Author: Jaritza Abreu

What Does It Take to be Revolutionary?

Marcos Perez’s, Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at Colby, talk On Being a Revolutionary was a wonderful way to end the series of lectures as it can speak to the many people at Colby who are activist or trying to be activist and/or care about making change.

During my four years at Colby people have protested, organized with other students, spoken out about their beliefs in different ways, all to bring about awareness and also social change. One example of this was when the Yik Yak fiasco occurred, in which a protest took place all over campus to bring awareness to what is happening to Black lives and people of color outside of our Colby bubble. People put tremendous effort into organizing this and thought about their risk but the cause proved to be more important to them, something Marco Perez spoke about in his talk. Another thing Marco Perez mentioned was the other side, “the enemy,” sure enough the anonymous people from Colby’s community responded in a not so surprisingly way, in discontent with the harmless protest. As Marco Perez mentions a revolution involves high risks and it takes a person or a group of people a lot of courage and preparation to assemble and enable revolutions. But this also brings up the question of what is the right way to protest is there a right way to protest? At the “closure” of the hectic, emotional week people were left wondering who’s voice was going to be heard, the protestors – the Colby students who are not comfortable on campus no matter what, or the underlying racist, sexist, etc.—people who are able to hide their face but share their ideas?

Professor Perez also discusses: Why be a revolutionary? What is it like? How are revolutions organized? He focused on the elements of revolutions, although much larger than that of what happens at Colby, for example with his example of the of the Soviet Union, he still shares important insight into revolutions. The message behind revolutions are that they are essential but imprecise and complicated, and hard to notice in the moment that it is happening. He also brings up good questions about the ability to start a revolution: is there human agency? what is the role of individuals in the outcome of revolutions? To connect this idea to the example above, professors and faculty stood up to speak on the issue and so did other students but nothing else was said, what more could and can be done at Colby, that could make it a revolution?

Finally, though I have applied Marco Peres’s talk to a small place like Colby he speaks of much more worldly perspectives on revolution: What (and where) is the best context for revolutionary change? In more or less developed societies? In urban or rural areas? In the global south or north? Third world countries with there unstable circumstances would be likely to have a revolution maybe also because they are at greater tipping point where their well being really would depend on revolution. All in all I really enjoyed this talk and the questions raised.


Rethinking Modernity

Keith Peterson, an Assistant Professor of Philosophy from Colby gave his talk on How We Have Never Been Revolutionary. He focuses his talk on Latour, Bruno’s book We have Never Been Modern, a book that comments on science and modernity. Latour tries to relink the social and natural by arguing that modernist differentiate between nature and society which separates us from our primitive, pre modern ancestors who don’t make the same differentiation.

In our ST215 climate weather and society course we have spoken about not separating humanity from nature, its amazing to try to think if that wasn’t the case at all…its unimaginable. Humanity is a part of nature and not apart from nature. Many of who study climate change know and share the importance of how climate change shaped the new world. Thus, the history between humanity and nature is very valuable because it shines light on humanities dependence on nature making people aware that it is our atmosphere and without it, there would be no us. However, today, every day individuals, from urban areas, as an example, do not have to worry about climate shaping our lives. These individuals can live in doors with an AC if its too hot or indoors with the heat on if its too cold. Nonetheless, slowly but surely and not obviously climate affects us all.

In relation to what is happening with our climate its crazy to think that we can separate humanity from nature. The ozone debate, global warming, deforestation, even the idea of black holes shows the connection between one and the other. The prospect of keeping nature and culture separate is all mental. Latour suggests, we should rethink our distinctions and rethink the definition and composition of modernity itself, the nature/culture contrast is no longer possible.

