June 21, 2017, by lzzeb

HopefulNESS Conference, University of Tampere, Finland June 2017

A blog by Dr Carol Morris

With some financial support from the School of Geography’s Research Committee I attended and contributed to the 13th Nordic Environmental Social Science (NESS) conference at the University of Tampere, Finland between 6-8th June 2017. The conference theme was ‘HopefulNESS’. This was my first time at a NESS event but my second visit to Tampere, having examined a PhD at the university in 2011. It was a mid-sized conference, with the majority of delegates from the Nordic countries. In typically Nordic style, a democratic approach was evident in the choice of plenary speakers, from more newly established scholars (Jo Mylan, University of Manchester, ‘Consumption in transition’; Morgan Meyer, Agro Paris Tech, ‘Domesticating sustainability’) to very well established scholars (James Meadowcroft, Carlton University, ‘The limits of the environmental state’; Esther Turnhout, University of Wageningen, ‘Globalizing biodiversity: representation, order and the politics of knowledge’; Yrjo Haila, University of Tampere, ‘We should and could learn to let biodiversity take care of itself’).

Beyond these keynote sessions I spent the rest of the conference in working group 3.2, the theme of which was ‘Towards sustainable food systems’. This was one of only two working groups with a food-environment theme. Many of the papers in the working group were concerned, in various different ways, to explore the politics and practices of plant based eating, an interest that may be associated with the more progressive approach to introducing sustainability considerations into national nutrition guidelines in some of the Nordic countries. Amongst this set of presentations was my own paper entitled ‘The milk of human kindness? Non-dairy milks and sustainable food transitions’. In this work, which focuses on the burgeoning sector of plant or non-dairy ‘milks’ (made from soya, oats, almond, rice, hemp etc.), I am trying to extend the emerging field of social science research that addresses the ‘de-animalisation’ of the food system, in which there is a tendency to focus on meat and the process of ‘de-meatification’ rather than on dairy products and their reduction. Although I have spent a fairly long period of time researching the relationship between animal sourced foods and food system sustainability it is only very recently that this area of work seems to be occupying a slightly less peripheral place within environmental social science. As such it was encouraging and stimulating to participate in NESS in which a wider community of scholars were addressing this urgent set of challenges in the food system.

My time in Tampere was wrapped up with a visit to the world’s only Lenin museum. It was a pity that the conference took place just before the opening in Tampere in mid June 2017 of the national Moomin museum. A good reason to return!

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