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Climate change and literary studies

Philippa Martyr, writing in Quadrant magazine, looks at academic grant awards relating to climate change. Like this for example:

Literary Studies: “The project will devise and develop a new 'cultural materialist' paradigm for science fiction studies and apply it to a case study of science fictional representations of catastrophe, especially nuclear war, plague and extreme climate change.” ($239,000)

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Reader Comments (28)

they could just call it the "L. Ron Hubbard" Memorial Fund for Science Fiction

(Hubbard was the SciFi writer who founded the so-called "church" of Scientology)

Jul 24, 2012 at 7:31 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Much alarmist climate science is science fiction: nice to see it is being recognised for what it is.

Jul 24, 2012 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

well the historical grant may be the funniest of all, since obviously the topic had nothing to do with contemporary/future issues of climate change or global warming, but they just had to toss that in anyway (grantsmanship is all about knowing what the grantor wants to hear):

"Historical Studies: “This project will produce a comprehensive new biography of H.V. Evatt, High Court judge, minister in the 1940s, President of the United Nations General Assembly and leader of the Australian Labor Party opposition during the 1950s. Evatt's life resonates with modern challenges both of liberty in a time of terror, and of internationalism in a time of global warming.” ($185,000)"

Seriously, now, the late Mr. Evatt surely would have been stunned to know that someday "global warming" would be used a hook to write about his life!?

Jul 24, 2012 at 7:46 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

The complete list of climate related grants is delicious. I particularly liked

Psychology: “Climate change represents a moral challenge to humanity, and one that elicits high levels of emotion. This project examines how emotions and morality influence how people send and receive messages about climate change, and does so with an eye to developing concrete and do-able strategies for positive change.” ($197,302)
The grant for science fiction studies seems to be one of the more sensible ones. CAGW is science fiction for those who don’t understand science and have no talent or taste for fiction. It’s a collective work of fiction written by a thousand of those people who assail writers with “I’ve got a great idea for a novel set in the future, and it’s all based on things that really happened...”

Jul 24, 2012 at 8:02 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

A historical look at climate themes would be interesting. For example, though we are assured that no-one back in the 1970s ever said that a new ice-age was pending, for some reason we have the film Quintet, set in a city during a new ice age (constant theme: crack and rumble of glaciers, dogs eating corpses in the street), and Wilson Tucker's novel ¨Ice and Iron" set, well, in a new Ice Age.
The idea definitely seems to have been around, where did it come from?

For fans of nuclear winter, there's Poul Anderson's "Twilight World" (1961), though the term wasn't invented till years later.

And to get to current concerns, ISTR a short story by either Alastair Reynolds or Paul McAuley where as part of the story background, the economic disruption caused by Maunder 2 is mentioned. And an honorable mention for John Christopher's "World in Winter"

Hey, I'd like to see a book on the topic, so long as it also covers *all* climate catastrophe themes, even politically incorrect stuff such as Ballard's "Drowned World" and Aldiss's "Hothouse" where the global warming is caused by a jump in solar activity

Jul 24, 2012 at 8:14 AM | Unregistered Commentermalcolm

This looks like a good example as to why so many western societies are effectively bust because they spend taxpayers money on drivel like this and, as the request for money goes up the chain, no-one thinks about what its being spent on. Of course a civilised society needs to support research and culture: but not mindlessly. Where is the judgement? Answer (in part) is that part of our problem is a system tilted towards asking for more, not less, so every request. however half-baked, can be deemed 'essential' and guaranteed the vocal support of the rent-a-mob sophists. Bureaucrats get no prizes, nor applause from colleagues, for saying, "Minister, you should cut our grant by 20% and return that money to the poor taxpayer, as we have nothing really worthwhile to spend it on".

Jul 24, 2012 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered

The ice age made it onto popular culture, along with the doom and gloom.
Google for the lyrics of The Clash - London Calling
includes: 'the ice age is coming'

Jul 24, 2012 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

They are too late, it's been done. By my favourite author, too.

J G Ballard, The Wind from Nowhere, 1961

J G Ballard, The Drowned World, 1962

J G Ballard, The Drought, 1965

J G Ballard, The Crystal World, 1966

Jul 24, 2012 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Re: Jul 24, 2012 at 8:19 AM |

And what more ludicrous example can we have of mis-spending than this ferris wheel in Afghanistan ...

Jul 24, 2012 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

I shelled out just shy of 30k crispy Australian dollars to the taxman last year. With the exception of the engineering project, after reading this sort of crap I have the urge to throw up.

Jul 24, 2012 at 9:38 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

........lots of fiction, not much science!

