Friday, 26 October 2012

How to See a Glacier

Gangotri glacier in India, source of the Ganges.
Wikimedia Commons
On the day before presenting my work on Indian climate science and politics at the Harvard STS Circle, Helen and I headed over to the MIT Museum where they are holding an exhibition entitled 'Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya'. The exhibition features photography by mountaineer, film-maker and founder of GlacierWorks David Breashears. As I was preparing to spend a couple of hours the next day in part discussing the impact of the IPCC's erroneous statement about Himalayan glaciers melting away by 2035, it seemed like a good place to go and generate some further reflections.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

David Harvey on Capitalism and the Urban Form

One of the many advantages of living among Boston and Cambridge's vast collection of respected higher education institutions is that there is no shortage of talks to attend given by celebrated intellectuals. We were able to attend one such event last week when the prominent Marxist and critic of neoliberalism David Harvey came to talk at Boston University. David Harvey is particularly special to Martin and I due to his position as the most cited academic geographer of all time, and indeed as one of the few geographers whose renown extends well beyond the confines of his home discipline. I am pretty sure that Harvey's 'Condition of Postmodernity' was the first academic geography book that I was ever charged with reading, which gives you some idea of how significant his oeuvre is in undergraduate geography courses. I came to the talk with some trepidation: whilst I have much sympathy politically and intellectually for Marxian analyses of the world economy and the urban form, I am also concerned to distance myself from what I consider to be deterministic or overly structural accounts of social processes, a flaw I see in much Marxist thought. I was concerned that this encounter with an early academic hero would clash against the backdrop of my more recently acquired commitments to constructivist and post-structuralist approaches in geography and STS. I needn't have worried.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Conversations between Geography and STS

I've been thinking about the relationship between geography and Science and Technology Studies (STS) a lot recently, and this post is an attempt to record some reflections on this topic. In part my thinking has been influenced by our new institutional setting as fellows in the STS Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge Massachusetts, where I have been submerged, for the first time, in an STS-infused environment, and have been prompted to consider broader differences between the US and UK university systems. This relationship or conversation between STS and geography has also emerged as a key focus in a review paper on approaches to organisational learning which I am preparing for submission.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

50 years of Silent Spring

A couple of weeks ago environmental activists and academics celebrated the 50th anniversary of the release of 'Silent Spring', Rachel Carson's classic study of the risks posed to human, animal and plant life by agricultural pesticides. I've written a couple of blog posts with various reflections on the anniversary and what it means for how we think about the communication of scientific uncertainty and about the dynamics of social movement formation. The two posts are reproduced below: