Feds Spent $412,930 Studying ‘Relationship Between Gender and Glaciers’

Glaciers can shape ‘religious beliefs and cultural values’

/ AP
March 7, 2016

The National Science Foundation has spent more than $400,000 on a study that published scientific results on the "relationship between gender and glaciers."

The paper "Glaciers, gender, and science," published in January 2016, concluded that "ice is not just ice," urging scientists to take a "feminist political ecology and feminist postcolonial" approach when they study melting ice caps and climate change.

"Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change," the paper by Mark Carey, a professor at the University of Oregon, explained. "However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers–particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied."

"Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions," the paper said.

The 10,417-word article published in Sage Journals’ "Progress in Human Geography," was first highlighted by Reason’s Robby Soave and Tablet Magazines Yair Rosenberg.

The paper argues that glaciers can shape "religious beliefs and cultural values," and that climate change can lead to the "breakdown of stereotypical gender roles and even ‘gender renegotiation.’"

While the paper argues that glacier research needs more feminine perspectives, gender is not defined as male and female for the researchers, but "as a range of personal and social possibilities."

"A critical but overlooked aspect of the human dimensions of glaciers and global change research is the relationship between gender and glaciers," the paper said. "While there has been relatively little research on gender and global environmental change in general there is even less from a feminist perspective that focuses on gender (understood here not as a male/female binary, but as a range of personal and social possibilities) and also on power, justice, inequality, and knowledge production in the context of ice, glacier change, and glaciology."

The National Science Foundation funded the study as part of a project that initially set out to "examine the early development and subsequent evolution of the five main aspects of glaciology."

The study has cost taxpayers $412,930.

Carey added gender to the glacier study after he hired a University of Oregon student who found "women's voices are rarely heard in glacier-related research," according to the school.

"I wanted to know more about the relationship between women and ice, so we pursued the topic from climate-change vulnerability to knowledge," said the student, Jaclyn Rushing, an environmental studies and romance languages major.

"Jaclyn found a report that noted how women are more vulnerable to glacier changes and hazards than are men," Carey said. "I had never researched these gendered vulnerabilities."

Carey ended up looking at glaciers through the "lens of feminist studies."

The question "Why feminist glaciology?" presented by the paper is answered by an argument that scientific research of glaciers has been "dominated by men and masculinity."

One purpose of "feminist glaciology" is to "analyze how power, domination, colonialism, and control—undergirded by and coincident with masculinist ideologies—have shaped glacier-related sciences and knowledges over time."

"Most existing glaciological research–and hence discourse and discussions about cryospheric change–stems from information produced by men, about men, with manly characteristics, and within masculinist discourses," the paper said.

When studying the gender aspects of ice, one cannot leave out the patriarchy, the paper adds.

"The feminist lens is crucial given the historical marginalization of women, the importance of gender in glacier-related knowledges, and the ways in which systems of colonialism, imperialism, and patriarchy co-constituted gendered science," the paper said.

Sage Journals filed the paper under "feminist glaciology," "feminist political ecology," and "feminist postcolonial science studies."