Programme Asia Week 2020
Asia Week will take place digitally on Zoom December 7-11, 2020. The program will be updated with more events during the next weeks.
Monday, December 7
Minerals are a shared inheritance: Accounting for the resource curse
12:00 – 13:00
Rahul Basu, Research Director, Goa Foundation, India
Many countries badly mismanage their natural resource endowments. In this presentation, we argue that a fundamental change in paradigm is needed.
Specifically, we advocate treating non-renewable natural resources as a finite shared inheritance asset, and extraction as the sale of the inherited wealth. We identify several proposals that logically derive from treating mineral sale proceeds as intergenerational wealth rather than as revenues that can be spent. Wealth portfolio management suggests that mineral owners must strive for zero-loss when selling minerals, establish a passively invested future generations fund from the proceeds and distribute dividends from that fund to citizens as the rightful owners of the shared inheritance. The current dominant metaphor of proceeds from the exploitation of non-renewable mineral resources as being “windfall revenues” is underpinned by government accounting standards. The “windfall revenue” metaphor is not only inaccurate but also produces several pernicious effects that help explain the poor management of natural resource endowments in so many countries.
We do not anticipate that our ideas will quickly overturn centuries of established practice. We do, however, believe that the case needs to be made.
Future or Past? Climate change as seen from the global North and South
19:00 – 20:15
Amitav Ghosh, author of several best-selling books
In the West, no matter whether in economics, science or indeed, fiction, climate change is almost always imagined in relation to the future. In the global South, however, the imagining of climate change is markedly different.
In this talk, Amitav Ghosh will examine and analyse some of the differences between the two perspectives, drawing on examples from Asia and elsewhere. The presentation is follow by a conversation with Dr Ursula Münster from the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities.
Amitav Ghosh is the author of several best-selling books, including The Hungry Tide, The Calcutta Chromosome, and Gun Island. His book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, a work of non-fiction, was given the inaugural Utah Award for the Environmental Humanities in 2018. He has been awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest honours, the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honour, as well as several international prizes. In 2019, he was named one of the most global important thinkers of the preceding decade by Foreign Policy magazine.
Tuesday, December 8
Temporal and spatial complexities of territorial projects in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
Anu K. Lounela, University Researcher in Development Studies at the University of Helsinki
Central Kalimantan, located on the Indonesian side of Borneo, has often been described as a state frontier area where rapid changes take place in legal and administrative regimes and rules that govern access and ownership to land and nature. Today, frontier development includes state and non-state actors that bring natural resource projects aimed at producing long-term effects by engaging local people in the commodification of nature. Local people adopt and abandon these projects at a rapid pace due to changing conditions, policies and natural hazards. I will explore commodification in terms of territorial projects and the spatial and temporal reordering of human-nature relations within the landscapes of Central Kalimantan. Linked to the territorial expansion of trees and plants, commodification challenges local environmental practices and forms of sociality. In this talk, I argue that the commodification of nature and its territorial aspects brings new layers of complications and thus has unexpected effects on the lives of local populations.
Roundtable: Decarbonising Asia: The road ahead
Jørgen Delman, Professor at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen
Gøril Heggelund, Research Professor at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute
Karina Standal, Senior Researcher at CICERO – Center for International Climate Research
Marius Korsnes, Research Scientist at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
About 60 percent of the world’s population is located in Asia, with China and India alone housing 2.7 billion people. The continent has experienced rapid social changes the past 40 years, and among the crucial questions that currently confront policymakers, academics and the general population is how to ensure access to affordable, safe and clean electricity for the population. This panel looks closer at the experiences in China and India particularly.
The panelists will cover topics such as how the low carbon energy transition in India presents challenges for social justice, as well as the opportunities and challenges that China faces in its ongoing decarbonization process.
The Statist Construction of Ecological Civilization: Marxist Roots and the One-World World
Dan Smyer Yü, Kuige Professor of Ethnology, School of Ethnology and Sociology and the National Centre for Borderlands Ethnic Studies in Southwest China at Yunnan University
This talk is based on a research paper on the author’s ongoing studies of the either highly eulogized or critiqued impacts of the Chinese state’s ecological civilization initiative. It revisits the ideological roots of this world-changing project for the sake of generating a clearer understanding of its intentionality, ontology, and projected outcomes.
Situated in the currently difficult situation of China’s international relations with the European Union, the United States, Canada, and their allies around the world, this talk connects its inquiries and discussions with the increasingly recognized divergent values between the Chinese state and its European and North American counterparts as well as with some of their common interests in sustainability goals facilitated through international policy instruments such as UNEP. It raises questions about the conceptual and ideological building blocks of China’s so-called ecological civilization: What do “ecology” and “civilization,” individually, mean in this state-initiated, globally-propagated civilizing project? Whom and what does this state-led civilizing project intend to civilize? How does it connect or disconnect itself from the overall environmental movements and discourses seen around the world in the last half a century As the peoples of the world hold their diverse traditional knowledge and / or modern environmental measures for sustainable living, why do the architects of “Ecological Civilization” see the need to propagate a universal mode of being across the world? How likely is it that the ecological civilization is an anthropogenic response to anthropogenic impacts of economic globalization in a circular process?
In the process of addressing these questions, this talk offers an ontological assessment of this statist project in which the worldwide propagation of the core-values of the Chinese Communist Party is the ultimate, below-the-radar goal and, in which, thus, the environment is a secondary concern regarded as a “reusable” natural resource used to fuel the priority goal.