Keith Peterson brings up another point of discussion that involves theorist Bruno Latour’s opinion on people thinking of ourselves as “revolutionary” and how this can actually be a central myth of Modernity. Latour hopes to prove that we in fact “have never been Modern,” which would support that people have not been revolutionary. The first section of Peterson’s talk addresses the revolutionary miracle. He went on to explain that westerners definition of revolutionary depends on the relationship between nature and society, and how we interpret time, which only concerns matter and mind. He also mentions how Westerners is not a culture and the aims of the revolutions that existed are for political interest.

In all, what I have taken away from his talk is that we need to see nature and society as products of a bigger picture (human and no human actions). Everything is hybrid of nature and society.



New Perspectives on the Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution and the Origins of Modern Democracy was presented by Jeremy D. Popkin is the William T. Bryan Chair of History at the University of Kentucky. He focused on the years 1776, 1789, 1804. The events he described are over two hundred years ago yet the term “Haitian Revolution” has been used only in the past few decades.  From the Haitian revolution we learn that how significant the Haitian Revolution is and how we consider revolutions when comparing it to American and French revolutions. What truly stood out to me throughout the lecture was Bryan’s ability to relate the events discussed to today’s classrooms.

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Data is Not Fact or Truth

Are there ways to fact check data? Aaron R. Hanlon , an English Professor at Colby in his talk on the Revolutions in Data, Big, and Little, has brought up that question that I bet many have not thought to ask. Hanlon opened his talk with how we take Data for granted. Data comes from the British tradition, entering the English language in the 1600s from Latin, where it was seen as fact and truth the way nowadays we view Google data. Hanlon discusses the way we misinterpret “data,” a conversation that would truly benefit people today as we are in the age of technology where “data” is attainable at a click of a button.

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How Typological Thinking Affects Us Presently

The talk called The Unfinished Business of the Darwinian Revolution by Professor Judy Stone was very different from the previous Darwinian talk. While Janet Browne from Harvard University spoke about how revolutionary should Darwin be considered, Professor Stone focused more on the evolution theory itself. Stone, I believe attempts to ground us with what Darwin’s evolution theory was really about and where we should be today. More specifically, Stone’s talk engrains in us Darwin’s branching tree diagram and how this was misinterpreted and wrongly encouraged typological thinking when we should have a more realistic, non binary view of evolution. Continue reading

The Evolution of Climate Science

Dr. Kerry Emanuel is a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and he came to Colby to talk to us about his focuses on tropical meteorology and climate, and hurricane physics. Throughout his talk he made three general points: climate science being around for a very long time, the many advances in science that helped the develop the field of climate science, and how climate science continues to be a pressing study. Thus, Kerry Emmanuel’s talk exposes the evolution of climate science and from this I understood the value in expanding the exposure of this field in order to learn what is going on in our atmosphere and ultimately prevent the already fast rate of green house gases effect.

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Darwin’s a Revolution?

Janet Browne from Harvard University came to Colby to speak on the Darwinian Revolution. Two points Browne elaborated on was how Darwin is not the only one to speak on Evolution and that the Darwinian Revolution is not really a revolution. Her talk spoke a lot on Darwin’s life and what we have made of it; she spoke of his upbringing, his death and how he’s remembered today. After listening to her expertise on Darwin, I think Darwin was a smart guy who was simply lucky to be recognized as greatly as he is today. So what was it that made Darwin so well recognized, and considered revolutionary?

Of course Darwin is well recognized for his evolution theory. A theory that has greatly contributed to the sciences and has been studied internationally and will continue to be studied for years. Darwin should be well recognized for his work, however, according to Janet Browne there were also other great people who contributed to the evolution theory but are not as greatly publicized – Herbert spencer, Robert chambers, Russell Wallace, etc. Thus, Darwin is brilliant for his work but he was not the only one contributing to such a great theory.

Through Browne’s talk we saw what an ordinary guy Darwin was. Other than being super intelligent, Darwin was a family guy, he married Emma Wedge Wood, who was also wealthy, and they had a bunch of kids. It is also worth mentioning Darwin was an ordinary, privileged* guy. He was privileged to have the money from his parents to move to the rural, Kent ,UK , in a house with servants as of a young age. He had the resources to become educated and have the time to pursue his studies without worrying about working for money. In addition, he was able to use his own back yard to do his studies.

