic Sea is an
especially sensitive sea, because it is a shallow and semi-enclosed body of water that receives a
considerable load of pollutants from the surrounding countries, both western European and
former Soviet bloc countries.

The presentation began by distributing a map of the Baltic Sea region which illustrates the
Cold War divide established in 1945 between the three Socialist states: USSR, Poland and East
Germany, the western European countries of West Germany and Denmark and the supposedly
politically neutral Finland and Sweden. By orienting us geo-politically, Maya Peterson opened
the presentation by invoking the idea of the ecology of war in relation to environmental

Prof. Laakkonen began by explaining that the Baltic Sea is both the most polluted and the most
studied and protected sea in the world. Then, he corrected himself, to clarify that the Baltic is
no longer the most polluted sea; that dubious distinction belongs to the China Sea. He also
explained that the Baltic is a young sea, less than 10,000 years old, formed during the last Ice
Age. This semi-closed sea contains both salt water, in the areas close to the outlet to the ocean
near Denmark, and fresh water from melting glaciers and lakes, which tends to be concentrated
in the northern area between Finland and Sweden and further south and east. Because of this
unusual mix of two different ecosystems, there is a much smaller amount of marine species who
develop and can survive in this mixed habitat. There are very few places in the world which
have this kind of mix of salt and “sweet” water and this, coupled with the fact that the Baltic is a
very shallow sea which can freeze over easily, make the ecological issues with respect to habitat
restoration and pollution cleanup challenging.

The discussion turned to an exploration of the question: “How and why to study the
environmental history of the Baltic Sea?” Prof. Laakkonen outlined what he sees as the three
main challenges for his work: 1) the overall relations between humans and nature 2) the
environmental crisis in relationship to pollution, 3) the lack of a sense of the big picture of
what has happened in the sea as an international picture. He explained that he approaches
these challenges from a multitude of academic disciplinary perspectives. Beginning with a
history of science perspective, his international research team looks at how pollution has been
studied, the various political and cultural as well as scientific approaches to measuring and
understanding pollution and its causes. This approach also requires his team to gain an
understanding of the history of environmental technologies and agricultural technologies
which have been used or continue to be used. This includes an analysis, as much as is
possible, of the types and quantities of chemical fertilizers which different countries have used,
in order to be able to provide analyses of what types of pollution may have been coming from
what sources and when. Finally, Prof. Laakkonen spoke about the inclusion of a history of
policy making and the environmental media which was generated beginning in the 1960s and
70s. He explained that this research work starts at the local level exploring what municipalities
have done in terms of taking care of water treatment, especially in the Nordic countries. From
the local level, this work then expands out to consider any national projects and legal structures
that may influence the environmental management.

One aspect of this work that Prof Laakkonen highlighted was the history of radiation and
radioactive fallout from large Soviet bombs as well as oil spills. Because environmental
awareness and problems of toxicity only began to be studied in the 1960s, Prof Laakkonen
noted the difficulty in gathering data and information that predated the 60s. He also noted that
the development of international cooperation began around marine life protection.
The issues of scales, in terms of timescales, human and geographic scales were discussed in
relationship to understanding water as a crucial resource for people as well as various industries:
fishing, transportation, industry as well as a source for drinking water and recreational
swimming and boating. The potential for international conflict in the management of such an
important resource with so many competing interests is obvious. However, there is also quite a
bit of contention and competition between local and state interests, thus making the needs for
international coordination quite complicated. On the individual level, notions about identity in
relationship to the sea are diverse and encompass people with strong maritime identities who
live along the coastlines vs. urban dwellers who often don’t have the same appreciation or
values when it comes to protecting the maritime environment, and these differences are
politicized. Maya Peterson asked about how the different political histories and the potentials
for conflict between the Warsaw Pact countries and the NATO countries have played out. How
has resource use impacted cooperation and are some countries more responsible for pollution
than others? These questions did not elicit clear answers. Prof Laakkonen suggested, as he did
in answer to many other questions, that the data is as yet inconclusive. However, he did suggest
that our stereotypes of the East as polluters and the West as clean and more concerned with
environmental issues are not necessarily true. He pointed out that how information is framed to
be “policy relevant” and what motivations are in action “behind the scenes” makes the issue of
justice in relation to history difficult to parse.

