Category Archives: Uppsala

CEFO Workshop with Marina Fischer-Kowalski

In the beginning of March, CEMUS had yet another prominent guest: Dr. Marina Fischer-Kowalski. As the director and “designer” of the Institute of Social Ecology at Klagenfurt University and senior lecturer at the University of Vienna she has published numerous texts on social ecology and social metabolism. Marina has also worked for the United Nations Environmental Program and she used to be the president of the International Society for Ecological Economics.

CEFO – the research forum of CEMUS – had organized a workshop on social metabolism with Marina and I was lucky enough to be able to participate in it. While the concept of social metabolism was relatively new to me, it is apparently tackling many familiar issues. So the workshop was a very enriching experience. Many things were discussed in detail that day, but to keep it “readable” I will focus on some main points here.

Marina explained that social ecology is about how society behaves towards its environment. Her model of social metabolism considers the natural and cultural sphere of causation and how they interact. She claims that other existing models do not connect these two spheres at all, or in the wrong way. She visualized these approaches somewhat like those two for instance:

Marina claims that her model is more holistic and looks at different levels of interactions. It reminds me of Jay Forrester’s System’s Thinking.

The whole cultural sphere – including the overlapping part – forms our society. For all those of you who wonder what belongs to the coinciding part: that’s for example the world population, but also artefacts and life stock. A lot is happening between those two spheres. Through our labor we change the natural realities and experience feedback from that. In the cultural sphere, we develop programs within subsystems like economics, law, etc. – as a reaction to natural feedback, for instance.

Social Metabolism

After a really stimulating discussion and a fantastic Turkish lunch, Marina held a lecture in the afternoon. That was the part I was really most interested in, as it was about decoupling environmental impacts from economic growth. Probably this is THE dream of every economist these days (and if it is not, it should be!). Marina promoted an idea of a tax shift from labor to resources brought forward by Prof. Robert K. Weizsäcker. She highlighted that one needs to distinguish between resource and impact decoupling. When presenting material use and GDP growth over the last century, one can see a “spontaneous” (not following a certain policy) decoupling of these two indicators since the 1970s in the developed countries. Marina presented several possible explanations for this phenomenon: (1) slower economic growth, (2) outsourcing of material production (to developing countries), (3) increasing income inequality, which reduced mass consumption to a certain extent or (4) maybe even a saturation of material needs. Some of these suggestions deserve attention, but with respect to the second point: outsourcing of production to developing countries, it would have been interesting to look at consumption-based resource use. I wonder how much decoupling we could have seen then. The saturation of material needs also is an argument limited to the developed world.

That is something I need to criticize about this lecture in general. Marina often gave examples from Europe. Due to global trade and supply chains the approach to decoupling should always be global, though, in my opinion.

GDP growth and material extraction. The “metabolic rate” is the amount of resources required per year and capita.

We also talked about productivity a lot during this presentation. Marina mentioned in the beginning that technology is one of the key factors when it comes to decoupling economic growth from resource use and pollution, actually. She showed some graphs where one could see how much faster labor productivity increased compared to energy and material productivity. This is where the proposed shift of tax burden comes into play. It would make labor cheaper relative to materials or energy. As Rob Hart suggested in our latest course on sustainable economic growth, the main reason why labor productivity increases so much faster is that the relative factor share of labor is much higher than that of resources within global production.

However, there are many ways of looking at resource consumption and it was really inspiring to discuss this with Marina. I want to thank her for a very pleasant and informative day and I hope that she will visit us again.


Spring Awakening in Uppsala?

Blue skies over Östra Ågatan

It felt like spring was finally arriving in Uppsala on Sunday (just in time when I am leaving of course). Last year I still thought the Swedes were a little crazy for how they worship the first sun, but in the meantime I’m all in for that. On Sunday I spent the afternoon walking and sitting in the sun with a friend. I even had my first ice cream for the year. Sooo nice.  In th emeantime I hear now it started to snow again… However, here are some impressions!

Culinary delights – from Bella Italia straight to Uppsala!

I really hope the weather will soon be continuously awesome!



This was actually a week earlier at Hågadalen


Where to Fika in Uppsala

Hej, hej!

Many of you might have heard about one of the most famous – and definitely one of the cosiest – Swedish traditions: Fika (= Coffee break). Swedes fikar all the time. You can have a breakfast fika or afternoon fika; you can eat cake and cookies, or savory dishes (like Smörgåstarta); you can have it with friends, family or colleagues at work, at school, at home, outside, …

The weather is almost suitable for outside-fika!
Well, the river is still frozen…

As you see fika is a very broad and flexible concept. It usually involves coffee, though (sometimes tea). Today I just want to give you two hints of really nice cafés in Uppsala. One is Café Linné and the other one is Storken. Both are located very central downtown, offer a broad variety of really tasty food at reasonable prices (for Swedish standards at least^^).

