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”?

Saturday, April 02, 2016


This winter has been one of extremes as we have struggled to find a sleeping pattern that fits both William and Eddie. Living in a small apartment, the kids tend to wake each other up, leaving me with little other choice than taking William out for long walks so that Eddie can still go to the preschool in the morning.

Despite many attempts to delay his evenings, William keeps falling asleep around 5.30 pm and waking up, seemingly refreshed, ten hours later at 03.30 am. As a consequence, that is when I too have to get up and take the stroller out along our little creek. To stay warm during cold winter nights, I tend to pick up a large coffee at Statoil which has resulted in that I now know the staff working there quite well. In light of my previous obsession with collecting air miles and award travel, it is only expected that I have also moved on to collecting free coffee coupons at Statoil (even as I have to admit that it is somewhat less aspirational than flying around the world in premium cabins)…

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One Flew South

When travelling without kids, small things like being able to enjoy a slow and quiet lunch at the airport become almost magical. Before leaving Atlanta we had the fortune of doing just that at One Flew South which repeatedly has been rated one of the best airport restaurants in the world. As expected, the food was incredible and so was the glass of Bernhard Ott’s “Am Berg” Grüner Veltliner.

Two days later, terror has again struck in the heart of Europe, leaving dozens of innocent people dead with no other purposes than fuelling yet more hate, division and extremism on all sides. More than ever, it is important to remember that, despite all the recent darkness, the world as a whole has never been this peaceful. It is imperative to not let these kinds of isolated events make us lose sight of the greater picture and the hope that the Enlightenment project still holds if we remain true to its cosmopolitan values.

Friday, March 18, 2016

It is morning again in America

As the sun rises over the Peach State, jetlagged Europeans gather over their conference programmes and flat whites. Since Wednesday, the ISA annual convention is in full motion with hundreds of panels covering every topic remotely related to the study of International Relations. This is my first visit to Atlanta proper and the view (above) from Anna’s and my room at Aloft definitely inspires some Stadtbummel.

It is strange with America, every time I land here I am overwhelmed by the same simultaneous feelings of extreme familiarity and alienness. For better or worse, the United States remains a world to its own, full of paradoxes that somehow always evade my political intuitions.

Friday, March 11, 2016


Barely had I finished complaining about the endless winter in my previous blog post when the skies turned all blue and I found myself looking for my sunglasses, a copy of “Pretentiousness: Why It Matters” by Dan Fox and, of course, a bottle of balcony borgoletto. With William turning 15 months yesterday, one can truly feel his excitement as he sets off into the spring:

In the outside world, many things remain frustratingly dark. The Republican primaries have been one long echo from our savaged past with its hypermasculinities, bigotry and reactionary irrationalism. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders may rightfully have criticized the influence of money over politics and advocated many good things from criminal justice reform to universal healthcare, yet his narrow-minded isolationism, protectionism and broken climate policies (for more on that, Ted Nordhaus just published an excellent op-ed) are all worrying signs in a time when the world needs integration and solidarity more than ever.

In other news, today marks five years since the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. At the time, Anna and I were living in Hong Kong and I remember that we were just about to board a flight down to Vietnam for the weekend when the news broke of the 9.0 megathrust earthquake. Yet, despite that the earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15 000 people, the world’s attention soon shifted almost completely to the nuclear disaster unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Even if that accident still has not caused any direct deaths, many people took it as evidence that nuclear was inherently unsafe. Rereading my own posts here on Rawls & Me, I have to admit that I too was swept along by the anti-nuclear hysteria that followed. Yet, in retrospect, I think that, more than anything, it was precisely the Fukushima accident that made me so strongly pro-nuclear. After all, if a technology can withstand one of the most massive earthquakes in recorded history followed by a 13 meter tall tsunami and numerous aftershocks without causing any fatalities (despite a terrible safety culture), then that should clearly count to the merits of said technology. Especially when considering the hundreds of thousands who die from fossil energy annually or the fact that an exclusive focus on renewable energy would condemn much of the world’s population to chronic poverty.

Monday, March 07, 2016


The snow keeps falling and spring seems as distant as ever. Yet, in less than three months it will be June and we will have moved into our newly built home right at the lake in Tomtebo.

I have never been much into home ownership but the housing market in Umeå is what it is. After spending months looking for somewhere more permanent with hundreds of people answering the same ads, we simply gave up. With two small (and highly destructive) kids, we are obviously not the best tenants and I can understand why landlords pick someone else given how strong demand is. So, in the end, we had little other choice than buying. Nevertheless, had someone told me five years ago that I would end up buying a row house in Northern Sweden, it would definitely have been a stretch to my imagination.

While we still do not know the exact number, the street name will be "Lyktvägen" once all the houses are built so please come and visit!

Sunday, March 06, 2016


As someone who has been wearing contacts for nearly twenty years, it feels odd to suddenly have a pair of glasses that I actually feel quite good about wearing. Having said that, I am still not sure if I dare to wear them when presenting at the ISA in Atlanta in little more than a week’s time but the fact that I am even considering it shows that I am slowly coming to terms with my new bespectacled identity.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Finally, the days are getting longer and the light is returning. As Frede Viking started its descent into Gothenburg, the Western Sea was afire under a painted saffron sky. Two days later I am back walking along the River Ume, another 340 kg of books have been shipped from storage and the sun is again almost blinding me.

Sometimes, natural beauty can deafen the anxiety of being stranded on a planet which is helplessly hurling through the immensities of space (and so can watching William building with his Mega Bloks). I guess it is very human to try to not think too much of our collective condition and vulnerability. What makes it so frustrating is of course that, unlike in the past, we are on the cusp of achieving technological maturity in a way that would protect our species from extinction, yet we remain frustratingly unable to prioritize. Were it not for the existential implications, it would actually be quite funny that I own a whole library of books on “sustainability”, yet all of them fail to see the bigger picture of where our species is and, more importantly, where it could be in a couple of centuries if we played our cards right.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Die Sehnsucht der Pinguine

The Arctic has definitely lived up to its reputation for the last weeks with temperatures below -20 degrees, aurora borealis and flurries as I wait for the morning bus (too cold for biking with the trailer right now). The other day I decided to go truly local and buy a pair of downy alpine trousers, a decision I should have made a long time ago as they really help keeping me warm.

As for big decisions, I started off 2016 by permanently deactivating both my Facebook and Instagram accounts. After being constantly online on social media for almost a decade, it felt like the right thing to do in order to be more present with the kids and life in general. But do not worry, I will keep up Rawls & Me and, like certain penguins from Mistelbach, I will most certainly keep travelling into the new year. First out is Atlanta for the annual convention of the International Studies Association in mid-March.

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