I received an invitation to go to Durham university to speak at a conference and engage with PhD students. I immediately considered it, but I also let my host know that having me over would probably cost more, as taking the train is more costly these days. And I like to take the train. The offer remained and I said yes.
Come spring and planning, I postponed this for too long. Perhaps due to the war, perhaps because of workload. It worked fine in the end, but in hindsight I would most likely have chosen a slightly different route back home.
Stockholm – Durham is rather long. I discarded ferries early on since I now know – through an earlier mistake – know that they are not good from a CO2 perspective. I also decided not to sleep on the train. The reason was mainly Covid and the lack of flexibility if you want to have your own compartment. Thus I was left with travelling during the day and stopping on the way. Since I have family in Lund, that was a natural place for my first night.
That allowed me to make an early start on the travel across Germany for Köln. The trip had four legs: I changed trains in Copenhagen, Fredericia and Hamburg. This went smooth and without incidents. I arrived in Köln and had time for a long walk in the city and then dinner with a friend who also hosted me for the night. Great stop.
Next day I took the high-speed train to Brussels and then the Eurostar to London St Pancras. This gave me ample time in the afternoon and night in London and also the possibility for a long walk the next morning. Lovely as they say.
The train for Durham left from King’s Cross which is next to St Pancras. This train was also without incident and I arrived less than three hours later in a magnificent city. The river Wear makes a loop around a hill on which the old town with its castle and world heritage cathedral is built. It is to a high degree a university town, with most of the campus south of the inner city.
The conference and PhD spring school lasted four days and I left on the fifth. When I got around to make reservations, options were few due to Easter, and I ended up taking the Eurostar to Paris. That was a late train to start with, which also became delayed. Still, I managed to walk around and smell Paris before I went to sleep in a tiny little room on La Fayette.
Easter Saturday started with a high-speed train to Köln via Brussels. No worries. In Köln I had time to buy lunch and walk a bit around the cathedral which is just outside of the station. However, the train to Hamburg turned out to be delayed and I could have missed my connection. The train waited, however, which was a relief. Normally the trip between Copenhagen and Lund is effortless, but during Easter construction work was undertaken and I had to take the bus between the airport and Hyllie. In the end it did not take longer actually, but was slightly more inconvenient. I was rather tired when I put my head on the pillow, after that 15 hour journey. I stayed on in Lund and eventually managed the last leg to Stockholm.
With this many trips, an interrail mobile pass is the cheapest option. The app mostly worked well and a mobile pass is really useful as it also has search functions, Q&A, community and is flexible. I made reservations on all trains, also those where I did not need to.
Stockholm – Durham can perhaps be done in two days. But it would be tough and you are vulnerable to delays. I only had two delays and only one was serious. With more travel days the risk diminishes of unexpected major changes to your itinerary.
And mobility becomes more travel and less transport.
The 2022 NordAI spring seminars on AI and environment is curated by Adam Wickberg and Tirza Meyer from the Mediated Planet Research Group at KTH. The series feature contributions from leading scholars working with AI at the interface between the human and non-human world, exploring the question of what constitutes the environment through the lens of artificial intelligence. The seminars are held online, and are open to everyone.
May 5th, 14.0o, Jennifer Gabrys, Chair in Media, Culture, and Environment in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge.
Discussant Sabine Höhler, Principal Investigator of the Mediated Planet project, Division of History of Science, technology and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
Jennifer Gabrys will talk about the Smart Forests project, that investigates the social-political impacts of digital technologies that monitor and govern forest environments. Gabrys leads the Planetary Praxis research group, and is Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, Smart Forests: Transforming Environments into Social-Political Technologies. She also leads the Citizen Sense and AirKit projects, which investigates the use of environmental sensors for new modes of citizen involvement in environmental issues. Both of these projects have received funding from the European Research Council.
Drought and the lack of access to clean water constitute serious threats to human and natural wellbeing in many places of the world. Over the last century, drought has faded from quotidian life in many parts of Scandinavia and northern Europe. However, experiences of extreme weather in recent years have advanced a new awareness and preparedness agenda. Issues concerning water use and availability are now among the priorities of risk management, climate change adaptation, and preparedness efforts.
