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March 15th 2016 print

Tony Thomas

The Settled Science of Grant Snaffling

Perhaps you read about the recent academic paper which examined glaciers from a feminist perspective, an exercise that cost US taxpayers dearly. Well, the paper itself should prompt not laughter but outrage, not least because Australian "social scientists" are on the same gravy train

ice manFeminist glacier studies, an expanding field of academic climate-science rigor, sometimes needs an R-rating. Like this new feminist glacier research from a team led by Professor Mark Carey at the University of Oregon. Carey  scored a $US413,000 grant in 2013 for his glacier research, with the paper being one output from it.  It is titled  “Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research.”

The epic, 15,000-word monograph cites Sheryl St Germain’s obscure, 2001 novel, To Drink a Glacier, where the author is in the throes of her midlife sexual awakening. She “interprets her experiences with Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier as sexual and intimate.[i] When she drinks the glacier’s water, she reflects:

That drink is like a kiss, a kiss that takes in the entire body of the other … like some wondrous omnipotent liquid tongue, touching our own tongues all over, the roofs and sides of our mouths, then moving in us and through to where it knows … I swallow, trying to make the spiritual, sexual sweetness of it last.

Continuing in the tradition of 50 Shades of Ice, the paper further cites Uzma Aslam Khan’s (2010) short story ‘Ice, Mating’. The story

explores religious, nationalistic, and colonial themes in Pakistan, while also featuring intense sexual symbolism of glaciers acting upon a landscape. Khan writes: ‘It was Farhana who told me that Pakistan has more glaciers than anywhere outside the poles. And I’ve seen them! I’ve even seen them fuck!(emphasis in original)

Icy conditions normally inhibit tumescence, but the paper’s four authors (two of them men, but writing through “the feminist lens”) seem to be in a state of sustained arousal. To them, even ice core drilling evokes coital imagery:

Structures of power and domination also stimulated the first large-scale ice core drilling projects – these archetypal masculinist projects to literally penetrate glaciers and extract for measurement and exploitation the ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

The study quotes feminist artists and suggests that satellite and aerial imaging of glaciers, rather than involving scientific credibility and accuracy, is actually a masculine construct and “reminiscent of detached, voyeuristic, ‘pornographic’ images.” It continues, “Such a gaze has been troubled by feminist researchers who argue that the ‘conquering gaze’ makes an implicit claim on who has the power to see and not be seen.”

In passing, the study notes that climate change “can lead to the breakdown of stereotypical gender roles and even ‘gender renegotiation’ (Godden, 2013).” This had me worried as I prefer to stay with my male gender. I looked up Naomi Godden’s tract, and was relieved to find that it merely reported on a Peru village’s fishermen and housewives switching roles when fishing declined (climate change, which halted 19 years ago, being of course the stated culprit for the decline).

The feminist-glaciology lead author of the 15,000-word paper, Mark Carey, is a historian. Of his co-authors,  Jerrilyn M. Jackson is  a geography post-grad student, Alessandro Antonello is an environmental history post-grad, and Ms Jaclyn Rushing (below) has a BA in environmental studies and Romance languages. Worth noting is that Antonello acquired his credentials at the University of Canberra.

By about 7000 words in, readers are subsumed in  an Alice in Wonderland discourse. The Cold War, we learn, was apparently not about the contest with the Communist bloc, but a tussle “pursued by a particular group of men as policy-makers who were products of specific elite masculinities (Dean, 2003), operating in the context of anxieties about American masculinities (Cuordileone, 2005), and with particular discourses of masculinity and male bodies, especially in distant places like the Arctic (Farish, 2010)…”

The study ranges widely, and includes citation of Scottish visual artist Katie Paterson, who made long-playing records out of glacier melt-water. These LPs play glacier whines and other noises  for ten minutes until the ice disks themselves melt. Maybe caution is needed with 240V apparatus.

The paper insists on respect for folk knowledge about glaciers. Yukon indigenous women, for example, say glaciers are easily excited by bad people who cook with smelly grease near glaciers, but glaciers can be placated by the quick-witted, the good and deferential. Cooked food, especially fat, “might grow into a glacier overnight if improperly handled”. Such narratives “demonstrate the capacity of folk glaciologies to diversify the field of glaciology and subvert the hegemony of natural sciences… the goal is to understand that environmental knowledge is always based in systems of power discrepancies and unequal social relations, and overcoming these disparities requires accepting that multiple knowledges exist and are valid within their own contexts.”

