CApE Lecture: Julia Nordblad and Niklas Olsen

For this CApE Lecture event, Julia Nordblad and Niklas Olsen will each deliver a lecture, followed by a panel discussion and an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

CApE Lecture by Julia Nordblad: The Emergence of Biodiversity Environmentalism, 1960–1990

Sustainability, climate change, Gaia – there are many environmental concepts out there, and although they all diagnose physical degradation of the earth, they do so in different ways. Each concept of the environment has emerged out of particular historical circumstances where specific actors, scientific disciplines and political interests framed environmentalist concerns in distinct ways. Different environmental concepts therefore imply specific understandings of nature, governance, human nature, and thus propose different kinds of solutions. This talk presents the emergence of a specific form of environmentalism, namely concern for loss of variety in the natural world, today known as the Sixth Extinction, the nature crisis, or biodiversity loss. The presentation takes us from concerned scientists within the UN who warned against loss of regional variety in agricultural crops in the 1960s, to biologists turning to activism in the 1980s – inventing the term biodiversity while they were at it – to the international campaign for preserving global biodiversity by saving the rainforest. What kind of environmentalism did they shape?

Julia Nordblad is an associate professor at the Department of History of Science and Ideas at Uppsala University, Sweden. She specializes in the intellectual and political history of the current ecological and climate crises, especially their temporal aspects. She has also taken an interest in how economics has been imagined both as a solution to and as the root of the problem of environmental degradation.

CApE Lecture by Niklas Olsen: The Promises and Pitfalls of Green Growth

The concept of green growth has long been omnipresent in policy discourse about ecological challenges. Governments, international institutions and private businesses has all committed themselves to a ‘green growth strategy’ of research, publications, and concrete initiatives. While green growth seems to connote be a form of economic growth, which also achieves significant environmental protection, the concept is used is several, partly contradictory ways, and its deeper implications are difficult to grasp. Moreover, the concept has often been criticized for serving to maintaining the status quo rather than effect societal transformations.
Where does the concept of green growth come from, who coined it, and why? What meanings and capabilities have been attributed to the concept, and what roles has it played in efforts to address urgent ecological challenges?
This talk explores the promises and pitfalls of the concept of green growth within international and national policy discourse, focusing especially on its Danish trajectories.

Niklas Olsen is Professor in intellectual history at the University of Copenhagen. He is an expert on political ideology, economic thought, and environmentalism in twentieth century Europe and beyond. Among other things, he is the author of two monographs History in the Plural: An Introduction to the Work of Reinhart Koselleck (2012) and The Sovereign Consumer. A New Intellectual History of Neoliberalism (2018). His current research explores how ideas about technology and growth have come to inform our political responses to nature’s crises. In the autumn of 2023, he is resident scholar at the Centre of Applied Ecological Thinking (CApE).

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