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Watch now! The Less Selfish Gene – Forest Altruism, Neoliberalism, and the Tree of Life

Did you miss Rob Nixon and the Archipelago Lecture on November 10th? No worries! The recording is now up and can be watched below, with or without subtitles.

Abstract

Why have millions of readers and viewers become magnetized by the hitherto arcane field of plant communication? Since the great recession of 2008, we have witnessed an upsurge in public science writing that has popularized research into forest sentience, forest suffering and the forest as collective intelligence.

This talk roots the current appeal of forest communication in a widespread discontent with neoliberalism’s antipathy to cooperative ways of being. Nixon argues that the science of forest dynamics offers a counter-narrative of flourishing, an allegory for what George Monbiot has called “private sufficiency and public wealth.

About Rob Nixon

Rob Nixon is the Barron Family Professor in Environment and Humanities at Princeton University. His books include, most recently, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Nixon is currently completing a book entitled Blood at the Root. Environmental Martyrs and the Defense of Life.

Nixon writes frequently for the New York Times. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Guardian, The Nation, London Review of Books, The Village Voice, Aeon, Orion, Critical Inquiry and elsewhere.

Environmental justice struggles in the global South are central to Nixon’s work. He is a particularly fascinated by the animating role that artists can play in relation to social movements.

Join Nina Wormbs’ Inaugural Lecture as Professor of History of Technology

The Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment is extremely proud to present our colleague Nina Wormbs, who became Professor of History of Technology. This was in late 2019 but our festivities for the occasion were crossed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, finally, the time has come to applaud!

Nina Cyrén Wormbs

We meet at KTH in the lecture hall V3 on Teknikringen 72, floor 5, on Thursday 24 November from 2-3pm. Afterwards, we will celebrate and mingle at the division.

Nina’s lecture is titled “Without a title”. It may speak to Nina’s specialization, the history of information infrastructure, but no promises are made other than that this is going to be extremely interesting.

See you at the lecture!

Further reading:

Nuclear Power in Times of Climate Change and the Water Risks Around It – Environmental History Now

Alicia Gutting is one of three doctoral students, active in the ERC-project Nuclearwaters at the Division and supervised by prof. Per Högselius. In the thesis „The Nuclear Rhine“ she is researching transnational nuclear risk perception in Austria, Switzerland, France and Germany from the 1960s to 2018. In November the Environmental History Now blog published a text by Alicia on nuclear power, climate change and water risks focusing geographically on the Rhine river. Read an extract below, and get the link to the full text.
Low water levels at sunset, Upper Rhine in Karlsruhe Maxau (2018, next to the Rhine bridge between Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate). Photo by Alicia Gutting.

When I decided to write my PhD thesis on the history of the nuclear Rhine in the summer of 2018, the front pages of the newspapers were dominated by news of the record summer and that several nuclear power plants on the Rhine had to be shut down. Headlines focused on the topics of the low water level of the Rhine and to what extent the use of cooling water can affect flora and fauna, but also the danger posed by a lack of cooling water for the operation of nuclear power plants. By then, I had already planned to take a closer look at the effects of heat waves on the operation of nuclear power plants. In the course of my research, I found out that while heat waves are a problem, the thermal load on water bodies caused by the recirculation of cooling water is an equally pressing issue.

The Rhine River basin is, in relation to its flow per watershed, the most thermally polluted river basin globally mainly due to nuclear power plants. Thermoelectric power plants such as coal and nuclear power plants are major drivers of thermal pollution. Even though the European Union has set a limit of three degrees Celsius, the limit is exceeded by five degrees Celsius every year. The majority of thermal excess heat comes from nuclear and coal power plants that were built in the 1970s and 1980s.[1]

At the end of the 1960s, a planning boom began in the countries along the Rhine. Switzerland was one of the countries that wanted to roll out nuclear power in a big way and even slowly turned away from its role as the pioneer of hydropower. In addition, Germany and France also wanted to use the water resources of the Rhine for cooling purposes, which quickly led to conflicts on the fair distribution of cooling water. Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands planned to build roughly around twenty-five nuclear power plants in the Rhine River basin (including the Aare and the Moselle), which would have made the Rhine one of the most nuclearized river basins in the world.[2] Especially problematic was that energy companies were tempted to build nuclear power plants without external cooling systems as experts deemed the water resources of the Rhine to be sufficient.