A final point I would like to make about Darwin is how we have come to know Darwin as the great scientist. Today there exist memes, quotes, and sayings said to be stated by him but were actually not, and rather, just inspired by his work. For example, a famous quote that was incorrectly cited as Darwin’s is “Species most responsive to change will survive.” The picture of the apes evolving into humans was also not Darwin’s creation. Apparently, at Darwin’s funeral he was treated like a saint, today, there is a statue of him in the natural history museum in London and his sons even made an effort to incorporate Darwinism into genetics, to continue to branch out his name in the sciences.

I think Darwins’ story is so interesting because this was considered a revolution and is so highly thought of by the people who are very passionate about him, his work and what he represents – the UK. I feel that there is a lot of hype around Darwin and passion for him not only because of his work but because he represents the UK. From this talk we see how he was indeed smart, but he was a normal guy who received a lot of attention. He had the resources to do what he did and was lucky to get the publicity that he got. The people are what keep Darwin so relevant. What does this have to say about revolutions? Well, this shows how powerful those are who get to report history and also have the money and power to make landmarks to commemorate someone in history.



Social Media is the Platform for the Start of a Revolution

Khalid made it clear that social media is powerful, for its universal use and ability to bring people the truth. Thus, Social media serves as a platform for a revolution where many people can gather for the same cause. At the same time, it cannot be a platform for a full Revolution as it lacks its ability to reach and affect the people that can make actual change.

Khalid’s work was shown to reach a wide audience. In fact, his work has been able to reach at least a million views. From his talk, I understand that partly why his work reaches so many people is due to his work. For one thing, his work is speaking to views that affect many people directly and should affect them if it does not. He is speaking to everyone when he does his political cartoons as he covers stories and events that occur all over the world. In addition, Khalid uses visuals with as little language as possible, this helps his work become a piece that people can make their own. In this way, many are able to relate and if it does so, all it takes is a “share” or talk with friends to lead to it being exposed to a massive amount of people world wide. Furthermore, as Khalid has mentioned, there is so much access to social media. More importantly however, is the fact that social media is can bring the truth to people. In cases of censorship, like in Sudan, no one received the truth and propaganda was used to show what the government wanted to show. At the same time, media and social media can share the real news.

Social Media is thus, a great medium to reach people. Sometimes this may even be the only way we get the truth of what’s happening in our communities, our country, and our world. For example, today, social media is the reason such a bigger audience knows of the reality of police brutality. Khalid made it clear to us how accessible and useful social media can be for a revolution with his work as an example. Khalid he can create a couple of works a day and once he shares them it’s a start. This kind of start with others who have similar or different ideas can be the next revolution. In addition, a positive effect of using social media as a platform for activism would be breaking the typical view of one person being able to change and/or lead a revolution. Social media gives many the opportunity to represent and heard, a very progressive move. Lastly, the truth and the awareness social media brings can ultimately save lives.

As great as social media can be there is appoint where it wont be effective enough to reach a full revolution. Take for example the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Lives Matter hit it off on the internet yet there has to be more done. It has reached a very large audience but at the same time receives a lot of backlash. For example, it has been altered and people fight for All Lives Matter which is pure nonsense. Many have been able to join the movement but there needs to be other steps taken to affect those who can make actual change. This said, social media is a great first start to a revolution as it grabs more of people’s attention yet more needs to be done for real change.

Tambora’s Significance to Us and the Teaching of Science

Before Gillen Wood came to speak to us and before his book was introduced in the class, Weather, Climate, and Society. I had not known about Tambora and its significant impact on the world. I am very thankful to have been informed as I was introduced to something with as much significance as a genocide does in history. I am also grateful to have been introduced to Gillen’s way of teaching us about Tambora, he has written scientific history in connection to human affairs, a way he knew this information could reach many people. Thus, not only has Gillen helped to shine light on a world changing event, but also, a whole new way of engraining scientific history in all people, even those like me, who do not naturally gravitate to the sciences.

