Cooperative Extension System

Two men, wearing caps, stand in the distance, hidden up to their necks, in a field of dry switchgrass

In this episode of High Theory, Karl Dudman tells us about the Cooperative Extension System.  

Formed in 1914 as an extension of the Land Grant University system in the United States, the Cooperative Extension System is an extraordinarily public model of scientific communication. There is an extension officer in every county of the US. The original goal was to transmit academic scientific knowledge on agriculture to America’s farmers, but the program’s remit has expanded over the past hundred years. And it varies widely from place to place. You might go to an extension office to test the soil of your rose bed, to find a food pantry, or attend a kids exercise class. You might also have a conversation about climate change. 

In the full version of our conversation, Karl discussed the National Extension Climate Initiative which aims to unite climate change education and research across the cooperative extension system and Christopher Henke’s book, Cultivating Science, Harvesting Power: Science and Industrial Agriculture in California (MIT Press, 2008).

Karl Dudman is doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford’s Institute for Science, Innovation and Society and a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Science Technology and Society. He does qualitative research on climate science in the US. His ongoing fieldwork, hosted by the North Carolina State Climate Office, examines how actors within climate science, coastal management and local politics navigate accelerating sea level rise in the context of widespread ambivalence towards the mainstream climate change narrative. Karl is also a photographer, and through his work explores the politics of competing cultural relationships with landscapes, and their subsequent representation.

This week’s image is a photograph of two men in a field of tall grass taken November 11, 2008 by Dennis Pennington, Bioenergy Educator, Michigan State University Extension.

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