In Germany, nuclear accidents hardly played a role in the early risk perception of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. This is because the broad public knowledge about the extreme effects of a nuclear accident was almost non-existent. Instead, the focus was on the immediate effects of nuclear power plants that were unavoidable during operation, such as thermal pollution of water bodies. It was also in these early years that water management authorities were the most vocal administrative opponents of nuclear energy. Political supporters of nuclear energy tried to counteract the opposition by handing over water competences to the Federal Ministry of Atomic Energy. However, this decision did not lead to the desired decrease in criticism. In the 1970s, criticism regarding water became even louder when it came to the thermal pollution of the Rhine and the Weser.[3]

Source: Nuclear Power in Times of Climate Change and the Water Risks Around It – Environmental History Now.

Marco Armiero: Mediterranean Culture Award 2022 with “Wasteocene”

We are happy to announce that Marco Armiero, director of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, has been awarded the Mediterranean Culture Award 2022 in the section for Human Sciences with the book Wasteocene – Stories from the global dump. He recieved the award at a price ceremony in Cosenza, Italy, on the 13th of October.

This year it was the XVI edition of the Mediterranean Culture Award founded by the Carcial Foundation. The foundation represents the historical continuation of the Cassa di Risparmio di Calabria, established in Cosenza in 1861. Marco Armiero was nominated in the Human Sciences section together with emeritus professor of economy, Joan Martínez Alier and political scienteist Gille Kepel. His book Wasteocene – Stories from the global dump was published in 2021.

Summary of the book

Humans may live in the Anthropocene, but this does not affect all in the same way. How would the Anthropocene look if, instead of searching its traces in the geosphere, researchers would look for them in the organosphere, in the ecologies of humans in their entanglements with the environment? Looking at this embodied stratigraphy of power and toxicity, more than the Anthropocene, we will discover the Wasteocene. The imposition of wasting relationships on subaltern human and more-than-human communities implies the construction of toxic ecologies made of contaminating substances and narratives. While official accounts have systematically erased any trace of those wasting relationships, another kind of narrative has been written in flesh, blood, and cells. Traveling between Naples (Italy) and Agbogbloshie (Ghana), science fiction and epidemic outbreaks, this element will take the readers into the bowels of the Wasteocene, but it will also indicate the commoning practices which are dismantling it.

Get the book here!

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Also recently published by Marco:

Armiero, Marco/ Biasillo, Roberta/ Graf von Hardenberg, Wilko: Mussolini’s Nature. An environmental History of Italian Fascism, MIT Press 2022.

Ruiz Cayuela, Sergio a. Armiero, Marco: Cooking Commoning Subjectivities. Guerilla Narrative in the Cooperation Birmingham Solidarity Kitchen, in: Franklin, Alex (ed.): Co-Creativity and Engaged Scholarship. Transformative Methods in Social Sustainability Research, Palgrave Macmillan 2022.

Armiero, Marco: From Waste to Climate. Tackling Climate Change in a Rebel City, in: Social Text (2022), 40 (1(150)): 69-89.

 

CfP: Book in EU-initiative SOS Climate Waterfront

Linking Research and Innovation on Waterfront through Technology for Excellence of Resilience to face Climate Change

The shrink of bio-diversity, unprecedented climate swings and the raising costs of maintenance are symptoms of a planet struggling with Climate Change. To reestablish a healthy condition, cities seek to develop strategies of adaptation to make the built environment more resilient to face floods, droughts, high tides, tropical hurricanes and urban heat islands effect. Resilient urban environments are able to face the present challenges like sponges are able to absorb without degrade.

The concept of sponge implies porosity, urban waterscapes, sustainable strategy and cultural heritage. It requires a shift in the way cities have been designed in terms of dealing with Green infrastructure; planning with nature; regionalization, infrastructure; transportation; sustainable urban development and circular economy. Sponges take and give, they are passive and active and open a new realm of opportunities. Which urban strategies should be implemented? How solutions to adapt and mitigate will be able to enhance the resilience of cities?

Sustainable open solution on waterfront, facing climate change emerges from interdisciplinary and comparative cases to preserve the setting/world/locality. Recent research that proposes innovative resilience methodologies is also increasingly relevant.

Call for papers

SOS Climate Waterfront invites original high-quality papers presenting current research, accommodating a broad spectrum of approaches ranging from speculative, informal investigations to conventional scientific research, including but not limited to the following topics:

  • Sustainable strategy and Cultural heritage
  • Urban waterscapes
  • Porosity

This is a call for a peer reviewed book. Paper acceptance will be subject to a two-stage reviewing process, consisting of an initial abstract review and a later double-blind peer review of full-length manuscripts. The paper publication will be  subject to review acceptance, compliance with submission deadlines and formatting guidelines.

