Yesterday I was haunted to find a certain guest post gathering digital dust on Climate Nuremberg’s server.
Nobody can say why exactly we never published it, but perhaps the editorial team dismissed it as pedestrian, un-newsworthy, childishly written, or all of the above.
And it is. But it’s also eerie, for this reason: the piece came to us from Will Steffen. As you probably know, the Australian National University [ANU] Professor and seven scared colleagues are now missing, presumed destined for a fate worse than death in the underground debating pits.
We therefore print the following as a tribute to Australia’s own Gone Girls.
“An Awful Fright”
by Will Steffen (1947—?)
It was on a faculty canape night in the spring of 2011 that someone attempted to pass himself off as one of us. The interloper was impeccably academic in appearance, perhaps having learned from the failure of the Coochey plot in 2010—this time his attire gave no hint of the truth that he was a conservative.
But suspicions were aroused by an unguarded remark, which is said to have been, “So, how about them Knicks?”
Upon verification that the Knicks are neither [an] ice nor [a] field hockey [team], the rest of the room adopted a stance of defensive hostility to the infiltrator. I was proud of my staff: just a year ago, I thought, these people didn’t even know the basics of Stranger Danger theory.
Starved of the oxygen of politeness, and unequal to the strain of long silences, the unidentified male eventually resorted to, “So, how ’bout this weather?”
We had trained for this scenario.
Even the security staff knew enough science to prick up at the mention of “weather” (a topic no climate scientist would have studied enough to form an opinion on). They leaped into action.
“The individual is understood to have left voluntarily,” as I would phrase it the next day in a comforting mass email to ANU climate staff.
(They’re always individuals, aren’t they? What is it about denialism and individualism? Note to self: grant material here?)
Just to be safe, festivities adjourned to the state-of-the-art panic room the university had built for us, on my insistence, following the Coochey threats. But as you can imagine, there was little appetite for canapes now. I for one was too busy trying to steady my shaking hands with champagne substitute.
As adrenalin slowly returned to background titres over the following few days, I came to look back on the incident with some pride. Whoever was behind it had, in a real sense, flattered the ANU by targeting us for the second time in as many years.
We were obviously making some interest, or interests, nervous—the mark of all good science.
The events recounted above are considered the second-most audacious terrorist plot against climate scientists in Australian history, but are sure to be eclipsed by the abduction of the Scared Scientists. Professor Steffen must be proud of the attention he’s attracted—wherever he is now.