The Royal Colloquium continued on Wednesday 22 May at Abisko Scientific Research Station.
Following this, Wolfgang Lutz, Susan Martin, Göran Cars and Kristina Zakrisson gave a presentation entitled The Geography of Knowledge Human settlements, Migration. Wolfgang Lutz began by providing an overview of human population growth from the year 1000 up to the present day. During the 1900s, technical and medical developments caused a dramatic increase in the population. In his research he has since linked the data with different variables such as economic growth and education to see whether resistance increases with environmental changes, and identified a link between education and increased life expectancy, even during environmental changes.
Following the talk, Göran Cars and Kristina Zakrisson took over and talked about the redevelopment of Kiruna. It is a project that is globally unique, the idea of moving an entire city rather than tearing it down and building a new one. What is happening now is that several cities from all over the world are coming to Kiruna to learn from the city about how the move is being carried out. Göran began by talking about Hjalmar Lundbohm, who was LKAB's first managing director in Kiruna and is regarded as the city's founder, and the ideals he had when the city was established. When the mine was built it was an open mine, and in 1960 it became an underground mine, which in the long term created the unstable ground that is forcing the city to move, a move that will start next year. How do you take the best from a city and what do you recreate with the knowledge you have today? The first phase will be initiated next year and the first new districts will be ready 2015-2017. The work will be based on the new Kiruna centrum, which will house the city hall, hotels, homes and businesses. Political unity was also mentioned as a key factor in the successful implementation of the project.
And have you gained some new ideas?
"I've learned a great deal so far and I'm looking forward to the afternoon. There are some intensive discussions and a lot of commitment to the issues. The questions we discuss are matters that will be the focus of the entire 21st century. New solutions are essential for new problems."
The next session began following a discussion and a brief pause. Ian Goldin and Björn Olsen each gave a talk entitled "Protecting the future - threats and possibilities".
Ian Goldin began by talking about complexity, research and how to predict events that seem obvious with hindsight. Why did no one predict the Lehman Brothers crash when all the signs were there?
Björn Olsen took over and talked about the emergence of pandemics. The first pandemics occurred 12,000 years ago, when humans began to work the land and the first settlements were established. From a disease point of view, seven billion people create the perfect environment, a massive monoculture that is now moving rapidly all around the world. From a global perspective, we are living in closer proximity both to one another and with pets and farm animals, and diseases spread when animal and human come in contact. H7N9 was highlighted as an example of a new influenza virus that is currently spreading. Björn also took up the issue of antibiotic resistance and how this affects our ability to fight off infections. The greatest danger is the use of antibiotics in the agricultural industry, both in fish farming and in relation to the production of chicken meat and pork. The inability to break down antibiotic residues and in sewer systems and overuse of antibiotics in hospitals are also reasons why antibiotic resistance is increasing around the world right now.
After lunch, Paul A. Cox and Jerry Glover continued on the theme of Protecting the future.
Paul A. Cox began by talking about Carl von Linné and his work with documenting the stories of the Sami people. Paul's talk was about indigenous peoples and something he refers to as 'indigenous knowledge'. One example is the way that houses on the Danish island of Läsö have sod roofs. The sod roofs are watertight, sustainable for up to 400 years, are made solely of natural materials and help keep carbon dioxide emissions down. Indigenous knowledge is often traded and rarely documented. How can we gather this knowledge today and learn from the skills of previous generations to create a more sustainable society?
And now that you're here, does it meet your expectations?
"It's as exciting as I hoped it would be; that latest presentation by Jerry about agriculture was extremely interesting and wasn't something I had heard spoken about before. But I can see how it may affect my field of research, which is migration. In the same way, I think that what I spoke about this morning was new to some; I hope so, and I hope that it gives them new angles with which to approach their work."
Following this, Garry Brewer initiated a discussion on how knowledge of research in general and environmental research in particular reaches the public. He quoted George Orwell: "People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes".
After an extended discussion based on the last two speakers, Susan Owens began by talking about development, growth and the environment based on the concept of sustainable development, offering both a historical and a philosophical perspective on the concept.
Finally, John Hyman drew things to a conclusion with a comment on the value of knowledge that stems from the Bible, and the account of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, which then went on to Plato's Meno.