The Stone Wētā by Octavia Wade is a dark, near future thriller that follows a group of female scientists. These scientists are part of a secret network which aims to gather and share scientific information regarding climate change. The scientists must avoid detection by their respective governments or face dire consequences.
The members of the secret network know little about each other but they all share a common goal, to research and share information about climate change in societies that ignore, deny, or prosecute climate change activism. Each character faces their own dangers throughout the book. Political forces attempt to uncover their identities, stop their research, and even assassinate them.
The Stone Wētā explores the importance of science and politics co-operating to tackle issues brought on by climate change. It highlights the essentialness of policy-making in accordance with accurate data and the political obstacles faced in enacting the strategies needed to combat climate change. Octavia Wade makes it clear that as long as climate change science is muted, economic and social policies will continue to ignore the growing issue.
The following worksheet is meant to guide classroom discussion surrounding the impact that governments and policy have on science (and vice versa). I suggest that it be used in a high school social studies, science class, and/or a university setting. The questions are age inappropriate for younger audiences but could be tweaked for discussions in a mature junior high class.
You can download a PDF of the worksheet here, or read the questions below.
Learning Objective – Discuss and understand the impact that politics and society have on science.
1) The Stone Weta follows a group of scientists who are forced into hiding because of their scientific discoveries concerning climate change. Scientists who have made breakthroughs that go against societal norms have often been persecuted and/or isolated. Galileo, for example, was forced into house arrest by the catholoic church for writing that the earth revolved around the sun (it was strongly believed that the earth was the centre of the universe at this time). Which other scientists were punished or isolated for their discoveries and/or writings? Why?
2) If you discovered a major scientific breakthrough, that went against the norms of society (or even the law) would you share it with others at the risk of being persecuted? Why or why not?
3) What are the dangers of keeping major scientific discoveries a secret?
4) Is there a specific case where it would be beneficial to keep a scientific discovery a secret? Why or why not?
5) What is an example of a policy and/or law responding to an issue raised by climate science? What was the outcome of this law?
6) What challenges are policy-makers faced with when enacting environmental legislation to help combat climate change?
7) What are the dangers of enforcing laws and policies based on bad (or wrong) science?