Blog post

Assembling the CALENDARS team to piece together a book

On 3-4 May 2022, the CALENDARS research project organised a scientific meeting at Solstrand Hotel near Bergen.

A group of people posing on a pebble beach, blue sea and sky in the background
On the first day, some participants went for a coastal walk.
Scott Bremer

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The meeting included about 20 project team members, partners, affiliates and invited guests. It was the first time that the extended project team was able to sit physically with the advisory board, and many of the project collaborators, though unfortunately travel remained too uncertain for the New Zealand contingent.

The meeting was organized around an experimental ‘open-format’ that aimed to facilitate transdisciplinary discussion on the topic of ‘changing seasonality’ according to slow and informal discussions that followed their own trajectory. The mixed group - comprising diverse social scientists, philosophers, artists, beekeepers, climate scientists, and botanists among others - all contributed short personal accounts of changing seasonality for them, often in a manner the departed from a normal scientific presentation; through poetry, short stories, discussing a plant cutting, a series of paintings, or a virtual reality world for example. After collecting a set of these stories, the group teased out key themes and split up to discuss them.

There was vibrant discussion on seasons as ‘embodied’; how we sense seasonal rhythms with our bodies – the suns warmth on our skin, the smell of sunscreen –in doing seasonal things. How do our sensations of seasons change as we move around different places in the world, and how do these sensations change with climatic change; this summer’s heatwaves in Europe as case in point.

Another topic was on seasons as political, and a related question; who gets to decide on which framework of seasonality we adhere to? As political, seasonal calendars: (i) provide political tools for imposing power; (ii) reveal the power imbalances between groups; and (iii) influence political decisions. Through a few case studies we discussed the power of climate science and global organisations in setting seasonal frameworks, but also explored the options for co-producing research on seasonal forecasts for example.

A third topic was the idealization of seasons on television and in film for example, which are often founded in seasonal narratives that are detached from any particular place and their natural cycles. This process seems to be continuing to disconnect ideas of seasons from lived experience, such that we seek to force lived experience to fit to our expectations. When seasons do not conform to our ideals there could be a feeling of instability and insecurity.

A fourth discussion was on the seasonality of disasters and extreme events, and how we can anticipate or plan for shifting patterns in these disaster events – floods and droughts, and wildfires – when disaster events seem inherently unpredictable.

A fifth topic discussed the links between seasons and energy. Here energy was discussed from multiple angles. On one hand we discussed our own energy levels in our bodies, and how these follow seasonal rhythms. Seasons were also discussed relative to electricity production. Some power production is clearly seasonal - relative to solar, hydro or wind driven power for example - which is why there remains a high demand for fossil-fuel or nuclear power as stable and reliable.  But water is also important for cooling nuclear power plants, meaning nuclear plants can be closed in a dry summer like this year for example. We also discussed how rising electricity prices may change certain seasonal practices. For example, people may heat their homes less, and put on more clothes.

One of the concrete goals of this meeting was to elaborate on plans to assemble a transdisciplinary edited volume on the topic. As a result of this meeting, we have submitted a proposal for an edited popular science volume comprising 38 stories like those told at our meeting, form around the world and many different walks of life. The aim is to stimulate thinking of the many ways in which we are constantly changing our notions of seasonality.

A photo of a group of people photographed from behind, next to a large tree
Scott Bremer

On day 2 we were given a tour of the Arboretum – here looking over the rose collection.