OS Climate Waterfront Editorial Board

Pedro Ressano Garcia Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies
Maria Rita Pais Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies
Claudia Mattogno La Sapienza University of Rome
Tullia Digiacomo La Sapienza University of Rome
Lucyna Nyka Gdansk University of Technology
Justyna Borucka Gdansk University of Technology
Alkmini Paka Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Anastasia Tzaka Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Katarina Larsen KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm
Lina Suleiman KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm

 

Call for Papers as PDF – Details of How to Apply

 

*Photo by Mathias Wichman, Unsplash

The rise and fall of the Nord Stream pipeline: a brief history (part 2: the fall)

This is a short history stroll, from our very own professor of history of technology Per Högselius.  If you missed part one, you can read it in last weeks blog post here: The rise and fall of the Nord Stream pipeline: a brief history (part 1: the rise)
The rise and fall of the Nord Stream pipeline: a brief history (part 2: the fall) 🧵

In summer 2011 laying of the first Nord Stream 1 pipe was completed. Italian pipe-laying vessels did the job. The second of the two Nord Stream 1 pipes followed a year later.

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After Nord Stream 1’s inauguration the debate about it lost momentum for some time. The pipeline apparently operated smoothly. 
The debate resurfaced in June 2015, when Gazprom and five European energy companies announced their agreement to build Nord Stream 2. The deal was very controversial due to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support to separatist military forces in Donetsk and Luhansk.Image
A bad omen for the future came in early November 2015, when an unmanned underwater vehicle was found on the Baltic Sea floor, off the Swedish island of Öland, just next to one of the two Nord Stream I pipes. It was loaded with explosives. 
The Swedish Armed Forces later confirmed that it was a Swedish military vehicle. It had gone astray during a military exercise held elsewhere in the Baltic Sea several months earlier. This was in the midst of the European refugee crisis and the event didn’t make many headlines. 
There was a fierce debate about whether Nord Stream 2 was actually needed. Critics noted EU gas demand, after half a century of rapid growth, had reached a plateau level and even seemed to be set for decline. No future growth in demand was expected. So why build a new pipeline?Image
Proponents of Nord Stream countered by pointing out that natural gas had a key role to play in the European energy transition: Russian or not, natural gas was a flexible source of electricity that could compensate for irregularities in wind and solar electricity production.Image
Proponents of Nord Stream 2 also pointed to another critical trend: internal West European gas production was declining helplessly, especially in the Netherlands. Internal EU production collapsed during the 2010s, falling by nearly two-thirds (!). Who would cover the deficit?Image
The EU Commission’s answer was: “Let the market decide!” Since Russia offered the cheapest gas, its exports increased massively in the increasingly liberalized EU gas market. Russia’s share of EU imports climbed from 31% in 2010 to 40% in 2016 and then stayed on that level. 
Over time, this growing Russian dominance made EU agencies and national governments increasingly suspicious (while gas companies remained happy). The EU commission changed its mind about Nord Stream 2. 
There were also critics on the other side of the Atlantic. Already the Obama administration lobbied against Nord Stream 2. This served two purposes: preventing Russian geopolitical influence in NATO member states and boosting US shale gas exports to Europe. 
In the meantime preparations for laying Nord Stream 2 started. Several Swedish coastal municipalities wished to become involved in the project logistics. The Swedish Foreign Ministry sought to prevent them, but in vain.
Starting in October 2017, 52,000 Nord Stream 2 pipes were brought to the port of Karlshamn in southern Sweden, for temporary storage. This meant a welcome additional source of income for the Swedes. In 2018 the pipes started to be lowered into the Baltic Sea.
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Then, Donald Trump stepped up the drama by imposing sanctions on companies that were involved in planning and constructing Nord Stream 2.
Cartoon by Sergey Elkin, DW
in December 2019 Allseas, a pipelaying company contracted by Nord Stream 2, gave in to US pressure. It abandoned the project, pulled out its vessel and moved it to Kristiansand in southern Norway.
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This could not stop the project. It merely delayed it. Nord Stream 2 contracted a Russian pipelaying vessel and completed construction in September 2021. An intense struggle followed: should the pipeline be allowed to become operational or not? 
Completion of Nord Stream 2 coincided with federal elections in Germany, which brought to power not only the Social Democrats, but also the Liberals and the Greens, which were much more critical to Russian gas than Angela Merkel’s resigning government. 
The decisive blow to the project came with Germany’s decision to suspend certification of the pipeline on 22 February 2022, as a punishment on Russia for recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics. 
Two days later, Russia launched a full-scale military assault on the rest of Ukraine, including Kiev. Nord Stream 2 filed for bankruptcy already on 1 March 2022. 
In June the gas flows along Nord Stream 1 were reduced by 60% “due to renovation work” and in July it was totally shut down for maintenance. EU governments started to prepare for a winter without Russian gas. 
A turbine from one of the compressor stations was sent to Canada for technical overhaul, enabled by an exception from the sanctions. After 10 days this turbine was back in operation and the gas flow resumed, though only at the previous 40% level. 
A week later the flow was reduced again to a mere 20% due to “technical problems” with one of the turbines. Shortly afterwards, on 31 August, the pipeline was fully closed due to “repair works” and more “technical problems” (Gazprom cited an oil leak in one of the turbines). 
Then, on 26 September, several leaks in all four subsea pipelines were found in the Danish and Swedish economic zones. It quickly became clear that it was a result of violent sabotage. It remains to be seen whether Nord Stream 1 and 2 will ever go into operation again.Image

