A Gray ‘Whale of a Problem’: Re-Mediating Dead Wildlife at Trestles

Keywords: whales, landfills, necropolitics, anthropogenic climate change, Trestles

In January 2021, the World Cetacean Alliance named Dana Point in Orange County, California, the first Whale Heritage Site in the United States for meeting criteria that support cetaceans’ cultural, economic, educational, and ecological importance. Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) as “sentinels of ecosystem change” are dialed into Orange County’s ecology and co-exist with humans. Sustainable wildlife viewing within the context of tourism means humans are encouraged to watch whales in their “natural” habitat and manage the ocean for future generations. A bleaker image shows unmanageable whale die-offs. During El Niño 2016, seven miles south of Dana Point, the carcass of a gray whale rolled ashore at Trestles, a popular surf spot in San Onofre State Beach. Two questions persist. Is a landfill an ecologically sustainable space to dump dead whales when they disrupt daily flows of beach tourism? And what role might indigenous ecological knowledge play in future dead wildlife re-mediation efforts in coastal communities that value whales economically and culturally? This paper argues that dumping a dead whale into a landfill happens because there are no transparent environmental policies in place that clearly communicate best practices for cities to reduce landfill-bound marine sentinel waste. Eco-ethnography as method is used to locate incoherent logics within sustainability discourse. The analysis reveals an anthropocentric erasure of marine sentinels’ existence and, in effect, indigenous connections to the Acjachemen. The case study underscores an unsettling vision of Trestles’ ecological future and ecosystem functionality, particularly given its proximity to the first U.S. Whale Heritage Site.

What Do You Mean by ‘Scalable’?

A reflexive analysis of teaching STEM students collective and inclusive solutions for climate change in a first-year writing program

Keywords: science communication, bending the curve, scalable solutions, climate change, climate solutions

For the University of California, 2015 marked a pivotal year for science communication as a public good for incoming undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors. The systemwide release of Ramanathan et al.’s Bending the Curve (2015; 2019) called on UC campuses to use university facilities and intellectual capital to tackle climate change. The report asserts that these “living laboratories of sustainability” (2019, p. vi) should develop sustainable technologies and share best practices to immediately reduce carbon dioxide emissions globally. STEM students, therefore, must know how to write about the climate science for various stakeholders. The report also argues it is the “responsibility” of “scientists, leaders, and citizens of the planet” to enact change “on a large scale” (Ibid). As such, Bending the Curve is geared toward a generalist audience, including first-year undergraduate students, who need guidance with the science. In 2017, the Warren College Writing Program (WCWP) at UC San Diego responded to Ramanathan et al.’s call to boost science communication literacy by introducing “Climate Change Ethics.” From 2017 until 2020, the course explored a spectrum of differences in beliefs, drawing from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s “Six Americas” research and Connie Roser-Renouf et al.’s 2015 study “Engaging Global Warming’s Six Americas.” Students also analyzed the role of (un)ethical science communication in media conflicts regarding climate change “doubt” in the United States (Oreskes and Conway, 2012). Between 2018 and 2020, nearly 2,000 first-year undergraduates enrolled in the course, which culminated with an explanatory writing project that asked students to determine which strategies worked best and were most ethical for communicating climate science to their intended audience. This paper highlights WCWP data collected between fall 2018 and winter 2019 from pre- and post-course surveys. The period paralleled California’s wildfire seasons, influencing project designs around concerns that students associated with climate change. Data provides insight about types of writing that STEM students consider “meaningful” and processes that constitute the production of meaningful and ethical projects. Data from 2019 shows a decrease in students’ desire to write about topics that are relevant only to their lives. The shift is coupled with an increase in students’ interest to write if other people can view their work. This paper unpacks challenges that writing instructors in higher education face when teaching undergraduates about “scalable” climate solutions. One challenge considers a neoliberal ethic, which centers environmental responsibility on individual behavior rather than climate policy or corporate accountability. Instructors’ reflexive feedback also underscores difficulties in institutionalizing inclusive solutions, which do not always fit within the framework of mainstream environmentalism.

Eco-Ethnography and Citizen Science: Lessons From Within

Key words: Coastal management, citizen science, eco-ethnography, increasing diversity in science, public engagement

Citizen science is the participation of non-scientists in the collection of scientific data and other aspects of the scientific process. In this manuscript, we explore what it means to participate in citizen science from two perspectives—that of a researcher designing and facilitating a citizen science project, and that of a citizen scientist volunteering the time and energy required for participation. We examine the methods and goals of the projects, describing the challenges faced by researchers and science volunteers alike as they participate in research processes aimed to increase community involvement in science and, by extension, environmental management issues. We describe how the constraints of citizen science models and methods underscore the importance of incorporating alternative anthropological and ethnographic approaches in coastal research, and offer eco-ethnography as a way for scientists to extend their citizen science projects to better reflect the needs and concerns of local communities impacted by climate change and sea-level rise.
Please contact the author for a full copy of the article.

Urban Tides Gives Rise to Community Resilience

LA JOLLA — At its peak, the king tide swallowed the entire beach, pushed past a low seawall, spilled across the bike path, and flooded the parking lot. Just past sunrise, heavy mist still lingers in the air as a group of volunteers walk along this stretch of beach in San Diego, CA. About 20 people – mostly coastal residents along with a handful of scientists and graduate students – have gathered to photograph evidence of flooding and erosion due to the extreme high tide.
See U.S. Southern California Sea Grant’s 2016 report “Urban Tides Gives Rise to Community Resilience” for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Citizen Scientists Learn to Document El Niño’s Impacts

SAN DIEGO — On a morning this week at La Jolla Shores, the tide was high and so was the enthusiasm of 20 citizen scientists who were training to help document the impact of El Niño along the coast. The group of volunteers was learning to capture images of beach erosion and coastal flooding in a way that would be useful to researchers. It’s part of what the real scientists are calling the Urban Tides Community Science Initiative.
“If we actually get folks taking pictures from the same locations, pointed in the same direction, repeatedly — so say, every day or every week — that’s actually the most valuable data for us,” said Sarah Giddings, a researcher and professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
See Susan Murphy’s Citizen Scientists Learn to Document El Niño

La Política del Surf: “Me Preocupa el Desarrollo Desmedido”

El SALVADOR — Una entrevista realizada hace cinco años ya reflejaba los desafíos que la costa salvadoreña enfrentaría por la falta de planificación. El turismo ligado al surf ha transformado la vida de miles de habitantes de las playas del país, pero estos sufren las tensiones entre los surfistas locales y los turistas, la privatización de las playas y el temor al deterioro ambiental.
Read: La Política del Surf – Me Preocupa el Desarrollo Desmedido