New York University
Jerome Whitington (NYU, Anthropology) is an ecological anthropologist whose research broadly addresses how business knowledge practices prefigure climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, specializing in mainland Southeast Asia. He is currently writing an ethnography titled Accounting for Atmosphere: Climate Change, Carbon Quantification, and the New Earth. His previous research concerns Sustainable energy development and water politics. His book Anthropogenic Rivers: The Production of Uncertainty in Lao Hydropower is forthcoming (2018) with Cornell University Press.
「 Thailand's Model Event: Insurance, Industrialization and Climate-Related Flooding 」
Catastrophic flooding of the Bangkok floodplain in 2011 was the world’s fourth largest financial loss due to natural disaster and a major wake up call for industrial estates, reinsurance companies and supply chain managers. An anthropological approach to infrastructure and business knowledge concerning climate change foregrounds, on the one hand, how little “climate change” per se figured into corporate actors’ evaluation of future risk. Yet on the other hand, the flooding event served to dramatically rework understanding of water-related risk due to climate change in Southeast Asia. Even while reinsurance companies like Aon Benfield (the largest underwriter of flood insurance in Thailand at the time) or major industrial estate managers demurred from explicit reflection on climate risk, they nonetheless took decisive steps to model future risk avoidance strategies on their experience of the disaster. I explore the concept of the “model event” as an epistemic figure in which real world events are taken to model future possibilities deemed too complex for quantification and digital simulation. The crucial question that emerges is to what extent do model events enable actors to ask vital questions about localized future climate impacts and present-day possibilities for action?