Automatgenererad bild.

22 December 2016

Seed Box seeks ideas from artists and researchers

Sweden’s largest research programme in environmental humanities, the Seed Box, is distributing SEK 4 million to researchers, writers and artists. Their projects tackle urgent environmental issues and point to new paths and approaches.

Funding is being provided for a total of 16 projects in the Seed Box, at SEK 60,000–500,000 each. These sums will meet such expenses as remuneration for researchers, writers and artists, as well as workshops, a travel fellowship and a project based on what the research programme calls ‘citizen humanities’ (a platform for interaction with the community at large).

This funding call attracted great interest and the international review panel received 80 applications from eight countries for assessment, relates Cecilia Åsberg, Programme Director of the Seed Box and Professor of Gender Studies, Nature, and Culture at Linköping University.

The projects, including several with international university connections, are varied and cover different aspects of our relationship with the climate and environment. An Umeå University project, for example, seeks to investigate how the impact of Sweden’s 20th-century expansion of hydropower facilities in major rivers is continuing to affect the conditions of life for Sami communities.

‘Far from everyone’s aware that hydropower has devastated extensive areas of Sami cultural landscape, with reindeer herders seeing a loss of sites. With the climate policy we want to pursue in the future, it’s important to investigate the past and its repercussions thoroughly,’ Åsberg says.

Climate and biodiversity

Other projects among the 16 being funded relate to the problem of declining biodiversity.

‘We’re extremely concerned about climate change, and rightly so. But impairment of biodiversity is also a severe threat that we need to raise awareness of,’ she adds.

Many of the projects are artistic in nature. They stem from values and feelings concerning nature, whether through displays that tell stories about Kilimanjaro’s melting snows, ways of representing our relationship with plants or investigating differences between us and animals.

Cecilia Åsberg thinks it is important to explore feelings and values, and use them to develop new, more fruitful approaches to environmental problems.

‘We like to believe we’re governed by good sense. But emotions and desires are what drive us, and they’re quite often collective. Take the business of sorting glass and other waste, for example. People may do it to be “good” in social terms. But with a closer relationship with nature perhaps we’ll do the same thing, but out of a sense of belonging. We need to find our way back to that feeling of being part of the world and of nature, and that nature is part of us.’

Values vital

Solid trust in science and technology is not enough, thinks Cecilia Åsberg.

‘Tackling environmental problems and climate change demands changes in values. To date, the Seed Box is the most ambitious initiative for developing knowledge of, and systematically changing, our common cultural frameworks — stretching them to include more. Humanities come to life where art and science, nature and culture, intersect in this research programme. A world whose problems do not have disciplinary boundaries needs interdisciplinary approaches.’

For four years, the Seed Box will establish the research field of Environmental Humanities. It is headed from Linköping University but involves 13 higher education institutions around the world. Mistra and the Swedish Research Council Formas will provide the main funding.

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