In May 2020 the plan had been to bring together at Lake Ekoln in Sweden, a group of people who are all, in their own way, interested in the question of how we might rethink universities in the era of climate change. Some were professors working in universities, some were leading activists, some were doctoral students exploring the frontiers of new thinking, some were artists and facilitators of public conversations; some see themselves as educators others as climate researchers and others resist definition. We had hoped to go deep into the questions of what a university is, could be, can’t be and should be in a world of profound ecological harm and inequality.
And then we know what happened next. The pandemic hit, borders were closed, and we were left, like the rest of the world, to work out what to do instead. In place of a three day conversation that had been intended to be as slow, as embodied and as reflective as possible to allow us to really learn from each other, we met online to speak in the strange flat world of the video conference. For none of us was this enough, and so the project you have in your hands (or on the screen) was born: a letter exchange, where each of us would write to one other in response to an initial prompt, attempting to speak honestly about our sense of where ‘the university’ might go in this era of profound change. The letter exchange lasted four months, a week at a time or more for each person, through the long summer of 2020 when all were navigating a new reality. The pieces were not written for publication, they are not polished, none have been edited, they were intended only for the recipient. On completion, however, we wondered if there was enough here potentially to be of interest to others exploring the same questions.
So we share these letters with you, as an echo of a conversation that could have happened and as perhaps the beginning of different conversations, negotiations, collective experimentation with how universities might be otherwise.
Feel free to write back and to join in, or to carry on and take this further.
A new paper by Professor Kevin Anderson and NRHU doctoral student Isak Stoddard reviews the mitigation plans of “climate progressive” nations, Sweden and the UK, and compares them with Paris-compliant pathways, and is now published in Climate Policy. The piece is written together with a colleague from Manchester, John Broderick.
Here is the first briefing paper on The Case for Transformative Public Education with leading contribution from Professor Facer. This paper focuses on responding to COVID-19 now while addressing long-term underlying inequalities.
Blog post by Zennström Professor Keri Facer on the Higher Education Policy Institute addressing the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission’s recent report on how universities can successfully serve in the 21st century. Climate change was a glaring omission in this report, as Keri writes.
On the 18th of Feb at 10.00 sharp, staff and students of UU are very welcome to a workshop about the UU development plan 2050. In this workshop we will work together in order to give input to the sustainability aspects of Uppsala University’s development plan. The output from the workshop will be treated as a submission for comment (sv: remiss-svar) by the development plan’s project team. For more information see attached flyer and the sustainability part of the ‘remiss-version’ of the plan (or you can find the entire plan here).
The report below provides a brief overview of some of our work in the Zennström Climate Change Leadership Initiative exploring the relationship between internationalisation and sustainability agendas in the contemporary university. It reports on a short programme of desk research by the team and a workshop bringing together university leadership, students, faculty and administrative staff. It identifies key tensions, possibilities, and routes towards achieving more sustainable internationalisation strategies in universities. The report has been compiled rapidly to respond to current debates and is intended as the basis for wider discussion. We are keen to hear from colleagues elsewhere to help develop these ideas further.
The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference will take place 2-13 December in Santiago, Chile. Uppsala University has status as observer organization and will be sending a delegation to the conference. We are now calling upon engaged and motivated students in Uppsala to apply to join the delegation as Uppsala University’s representatives at the negotiations. This delegation is a part of Uppsala University’s ongoing involvement in the UN level climate negotiations, building on the Zennström Climate Change Leadership professorship and Uppsala University’s long tradition of student-leadership and active student participation.
Take advantage of this unique opportunity to take part in a process that is of paramount importance and build on the work of previous delegations’ involvement in these UN negotiations. This will also be a chance to engage the Uppsala University community in the conference outcomes and experiences.
Apply by providing aCV and a brief personal statement (no more than 1 page) that addresses the following questions:
What are your intellectual and academic interests at the moment?
Are you involved in any activities/initiatives that have a connection to climate change issues?
Why do you want to go to climate change conference in Santiago?
How does participating in the conference fit in with your studies, and/or research / professional interests?
How would you propose to collaboratively prepare, connect, and also feed-back with others at Uppsala University and in Uppsala that are interested in climate change and the negotiations, but not able not able to join the delegation?
Indicate which week you would like to join the COP, or if you would like to attend both weeks.
In order to be considered to join the delegation as a student, you will need to be enrolled at Uppsala University. In forming our delegation, we are looking to create a highly motivated, interdisciplinary team of students. Note that a selection to join the delegation does not entail funding for travel, food or housing. If you are selected and accept, you will need to commit to:
actively participating in at least one of the two weeks of the conference (2-6 December and/or 9-13 December);
being involved in organizing and contributing to events in Uppsala before, during, and after the event.
