The project incluedes three thematic clusters, containing 8 subprojects
1) Multiple temporalities in vernacular climate discourses
Between Predictability and Unexpectability: Narrating the Future in Stories of Climate Change.
Camilla Asplund Ingemark
This subproject will study the narrative articulations of the expectations of a future potentially altered by climate change in personal narratives from the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland and Norway. The material is provided by qualitative questionnaires by the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland (already sent out) and the Norwegian Ethnological Research. The respondees will not merely reflect upon their expectations to the future. They will also be asked to reflect upon how actions in the present will affect the near and distant future.
Mark Currie has argued that the temporality of narrative is not past-oriented, but future-oriented. In particular narative operates in the future perfect, the will have happened. In narrative, we treat the future as already present. We use it to reconcile our expectations with our experiences, and the foreseeable with the unexpected. These traits, common to all narratives, seem to be especially accentuated in stories of climate change, in which a central trope is that the future has already arrived. This makes the future to some extent predictable in the sense that we are already living in it, while it also undermines the imagined unexpectability of future events, those we could not have expected. The tension between the predictable and unexpectable will be studied through close readings of the emplotment of the future in stories of climate change collected though the questionnaires.
The power of just doing stuff – Narratives of agency, resilience, networks and climate change
Lone Ree Milkær
As the climate catastrophe hover over us as a future reality, some people choose to identify themselves with social movements that links everyday practice to a sustainable development or transition. Since its beginning around year 2000 one of these movements have had an disproportionate worldwide grass root impact. The Transition Town Movement is an international network based on the notion that we all have to change the way we live and think to transition our society into the climate changed future. The movement is also based on a very strong narrative, centered around the impact of local action on global change: If enough people change, the world will change. And the way we change is to focus our attention on the local environment to build resilience, the village, the neighborhood and use the resources at hand, both material, human and historical. The success of the movement is in part due to the communicating of examples of Transition Initiatives as a core activity of central actors of the movement, e.g. in the book: The Power of just doing stuff. How local action can change the world, by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement.
With Transition initiatives, primarily in Bergen, as case study this project will explore the narratives about the futures imagined in climate changed reality and the agency witch is connected to the narratives. Through interviews and participant observation, the questions of why people join the Transitions Movement Initiatives, how the temporality of climate change is understood and narrated and how an international movement is connected to notions of place and tradition in a local setting is analyzed.
2) Multiple temporalities of climate change in media culture
Exemplarity and Temporality in Eco-Cultural Discourses about Amazonia: A Genealogy of Human Deep Time and Future Salvation
In various contemporary discourses, the indigenous people of the Amazon play an important role in planetary survival. The collocation of temporal depth, ancient ecological wisdom and the human exemplarity of indigenous cultures (i.e. the claim that these peoples are so close to nature that they represent humanity in a natural state) is crucial in the construction of this role. Hence, popular discourses frame the people of Amazonia within a human kind of deep time connecting them to prehistory, a state of pre-culture and nature. Such ideas circulate in popular culture, in ethnopolitics and in various strands of anthropology. For environmentalists, indigenous Amazonians are associated with ancient traditions of stewardship regarded as vital for the future survival of our species. However, this symbolic placement of indigenous Amazonians is consonant with current exportations of the solution of ecological problems to ‘other places’. The aims of this subproject are: First, to trace the genealogy of the exemplary, eco-cultural role of indigenous Amazonians. Second, to examine the hypothesis that the early modern, Christian master-narrative still impacts eco-cultural conceptualizations of Amazonia: Both as a trace of an Eden – refigured by romantic notions of isolated, authentic cultures – and as ‘planetary’ forest keepers who safeguard humanity against man-made, apocalyptic climate change. Third, to examine the disconcerting implication that such temporal conceptions leave both ‘modern’ and ‘indigenous’ people no space to act in the cultural ‘here-and-now,’ but rather makes us oscillate between nostalgia for a pure past and an inevitable, apocalyptic future.
Foretelling the Future: Extreme Weather between Exemplarity and Probability
This subproject examines media coverage of extreme weather, and the direct linking of extreme weather to climate change. Marianne Ryghaug argues that a direct, causal linking between global warming as cause and particular extreme weather events as consequences is a dominant rhetorical trope in Norwegian climate journalism. She explains this as a result of the journalists’ urge to dramatize events. However, Kverndokk has argued that this trope rather reflects a popular epistemology of climate change (. The framing of specific extreme weather events as results of climate change is based on exemplarity rather than probability. Hence, there is an epistemological gap between climate research and climate journalism. The subproject explores this gap in popular climate discourse. By close reading online newspaper articles on extreme weather and climate change, focusing on the interplay between the articles and the vernacular skepticism often found in the publications’ comment sections, the subproject will not merely analyze the argumentative patterns of the media coverage of extreme weather. It will also ask whether this gap enables climate change skepticism, as commenters may juggle probability calculation and exemplarity, for instance by rejecting statistical data by reference to particular weather incidents.
