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, and we were asked to write our home exam over the christmas break.
Now we received our groupmates’ home exams, and I must say I am not just stepping on a reviewer’s shoes, but also on my classmates viewpoints. When reading the texts, I see that it gets a bit difficult to understand what the others mean. Sometimes it is difficult to know what you really want to say, so I am not surprised to find incoherences in others’ texts. Our task is to give feedback on how to better structure arguments, our grammar maybe, and learn from each other… I suppose.
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. A friend of mine told me that, when she as a teacher 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 like to hear bad things about their kids… so that would make receiving bad news a bit smoother. I will highlight both good and bad things on my feedback to them, I hope my classmates are kind to me too.
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.”
“And what I might ask you to remember from this talk is that next time you face a problem you can’t solve in work or in life, there’s a word for what you’re going to see: the cloud. And you can go through the cloud not alone but together with someone who is your source of support to say “Yes, and” to your ideas, to help you say “Yes, and” to your own ideas, to increase the chance that, through the wisps of the cloud, you’ll find that moment of calmness where you get your first glimpse of your unexpected discovery”
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 for the environmental sector. 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 met a few of those who started one and asked them. The starters of Rethinking Economics Uppsala said something on the lines of “We three went to that meeting in Stockholm, and on the way back we thought that we could do it 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, 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 decided to set a Facebook page and organize social meetings.
With this, I am just saying that there is much more to do than we may think, and you just need to look for it.
We’ve gone through very different topics over the course, such as pastoralism, mining and land and water grabbing dilemmas. I particularly liked that there were many researchers involved in teaching this course, some from Sweden and some from abroad. I liked that some of the lectures carried stories from those who were telling them.
One lecture about “Achieving conservation goals in human inhabited protected areas – The case of Zapatera Island National Park in Nicaragua” was about much more than conservation. The lecturer said that she had “two hats”, the activist and the researcher. She touched upon political regimes and crisis situations in the country.
In another lecture titled “Kalasnikovs & Pastoralism in Karamoja region, northeastern Uganda”, we did not hear about pastoralism techniques… as you may guess. We learnt a bit more about climate change effects in Africa, droughts, migration and raids… Not every day you get such an explanation about the culture of some communities in an engaging way. I really enjoyed it…
Holi 🙂 I just remembered that there is a database with finished master thesis called EPSILON:
You just need to click the Environmental Communication box and search. It may help you to see what graduated students did research about. I was taking a look at the theses just now because I am super lost with approaching mine.
One thesis particularly caught my attention: ” Snippe, Jara, 2017. To fly or not to fly: analysing interpretive repertoires to negotiate air travel among individuals working for an environmental NGO in Sweden.” I remember that when I volunteered in an environmental NGO in Spain, some people flought to the COP in Cancun, organized events which involved flying… and there was a debate around To fly or not to fly there too. Even here in Uppsala, among students, we discuss it. Some took action and stopped flying, some try to take the train more often and some feel guilty when booking flight tickets. It seems cool to me that it is possible to do research about these blurry issues… So, I recommend checking out the database.
A classmate wants to do research on the topic of biking, and understanding how people make sense of biking in urban areas. She targeted us as a group suitable for a Focus Group Discussion (FGD), because we are in similar circumstances. We started with a short presentation round, and we touched upon childhood, where we grew up, when we used to bike… then, the conversation was supposed to go on, and it certainly did (because that’s the point). I enjoyed the process, and the cookies were amazing 😀 My classmate shared with us her reflections afterwards, such as:
Practicing “Focus group” methods… and knitting
“One of the participants touched upon one thing that I found very interesting, but then the group went on. Later, I brought them back to this, by saying that what she said was interesting. Here my wording was a bit messy, so rather than leading them into what I found interesting they went in a different direction.”
“Another improvement is to bring in the previous studies earlier. The study is partly what has made me interested in the topic, and it also enabled the participants to discuss the things I was the most interested in.”
Thanks to the strict norm of having lunch at 12 o’clock around here (which sounded totally insane to me a year ago), I meet up with the ECM class for lunch and we catch up rather often at the university. The “Methods”course sounded rather unappealing to me, but now that I talked with my classmates I see the importance of taking it: the assignments are helping them to narrow down their research topic, consider what methods may suit best and… practice them! We’ve interviewed people several times… but there are other methods, such as “focus group” that I think we haven’t practised yet. So, next weekend I am participating in one focus group practice about biking! Because here in Uppsala biking is part of the city and daily life. Also, there are second-hand shops, clothes swap events, vegetarian and vegan options in restaurants, lots of labels and “EKO” products in the supermarkets, active associations addressing climate change issues… and why? Maybe future ECM students can figure it out!
At the introduction day of the course, we introduced the person we were sitting next to. It was nice to see so many international students in the class (Uganda, Zambia, Sweden, Ruanda, India, France, Germany, Greece… and more) and knowing that they were enrolled in other master programmes. We were, as one lecturer said, a lot of “capital” concentrated in the class; we all carry different perspectives and biases in our discourse, which we could identify and be more aware of. Concepts were described as “the lenses through which we see new things” and governance of natural resources as involving management of both people and nature. I particularly liked this introduction, and the point made in the lines of “the technical solutions may be already there; if those are not taken may be a governance dilemma” which encourages us, I guess, to at least try to better undestand the topic.
Regarding practical matters, there are lectures almost every day (3h), a few assignments and activities such as debates, and there is a home exam we will write during December, to be submitted in January. This course is divided into two parts: first is more on theories and concepts, and later on, we will be introduced to practical cases by different lecturers with a certain area of expertise and international research experiences (Thailand, Himalaya area, North of Sweden…). So far, we’ve gone through issues like participation, common resources, representation, democracy questions, advantages and disadvantages of global agreements, payment for ecosystem services, REDD+, conflict cases… In summary, I leave the class with lots of questions rather than answers, and feeling there’s so much going on out there!!