Sweden’s weather was fairly stable for much of the 20th century. The problems of drought were usually regarded as difficulties affecting local agriculture and drinking water supplies. In addition, concerns related to the climate and weather were commonly overshadowed by threats linked to the politics of the Cold War. In the 1990s, crisis management interventions were formulated around weather-related contingencies. Among other things, scenarios for dealing with flooding were being worked out.
The drought and the subsequent forest fires during the summer of 2018 ushered in a new discussion about Swedish preparedness against drought. The historical aspects of what was usually referred to as the extreme weather were highlighted by the fact that the drought and the subsequent forest fires were described as the worst in “modern times”. The abstract notion of long-term and large-scale global climate change was made concrete and meaningful here and now, as it were, in contrast to being viewed as a potential disaster happening in the future and mainly affecting other parts of the world.
Drought as preparedness problems is multi-facetted. Public agents, policy makers, and researchers underscore the large amount of work that needs to be done, the importance of facilitating a much-needed collaboration between different stakeholders and a holistic view of the issues at hand. The formulation of preparedness problems involves a kind of battle over the narrative of which threats are most serious, how they have developed, what may happen in the future, and necessary activities.
History is a fundamental component of the efforts of upholding vigilance against threats that may or may not materialize in the near or distant future. Learning from past events is crucial. However, while historical narratives help societies understand, manage, and cope with present vulnerabilities and challenges, it is impossible to devise effective preparedness measures based exclusively on historical experiences. In an era of climate change, the scale and speed of natural events have the potential of reversing understandings of historical development and build a foundation for a reformed narrative of Swedish readiness.
A historical perspective on drought as a contingency problem includes but also goes beyond mapping and analyzing past episodes of low water availability. It also brings light on the human subjectivities, relationships, and forms of governance that have emerged in response to previous occurrences. Focusing on people, it brings into focus the efforts to cope with uncertainty rather than the historical development of specific technologies for turning potential dangers into controllable and calculable risk.
This contrasts with a narrative about the ever-increasing safety and certainty of modern society. Rather than illuminating the many ways in which science and technology have improved the protection of human and non-human life, health, and vitality, other actors and issues come to the fore. Through studying actors that have taken the existential concerns of low water availability as their primary concern, it is possible to contribute new understandings of drought as an historical preparedness problem.
This may contribute new perspectives on the present, a kind of genealogy of uncertainty. In this perspective, “unpreparedness” against drought is not merely seen as an inability or inadequacy of certain institutions or technical instruments. It highlights a lack of historical narratives that can give meaning to what is currently happening and relate contemporary problems to a longer history of how society has functioned in difficult circumstances. It may help to inform the kind of coping strategies needed to deal with a volatile relationship between humans and water, or lack thereof.
The Nordic Institute of Latin American Studies at Stockholm University and the Rizoma platform are inviting everyone to an Open Lecture. There, our division’s postdoctoral researcher Nuno Da Silva Marques, affiliated with the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, is going to talk about and discuss the transcultural role of ecopoetry. Ecopoetry is a genre for peace, sustainability and ecology with deep roots in Latin American culture. Apart from Nuno, Swedish poet Jonas Gren and Argentinian poet Gisela Heffes join the debate.
The lecture takes place on 28 April 2022 from 6 to 8pm (Stockholm time). Participation is possible both on-site at the Library of the Nordic Institute of Latin American Studies at Stockholm University and online through the registration form available here.
