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Humanities-based insights into the environment, climate and sustainability

The Research Council of Norway is allocating NOK 70.6 million for eight new research projects within the thematic priority area “Man and Nature” under the Programme on the Cultural Conditions Underlying Social Change (SAMKUL). This research will play an important role in following up the Government white paper on the humanities in Norway.

“To address the great societal challenges of our time, we need to know more about how people’s actions, attitudes and cultures influence society,” says Iselin Nybø, Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education. “This kind of knowledge will be essential for achieving the green transition, so we look forward to the results of these exciting projects that are receiving funding today.” 

This research will provide an important contribution to the follow-up of the Government white paper on the humanities in Norway (in Norwegian), particularly with regard to the focus area on the environment, climate and sustainability. The projects highlight how core subject areas in humanities such as linguistics and cultural history can provide new insights of relevance for some of the major challenges of our time.

More interdisciplinary grant proposals

The Research Council’s SAMKUL programme provides funding for studies of cultural conditions underlying social change. In this funding round, there were 64 proposals for Researcher Projects for a total of NOK 549 million in funding reviewed. Many very high-quality grant proposals were submitted, with 31 per cent of proposals awarded the highest overall marks of 6 or 7.

 “The proposals were wide-ranging and high-quality,” says Professor Dag Elgesem, chair of the SAMKUL programme board. “There were more interdisciplinary grant proposals than has previously been the case, which we take to indicate that cooperation between humanities groups and other research groups is expanding. The grant proposals illustrate that we have an excellent basis for following up the white paper’s intentions regarding the environment, climate and sustainability.”

The eight projects receiving funding are all under the thematic priority area “Man and Nature” in the SAMKUL work programme. See the list of the awarded projects here. Five of the projects address climate, the environment and sustainability, and are described below. The other three projects are in the field of medical humanities.

 In addition, the SAMKUL programme is allocating NOK 2.6 million to nine researcher networks under the work programme thematic priority area “Technology and Material Environments”. This follows up the white paper’s priority area of research on the major technology shifts.

Botanist Anneleen Kool and historian Karoline Kjesrud, both of the University of Oslo, are heading a new interdisciplinary project under the SAMKUL programme that will study the role of plants in Scandinavian culture from the Viking Age to today. They will be encouraging the public to take part in compiling data on our current use of plants as food and medicine. (Photo: Christian Lund)

Threat to biodiversity

Many scientists claim that we have now entered Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. Human activity is a main cause, and one project will study how natural history museums communicate information on species extinction and help to shape the public view of the phenomenon.

One interdisciplinary project will examine the role of plants in Scandinavian culture from the Viking Age to today. The disappearance of plants used in food and medicine will have a profound effect on human lives. The project will examine the new interest in use of organic plants in food and medicine and will invite interested parties to collect data. This research is relevant for issues relating to biodiversity and sustainability, among others.

Linguistic and ethical understanding of nature

The role of gene technology in ensuring sustainable food production is controversial. The objective of one of the projects is to better understand how the relationship between humans and nature is being reinterpreted. This is an important step in developing responsible policy for this field.

Another project will study the nature concepts that form the basis for the political and public debate about changes to the natural environment and climate.

The role of labour in the green transition

Human labour has fundamentally changed natural systems and plays a critical role in the transition to a green economy. A social science-based project will study how those working in the oil and gas sector perceive their role in changing the carbon industry that employs them. What influence do trade unions have on the transition to a green economy?



Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann 

Written by:
Christian Lund
Last updated: