Did we have an impact? Maybe…

One groupmate from the group project “Water is life” we did on the
Conflict, democracy and facilitation course is now in Berlin as a Erasmus student. She decided to do her assignment on risk management, and she will be focusing on, as she called him “our old friend, Habermas” and communicative rationality. Because we did a group field research in Gotland concerning trust and collaboration in water management, she wanted to integrate our findings in her assignment too.

Interestingly enough, while doing her research, she found current documents describing the situation in Gotland very differently than a year ago:

“The water resources are exposed to various threats and risks. At the same time, there is a risk of conflict situations between different areas of use. This can, for example, be about the influence of individual sewage, agriculture, the lime industry, but also the nature conservation interest is an opposite interest to the water supply. Water protection areas are perhaps the most important measure in a long-term perspective to ensure the quality of water supplies. The protection of public water resources is currently insufficient on Gotland, and extensive work on establishing and reviewing water protection areas will have to be done in the coming years.
Regional water supply plan for Gotland County

– Goolge translation from the original:
Vattenresurserna är utsatta för olika hot och risker. Samtidigt finns det risk för konfliktsituationer mellan olika användningsområden. Det kan till exempel handla om påverkan från enskilda avlopp, jordbruket, kalkindustrin, men även naturvårdsintresset är ett motstående intresse till vattenförsörjningen. Vattenskyddsområden är den kanske viktigaste åtgärden i ett långsiktigt perspektiv för att säkerställa kvaliteten i vattentäkterna. Skyddet av allmänna vattentäkter är idag otillräckligt på Gotland, och ett omfattande arbete med inrättande och översyn av vattenskyddsområden kommer att behöva göras under de närmaste åren.”
Regional vattenförsörjningsplan för Gotlands län. 18/12/2018

As she put it “one year ago no one wanted to call it “a shortage” and now not only they do, but they acknowledged the need of preventing a risk of “conflict” – which they didn’t really see at the time”


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Winter wonderland

When I first heard the word “Samis” was on a lecture in the introductory course. Although I had heard the word “Lapones” (Samis in Spanish), I mainly heard about this term in the sentence “En Laponia hace frío” meaning “In Lapland, it is cold”. Now, thanks to the courses and being here, I got to know a bit more than that!

Some of the lectures during the introductory course were centered on traditional knowledge and indigenous communities. We read research papers about the Samis, representation and collaboration. Also, there are open lectures on varied topics in Uppsala, such as one I attended about what challenges reindeer herders face with climate change and urban development. 

One memorable moment for me was visiting “Jokkmokk’s market”. This is a market organized every year, where I saw handmade crafts, reindeers, dog sledding, and walked on the frozen lake without even knowing it, actually. I bought one thing I really needed at -22ºC: wool socks.

Some recommended literature (1st course, 2017):

Larsen, R.,Raitio, K., Stinnerbom, M. & Wik-Karlsson, J. (2017) Sami-state collaboration in the governance of cumulative effects assessment: A critical action research approach. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 64: 67–76.

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“Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar” – Antonio Machado

It is now, from February to the end of March when it’s “the time” to collect our data for the Master Thesis. This means either interviewing, doing focus groups, observation… or maybe trying other methods.

I am still in Uppsala, but some classmates are planning to do data collection abroad, such as in Germany, Scotland or New Zeland. Here, it is important you are aware that planning is  important, because for what I know/heard, students took a proactive attitude to planning, contacting people… etc. 

To narrow down my research topic, and following my supervisor’s advice, I am conducting  a “Pilot interview” to a researcher at SLU tomorrow. As the title of this post means: Walker, there’s no pathway, the pathway is made by walking. So let’s start.

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Are you thinking of applying to ECM 2019?

I realized there are many posts on this student blog already, so I thought of doing a “short listing” to make easier for you to find what you are interested in: 

Life in Uppsala. On this Facebook page there are plenty of insights about activities, accomodation, and living in Uppsala as a student: https://www.facebook.com/studysustainably/

What’s ECM about? I made a post in April 2018 for those accepted this year. I recommend you to read it because I make a distiction between Environmental or Social Sciences?, and comment about the activities and lectures. If you read other posts you will realize that there is a mix between social theory, discussions, and practice through activities such as research in groups, role plays, presentations, group assignments… etc.

Internship: Details about where students did their internship are mainly on September 2018 posts; Students have to search and apply for their own internship. This is not a big deal, I think, because we do interviews for research assingments over the first year, as well as we hear about where we could do our internship from lectures, guest lecturers… so there are plenty of people you can contact again if you are interested. 

Master Thesis: The topic is your own choice, and EC students do not need to approach researchers. Instead, there is a “guarantee” that you will get a supervisor matching your topic of interest. (But I think you can search your own in other university if you prefer that). Posts about the thesis are on this year 2018-2019. 

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Facilitating first year students’ discussions

The course Conflict, democracy and facilitation is ongoing for first year students within the Environmental Communication programme, and some second year students including myself volunteered to facilitate two literature discussions. 

