Saturday, March 07, 2020


Since October, I have had the great privilege of supervising a newly admitted PhD student at the department. Like all academic supervision, it is a two-way street and, as such, I have already learned about several lines of work that I was previously unaware of. For instance, when mentioning my project on nuclear democracy, my student brought up the book Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve by Ian Morris which I have found quite stimulating to read.

While I still consider myself an idealist, my thinking has clearly taken a materialistic turn the more I have been working on the relationship between energy and social values. Like Morris, I believe that fossil-fuels have enabled equality and emancipation in ways that would not have been possible in a hierarchical agrarian society (and which will again become impossible in a degrowth future). As such, the hope of maintaining a cosmopolitan and pluralist society depends on successfully transitioning to new high-energy, yet low-carbon, fuels such as nuclear.

As the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic has shown, change is not always gradual and we are learning new things about the functioning of the global economy as the world is experiencing its first supply-side shock since the oil crises of the 1970’s. All over Europe, flights are being cancelled as travel is down more than any anti-globalist would ever dream of. Just yesterday, I learnt that my flight to Finland has been rescheduled, leaving me with a day in Stockholm and enough time to run “Asics Premiärmilen” on Norra Djurgården on 28 March. While this 10k race most likely will get cancelled as well due to the epidemic, it at least means that I get to see Ally and indulge in some nostalgia over our Beirut trip.

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