Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The CSIRO Goes Po-Mo

TIM BLAIR, a keen observer of stupidity, formulated his eponymous law on the inevitable conjunction of human idiocies some time ago, noting how, for example, leftards are wont to make common cause with the same Islamic nut jobs who would, if given their druthers, hang them from cranes in the public square for being gay, troublesome, uncovered or fond of BBQ’d pork. We see many other examples of fools acting in concert, but it just may that Six Million Dollar Man Andrew Jaspan has officiated at the marriage of the two most virulent strains of idiocy wafting about Australia’s institutes of higher learning: climate change and literary deconstruction.

To those who labour not in the groves of academe, those fields of inquiry may seem so remote as to defy belief they might ever be joined. But joined they have been by Dr Aysha Fleming, who tells today’s visitors to the little fellow’s that, along with polar bears, vintners are amongst global warming’s most pitiable victims. “Grape growers are already suffering emotional stress because of climate change,” writes Fleming, who adds that the pressure  can turn into more serious mental illnesses requiring treatment, or thoughts of suicide, if the problems are not addressed and the situation continues over a long time.

Fleming has the decency to mention an oversupply, ferocious competition and those chill winds buffeting the global economy. But as there are no career prospects to be mined from real-world factors, it is climate change on which her familiarity with literary theory is brought to bear.
Just to give you an idea how Fleming goes about the task of ascertaining why catastropharian preachers “create resistance in farming communities”, here is the chore she set herself, as described in her disertation’s abstract:
This research is cross-disciplinary in its application of poststructural theory in an agricultural context, and in its use of discourse analysis techniques to examine farmers’ capacities to act and their resistance to change. The discourse analysis is informed by poststructural theory with a focus on language, individual capacities for action and possibilities for change. The study uses constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz 2006) and a genealogical discourse analysis (Carabine 2001) to construct four dominant discourses which inform farmers’ perspectives of climatechange. Farmers are located across the range of these discourses. The discourses are the Discourse of Money, an issue of business viability; the Discourse of The Earth, an environmental concern; The Discourse of Human Responsibility, a call for social action; and the Discourse of Questioning, a problem of trust and information. The features and competing concerns of each discourse contribute to resistance to act on climate change by limiting farmers’ possibilities for action. Practitioners working on agricultural policy and extension programs involving climate change can improve their methods of communication by varying their approaches based on the knowledge of how different discourses shape farmers’ responses.

Fleming has scored a lovely little full-time gig at the CSIRO. Guess that makes her a bona fide climate scientist. 


  1. Do I detect a note of jealousy, Prof ?
    Who wouldn't want to do research into the wine industry ? What a gig - going on an extended vineyard crawl around the country. This girl clearly has smarts. A lot of small time vineyard owners are ex-academics, and part of the intelligentsia are they not ? They would mesh perfectly with this study.
    How she got a PhD in Ag Science frankly mystifies me however.

  2. (Not sure if this will fly - others have not.)

    The CSIRO is in the same business as Labor - trashing its brand. And what steady progress they are forging in that regard. Unfortunate choices of personnel are partly to blame, career versus vocational scientists pose another problem, and a beggar mentality reliant on largesse from ratbags seals its fate.

    Dr Fleming's fingering of "climate change" as a cause of anxiety among vignerons in the Coonawarra would be attributed to sheer barking stupidity on her part.

    Perhaps this gift to wine-making should do a little controlled experiment of her own; remove the high dollar and remeasure anxiety levels. And promise there will never be need to fight insidious wind-farm incursion.

  3. So I guess this is Ms Flemings edumacated and high falutin' way of saying it is hard to get around the typical farmer's bullshit detector. And that this is the case even amongst grape growers, who hardly form typical examples of cow cockeys and dust scratchers.

  4. Professor, you are a very wise man and smarter than me. Can I therefore request that you please explain what she said? I've read it a few times and have absolutely no idea of what she wrote.

    Is this how people in academia talk in real life?

    Thank you.

  5. Oh my... I'm tipping "the conversation"[ists], lapped that crap right up... never mind Blair's law, what's the one word that comes to mind reading that abstract?

    My vote: "wanker".

  6. Fleming's CV says:

    "She is particularly interested in language and engaging communities with learning and change"

  7. One for 'Pseud's Corner', a favourite section of Private Eye.

  8. I wish her well in engaging communities with her specialty Discourse of Pondefecation.

  9. Is Flemming's 'lang-widge' real? I think it's pseudo-babble, undecipherable, ack-E-day-me-a crap.

  10. The Charmaz 2006 exhibits some sweaty saddle on the nose, while the Carabine 2001 lacerates the back palate before doing further unspeakable mischief to the entire alimentary canal.

  11. It couldn't, just possibly, be that Alene Composta has risen from the grave and acquired a name change and a Ph.D.? Oh please let it be so! But it's so hard to tell.

  12. Prof, how the hell do you read this crap without throwing up?

    Spitfire test pilot Jeffrey Quill records R.J. Mitchell, the aircraft's designer, telling him "Jeffrey, if anyone tries to tell you anything about an airplane that's so complicated you can't understand it, you can take it from me it's all balls." Quill goes on to admit that Mitchell might have been overstating the case, but one can certainly agree with the sentiment as a general rule to apply whenever the academic and the practical collide.