In Gamrie, an Aberdeenshire fishing village home to 700 people and six millennialist Protestant churches, global warming is more than just a 'hoax': it is a demonic conspiracy that threatens to bring about the ruin of the entire human race. Such a certainty was rendered intelligible to local Christians by viewing it through the lens of dispensationalist theology brought to the village by the Plymouth Brethren. In a play on Weberian notions of disenchantment, I argue that whereas Gamrie's Christians rejected global warming as a false eschatology, and environmentalism as a false salvationist religion, supporters of the climate change agenda viewed global warming as an apocalyptic reality and environmentalism as providing salvific redemption. Both rhetorics - each engaged in a search for 'signs of the end times' - are thus millenarian.
Measuring the Future with Quantified Heat
Scott W. Schwartz
The quantification of human environments has a history—a relatively short history. This article explores how the notion of quantifiable reality has become naturalized through the privileging of predictive utility as the primary goal of knowledge production. This theme is examined via the invention and application of temperature— how it was sociomaterially constructed and how it is globally restructuring social organization today. Temperature does not exist pervasively throughout all space and time. Physicists may affirm that fluctuations in relative heat are ubiquitous, but as a measurement of these fluctuations, temperature only emerges through arrangements of political and environmental observations. What phenomena do populations deem worthy of observation? How do populations manipulate materials to make such observations? By tracing the origins of thermometry and investigating modern efforts to reconstruct and model ulterior temperatures, I illustrate that temperatures, like other measurements, are cultural artifacts pliable to sociopolitical efforts of control and domination.
Bernhard Forchtner and Christoffer Kølvraa
This article inquires into how contemporary populist radical right parties relate to environmental issues of countryside and climate protection, by analyzing relevant discourses of the British National Party (BNP) and the Danish People's Party (DPP). It does so by looking at party materials along three dimensions: the aesthetic, the symbolic, and the material. The article discusses to what extent the parties' political stances on environmental issues are conditioned by deeper structures of nationalist ideology and the understandings of nature embedded therein. It illustrates a fundamental difference between the way nationalist actors engage in, on the one hand, the protection of nature as national countryside and landscape, epitomizing the nation's beauty, harmony and purity over which the people are sovereign. On the other hand, they deny or cast doubt on environmental risks located at a transnational level, such as those that relate to climate. The article argues that this apparent inconsistency is rooted in the ideological tenets of nationalism as the transnational undermines the nationalist ideal of sovereignty.
Richard Widick and John Foran
Social movements move and grow by autopoesis—by calling their prospective ranks to order using public pronouncements replete with consequential assumptions about the world as they see it. In the same way, governing bodies and vested economic interests stake out opposing public positions. In the wake of the crucial international climate negotiations in Paris, December 2015, at which the nations adopted the first truly universal climate treaty, we look back over five years of participatory ethnographic research inside the UN climate talks and the social movements for climate justice, identifying key lifeworld assumptions inscribed in the public position-taking of central economic, public, and political sphere actors. Our findings include grounds for skepticism that UN climate policy can transcend the power of the fossil fuel companies to attenuate both international ambitions and national contributions to the universal effort, but also an exciting possibility that climate justice philosophy and tactics, aided by bold counter-spectacle techniques from the Occupy movement, might return to the stage in the coming years and lead the necessary deep culture shift that decarbonization will require.
Mark A. Blumler
Montgomery, David R. 2007. Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Shiva, Vandana. 2008. Soil not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis. Cambridge MA: South End Press.
J.G. Ballard's early novels The Drowned World (1962) and The Crystal World (1966) take a climatological approach to apocalyptic dystopia. This has led survey studies of climate fiction to identify these novels as founding texts of the genre. Yet Ballard wrote in an era before global warming had been identified by climate scientists, and his fiction is as much psychological and ontological as it is physiological. Ballard both adheres to and deviates from the global warming narrative now accepted by contemporary climatology, working within and beyond the SF subgenre of post-apocalyptic fiction. This paper assesses the extent to which these dystopian narratives can be understood as climate fiction and explores the debt that more recent cli-fi may owe to Ballard.
Lam Yee Man
Many people believe risk drives change. Environmental degradation, depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming all help advance global environmental development. However, why do some countries react promptly while some are slower to react to environmental risk? Reasons vary, but this article focuses on how the specific way risk was formulated and introduced in Hong Kong impeded drastic and swift environmental development. Tracing back to the time when the notion of pollution was first formulated in Hong Kong, this article argues that pollution was not defined as what it was. Instead, pollution was defined and introduced to the public as a problem of sanitation, turning pollution into a problem of categorization—a risk that could be easily resolved. This article contributes to the study of both pollution and risk by studying pollution as a social construct in the unique case of Hong Kong. A warning from Hong Kong—instead of addressing and resolving it, risk could be discreetly displaced.
Views from Central Asia
Markus S. Schulz
The future of energy is crucial for human mobility and well-being on a finite planet. What energy types are available to cover global needs? To what extent can they be produced and consumed safely? How can the negative effects of global warming, climate change, and environmental degradation be avoided? Who will benefit, and who will be at risk? Faced with such urgent questions, it was timely that the World Expo 2017 was dedicated to the theme of “Future Energy.” Held from June to September in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, a total of 115 countries, 22 international organizations, and several transnational corporations set up their own pavilions and exhibition spaces. Close to four million people visited the three-month-long expo, including an estimated five hundred thousand from abroad.
a class experiment in interdisciplinary education
Anna M. Frank, Rebecca Froese, Barbara C. Hof, Maike I. E. Scheffold, Felix Schreyer, Mathias Zeller and Simone Rödder
The ability to conduct interdisciplinary research is crucial to address complex real-world problems that require the collaboration of different scientific fields, with global warming being a case in point. To produce integrated climate-related knowledge, climate researchers should be trained early on to work across boundaries and gain an understanding of diverse disciplinary perspectives. This article argues for social breaching as a methodology to introduce students with a natural science background to the social sciences in the context of integrated climate sciences. The breach of a social norm presented here was to ask people whether the experimenter could ride on an elevator alone. We conclude that the approach is effective in letting students with a natural science background explore and experience the power of social reality, and is especially suitable for a small-sized introductory class.
Perspectives from a Century of Water Resources Development
Clive Agnew and Philip Woodhouse
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the influential Stern Report both reinforce the warming of the earth's climate system. The alarming environmental, social, and economic consequences of this trend call for immediate action from individuals, institutions, and governments. This article identifies parallels between the problem of adaptive management presented by climate change and an earlier 'global water crisis'. It explores how adaptive strategies have successively emphasized three different principles, based on science, economics, and politics/institutions. The article contends that the close association between climate change and water resources development enables a comparative analysis to be made between the strategies that have been adopted for the latter over the last 100 years. It argues that the experience of water resources development suggests a strong interdependence between the three principles and concludes that conceptualizing them as different dimensions of a single governance framework is necessary to meet the challenge of climate change adaptation.