Jul 24, 2012 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered Commentermeltemian

The more I think about it, an analysis of catastrophic climate change in SF would be fun to read. Just so ALL varieties of catastrophic change get included, here's a few more that come to mind:
Frederik Pohl, "The Snowman", where a renewable energy supply (apparently some kind of tame Maxwell's Demon) has sucked so much energy from the environment that the Earth is covered in snow, ice and liquefied gas, and with the albedo having reached roughly 1.00, is about to commence the long slide to absolute zero.
Gene Wolfe's Urth series, where the black hole at the core of the sun has reduced solar output, to the point where they all hope that the Conciliator will bring the New Sun. He does, with disastrous consequences.
Michael Moorcock's "The Ice Schooner"
Fritz Leiber's "A Pail of Air" - orbital disruption has send earth careening off in the general direction of Pluto

But the people likely to bid for funding won't be likely to consider such fun stuff. They'll be writing about crap films like The Day After Tomorrow.

Jul 24, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered Commentermalcolm

Science friction.

Jul 24, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterAndré van Delft

What many readers probably do not realise is that the grant funding system is partially responsible for this. When writing a research proposal it is no longer acceptable to say for example that you wish to study an area because it is interesting and not well understood, and might in the future have some applications - such a proposal would be quickly rejected. You now have to fill in a section called "Pathways to impact" explaining how your research will have impacts for society and the economy, see for example the EPSRC website. If your research has no such direct impacts, you have to invent some and pretend that it does. Mentioning climate change is a good way to tick this box. One physics prof at Nottingham feels so strongly about this that he has boycotted EPSRC, thus cutting himself off from the main potential source of research funding.

Looking at the ARC system, it seems that when applying, you have to say which of 4 "National Research Priorities" your work fits under. The first of these 4 is "An Environmentally Sustainable Australia", which includes "Responding to climate change and variability", so again writing some waffle about climate change into any proposal will tick this box.

Jul 24, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Science fiction? More like, a demolition of science.

"For Kant, Enlightenment was mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error.


The age of reason and the enlightenment, enabled and 'fired' the industrial revolution of the C19th. Science and technological innovation, these great advances showed and aided mankind to realise and harness and develop the energy needed to change all humankind's lives for the common good.

At it's peak, the space race, though it was political vanity project - harnessed so many pure scientific disciplines and focused all of them on the goal of placing a man on the moon, the spin-off technological advances are still with and used by us all today, it was the enlightenment's swansong.

Away from the laboratories, during the C20th something else was happening, man has always suffered the doomsayers and 'nay-smiths', two world wars later and the self doubt and hand wringing developed into a masochistic self imposed denial and hatred of pure science. These gloom merchants, Jonahs and modern day 'luddites' want to reverse the enlightenment and they philosophise: that we are ultimately doomed as a race.
Ignorance and anti science needed a 'horseman', it got one and called it; Catastrophic anthropomorphic global warming.
It became the new orthodox, amongst the clueless classes of the elites and the nitwit political claque - who then encouraged the foot soldiers. Those 'useful idiots', of their potency of the cause - they didn't need much persuasion, because for more than fifty years: the western world has been dumbing down it's school children and students.

Across the western world, in the late twentieth and early noughties - three and a half centuries of reason and advancement are coming to an end and with it, after more than two thousand years of going forwards, civilisation teeters on the brink of a precipitous moral, cultural and technological decay.

Attention, for we are entering the new age darkness and common purpose.

Jul 24, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Yes our scientists seem to have an amazing ability to associate their pet subject to global warming.

And there can be no doubt that grant applications may have had something to do with it (to borrow IPCC type terminology!)

Jul 24, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Scientific hysteria is always science fiction. In fact, the scientific hysteria of the late 19th and early 20th century--when the Darwinian dogma, particularly, became the unquestionable law in science, despite the gross evidence of non-uniformitarian, large-scale processes at work in the past, that required "ice ages" (or Noah's flood, heaven forbid) or other catastrophes(!) to explain--gave emotional birth to science fiction (the flood of technological and scientific knowledge advances didn't provide the spark--it took the idea of world-shaking, world shattering energies, combined with the new idea of mankind confronting, and even harnessing, such energies). The earth and life sciences have since Darwin been stuck with that catastrophic dichotomy, of uniformitarian evolution of a world in which catastrophic forces are precariously balanced, so that a global temperature change of only 5°C, or 9°F, they say** separates the current "interglacial" period from a full-blown global ice age (which of course means the world would be in the latter, frozen state, with a mean surface temperature of 50°F, since it is 59°F--15°C--today).

