How does knowledge about climate interact with power relationships in society over the historical long-term?
Book Project | Governing Climate
Based on dissertation research, Governing Climate: History, Power, and the Struggle over Climate Futures traces how scientists came to measure, know, and understand climate, a process that did not unfold through a logic of scientific rationality alone, but was often tied to practices of government, especially state formation and industrial capitalism. I conceptualize this process as “meteorological government,” trace it from around 1780 to 2019, and argue that the relationship between climate science and government stands at a crossroads. One direction aims towards climate justice and human needs, the other aims toward 'climate security' and the protection of some over others.
Sample Chapter: "Economic Rationalization of Weather: Risk, Prediction, and “Normal” Weather, 1870-1930." Available At this link.
Related publications include:
Baker, Zeke. 2018. “Meteorological Frontiers: Climate Knowledge, the West, and US Statecraft, 1800-1850.” Social Science History 42(4): 731-761.
Baker, Zeke. 2017. “Climate State: Science-State Struggles and the Formation of Climate Science in the US from the 1930s to 1960s.” Social Studies of Science 47(6): 861-887.
How do social groups incorporate marine forecasts into their decisions,
especially under conditions of high risk and uncertainty?
Postdoctoral Project | Decision Support for the Alaska Marine Community
Marine weather forecasts are important to decision-making in the Bering Sea region of Alaska, which hosts among the most productive fisheries and extreme weather in the world. Diverse user groups, especially those involved with commercial and subsistence fisheries, rely on formal weather forecasts alongside other knowledge, experiences, and factors that structure their decision-making. This project uses qualitative interviews and in situ fieldwork to understand how different user groups utilize, interpret, and value marine forecasts. The project will then help to inform how marine forecasts might better engage diverse groups, especially given the risks involved in living and operating in the Bering Sea region and the dramatic socio-environmental changes that presently characterize the region.
This research is organized through the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma and situated within the Arctic Test Bed and Proving Ground (ATPG) at the National Weather Service in Anchorage, Alaska. The research is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA).
How can climate change research more effectively and equitably inform climate change adaptation?
Collaborative Project | Climate Change Adaptation and the Social Structure of Climate Information
Climate change in California presents numerous challenges to public decision-making and natural resource management. Through work with Dr. Julia Ekstrom and the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy, I seek to understand the social bases upon which climate science (and scientists) interact with decision-making processes. Through interview-based and mixed-methods analysis of water managers, we find that climate science inadequately informs water management, especially amongst drinking water utilities that serve already marginalized communities exposed to climate risk. Through an original survey and interviews with climate researchers, we also find that significant barriers prevent climate researchers from engaging those who might benefit from their work, despite a strong desire for such engagement.
Related publications include:
Baker, Zeke, Julia A. Ekstrom, Kelsey D. Meagher, Benjamin L. Preston, and Louise Bedsworth. 2020. “The Social Structure of Climate Change Research and Practitioner Engagement: Evidence from California.” Global Environmental Change 63:102074.
Baker, Zeke, Julia A. Ekstrom and Louise Bedsworth. 2018. “Climate Information? Embedding Climate Futures within Temporalities of California Water Management.” Environmental Sociology 4(4): 419-433.
How can rock climbing be more accessible and sustainable in an era of burgeoning "outdoor" culture and when public lands have become a site of contentious politics?
Collaborative Project | A Political Ecology of Climbing in Indian Creek, Utah
The pursuit of sustainable and responsible climbing is an anchor for outdoor industries, climbers, advocates, and managers in the face of the mainstreaming of climbing culture. By collaborating with ecologist, Dr. Stephen Fick, this project uses interviews and ethnographic fieldwork to understand from the ground-up how climbers evaluate their own participation in climbing culture, including the social relations and ecological impacts therein. Situated within the Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah, Indian Creek is an ideal context to explore how the climbing industry, culture, and community interact with the ecological and political-economic relations in which climbing is embedded.
Based on ongoing fieldwork and 60 interviews with climbers and other local land users, residents, and managers, our initial findings identify a contradiction between climbers’ attitudes and practices. On the one hand, climbers recognize the ecological impacts of climbing and envision the climbing community is becoming more accessible to diverse groups. On the other hand, climbers in practice may also reproduce social hierarchies, both among climbers and between climbers and other users of the landscape. The rise of social media technologies and advocacy efforts complicate these issues, allowing for self-regulation within the climbing subculture on the one hand, but unprecedented exposure and commodification of fragile landscapes on the other.
Our work has been featured on the radio podcast Science Moab and is available at this link.