Who Do They Think They Are? Cultures of Climate Scepticism,
Anti-Environmentalism, and Conservative Environmentalism
Symposium, June 6-8 2016, UBC Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada
Environmentalists know who climate sceptics are: oil company shills, religious fundamentalists and neoliberal cheerleaders. But the questions asked at this symposium are: who do they think they are? What kinds of selves do sceptical texts project? What concepts of nature and science do they deploy, contest and defend? Is the sceptical challenge to scientific consensus welcome, or disastrous? Is there any meaningful difference between ‘scepticism’ and ‘denialism’? What are the internal differences amongst anti-environmentalist discourses? How does climate scepticism vary between nations and ethnic groups? Is ‘conservative environmentalism’ an oxymoron in 2016, and, if so, why? As political polarization deepens in Europe and the United States, this symposium seeks to understand ‘the enemy’, challenging reductive stereotypes and homogenizing assumptions in the interests of constructive democratic debate.
Initial research into sceptical artefacts reveals internal diversity. The sceptical documentary ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ (2007) gives airtime to Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor to Margaret Thatcher, along with ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore and Richard Lindzen, one of the few esteemed climatologists to hold sceptical views. Yet the film’s director is former Revolutionary Communist Martin Durkin, who claims climate change is a neoliberal conspiracy to prevent development in Africa. He describes it as ‘a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry: created by fanatically anti-industrial environmentalists; supported by scientists peddling scare stories to chase funding; and propped up by complicit politicians and the media’. Scepticism has left and right wing; Christian and agnostic; empiricist, creationist and constructivist forms that could usefully be teased apart.
This event is conceived as a one-room symposium to initiate an innovative research agenda in the environmental humanities: the critical analysis of anti-environmentalism in cross-cultural perspective. The symposium will begin with a presentation on existing research into climate scepticism (Greg Garrard, UBC), and will include presentations on anti-environmentalism in the USA (George Handley, BYU), the UK (Richard Kerridge, Bath Spa), Germany (Axel Goodbody, Bath) and France (Stephanie Posthumus, McGill). Accommodation at UBCO is C$60-120/night, and the registration fee will be C$100 (waged)/C$40 (grad student/unwaged). This cost-price fee will cover two lunches, one dinner and coffee breaks during the conference.
Given that this is a new field of research, we do not expect all participants to contribute complete papers. Rather, we invite interested scholars and graduate students to submit abstracts; panel proposals; suggestions for position papers; or expressions of interest without a formal commitment to speak. Please send a CV and abstract/proposal/statement of interest (250 words max in any case) to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 8, 2016.