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Thor Heyerdahl Sommerskole

The Summer School offers PhDs/young researchers the opportunity to develop high level skills in analysing environmental governance issues. More specifically the summer school series will deepen participants’ insights about the political and economic processes that give rise to environmental problems and what characterises the presently instituted solutions – both their strengths and weaknesses. Finally, participants will expand their capacity to both formulate and evaluate new environmental governance strategies.

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The series is interdisciplinary, emphasising issues at local, regional and global scales. Regarding empirical areas, it will mainly focus on climate change, biodiversity preservation, sustainable use of biological resources, water management, and pollution. It is open to PhDs/young researchers from all over the world and will establish a meeting place offering opportunities for networking between participants themselves and between participants and experienced researchers involved as teachers.


Human prosperity depends crucially upon the quality of the environment. The challenges we face have grown to a global magnitude, and handling these challenges demands both international cooperation and local action. Nation states have established such cooperation through the formulation of a series of international environmental treaties. Despite this progress, the experience is that it is very difficult to get binding agreements with strong commitments and necessary implementation at the local level.

To reverse the present trends, further development of the governance structures both at the national and international level is necessary. New institutional structures may be needed. This is a very demanding challenge, and involving young researchers in this task is of high priority.

Facilitating communication between experienced and young researchers is an important part of such a strategy.Our Summer School in Environmental Governance responds to this communication need by creating a dynamic and ongoing meeting place between young researchers/PhDs and renowned international and national researchers in the field.

We note that the interest in environmental governance is strong among young scientists. Noragric/UMB has a longstanding and rich experience in the field and a strong network that will be utilised in developing a summer school series of high quality. Setting up the school in the name of Thor Heyerdahl emphasises that environmental governance demands scholars with courage. We wish to honour his strong engagement for the environment, for international cooperation and for interdisciplinarity.

Environmental governance

Environmental governance concerns the use and protection of environmental resources. The fundamental problem is that decisions made by firms, households and governments have consequences that go far beyond their area of responsibility. Hence, effects of land conversion and emissions following from economic activities spread beyond borders of communities, firms and states. This is the simple effect of interlink-ages of the biosphere. Over the last 100-150 years human activities have expanded to such a level that action taken at one place now influence environments, hence opportunities for people living thousands of miles away. Anthropocentric caused climate change illustrates that consequences have become global.

In this perspective, environmental governance encompasses the processes that shape social priorities, how conflicts are acknowledged and possibly resolved, and how human coordination is facilitated in the field of the environment.

Governance is more than government. It encompasses actors such as communities, businesses and NGOs. It concerns conflicts, conflict resolution, and coordination from the local to the global level. It involves the formulation of international treaties – both environment and trade-related treaties and their interactions. It involves national policies formulating conditions for the activities of firms, households and individuals. Finally, it concerns local adaptation, including the direct interplay between human action and natural resource dynamics. It is at this latter level that interaction between human choices and resources takes place.

The concept of governance opens up for discussion of new roles for governments, markets, firms and civil society organisations. As many policies so far have had limited success, we need to critically evaluate why this is so. Learning from both failures and successes, we need to discuss how new policies could bring about a change in present trends. This implies not least to study existing power relations and to acknowledge the conflicts that exist between economic growth and environmental protection. It also implies looking at the relationships between science and policy.

To be able to solve the problems we face, we need to understand linkages between international regimes, national policies and local adaptation. We need to link the understanding of human action and interaction with the understanding of natural resource dynamics. Concerning the first aspect, it should be noted that there is a lack of teaching programs focusing on the linkages across the various scales from the global to the local.

Concerning the second, the core issue concerns the motivation of human action. This is the case whether one looks at actions by negotiators at the international level or by e.g., local farmers. These motivations are to a large extent formed by the institutions which have been developed. Modern societies can be characterised by the separation of decisions and responsibilities, reflected in the institution of the nation-state, the firm, etc. Understanding what it demands to create cooperation between these separated entities is a tremendous challenge. The summer school series is one of many steps needed to develop the capacities required to solve that problem.

Structure of summer school series

Concerning the structure of the series, each course will be meaningful stand-alone unit. At the same time we plan to secure a continuation across the series of events to serve participants with interests in different aspects of environmental governance and to generate wider learning. The latter is facilitated through ensuring continuity at the organiser side, through facilitating some participant overlap, and through establishing a report series with a volume from each course covering papers from participants.

Each course will have a thematic focus comprising theoretical and empirical elements. It will moreover combine a series of working formats – e.g., lectures, seminars, round table discussions and group work. The overall content of the three first courses are the following:

At each course a series of empirical fields or cases will be included to link the theoretical emphasis with empirical applications and in depth analyses.

Course 1 – Environmental governance

The aim of this course is to expand participants’ insights into the theory and practice of environmental governance. The main focus will be on the institutional foundation of environmental governance and how issues at global, national and local scales are linked. We will moreover emphasise specific challenges related to creating sustainable development.

Course 2 – Global environmental governance

In this course the focus is on the process of creating global environmental regimes, their interplay and the relationships with other international agreements – especially trade. Analysing national follow ups both in South and North will also be a core issue.

Course 3 – The green economy

The aim of this course is to offer participants an opportunity to discuss and evaluate recent trends within the field of the ‘green economy’. This includes learning about the various positions, their theoretical basis, the controversies observed and core critical stands. Alternative conceptualizations will also be emphasized.



After a successful completion of each course, the participants will be awarded a diploma and
10 ECTS. The criteria for successful completion are as follows:

completed the prior requirements to participating in the course
i.e., reading preparations- participated in all elements of the course
have completed a group term paper that is graded pass

Museum24:Portal - 2024.05.06
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