It has often been assumed that science is somehow sheltered from the political, economic and social
influences which drive modern society’s relationship with the environment. Its’ ability to produce
‘objective’ knowledge lends science its’ credibility, and thus its authority, not only in identifying new
technologies and applicationsi
, but also in resolving environmental and social issues. From this
perspective, the scientific method uncovers ‘truth’ and is hindered only by the irrational beliefs of
individuals and groups who, for various reasonsii do not accept its’ authority.
The prevailing theoretical self-concept of science implies that the sciences cannot
make value judgements with the authority of their rationality. They deliver socalled
neutral figures, information or explanations which are to serve as the
unbiased basis for decisions on the broadest variety of interests. Which interests
they select, however, on whom or what they project causes, how they interpret
the problems of society, what sort of potential solutions they bring into view –
these are anything but neutral decisions. (Beck 1992)
An alternative view (see quote above) contends that scientific knowledge is never definitive but is rather
the product of an historic, evolutionary process which is continually open to re-interpretation. This
qualified model of knowledge is consistent with the scientific method itself, which maintains an attitude
of skepticism at its core. The choice of the subject of scientific enquiry, as well as the application of the
knowledge subsequently produced, is far from ‘neutral.’ From this perspective, environmental issues
are a social construct, which uses multiple sources of information to define.
In this exercise we will examine the quintessential environmental issue of pollution, and the pivotal role
that DDT has played in the formation of this issue and of the environmental movement more generally.
This exercise will expose you to the complexity and the social dimensions of environmental issues, as
well as introduce you to a set of tools that will help you to examine other societal issues. The analytical
basis of this assignment is the ability to track relative word content through Google’s database of books.
The Google Ngram Vieweriii is an online search engine that charts frequencies of words or word strings
in Goggle’s Text Corporaiv. In essence, the viewer can follow the rise and fall of particular words
throughout the period 1500 to 2008 for over 5 million books. For the purposes of this exercise we
assume that the relative frequency of words or word strings matches societal utilization of particular
terms, and thus indicates interest in these terms through timev
The task is relatively straightforward: i) you will search for the term ‘DDTvi’ using the Google N-Gram
Viewer over the period 1930 until 2008; ii) you will relate or associate key dates along the derived
timeline to critical articles, books, or events that may have fostered the indicated societal
interest\disinterest; iii) you will then summarize and critique these events with an annotated
bibliography (i.e. if they are a publication) or a short description (i.e. if they are an event or a piece of
legislation); and finally iv) you will provide an overview of the current debate surrounding the
environmental issue as related to your timeline. There is no right or wrong answer in this exercise, only
those which are better researched, and more thorough.
In this assignment your submission will include a combination of short answers, an annotated
bibliography, as was well as a short essay that synthesizes your results (see Step 4). You will use
resources from the UTSC Library as well those that are available online such as the Google Search
engine. I would encourage you to begin using a bibliometric database such as ZOTERO to keep track of
your research (It makes things much easier).
STEP 1: Start by visiting the Google Ngram Viewer site https://books.google.com/ngrams .
Enter the term ‘DDT’ in capital letters into the NGram Viewer, limiting the search to the years
1930 to 2008.
Capture the resulting diagram and use it to guide your research into the issuevii. Keep in mind
that you will be asked to label the diagram (e.g. A-F) according to the chronological position of
key events (e.g. the publication of key articles, policies and\or regulations) that likely caused a
change in the usage of the term DDT. You will be asked to identify at least 5 eventsviii, but
definitely no more than 10.
See Figure 1 with explanation below.
STEP 2: Much of the information regarding environmental issues is often held within the popular media,
or in various institutional reports (e.g. documents published by the UN for instance, but also from
ENGOs such WWF) but this information needs to be checked against multiple sources.
