This week Al Jazeera ran a special feature about Antarctica – or, more specifically, “Antarctica’s Science Seekers.” The half hour segment on The Stream included skype calls with scientists currently in Antarctica, as well as interactive segments where questions and quotes from twitter were featured. I was alerted to the event the day before, and asked whether I’d like to contribute. Even if I hadn’t been desperately looking for procrastination tasks (all this writing of the theory section of my PHD has been doing my head in this week), it would have sounded good. Given that I was desperately looking for procrastination tasks, it sounded brilliant. Most of the questions being asked related to things like the governance of Antarctica, or what it is like to camp or live down there. Yes, even the humble Shewee made it big on TV (it wasn’t me who brought that one up though, but a scientist who usually works in the Dry Valleys!)
The twitter activity prompted me to disappear upstairs and record a 30 second summary of how my project relates to the topic of Climate Change. The final chapter of my thesis has the working title “Fragility,” as I am planning to examine adverts that represent Antarctica as a fragile, vulnerable environment. They do they for a range of different reasons – some are from NGOs that want to raise awareness about the plight of the planet, others want to associate their product with a “clean, green” image (or, in this case, an icy image). The implication is often that by buying the particular product, the consumer is helping to protect the icy landscape depicted. Sometimes this may be true – take energy efficient appliance, for instance, that use less electricity and therefore have a lower carbon footprint. For other products, the association functions simply as marketing ploy. Who doesn’t want to protect the environment, and feel good about their ethical shopping choices in the process? And who ever reads the fine print, or questions the assumptions on which the advert is based, anyway? Judith Williamson is one scholar who has tackled the issue of “ice-washing” in a 2010 talk. 30 seconds is not very long, but I gave this a shot. The time limit actually made the 3 minute thesis seem luxuriously long!
My video is available here:
The Science Seekers Story has been documented here:
It’s always great to get the chance to talk Antarctica with a wider audience. Hopefully this segment has opened a few eyes, what with the focus on both climate change science AND life at the bases. The human element is coming into the picture!