Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three metaphors for sustainability in the Anthropocene

Travelling back and forth along the tracks of Northern Sweden this spring, I finally had time to write up that paper about three metaphors for sustainability in the Anthropocene, including my favourite runway analogy.

Thanks to a quick review process with the newly launched SAGE journal The Anthropocene Review, I was happy to submit my corrections to the final proofs this morning. Had this been at HUFS with their mad bonus scheme, I would already been planning a celebratory weekend trip to Nice or something but at least I got myself a bottle of Grüner Veltliner (which it will probably take months until I find the time to actually drink). Will post the DOI once it becomes available but just drop me an e-mail if you want to read it already now.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Sandy fields

After five months between homes, we at last moved into our new apartment at Sandåkersgatan 10 yesterday. The house is everything that Reinfeldt’s Sweden was about and as such it is obviously a bit scary. Fortunately, there are some punk rockers living just across the dual carriageway who have a skeleton on a cart in their garden and a permanently parked tour bus.

Keeping some of our landlord’s furniture, it now feels like we are experiencing home staging from the inside. In the long run, living like this without great literature (I put up another 120 kg of books at work today!) and furniture without history would probably be intolerable but for now, it is actually blissful to not have to worry about heavy books falling over the kids or items full of nostalgia being covered in bolognese.

As always, please feel free to come and visit!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Policy-based evidence making

This week I am attending the annual Breakthrough Dialogue in Sausalito, California. As the evening programme is about to start, I will keep this post relatively short. The theme this year is “The Good Anthropocene”, a combination of words which some clearly have strong issues with. In fact, the morning started off with a debate between Mark Lynas and Clive Hamilton on whether a good Anthropocene is at all possible to imagine. For me, the answer is obviously “yes”. Yet, that is not the same as that I think that such a bright planetary future is certain or guaranteed. In that way, it felt a bit cliché to hear Hamilton suggesting that ecomodernism is essentially a passive belief in the market or a magic technofix whereas, at least for Breakthrough and me, it has always been very much the opposite, i.e. a call for action and radical political imagination. In that, “ecomodernism” is quite distinct from “ecopragmatism” which is more about focusing on what works here and now (rather than the far more interesting question of where we actually want to go).

In the afternoon, Oliver Geden at the Deutschen Institut für Internationale Politik und Sicherheit discussed the future of the two degree stabilization target. His talk again reminded me of how much we are all seeing what we want to see when it comes to climate policy. Rather than some neutral form of evidence based policy-making it is really, as Geden pointed out with a great term, a question of “policy-based evidence making” as old solutions chase new problems. That is definitely true, both for Naomi Klein and Rasmus. Now time for cocktails and dinner.


Saturday, May 16, 2015


As the snow returns outside my train window, I read in the news that southern Spain is currently suffering from a heat wave with temperatures up to 44 degrees. It reminds me that even if Europe may be our playground, it is definitely a big one.

The other day I had a glass of red wine from the hills of Aragon. Sold as a “premium wine” by SAS, it had an airplane-like ability to blur space and time, something much needed as I try to keep together my current existence of Umeå-Kiruna train commutes, flocks of students all asking for immediate feedback and a house to pack down into boxes. Fortunately, we got a new apartment lined up from 1 August so in the end I am sure all will be good but it has been frustrating to discover that our post-Asia home turned out to be just as transient as everything else.

In little more than a month from now I will be in California for the annual Breakthrough Dialogue at Cavallo Point. The theme this year is “The Good Anthropocene” and, as the ecomodernist movement is both maturing and growing, I think this year’s dialogue will push the envelope of our collective imagination further yet. Dark as the political landscape may seem right now, not the least after the recent Tory victory in the UK, I cannot help being an optimist when it comes to the bigger trends. There may be many speedbumps yet, be it ISIS or another incarnation of Bush, but there are also so many people out there who aspire for the highest and who seek a world of emancipation and inclusive freedom rather than one of borders, limits and prejudices.

Saturday, May 02, 2015


As the taxi pulled out from the Oberoi, a flash lit up the sky and the rain started pouring down. It reminded me of so many heat thunderstorms in Beijing, how the heavens just could not hold it any longer. I felt much the same after my three days in India.

In the end I got a little less than three hours of sleep and now I am about to board my flight to Istanbul any minute. When I finally got online last night I learned a lot of good news. My good friend has just secured a job abroad and will thus be able to do a grand retour in the fall. I hope to be able to swing by Warsaw to see him. Meanwhile Asian Politics & Policy has published the media review that my former student Hee-Yoon and I have been writing on Korea and climate change discourses. To those with institutional access to the journal it should be available here (otherwise, if you are interested, just drop me an e-mail and I am happy to send it):

Thursday, April 30, 2015


It has been almost five years since my last visit to India. Coming back to Delhi and the scorching heat, I spent my first day walking for hours to end along its many tree-lined avenues. Much like the Ville Nouvelle of Marrakech, the colonial part of Delhi (also known as New Delhi) is just overwhelming in its scale and imposing architecture.

