Skip to content

Beyond Unprepared and Sustainability’s Formative Moment – Formas’ Grants Two New Projects

Division researchers Fredrik Bertilsson and Eric Paglia recieved funding for four years each in the Formas Annual Open Call 2021 – Research projects for early-career researchers. In 2022 the Division looks forward to two new projects: one on humanistic expertice and knowledge and one that question the earlier periodization of the sustainability narrative.

Summary Beyond “unprepared”: Towards an integrative expertise of drought

Profilbild av Fredrik Bertilsson

The overarching hypothesis of this project is that the understanding of preparedness is fundamentally transformed in the era of Anthropocene. In Sweden, recent events such as the corona pandemic and the extreme weather in 2018 have pointed out insufficiencies in public readiness. This project explores drought in Sweden, which until recently was a marginal problem on the national agenda but is now a priority of the Swedish government. Both public agents and researchers call for collaboration an “integrative expertise” that combine the expert knowledge of natural sciences, social science and the humanities to advance public preparedness. However, the potential of humanistic expertise and knowledge is under-researched. The potential of humanistic knowledge becomes relevant in new contexts where problems and potential solutions fall outside the domain of previously dominating expertise. The aim of this project is to contribute to the expertise for increasing public preparedness. The purpose of the project is to study: the identification of Swedish “unpreparedness” in relation to the drought in Sweden in 2018, the historical processes behind this present unpreparedness, and the formation of future experts focusing on the significance of humanistic expertise. The project provides a novel and timely assessment of integrative expertise of drought. It engages with actors in the public sector, NGOs, academic research, and arts and culture

Summary Sustainability’s Formative Moment: The Birth of the Boundaries Narrative and the Rise of the ‘Human Environment’

Profile picture of Eric Paglia

This project examines the emergence of the “Boundaries narrative” between 1968-1974 in connection with the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment. “The environment” as a problem was well known, but in 1968 there were no international political institutions for managing it. Neither developing countries nor the business community had an interest in imposing restrictions for the environment’s sake. In this struggle between scientifically and ideologically motivated demands for restraint, and economically and politically motivated demands for continued expansion, the idea emerged that growth and environment could be reconciled—what would later be called sustainable development. We will study in detail the interplay of different expert cultures, from governments via constellations of scientists, to smaller groups that could include executives, researchers, diplomats, activists, economists and others. We are particularly interested in three key individuals and their networks: Canadian businessman Maurice Strong, economist Barbara Ward and MIT management professor Carroll Wilson. We will both question the earlier periodization of the sustainability narrative, and develop a new understanding of its scientific and political basis. The project is of potentially great importance for the narrative’s legitimacy in a time of mounting conspiracy theories, when the world could at the same time be on a path towards decisive transformation through the implementation of Agenda 2030.

Working as a doctoral student in the Nuclearwaters-Project (ERC Consolidator Grant, PI Per Högselius), I focus on the nuclear history of Eastern Europe, especially on the territory of the former Soviet Union and its successor states. Furthermore, I investigate expert cultures in nuclear discourses, with a special interest in water-related issues in nuclear power plant decision-making. In addition, I am intrigued by the entanglement of the commercial, scientific and political interests concerning nuclear technologies, with its sometimes harsh consequences on human societies and the environment. Recently this interest has extended to energy systems as a whole in Eastern Europe, including fossil fuels and renewables. Questions of transition within international energy systems in the face of the climate crisis and recent political developments become more important, as my work progresses.