Use the Google search engine to identify various pivotal events that helped define the ‘DDT’
issue. It’s alright to refer to Wikipedia at this stageix, as it is with other online resources keep in
mind that information sources have an inherent bias in how they portray the issue. You may
also use the term ‘timeline’ with ‘DDT’.
Use the above information to start building your own timeline; don’t forget that you are
essentially explaining the Google NGram diagram created in Step 1, hence shifts in the usage of
the term ‘DDT’ should be associated with causal events.
Use credible sources where possible. For example, both the journals ‘Science’ and ‘Nature’ have
News sections which tend to be related to scientific articles. But you can also use sources such
as the New York Times, the BBC, the Guardian, The Economist, as well as information from
ENGOs etc. Keep in mind the inherent bias associated with each resource.
STEP 3: Check the scientific literature for critical articles that help explain the Timeline. Using an online
database will also facilitate your access to these articles. Keep in mind that this exercise is not intended
to be an exhaustive search. In fact, it is often difficult to directly relate the ‘science’ to the issue as with
‘climate change’ which is why the IPCC was created (we will discuss this in class). Lags do occur between
the publication of a particular scientific article and its update by the policy community for instance.
Using the SCOPUSx bibliographic database hosted by the UTSC libraryxi, undertake a simple
search for key articles using the term <DDT> within the <Article Title, Abstract Keywords> field
of the SCOPUS dataset.
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Note which articles are the most popular as indicated by the number of citations associated with
an article. Although somewhat problematic, citations counts can be interpreted as a ‘vote’ of
popularity for particular articles.
Guided by the Timeline, search for popular articles for the temporal periods indicated. For
example, if the NGram Timeline shows a peak in the utilization of the term DDT in 1936, you can
search for popular articles before that date by adjusting the parameters of your SCOPUS search.
In essence these are the articles that people would have had available to them in the given
EXAMPLE (Figure 1): NGram diagram for the terms ‘ozone layer’ and ‘CFC’ with associated labels: A)
the beginnings of research in ozone layer with the publication of the article ‘Stratospheric sink for
chlorofluoromethanes: Chlorine atom-catalysed destruction of ozonexii
’ (1974); B) the beginnings of
European Regulation of CFCsxiii; C) the article ‘Large Losses of Total Ozone in Antarctica Reveal Seasonal
ClOx/NOx Interactionxiv’ which revealed thinning of the Ozone over the Antarctic (1985); D) the
“Montreal Protocol” which was agreed on 26 August 1987xv; E) First of three ‘Phase-Out’ periods of the
Montreal Protocol limiting production of CFCs to a percentage of the 1986 productionxvi; and F) news
item: “Healing” Detected in Antarctic Ozone Hole (2016) xvii and the associated scientific article
“Emergence of Healing in the Antarctic Ozone Layer” (2016) xviii which describes the current state of the
Figure 1: Google N=Gram Viewer search for ‘ozone layer’ and ‘CFC.’ Accessed September 27, 2016.
STEP 4: Deliverables – what you need to provide.
Provide the following:
a) Provide a labeled diagram as per the example in Figure 1 for the term DDT.
b) Provide a bibliography of the web sites you have visited. Zotero should be able to format
this for youxix
c) In your SCOPUS search, how many articles are associated with the term ‘DDT’? Is it possible
to read all these articles? What do you think is reasonable?
d) How many articles are associated with each event? In other words, what are the cumulative
number of articles identified by SCOPUS before each event you have identified?
