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Have you seen GlacierHub?

Glacier HubGlacierHub seeks to expand and deepen the understanding of glaciers. It provides information about current scientific research, it tells stories of people who live near glaciers or who visit them, and it offers accounts of the efforts of communities and organizations to address the challenges brought by glacier retreat. It serves as well as a nexus to link people who are concerned about glaciers, so that they can communicate with each other and develop responses to the changes in glaciers. GlacierHub invites contributions—whether text, images, or sound files—from people who live near glaciers and from people who visit them, whether for research or for adventure or for the chance to see the beauty and majesty of glaciers from close up.

We humans have much to learn from glaciers, and the world we live in can benefit from our learning about them. They are found on every continent, in some of the world’s richest countries and some of the poorest. For residents of many high-elevation regions, glaciers give mountain homelands their distinctive character. For people who live further downslope, glaciers supply valuable water and can be sources of floods and landslides, reminding us of our dependence on the natural world. For both groups, and for those who live further away as well, glaciers are precious as well for their transcendent beauty.
And glaciers are endangered. In all areas of our warming world, they are shrinking, as winter snows are no longer sufficient to replenish their melting. So glaciers can become a theme for people who are trying to make sense of our changing world. As people search for ways to comprehend and address climate change, glaciers often come forward as potent elements in thought and action.

GlacierHub is managed by Ben Orlove, an anthropologist at the Earth Institute and CRED at Columbia University, with support of Nick Smith, Gina Stovall and Brad Swain.

Three days, two rooms, one house

Today’s guest blog post is by Shirley J. Fiske (Chair of AAA Global Climate Change Task Force*).

Photograph by William Geogheghan. Front row from left: Lisa Lucero, Sarah Strauss, Heather Lazrus. Second row: Carole L. Crumley, Kathleen Galvin, Richard Wilk. Third row: Susan Crate. Fourth row: Shirley J. Fiske, Ben Orlove, Anthony Oliver-Smith. Photo by Bill Geoghegan. Photo courtesy School for Advanced Research GCCTF member, George Luber was not able to attend due to the government shutdown.

Front row from left: Lisa Lucero, Sarah Strauss, Heather Lazrus. Second row: Carole L. Crumley, Kathleen Galvin, Richard Wilk. Third row: Susan Crate. Fourth row: Shirley J. Fiske, Ben Orlove, Anthony Oliver-Smith.
Photo by Bill Geoghegan.
Photo courtesy School for Advanced Research.

Looking back at the end of the week, we want to capture the feeling and substance of the three-day short seminar of the AAA’s Global Climate Change Task Force (GCCTF) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A compressed time period with intense discussion, seamlessly flowing between the two main rooms in the School for Advanced Research (SAR) Douglas Schwartz Seminar House—the dining area and the adjacent seminar room. The GCCTF was hosted by the School for Advanced Research to work out the approaches, complexities and details for the task force report on anthropological perspectives on climate change to the AAA, due in 2014.

Over the past year, the task force prepared white papers on the issues where anthropology connects to climate change and climate change policy—e.g., adaptation, resilience, vulnerability, lessons from our collective ancestors, the drivers and impacts of climate change. Papers were presented, discussed and critiqued. Ideas challenged. Assumptions laid bare. Intensity exemplifies our interaction. These discussions feed into our review of climate change anthropology and provide guidance for the future report.

Concentration. Challenge in finding common ground. Across our different perspectives we debated the key messages and common themes to anthropological studies of climate change—the primacy of context, the value of diversity, the importance of scales—geospatial and temporal—community and holism. We looked for key messages, themes, foundations, and Eureka moments. Comparability. Iterative drafts. These are all phrases and thoughts that members expressed at the end of the final day.

Release. Thanks to the expertise of our members we had yoga, stretching, and self-reflection. We got rain (much needed in Santa Fe). We had humor, from folk rap to folk tales to punctuate our day. Totally spontaneous. We rotated the facilitators each day and provided opportunity for multiple leadership.

“Talk sleep eat—sleep—eat—talk—eat—sleep.” New Mexican red chili. The sun, and rain, in the interior courtyard of the adobe Seminar House. The setting in the Seminar House at SAR channels our predecessors – Margaret Mead, Lewis Binford, Richard Fox, and Gordon Wiley, among many others. The photographs in previous seminars at SAR line the hallways.

We came to a mutual agreement on next steps, massive revisions, key messages and themes. We will keep the momentum going, expand our outreach, and encourage our colleagues in anthropology and other disciplines to recognize that cultures are always changing and to focus on the environmental justice aspects of the phenomena of climate change. The SAR seminar allowed us to develop the guiding document that we are tasked with producing in a more robust and deliberative manner, reflecting perspectives drawn from across the discipline and profession of anthropology.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the School for Advanced Research, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and the AAA, which made the seminar possible.

*The members of the AAA Global Climate Change Task Force are: Shirley J Fiske (Chair), Carole Crumley, Susan Crate, Kathleen Galvin, Heather Lazrus, George Luber (unable to participate at SAR due to the federal government shutdown), Lisa Lucero, Anthony Oliver-Smith, Ben Orlove, Sarah Strauss, and Richard Wilk.

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