Latin America has a robust tradition of ecopoetry featuring the work of world-renown poets as Nicanor Parra, Homero Aridjis, Esthela Calderón, among many others. Since the emergence in the 60s, this poetry has renovated the lyrical expression to mourn the vanishing of ecosystems, to propose ways to connect to the environment beyond neoliberal ideologies, and to push for environmental legislation in the region, “to fight for an e-constitution” as the ecopoem by Parra goes. Ecopoetry constitutes a kind of environmental knowledge that registers the ecological crisis contributing embodied and situated ways to relate to the planet. As a literary practice, ecopoetry revisits cultural imaginaries of nature to foster an ethics of care that traverses national and linguistic barriers. This open lecture will feature poetry readings in a transcultural and translingual perspective from Argentina-USA (Gisela Heffes), Sweden (Jonas Gren) and Portugal (Nuno Marques). The readings will be framed by discussions prompted by the moderator (Azucena Castro) to highlight ecopoetry as a kind of expression that connects environmental, cultural, biological, technological and political concerns. Attention will be paid to how ecopoetry assembles word and world, art and science, human and nonhuman to portray diverse Anthropocenes in ways attentive to situated and local experiences. At a time of accelerated species extinction, social instability and climate change, this open lecture will consider what role can (eco)poetry play as a cultural phenomenon, an epistemology and a critical practice to reweave ourselves to others and the planet.
KTH is strengthening the resources needed to receive fleeing Ukrainian researchers. Increased funding for the organisation Scholars at Risk (SAR) and a fundraising campaign for scholarships provide an opportunity to receive those fleeing from the war.
Through its membership of SAR, KTH can offer refuge for researchers who are exposed to serious threats and violence in their home countries.
“In order for us to be able to help those coming from Ukraine within the framework of SAR, we need to adopt new methods. Normally, the work is more long-term, but now we also have to act fast”, says Nina Wormbs, KTH’s contact person for SAR, of which about 20 Swedish universities are members.
KTH’s funding for SAR has been doubled from SEK 2 million to SEK 4 million and can be used to cover costs of the organisation to, for example, receive guest researchers. It is also possible to use the funds as a supplement for shorter periods of employment if such conditions exist at the institutions.
At the same time, KTH, through the Development Office, is starting a fundraising campaign to raise funds to finance guest research scholarships.
“It is good if we can find quick scholarship solutions to avoid complicated employment processes. Scholarships that are sufficient for more people are a good way to use resources right now”, says Nina Wormbs.
Several external funders, such as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Wenner-Gren Foundations, have also announced their own scholarship programmes that researchers who KTH accepts can apply for. The Wallenberg Foundations offer support for Ukrainian researchers who fit into already existing investments in various research centres.
What kind of work are the Ukrainian researchers intended to do?
“It will look very different. Some may be able to bring a guest researcher into an existing project. There are also examples where schools have already received funding following the announcement that the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) made recently and other examples of previous collaborations with Ukrainian researchers”, says Nina Wormbs.
Researchers at KTH who would like to host Ukrainian researchers can register their interest on the intranet.
“The idea is that we will get an overall picture and connect these offers with researchers who apply to Sweden and Stockholm. At first, it may be possible to receive a guest as usual, with an offer of office or lab space, computer and so on, but without being able to offer a scholarship.”
The uncertainties are great – in terms of how many Ukrainians researchers will apply to Sweden and KTH, and how long they will stay.
What is important to consider in obtaining the support and help in a purely practical way?
“We must work with the issue at the same time as trying to figure out the best way to resolve it. We cannot wait for everything to be in place. It may be a little challenging, but it is the only way. Our commitment and our contribution are needed both now and in the longer term. We must try to solve the practical problems along the way.”
Text: Christer Gummeson
Originally published on 29 March 2022 on the division’s Homepage.
The Nuclearwaters project is hosting the third seminar in its Nuclearwaters Seminar Series this term. This time we have the pleasure of welcoming Sonali Huria, who is going to be speaking about the relationship of the Bishnoi community with water in nuclear India.
Ecological entanglements, nuclear ruptures, and the affective intimacies of Bishnoi resistance
For the Bishnoi, among the earliest eco-conservationist communities in the Indian subcontinent, encounters with the atom have been encounters of colossal ruptures. Their histories, geographies, religious intimacies, and more-than-human worlds have collided with India’s nuclear trajectories at two distinct sites – first, in the arid deserts of Pokharan, Rajasthan where India conducted its atomic tests, forcing the Bishnoi into the ranks of the Global Hibakusha (Jacobs 2022), and, more recently, in Fatehabad, Haryana where the Indian government is setting up a massive 2,800MWe nuclear plant comprising four ‘indigenous’ CANDU-type Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors of 700 MWe each.
