Serendipitous reminders

Serendip is an old name for the island of Sri Lanka, and the word serendipity comes from a story about 3 princes from that island who “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”.  Sometimes I think my life is ruled by serendipity.  Or maybe it is just that I am far more willing to stumble around with no answers to any of the brazillian questions floating around between my ears, see what I find, and then, retrospectively, see the connections between everything.  It is probably the second explanation.

As my postdoc time winds down, a pragmatic optimism links the old and new serendipitously.  This past Monday, I got a reminder from my new department about the course I will be teaching beginning January 2012 – ANTH468C/689C Anthropology and Climate Change.  A potential grad student wrote to ask for an as yet non-existent syllabi.  Time to get my ass in gear beyond the mental modelling I had been doing.  But in some ways, my other work researching and writing on topics like household transitions, mental models, adaptation, global citizenship, and disease have already put me into contact with some of the literature I plan to use.

My recent revision of a manuscript on adaptation I plan to submit by the end of the week got me thinking about Mama Lucy and Tusonge, the NGO she works at with her good friend Aginatha Rutazaa in Moshi, Tanzania.  I am planning to return next summer to work with them on a project to extend their entrepreneurial work with women into agricultural communities as a means to alleviate poverty.  I need to put together a 1-2 page proposal, and my work in Mozambique made me think I could frame the pilot project as exploratory research into local adaptation and adaptive capacity.

Finally, this morning as I waited an extra 30 minutes for the bus (the first one was packed with students and workers) I read a few sentences that summed up why I love my job and what keeps me going.  The book, Fixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat – And How to Counter It, is a mix of autobiography about geoscientist Wallace Broecker and about the history of climate science and of Earth.   I had looked him up following Sunday’s AP article (American ‘allergy’ to global warming) about climate denialism in the United States.  Broecker was the first person to publish on global warming and show the calculations back in 1975 (link to Science article).

Broeker likes figuring things out. He likes, above all else, putting a new piece in the puzzle.  That is the best fun, the deepest joy. Science is a system, a way of thinking and acting, and a community that allows you to taste that joy, on your luckiest days. It is the belief that if we observe the world carefully, test our ideas skeptically, and communicate honestly, we can figure things out.  (Broecker and Kunzig 2008: 26)

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