Saturday, June 25, 2016

New geographies

With a Turkish delight melting in my mouth, I get a last glimpse of the Pacific coastline. Ahead of me, I have almost 13 hours of flying until our 777-300ER reaches the Bosporus. Back in San Francisco, Michael and the others have been staging the first in a series of marches for nuclear power, trying to save Diablo Canyon and other critical sources of low-carbon electricity.

Just before leaving, I took Jon to Shalimar, my favourite Pakistani restaurant in Tenderloin. It is a truly timeless place, much like one of those streets in New York where you can imagine people living out their whole lives.

With every new layer, it gets harder to part with America even as I have missed my boys beyond words ever since I left Umeå nine long days ago. The Dialogue in particular had this remarkable mix of, on one hand, completely safe space and, on the other hand, razor-sharp questions that challenged me on every level. But for now, summer in North Sweden awaits!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Treasure Island

As tradition has it, I was woken up by the foghorn echoing across the Bay. Despite the mist, the critical junctures of history were readily visible this morning.

Brexit became a reality, adding to the sense of shattered dreams. Yesterday, here at the Breakthrough Dialogue, Samir Saran expressed the same concerns over climate justice that I am voicing in my upcoming article in Globalizations about how sustained poverty abroad has become the de facto preferred climate mitigation strategy of rich countries. Considering the crucial role of energy in making broad social transformations possible, Samir’s suggestion that the rich world should “close a coal plant for every one we [in India] open, when we have the same number, we'll do it together” points to what real climate justice would look like, in particular if paired with breakthrough innovation that would enable a clean high-energy future for all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

California on a roll

A year ago, the release of “An Ecomodernist Manifesto” catapulted eco-political debates into the Anthropocene. By breaking with the palliative “fudge” of sustainable development, ecomodernism highlighted the stark macro-political choices confronting humanity in a world of uncontrolled climate change, rapid biodiversity loss and, still, highly uneven processes of globalization. Motivated by a sense of wonder of nature but also the political and moral impossibility of sustained global poverty, ecomodernists controversially argue that rather than fearfully backing into a warming world or fighting an impossible political battle to impose ecological austerity, both human and natural flourishing depend on consciously accelerating the transition to a high-energy planet of equalized life opportunities. As such, the ecomodernist worldview is propelled by a proactionary imperative which seeks to overcome both environmental and geographical determinism. Unlike traditional environmental thinking which is concerned with the just distribution of ecological space in the present, ecomodernism aims to find a long-term global trajectory towards universal prosperity on an ecologically vibrant planet.

After spending four days around Sacramento and bike-friendly Davis working on my new co-authored book, I am about to drive down to Sausalito where I will attend this year’s edition of the Breakthrough Dialogue. It took a few long brunches of revisions for me and my co-author Jon to find the right tone in our writing (the text above is one of many that we deleted) but now it feels like we are finally on track. As for the Dialogue, I am very excited about this year’s theme (“Great Transformations”) and my own panel on Ecomodernism and the Left. More to follow.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Après Paris

This week I am in London for two short days. The official reason is a nuclear policy event but with the thesis grading season in full swing and now the proofs of my new article ”Après Paris: Breakthrough innovation as the primary moral obligation of rich countries" to correct, there has been little time to actually engage with those issues.

On my way back out to Heathrow, I realize that it was not only the freshly-squeezed orange juice or the title of my paper that made me think of Paris and all that I have chosen to forego by remaining in the High North. Though I still believe I am doing the right thing, these micro-dips into the urban whirlwind do remind me of what could have been. Early tomorrow morning, the night train service will cross the river Ume and drop me off just in front of the pre-school.

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Thursday, June 02, 2016

Back to work

It is the second day of June and I am back to work after the parental leave (even if the picture probably suggests otherwise). Tomorrow I will examine five bachelor theses on subjects ranging from women's political participation in Lebanese refugee camps to Swedish school policy. I really appreciate this task as it allows me to read up on new topics and think about how to best turn abstract methodological and theoretical concepts into practice.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lyktvägen 5A

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Come to HUFS, see the world

Five years ago in a Beijing hotel, I saw an ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education for a position as Senior Lecturer at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS). At the time, I was on a short-term contract as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Tsinghua University with little certainty about the future. With my PhD less than a year old and only a handful of publications, I was very far from my current job security as a tenured associate professor in Umeå. Yet, the world laid open with nothing holding me back so I submitted an application. A month later, after a rather confused phone interview in Osaka I landed the contract with a one-way air ticket to Seoul.

In the end, I spent three fascinating years at HUFS, meeting many remarkable people, like my super-bright student Sarah with whom I later came to co-author a paper on the domestic Korean climate change debate. During those years, I also travelled like never before, in part due to necessity (our faculty dorm room was simply unbearably small and hot for a family) but primarily out of choice. I would not say that all the travelling gave me a “global perspective” or anything but it exposed me to snippets of alternative lifeforms and realities. In part I fear I also became a bit like the person I once mocked. But still, when making bulgogi in Gothenburg the other week, I realized that the journey is very much with me even as I never felt more settled. For more on that, once we get everything in order, there will soon be some pictures from our new home at Lyktvägen 5A in Tomtebo.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lego Creators

This picture is an excellent illustration of why being on parental leave with a 3.5 years old can be pretty magical when it is no longer only about changing diapers and being sleep-deprived...

Sunday, May 01, 2016

May Day

After a few days of icy cold rain, spring finally made it to the West coast of Sweden. Running around with this little fellow in the sun, it feels like we are in for a summer of truly great adventures!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Overcoming determinism

In retrospect, social democracy’s greatest achievement was not that it managed to strike an appropriate balance between equality and economic growth but that it realized that greater equality, made possible through broad social investments, was in fact the key to sustained economic growth. Similarly, ecomodernism is not so much about finding some ideal balance between environmental protection and material well-being, that golden ratio often referred to as “sustainable development”, but rather about highlighting that only through rapidly accelerating global growth, essentially a renewed modernity, will it be possible to harness the technologies necessary to safely navigate the Anthropocene and restore the natural world.


With William soundly asleep on the other side of the window, I type these words into my word processor. This is my third day of official Swedish parental leave and I know that my time is measured. Reading Bronislaw Szerszynski’s latest trashing of ecomodernism in Environmental Humanities has left me unusually sad and frustrated. I try to tell myself that this is no different from in the past, that it was no easier for Eduard Bernstein or anyone else who has ever tried to challenge Marxist dogma and determinism. I wonder what, if anything, it would take to make people like Szerszynski come around and realize that violence and exploitation are not “structural” or that “winners” do not necessitate “losers”?