**Andy Lacis mentioned this, when his paper on CO2 as the "Control Knob" for atmospheric temperature came out. He said it casually, as an accepted "fact", so it is evidently "settled science" among the academic hoi-polloi. Too bad it is childish nonsense, just like the "greenhouse effect"--too bad, because it means the radiative transfer theory, considered sacrosanct even by skeptics/deniers, is also nonsense (and no one knows how to fix it, so we mustn't talk about it in front of the children/academics). There is no climate science worthy of the name. And you have Darwin, Agassiz and H.G. Wells to blame, not Hansen (poor little, miseducated kid--and obvious science fiction fan--that he is).

Jul 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

This project examines how emotions and morality influence how people send and receive messages about climate change...

That's an easy one -- there are a great many people who have an emotional need to feel smarter and nicer (as in more altruistic) than the rest of us.

They see Us as still pursuing a selfish greed-based agenda, while They have developed beyond such base and self-centred motives, and spend their lives Saving The Planet and Ensuring Climate Justice for the Poor (aka indulging their grandiose and narcissistic fantasies at everyone's expense).

Where do I write my address for the $197,302 cheque to be sent to?

Jul 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

The ice age made it onto popular culture, along with the doom and gloom.

What better evidence than the JG Bennett extract that forms part of Water Music I, from Robert Fripp's 1979 album "Exposure"?

Jul 24, 2012 at 12:22 PM | Registered Commenterthrog

Re: Jul 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM | rickbradford

And what better example of their hypocrisy than the COPs -

"Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges"

"The airport says it is expecting up to 140 extra private jets during the peak period alone, so far over its capacity that the planes will have to fly off to regional airports – or to Sweden – to park, returning to Copenhagen to pick up their VIP passengers.

As well 15,000 delegates and officials, 5,000 journalists and 98 world leaders, the Danish capital will be blessed by the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, Daryl Hannah, Helena Christensen, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Prince Charles. A Republican US senator, Jim Inhofe, is jetting in at the head of an anti-climate-change "Truth Squad." The top hotels – all fully booked at £650 a night – are readying their Climate Convention menus of (no doubt sustainable) scallops, foie gras and sculpted caviar wedges."

It seems that the United Nations sees it's priorities as promoting the 'Climate Change' dogma whilst in other areas funding is reduced - the United Nations World Food Programme for example -

"The World Food Programme has been feeding 4.3million people in Ethiopia, but had to reduce rations in March as funding ran out..."

Whilst one of the major probable causes of food shortages in Africa is the UNs own sponsorship of biofuels causing land to be used for biofuels rather than the supply of food,%20Dec%202010).pdf

Jul 24, 2012 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

It is the opportunity cost of this drivel that drives me nuts. The first one at $239K would pay for 2 or 3 PhDs/MDs in something which has palpable value. Private foundations can fund this sort of crap, if they are stupid enough to do so.

Jul 24, 2012 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

You guys are just jealous that you didn't think up this idea to get paid almost a quarter of a million dollars to read your favorite literature, science fiction. I am jealous myself. All they had to do was add "extreme climate change" to the funding request and voila! Instant cash. How about "climate change" and historical novels.....hmmm.

Jul 24, 2012 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered Commenteroeman50

Do they pay up front for these things? It's just that I have a cunning plan beginning to form. Although I could come up with some poncey convincing sounding drivel to satisfy most ardent Warble Gloamists.

Jul 24, 2012 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterandy5759

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

Many of the listed grants are examples of the expansion of government concerns into matters that sane evaluation would show to be not their business.that have become so common throughout the developed world. Matters of this sort should be investigated at the expense of the researcher or a rich individual benefactor.

It is true that governance may be improved by greater knowledge and governments should, no doubt, keep themselves up to date on most things that go on in society, But all this requires are a few chats in pubs and perusal of the press.

Expansion of government is a creeping trend worldwide and is very well exemplified in the UK by the Clegg’s recent announcement that government contractors are to get lazy boys out of bed. Whatever next!

Jul 25, 2012 at 4:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

Cats always land on their feet. Toast always lands butter side down.
Therefore a buttered cat should remain spinning just above the surface and provide a perpetual source of energy. Vast arrays of buttered cats could power our cities and save us all from global warming.

Jul 25, 2012 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Alan Reed: "Vast arrays of buttered cats could power our cities..."

Genius - we could call them e-cats!

Jul 25, 2012 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

Alex - we will need to license the idea

And ask andy5759 to draw up some poncy drivel.

Apparently rival researchers are already basting cats with Chicken Tikka Masala due to its affinity to light coloured carpet.

Jul 26, 2012 at 6:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

It's hard to imagine an anti-materialist constuct more extravagant than " Slaying the Sky Dragon"

I'm surprised the lesser John O'Sullivan hasn't teamed up with Monckton to pen a sequel to the sublunarian adventures of Baron von Munchausen.

Jul 26, 2012 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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