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.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel’s talk on Revolutions in Climate Science showcased the many individuals whose efforts contributed to the development of the field. His collection of little revolutions made me question the limitations of the word ‘revolution.’ If the field of climate science came about due to multiple simultaneous revolutions, can one concrete set of revolutionary criteria explain all of the changes in the field?
Emanuel traced the roots of modern climate science back into the 19th century through multiple other fields. Advancements in fields including geology, physics, and chemistry all contributed to the development of climate science. Taking out any of those important contributions would render the future of climate science in a different way, but can each moment be counted as revolutionary? Is it possible to pinpoint one discovery or contribution as THE revolutionary moment, the spark of the revolution?
Perhaps a revolution is best considered on a large timescale, something like 300 plus years. Viewing the development of climate science as one continuous revolution means that it is in a constant revolutionary state. How does one pinpoint the exact moment of revolution? After all, each discovery is built on the thoughts, ideas, and coincidences that came before, building up a sequence of knowledge.
According to theorist Thomas Kuhn, paradigm shifts occur in scientific theory after a critical mass of new data or ideas constitute enough evidence to overturn the previously held beliefs. Under this conception of science, the development of any field is a series of revolutionary changes. If we apply this mode of thinking to climate science, what are the paradigm shifts? It is difficult to identify them from the overview that Dr. Emanuel gave, although he undoubtedly would be able to identify them.
In contrast to the increasing specialization of many fields, it seems that climate science is continually dependent on information from many different disciplines. In order to account for all of revolutionary moments in climate science, one would have to document all of the small moments in all of the fields that lead to the intellectual growth of the scientists and the public growth of perception surrounding the information.
Dr. Emanuel really made me think about all of the small moments that went into the lives of all of the scientists who collectively developed the field. Perhaps pinpointing a revolution is beside the point. A revolution does not need to have a distinct beginning or end. The climate scientists of today have a vast history to look back on, a long, revolutionary history, which gives legitimacy to their field in the face of the doubts that some have against their work. It truly is a continuous revolution. Who knows what the next phase of the revolution will hold?
When asked whether the Arab Spring revolutions were a success or not, Khalid Albaih replied that “revolutions take time.” A few months, or even a few years, is not long enough to gauge the success of a movement. Albaih also discussed his experience with going viral, something that is much more fleeting. Virality is an important part of a modern revolution for spreading images and ideas in the era of social media. Viral images help fuel revolutions, but they are soon forgotten. How fleeting is virality if the themes and ideas expressed in viral social media posts live on in the revolutionary process? The idea of a continuing revolution encompasses the ongoing themes that are explained in temporary, instantly forgotten people and images. Virality and revolution go hand in hand because each large-scale event is made up of smaller scale happenings. Continue reading