Andrew Mathews asked about the most surprising pattern that has emerged and if this story has
an impact on scientific research being done today. Prof Laakkonen suggested that there were no
simple answers. He suggested that focusing on one thing means you neglect something else and
that the lure of the simple answer often obscures other truths. He invoked the example of the
disappearance of the crows from Helsinki in the 19th century, suggesting that often causes for
phenomenon are not known for 100 years or more.

Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, UCSC) asked
about the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in the 1950s in the wake of the conversion of
the chemistry industry from war to peacetime uses, tying the ecology of war to agriculture and
plant physiology. Prof Laakkonen said this has not been studied and therefore there is no data,
though he does want to find out how farmers got their information about what to use and he
added that Finnish farmers (unlike farmers elsewhere) were very suspicious of synthetic
fertilizers. A number of other participants asked questions, which were answered
inconclusively, stating that there was “lack of data.”

Maya Peterson closed the session by appreciating how difficult such interdisciplinary and
multinational historical perspectives can be to manage and marveling at the potential such a
study presents. The promise in bringing scientists and humanists together provides an
opportunity for us to learn to trust each other and work together.

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

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

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.

Measuring and Predicting Carbon Absorbed in Reforestation and Averted Forest Fires: Problems of Communicating Uncertainty about Landscape Change

Measuring and Predicting Carbon Absorbed in Reforestation and Averted Forest Fires: Problems of communicating uncertainty about landscape change


Karen Holl (UCSC, Environmental Studies)

Maggi Kelly (Dept. of Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management, UC Berkeley)

Tim Forsyth (Department of International Development, London School of Economics)

Over the last few years the contribution of deforestation and forest fires to climate change has come to be of increasing interest, even as new technologies of remote sensing and modeling have made it possible to measure and predict landcover change with unprecedented accuracy. These technologies have made it possible to imagine environmental policies which compensate landowners for averted deforestation (known as REDD, Reduced Emissions through Degradation and Deforestation), or to support thinning forests in order to prevent forest fires. However, increased precision also introduces new problems of communicating uncertainty to policymakers and of gaining the trust of the general public. Professor Holl will talk about the challenges of including tropical forest restoration in proposed markets in carbon offsets, Professor Kelly will talk about her work with remote sensing technologies such as LIDAR in order to measure California forests and to inform the general public about forest conditions. Tim Forsyth is a specialist in political approaches to environmental change and international development, and will moderate a conversation about the challenges of communicating uncertain knowledge about forests to policymakers and other audiences.

February 26, 2013 | 4:00-6:00PM | Engineering 2, Room 599

"Measuring and Predicting Carbon Absorbed in Reforestation and Averted Forest Fires:
Problems of Communicating Uncertainty about Landscape Change"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
26 February 2013
Rapporteur: Martha Kenney, History of Consciousness
Maggi Kelly (Berkeley) spoke about her work on the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management
Project, a collaborative partnership between a UC science team, federal and state agencies, and
the public with the goal of learning how to ensure long-term sustainability of the Sierra Nevada
forest system. Specifically they are looking into the role of fire in forest management. Firesuppression
policies have lead to fuel build-up. The Forest Service developed a “strategic fire
management” plan where fuel treatments would be used on the ground to control the fire.
However, this had only been modeled, not tested. Due to public concern UC scientists were
brought in as a neutral party to investigate the efficacy and impact of the fuel treatment plan.
Kelly was a member of the spatial team who used helicopter-mounted LiDAR (Light Detecting
and Ranging) to measure the efficacy of the treatments. Recent projects for the spatial team
include using LiDAR data to map Fisher (a medium-sized mammal of interest to environmental
activists) habitat and finding the best allometric equations to use LiDAR data to estimate the
forest biomass. One public initiative has been to introduce citizens to virtual forests rendered
from the LiDAR data. This offers one medium to communicate both the potential and
uncertainty of their forest models.