Wednesday, December 9
Welfare, Inequality, and the Constitution of 21st Century Social Orders
Jonathan London, Associate Professor of Global Political Economy – Asia, at the University of Leiden
More information TBA
India’s New Coal Geography: Transitioning to more fossil energy?
Patrik Oskarsson, Associate Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
The advance of renewable energy around the world have kindled hopes that coal-based energy is on the way out. Recent data, however, make it clear that growing coal consumption in India coupled with continued use in China keeps coal-based energy at 40 percent of the world’s heat and power generation.
As part of the consolidation of coal-based power in India, we analyse an energy transition to, rather than away from, carbon-intensive energy over the past two decades via the establishment of an entirely new resource geography. We term this geography India’s new coal geography, comprised by new ports and power plants by private sector actors along the coastline fuelled by imported coal. This geography runs parallel to, and is yet distinct from, India’s ‘old’ coal geography based on domestic public sector coal mining and thermal power generation. We understand the development of coastal thermal power as an outcome of long-term electrical energy shortages and significant public controversy in the old coal geography. By analysing the making of the new coal geography at a national level, and scrutinizing its localised manifestation and impact through a case study of Goa state, we outline the significant infrastructural investment and policy work of a dispersed network of public and private sector actors that slowly enabled this new coal energy avatar. We argue that this enormous effort to establish India’s new coal geography further entrenches the country’s reliance on coal: For India, energy security is a choice between domestic and imported coal.
Thursday, December 10
Is Asia and the Pacific on track to meet the ambitions of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development?
Gemma Van Halderen, Director of the Statistics Division in the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
More information TBA
Roundtable: Sustainability in the high Himalayas: A panel debate on social, economic and environmental dynamics in times of rapid change
- Andrea Nightingale, Professor at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo
Rune Bolding Bennike, Assistant Professor at the Section for Global Development, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen
Heidi E. Fjeld, Associate Professor at the Section for Medical Anthropology and Medical History, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo
Although Himalayan communities are in the periphery of the massive growth we see in production and consumption in the bigger cities of Asia, these high altitude villages and areas are in the midst of rapid transformational changes that challenge, alter, redefine life in the mountains. In this panel debate, we focus on sustainability in the Nepalese Himalayas, exploring possibilities and challenges of sustainable village lives. Many of the high Himalayan villages are going through processes of depopulation, or in the case of tourist destinations, repopulation, which shift social, economic and environmental dynamics. At the same time, living close to the Himalayan glaciers in what on often called the third pole climate change is increasingly becoming a concern of the everyday life. In the panel, we approach sustainability in Himalaya, understood in a broad sense, by bringing together examples of adaptation to climate change, tourism as development, and innovative migration practices, and perspectives from human geography, political science and social anthropology.
Policy Translation and Energy Transition in China
Jørgen Delman, Professor at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen
China's leadership is in the middle of overseeing a green transition of the Chinese energy system that aims to replace fossil fuels with clean energy. This will help make China's air cleaner and reduce China's emissions of greenhouse gases. To move the energy transition ahead, there has been an acute need to continuously develop and adapt guiding policies and regulatory frameworks to stimulate the development of green technologies, complex reform solutions, and appropriate institutions. The responsible Chinese authorities and energy policy actors have chosen to collaborate with international partners to do this. They see Denmark as a best-practice learning case, and through a strategic government-to-government partnership, Denmark has gradually become one of China’s preferred strategic policy interlocutors on energy politics. With the Sino-Danish energy policy collaboration as a case, this chapter examines the role of international policy learning and policy translation in energy policy design in China. The study finds that specific ‘commanding moments’ associated with wicked policy problems in China’s energy transition have been important to stimulate the interest in mobilizing bilateral collaborative efforts to translate relevant Danish policy ideas, concepts, and solutions into the Chinese context. The chapter elaborates an analytical model to guide the analysis of policy translation practices, which views policy translation as a process of pragmatic, interactional, adaptive, solution-oriented collaborative efforts that combine a variety of tools to translate foreign policy meanings into Chinese energy politics. The demand-driven collaboration has co-produced reform-oriented ideological conceptions and policy recommendations and inputs that have often transmuted into indigenized energy policies in China. It has also produced public value on both sides and helped overcome resistance to reforms in China.
Friday, December 11
Religious Environmental Activism in Asia
Leslie Sponsel, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii
Throughout the world religious organizations are exploring and implementing into action ideas about the relevance of religion and spirituality in dealing with a growing multitude of environmental issues and problems. Religion and spirituality have the potential to be extremely influential for the better at many levels and in many ways through their intellectual, emotional, and activist components. This talk is based on the edited book Religious Environmental Activism in Asia, and provides concrete cases of environmental activism involving some of the main Asian religions. Collectively, these case studies reveal a fascinating and significant movement of environmental initiatives in engaged practical spiritual ecology in Asia.
Closing event with research project TRANSSUSTAIN
Are spiritually and religiously inspired environmental movements in Asia largely overlooked as an essential contribution to the global goal of environmental sustainability? The project Transcendence and Sustainability: Asian Visions with Global Potential (Transsustain) explores the mobilisation and recalibration of traditional Asian religio-philosophical ideas in response to the global environmental crisis. The project group will give an introduction of their research.
The presentation will be followed by the announcement of the winner of the Asianettverket 2020 competition for best MA thesis.