While to the Bishnoi, water represents a vital element in the multispecies assemblage in which the human, nonhuman, and the divine all come together in an entangled relational ecology of reverence, kinship, nurturing, ethics, and reciprocity, the proposed nuclear plant, to be set up over the Fatehabad branch of the Bhakra Canal, the lifeline of this predominantly agricultural region, threatens to usurp and drain away its dense material embeddedness within the Bishnoi ecology.
This presentation will seek to tease out such multiple layers of material embeddedness of water within Bishnoi lifeworlds, in the contestation between the Indian state, besotted with the nuclear age, and the intimacies of ecological subjects committed to protecting their sacred material worlds, and, to bring these entangled flows from the nuclearized Bishnoi heartland to the Nuclear Waters seminar. (Visit the Nuclear Waters project page)
Jacobs, Robert A. (2022). Nuclear Bodies: The Global Hibakusha. Yale University Press
Dr Sonali Huria is the 2020-21 Fellow, Takagi Fund for Citizen Science, Japan and an associated scholar, Science, Technology and Gender Studies, FAU, Erlangen-Nürnberg. She has worked for over a decade in the field of human rights research, teaching, advocacy, and investigation at India’s National Human Rights Commission, and completed her PhD in 2020 from Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. Her doctoral research involved an exploration of the encounters of grassroots movements in India with the technopolitical trajectories of and imaginaries surrounding India’s nuclear modernity, and the brutalities unleashed by the postcolonial nuclear obsessions of the world’s largest democracy. She has written extensively on the political, social, environmental, and human rights concerns surrounding India’s nuclear sector for news portals, magazines, and newspapers in South Asia and beyond. She also co-edits DiaNuke.org, a popular resource space on nuclear disarmament and nuclear energy issues.
As a part of the activities in the project NATURE, we wanted to have an interaction with visitors that came to the exhibition “Symbiosis” during autumn 2021 where a section on water was developed in collaboration with the art institution Färgfabriken.
The exhibition hall is located in an old industrial building in area of Lövholmen, near Liljeholmen in the south of Stockholm. Researchers from KTH working with the water theme included Katarina Larsen, David Nilsson and Timos Karpouzoglou. As a part of the interactive approach, we asked visitors about their relation to water and also challenged them to imagine what messages that they could hear if water itself was given a voice or legal rights. Some of the reflections received from visitors to the exhibition were really thought provoking.
The water component of the Symbiosis exhibition was developed in collaboration with the art institution Färgfabriken and the Stockholm based artist Åsa Cederqvist. The artistic work and collaborative dialogues created ideas for how to communicate different types of water narratives, through texts, images and interactive activities during the exhibition. The art work developed by Åsa was entitled “The Essence” giving water a voice of itself. This was done through an art installation using augmented reality (AR) to create a visual 3D image of a drop of water floating above the floor in the factory of Färgfabriken when visitors looked through the lens of a digital screen.
The visitors could also hear the voice of this water spirit through headphones and speakers and were asked what they think the water spirit would tell them. Some of the answers from the visitors expressed a sense of guilt (that we have not taken care of nature like we should have) but also narratives revealing a strong connection with water and nature. Other reflections dealt with idea of control of nature, that there is a struggle between humans and nature and water as a precondition for life on earth.
“I have existed for millions of years and kept plants and animals alive and developed new life forms. I will always survive and find new life forms. Doesn’t humanity want to be a part of that also?
“Look at me angrily, maybe punch me”
“Get a grip!”
“Take good care of me, or else….”
“It’s OK, I love you anyway”
“I have been inside Björn Borg’s stomach”
“Show some respect for my spirit and do not take me for granted!”
Other responses expressed that it would be interesting to take part of the water’s life perspective, both historically and thoughts about the future and how we can we coexist in the best possible way.
We also invited policymakers, engineers and other local actors from the Stockholm area to a series of workshops to discuss their experiences from existing urban water infrastructures and views on future ways to manage systems and infrastructures in cities. The discussions took place in the exhibition hall hosting the exhibition “Symbiosis” curated by Färgfabriken.
