“Lund University as a hub for research and education plays an important role as we take on the plethora of sustainability challenges still facing us despite of significant progress”

Earth System Governance Project kicks of its conference at Lund University this week on the topic of ‘Allocation and Access’. The conference topic emphasizes that despite significant progress over the past ten years that the World continues to face a plethora of sustainability challenges including growing inequality, coupled with urbanization, deforestation, water and food security conflicts, health and global climate change.

While there many uncertain challenges governing our World on questions of justice, democracy, power and inequality at the intersection of global environmental change there are also many important and positive developments around these very same matters addressing diversity and inclusion. Building trust within and between sectors in society is core, and Lund University as a hub for research and education on sustainability plays an important role in that endeavor by generating robust and original research and knowledge, communicating that knowledge, and in building new relationships through these processes.

LUCSUS has a vision to combine critical scholarship and with solution-based approaches. At the core of our work is the belief that sustainability is a complex field and is best understood and explained through interdisciplinary research in close collaboration with society. While LUCSUS is at a cross-road currently, it is also an exciting time. LUCSUS will continue to build its international collaboration, develop existing partnerships and contribute to building sustainability research and education within Lund University and with the broader community of local, regional and national actors. We look forward to the next 10 years of LUCSUS with great anticipation!

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Today I Choose to Highlight Efforts by Students and Researchers to Make Our Planet Great Again

While the news about Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has been likened to ‘a slap in the face’ to the global community, I would like to contrast this against efforts helping to make this planet great again, to quote Macron!

This past week I have been engaging directly with students and future researchers in sustainability, geography, development, and climate change who have been presenting their final theses work. Our LUMES MSC students shared their work on how small-scale communities live with the lack of energy access in DRC, communities in Central Asia live with the creeping environmental disaster of water scarcity, and in India there are opportunities for vernacular – locally adapted – community approaches to tackling their massive challenge of urbanization.

Among our researchers included a PhD final seminar by Emma Johansson on the use of art in understanding the stressors of land use change from a local perspective in Tanzania. Finlay MacGregor presented her work on the challenges of sustainable consumption and production in the coffee sector. Hannah Ruth Young (Reading University) work on attribution in climate change adaptation was also celebrated for passing her thesis.

What struck me is the juxtaposition between these examples of students and early career researchers, their attitudes, motivations and engagements, contrast so strongly with those currently in power in the free world. I see these students and early career researchers among future leaders, leading the way to figure things out by engaging with climate constrained world, rather than denying it.

The important thing here is to support these future leaders going forward. Lund University is playing a pivotal role in supporting future leaders of science and society and could do more for thinkers to congregate, develop and thrive in coming years.

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“Universities have the potential to engage and connect people at all scales with the ‘everyday’ consequences of a warming world”

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Sustainable Superfood? Exploring Edible Insects as a Low-Impact Source of Animal Protein

Last week, a group of five LUMES students (Ebbe Andersen, Isabell Burian, Balthazar Forsberg, Lisa Necksten, and Gavin Lord) held the second of two workshops open to the public exploring edible insects as a low-impact, scalable alternative to animal meat protein. At the first event, attendees enjoyed a four-course ento-vegetarian meal accompanied by a short lecture and QA session on entomophagy – the practice of eating insects.

Over six-legged tapenade and sauteed cricket, workshop participants learned about the overwhelming environmental impact of the current pace of animal meat consumption, and discussed the current social and practical obstacles to entomophagy in Western countries. Although some of the 70+ attendees were initially a bit skeptical, everyone at least ate something, and most attendees dug in with gusto. Even a few LUCSUS staff members were spotted!

With support from local nonprofits ABC, and Hållbart Universitet, as well as funding from AF-borgen, the group of students spent hours preparing the food and hall in order to ‘normalize’ the practice of eating insects.
“We want people to think of insects as food; something that can be delicious and nutritious, while respecting our planet’s limits” said Balthazar Forsberg, one of five LUMES students responsible for the project. In this regard, the project seems to have been a big success.

At the second workshop, participants learned how to cultivate edible insects at home. One of the great advantages of entomophagy is that the cultivation of insects is scalable, potentially empowering communities and individuals in the production of high-quality food. Over a fika of cricket crackers and coffee, attendees learned about the life cycle and care of the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor), a low-maintenance insect that is a versatile and nutritious ingredient.
Using recycled materials salvaged largely from food packaging, participants constructed multi-level insect farms which simultaneously accommodate several life-stages of the mealworm. The mealworms take about 1.5 months before they are ready to be harvested.

With around 30 participants – mostly returnees from the first event – there are now many more at-home insect farms out there in Lund! We hope that these two events go a long way in the transition of entomophagy into the culinary mainstream.

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International Women’s day – what does it mean to you?

When I told my 6-year old daughter that it was International Women’s day today she responded “is there a day for boys too?” I replied, “it is ok for women and girls to have a special day.”*

It raises the point that gender equality is not just about having the same number of women and men at the table. It is about issues of influence in decision-making, status, power, representation and sexuality. Professor Ann Towns explains that before the formation of the modern nation state women had a more nuanced role in influencing state decision-making, and since the formation of the modern nation state women became excluded.

