The Arctic Circle – A Report from Reykjavik

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Reykjavik to attend Arctic Circle 2015, a large gathering bringing together scientists, policy makers, civil society, intergovernmental organisations and industry representatives (the accompanying short film provides a snapshot of the event). The gathering is the brainchild of the Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and aims to...
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Sustainable Development Goals Must Recognise the Importance of Soils

In recent years research towards sustainable land policy has become a central pillar of the work undertaken at the IASS. Transdisciplinary projects with our partners from academia, society and politics have generated knowledge that can drive the transformation to sustainable land management. Our soils are not in good shape: according to conservative estimates, 24 million...
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Pro-poor Adaptation in Practice

In the past few years, there has been a growing consensus that climate change adaptation is a multi-faceted challenge; it cannot be addressed by simple solutions. The terms ‘integrated’, ‘multi-scalar’ and ‘comprehensive’ have all been used to describe the kind of measures required, with the underlying message to keep it complex! All right, we got...
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German Involvement in the Arctic: Policy Issues and Scientific Research

When the German Foreign Office asked me in March whether I would like to become a member of the Working Group on Sustainable Arctic Development in the German Observer Delegation of the Arctic Council, of course I did not hesitate. What a splendid opportunity for an Arctic scholar to experience Arctic governance first-hand! Even better,...
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Deep-sea Mining: Possible but is it Permissible?

How does one go about setting limits for industries and activities? Existing limits are currently being overstepped in many spheres of activity I could mention: the extraction of raw materials from the thawing Arctic, the production of shale gas, the potential use of methane hydrates, and the mining of ore from the deep sea. In...
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Fostering Synergies to Tackle Arctic Sustainability Challenges

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) 2015 in Toyama, Japan, organised by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Science Council of Japan. The event brought together nearly 700 international scientists, students, policy makers, research managers, Indigenous Peoples, and other key players with...
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Gold at the Bottom of the Sea: Ours for the Taking?

Some researchers think that the deep sea could become a treasure chest for humanity, full of gold, silver, cobalt, and other minerals – enough to feed our consumer societies for centuries and lift poor nations out of poverty. Others are more doubtful. In a world of eternal darkness, cold temperatures, and pressures powerful enough to...
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Raw Materials in Mobile Phones: Our Work with Schools

The teachers who participate in our workshops on using mobile phones more sustainably often ask us: “How much energy is saved by recycling metals?” The answer usually surprises them: by recycling aluminium, palladium and silver, we can save over 90 per cent of the energy that would otherwise be used to extract those metals. When...
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Current Environmental Strategies and Why They Don’t Work

When I give presentations about my work, I usually start with this question from the Dutch-American sociologist and economist Saskia Sassen: “Are our global ecological conditions the results of urban density and agglomeration or are they the results of the specific types of urban systems that we have developed to handle transport, waste, disposal, building,...
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