Today, I have been busy with the Global Climate Policy Conference at the India Habitat Centre, including presenting my own co-authored paper “Energy research within the UNFCCC: A proposal to guard against ongoing climate-deadlock”. It was a good panel and it reinforced my belief that ecomodernism has a lot of traction, especially once you move outside the traditional environmental political theory universe.

Tomorrow, there will everything from technology clubs to loss and damages. Then a short night at the airport before returning to North Sweden and the snow.


Monday, April 06, 2015

Silver Ridge

A small bottle of cheap Californian chardonnay for $7.99 as night falls aboard United 928. At 33 000 feet we are riding the smooth but firm jet stream towards the black Atlantic. Just before we departed O’Hare, a British Airways 747 also took off for London Heathrow. That plane is probably only a couple of minutes ahead of us on the same great circle track.

Back at O’Hare the gate agent felt sorry for my 186 centimetres and upgraded me to Economy Plus, meaning that I should probably try to sleep a bit rather than writing another aviation-nerdy blog post. However, I guess it will take a while though until I have time to write here again. The work backlog is almost astronomical but I am sure all will be fine in the end. A moment ago, channel 9 informed me that we are now in the safe hands of Nav Canada. So, “United 928 heavy, good night”.


Sunday, April 05, 2015


A couple of hours left until we get into Chicago O’Hare. After a quick connection at ORD I will be on a red-eye 767-300ER to London and the new Queen’s Terminal. By all standards, WPSA 2015 was a great conference. I learned a lot about a range of topics and got a sense of what people are working on. Despite my best intentions, my own presentation was probably unnecessarily polemic. Yet, it remains notoriously difficult for me to talk about these issue without getting emotional. In one sense, I guess that is good too, it would be worse if I did not care about the future of this planet and its people.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

...kurz vor Schöneberg in den Abgrund fährt

Berlin always overwhelms me, even if thousands of kilometres away. The innocence of his question: “have you ever been to Berlin”?

Layers upon layers that defy every easy answer and maybe also hope of redemption. Outside my train window the platform signs state “Bastuträsk” and it is not even ironic. Tomorrow morning I will be standing in front of a new class down in Umeå and whatever I tried to answer will be forgotten. But, yes, I have been there and it means a lot to me. Or used to. Almost everything that has happened in my adult life has a Berlin connection, especially those things that left an impact. Moments of painful clarity, dreamy romance and first encounters. Trips that never were and those that most definitely were.

Just got an e-mail informing me that I have been selected to attend a conference in New Delhi next month with all expenses paid. Before that I will be in the US for WPSA. And somewhere in between I need to write up a second grant application to the Swedish Research Council. It is all spinning faster and faster. Maybe that is why his question hit me so hard.

Oh, well, back to work

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Building bridges

I wilfully admit that most of my recent articles have been advocacy pieces in one way or the other, all unified by a desire to "accelerate the transition to a future where all the world's inhabitants can enjoy secure, free, prosperous, and fulfilling lives on an ecologically vibrant planet” (as the Breakthrough Institute so eloquently puts it in its vision statement). Important as this agenda clearly is, I have felt a growing need to also offer a deeper and more reflective statement of what my work means for green political theory. Published in Environmental Politics with Jonathan Symons as the lead author, our new article “Green Political Theory in a Climate Changed World: Between Innovation and Restraint” is an attempt to do just that and, as such, it is also an attempt to build bridges by eschewing some of our usual political activism.

Yet, reading the article again, I feel that it projects a tragic vision of the future which I am not entirely comfortable with. At the same time, there is no point in denying that the hour is late, that great values are being lost and that the political impasse preventing effective action on climate change is likely to last for many decades hence. One of our key conclusions is that debates over the desirability of economic growth or the role of breakthrough technologies in mitigation policy are unlikely to ever be bridged by rational analysis as participants in those debates hold diametrically opposing “logics of practice” (or habitus). If that is indeed true, then much of what I have done over the last ten years, i.e. trying to persuade environmentalists about the need for global welfare capitalism, may have been a lost cause (as some recent debates on Facebook indeed suggest). Yet, a more optimistic interpretation would be that people in the “middle” may still be influenced by good arguments and more fully recognize the terrible social, economic and political costs that any “decent” from modernity would impose. If that is enough to make them commit to an opposing “ascent” strategy by which technological change, social investments and political integration are allowed to set in motion virtuous circles of global peace and prosperity remains more doubtful though. So far, the evidence does not suggest it. Instead political ambivalence, private hedonism or even outright racism remain more plausible reactions.