Sverker Sörlin

Sverker Sörlin, born 1956, is professor of Environmental History at KTH since 2002.


At Umeå University he received a PhD in the History of Science and Ideas (1988) and assumed the first chair of Environmental History in Scandinavia (1993-2004). He was at the Center for History of Science in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences as Associate Director (1988-1990). From 2000 through 2003 he was the founding director of the Swedish Institute for Studies in Education and Research, SISTER.

External affiliations

He held an adjunct position in the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University 2005-2012 and has had visiting positions at Berkeley (1993), Cambridge (2004-2005), Oslo (2006), and the University of Cape Town (stints 2011-2013). He is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, where he is visiting 2013-2014.

Research interests

Sverker Sörlin’s core area of research is in the roles and functions of knowledge in environmentally informed modern societies. Another major area of interest is research and innovation policy where he serves as a policy analyst and advisor. His current research projects encompass the science politics of climate change through the lenses of glaciology and sea ice; the emergence of and changes within environmental expertise; historical images of Arctic futures; and the environmental turn in the humanities and the social sciences. A major recent development is the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, 2012 to 2018, funded by a major grant by industrialist Carl Bennet and matching KTH core funding.

Outreach, advice and service to society

Along with his academic career Sverker Sörlin is engaged in environmental and research policy advice in Sweden and internationally; during 1994 to 1998, and again from 2005 through 2009, he served on the Swedish Government’s Research Advisory Board. He serves currently on the Government’s Environmental Research Board, and he also advices the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. He is a regular contributor to the largest Swedish daily the Dagens Nyheter, appears frequently in the public media, has conducted film and documentary projects for national radio and television; he is a member of the Swedish Radio Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘essay advisory board’. He is a widely read science writer and author of narrative non-fiction; recent books include a biography of Darwin as a father and family man (2009) and a philosophy of cross country skiing written as an ethnography of the Norwegian and Swedish national ski teams (2011). A new development is the Rediscovering Politics project, with the Stockholm think tank Arena Group, which aims to develop new ways to allow emerging academic theory and ideas to engage with politics and policy in the public sphere.

Current academic projects and books

Among his current research projects is a research program on models of Arctic climate change and how they travel from the field to media and politics (with et al). He has co-edited a book on the formation of environmental expertise with Paul Warde and Libby Robin (The Future of Nature, Yale University Press 2013), and the three are currently co-authoring a conceptual and intellectual history of the environment, provisionally entitled The Environment – A History. A multi-year book project (2012-2014) on Contested Urban Political Ecologies on histories and futures of urban natures was started in 2012 with departmental colleague , also based in Cape Town and at Stanford. In the fall of 2012 he and Anders Ekström published a co-authored book (in Swedish) on the future of humanities in contemporary societies, titled Alltings mått (Norstedt, Stockholm), which has turned into a long term engagement for transformation in the humanities. Ongoing collaborations include the global graduate program, the Anthropocene Curriculum, hosted by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, and an experimental Future Environments project with the Rachel Carson Center in Munich and the Center for Environmental History at Madison, Wisconsin.

Boards. commissions, honors, etc.

Sörlin serves on the boards of the Mistra Foundation for Environmental Research and of the Nordic Institute for Research and Education (NIFU, Oslo). He is on the editorial advisory board of journals such as Cultural Geographies, Environmental Humanities, and The Anthropocene Review, area editor for Ecology & Society and a member of the International Advisory Board at the Centre for Environmental History, Australian National University, Canberra. He is a member of the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, of the Royal Skytte Academy, and a founding member of the Swedish Meal Academy. He was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Turku, Finland in 2011.

Recent scholarly publications (since 2012)


Science, Geopolitics and Culture in the Polar Region – Norden beyond Borders, ed. S. Sörlin (London: Ashgate, 2013).

The Future of Nature: Documents of Global Change, eds L. Robin, S. Sörlin and P. Warde (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013).

Northscapes: History, Technology, and the Making of Northern Environments, eds D. Jörgensen and S. Sörlin (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013).

Articles, chapters (selection)

“Works of Doubt and Leaps of Faith: An Augustinian Challenge to Planetary Boundaries” [with J. von Heland], Journal for the Study of Nature, Religion, and Culture, 6(2012), pp.151-175.

“Developing an Integrated History and future of People on Earth (IHOPE)” [with R. Costanza et al.], Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability [COSUST], 4(2012): 1, pp.106–114.

“Environmental Humanities: Why Should Biologists Interested in the Environment Take the Humanities Seriously?”, BioScience, 62(2012): 9, pp. 788-789. 

“Ecosystem Services as Technology of Globalization: On Articulating Values in Urban Nature” [with H. Ernstson] Ecological Economics, 86 (2013), pp. 271-283. .

“Reconfiguring Environmental Expertise”, Environmental Science and Policy, 28(2013), pp. 14-24. 

“Reconceptualizing the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: Integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research” [with G. Pálsson, B. Szerzynski et al.], Environmental Science and Policy 28(2013), pp. 4-14. 

”Preservation in the Age of Entanglement: The History of Future Urban Nature”, in New Natures: Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies, eds D. Jørgensen, F. Jørgensen and S. Pritchard (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), pp. 212-223, notes on pp. 270-275.

“Stakeholder integration: A response to a suggested focus on arctic residents and monitoring”, paper for Arctic Observing Systems conference, Vancouver 30 April-2 May, 2013.

“Works of Doubt and Leaps of Faith: An Augustinian Challenge to Planetary Boundaries” [with J. von Heland], Avatar and Nature Spirituality, ed. B. Taylor (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Environmental Humanities Series, 2013), pp. 277-300. 

“Introduction: Northern Nations and Polar States: Arctic Strategies in the Nordic Countries”, in Science, Geopolitics and Culture in the Polar Region – Norden beyond Borders, ed. S. Sörlin (London: Ashgate, 2013), pp. 1-19.

“Ice Diplomacy and Climate Change: Hans Ahlmann and the Quest for a Nordic Region Beyond Borders”, in Science, Geoplitics and Culture in the Polar Region – Norden beyond Borders, ed. S. Sörlin (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), pp. 23-54.

“Making the Action Visible: Introduction” [with D. Jörgensen], in Northscapes: Science, Technology, and the Making of Northern Landscapes, eds D. Jörgensen and S. Sörlin (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013), pp. 1-19.

“An Ice Free Arctic Sea?: The Science of Sea Ice and Its Interests” [with J. Lajus], in Media, Science, and the Politics of Climate Change: When the Ice Breaks, eds M. Christensen, A. Nilsson and N. Wormbs (Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2013, in press).

“The Reluctant Arctic Citizen: Sweden and the Arctic”, in Polar Geopolitics? Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes’, eds K. Dodds and R. Powell (London: Edward Elgar, in press for January 2014).

“Circumpolar Science: Scandinavian Approaches to the Arctic and the North Atlantic, ca 1930 to 1960”, Science in Context (in press).

“Melting the Glacial Curtain: The politics of Scandinavian-Soviet networks in the geophysical field sciences before, during, and after the Second World War” [with J. Lajus], Journal of Historical Geography (in press).

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