Frozen Friday Fab Four #5

By Victoria Metcalf 23/05/2014


Four of the Antarctic or anything else headlines/social media bits that have grabbed my attention this week(ish).

Large glaciers are in irreversible decline signalling the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet more rapidly than predicted. Sea levels will rise as a result.
Large glaciers are in irreversible decline signalling the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet more rapidly than predicted. Sea levels will rise as a result. Image credit: Victoria Metcalf

1. Although it may have been overshadowed somewhat by the elevator bust-up between Solange Knowles and Jay-Z, far more important news has been floating about. The release of two papers (here and here) using different methods provide perhaps the firmest evidence we have that global warming is well and truly upon us and there is no looking back.

The papers show that six large glaciers in Antarctica are in a state of irreversible and rapid decline signalling the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet . The decline of these glaciers will lead to considerable rises in sea level (1.2m) in the centuries to come and potentially within 200 years. This is a pivotal moment in human history and requires action in return. Expect more on this in a full post soon.

 

2. Full drama hit academic circles this week with the firing of the tenured Head of the School of Health, Professor Robert Buckingham at the University of Saskatchewan. He was fired after he wrote a letter criticising the university’s restructuring in the forms of budgetary overhauls. Amid a huge international furore he was reinstated as a Professor but not as Head of School. Heads rolled – first in the form of the provost who signed the termination letter resigning. And then the university board of governors has in turn now terminated Ilene Busch-Vishniac, the president and vice chancellor responsible.

The initial actions impinged on academic freedom and freedom of expression, something that should be sacrosanct to universities. Academics should be free to be the critics and conscience of societies. There are concerns over preservation of academic freedom here amongst fears it is being eroded. We would all do well to pay close attention to cases like the Canadian one as universities here and elsewhere continue to face increased pressures.

 

The importance of imagination cannot be understated. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons by Druidhills
The importance of imagination cannot be understated. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons by Druidhills

3. On somewhat related lines, I listened to a fabulous interview with Tommy Wilson on Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan this week. Wilson is the author of Kapai the Kiwi children’s books and is now Executive Director of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services in Tauranga. This is an organisation focusing on the wellness of families and whanau. He describes himself as a chief imagination officer.

What was so inspirational about this interview was his ideas around the importance of creativity and imagination in truly creating an innovative future. For him storytelling is pivotal. He spoke that we have been in the information world and now we are in the imagination world. Businesses will need to be imaginative to be successful in the future and should be fostering this.

Everything comes back to stories- life is not a list of objectives etc- we need to be able to be given the space to dream to find real solutions.

It was interesting to listen too because not only do I agree entirely on all fronts and do not stop harping on about the importance of stories, dreaming and creativity to my students or my colleagues, but worryingly the science realm and universities seem to be heading in many ways in an opposite direction. This is particularly to do both with funding opportunities based on targeted research where outcomes may be largely obvious and increasingly a business model being applied to university function. When will imagination come back to the prominence it deserves for scientific endeavour?

 

4. Gender bias exists in some unexpected areas sometimes. It turns out that vaginas have received far less study than their male counterpart, the penis or similar in studies on reproduction in animals. The gender of the scientists themselves is not the issue and possibly this imbalance is due to longstanding gender stereotypes resulting in unconscious gender bias, irrespective of sex of the researcher.

We’d learn far more if we studied both genitals together argue the researchers who published the study that uncovered this imbalance. Growing awareness of the pervasiveness of the influence of gender stereotyping and addressing it through unconscious gender bias training may also help.

 

Which of these stories grabbed your attention?