During these workshops we wanted to have a dialogue with local politicians, policymakers as well as engineers who are managing existing critical infrastructures for water in Stockholm about their experiences and views on future ways to manage urban water infrastructures in cities. The dialogues also sparked discussions about what the term “infrastructure” actually means. Is it the pipes and wastewater treatment solutions that are in place today? Or does it also include, parks, and other green infrastructures in urban areas that can function as buffer zones for extreme rainfall to manage overflooded existing systems? What are the prospects of different types of nature-based solutions that will make use of circular solutions in the design of future urban systems?
The workshop participants expressed that they appreciated the workshop initiative also for the opportunity to connect with other local actors being involved in managing different aspects of water in Stockholm. Some comments from participants were that “we should use art more often to communicate” and that working with water requires dialogues between different types of actors to manage cross-cutting aspects of water. Water in different forms are crossing boundaries between municipalities as well as internationally and requires coordination and communication between actors representing a broad range of competences. The participants were also asked to reflect upon what factors that can be drivers for change with a 50-year horizon. Some of the conclusions outline future challenges of different kinds:
The waste water systems are, to a large extent, made invisible to the users. As a consequence, they have disrupted the cyclic thinking for water management and treatment. As long as they are working – they are silent.
Even if the systems are among the best ones in the world, they are not optimal. We can increase the circular systems, reduce the environmental impact and use resources better.
Future climate change requires preparing for flooding in urban areas. This aspect was highlighted as highly likely by participants to influence a change in managing water supply in the Stockholm region within 50 years.
The workshop participants were also asked to reflect on what measures they thought would be acceptable for consumers. The answers showed that measures such as using rainwater to flush toilets and allowing parks be flooded to act as a buffer zone were thought to be accepted by citizens. For us researchers from KTH working with developing the water theme in the exhibition this brings some important thoughts onboard for further discussions and studies. Since the work with developing the exhibition was carried out during the pandemic of 2020-21 we were also delighted to be able to organize these workshops on-site in the exhibition hall and create dialogues on how art and science can bring about novel ideas, reflect on circularity of systems, and explore what can happen if water itself is given a voice to talk about future challenges and possibilities for urban water infrastructures in Stockholm.
Visitors relations to water and their memories shared:
“It is euphoric to swim in the sea and be a part of the element for a while. At the same time, the power of waves and depth is extremely frightening. My stepfather drowned during a dive and it’s awful to imagine that situation, to drown and sink into the dark depths.”
“Drinking cold water that tastes like iron, in the countryside with my friend when we were small, after being out to play.”
“Water is what almost took my life on several occasions, but it is also what I can enjoy in everyday life. It is also my favorite drink although deep water is one of the few things I am afraid of. So a cycle, it gives and takes.”
“I sail and do a lot of boat riding so I have always felt safe on the water, even though I know that every time I am out by boat, the sea can kill me at any time. But I have learned to use the water and live with the water when I am out there. It is some kind of coexistence. I think the sea likes people to sail on it. Just like it likes the animals swimming inside it.”
“at an incredibly intense and warm and long concert where I was stuck in the middle completely without anything to drink, I got water from a total stranger and it was the best water I have ever had”
“Fishing trip with grandpa, herring and flounder”
Text by Katarina Larsen, researcher at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
The NordAI spring seminars is a seminar series, curated by Adam Wickberg and Tirza Meyer from the Mediated Planet Research Group at the Division. The series features contributions from leading scholars working with AI at the interface between the human and non-human world, exploring the question of what constitutes the environment through the lens of artificial intelligence.
The first seminar was held in February and featured Christer Andersson, analyst at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, Sweden on AI and analysis of environmental data: a perspective from the Swedish defence researchers?
Next up is Bill Adam. Claudio Segré Professor of Conservation, Graduate Institute, Geneva; Downing College Cambridge, who among many other things has spent a semester at the Division (2017).