Karen Holl (UCSC) spoke about the opportunities and concerns of the UN’s REDD+ (Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) initiative in the context of tropical forest
restoration. Under the REDD+ scheme local people are paid to participate in reforestation
projects. Holl expressed some logistical concerns about REDD+ including how to set a baseline
for how much carbon you have to begin with, monitoring, permanence, and respecting human
rights. In her own project in Costa Rica, Holl learned that it is important where you restore and
how you restore forests. Her team has been experimenting with creating “tree islands,” which
use fewer resources and stimulates natural recovery. Projects such as these help Holl investigate
why there is such variation in the rate of recovery in order to increase the predictability of active
restoration. However, Hall is still concerned about the efficacy of paying farmers for restoration
and that a focus on carbon obscures questions of biodiversity. Because of these misgivings, Holl
argues that forest policies should concentrate on preserving relatively intact forests and to value
carbon, biodiversity, and human livelihoods together.

Tim Forsythe acted as respondent for Kelly and Holl, drawing from his own experience in forest
policy in Asia. Agreeing with Holl he argued that REDD+ offers a strategy to increase forest
cover and reduce carbon, but it does not necessarily or directly address people’s livelihoods and
biodiversity. Other limitations to REDD+ he noted were that under many schemes only
indigenous people are protect, that plantation forests are acceptable for meeting carbon goals,
and that carbon does cost enough (10 dollars/ton) to encourage the kind of reforestation that is
necessary. Forsythe argued that we need new ways of using climate change policy to make better
livelihoods for the people who rely on the forests for income. One alternative he believes offers
a better model is the approach of Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS),
who ask rural people what they need and value in the context of global climate change.

During the question and answer period, questions centered around the uncertainty of scientific
modeling and problems with climate change policy. Kelly spoke about her role as a trusted
liaison (or neutral party) between the public and the Forest Service. Transparency and clear
communication of uncertainty are central to her team’s success, which includes destabilizing the
notion that a map or a model tells the truth. These uncertainties have lead to combining
approaches. For example the LiDAR data about Fisher habitat is correlated with the Fisher team
who monitor individual animals. However, how much the precision of the LiDAR data helps
resolve questions around fire remains to be tested. There are many equations and models and
they need to be checked against data on the ground. Holl explained that in tropical forests there
are so many species that the numbers you plug into equations for wood density require a lot of
guess work. She also explained that when a model is working it doesn’t necessarily represent the
reality of a situation but helps scientists to identify data gaps and to generate hypotheses.
Forsythe was concerned that these model-generated hypotheses don’t travel well and that, in the
context of REDD+, that these hypotheses have scientists and policy makers asking the wrong
questions. He wondered if REDD+ is helpful for the forests or a fast, cheap, and efficient
solution. Echoing the theme of “slow science” that the SJWG has been considering, he argued
that we should pause and ask more people what they would like to do with their landscapes.
From these discussions we got a real sense of the complex relationships between models, data,
policy, and on the ground efficacy happening within forest science in the context of climate

Green Neuroscience: Re-envisioning How We Study the Brain and Ourselves


In this Science and Justice Working Group event, Dr. Ann Lam and Dr. Elan Liss Ohayon present the story of establishing the Green Neuro Lab. They will outline some of the key issues facing the neurosciences and describe the lab's efforts to advance a sustainable and inclusive neuroscience. They will also outline how their current research directions, in studies of neural imaging, cognition, and computational neural modeling, address their objectives. They hope to engage the audience in a discussion of how neuroscience can be re-envisioned in the context of science, justice and the environment.