Tambora not only affected the people and climate in it’s immediate surroundings but all over the world due to its particles that spread when they dispersed into the stratosphere. The resulting climate shock caused sympathy and violence. As Wood informed us, Tambora caused communities to fall apart. In England, for example, there was a mentality of bread or blood. It was the1st demographic hit where agriculture could not be done. People had to go far to reach markets for food but some couldn’t even make it because of the condition they were in. The wholesale grain prices over the years shows the tragic shortage of food: (in the U.S). year 1815: 100, year 1816: 124, year 1817: 154, year 1818: 127, year 1819: 86, and year 1820: 59. In addition, to not see children suffer from starvation and other suffering mother’s would end the lives of their own children. According to Wood, in China, children were even sold and in Indonesia they were entered into slavery for the same reasons, because at least they would be fed. There is no question what a huge impact Tambora had on the world.

Thus, Wood had a big mission, to inform others about this historical moment that is more than science but also, a part of human’s history. He made this event significant and worthy to everyone with his book by showing us that Tambora has shaped who we are and our atmosphere in some way. This was particularly a new approach for me that I am very grateful for, I believe this is the way to reach people and make them care. Furthermore, through this mission he has also helped people think teleconnectedly. As Wood said, we miss a lot of our world unless we think this way. Everything is teleconnected, just look at what he has accomplished with connecting social systems and climate to Tambora. Wood has not only brought Tambora to our attention as a revolution, he has brought us a new approach that can get our world more involved with what is going in our atmosphere.

The Scientific Revolution: Exemplary and the End of Scientific Discoveries

The Scientific Revolution was thought of as impeccable and the end of huge scientific discoveries. The latter being a point Professor Cohen briefly mentioned in his talk. Specifically, he stated that at this time in history it was believed that future research would simply consist of tweaking what’s has already been but no breakthroughs. One reason The Scientific Revolution was understood as the optimum point in science is due to the select few who were a part of this history, privileged, white males. The people who made the Science Revolution what it is, was such a small population. Thus, I agree with Professor Cohen’s remark on future advancements: what’s to come in science will be completely different from what was done then and is being done now. I believe the future of science will be even more praiseworthy as our world has so many prospective “scientist” who have many platforms to be inspired and also, create.

The Science Revolution as exemplary. The scientific revolution holds a special spot in history for the people and the advances they made at the time. Some examples are, Nicolas Copernicus and his publication, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Galileo with, Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World, and Johannes Kepler’s third law of planetary motion. Professor Cohen had challenged how scientific these scientists were as there standards differ from those that exist today. Nonetheless, the advances stand as very scientific and revolutionary. Moreover, The Scientific Revolution stands out for its transition from “the blend of medieval and modern elements to the triumph of the modern.” This is distinctive as a typical revolution is thought to lead to something completely new, however, this revolution simply transitioned to the end of something.

Hence, why wouldn’t the people of this era think this was the prime of science discovery? This idea nonetheless was ignorant and self centered of the scientist at the time. Those most noted as the revolutionaries are white, Christian, and males. This shows how close minded and unhopeful society was of having different kinds of people contribute to these meaningful events in history. On the other hand, those to blame for the chosen handful thought to be revolutionaries could solely be those responsible for writing and passing history down.

Thus, there is a dramatically different future awaiting. The advancements of today and the various forms of media allow the average person to think of countless possibilities. The movies and TV shows of today already show how creative people can get. An example TV show is one from Disney channel, Phil of the Future, meant for young adults can be seen as inspiring people from a young age to think outside the box. Consequently, the scientific revolution to come will be completely different from the one of the past and what we are doing now.