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The rise and fall of the Nord Stream pipeline: a brief history (part 1: the rise)

The Division has a tradition of being active in social media, and especially on Twitter. Several from our faculty and researchers tweets opinions, about research, publications and other news of interest. Just recently Per Högselius, professor of history of technology, contributed to the general level of knowledge at Twitter with two threads on the rise and fall of the Nord Stream piplien. The first is published below as a full text. Enjoy!
The rise and fall of the Nord Stream pipeline: a brief history (part 1: the rise)🧵 
During the Cold War all Soviet gas exports to continental Western Europe took the route through a narrow corridor in Ukraine and Czechoslovakia. Of the capitalist countries, only Finland received Soviet gas through a separate pipeline.Image
However, both Europe and Moscow early on eyed the need for diversification of the routes. There were plans to build a pipeline through Poland and East Germany, which made perfect geographical sense. But politically, Poland was regarded as unreliable after the 1981 events there.Image
In the 1970s and 1980s Swedish gas visionaries negotiated with Moscow about extending the Finnish pipeline to eastern Sweden. But Sweden’s low electricity prices made gas unattractive. Today, Stockholm remains the only EU capital that is not connected to the European gas grid.
After the collapse of communism emerging Russia-Ukraine conflicts led to renewed interest in alternative supply routes. From October 1992 Gazprom disrupted flows to Ukraine. Ukraine, facing a debt crisis, was accused of stealing gas reserved for West European customers. 
Major new pipeline capacities were taken into operation through Belarus and Poland, with EU support, in the late 1990s. But Russia viewed Belarus as a troublesome partner. In February 2004 Gazprom cut deliveries to Belarus, which had proven unable to pay for its gas. 
Then came Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in winter 2004-2005. Gazprom and the Kremlin, along with the Germans, concluded that the time had now finally come to build the Baltic Sea pipeline, which would once and for all serve to make the gas trade independent of Belarus and Ukraine.Image
A Baltic Sea pipeline was of interest to Britain, too, which from the early 1990s became interested in Russian gas imports. Eastern Sweden, though, continued to be less fascinated by the prospects of Russian gas. Hence the Baltic Sea pipeline would have to circumvent Sweden. 
In the 1990s and early 2000s there were different possible route under discussions, notably

1. From Kaliningrad to Denmark and Britain (found feasible in a 1992 study)
2. From Finland to Germany (found feasible in a 1997 study)
3. Directly from the St. Petersburg area to Germany

Gazprom and Finland’s Neste set up a joint venture called North Transgas to explore option #2. But eventually option #3 won out, because why bother to include Finland when you could do without such a small, insignificant, but potentially problematic transit country? 
Greifswald/Lubmin in northeastern Germany was eyed as a perfect landing point. A huge old nuclear power complex was being shut down there following Germany’s reunification, and investors hoped to use the infrastructure at the site by replacing nuclear with gas power plants.Image
Britain hoped to become part of that system, through an extension of the pipelines through Germany and the Netherlands and onwards across the North Sea. In 2003 the UK and Russia signed a “bilateral energy pact”, part of which was devoted to this plan. 
In September 2005 Gazprom (51%), Ruhrgas (24.5%) and BASF/Wintershall (24.5%) set up the North European Gas Pipeline Co. (NEGP). It was renamed Nord Stream AG in 2007. Subsequently further shareholders joined cheerfully joined the effort. 
The Central Europeans didn’t like the project. Poland’s foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski acidly dubbed the project “the Molotov-Ribbentrip Pipeline”. The Scandinavians pointed to the environmental risks. 
The other European leaders gathered in Lubmin on 8 November 2011 to ceremoniously and very happily inaugurate the system.Image

• • •

Stay tuned for the second thread, published as a full text next Monday (October 24)!