The Digital Animal and Conservation by Algorithm
Digital innovation has brought about a revolution in devices to observe, track and locate animals. These range from fixed devices such as webcams and camera traps (trail cams), through airborne and satellite remote sensing to tracking and imaging devices fitted to living animals (collars and tags). Digital data from these devices is streamed, shared, archived and analysed, yielding new knowledge and new systems of knowledge accumulation, and enabling new modes of intervention in non-human lives and human society, ‘conservation by algorithm’. This seminar will discuss some of these innovations, and their implications. It will explore the new digital lives that animals take on within databases and information networks, and their implications for human understandings of nature, and for conservation management.
Discussant: Finn-Arne Jørgensen, Professor in Environmental History, University of Stavanger Recommended reading: Adams, William, “Digital Animals,” The Philosopher, vol. 108, no. 1 (2022).
Adams, William, “Geographies of conservation II: Technology, surveillance and conservation by algorithm,” Progress in Human Geography, vol. 43, no. 2 (2019): 337–350.
The current war in Ukraine is shocking. We hope that somehow there will again be peace – and that as soon as possible. Millions are fleeing as the first large-scale war in Europe since Yugoslavia sweeps away with all its might the hopes of a time, which by now already seems long gone. A Russian invasion has brought back the images of destruction and despair, sometimes reminiscent of the destruction created by World War II.
It is hard to stay unmoved by the fate of the people caught in the fighting, who try to escape the dread or desperately try to preserve what they hold dear. We witness now a new major wave of refugees, even though Europe is still working to come to terms with 2015 and the Syrian War. People from Ukraine will also come to Sweden to find safety. At least here we can act and help, where help is needed locally.
Naturally, with our division being to a large degree an international working place, the current situation poses challenges to our work environment. Right now it is in many cases impossible to cooperate with Russian or Belarusian Universities and many scholars. Travel to Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus might be impossible. We will have to establish a new normal in our institutional relationships, while making sure to keep personal connections and to avoid discrimination of any kind.
At this stage, we would like to point you to two links important here. First KTH’s President Sigbritt Karlsson has given an interview on the current academic situation in regard to Russia and Belarus, including the stop in cooperation.
Second, we want to point you to the local division of Scholars at Risk, among others represented by Nina Wormbs from the division. If scholars need to flee from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, there might be a way to support them within the Swedish academic system. If need be, get in touch with Scholars at Risk, for example through Nina.
Our colleague Timos Karpouzoglou, researcher at the division, will be presenting his work in the current project NATURE – Examining Nature-Society Relations Through Urban Infrastructure at the upcoming Higher Seminar on Monday 14 March from 1.15-2.45pm (Stockholm time). His work within the framework of this project is done together with Mary Lawhon, Sumit Vij, Pär Blomqvist, David Nilsson, and Katarina Larsen.
Timos has also published a new article. Together with Mary Lawhon and Gloria Nsangi Nakyagaba (University of Oklahoma, USA) he has written about the idea of a modern city and the reality in Kampala. It is published in Urban Studies. In the following we have copied the abstract. If you want to read the whole article, you can find it here.
The idea of the modern city continues to inform urban policies and practices, shaping ideas of what infrastructure is and how it ought to work. While there has long been conflict over its meaning and relevance, particularly in southern cities, alternatives remain difficult to identify. In this paper, we ‘read for difference’ in the policies and practices of sanitation in Kampala, purposefully looking for evidence of an alternative imaginary. We find increasing acceptance of and support for heterogeneous technological artefacts and a shift to consider these as part of wider infrastructures. These sanitation configurations are, at times, no longer framed as temporary placeholders while ‘waiting for modernity’, but instead as pathways towards a not yet predetermined end. What this technological change means for policies, permissions and socio-economic relations is also as yet unclear: the roles and responsibilities of the modern infrastructure ideal have limited significance, but new patterns remain in the making. Further, while we find increased attention to limits and uncertainty, we also see efforts to weave modernist practices (creating legible populations, knowing and controlling nature) into emergent infrastructural configurations. In this context, we consider Kampala not as a complete instantiation of a ‘modest’ approach to infrastructure, but as a place where struggles over infrastructure are rooted in competing, dynamic imaginaries about how the world is and what this means for the cities we build. It is also a place from which we might begin articulating a ‘modest imaginary’ that enables rethinking what infrastructure is and ought to be.