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Solander, Sparrman, and The Anthropocene


Mon 25 Nov 2019, 6:30pm–7:30pm

Where: Te Papa, 55 Cable St, Wellington

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Member (Friend of Te Papa): $15.00
  • ASBS/NZPCN Conference Attendee - Solander: $20.00
  • Student: $23.00
  • Non-member: $25.00
  • Additional fees may apply

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Listed by: Friends of Te Papa

We are now into the fourth century after the birth of Linnaeus. Much of what he knew about the natural world he had learned from his traveling students, who in turn learned from places they traveled to and people they encountered there, indigenous populations as well as colonizers.

One of the most important of these students was Daniel Solander, from the northernmost parts of Sweden, who traveled in the southernmost parts of the known world, including what is now New Zealand. Later Anders Sparrman also visited the islands. In the generations that have passed, new ideas and concepts have emerged to improve their understanding of the natural world.

This public lecture presents the fascinating modern idea of “the Environment” – in common usage today a word with a distinct meaning to most of us around the world – and its little known history as a concept that appears in earnest only right after World War II and within a couple of decades reaches global fame and considerable usefulness.

No less fascinating is the fact that after the “the Environment” came into established circulation it met with increasing conceptual competition. Words such as “Gaia”, “Earth Systems”, “Resilience”, and not least “the Anthropocene” have made claims on describing the human-earth relationship.

Conserving nature is still a goal, but it is a nature that appears to us very different than it used to, only a couple of generations ago. By and large it comes across as a far more dynamic, but also more unstable and unforeseeable system than we used to think. What would Solander have said, confronted with the world of 2019 – and our knowledge about it? More than we might think. This lecture will explain what – and why!

Sverker Sörlin is Professor of Environmental History in the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. He is a member of the official Swedish Climate Policy Council since 2018 and a co-author or co-editor of a large number of books, including The Future of Nature (Yale University Press 2013), The Environment – a History of the Idea (Johns Hopkins University Press 2018), and Grounding Urban Natures (MIT Press, 2019). He is also a prize-winning author of non-fiction books, a long term government advisor on issues of environment and research policy, and a contributor to Swedish and international media.

On 28 November there will be panel discussion at Te Papa ‘The Politics of Collecting – from Banks and Solander to Today’ that is under the same programme of events outlined below. This event is run by Te Papa and we think it will also be of great interest to you.

This event is presented in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden and the Taxonomy for Plant Conservation – Ruia mai i Rangiātea Conference, which will be held at Te Papa, 24–28 Nov 2019.

This event is taking place under the Tuia Encounters 250 commemorations celebrating Aotearoa New Zealand’s Pacific voyaging heritage and acknowledges the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā in 1769-70.

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