Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dawn’s Highway

Changing soundtracks from Zelmani to The Doors, the night turns into day as my journey keeps taking me south. In a different world, I would have continued all the way down to the rugged shores of Baja California. Yet, even without the simmering heat of Lower California, my morning run felt very different from back in Umeå...



From Montenegro to Mojave, I have to say that some things have a surprisingly timeless immediacy. Still, as night falls over California, I feel very fortunate that I am no longer just waiting for something intangible but that I will back home with my two boys already on Tuesday.

When pulling up to the hotel, Google informed me that I have been driving for more than eight hours and 611 km today. Unlike when I lived in the US, such extended road movies have become exceedingly rare these days. But thanks to a venti iced americano and some Sophie Zelmani, I think all the driving really helped me to digest my impressions from the Dialogue.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Rising tides

As every year, the Breakthrough Dialogue restores my hope in the world and in our ability to have meaningful conversations. In a few minutes, the morning plenary on geoengineering will start with my long-time co-author Jonathan Symons on stage. Later, I plan to attend a session on social and institutional challenges in the rewilding of agricultural land before driving up to UC Davis for coffee with a childhood friend.

One thing that I am particularly grateful for is that Breakthrough has not become a “church” but that they keep bringing together people with widely diverging perspectives and ideological orientations. In a time of rampant polarization with Twitter in particular inviting stereotyping and spitefulness, the Breakthrough Dialogue with its motto of “achieving disagreement” feels like something from a different world.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Lafayette Reservoir

Unmoored in time, I decided to leave the coastal fog behind and head up to Lafayette Reservoir with its trails and greenery. With barely no sleep last night, it turned out to be the perfect circadian rhythm reset, of course followed by granola at a nearby cafe.

Once back at the hotel, Emma informed me that an herbivore wrap will soon be waiting for me at Breakthrough HQ. Similarly, Jon and I just decided to meet up a bit earlier for an iced Americano. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled.

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Barely had the virtual ink dried on my previous blog post before I was informed that I had been given a complimentary upgrade to SAS Plus. And right now I am at 30 000 feet just above Trondheim. While it may still be a bit early if I am to keep with tradition, I thought I should take a break from working and compose another of those legendary transatlantic blog entries. Today I am flying with “Bele Viking” which is one of SAS’s new Airbus 330s. Thanks to flying Plus, I was treated to some Harahorn (the Norwegian equivalent of a “jackalope”) gin and tonic, enough to take me everywhere from Delhi to Dallas.


Over the last decade, there has been a proliferation of “handbooks”, “companions” and “encyclopaedias” about every conceivable academic topic by the big university presses. While I have contributed to one such volume myself, I have mostly seen them as a way of milking money from poor university libraries. Still, when reading a chapter by Michelle Niemann featured in The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities I realize that I, again, have been too quick to judge. Niemann’s chapter is called “Hubris and Humility in Environmental Thought” and is the kind of text that I really wish had existed when I started working on my PhD fourteen years ago. Not only would it have prevented me from making some embarrassing mistakes but it would have put me in contact with others with similar dreams and visions. While I always suspected that much of what I wanted to say had already been said in the 1970’s by Stewart Brand and others, the extent to which this is in fact the case is still slightly mindboggling. In my darker moments, I am back with The Hives: “I hear you are one in a million but there is a million of you”.

After the Dialogue, I plan to take my rental car into the desert. Känslan av att nå fullt ut men aldrig ända fram.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

One mile at a time

Over the last years, one of my favourite means of procrastination, beyond writing Rawls & Me of course, has been reading the travel blog “One Mile at a Time”. Yet, with 9 + 5 hours in economy ahead of me, it does not seem like I learnt that much about the wizardry world of points and miles after all...
As for adding up miles, I had set a goal of running 100 km this month before leaving for the US which I was able to achive yesterday, although with the tiniest of margins. Nevertheless, I hope to be able to go for another run already tomorrow morning before heading over to Oakland for my talk with this year's Breakthrough Generation fellows. This time around, I will base my talk to a large extent on the paper I published in The Anthropocene Review a couple of years ago which tried to challenge predominant conceptions of "sustainability".

Preparing for the subsequent Dialogue, I came across an interesting new book by Charles C. Mann that seems to touch upon many of the same issues as my paper, in particular the long-standing debate between “prophets” calling for humanity to scale back and “wizards” arguing that we can overcome environmental determinism through social and technological innovation. Interesting, both prophets and wizards support the idea of human exceptionalism, in the first case in the sense that the human species, unlike any other animal, can consciously limit its consumption and reproduction rate, and in the second case, that it can use technology and knowledge to overcome its environmental constraints.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018


In 48 hours, I will be at Stockholm Arlanda, attaching another timeless SFO tag and experience that special “America fever” that not even Trump can take away. Meanwhile, I make some sweet potatoes in the oven with goat cheese and mint.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Scrambled pancakes

Thanks to W, I have long been on trend when it comes to getting up at ungodly hours in the morning. Today was no exception. With the most adorable morning outside, I decided to try something new, namely a “healthy pace” run.

Afterwards, keeping with the spirit of innovation, I followed the suggestion by our local dairy producer and made some "scrambled pancakes" for breakfast. I guess I should have run twice around the lake to offset those calories but, hey, I need to get ready for the US.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Nach dem Regen

After weeks if not months without rain, it was almost as if I had forgotten the feeling of getting soaked while biking home from work. Still, not even the pouring physicality of the rain was enough to bring real orientation in time and space.

One moment I am on my way to Guangzhou, the other back driving on winding roads along the Pacific. Intellectually, I am in the midst of a similarly strange frenzy as I struggle to make sense of conflicting intuitions about emancipation, urbanization and the macropolitics of nature. In some ways, it was easier back when “ecomodernism” did not exist and I only had my own ideas to make sense of.

One thing I am struggling with right now is how ecomodernism relates to the seemingly radical idea that “nature needs half”. Personally, I would say that ecomodernism actually goes even further and envisions a comprehensive decoupling of nature from the economy. Yet, some prominent ecomodernists like Erle Ellis seem to disagree. And of course, in reality, with real people living off the land, it seems slightly unrealistic to suggest that we should turn the whole planet into a national park. At the same time, these are not only philosophical debates but something that has real implications for how we for instance view biofuels (and, thus, BECCS) in the fight against climate change. Well, back to work.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

On fire

Last night, a forest fire broke out just a few kilometres from our house. With the closest fire helicopter four hundred kilometres to the north, it took some time to get the fire under control. Luckily, our house was not in the wind direction so, with the exception for that the sky took on a slightly apocalyptic tint, we were not in any way affected. Once the helicopter arrived from Luleå, the fire was fairly quickly put out. Still, with basically no rain for months, vegetation here around remains extremely flammable.

With the fire behind me, I installed Runkeeper and went for a “threshold run” just to the point when it felt like running through treacle. Since I started running in earnest back in January, I am a bit surprised by how much of an improvement I have seen. Maybe life is not over at 40 after all.

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