It was a full auditorium that met the Oslo Green Party's Lan Marie Nguyen Berg at the opening session of the conference on 20 June. Over three days, participants could choose between 117 panels, with 10-12 sessions taking place at any given time.
"There has been an overwhelming interest in this conference," said Tor Arve Benjaminsen, Professor at the Department of International Environmental and Development Studies at NMBU who, together with colleagues from the University of Oslo and OsloMet, put together the program.
"We initially had a limit of 400 papers, but we eventually landed at 450," he said.
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The importance of research
In her opening speech, Berg emphasized how researchers play a key role in developing and influencing politics through contributing to new solutions and through the education of future generations.
"As researchers, you must continue to be visible and have a voice in public debate to help to change the way society is organized. There is a need for alternative development models for cities and for countries," she said in a speech that emphasized the role of cities in reducing the world's emissions. Berg explained how Oslo is preparing to become a zero-emission city in the future.
"Some believe that Norway and Oslo are too insignificant in size to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but I could not disagree more - if that was the case, all smaller factions could use the same argument," she pointed out. The development of green, sustainable cities was the theme of several of the sessions of the conference, which was attended by international press agencies.
Political ecology is an academic approach for studying environmental and development issues, both in the global north and south. Researchers in this field are particularly aware of power relations, and how different interests and possibilities affect policies.
Canadian participant James Wilkes of Queens University in Ottawa is particularly interested in indigenous peoples rights, and has conducted a series of studies in the north of Canada.
"This is the first time I've been to an international conference of this size. It is inspiring to meet so many colleagues who have experience in research and field work in many different countries. For me, this is an outstanding opportunity to get acquainted with different environments with different cultural understandings, and to grasp the breadth of research in the field," said Wilkes.
Reception at Oslo City Hall
Oslo City Hall opened its doors to welcome the international guests, with a welcome speech by Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen, and a guided tour of the City Hall.