CfP: European Energy Shortages during the Short Coal Age (1860-1960), online at KTH

Aliaksandr Piahanau and Per Högselius are organising an online workshop based at our division at KTH on 1 February 2023. Our colleagues are inviting scholars from around the world to discuss the “European Energy Shortages during the Short Coal Age (1869-1960)”. Of course, the workshop hits the zeitgeist, as current rearranging energy systems take discussions about fossil energy shortages in Europe to the forefront of the public discourse. Below you find the call for papers both as text and as a PDF for download. Please consider applying!

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Call for Papers for an online workshop at KTH Royal Institute of Technology

European Energy Shortages during the Short Coal Age

(1860-1960)

Figure 1. Primary Energy Consumption in Europe. Source: Fouquet (2016).

Date: 1 February 2023

Format: online

Objective: a workshop with the intention to produce a special issue or an edited volume

The winter of 2022-2023 in Europe may become the harshest since 1944 due to fuel and electricity scarcity. This is an obvious moment for revisiting historical energy shortages. The proposed workshop will target the period of repeated fuel shortages in Europe from roughly 1860 to 1960 – the century during which coal dominated European energy supply. Throughout this period coal supplied more than 50 % of all energy (figure 1).

Coal’s supremacy in the European energy balance peaked around the First World War. This dominance was enabled by a small group of leading coal producers: Britain, Germany, and, later, Poland, which exported the fuel to a range of other countries in Europe and beyond. British coal production peaked in 1913 (at nearly 300 million tons) and the number of coal miners reached its maximum in 1919 (at over 1 million). The peak was followed by rapid decline. Germany and other coal-producing countries went down the same path later on. For Europe as a whole, however, coal consumption peaked only in the 1960s (figure 2), after which coal lost its dominant position to oil and gas in relative terms as well. From the 1960s, the European coal consumption entered a lengthy period of decline. We propose to label the period during which coal dominated European energy use – from around 1860 to 1960 – “the Short Coal Age,” challenging the more commonly used periodization in the focus is traditionally on the (Long) Coal Age and its links with the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Steam.

Figure 2. Estimation of energy consumption in Terawatt-hours provided by coal in Europe. Source: OurWorldInData.org

Long-term data on coal consumption and prices show big fluctuations in European coal markets, especially in the first half of the twentieth century. High demand frequently encountered low supply, creating a classical “shortage” situation. Some of the mismatches between demand and supply had disastrous consequences for Europe, as reflected in contemporary public discussions (figure 3). Yet energy historians have so far not addressed the nature of European coal shortages sufficiently. In both scholarly and recent public debates historical coal shortages remain largely overshadowed by the oil shocks of the 1970s. Only a few studies have examined coal scarcity (see, for example, Weiller 1940; Lemenorel 1981; Mayer 1988; Kapstein 1990; Izmestieva 1998; Triebel 2009; Chancerel 2012; Mathis 2018).

This gap calls for interdisciplinary and international research cooperation in order to assess the story of long-term energy shortages in Europe. The participants of the planned workshop are invited to reflect together upon coal shortages, their manifold faces and outcomes, during the centenarian apogee of King Coal’s rule in Europe. The workshop aims to bring together researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds, such as history, energy studies, international relations, the technological and environmental humanities, geography, economics, media studies and anthropology.

We propose to structure the workshop around three theoretical angles. The first angle is the discursive understanding of the shortage phenomena; the second relates to their temporal dynamics; the third concerns their spatial (and geopolitical) effects.

By the discursive angle we mean narratives, arguments and ideas provoked by questions like – what happens when our massive flow of cheap energy suddenly disappears? The British intellectual William S. Jevons warned in his Coal Question (1865) that the coal dependence will menace modern society in near future. Jevons feared that the approaching coal depletion would ruin the industrial way of life in Britain and its international position. Reflecting upon the ideas of scarcity in an industrialised economy, British English coined the term “shortage” as a synonym for “lack” and “scarcity” (used for the first time in 1868). For the next hundred years, this term became primarily used in relation to the lack of labour and of coal. In a retrospective analysis, historians confirmed the importance of shortages for the modern development. On the one hand, coal shortages (and price peaks) pushed energy transition, promoting oil, water power and gas technologies (Fouquet 2016). On the other hand, the ability to stop the coal distribution tremendously empowered modern workers. As Mitchell (2011) famously argued in Carbon Democracy, by menacing or performing “energy sabotage” by acting in the checkpoints of the fossil-fuel-based economy such as mines, railways and ports, coal professionals were able to secure more rights and freedom than any time before. We are interested in deepening this reflection by asking what kind of fears and hopes, challenges and opportunities, coal and its shortages provoked in different contexts.