Here is the study’s ringing conclusion:

Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

Somebody in the National Science Foundation actually approved funding for  this gibberish. The Foundation is a behemoth with a 2016 budget of $US7.5b billion and a workforce of 2100 at its Arlington, Virginia headquarters. The Foundation gushes on its website: “You could say that NSF support goes ‘to the ends of the earth’ to learn more about the planet and its inhabitants, and to produce fundamental discoveries that further the progress of research and lead to products and services that boost the economy and improve general health and well-being.”

Mark  Carey’s successful application for the NSF grant is particularly lame (Carey’s total from three NSF grants is $US708,000).

The project has broad impacts because hundreds of millions of people worldwide live near glaciers…inhabit coastal areas that could be flooded by melting ice sheets, and vacation in glaciated landscapes that hold particular cultural value such as national parks. The US Intelligence Community recognizes that the effects of glacier retreat potentially threaten US national security, and thus generating new knowledge about glaciers and glaciology contributes to policy and social well-being.

Specifically, we learn from the paper that retreating glaciers in the Andes could send millions of hungry and thirsty Andeans piling up on the USA’s southern borders in search of a more temperate climate, thus posing a security risk to the US.

Here are some “fundamental discoveries” from the feminist glaciology paper:

  • “In geophysicist Henry Pollack’s articulation, ‘Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts’ (Pollack, 2009: 114).”
  • Glaciers are under-studied from a feminist viewpoint ”that focuses on gender (understood here not as a male/female binary, but as a range of personal and social possibilities) and also on power, justice, inequality, and knowledge production in the context of ice, glacier change, and glaciology.”
  • “The feminist lens is crucial given the historical marginalization of women, the importance of gender in glacier-related knowledges, and the ways in which systems of colonialism, imperialism, and patriarchy co-constituted gendered science.”
  • “Glaciology has also been central to earth systems science that often relies on remote sensing from satellite imagery to suggest broader claims of objectivity but is actually akin to the ‘god trick of seeing everything from nowhere’”.

Australia gets a mention in the paper, to do with a program for smashing “stereotypical and masculinist practices of glaciology.” This program involves sending 78 international women to Antarctica in late 2016 via a Homeward Bound initiative, to  ‘explore how women at the leadership table might give us a more sustainable future’ . To cost $30,000 per person, the venture is bankrolled by Fabian Dattner and Jim Grant’s Dattner Grant entity. It is supposed to educate the team on how polar science tells “what is happening to our planet”. The group will be at sea for 20 days and get  briefings from “leading Australian academics”. I have a terrible premonition that the “leading Australian academics” involved might involve Chris Turney and his  UNSW “ship of fools” team, which had to be expensively rescued 15 months ago from the ice pack by helicopters.

The paper, dare I use the metaphor, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to academics earning a living from spurious “climate” studies. The paper  cites well over 100 references to other papers in its arcane  field. The hard-science end of “climate science” is dodgy enough, with its penchant for adjusting real-world data to prop up what would otherwise be the falsified hypotheses that CO2 emissions are the main driver of climate. But the climate-change scare has spawned a vast population of academic parasites in arts and so-called “social sciences”, pretending to do useful work in climate psychology, climate literature, climate “political science”, climate medicine, climate sociology, climate history, climate law … you name it. Melbourne University, for example, is crawling with otherwise unemployable “climate change” spongers, multiplying like fleas on a dying dog. I’m including about 1300 researchers on ‘sustainability and resilience’ who, alone, are costing the country $220m per annum.

CSIRO head Larry Marshall last month announced culling of 300-350 climate-change hangers-on from CSIRO, about $90m per annum’s worth. If federal treasurer Scott Morrison is looking for savings, there’s at least $1b on offer from a clean-out of bogus climate-change academics.

Incidentally, IPCC glacier science is as dodgy as most other fields of climate orthodoxy. There’s about 170,000 glaciers, according to the Fifth IPCC Report (2013) and there’s tracking data on a mere 500 of them. The IPCC authors blame apparent glacier retreats on current and alleged  CO2-linked global warming, ignoring that glaciers have been in general retreat since the Little Ice Age which ended two centuries ago. The first IPCC report (1990) said the rate of glacier recession “appears to have been largest between about 1920 and 1960” – well before any CO2 alleged climate dramas.

Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope

[i] The melting Medenhall Glacier is exposing ancient tree trunks, proving that 1300 years ago was pretty warm too, no thanks to CO2.