Jul 6, 2017

Ep. #79 – Antarctica! with Jessica O’Reilly

With Antarctica back in the news again, Dominic and Cymene share their feels about the imminent Larsen C calving and the possibly less probable rise of penguins and puffins against human governance (#thepuffrising). Then we talk to the only anthropologist we know who works in Antarctica, the fabulous Jessica O’Reilly from Indiana University. We start by discussing how public and scientific narratives about Antarctica have changed over the past 15 years, the disintegration of Larsen B during Jessy’s research, and the rise of “crack tourism” at Larsen C. We turn from there to her new book, The Technocratic Antarctic: An Ethnography of Scientific Expertise and Environmental Governance (Cornell U Press, 2017), and talk about charismatic data and charismatic ice, Antarctica as a society of experts, the Antarctic treaty and what’s happening with polar politics today. Jessy discusses the inherent conservatism of climate scientists, what they say to each other beyond the public eye, and whether she can imagine Antarctica morphing into a resource frontier as the Arctic has. Finally we turn to her exciting new research project, an ethnographic study of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Listen on! PS A big late-breaking Cultures of Energy pod shoutout to Volvo for accelerating the phaseout of internal combustion engines; the news broke just after we’d recorded this episode.