Figure 3. Word frequency referring to coal shortage. Note the two major peaks in 1919 and 1946. The dates of the first visible peak surged in 1873 and the last in 1971 might serve as alternative brackets for the “Short Coal Age” in Europe. Source: Google books 2019 British English corpus.

Our second theoretical focus is chronological. The uncommon time-frame of 1860-1960 as a single European period offers a possibility to check the long-term patterns where researchers usually look for the discontinuity associated with the two world wars. The focus also reveals that the “Short Coal Age” was a paradoxical period from another point of view. The relative coal abundance between 1860 and 1960 was also perforated by repeated moments of drastic energy scarcity. Ethan B. Kapstein, for example, argued that the late World War II coal shortage in Europe was “the most devastating energy crisis in its modern history” (1990, 17). However, the coal undersupply of 1917-21, which occurred at the peak of European coal dependence, seems to have been even more serious. Smaller coal shortages struck in 1873-4, 1899-1903, 1926 and 1956. This uneven spread of coal shortages, which occurred in times of both peace and war, is another fascinating subject, and we aim to develop a chronological mapping of coal shortages in Europe.

Our third point targets the spatial dimension. Coal supply and its shortages affected different areas in varying degree and unevenly sparked both international competition and cooperation. By accident or not, the “Short Coal Age” in Europe was also a period of intense international confrontations and warfare. The half-century before 1914, when coal was exported in big volumes out of Europe, were the heydays of European imperialism in Africa and Asia. Coal exports assured British domination over the oceans through establishment of coaling stations, which led On Barak to propose the term “coalonialism” (2021). But since 1914, Europe cut its overseas coal exports, increasingly becoming a net coal importing region (figure 4). The two world wars demonstrated that modern total warfare was a kind of state-run competition of endurance, where home-front economy was as important as frontline combat. Military campaign devoured giant portions of energy and its success was largely defined by the amount of coal which one side could mobilize (Tooze 2007). The world wars brought new territorial rearrangements over important coal areas (such as Alsace-Lorraine, the Saar, and Silesia), but also sped up an international cooperation in coal supply on the European level. The Versailles conference of 1919-20 formalised a first international system of coal exchange, which was included in peace treaties (Soutou 1989). Dealing with the ruinous coal shortages, the winning coalitions established the European Coal Commission in 1919 (which later was integrated into the Economic Commission of the League of Nations), and the European Coal Organisation in 1945, later replaced by the much more powerful (and successful) European Community of Coal and Steel in 1951. The transition to an oil-and-gas economy in the 1960s not only freed Europe from the dictate of the coal mining industry, but also, possibly, left international conflicts over coalfields to the past – at least until 2014, when war broke out in Eastern Europe’s chief coal mining centre, located in Ukraine’s Donbass region.

Figure 4. Coal trade balance in Europe, in million ton (exports minus imports; without Russia and Turkey). Data sourced from: B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics, Europe. 1750 – 1988. 3d edition. 1992, 465-72.

Most of all, we are interested in studies on coal supply breakdowns and how they affected European coal dependent actors, such as importing countries, industries and urban communities. International organisations or summits, dealing with coal shortages, are also relevant cases. Comparative studies juxtaposing different geographical, temporal or social cases, are particularly welcomed.

Researchers are invited to discuss one of the following topics:

Dynamics. What were the agents and structural forces underlying particular coal shortages? How did the coal shortages directly affect actors and society?

Adaptations. Which strategies were considered and tested in order to improve the energy situation and/or overcome the crisis? What were the short- and long-term results?

Wider impact. Which changes did coal shortages bring in power, economy and social structures? Who were the winners and losers, who was not affected and why? What kind of challenges and opportunities did coal shortages create? How was the European environment affected by energy shortages and attempts to overcome it?

Revelations. How did people understand coal shortages in broader sense? Were coal shortages integrated into a particular narrative or political discourse? To what extent did these shortages affect the dominant ideological assumptions?

Expectations. How did actors and society forecast future coal supply? Which measures were taken in order to avoid new shortages? How effective were these measures during coal shortages?

The workshop is planned to be held online on 1 February 2023. Interested researchers are invited to submit a paper proposal (up to 500 words) and a short bio to Aliaksandr Piahanau (piahanau@gmail.com) by 15 November 2022. Selected speakers will then be asked to submit full papers (up to 8,000 words including references) by 15 January 2022. After the workshop, we hope to turn its papers into a special issue for a major peer-reviewed academic journal, or, alternatively, into an edited volume.

