Tag Archives: CEMUS

Cool dudes and red hot lies.

A few weeks ago I went to another lecture by CEMUS, the centre for environment and development studies that I wrote earlier about. The theme of this lecture was called ‘How climate change became controversial – examining the denial movement‘. I had been quite busy that week, but as I recently discovered that even some of my facebook friends are doubting climate change, I felt a strong need for deeper understanding. The guest speaker, sociology professor Riley Dunlap from Oklahoma University, was starting the evening with his lecture, which was followed by two shorter related lectures and a discussion.

“I am afraid that the American population electing Trump for president – a strong denier of climate change – is another indicator of how many do not believe, or do not wish to believe, that climate change is real.”

Dunlap started to explain the audience the history of the organized climate change denial. Truth is that back in 1988 when global warming was already noticed and became a social problem, a survey was held and 63% percent of the US population worried a great deal about this issue. A similar survey was held in 2015, showing that over the years the number had decreased to 55%. I am afraid that the American population electing Trump for president – a strong denier of climate change – is another indicator of how many do not believe, or do not wish to believe, that climate change is real. Dunlap talked a lot about the organization behind the climate change denial movement and how ‘invisible’ this ‘machine’ tries to operate. The scheme below shows the most significant relations between the different elements of organised climate change denial.

Dunlap and McCright, from the Oxford handbook of
Climate Change and Society, 2011. Click to enlarge.

Special attention should be paid to the column ‘Conservative Think Tanks’, often abbreviated as CTT’s. Dunlap spent quite some time outlining how this group empowers politicians, controversial scientists, activists, media and many others. For example there are quite a lot of books written on climate change denial. I did not make up the term ‘Red Hot Lies’ myself, this is actually supposed to be a serious book on how ‘global warming alarmists keep you misinformed’. Unfortunately, climate change denial books reach a large audience. These books may try to appear trustworthy and independent, but 92% of all books written on this matter in English language can be traced back to CTT’s. As a matter of fact, not a single one of these books is published by a university press.

It was shocking to learn about the many frightening similarities of the climate change denial movement  identical to that of the tobacco industry in the past. Something that had never really crossed my mind is how there are several types of climate change denial. To understand climate change denial, it is important to realize not everybody is denying the same aspects. According to Dunlap’s lecture, climate change denial can be split up into the following four groups.

  • Trend denial:
    The earth is NOT getting warmer
  • Attribution denial:
    Even if it is, human activities are NOT the cause
  • Impact denial:
    Should warming occur, the impact will be inconsequential or benign
  • Policy denial:
    There is no need for carbon emissions reduction policies

Dunlap’s lecture was followed by the British Kevin Anderson – visiting professor in climate change leadership – who gave an insight on how politicians are affected and threatened by the climate change denial movement on different levels. Finally Kirsti Jylha from the Department of Psychology at Uppsala University showed common factors in people who denied climate change, such as political orientation and ideological variables. As a matter of fact, the term ‘Cool dudes’ wasn’t my invention either, this refers to the main group of climate change deniers in the US, which are conservative white males. If you are interested, you can read all about them in this paper.

Before closing this topic I would like to mention some positive things as well. Because even though the climate change denial movement is massive in terms of power and financial capital; and yes, Trumps victory is a slap in the face of many, there are also good things happening. I would say that a large step forward to make people aware of climate change was the release of ‘Before the Flood‘, one of the most accessible and all-inclusive documentaries so far. I hope it will reach out to many, have you watched it yet? On a more local level: Last week the COP22 negotiations took place in Marrakesh and an inspiring group of Uppsala students travelled down by minivan – flying is a no-go because of the huge carbon emissions – to be part of this important follow-up of the Paris negotiations last year. They are keeping the rest of us up to date through their #minivandiaries, definitely worth a read.

Uppsala for climate justice. The beginning of the #minivandiaries two weeks ago.
Photo from The Minivan Diaries facebook page.

I hope this post gave you some insight into the topic of climate change denial. As usual all questions and comments are welcome. This is not my field of studies but I will try to answer the best I can.


The Sami perspective

There are always a lot of interesting things going on in Uppsala. Sometimes there are other lectures organized that seem just too interesting to miss, even though you already have had a full week of lectures. I absolutely love lectures – and always have – but even I have a limit, haha. Therefore I actually skipped my afternoon horse class(the guilt, it feels terrible!) to be able to be fresh again to join another lecture in the afternoon. This lecture was organized by CEMUS, which stands for the Centre for Environment and Development Studies(I guess CEDS didn’t sound as catchy?). CEMUS is a collaboration between Uppsala University and SLU, it’s student-initiated, trans-disciplinary and aims to contribute to a more just and sustainable world. I know, that’s a lot of fancy words all together, but they actually do a lot of pretty great things and if you have some time, definitely check out their webpage.