Do you have ideas on how Uppsala University can be international and sustainable?
This workshop will be an open exploratory space for staff and students at Uppsala University that aims to understand the underlying drivers and desires for both internationalisation and sustainability, the potential sites of complementarity, and the possibility of Uppsala taking a lead in developing new and innovative practices of sustainable internationalisation.
This workshop will be curated by the current Zennström Professor of Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University, that will aim to understand the underlying drivers and desires for both internationalisation and sustainability, the potential sites of complementarity, and the possibility of Uppsala taking a lead in developing new and innovative practices of sustainable internationalisation. The outcome of the workshop will inform both sustainability and internationalisation strategies for the university.
Both students and staff welcome! Join us on October 28, kl 12-16:30 at Kollaboratoriet, Östra Ågatan 19. Lunch will be served.
Researchers walks, mass public art making and talks
In connection to the exhibition The Non-Human Animal – Negotiating Bio-relations
The afternoon will involve a series of linked activities that explore the relationship between humans and non-humans in Uppsala through walking methods and creative practice. This two hour workshop activity has been developed in partnership between researchers at the two local universities, and ecopsychologists and art-educators.
1) a walk of exploration in the city – exploring questions of biodiversity and human relationships with other species. 2) a creative exploration and documentation of the traces that humans and other species are leaving in the Anthropocene.
The activities will lead to the creation of exhibits that will be on display during the course of the Non-Human Animal exhibition. The activities are suitable for people aged 14 and above with a curiosity and interest in plants, animals, insects and nature – no artistic experience or scientific knowledge necessary! The activities start at 1pm sharp and run till approximately 3.30. Bring weather-appropriate clothes and footwear as the walks will be outside. Sign up in advance is required.
Making space for other species in Uppsala
This public discussion will bring together artists, researchers and local policymakers to explore how space for biodiversity can be nurtured in the city of Uppsala. It will explore how plans for the city’s development might be informed by new relationships of care and respect between humans and non-human species.
Do visit the exhibition The Non-Human Animal – Negotiating Bio-relations before the workshop. Opening date: Saturday September 28, kl 14:00 pm. It will be open from 11.30 am Sunday.
The walks and discussions will be performed in both English and Swedish.
Organizers: Zennström Professorship in Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University and Uppsala Art Museum
Climate change is a scientific, economic and political challenge. Which leadership strategies are needed to tackle and minimize climate change? How can science, industry and politics co-operate in climate leadership and how can we develop an effective climate change leadership?
Universitetens viktigaste bidrag till en hållbar värld går via forskning, utbildning och samverkan – men hur ska detta ske på bästa sätt? Vad finns det för förväntningar från omvärlden på universitetens insatser och vilka typer av aktiviteter ger bäst resultat?
“Science is not negotiable, another world is possible”
By Sanna Barrineau
25 June, 2019. It’s 37 degrees celsius in Bonn, Germany at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and it’s the second week of one of the largest climate change conferences in the world during an unprecedented European heatwave. Representatives of the UNFCCC blithely encourage conference participants to abandon their suits and ties so as to avoid the old-school style of keeling over due to heat exhaustion. Interventions by youth and climate justice groups offer dark contrasts to this relaxed humour in the form of die-ins, songs, and impassioned speeches. From my vantage point of observer, the phrase climate justice emerged in every room, yet was noticeably, albeit unsurprisingly, absent in the outcomes of the negotiations.
If one was determined to create the most just, fair, equal, and true-to-science global climate change regulation in history, one would be hard put to find a place with more qualified people in the room, brimming with passion and intent. While parties are busy negotiating behind closed doors, scientists and civil society groups create a rich series of side events, informative and supportive spaces for participants. The overall effectiveness of these is lessened by the absence of parties, leaving the session leaders to preach to the choir but also to proffer narratives of ‘green growth’ that are met by frustration by the ‘systems change, not climate change’ advocates and representatives of LDCs suffering the negligence of this mantra.
Here are some observations from a humble observer:
Intergenerational justice: Referring to the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, Dr Julie Brigham-Grette stated that, “We are in uncharted territory”. 120 years is all it takes to do what we have done with our emissions. Strong scientific inputs on intergenerational justice in climate policy, but still talk about “green growth” from the Nordic consortium (including Finland who has declared that it will reach net-zero emissions by 2035). Results of this kind of climate leadership have clear consequences for future generations.
Sailing to COP25: A consortium of folks will be sailing to COP25 in Chile to avoid the emissions associated with flying. They were recruiting co-sailors for the journey.
Climate Apartheid: A report published by UN special rapporteur stated that we’re creating a ‘Climate apartheid’. “Developing countries will bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis… despite the poorest half of the world’s population causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.”
