Day 17: Climate Change

Having watched one of Naomi Oreskes’ presentation on the Merchants of Doubt students will discuss the history of climate change theory.  We will start with a brief timeline of scientific research on climate change.  Then we will work in groups to study the greenhouse effects of carbon dioxide based on Spencer Weart’s digital version of The Discovery of Global Warming.  We will close with a discussion of technological efforts at climate engineering.  Students will discuss James Fleming’s Chemical Heritage article, “Manufacturing the Weather.”


  1. In Bacigalupi’s WindUp world, food is measured in calories and energy in joules bound up in springs. In what ways does reducing these staples to homogenized, commensurable numbers symbolize a dystopian future.
  2. How is science to blame for the dystopia?
  3. How different is this dystopian future from our modern reality?


14 thoughts on “Day 17: Climate Change”

  1. -The “calorie company” has created genetically modified corn and soybean varieties that have strong resistance to virus, disease, and pests. The world is starving, but the calorie companies have a monopoly of energy in their control. Which puts much hardship on the population. This also restricts free enterprise from farmers and such.
    -I believe that the science involved in trying to create a perfect food/crop by genetically engineering food is what is to blame.
    -Not too different. This could be related to modern day in how we are increasingly using food products to supplement fuels. (Such as ethanol) This leads to strain on the food supply available for consumption and what is available becomes more expensive. (Supply and demand)

  2. In Bacigalupi’s WindUp world, large corporations have monopolized all of the energy and food in the world. The planet is starving, but it is left to the corporations to decide who can grow food and where it should be grown. At the same time, usable energy must be purchased with food. Science is largely to blame for the creation of genetically engineered crops that can be grown, but are not able to produce viable seeds for the next generation. This allows for the corporations to be in control of the food supply. This dystopian future is similar to our modern reality in that food crops are genetically altered and there are many food regulations. Such as what can be considered “organic food.”

  3. It is very dystopian because everything is simplified down to the basic units of consumption. Food is no longer food, it is simply calories. The kid, Creo, is disgusted by the food they see in the garden, and he says, “I’ll stick with SoyPro,” the basic calorie food they consume.
    Science is to blame because the large corporations have engineered the food to be sterile, so no one can grow it but them, and they regulate the distribution and consumption of it.
    I would say it is quite different because I can grow whatever I want in my back yard if I so choose.

  4. This resembles a dystopian future because the food is controlled so tightly that it is measured down to a single calorie. Also, with so many resources to create more food, there are so many people left starving.
    Science is to blame for this disaster because they create species for food that can be controlled so tightly, and it is controlled to the point where people struggle to survive.
    This dystopia is nothing like our modern society because we have so many organizations that feed the poor everyday without charge.

  5. The homogenization of these numbers into information used in daily life shows the evils of this dystopia. The lives of the public have been reduced to needing calories enough to survive rather than prosper individually. The monopolizing of the agriculture industry due to the super plant created, with it being the only one able to survive the bugs and disease, gives agriculture way to much power. With the power to control the food supply, they also gain power over everything because everyone needs food to survive.
    The scientist who created this super plant who did not release the information to the public are to blame for the dystopia. They should have known that even though they discovered a great plant that could withstand the different attacks on the plants, that if one or two major companies control all growth of those plants, then they would eventually control the world.
    This idea is very different from our current world. No major problems have wiped out the entire harvests and we have large enough amounts of food that we hardly even count calories, while in their world calorie production and sustenance is the only thing they are trying to achieve.

  6. The way that food is measure in calories and energy in joules bound up in springs symbolizes a dystopian future because everything is crude and reduced, and people lives a centered on obtaining more of these things. Also, everything seems like it can’t get any worse, crops are controlled by select wealth companies who won’t allow people to grow the same produce, and even buildings are all made of the same material WeatherAll material that stinks in the heat. Science is to blame for this dystopia because the companies have their “monocultures” which can be controlled because they cannot be reproduced by anyone else. This dystopian future is far from our modern society. However, I have read that some companies who have genetically modified some crops such as corn hold patent rights to the plant and can sue farmers if they find their seeds on their lands unpaid for.

  7. Science has fully created this dystopia. Driven of course by the business world ideology of efficiency, the seed producing companies have created the perfect plants. Just as our modern companies have created varieties that are Roundup-resistant or resistant to root rot, the companies in this futuristic setting having created even better versions of the same thing. As a consequence to these positive traits, and selective breeding/gene modification our plants lose some of the genetic variety that they began with, or perhaps carry a trait that makes them susceptible to rot, infection, or drought. Many companies have GM’ed so many of our modern crops to be bigger, sweeter, stronger…all traits of efficiency, all moving closer toward that perfect species or plant.
    Our modern society is so concerned with calorie consumption and how many we should or shouldn’t have in a given day, that we often overlook exactly where these calories have come from(I.e. protein shakes, meals in a bottle,Similac).it isn’t a far reach to think that we. Could completely lose sight of variety in our food, assuming it was still of a palatable nature.
    The catch about what is really an issue, and has driven this society. Into such a negative light is truly the sterility of the seeds. If major seed companies chose to move in this direction, which is a foreseeable possibility, we would have major problems for several reasons. Firstly, they could, as in the book, monopolize the food supply. Secondly, it would then be impossible for the common family/farmer to even do crosses with their superior genetics.

