Siddharth Sareen, Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation, University of Bergen (https://www.uib.no/en/persons/Siddharth.Sareen)
In February 2018, I spent a few days at the Deutsches Museum in Munich as part of a workshop on historicising energy transitions co-hosted by the Rachel Carson Centre. Over dinner, I recall a mention of Dolly and Finn Arne’s move to Stavanger to establish an environmental humanities initiative. If that is the moment I trace back my awareness of the Greenhouse to, then my first encounter with it was in the form of a meeting with Finn Arne during an October 2018 environmental citizenship training school. That was in Lisbon, where I have spent five months during 2017-2020 doing fieldwork on the governance of energy transitions. Fast forward to 2020, and it is a delight to be a virtual visiting fellow at the Greenhouse, now fully-established but impacted by the broader condition of lockdown during the global pandemic. As a researcher based at the University of Bergen who keeps running into the Greenhouse elsewhere, in Germany and Portugal, a University of Stavanger visit is overdue.
A month may be a short span for a visit, but it is sufficient to establish longer relationships. During lockdown, I have enjoyed joining in the Greenhouse’s online book talks most Mondays, and my Monday evening pub meetup friends in Bergen have grown used to hearing my reflections on them this spring and summer. So it wasn’t my first virtual meeting with colleagues at the Greenhouse when I joined in for the weekly lunch meeting, but it felt surreal nonetheless to chat casually about Lego and modernity sitting at home rather than being out at the University of Stavanger campus in Ullandhaug. I did make it out to campus the following week, for a long sit-down with Finn Arne in the beautiful Greenhouse library. After a stroll through the corridors of Hulda Garborgs hus, I found myself chatting over lunch in the beautiful university botanical garden with Ann Elisabeth and Gitte, and working from the Greenhouse group room. Not too different from a socially distanced yet convivial day at work over at the Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation in Bergen, where we’d just begun opening back up after an extended lockdown.
Things got even less virtual and more real that weekend, as a bunch of Greenhouse regulars hit the town together, initiating me into the time-honoured Stavanger tradition of a pint at Martinique before some honest grub at Pedersgata. That Sunday, Verity joined my wife and I at the Black Lives Matter protest. Midway through my stay, Marie-Theres even organised an outing for Greenhouse members to Stavanger Kunstmuseum, where we took in the ‘In the Clouds’ exhibition. I look forward to going through the accompanying book, ‘Silver linings: Clouds in art and science’. Plans are afoot to have an in-person lunch out in the garden, more meet-ups in town, and the month will have simply whizzed past.
There is, of course, an academic side to my Greenhouse fellowship. While here, I drafted a manuscript entitled ‘Legitimating power: Solar energy rollout, sustainability metrics and transition politics’, and am looking forward to discussing it during an upcoming works-in-progress seminar. Given that academic work has largely moved online, I have also been able to keep up commitments back in Bergen, including running a two-week international PhD course online, submitting a journal article and a revised manuscript, and supervising a Master student through to her thesis submission, so the days have been packed! It’s been educative to hear about ongoing projects of Greenhouse members, and to gain an understanding of how Dolly and Finn Arne have built it up so rapidly and broadly. I am impressed, and happy to take instruction.
While I work primarily as a human geographer, my broad background in the humanities and social sciences enables generative engagement with the environmental humanities and cognate fields like science and technology studies. One of the privileges of academic life is this freedom to immerse and educate oneself in a variety of ways to become an ever-more well-rounded scholar, and it is a joy to have initiatives like the Greenhouse around to enable such cross-fertilisation. I have been touched by the warm welcoming attitude of my colleagues during my brief stint, and the pandemic-related circumstances have hardly come in the way of getting a closer sense of their work and of the people behind it. Thanks for the opportunity!