Department of Geophysics - Heiland Lecture Series
Thursday, March 16, 2017 4:00 p.m.
"Natural Resources and The National Strategic Narrative"
Dr. Mark E. Eberhart, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Geochemistry, CO School of Mines
Changing the way we use our natural resources is the great challenge confronting today’s world. As we anticipate this challenge, it is worth remembering that every generation of Americans has faced grand challenges and responded with a new world vision and a transformed society. Many, if not all, of these past struggles were sustained and facilitated by the persuasive power of strategic narratives—stories grounded in the past, containing a faithful vision of the future along with actions in the present to link the past and the future. The narrative that sustained the Cold War provides a familiar example: Soviet aggression, derived from historic Russian xenophobia, was to be contained until such time as the Soviet Union failed due to its internal defects. This story, as do all good narratives, served to unify disparate stakeholders allowing them to work together toward a shared goal. In the case of the natural resource transformation, such a story has yet to emerge, but when it does, we can be sure that science and technology will figure more prominently than in past narratives. Herein lies one of the reasons that the story of a natural resource transformation has been slow to develop. Precisely because well-structured narratives can be so persuasive by appealing to the visceral, scientists and engineers have distanced themselves from communicating in narrative form—a strength in the pursuit of truth, but a weakness when it comes to motivating change.
In this presentation, examples will be drawn from the recent past of narratives that have aided transformation. I will review the changing character of science and technology in these narratives and argue that aided by scientists; the public image of technology has been distorted, making it incompatible with the narrative form. Countering these distortions with positive images will require scientist to embrace their own history, present, and future from a new perspective.