Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Length: 15-20 pages
First Draft: November 23, before Midnight (at least 6 pages)
Final Draft: December 11, before 11 am

Today we know the Earth's atmosphere --a thin envelope of gas that separates all known life from the abyssal emptiness of space-- is warming. As we've read and discussed over the semester, for much of human history, the basic presumption that humans exist in a state of natural rapport with their endemic "lifeworld" has meant that climatic conditions have only recently been called into question. Of course, even when the atmospheric situation finally became the object of serious philosophical concern, from Hippocrates and beyond, being-in-the-air has generally been accepted to be a static given, albeit one with disputed cultural implications. However, with the discovery of climate change in the 19th century, and more recently, the anthropogenic greenhouse effect, the naive certitude that Nature's aerial vault is somehow beyond direct human modification has once and for all been overturned. 

Today we know the Earth's atmosphere is warming. Two weeks ago the IPCC released its most definitive report to date; in it the authors once again reaffirmed that, indeed, anthropogenic drivers are “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of observed planetary warming. As the report went on to note, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses have now reached levels that have not been breached in at least 800,000 years. To put this in context of our species's history: the last time carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide were present in the atmosphere at current levels it was 600,000 years before the first anatomical human took her first imaginary upright steps.

Today we know the Earth's atmosphere is warming. However, as we've seen again and again over the course of this semester, what exactly this secondary warming means for the future is neither a straightforward problem nor a disinterested fact. 

Option A. Research Paper

For your final essay your assignment is to explore the problem of climate change through a topic of your own choosing. 

I should like you to investigate something that pleases and disturbs you with special attention to its weird and surprising details. I insist that you enjoy this assignment. I also insist that you develop an original claim, observation, or concept that's adequately supported with evidence, reflection, and well-timed affirmation. 

Write a paper that you'd actually want to read; a paper that will be submitted to a skeptical, bullshit weary superior. Be unique. Be curious. Be unsatisfied and impatient with arguments and observations that offend your sense of intellectual rigor or humanity. Call into question things that aren't normally called into question. Oppose mindlessness. 

Option B. Can Climate Change Speak?

In a mute world where hurricanes, carbon dioxide, and glacial ice are in themselves silent, what does it take to make "climate change" speak? 

For your final essay, I want you to answer this question by way of a detailed interview. In other words, you're job will be to speak to someone who speaks for the climate! 

Write a paper that incorporates narrative, dialogue, and description with an original meditation on what it means to establish climate change as a scientific, political, and cultural reality. 

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