This is Café Linné (I had already eaten my brownie when I realized I wanted to take pictures :D)

Inside Café Linné
Sofas and armchairs dominate at Linné and give it a homey feel
Café Linné is located right next to the Linné Museum in the Northern part of the centre

Below are some delicacies at Storken. It is located centrally at Stora Torget


The tempting kitchen counter…
Mhhh, carrot cake!

So, if you are in Uppsala and you want to try something else than the student nations, I can recommend these two affordable and cosy “shabby-chic” places.

Happy fika!

Franzi 🙂


Uppsala today

UltiMat Ultuna – Part 1

Tjena! [That’s how the reeeaaaally cool kids say hi ;-)]

Today I am finally trying out something I have been looking forward to for weeks: UltiMat Ultuna!

What Is UltiMat Ultuna

UltiMat (swedish “mat” = “food”) is the student union’s non-profit food cooperative. Once a month you can order food from local farmers and you pick it up on the SLU campus. Apart from that UltiMat organizes markets, workshops and field trips to their suppliers I think it’s a great concept and became a member a few months ago, but it was always impossible for me to be here at the pick-up dates. That is why I had to postpone my first order again and again. But “today’s the day I’m gonna make it happen…”

How Does It Work

As this is my first order I am definitely not an expert yet, but it seems super easy. First you have to become a member by seding an email. Be aware that when you first order, you have to pay a membership fee of 25 SEK. After you have signed up you receive a monthly  email with a link to a google document, where you can place your order. The email also tells you the pick-up date and time (~2 weeks later). Then all you need to do is to pay for your order and go pick it up.

What Do They Sell

As far as I know the selection of food varies over the seasons. Right now, they have different sorts of flour, peas, eggs, oats, potatoes, beets, onions, raddish, etc. but also lamb, beef and many different types of cheese on their list.

I am really looking forward to trying this out and I will write a second post once I receive the food! If you are interested in UltiMat, you can find more information in Swedish and English on their website.

Have a great day, everybody!





Jubilee: 25 years of Cemus!

Uppsala’s Center for Sustainable Development, a collaboration between SLU and UU, started the celebrations for its 25th anniversary today. Bengt Gustafsson, professor in astrophysics and one of the supporting founders of Cemus, gave a lecture on the history of the center and the future challenges of sustainability.

While during the 1970s there were already several attempts to start centers for interdisciplinary studies, it took another two decades before students succeeded in establishing the first student-driven course at Cemus. That course was called “Man and Nature” (1992) and attracted more than 500 applications. Cemus was born and has been established over at least 10 generations of students – unfortunately as Bengt remarked “sustainability is a sustainable issue”.

Thus he devoted the second part of his lecture to future problems and challenges. He talked about many issues that concern the Anthropocene (the age of significant human impact on our planet). Some of them like digitalization, globalization or ecosystems are more obvious, but he mentioned things like world views, religion and moral as well. While I agree that a shift from collectivism towards individualism can be seen (at least in many of the Westernized cultures), I think that the Internet was judged a little too hard. Although censorship and surveillance are huge problems in many countries, the World Wide Web allows for tremendous steps in democratization processes or in improvements of certain human rights (such as education). An interesting approach Bengt talked about was the transformation of pilgrims to tourists; the former aiming to see a certain destination and learn about it and the latter more or less walking the Earth blindly. This is obviously too simplified, yet it contains a grain of truth.

What I really liked about Bengt was that he was trying to convince us to shed some hope. He kept coming back to the famous three Japanese apes and the premise that scientists need to see the evil, or bad. It’s their obligation to look at it and to do something about it. While I think this should not only hold for scientists, but for all of us, it was really great to include it in the lecture. Bengt finished off with a few recommendations, three of which I want to share: (1) see and report truthfully, (2) keep up the dialogue with other people and with your own conscience and (3) provide hope for those who have none.

Thanks to Bengt for a really nice talk and some interesting thoughts!


Have a good week everybody,


Allt ljus på Uppsala

To make bearing the long autumn nights easier and to fight darkness depression, Uppsala is holding its fifth annual light festival this month.

On Friday night I took a stroll through town with a friend to take a closer look at several of the objects. We were actually so fascinated by most of the installations that we didn’t manage to do the whole tour. But hopefully I will finish the tour another night.

However, before I felt like a popsicle I managed to take some pictures, which I want to share with you. I warmly recommend everyone who is in Uppsala in November to get out there in the dark and take a look at these bright beauties.


Next to most of the light installations we found signs, indicating the idea behind the object. This one was called Början (engl. The Beginning) and was to be a tale of the birth of the universe.


