At its heart, the problem of climate change is about human relationships with the environment. While we may care about the environment generally—especially those places which we have long, happy attachments to—the specific ways we shape our lives may contribute to planetary destruction on small or large scales.
In the article “The Substance of Climate: material approaches to nature under environmental change,” O’Reilly examines humanities and social science literature that helps us understand human/ environment relationships. In particular, O’Reilly is interested in climate experienced as a substance—rainfall, dry air, ice, beetles, oak trees, to name some examples—and how sensory, material engagements with these substances can resituate understandings of climate change.
Typically, climate change is framed in terms of science and policy. O’Reilly uses these frames as well, incorporating the substantive nature of science and policy—labs, fieldsites, documents, negotiating halls—into her analysis. Knowledge gleaned from experience in the world, in this article, is paired with powerful expert knowledge and provides additional insights into the lived experience of climate change.
Climate change is a global phenomenon—the timescales and vast regions under study are often nearly unimaginable from a human scale. In “The Substance of Climate,” the author seeks to assess literature that helps bridge the conceptual gap, bringing immediate personal experiences of climate into focus.
Kindly contributed by Jessica O’Reilly.