As you might know, for the past three years I have been involved with the Interdisciplinary Forum on Environmental Research (IFER) here at UCSD. We’re a group of graduate students from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities that were dissatisfied with the lack of interdisciplinary work on what is without doubt one of the most urgent problems of our time: the human-induced environmental alterations that are most famous as global warming. With IFER, we have organized multiple seminar-style sessions featuring speakers from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds, with topics ranging from the ecological views of the ancient Chinese tradition known as Daoism, to the scary politics of geo-engineering, to the dangers of ocean acidification. All these topics have been presented before equally diverse audience, leading to great interactions and friendships. Recently, we were rewarded for our efforts with a start-up grant from the Understanding and Protecting the Planet, one that, added to the generous support of UCSD’s Center for the Humanities and Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s Center for Marine Biology and Conservation, will sustain our efforts for years to come.
Our ultimate purpose with IFER has always been to co-publish and contribute to the growing field of interdisciplinary work on climate change. Though this purpose has not been realized yet, my own work has been heavily impacted by the interactions that are the core of any IFER meeting. Working with Ike Sharpless on a session on science fiction and the environment, I was introduced to the dark science fiction series Black Mirror. One episode of this series, “Fifteen Million Merits,” particularly affected my appreciation of how science fiction can propose new ways of thinking about the environment, something that has been my concern for a while now. I thus started working on a paper exploring my fascination with this episode, and how it thinks it points to destructive assumptions common in positions we would traditionally associate with “green” and “non-green.” This paper is now part of an exciting carbon-free conference titled: “Climate Change: Views from the Humanities.” You can watch a video of me reading the paper together with the contributions of other panel members. If you wish to participate in the online discussion, you can register here. Of course, I’d also welcome any comments you have via e-mail, FB message, etc. The conference will go on until May 5th, and although I haven’t watched all contributions yet, the keynotes by Peter Singer and Kim Stanley Robinson are probably not things you want to miss, as is the talk by my mentor here at UCSD, Richard Cohen.