In times of growing debates about the Anthropocene and the need for human beings to take full responsibility for mitigating climate change and its devastating consequences, the humanities and social sciences have a lot to offer. During 2020, the Corona pandemic has further demonstrated the importance of the human and social sciences in understanding the complex relationship between humans and nature. These disciplines have an unreleased potential in contributing to a deeper understanding of how different communities, cultures, and regions deal with nature and tackle environmental degradation, and how problems related to climate change may be solved. Few places are more important for studying these issues than China ? one of the world's most polluted and polluting countries, and a rising key player for global mitigations of climate change and solutions to global health issues. Both Norway and China need to educate more people with competence to understand the human and social aspects of climate change and environmental degradation. In order to build such competence, this project has established long-term structures of educational cooperation at the postgraduate level based on existing research in the now completed interdisciplinary research project "Airborne: Pollution, Climate Change and Visions of Sustainability in China" and in the recently established project entitled "Transcendence and Sustainability: Asian Visions with Global Promise?", both financed by the Research Council of Norway and both collaborative projects involving scholars from UiO and Zhejiang University.
The Oslo-Zhejiang Environmental Humanities Project has a two-fold purpose: Firstly, to educate more Norwegian students with a profound and integrated competence in Chinese language, culture and politics, and enable them to use these skills to study climate change and/or environmental issues from a humanistic or social science perspective. Secondly, to educate more Chinese students from the humanities and social sciences to take part in work and studies related to climate and environmental change - topics that in China so far have been almost exclusively assigned to the natural sciences. An important part of the teaching program is to allow Chinese students to study in an international context together with, for among others, Norwegian students at UiO.
In 2020, the exhange programe between China and Norway has been suspended for once becuase of the COVID-19 pandemic and both countries' border-control meaderments. The student exchange program is only one-sided: the Chinese students were able to travel to Norway to pursue their exchange studies at UiO while the Norwegian students were not able to gain valid visa to travel to China. Our partner Zhejiang University also unfortunately could not host any exchange programs because of China's strict pandemic control.
The Oslo-Zhejiang Environmental Humanities Project has its basis in the ongoing interdisciplinary research project "Airborne: Pollution, Climate Change and Visions of Sustainability in China". Airborne studies how policy, science, media and population interact in the face of air pollution in China. It engages scholars from the disciplines of China studies/sinology, anthropology, media science, atmospheric chemistry and political science. The new Oslo-Zhejiang Project will expand both the topic of enquiries in Airborne and the forms of collaboration. The main aim is to strengthen post-graduate Norwegian and Chinese students’ competence in the field of environment and climate change as seen from a humanities and social science perspective.
Concretely, the project will ensure that researchers in the Airborne project, who already cooperate across disciplines and national borders, expand their collaboration to include joint teaching and supervision. Every year selected Norwegian students from China studies in the University of Oslo will be offered the unique possibility to study environmental issues from a humanistic and social science perspective together with Chinese students, in the Chinese language, at the School of Public Management, Zhejiang University. Chinese students, at the same time, will be offered the possibility of studying, in English, social science and humanistic subjects related to environment and climate change during one semester’s stay at the University of Oslo.
In this way students from both China and Norway will be included into international top-level research in a field of particular global urgency, and they will strengthen their own competence in the field. Furthermore, the project will increase the exchange of academic staff between China and Norway, and develop long-term administrative structures for enhancing from below existing top-down institutional partnership.
INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research