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5.11.04

Four More Articles

OK. I think I've waited out the need to do any post-election venting or soul-searching. Instead, I'd like to do some academic griping.

Mainstream academics like to make disparaging comments about the amount of contentless blather that you see from more leftist (Marxist and postmodernist) scholars -- all that trendy and incomprehensible verbiage just covers up the fact that they don't really have anything to say. The exaggerated version of this critique is off base, but it's true that the postmodern emperor spends a disturbing amount of time running around nude. That said, the mainstream literature -- at least within the field of the human dimensions of environmental issues, which is what I'm most familiar with -- is hardly free of that sin. They just do it more transparently. Article after article rehashes the same vague generalities. If the Stockholm Environment Institute shouldn't waste its time if it's going to put out another report coming to the shocking conclusion that some people are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change and that soundbite versions of all the major principles of justice indicate that we should protect them. The academic left takes a lot of flak for being overtly (and ineffectually) political, but mainstream writers seem to be following the model of politicians rather than of cumulative science -- the main difference between Karl Rove and Roger Kasperson* is that more people listen to Rove's repetition of a few talking points.

*There's a bit of hyperbole here, of course -- for example, I'd count Kasperson's social amplification model of risk as a substantive contribution to knowledge.

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