Saturday, October 28, 2017

Halloween at the Pacific

Paired with a cava from just outside Barcelona, I make the Halloween edition of that Coast Kitchen favourite, scallops with roasted butternut squash puree, wild mushrooms and vanilla vinaigrette. Now it is less than 100 hours left in Europe and I need to pack the bags and prepare the first round of thesis guidance; this autumn I will supervise seven students so it is a quite a bit to read up on. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Winter is coming

Biking through an icy mix of sleet and freezing rain, I have to admit that it has been a rather rough day with a journal rejection letter and a lecture that somehow failed to connect with the students. Though everyone in Academia probably has such days, it does make you doubt your abilities.

Once at home I make myself an inferno blend espresso. With the Plane Finder app informing me that the plane passing overhead is an Etihad 777-200 on its way to Dallas/Fort Worth, I quickly feel much less miserable, especially after some Swiss dark chocolate. Sometimes, escapism can be such an easy fix.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Xi Jinping is cementing his own rule and pushing China further away from a future of liberal freedom and democratic citizenship (with “Sesame Credits” being the latest and perhaps most ominous example of what essentially amounts to the “gamification of authoritarianism”). Yet, I maintain, the real threat to democracy comes not from regimes like these but our own inability to uphold the values and ideals of democracy at home. In a darkening world, the power of our example is needed more than ever (something which seems completely forgotten with every new round of anti-terror laws).

When I lived in Beijing, the banality of authoritarianism was everywhere to be seen. No one would seriously want such a future for their kids. I am confident that, over time, liberal democracy will prevail and become universal. But right now, it does seem like winter is coming.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

South Australia

“The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. We invest far-off places with a certain romance. This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival”

Now when Ethics, Policy and the Environment has finally published my commentary, I should be careful not to overuse quotes by Carl Sagan but, undoubtedly, South Australia is such a far-off place with a certain invested romance. The closest I ever been was when driving along the Great Ocean Road back in the autumn of 2008. This morning, Carol Bacchi from the University of Adelaide gave a talk here in Umeå in recognition of the honorary doctorate that she has received. Bacchi's method of critical policy analysis is immensely popular among my students so giving her an honorary degree feels very appropriate.

In other news and to my great surprise, the special citizen jury on nuclear energy in South Korea voted 60 percent in favour of resuming construction of the two halted reactors at Shin Kori near Busan. This is testimony to the hard work that Michael Shellenberger and others have put in to steer Korea away from fossil energy dependence. With a new report just published in The Lancet suggesting that, every year, more than 9 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to pollution, the case for accelerated deployment of nuclear energy and clean air could hardly be more convincing.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lack of faith

Last Monday in Philadelphia, John McCain gave an impressive speech that I guess few of you have missed. In it, McCain, among other things, went after those who suggest that we should “fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century” and “abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe”.

McCain’s speech came back to me today when I learned that Quebec (of all places!) is about to ban face covering veils in public. It is hard to imagine a more counter-productive policy if you want to stand up for secularism. But beyond that, it also shows how little faith these self-appointed defenders of secularism seem to have in the power and universality of their own ideas. There is something slightly ironic with this lack of faith given that the World Value Survey and others are still showing a strong global shift towards secular-rational and emancipatory values. Without subscribing to teleology, there is every reason to believe that over time, unless marginalized or threatened, people will continue to move away from traditional hierarchal values.

I know I have said it before, but if we in the West would just cut the Muslim world some slack and stop the polarization spiral, I am highly confident that young people will rise up and demand Buffy rather than Sharia.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bohemian like you

After a month long hiatus, the kale craze returned today with red lentils, coconut flakes and cauliflower. Sometimes vegan cooking can be so simple yet copiously satisfying.

Today a friend in Ontario told me that they have a system that allows teachers to work with reduced pay for three years and then take a year off as a paid sabbatical. Apparently it is common that the fourth year is used for travelling. Thinking about it, that alone almost makes me want to become a teacher in Canada. In Sweden, both the recruitment and retention of teachers is a growing problem. So far, the political debate has almost exclusively been focused on the pay but it would be interesting to consider alternative ways of making the profession more attractive.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gypset Travel

Some time ago I bought the book Gypset Travel. It is an atlas packed with the kind of condensed dreams one needs to stay sane after yet another sleep deprived night. Stops include the Aeolian Islands in Italy, Lamu Island perched off Kenya's coast and North Goa. As much as I like to think of myself as well-travelled, I have never been to any of its ten locations.

Next year, I am turning forty which has had me doing even more travel dreaming than usual. With a 2-4-1 award travel voucher expiring at the end of this year, I would be able to make a trip sometime during the first 330 days of 2018. Whenever I hear the neighbours complaining about another outrageous garage bill, I am reminded how much I value global adventures over local comforts. Besides, I like my green bike.

Already this year, one big adventure remains with the departure only 17 days away... 


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Café Einstein

“Die letzten warmen Tage in Berlin” turned into a cold and rather unforgiving rain once I got back to Umeå. With only four or five hours of sleep, I decided to cook paella for lunch, the kind of comfort food that makes the world all fluffy and warm. I guess it was for similar reasons that I returned to Café Einstein on Kurfürstenstrasse. In a time of Trumps, these intransient islands become even more important.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Plane ale

Though it may not be for everyone, Mikkeller’s IPA “Northern Trails” turned out to be the perfect companion to the essays in my Monocle Berlin guide book. In particular, one essay by Jessica Bridger on urban ecology managed put words to my thoughts about rewilding, turtles and the myriad of different worlds that make up Berlin. From high above, I can see the island of Rügen and I realize that I should use the little time I have left to prepare my classes for next week rather than writing stupid blog posts.

