A reader writes:
I had reason to visit Imperial College last week. I must say, Imperial is a lot sleeker than it was when I did some research there in the 1980s: some funky modern buildings among the concrete and a raised plaza with tables to sit in the sun.
As we sat there waiting for our contact to collect us, I noticed the Grantham Institute For Climate Change. It's based in the Sherfield Building, next door to the faculty that I was visiting. There was a big green sign over the entrance, but no indication of how much space they occupied, or on how many floors. It all looked very impressive, though I couldn't help wondering why they didn't name themselves the Institute AGAINST Climate Change.
Our contact arrived, and we went into the building. I said, "I see you're next door to the Grantham Institute."
"Who?" This may just be a symptom of the focussed academic mind, but I bet he wouldn't have said "Who?" if I had casually mentioned Chemical Engineering or Materials.
"You know, the Grantham Institute?" Still blank. "For Climate Change?" His brow cleared. "Oh, THOSE guys." Definitely a note of scorn. Pause, then wistfully: "They've got air conditioning!"
So there you have it. A tiny conversation, but it gave me a strong impression of the degree of status accorded to the Institute by their neighbours, who are real academics; and I absolutely loved the image of them sitting in air-conditioned, climate-changed, ungreen splendour while actual scientists sweat all around them.