There is an urgent need for the neuroscience community as a whole to reexamine its purpose and approach to research. Simply put, the overall trajectory of neuroscience research today is generating toxic waste, causing harm to other species, and creating fractured categories of human health that result in unnecessary stigmatization and marginalization. Many of these issues stem from long-established and largely unchallenged belief systems about the brain and brain-environment interactions. These problems are also systemic in nature in that much of neuroscience research is driven by funding structures and other factors that run counter to individual and community interests.

The aim of the Green Neuroscience laboratory is to advance our understanding of the brain by posing questions and conducting careful research in a sustainable and creative manner. The lab strives to demonstrate that neuroscience research can be less harmful to the environment and improve health while simultaneously recognizing the importance of neurodiversity, community, and the environment. Another central goal of the lab is to improve the dialogue between researchers and the publics they strive to help.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | 4:00-6:00 PM | Engineering 2, Room 599


Dr. Ann Lam received her PhD from the University of Saskatchewan and completed her postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She is Director and Founder of the Green Neuroscience Laboratory. Her work has focused on brain development and cognitive conditions, including Williams Syndrome. She is currently working on developing an open atlas of brain metals to study the relationship between metals and cognition.

Dr. Elan Liss Ohayon received his PhD from the University of Toronto and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California San Diego. He is currently a research associate at the Salk Institute. He is also Co-Director and Founder of the Green Neuroscience Laboratory. He is a neurocomputational researcher, with research projects relating neural network structure to activity in epilepsy and social cognition.

"Green Neuroscience: Re-envisioning How We Study the Brain and Ourselves"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
22 January 2013
In this Science and Justice Working Group event, Drs. Ann Lam and Elan
Ohayon presented the story of establishing the Green Neuroscience Lab (
The aim of the Green Neuroscience laboratory is to advance our understanding of the brain by
posing questions and conducting careful research in a sustainable and creative manner. The lab
strives to demonstrate that neuroscience research can be less harmful to the environment and
improve health while simultaneously recognizing the importance of neurodiversity, community,
and the environment. Another central goal of the lab is to improve the dialogue between
researchers and the publics they strive to help. In this presentation, they also outlined how their
current research directions, in studies of neural imaging, cognition, and computational neural
modeling, address their objectives.

Dr. Lam and Dr. Ohayon began the presentation by asking everyone in the room to describe what
they think a “green neuroscience”, or more broadly a “green science" might entail. Their
presentation outlined the issues with neuroscience research today and how the principles of their
lab address and go beyond these trends. They also described the physical space and the research
foci of their lab.

Problems with the Trajectory of Neuroscience Research
The presenters briefly described the concerns of brain/mind-related research as depicted by
popular culture, referring to stories such as Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Brave New
World, and Total Recall. They then outlined some troubling objectives and research of
neuroscience that may actually go beyond those of the sci-fi realm. These included military and
commercial applications, various psychiatric therapies, the extensive use of viral vectors, and a
push toward mono cultures, pathologizing, medicalization, and marginalization. Examples
discuss included: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, optogenetics, and
bias due to close connections between academic research and for-profit industries. They also
described the large quantities of hazardous waste generated by most neuroscience approaches
and harm to other species.

Principles of Lab
They outlined some of the laboratory principles, which included: developing green, non-toxic,
sustainable, and restorative research methods; no captive, experimental animal testing; aiming to
increase the overall autonomy of individuals; non-hierarchical research and just labor practices;
nurturing of cooperative science; encouraging an appreciation of neurodiversity rather than
“typical” brain structures and functions; sustaining responsible and rigorous research practices
that also incorporate humor and deep fun.