Organisers: Aliaksandr Piahanau, postdoc researcher in energy history (piahanau@gmail.com) and Per Högselius, professor of history of technology (perho@kth.se), KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

 

CfP Short Coal Age as PDF

Upcoming: Rob Nixon at the 11th Stockholm Archipelago Lecture

We are happy to announce that the next Stockholm Archipelago Lecture is coming up on 10 November 2022 at 5pm (Stockholm time). Rob Nixon is going to give his presentation titled “The Less Selfish Gene: Forest Altruism, Neoliberalism, and the Tree of Life”. Feel free to join digitally! You find the link below.

Abstract:

Why have millions of readers and viewers become magnetized by the hitherto arcane field of plant communication? Since the great recession of 2008, we have witnessed an upsurge in public science  writing that has popularized research into forest sentience, forest  suffering and the forest as collective intelligence.

This talk roots the current appeal of forest communication in a  widespread discontent with neoliberalism’s antipathy to cooperative  ways of being. Nixon argues that the science of forest dynamics  offers a counter-narrative of flourishing, an allegory for what George Monbiot has called “private sufficiency and public wealth.

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Rob NixonRob Nixon is the Barron Family Professor in Environment and Humanities at Princeton University. His books include, most recently, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Nixon is currently completing a book entitled Blood at the Root. Environmental Martyrs and the Defense of Life.

Nixon writes frequently for the New York Times. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Guardian, The Nation, London Review of Books, The Village Voice, Aeon, Orion, Critical Inquiry and elsewhere.

Environmental justice struggles in the global South are central to Nixon’s work. He is a particularly fascinated by the animating role that artists can play in relation to social movements.

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Time: Thu 2022-11-10 17.00

Video link: https://kth-se.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5IsceytpjIuE9YU6W7DCSPNCcIq2zam9Dhd

Language: English

Lecturer: Rob Nixon

“It is patriotic to protect the climate”

Sverker Sörlin (KTH Professor of Environmental History and member of the Swedish Climate Council 2018-2022), Maria Wolrath Söderberg (docent in rhetorics with a specialisation in climate adaptation, Södertörns högskola)  and Nina Wormbs (KTH Professor of History of Technology) have published a highly commentated opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter on 25 September 2022. Following Sweden’s close parliamentary election results, which find the left and the right block head to head with a slight advantage for the right, the three authors try to situate necessary climate policy within a potential future right-wing government. In the following we post our English translation of the article.
Photo: Unsplash

Translation:

DN Debatt. “It is patriotic to protect the climate”

It looks like that we are getting a government with low ambitions and bad premises to achieve the climate goal. But all is not lost. The person who searches through the parties’ fundamental ideological values can actually find something to build on – in all four parties. A smart leader does best when listening. To the person’s own conscience, to science and to the electorate – write three researchers.

In the past it was difficult for Sweden to live up to its reputation as a pioneering country for environmental policy. Just one out of 16 environmental goals set by the Riksdag/Parliament were met. Every year since 2018 the Swedish Climate Council has stated, that decided policies were inconclusive, and that Sweden belongs to the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, with an emission per citizen twice as high as the global average.

Emissions need to shrink with more than 10% per year, thus most in the next few years, for Sweden to have a chance to keep within the national emissions-budget specified in the Paris Climate Agreement. Before the pandemic hit, the rhythm of reduction was 1-2%. Nearly 2000 researchers recently have demanded that climate policy should be drastically sharpened.

This difficult situation has been drastically exacerbated by the election of the Swedish parliament. It looks like we are getting a government with parties which, according to several studies, have the lowest ambitions and the worst premises for reaching the climate goal.

The Moderates (M), Christian Democrats (KD) and Liberals (L) have put all their political weight into the electrifying campaign and they show no signs to reevaluate, even though we are witnessing skyrocketing prices. They do not want to offer adjustments to Swedish way of life, even though science is unified in saying that personal and societal transformations are necessary.

But isn’t there nevertheless a possibility for a powerful climate policy with the new government? We do not ask this question of changing the reasoning of a government without being unsettled by the possibility that climate politically invaluable years could be lost. This gives us the moral right, independently of the parties forming the government, to push that Sweden takes responsibility.

Big and durable political changes cannot happen during a conflict between the parties’ fundamental ideological values. Therefore we have evaluated those under the question whether they can be used – by smart and responsible leaders – to form the parties towards work on reforms. This is an urgent task.

