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 narrative—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. For example, our Cold War strategy was sustained by a narrative stating that Soviet aggression, derived from historic Russian xenophobia, was to be contained until such time as the Soviet Union failed due to its internal defects.
The great challenge facing today’s world is changing the way we use our energy resources—and in the case of energy transformation, a cohesive narrative has yet to fully emerge. But when it does, we can be sure that science and technology will figure more prominently than in past narratives. Precisely because well-structured narratives can be so persuasive by appealing to the visceral, scientists have distanced themselves from communicating in narrative form—a strength in the pursuit of truth, but a weakness when it comes to motivating change.
This talk will review the changing character of science and technology in the emerging energy narratives and argue that aided by scientists, the public image of technology has been distorted. Countering these distortions with positive images will require scientists to embrace their own history, present and future from a new perspective.
Dr. Eberhart is Professor of Chemistry and Geochemistry at Colorado School of Mines. He holds degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Colorado.