Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Alexandra Coțofană

As seen most recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, science literacy has experienced a drastic decline amongst the general public. While this concern has been brought to the forefront of public debate now more than in the past, science literacy of the general public has been experiencing a dramatic decline for decades, across the board of scientific fields. Specifically, cloud seeding has been targeted in a larger conspiracy theory narrative that claims meteorologists and politicians are working hand in hand, falsifying and controlling science against the greater good. This has, in turn, led to global mass protests against what protesters are calling ‘geoengineering’. These misplaced civil society efforts end up slowing down scientific progress and deepen the divide between the general public and their capacity for greater science literacy. The project revolves around the concept of atmospheric epistemologies, or ways of making knowledge about clouds and the atmosphere. The project is a mirrored ethnography that analyzes, on the one hand, the ways in which scientists produce knowledge about cloud-seeding and the atmosphere, and, on the other hand, ways in which the general population produce knowledge about the same topics. The project offers a new approach to STS, as well as the study of knowledge production in two communities that are epistemologically opposed.Dr. Cotofana is coming to CU to work with Matt Burgess on exploring how political polarization affects the views of scientists and citizens of cloud seeding as a method of combating drought. Colorado, as a state that invests in cloud-seeding technology, has substantial political diversity, and also houses some of the world's leading climate science hubs, is an ideal place to study this. Dr. Cotofana will be conducting interviews with scientists and citizens during her time here. She will also be interacting with other scholars in the Center for Social and Environmental Futures.