The Temporalities of Glaciers in Visual Culture
This subproject will investigate temporalities of climate change in visual culture, by focusing on images in American media and popular culture, which also tend to achieve a wide international dissemination. The subproject will analyze visual representations of glaciers and how these illustrate the temporalities of climate change. As material accumulations of deep time, glaciers not only represent a tangible image of ‘the past,’ their gradual melting is also taken as a means of assessing near and far futures. In discussions of climate change, glaciers are often staged in the European-American pictorial tradition of the natural sublime as awe-inspiring, majestic natural monuments. But, at the same time, they are presented as already (almost) destroyed by anthropogenic climate change, resulting in a combination of aesthetic delight and emotional horror. Drawing on the affective power of the concept of the Anthropocene, Leikam calls this pictorial strategy the ‘anthropogenic sublime’ in her recent work on eco-activist photography . This subproject will analyze documentaries such as James Balog’s Chasing Ice (2012), glacier photographs and photo-essays in National Geographic, and American news articles illustrating climate change by images of glaciers melting and related visual tropes (such as that of the polar bear floating on a small block of ice) in regard to their strategic uses of glaciers in the discussions of the pending climate future(s).
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? Time and exemplarity in media representations of biodiversity
Marit Ruge Bjærke
This subproject investigates how loss of biodiversity is presented in mass media, and what role climate change plays in media representations of loss of biodiversity.
The source material of the project consists of media presentations of the 2015 Norwegian Red List. The Norwegian Red List is a list of species that have a risk of becoming extinct. The 2015 Norwegian Red List states that 11 % of Norwegian species have a high or extremely high risk of becoming extinct. Press releases and articles from the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre, newspapers, and environmental NGOs will be examined, with special focus on the examples they use. The project will explore how the inherent ambivalence of the examples is expressed when they move between different sources, and will also examine the tension between the serial and the individual in the examples.
In addition to theories of exemplarity, the concept ‘climate reductionism’ will be used as a theoretical framework in the project. The concept was presented by Mike Hulme in an article from 2011. It describes a form of analysis or prediction where the interactions between climate, environment and society (that creates the future) are reduced to one determining factor, namely climate. A preliminary hypothesis is that examples and the time scales the examples are established in, are places in the media texts where climate change is drawn into the biodiversity discourse and established as a (future) explanatory model.
3) Intertwining of Deep Time and Historical Time in Geology and Climate Research
The Discovery of Deep Time and the Notion of History
The discovery of deep time did not only give the earth a history, it also profoundly influenced the notion of history as such. When the world was seen as shaped and changed by continual processes working over time, the traditional role of history as magistra vitae was undermined. History understood as the vita activa, performed on the military and political stage, was eclipsed by the understanding of history as natural, political, economic and cultural processes that came to be seen as intrinsic to time itself. The subproject will explore how such changes in historical understanding – from actions and events to processes in time – were reflected in topographic and antiquarian texts from late 18th- and early 19th-century Norway. The texts grapple with a number of questions produced by new understandings of the impact of time. For example, the production of potholes had traditionally been ascribed to scheming monks who passed them off as holy wells with healing powers. Burial mounds in fields had been understood as made in the aftermaths of large battles, containing the graves of all the fallen heroes. Early antiquaries frequently wondered why such obviously significant events were not described in the saga literature.
A close study of topographic and antiquarian texts will make it possible to investigate how new understandings of time and new theories of temporal processes where negotiated, accepted and contested on a very concrete level. It will demonstrate a mutual relationship between Earth history on the one hand, and historical thought on the other. The subproject will build on Eriksen’s previous research on the topographic tradition and include new studies of the antiquarian society Urda (from 1825).
Time in the Anthropocene: The Interplay between Deep Time and Historical Time in Climate Research
Henrik H. Svensen
60–70 years ago, the Earth’s climate was seen as static and independent of anthropogenic activities. Climate change was restricted to deep time and required millions of years to unfold. Now, everything has changed. The climate is regarded as dynamic even on decadal timescales, undergoing large changes that are directly experienced by people today. Still, both in the media and in the climate research communities, the present day weather situation is compared to available temperature records from historical time. Comparisons flourish, and we hear about the warmest month on record and comparisons to other warm years during the last millennium.
The level of abstraction increases when comparing the present day climate with the records from ice cores spanning glacial and interglacial cycles over the last 400.000 years. In the IPCC report published in 2013, a separate chapter was for the first time devoted to paleoclimate, showing the importance of deep time comparisons and the need to expand the timescale of our climate change knowledge. Interestingly, the concept of the Anthropocene also stresses the link between historical time and deep time, as humans behave like a geological force only matched by rapid processes in deep time (climate change, mass extinctions and meteorite impacts). The subproject will investigate how the idea and usage of deep time in climate research has changed by studying a selection of canonical textbooks, key review articles from the 1970s and the scientific reports from the IPCC. Of particular interest is the recent Anthropocene concept and how it has affected understandings of past and present climates.