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3 EU Environment Projects Gather in Stockholm

A workshop on History of Science and the Environment took place at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm on 7-8 November 2019. It was arranged by three projects hosted in the KTH Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment: InsSciDE WP7 – Environment, led by Nina Wormbs, and the two ERC-projects Greening the Poles (GRETPOL), led by Peder Roberts, and the Rise of Global Environmental Governance, led by Sverker Sörlin.

The collaborative workshop allowed for researchers within three environmentally themed EU projects to learn from each other and exchange ideas on how to develop common interests. After an introductory presentation of the InsSciDE project by WP7 leader Nina Wormbs (KTH), Case Study Author Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester) presented ongoing WP7 research in Manchester. He also discussed their recent activities such as the establishment of the Commission for Science Diplomacy, a great resource for networking and intellectual exchange for anyone interested in the history of science diplomacy, and featuring members of each of the EU Science Diplomacy Cluster projects (InsSciDE, S4D4C, EL-CSID).

Peder Roberts (KTH) introduced his project GRETPOL and gave a presentation titled “Polar Bears and Science Diplomacy in the 1960s and 70s”. He described the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears between Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway (Svalbard), the United States, and the Soviet Union (the five nations with the highest population of polar bears). The treaty was the result of lengthy discussions and the reasons for selecting polar bears for conservation were both scientific and symbolic. Roberts outlined how this story played out in Norway, where polar bears were widely regarded as varmints into the 1960s and their hunting was seen as necessary for a variety of economic and strategic reasons. The diplomatic agreement to protect a single species did, however, not lead to the wider diplomatic results that were anticipated.

On the second day, Iqra Choudhry (University of Manchester) gave a presentation on “A Crisis of Antarctic Legitimacy - The Limits of Science Diplomacy in Antarctica”. She shared a case study from her ongoing thesis work, looking at the 1980s when both the Antarctic Treaty System and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research were subject to criticism from UN Member states for a lack of transparency and involvement in political decision-making.

Kati Lindström (KTH) spoke under the title “Sheep in a wolf’s skin or vice versa: Multiple identities of scientists in international negotiations”, and detailed the stories of scientists that went to Antarctica yet Western narratives failed to give them space in the history of the exploration of the continent.

InsSciDE case study author Sam Robinson (University of Manchester) showed a fascinating deck of slides of imagined futures of the sea and argued that science diplomacy is not only concerned with the present but also with the future. The title of his talk was “Science Diplomacy and the Scientific Imaginary: the diplomatic challenge of future science and technology”.

The group also took the opportunity to plan for a workshop that will be hosted in mid-June 2020 with the tentative title: “What is the role of Science in environmental diplomacy?” Look out for more information in the spring!

Picture top left: Peder Roberts, top right: Kati Lindström, bottom: first slide of Sam Robinson’s presentation

Published on 26 November 2019