Conceptual Space
The presenters described the conceptual space that has supported the formation of the Green
Neuroscience Lab. This includes their affiliation with the NeuroLinx Research Institute (https://, which is a non-profit research institute that began operations in 2011 and whose
mission is to further neuroscience research within a framework of open scientific collaboration.
The institute addresses this mission by “building bridges between researchers, creating unique
collaborations, linking diverse scientific data and information, and supporting high-risk but
potentially high-reward research projects.” The mission is summarized in the moto “Liberating

Physical Space
Dr. Lam and Dr. Ohayon then discussed how they have worked to create a physical laboratory
space that reflected their principles. This includes no animal testing, minimizing the use of
hazardous materials for studies, and a practice of non-hierarchy (e.g., encouraging college
student researchers to develop their own questions and research studies which is rare at the
undergraduate level). They also described how the laboratory is the first net zero neuroscience
laboratory powered with solar energy, how much of the equipment and furniture were reclaimed
or repurposed, and how they increased green space in a primarily industrial area.

The speakers then presented examples of their research projects. Dr. Lam outlined the Open
Atlas of Brain Metals project ( that she and Dr. Ohayon are working
on as part of the Green Neuroscience Laboratory. Using X-ray fluorescence imaging at the
Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, they are developing an open access atlas that will
offer researchers new information on the distribution and function of metals in the human brain.
Metals contribute to the basic architecture, function and plasticity of neural systems. By
constructing this digital repository, they are documenting the diversity across and within socalled
“typical developing” brains as well as conditions such as epilepsy and Williams
Syndrome. The hope is to help identify the role of metals in the brain in order to understand how
their distributions in brain structures contributes to function. By using synchrotron imaging they
have avoided many commonly used carcinogenic substances in assessing brain anatomy,
although a possible environmental trade-off is the large amount of energy that this method can
consume (though relatively brief in duration). Beyond the accuracy and environmental benefits,
the method also has additional scientific advantages in that it enables other histological
techniques to be applied post-imaging.

Dr. Ohayon also outlined his neurocomputational research on neural activity, cognition and
epilepsy. He described how he explores the effects of changes in the structure of large networks
on their function. He also illustrated how he has thought about these models in the context of the
environment and autonomous agents. As an example, he presented an experiment where
embodied models (robots) where evolved from a seizure-like condition to a point where they
could move around and avoid obstacles.

Question and Answer Period:
The discussant, Martha, began the question section of the event by asking Drs. Lam and Ohayon
three questions (paraphrased in the following section):
Martha - In Science and Justice we have discussed this idea of “slow science.” It is a concept
that we have taken from the idea of fast food as something that is output quickly, but has all
types of negative consequences ecologically and socially. We have thought about the possible
benefits of moving away from a fast-paced competitive atmosphere or a ‘publish or perish’
model to allow for time for experimental projects, potential false starts, the ability to “digest” the
science, and a more positive workspace. In what ways might that concept resonate, or not
resonate, with the Green Neuroscience Lab?

Ann and Elan - The analogy definitely works in many senses, in that there is definitely too
much rote research being conducted, with little thought of the impact both within neuroscience
and on society. Also, pressures to finish study quickly and considerations of how easy it will be
to publish can bias both the approach and results. Proper experimental design should allow for
thinking space and serendipitous discovery to occur. On the other hand, while we have to give
space for things to happen slowly, we must also recognize that sometimes things happen very
fast and great realizations can occur quickly. So we need to be flexible and act upon rapid
developments in our studies and within neuroscience as a field.

They agreed that concept resonates at many levels and that the means of our practices should
reflect our principles. In that sense it is very important to give things time to simmer and avoid
"fast food" science. On the other hand, they also remarked on the urgent need to recognize and
respond to the dangerous trajectories in neuroscience research. The detrimental consequences are
speeding up and require fast responses to mitigate the damage. This urgency means that
researchers who care about these ethical issues need to respond quickly and strongly.
There have also been some positive developments. For example, there is an important move
away from ‘publish or perish” that is now allowing for more inclusive and thoughtful science. In
fact, some of the most momentous and rigorous results have recently been disseminated in nontraditional
manners. An example is the solution to the Poincaré conjecture by Grigori Perelman
who posted the proof online (on arXiv).