The theme of the first “peer learning” discussion was focused on understanding what kind of social situation it is to be called “conflict”, and under what conditions, and why, conflicts appear. In the group discussion I facilitated, students first explained how they understood concepts in the readings and their questions. During the discussion, they related those theoretical concepts from the literature to examples from the media, protests, politics, cultural differences and environmental issues. 

The Conflict literature for the week discussion were “structuralist” and “interactionist”
perspectives. Some central concepts were that conflict host both constructive and destructive aspects, what was trust in interaction, mutuality (Hallgren och Ljung), escalation of conflict (Kriesberg and Dayton), or constitutive expectancies (Garfinkel) among others. Here some references:

Kriesberg, L. and Dayton, B. W. (2017). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. Rowman & Littlefield. 5th edition. 

Hallgren och Ljung. 2015(2005). Ch 5: Conflicts and conflict management. In Hallgren and Ljung:Environmental communication [Miljökommunikation]. Originally published inSwedish at Studentlitteratur 2005)

Watson, R. 2009.Constitutive practices and Garfinkel’s notion of trust: Revisited. Journal ofclassical sociology. Vol 9 Issue 4 p 475-499

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Reflection papers. What’s that?

“What do you write in a reflection paper?”, I got asked by a first year ECM student in the autumn semester. Then, I remembered that it wasn’t until I started the program that I wrote one. I will try to explain: 

These reflection papers are non-graded assignments required to pass a course, and I would say the content can vary because it is a personal reflection about the activities, group work, discussions… basically, the course! Last year, we wrote one reflection paper every time we finished a course, and all courses involved some sort of practical and
independent work in groups. We wrote a reflection paper about The Movie Week in our first course, a second about our experience conducting field research (interviewing people working on Green Infrastructure plans at the County Administrative Boards), a third after our research on water management (topic chosen in my group) and trip to Gotland… and I just wrote one last reflection paper for the Governance of natural resources course I took.

The aim of these reflection papers is, as I understood, that we take time to think about the experience, how we learn, what we learnt from the course, how this relates to the literature, and what we could have improved. My own “reflection” now is that ECM courses are intense in terms of applying what we learnt from class and from the literature readings to “the real world” in a relatively short period of time, plus involving group work in the process. So, in my view, the reflection paper may just be the “hand brake” exercise to be forced to stop, reflect, write and later on read it and think “look at what we did!”  

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Step into someone’s shoes

In this case, all students taking Governance of natural resources are stepping on a reviewer’s shoes. We were divided in groups of 4 people in December to give feedback to each other’s home exams, and we were asked to write our home exam over the christmas break.

This is the first time I exchange home exams with other than my friends. It seems more formal to me the fact that it’s been arranged. We received our groupmates’ home exams today, and I must say I am not just stepping on a reviewer’s shoes while reading, but also on my classmates viewpoints.

While reading some home exams, it gets a bit difficult to understand what the others aim to say at times. Our task as reviewers is to give feedback on how to better structure arguments, improve our grammar maybe, and learn from each other.  I remember when a friend back home told me that, when as a teacher she had to give a report to parents on childrens’ behaviour, she used to structure her feedback like: good thing, bad thing, good thing again. Because, according to her, no parent likes to hear bad things about their kids… because they are perfect. So that structure would make receiving bad news a bit “smoother”… I will give constructive feedback, and highlight both good and bad things, and I hope my classmates are kind to me too!


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The cloud

We are soon starting our master thesis, which means independent research (scary!). I think this TED Talk by Uri Alon in 2013 provides a wonderful piece of advice that I would like to share:

“In order to discover something truly new, at least one of your basic assumptions has to change, and that means that in science, we do something quite heroic. Every day, we try to bring ourselves to the boundary between the known and the unknown and face the cloud.” (…) “Research in psychology shows that if you’re feeling fear and despair, your mind narrows down to very safe and conservative ways of thinking. If you’d like to explore the risky paths needed to get out of the cloud, you need other emotions — solidarity, support, hope — that come with your connection from somebody else, so like in improvisation theater, in science, it’s best to walk into the unknown together.”

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Happy new year!

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Being active: Associations & Networks

I think one of the best outcomes of studying is the opportunity to meet and connect with people with similar interests. If you study abroad, then this possibility becomes even greater just because of the fact that you are alone in a new place and your free time becomes available for new people and activities. My view is that it is important to explore, to give ourselves the chance to be surprised. I think Uppsala is a great place to start, but you can also explore wherever you are right now.

A first step can be to look for volunteering opportunities, student associations and social meetings. It is also good to note that associations do not start out of the blue, they start with people. So even if those opportunities are not around, these can be created. I’ve participated in some, and met a few of those who started student associations. I asked them about their beginning: The starters of Rethinking Economics Uppsala said something on the lines of “We three went to the association meeting in Stockholm, and on the way back we talked about that we could do it in Uppsala too, so we said… let’s do it”. Others, that I met in Spain such as “Erasmus Association Pamplona”, started working on the same goal as the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), which was integrating erasmus students in the town. They went to a meeting organized by the university and talked about how much they missed the “erasmus life”, so they started by setting a Facebook page and organizing social meetings following the idea behind ESN. 

With this, I am just trying to say that there is much more to do out there than we may think, and you just need to look for it. 

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