e) List the top 5 articles (as indicated by citations) for the period before each Timeline eventxx
Provide an annotated bibliography for the resources you have identified (5 to 10) in the Timeline (about
150 words for each article). Naturally you will cite each resource whether it is an article, or a web site
(ZOTERO can help you with this). There are resources online that may help you write an annotated
bibliography such as:
Provide a brief essay explaining the pivotal role that DDT has played in fostering our modern conception
of the environmental movement. First identify the essence of the environmental issue as associated
with ‘DDT’. Naturally you will have to explain what DDT is and how it has been used. Second, describe
and explain the trends indicated by (DDT) Google NGram, as supported by your research. And finally,
conclude with a brief discussion on whether the issue has been ‘resolved’. In the overview you will of
course refer back to the DDT Timeline you have created and you will cite the resources you have created
annotated bibliographies for. (3 pages maximum)
Enter the terms ‘DDT’, ‘CFC’ and ‘acid rain’ into the NGram Viewer, limiting the search to the
years 1930 to 2008
Capture the resulting diagrams
Compare and contrast the resulting diagrams and provide a brief explanation for any differences
and similarities you may see
How does the conversation about DDT, CFC and acid rain appear to differ? (1 page maximum)
This assignment is marked on a scale of 50; it is worth 15% of your final mark. For Sections 4.2 and 4.3
you will naturally be marked on the basis of the clarity and thoroughness of your analysis, as well as the
quality and style of your writing. Marks are allocated as follows:
– a) – 4 marks
– b) – 2 marks
– c) – 2 marks
– d) – 3 marks
– e) – 3 marks
– Annotated Bibliography – 12 marks
– Essay – 20 marks
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– Comparison – 4 marks
See Francis Bacon’s ‘New Atlantis.’
ii We will soon review some of these reasons when we discuss Francis Bacon and his ‘Novum Organum’ (1620).
iv See Wikipedia for a brief overview – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Ngram_Viewer
v The database houses other language than English, including French, German, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, or
vi Use capital letters.
vii I use the screen capture ‘Snipping Tool’ from Microsoft and place the resulting image into PowerPoint so I can
add labels etc.
viii An event often represents a combination of occurrences. So for example, more than one research article can
support a conclusion that is then reported in the popular media. In our case we are looking for succinct
explanations thus you might identify the news article in combination with a single research paper – see ‘acid rain’
ix Studies suggest that Wikipedia is not as inaccurate as the popular conception contends. See > Giles, Jim 2005
Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head. Nature 438(7070): 900–901.
SCOPUS is a bibliographic database containing abstracts, citations and analytics for academic journal articles. It
covers nearly 22,000 titles from over 5,000 publishers, of which 20,000 are peer-reviewed journals in the scientific,
technical, medical, and social science (including arts and humanities). We are using it because it provides a very
wide coverage of the humanities and sciences, effectively a broad view of the state of knowledge in the peer
xi You can find SCOPUS listed with other databases at http://resource.library.utoronto.ca/a-z/databases.html .
xii Molina, M. J., and F.S. Rowland. (1974). “Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes: Chlorine atom-catalysed
destruction of ozone”. Nature. 249 (5460): 810. doi:10.1038/249810a0
xiii See > Cumberland, J. H., Hibbs, J. R and I. Hoch 2016. The Economics of Managing Chlorofluorocarbons:
Stratospheric Ozone and Climate Issues. Routledge.
xiv Farman, J.C., Gardiner, B.G. and J.D. Shanklin. 1985. ‘Large Losses of Total Ozone in Antarctica Reveal
Seasonal ClOx/NOx Interaction’ 315. Nature: 207–210.
xv The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer | Ozone Secretariat N.d.
September 29, 2016.
xvi The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer | Ozone Secretariat N.d.
September 29, 2016.
xvii McGrath, M. 2016. “Healing” Detected in Antarctic Ozone Hole. BBC News, June 30.
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36674996, accessed September 28, 2016.
xviii Solomon, S., Ivy, D.J., Kinnison, D., Mills, M.J., Neely, R.R., and A. Schmidt, 2016. Emergence of Healing in the
Antarctic Ozone Layer. Science 353(6296): 269–274.
xix Be consistent in your citation style – for instance you can use the ‘American Psychological Association, 6th
Edition’ citation style that is one of the outputs from Zotero.
xx We are not asking you to be discerning as to the relevance of the articles, but certainly this is something you
might want to think about for developing your timeline.