That is my friend Sachi in a light installation which looks very unspectacular on the picture. The clue was that some kind of light show started when you came close. The title of this object was Perspektiv (Perspective). Our daily problems often feel overwhelming. When you enter the piece and  and stand still to look into the stars once when the light show finishes, you should feel as a part of the universe instead of its centre. Even though it was not the best photo  scene, I think it represents an amazing idea. Sachi looks like a really joyful part of the universe, don’t you think?


The church is obviously the centrepiece of everything here in Uppsala and I must say that its illumination looks just stunning. I love this particular view on it, where the river seems like it’s on fire. Very dramatic.


This piece was really, really cool, too. It has been made by four landscape architecture students from SLU. It  is called Attraktionskraft ( Attraction) and attracting it was indeed. It felt like you might be sucked through that wormhole 😀


One last installation I really liked was Fångade stjärnor (Captured Stars) – a tale of how to catch stars.

The light festival is still running until the 27th of November and I hope you will get a chance to look at it. I will definitely go again to check out the installations I have missed. You can find more information about the festival in Swedish and English here!

Ha det så bra! (= Take care!)


Winter Wonderland

Much earlier than last year, the onset of winter has arrived here in Sweden.  It happened quite suddenly. The first bit of snow fell last week, but the last two days have been crazy. I was about to write about Pareto’s first Economic Forum tonight, but the guest lecturer couldn’t make it to Uppsala because of the snow!

So I thought I’ll delay the other post and give you some impressions of the truly winterly weather instead. Enjoy!



Before most of the snow had fallen on SLU campus today


My poor little bike

Pareto Gasque

I must first of all say sorry for the little break. Since the last weeks were really busy for me, I didn’t find the time to blog. Hopefully I’ll manage to make it up to you with many high quality posts during the next weeks.

This Thursday it was time once again for a gasque: a very traditional combination of a more or less formal dinner and a (definitely much less formal) party. And this one was a very special one, if you ask me. It was Pareto’s second gasque for this year – and also its second gasque ever.

Pareto is the student organization of the economics master students at Uppsala University. They arrange study visits, case competitions, course evaluations and are the students’ connection to the department.

Even though Pareto is established at Uppsala University, they have always been very welcoming towards us SLU students as well. Until very recently I was part of the board and mainly involved in planning social events and the welcome activities for this year’s new students. While I left the board to make room for the “new generation”, I am still a member of Pareto and I love to visit their events. So naturally I attended their gasque at Gästrike-Hälsinge Nation on Thursday. The topic was masquerade, so people looked absolutely spectacular. It was so much fun to see how people interpreted the topic.

A polaroid from the pre-party: Can’t decide which mask or girl I love most!

I am sure the Pareto gasques will become a great and long tradition, as you meet so many friends and familiar faces at these events. To me the economics students often feel like a big family, so I really, really enjoyed that night full of fun speeches, singing, dancing, eating & drinking and even some stand-up comedy.

Except for the fact that the toilets are renovated at the moment, GH was a pretty good choice as a location. The food was very good and the rooms looked great. Of course that was mainly thanks to Anna and Unn, who proved exceptional party planning skills in this event.

Another person who should be applauded was Alex, who did a really great job with the music. The dancefloor was constantly packed until they kicked us out! 🙂

Everyone who doesn’t know about Pareto yet should check out their homepage and facebook site, where we’ll hopefully find some pictures of the gasque soon.

Have a great start into the week!


Even John Maynard Keynes attended the event


Change of Season

If you would ask me to pick my favorite season of the year, I’d have a really hard time to decide. Yet the answer would certainly not be autumn. While winter usually enchants me completely with its ice and snow, spring always awakens my spirits of optimism and summer makes me more adventurous. Autumn and I in fact have a slightly more difficult relationship.

And while my dearest Sri Lankan friend Sachi recently highlighted the benefits of the constant warm weather back home, I feel like there is something magical about each change of season. Especially, when the weather presents itself like here in Uppsala at the moment. So today I just want to send out some impressions from what has truly felt like the first autumn weekend of the year – along with some of the awesome things awaiting us now.

– Picking mushrooms and berries in the forest (even though basically everything is empty by now)

Stunning Forests Around Uppsala


– Enjoying all the nice autumn food: It’s finally cold enough to have soup again, and a lot of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. (of course going with some nice pastries), let alone all those apples you can find everywhere right now!

Harvest Time – You’ll Find Berries And Apples Everywhere


– You have a good excuse to stay in bed if it’s a rainy day

A Little Lunch Walk With Friends Today

– 4 October is the official cinnamon bun day (Kanelbullens Dag)

Stunning Colors In The City As Well


– 35th International Short Film Festival (24-30 October)

– And so on…



Seems like Swedish autumn is not so bad after all 😉

Have a great start into this week!