  8. Personally, I don’t see how reducing things to numbers symbolizes dystopia. In engineering at least, there are very few tasks you can achieve without quantifying everything at some point, and we typically use engineering to prevent ourselves from entering a dystopia.

    I guess people would see it as dystopian because the average person is not usually forced to quantify things like energy content in their daily lives, and the thought of doing so reminds them of rations, which in turn reminds them of poverty, disaster, and war.

    I wouldn’t say that science is to blame for the dystopia in the book, rather, it is greed and abuse of science for the gains of a few at the expense of many that is to blame. Regarding GMO crops, we could create super robust crops that grow everywhere and patent their genes for monopoly extortion, or we could just not be stupid and just pay the GMO companies for their work once and let everyone use their seeds. This, in fact, parallels the argument behind “free” software, the idea that software development should be a service that people hire, and then can have complete control over the code afterwards, since it costs almost nothing to make copies of it and to use copyright/patent to restrict such a thing is just abusing the government to prop up a faulty business model.

  9. I believe science, and the food company has created the dystopia. Reducing food to just numbers is causing a poor lifestyle for the people leaving in this dystopia. The companies are growing “better” crops and seeds which is limiting farmers to what they can grow. The larger companies are monopolizing the agricultural industry and becoming wealthier and powerful.
    Science is partially to blame for this dystopia because they were the ones that created the genetically modified seeds and plants. The companies, I believe, are more to blame because they are the ones using these and overall controlling the economy.
    This dystopia is not any different then our modern reality. We have genetically modified foods available for the consumer such as genetically modified corn. In order to control food famine, we are having to move more towards this dystopia like lifestyle in order to meet our supply and demand.

  10. In the dystopian world created by Bacigalupi, where food is the source of energy, food is no longer an extension of ourselves and our creativity as it is now. It is singular and only for energy consumption, taking all the joy and pleasure out of the most important staple of human life. That in itself shows a world devoid of one of the greatest pleasures in life, damn good food.

    While it seems like the scientific answer for a lack of fossil fuels is the creation of these genetically modified foods, it is also to blame for the current situation with the science of genetically modified food. So in solving the problem for energy, the science created another where food is for production of energy instead of fuel for human consumption and mass starvation happens.

    I think this is far from our future, but not necessarily a work of fiction. With the modification we are doing with our food, and the lack political will for finding other forms of sustainable energy and increased lobbying for ethanol like sources, the future of the world seems to be a grim place.

  11. Food is measured in calories because it tells you how much energy is present in the food. Mechanical energy is measured in Jules for the same reason. The amount of energy present is whats important
    Only certain companies control the food the same way only some companies own ways to produce energy. It’s al about intellectual property. However I would not say science ruined society, rather the people who let companies take over.

    While, Monsanto owns a particular variant of the soy bean, they do not own all the soy beans so food is not owned in the same way it in here.

  12. Putting restrictions on food products and things necessary for life causes a large amount of unhappiness. Not to mention if the people are not getting what they need, they could die and there would not even be a society. This dystopian future is different from our modern society because we do not put such harsh regulations on things. we do not have to buy something that we don’t need just to get the product we do need. How ever this dystopia is also similar in the way that they are modifying products and also reducing them. We change everything these days and we always want to make it smaller and easier to manage. Just not food.
    Science is to blame for dystopia because with out the research and creation of these plants and what have you, there would not be a need to force them because they would not exist. Science has also influenced a need for always finding something new, so no one can accept things as they are because they are always on the hunt for something better

  13. I think that this represents a definite dystopian society. When we turn food into calories and numbers and give it such guidelines and restrictions we take away any enjoyment that really comes from it. Some people do this for dietary purposes but this gives them pleasure because it is an option that they themselves have decided to take. No one usually likes anything they are forced into very much, this includes food choice.

    I believe that science is partially to blame for this idea. GMO’s monopolizing everything and being able to control and have a hold over the food supply is a long and lengthy process that will be met with many crossroads and resistances. It is also partially the greed and business side that could make this nightmare a reality in the future. People do not realize the consequences that their actions may have. I do think this is a sort of double edged sword that can not all be pinned on advances in science.

    I don’t think this is something that will occur very soon or even in my lifetime but it is something that I believe needs to be thought about. With fossil fuels depleting and very little structure on how fast they go. Turning to food as an alternative does not seem like an unreasonable option. Thinking on these points however does make the future seem like a sort of formidable and unpleasant place to live.

  14. Calories at its basic definition are a measure of energy and this is taken to the extreme in the dystopian future with food being a primary source of energy. There is a monopoly on the supply of food and by extension the energy in the world by corporations. I don’t think that science is to blame for this because it’s just people taking advantage of what already exists. I am concerned about the future and how energy could be monopolized in the future.

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