What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?
I’m a plant ecologist with a background in development studies. I was ‘just going to do a couple of biology courses’ after my bachelors degree, and here I am, doing a PhD in biology. I study models of plant spatial dynamics, and try to use traits to generalise from a few species to a broader understanding. The intersections between nature and society, and between vegetation and the climate system, are my favourite parts of science. Geographically, I’m from a town in a forested valley just north of Oslo, Norway.
What are your goals for the upcoming course in Peru? How will you know if you’ve met these goals?
My goal is to learn more about how traits are useful, which traits to use for what, how to measure them, and when there are better options. The course is also a kick in the butt to read the most relevant literature in the field, thoroughly. Since the course is very international, it will be especially interesting to think about and discuss how traits are similar or different depending on abiotic factors in different parts of the world. If I realise something important that helps my PhD sub-projects get further, I will know I have reached these goals.
What are you most excited about, with respect to the upcoming course and trip?
What I would have been most excited about, is to see montane vegetation in a completely different continent. Both the Amazon rainforest and Peruvian Andes mountains are far up on my list of places I want to visit, and to be able to see both in one trip, traveling with biologists who can tell stories about and explain what I’m seeing, would be a dream come true. Sadly, I cannot come on the field trip, but I’ll be sure to sit at home and imagine the adventure and long to go there someday!
What do you anticipate people will think about climate change in Peru? Do you think most people will accept that the planet is warming, and that this is largely being caused by human activities? Or will this topic be controversial?
Because Peru is among the countries that will likely get an unfair share of the negative consequences of climate change, and the country has so much natural beauty to be proud of and protect, I’m guessing most people will be a bit worried about climate change. Since Peru is not among the worst polluters in an international context, I’m guessing it is easier for people to accept that humans are causing climate change because they in part can blame the bigger and more industrialized countries of the world. On the other hand, I’m not sure about the political and educational situation in Peru and if there is strong influence from the USA there might be some climate denialism being spread through the media, making the topic controversial.
What do you know about public perceptions of climate change in your home country? What, if anything, have you experienced related to public perceptions of climate change?
In Norway, the vast majority of the population accepts climate change and its causes. There are a few who deny it, for various reasons, but in my experience these people are either quite old or they adopt a ‘package’ of opinions associated with the far right which also often includes e.g. islamophobia and claiming to be victimised by globalisation and urban elites. Public acceptance and sense of urgency has increased in the past decade, but in my view it is moving surprisingly – and disappointingly – slowly. For ten years I have studied and taken an interest in global problems, and most of the facts and worries were presented in the media even long before that. Ten years ago, I had a strong feeling that we needed to act fast, and that it may already be too late to stop serious climate change. Now, politicians in Norway are barely scratching the surface of policies aimed at reducing emissions, and we are supposedly amongst the more progressive countries in the world. What puzzles me, is that public opinion does yet not seem to have swayed based on the negative consequences climate change might have. It seems people accept and worry that there will be less snow in winter, more frequent floods and other extreme weather. These consequences are worrying, true, but not in themselves detrimental to Norway. What Norwegians do not seem to fully grasp is how much political turmoil climate change could bring. Whilst the physical effects here in Norway are serious, elsewhere large areas may become uninhabitable and experience near chronic shortages of basic resources like water. Possibilities for mass migrations and wars is something I am still careful of talking about, because I’m afraid that e.g. family members who have just recently and superficially accepted climate-change facts may think I’m crazy and dismiss what I’m saying.