We presume that the governing parties are not hypocritical, but that M, KD, and L actually want to achieve the climate goals they themselves have been involved in deciding. Hence it would be smart from the Moderates to link up to their conservative heritage and underscore that nature is not only a resource for the industry, but also has spiritual and national value. The conservative tradition highlights personal responsibility over the generations and that there are higher things other than material gains.

Even those who usually focus on ownership and entrepreneurship have something to pick up here. The business community is already criticising the right-wing parties for their unwillingness to see Sweden take the lead, most recently in the petition of 227 Swedish companies ahead of the election.

The Christian Democrat’s climate policy so far was messy and inconsistent. Agriculture is highlighted as already climate-smart (a puzzling exaggeration). Transition work is supposed to happen in other countries. They see a rising electricity usage unavoidable in Sweden.

But Christian values have a lot to offer. Christian Democratic parties on the continent like to emphasise the idea of solidarity: that you cannot unilaterally take advantage of the limited resources of the atmosphere just because you are a rich country. The creation should be managed for the good of all. Older generations need to think about younger ones. Christian values show special consideration with the people suffering and weak. Ideological conditions for being cautious thus exist.

A key point in liberalism is that one’s freedom should not inflict upon the freedom of others. The liberals’ climate policy is more ambitious than those proposed by the Moderates and Christian Democrats. L takes the climate crisis serious, but their hopes into techno-fixes, bio-fuel and CO2-captureing are unrealistic. Many of their favourite technologies take decades to materialise and it is not probable that they can be scaled up to the degree necessary.

To join freedom with responsibility is part of liberalism’s understanding of freedom, for example by living modestly. John Stuart Mill, Isaiah Berlin and Hannah Arendt have warned against the barbaric circumstances, which lurk around the corner if we do not manage to create a sustainable society, which in turn can only achieve legitimacy if it can be combined with justice, as the Paris Climate Agreement presumes. But in our time, liberalism’s understanding of freedom has been pushed into the direction that one’s freedom is to choose what one wants. Such a position does not at all guarantee that the planet could be preserved.

Within the government base, the Sweden Democrats stand out. They deny climate science and claim that “Sweden has no climate crisis”. They want to shift responsibility for the large Swedish emissions to other countries where it is envisaged that corresponding emission reductions can be made at a lower cost. The Sweden Democrats want to reduce electricity prices and prices for fossil fuels, remove the reduction obligation and the aviation tax, the very driving forces that the progressive business community wants to maintain and strengthen in order to speed up the transition.

Support can thus be found in the values that once bestowed on us conservative and liberal parties: solidarity, care for the neighbour, love of creation, freedom for all not to suffer from the freedom of choice of others.

SD draws from two irreconcilable myths: that Sweden is the best and that this is a pity for us. None are true. For a responsible right-wing government it would be easiest to completely isolate SD in questions of climate policy. But if SD demands influence on the basis of its de facto position of power, the governing parties should appeal to the natural ideology that SD’s sister parties in eastern and southern Europe run, where their own “national nature” is nurtured as a unifying primordial force. Successful climate work would also reduce the risk of large climate migration, which SD wants to prevent.

In order to achieve that the Swedish climate policy does not fully lose  contact with its goal, we have to think about the becoming government parties as open for development. They have so far more or less ignored research and facts. At the same time, nine out of ten Swedes think the climate is an important question which influences them. There are also many in M, KD, and L who really want to see a sustainable future.

Regarding the climate question it is not the people that deceive, but politicians who deceive the people. Therefore, they should listen to their consciousness and take responsibility in regard to this fateful question. There is also support to be found in the value that once gave us conservative and liberal parties: solidarity, care for your neighbour, love towards creation, freedom for all to avoid suffering from the freedom of choice of others. The argument is not only that we all deserve that the climate goal can be reached and promises been kept (like with the saying “pacta sunt servanda”, pacts should be kept). The parties should also be positively surprised, to get sympathy and to be able to develop a long-lasting greener right-wing policy. The parallel is of course the Reinfeld-government’s wise triangulation of welfare policy. The new Moderates took over their opponents’ best policy, safety for everyone, and called it their own.

This is just the beginning. After that it should be clarified that Sweden listens to science (which is patriotic) and that we shape policies in accordance to research. Then Sweden does not need to be embarrassed amongst climate-progressive Europe.

Translated from the Swedish original, Sörlin/ Wolrath Söderberg/ Wormbs: Det är fosterländskt att värna klimatet, in: Dagens Nyheter 25 September 2022.

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