The lecture I attended was called ‘Ignored History: The Sami Perspective’, and the main speaker was Josefina Skerk, who happens to be the Vice-President of the Sami Parliament, even though she is only a few years older than me. Impressive. But that was not the main reason I wanted to go. The thing is, I have lived for about a year now here in Sweden. I have the feeling I got to to know quite a bit about Swedish everyday life, culture, habits and some history. There’s viking hills on several places around Uppsala, our campus used to be a viking settlement, the university proudly gives away necklaces with a little horse pendant – a replica found on the grounds of Ultuna. Yet I haven’t heard a thing about the Sami people. Maybe it’s my own fault, I don’t know, but I wondered why. Are there no Sami roots in Uppsala? Are people not proud to be Sami? Or are there no Sami people left in Sweden? So yes, the announcement of this lecture caught my attention, especially the article by Josefina Sterk that was posted along with it, which you can read here.

One part from this article caught my attention specifically. Josefina writes “But as the lands are becoming more and more scattered and poisoned by mines and other destructive industries, we are rapidly losing the possibility to adapt to changes. Sweden is now officially aiming to become the mining center of Europe. There is simply very little regard for our ties to the land, our human rights, and for sustainability.” Wait! What? This does not sound as the Sweden as I got to know it. Isn’t Sweden the country that aims to become climate sustainable? Wasn’t it all over my facebook a few months ago that Sweden attempts to be the first fossil-free country of the World? Something before 2020? This sounded extremely contradictory. Even my Swedish roommate Oskar, who usually has an answer or opinion ready on almost everything, seemed surprised. So in the end I wasn’t going alone to the lecture, Oskar was joining too.

Sami: One people in four countries. Map of Sápmi in 2007.
Click to enlarge. Copyright Nordiska Museet.

In my opinion the lecture was really, really great. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before, to me Josefina’s presentation was not only educative but also personal, informative and sometimes slightly shocking. Of course I won’t be able to write about everything she told. The good news is that if you are EXTREMELY interested, the whole lecture was filmed and is accessible to anyone. Therefore I’ve included it into my post, you will find it if you scroll all the way down. The other good news is that I did take a lot of notes, so in case you don’t feel like watching the whole lecture, but made it this far reading, you can just keep reading a little more about it.

“We are not stuck in the 1800’s. We don’t like to be treated as if we’re stuck in the 1800’s.”

There are a lot of prejudice about Sami people, such as every Sami being a reindeer herder. However, only 10% of the Swedish Sami are active as reindeer herders. Another issue Josefina adressed was the following: “We are not stuck in the 1800’s. We don’t like to be treated as if we’re stuck in the 1800’s.” Fair point well made, I believe. Let’s jump to some facts. There are currently between 20.000 and 60.000 Sami people living in Sweden. About 75% of them are still able to live in their traditional areas. Note: Traditional land is really important to the Sami people, they have very strong personal and cultural ties to the lands, that go back many generations. The Sami are one people divided over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They used to live much further South in Sweden, but have been pushed North. When it comes to land rights, according to this presentation, the Sami are not in a great position. The Sami people have no right to decide and/or exercise influence over land, water and natural resources. The Sami Parliament – which represents the Sami people – is not considered and affected party(only reindeer herding districts). The Sami people have no right to a part of the profit earned by companies exploiting traditional Sami land.

“We want to fight climate change. But we want to do it together.”

Sweden has a lot of sustainable ambitions. One of them includes building a lot of windmills as part of becoming fossil free. However, many of these windmills are built in the Sami lands. Without the Sami having any say in where they will be built. The Sami people want to have input in these matters, the Sami Parliament wants the Swedish government to talk to each other about such things. Josefina put it nicely together, saying “We want to fight climate change. But we want to do it together.” One issue she does not know whether talk will be able to result in a solution is the mining. Mining in Sweden is mainly done for iron ore(I had some trouble realizing what this translates to in my own language, but maybe you remember it also from the Settlers game?) and takes place in large numbers. Sweden is responsible for 98% of the iron ore exports from Europe. The problems are that the lifespan of these mines is about eight years only and it really destroys the land. Furthermore it is very expensive to clean-up these mines afterwards and it seems that some dirty financial tricks are being played by large companies, leaving the lands ruined behind.

I could keep talking(erhm, writing) about more issues concerning the Sami for a long time, but I think this post has already kind of made my records when it comes to length. I just want to briefly summarize that what the Sami people want, or at least what the Sami parliament wants, is more responsibility when it comes to land and issues. Plus that it is really strange that Sweden isn’t teaching anything about Sami in school. Josefina sometimes encounters facing people working in the government who have sincerely no idea of who Sami are. Shame on you Sweden. I am very curious to your opinion on the matter. After all I do have the feeling I kind of heard only one side of the story. But it was a strong story, one I think deserves more attention.


ps. For the die-hards that made it all the way down, hereby the whole presentation!