On the far side of the teaching tunnel lies, if not a new an entirely new continent, so at least a very different kind of travel adventure. So, please stay tuned!

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Russischer Zupfkuchen

Between talking about climate engineering and extreme weather attribution, I was able to make good on the promised Vagabond city run (despite a sore throat, it would have been sad to cancel now when the bag did indeed make the connection). To offset the 1447 calories burnt while running, I later followed the Monocle trail to Standard Pizza at Templiner Strasse 7 in Kollwitzkiez as well as to the newly opened Hotel Orania in Kreuzberg, the latter serving a most delicious “Russischer Zupfkuchen”.

Now boarding with SAS to Stockholm.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017


"I looked out of the window and saw the brilliant fall foliage of Tiergarten with Goldelse high above. Then the wheels hit and held on the runway. I was in Berlin."

Berlin Tegel is not my usual port of entry to the German capital. With the exception of an early morning flight from Istanbul in 2008 and the odd Fokker 70 ride from Vienna a few years before that, Berlin always used to be about trains. With Element of Crime playing in my earphones, I jump on bus X9 to Bahnhof Zoo to restore at least some sense of continuity.

Working on my new co-authored paper on climate realism on the flight down, I realized that for better or worse, I am a Spökenkieker and there is not much I can do about it. It is such a cliché but, over time, the heroes and the villains have indeed got all mixed up. Ten years ago, I would unequivocally have said that Greenpeace was a “force for good”. Today, I see them as one of the biggest obstacles in the fight against climate change. Regardless, that fight is already lost, at least its first round. The question is rather how bad the feedback signal will have to get before meaningful action is taken.

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Monday, October 09, 2017

Unchartered territory

It is common to think that we are now in “unchartered territory” as the political extreme has quickly become the new normal. While no ammunition has been spared in attacking the rise of right-wing populism and nationalism, it would in many ways have been much stranger if the last couple of decades of rapid globalization had not given rise to some kind of counter reaction. The same can be said about feminism. Ask people to be grown-ups, and you can expect many to run in the opposite direction.

However, rather than belittling people, it seems fair to admit that there are deeper concerns at play here. The irrationalism propelling Trump to the presidency is not in any way surprising given what measures of responsibility and imagination that would be needed to articulate a meaningful alternative, in particular at the global level. Confronted by a worsening climate crisis, the room for political ambivalence but also private hypocrisy with regard to modernity is rapidly shrinking. As the world becomes more integrated, it becomes increasingly untenable to take the fruits of modernity for granted at a personal level yet not support the kind of technological innovation necessary to make these gains universally attainable, or worse, to use advanced information technology to romanticize rural poverty and subsistence farming from a distance.

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The New Fire

Last year, I made my first ever donation through Kickstarter to help turn a new movie about young idealistic people working with nuclear innovation into reality. Now, at the Cambridge Film Festival, this movie, called “The New Fire”, will have its world premiere!

Meanwhile, in South Korea, Michael Shellenberger is giving a talk at KAIST this Wednesday as a last-ditch effort to counter some of the “anti-science, anti-nuclear, and anti-humanist” misinformation given by Greenpeace and other NGOs who are attempting to influence the Korean Citizen Jury on nuclear energy. Despite data showing that carbon emissions are again going up in Germany due to the phase-out of nuclear energy, neither evidence nor reason appears to matter much.

I must admit that when biking with the kids along the Ume River, breathing the clean autumn air, it is sometimes hard even for me to grasp what is really at stake in these debates. When I was living in Seoul and had to check on a website whether or not it was safe to take Eddie outside, everything was much more immediate. But despite the physical distance right now, the energy choices that Korea and other countries make will have profound implications for what future Eddie and William will inherit.

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Sunday, October 08, 2017


Alitalia is one airline I have never flown, despite holding tickets with them on a few occasions. Given that they are in SkyTeam and with the threat of bankruptcy coming ever closer, I guess I will have to do with the review that TPG posted the other day and, as tradition now has it, cooking one item on the menu, the latter along the motto “the simpler, the better”.

When I do not think about airline cuisine, I think about colonial legacies and about privilege as in not seeing. Maybe it is first now, in the early 21st century, that we are slowly beginning to understand what it is that we have done to each other. For some, this may simply be too much to fathom. Similarly, when I think about gender, I sometimes cannot feel anything but resignation and hopelessness. The political debate is still so primitive, we are debating differences in pay (which, yes, is important!) when we should (also) be debating who is being present, who has the right to leisure and who pays the physical toll of childbearing.

With colonialism, I am perhaps more of an optimist, at least in the long run. I still believe that humanity will eventually emerge as one common planetary civilization. But it cannot be done without first fully recognizing the genocidal roots of modernity and the structural racism which is still very much alive today, even in Sweden.

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Autumn rain

After marking exams non-stop for three hours I went for a quick run through the cold autumn rain. As the outdoor running season is coming to an end in the High North, I feel quite excited about the next Vagabond city run, due to take place in Berlin in exactly a week from today (all assuming that my bag makes the connection this time around). Now, back to marking!

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Sunday, October 01, 2017


Though I have been living in the new house for more than a year, every time I have gone running it has been around the lake Nydalasjön. Today however, I went in the opposite direction which led me to discover a vast moor glittering with cloudberries and a 9 km running trail around it. Yet, halfway down the trail, I found myself in knee-deep water so at 6 minutes and 41 seconds per km on average I am not going to publish any screenshots from my Samsung app. Still, an exciting discovery!

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