There are also many troubling social justice dimension to the competitive "fast food" model. For
example, talented immigrant scientists are pressured to perform under the threat of losing their
jobs and visas. This can turn marginalized people against each other as well as potentially
compromising the science and ethics. In the US, the problem is exacerbated by the lack of
universal healthcare, so people may overwork themselves or cut corners because they are afraid
of losing their health insurance benefits. Also, researchers who want to keep their positions and
health insurance in order to protect their families will often sacrifice time with their families.
Women in particular may feel the pressure to choose between work and family. The absence of
social safety nets can also lead to researchers that are less likely to take chances. Dr . Ohayon
remarked that this is exceedingly ironic since the lack of socialized health care can actually
hamper the entrepreneurial spirit so celebrated by industry.

Martha - mentioned the work that she did with Ruth Müller that found women postdocs had an
enormous amount of pressure to make sacrifices and felt they lacked role models for women who
combined their work as scientists with family obligations.

Ann and Elan - This is certainly an important issue. As mentioned, there is a lot of pressure,
especially on women that can pit research against family. This is very common at the
postdoctoral level. However, while recognizing the problem, we also should carful about reifying
the issue. In many ways academia is much more flexible than other occupations and can offer a
wonderfully rich and fulfilling life. It is important that the positive stories and aspects be told as
well so that women are encouraged and supported in pursuing careers in science and academia.

Martha - Says she was struck by their use of language, namely the lab principle of encouraging
“rich narratives.” Her work is on narratives in science, so she curious about what inspired that
way of framing their work and what does the idea of narratives might mean to them

Ann and Elan - Talked about the importance of listening to people’s stories in order to inspire
and contextualize their research as well as for understanding the brain in context. SAND, for
example, has had speakers such as a woman whose sister has epilepsy and a native elder. These
narratives have often been amongst the most engaging presentations. These stories clearly
affected the basic researchers and clinicians at the conference. Focusing on the telling of stories
also allows for a conversation with society and invites people to participate.

They also mentioned that there is the need for more artists and writers to partner with scientists
on interpreting some the issues and depicting how science impacts peoples’ lives. It is often
artists that perceive and interpret the impact long before scientists have even begun the research
(as per examples from literature at the start of talk).

Martha - What kind of limitations have they encountered trying to implement Green Neuro?

Ann and Elan - The principles have eliminated a lot of the traditional funding sources given that
the lab does not accept funding from military or industry (e.g., pharmaceutical). They have also
met many incredible researchers that they would have liked to work with but unfortunately their
research was ungreen either in their funding and/or outcomes. For example, research that is
partially focused on the development of military devices or patented medical treatments.
However, although the funding has been an issue, in some ways the limitations have also led to
creative solutions and opened up new possibilities. For example, much of the furniture and
equipment was acquired though Craigslist which was both green and affordable. This also led to
connecting to interesting individuals in the community such as environmental architects and
engineers. The SAND conference has been an inspiration in this regard as it has run for many
years with a zero budget. The conference takes place in academic public spaces which helps
brings researchers from many fields together while nurturing connections with public institutes.

Andrew Matthews - asked how they came up with the concept of an “atlas” to describe their
repository of information?

Ann and Elan -  The term "atlas" is actually taking on many meanings in neuroscience. It's a very
active domain. There have been very energetic discussions about this at the lab and with
collaborators. The debate is quite lively. One of the most interesting connections is that the lab
received a generous donation of vintage atlases from the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, CA.
This has given the discussion a certain historical perspective and has led to many of the
questions. Is the description of a single individual an atlas? Should an atlas be made up of a
collection that reflects a population? What about the ethics of collecting the data (in humans and
other animals)?

Magdalena Górska - Thanked the speakers for coming and said it is rare that scientists think so
deeply about the social issues of science.

Andrew Matthews - Thanked the speakers and said that what they are doing is a very
inspirational project.

Discussion continued after the formal event and future collaborations are being planned.

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.

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.