While things are changing there is much more to do for women and girl’s representation, resource allocation and rights, as noted by Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström at the recent LU 350 Symposium: Towards a peaceful global order and gender justice in diplomacy. Margot Wallström highlighted that women’s rights are human rights and that smart leadership on gender is important. Sweden established the world’s first feminist foreign policy in 2015.

While one can critique, clearly this kind of leadership matters to lift the lid on gender, diversity and inclusion across our institutions and organisations. The World Health Organisation, WHO estimates that around the world 36% of women (one in three women) still experience sexual or physical violence and that is likely to be an underestimation.

Joshua Goldstein points out in his book War and Gender that we also need to better understand men’s roles in society. He explores the idea that boys are masculinised at an early age so that they will be ready for the eventuality for future military engagement. It raises interesting questions about our changing roles in society and feeds into the continued critical societal dialogue and engagement on gender justice.

Coming back to where I started – International Women’s Day is a reminder to reflect on what gender and gender justice is, what is means to us and to continue to think collectively about how things are for women and girls around the world.

*Other important days to mark are the International Men’s Day on November 19 to highlight the important role of men and boys in our communities, relationships and families to improve gender relations and a Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 to celebrate and highlight the discrimination faced by transgender people around the world.

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Scholarship needs more than ever to look much further ahead and engage with society

Today, I will  participate in a panel discussion at the symposium Disasters Evermore: Past, Present and Future Risk in an Uncertain World. Here is a short reflection on what I will bring to the discussion.

I want to highlight that when it comes to climate risk, current thinking in sustainability science is very much about what kinds of rights, access and justice questions are of relevance to individuals and communities at risk. Security in this context relates to the social, political and democratic mechanisms that advance responsibilities to safeguard our political systems, individuals, communities and ecosystems. Yet, a global perspective often takes a more traditional focus on maintaining stability for interests and territorial matters of the state.

Since global discussions around risk and security is currently overshadowed by the distractions of Brexit and Trump, which means that policy has an overwhelming focus on the here and now, scholarship needs more than ever to look much further ahead and engage with society in order to ascertain what risks might be affecting us in the future. Important questions around migration, conflict, equality and connectivity are at the forefront of these discussions.

For example, we as researchers can help policy makers in highlighting issues of rights, justice and the chronic nature of poverty when it comes to say sustainability challenges. We can highlight the need for new critical frameworks that engage with the attribution question in climate change and the considerable risks inherent – both political, social and environmental risks in not including all of society in the solutions to climate risk.

We must acknowledge that national and international security are high up on the agenda for policy makers at this time, however, now more than ever is the time to stress the importance of sustainable development in achieving these goals.

 

 

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Advancing Sustainability in a Time of Uncertainty

In my first blog post, I want to highlight the type of work we do at LUCSUS. How has our centre evolved, and what are we about? What is our role in an emerging global discourse around separation, protectionism and ‘alternative facts’?

So, how has LUCSUS evolved?
Over the past 10 years, LUCSUS has been a leading global Centre for sustainability at Lund University. We have evolved in the context of an increasing global awareness of the relationship between society and global environmental change, and the impact that these changes have meant for the most vulnerable people and ecosystems around the globe. The history of LUCSUS is important in understanding how developing interdisciplinary research and teaching on environment and development has contributed to current scientific understanding on sustainability, resilience and development.

Our centre has brought together different disciplines across Lund University, and evolved into a space where people engage in critical and empirical work on developing new frameworks on sustainability and identifying new areas of integration to better understand the environment-development nexus.

How do we work now?
We are working on a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary science on climate and land use change, and on the politics of water, energy and forestry, and on development and urban governance, resilience and adaptation.

I would say that we are unique in the way that we use common approaches, methodologies and tools of assessment to better understand the environment-development linkages. We focus on the perspective of justice, rights and development, and policy in relation to integrating social and natural sciences within the research and teaching. What defines our staff is their common approach to research and learning, and importantly to a collegiate leadership and working environment.

Our researchers work across multiple scales: on how individuals and communities understand what climate change means to them and their livelihoods, how global structures enhance or limit sustainable development actions, or how policy drivers influence environmental change in ways that are harmful to important ecosystem services. Our focus is on contributing to impact, for example by explaining why forest carbon markets don’t work for the poor, or why we need to think about whether climate change actions will be more effective if adaptation is thought about as a societal and political issue, and not just a technological or scientific one.

As a centre, we actively engage with global scientific processes such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Process on Ecosystems and Biodiversity (IPBES). We also extend our policy impact through close collaboration with the Earth System Governance (ESG) Programme.

What about the future?
The work of sustainability scientists is now juxtaposed against global discourse around separation, protectionism and ‘alternative facts’. It has never been more important to demonstrate the role of responsible leadership in the work on sustainability and adhere to core values, to seek new knowledge, build ethical norms and rigorous methodologies, and tackle issues of inequality, gender, diversity and inclusion.

From LUCSUS’ side we will take an active stand on these issues. We will continue to engage critically with new questions and solutions on how societies address these critical global issues. We will also continue to strengthen positive partnerships with existing networks and create new ones going forward into the future.

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