Q&A: Author of ‘feminist glaciology’ study reflects on sudden appearance in culture wars | Science | AAAS

An insightful look by Mark Carey, an historian of science, into the difference that, in this case, gender makes to the study of natural phenomena. The point is that it’s logically and socially risky to abstract the phenomenon under study from the context—to make it a set of data points, however large that set is. A narrative of meaning can be attached to it, and inevitably will be; but it matters hugely to those directly affected by the phenomenon, as well as those studying it, whose narrative, whose perspective is used, engaged.

 

If one goal of glacier research is to help the people living in places like the Alps and Alaska adapt to shrinking glaciers—and the associated floods, landslides, and seasonal variation in water flows for irrigation and hydroelectricity generation—then it is important to study more than the physical properties of ice. Social scientists like myself work to understand those complex societies, their politics and economies, their cultures, and, yes, their gender relations because patriarchy and sexism marginalize certain segments of the population, just as racism marginalizes indigenous, Latino, and other peoples.Our paper argues that social science and humanities research can contribute to the development of appropriate strategies for specific and diverse societies to adapt to change. A woman’s experience securing postdisaster aid, rebuilding a home, and raising a family after a glacial lake outburst flood has destroyed her community is different than those of men. And for glaciologist Erin Pettit, the founder of the Girls on Ice program for young women to study glaciology, there is something productive and empowering that happens when high school girls learn science and conduct field research in an environment without boys.

Source: Q&A: Author of ‘feminist glaciology’ study reflects on sudden appearance in culture wars | Science | AAAS