Gender and Climate Change: Ideas and examples abound for implementing gender-responsive NDCs. In preparation for COP25, WEDO is developing a report on what processes have been happening trying to link gender and NDCs and climate policies. See also their Gender Climate Tracker App. Key thoughts from this session: Effects of climate change are felt differently across class and gender. Gender-sensitive climate policy is key to decreasing social inequalities.
Migration and Displacement: Climate-induced migration highlights how the poor are especially vulnerable to climate change. Teresa Anderson, ActionAid International, explains that there is massive displacement taking place as a result of climate change. Displacement is triggered by disasters but is dependent on economic and social factors, therefore most difficult for the poor who have fewer options than those with capital. See more on this topic: Climate Change Knows No Borders (publication). Climate change always adds an additional layer to the intersectional look at migration and so, approaching from a human rights based perspective should always guide our decisions and actions. The ultimate goal is to respond with solidarity.
My week in Bonn concluded with seeing hundreds of cyclists bearing the Fridays for Future flag making their way through the city. Another world is possible.
Filibustering and Floundering – SB50 in Bonn
Guest post by Guy Finkill, CEMUS, Climate Change Leadership in Practice
Death by a thousand acronyms. That’s what it can often feel like when engaging with the subsidiary body negotiations at the UNFCCC at its headquarters in the leafy and embassy-ridden area of Bonn. In reality, the situation is much more dire – as an unprecedented heatwave stretches across Europe, the secretariat is forced into making bold and impactful decisions. Banishing big polluters from the negotiation space? No. Think again. They amend the official dress code so men are not forced to sweat themselves into a stupor on their way to the spacious air-conditioned conference halls where they negotiate their level of compassion for countries bearing the real brunt of the rapidly emerging extremes of climate change.
Morality falls victim to bureaucracy. Political will shudders in the face of a potential downturn in prosperity. In the multi-lateral assessment forum, the UK boast their 38% reduction in territorial emissions since 1990 while still achieving an upturn in economic growth (4). And growth and prosperity are good for everyone, right? Let’s take a moment to think about who this unquestionable prosperity is benefitting. Last time I checked, the UK was experiencing the highest levels of inequality since the 1960s (6) with 44% of the nation’s wealth in the hands of 10% of the population (7). The green growth narrative is top of the agenda here at SB50 with outlandish claims of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 being the hot topic. The fanciful mathematics and geoengineering pipedreams (3) that these claims are based upon have yet to truly enter the discussion, but that time will come.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt play pass the obfuscating parcel as the AIM (Arrangements for Intergovernmental meetings) negotiations dance around the subject of Conflict of Interest within the negotiation arena. Delegations huddle together, before they make their official announcements in the form of bureaucratic riddles, shrouded in the legitimatisation of political diplomacy. The US, infamous for declaring their withdrawal from ratifying the Paris Agreement, are still lingering around; pushing for BINGO (Business and Industry NGOs) accredited representatives to have a higher degree of participation in the discussions – efficiently opening the door for the fossil fuel industry to the conference while washing their hands of responsibility with the blood of the small-island developing states.
Chile, hosts of the upcoming COP25, are on the charm offensive in preparation for their presidency of the next round of negotiations; dishing out complimentary wine every evening to distinguished delegates. The chink of glasses brimming with Merlot appear to be sufficient to extinguish the concern of residents of Isla Riesco as the Chilean government battles its own environmental court to keep a devastating open-cast mine operational (8).
Environmental NGOs and youth groups rally together to call out the elephant in the room, tirelessly working towards increased transparency and kicking big polluters out of the negotiation space. Here are the closing remarks of Climate Justice Now (04:38-06:30), denouncing nation states for their continued subsidising of the fossil fuel industry (1) while employing market mechanisms and offsetting (2) to delay climate action and enforce the seemingly impermeable strategy of inertia. Progressive discussions in the side events hosted by these groups provide fresh hope and inspiration to a jaded observer – unfortunately these events are not mandatory for party delegates to attend, perhaps something for the UNFCCC to consider in future meetings of the subsidiary bodies. And so, the 50th meeting of the subsidiary bodies draws to a close, a few modifications to official texts achieved but not much to write home about. ~8000 activists were involved in the occupation of Garzweiler lignite coal mine less than 70km away from the UNFCCC conference in between the two weeks of talks – demanding climate justice as state-funded police brutally repress their call to action. Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg called for us to panic at COP24 in Poland & the World Economic Forum in Davos as our house is on fire. Swathes of forest fires currently engulf areas outside of Berlin (5), our house IS on fire, perhaps we should take acti … ah wait it’s 17:30, I think the Chilean presidency stand are serving wine again. Good, I’m parched.
1. Coady, D., Parry, I., Sears, L. & Shang, B. 2017, “How Large Are Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies?”, World Development, vol. 91, pp. 11-27.