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Researcher series: climate crisis and sustainable cities
Following on from open access week and COP27, we interviewed researcher Elisie Kåresdotter to discuss her thoughts on the current climate crisis
This year’s open access (OA) week theme was on climate justice. Following on from this, and the events of COP27, we interviewed researcher Elisie (el-ē-s) Kåresdotter to discuss her article on sustainable cities and her thoughts on the climate crisis. Read on to find out more about the conclusions Elisie made in her research. We also discussed Sweden’s position in the fight for climate justice and the importance of OA in making knowledge accessible in this field of science.
Elisie’s article was published OA in theJournal of Urban Technology as part of the Bibsam agreement between Swedish institutions and Taylor & Francis. You can access Elisie’s article, First Mile/Last Mile Problems in Smart and Sustainable Cities: A Case Study in Stockholm Country, herefor free.
For those who may not know who you are, please can you introduce yourself, your area of study, and how it relates to the OA week theme of climate justice?
I’m a researcher at the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University. I focus on physical geography, but I have a diverse background. I’ve studied environmental science, social science, and economy, and having a diverse interest has helped me quite a lot.
Growing up, I always wanted to help people, to improve the world, and this has definitely influenced my research. If you look at my publications, you can see that they have very diverse themes. I’ve worked on a project where different crop and tree combinations in Nicaragua were evaluated on their ability to provide not only carbon sequestration, but also income for small-time farmers and better health through phytoremediation of contaminated soils. I also worked with Arctic wetlands and am working on the interconnections between climate change and water related conflicts.
I actually have a mom that never got a driver’s licence. Therefore, I’ve grown up with this perspective of public transport being a very important public good. So, working on this was especially interesting.
For those who may not be familiar with your article, what conclusions did you make in your research and what would you like people to take away from it?
The main takeaway from the article is that access to public transport varies a lot depending on your ability to walk. Those that are in closer proximity to regional centres have better access to public transport, whilst those further out less so. If you are disabled, even in the most central areas of Stockholm, there are gaps where it would be problematic for you to travel by public transport.
We looked at how these [public transport locations are] planned. There’s a lot of planned work that will be finalized by 2030/2035. We did an evaluation of how these improvements would affect the population in Stockholm. For the general population, there wasn’t much difference, but for the elderly, and the elderly impaired, the access was greatly improved.
You focus quite a lot on the elderly in your article. Why is it important to acknowledge the significance of this age group in your research?
One major thing is that more people are growing older, especially in Sweden. Statistics Sweden estimates that by the year 2070 25% of the population will be 65 or older. It’s a large proportion of the population.
The elderly are more inclined to use cars and feel like there’s a lack of freedom when they can’t. My generation, and people younger than me, some older, we’re growing up in a world where public transport is more part of our life. Public transport will then be something that the elderly are more inclined to use.
Public transport is the future for the subgroup. We might see a future where we have more sharing of transport in general and we need to adapt that to the people that are actually there.
Sweden is far ahead of other countries around the world, in terms of improving air quality and keeping emissions low. What is Sweden doing that other countries are not?
To me, it’s obvious that we’re supposed to do this, but I guess to others it’s not. I lived in Sweden my entire life, so it’s not too obvious to me. This is just my life, but I realize we have very ambitious goals. We are moving heavily away from fossil fuels and there’s this huge movement towards electricity, both electric vehicles and having an electric society in general, both commercial and private.
We also have this great opportunity in Sweden where we have a lot of hydroelectricity, we have wind power. With just those two we’re able to produce 60% of our electric production, and so I think that’s another part of it. That we have this ability, and we use it.
Following on from that, would you say that it’s sort of ingrained in Swedish society? Are you raised to have those things in mind? Does it start from the family, from a younger age? The likes of Greta Thunberg for example…
We have this awareness in Sweden. I grew up hearing about climate change and realizing what a problem this is. If you look at the younger generation now, the facts they have in school are massive. I’m not sure what’s taught in other countries to children, but here I think it’s affecting our attitude towards changes we can do.
There’s also another piece of the puzzle here. We are generally more trusting towards authorities in Sweden. It’s easier to do some of these adaptation and mitigation efforts compared to other countries where [they] might [not] be willing to agree.
How have you measured the impact of your work?
This project involved regional planners. So, the people that have worked on trying to implement the changes in Stockholm were part of this project.
The suggestions that I make in the article are [with] the regional planners, and they are thinking about how we could use this information to improve Stockholm even more. My hope is that this will actually be something that’s implemented in Stockholm in the future, to make sure that it is easier to access public transport.
I got feedback from them during the process as well. Working like that is not always easy, but so rewarding. The information is given to the people that are empowered to use it. You also don’t have to second guess if this is something that is worthy of doing, or if this information is correct. You can just ask, if I think this is correct, what do you think about that? And then you can get direct feedback and change your objectives of the projects from what they are giving you, instead of trying to do a separate project afterwards. That’s definitely something I want to do more of in the future as well.
Why do you think OA is important in your field of research?
If we look at what I’m working on right now with conflicts, where most conflicts are happening these areas have less access to research and information. Being able to publish openly in the future means that scientists in these areas can tell their story from their perspective. We’ll be able to get more pieces of the puzzle because in this field there’s still a debate on what causes conflicts.
We need this open climate to have a discussion about global issues. And if we have a discussion about global issues without including people in certain parts of the world, is that really open? Is that really justice? I think not.
How have OA agreements between your library and publishers allowed you to further your research?
This agreement made it very easy for me to publish open access. I don’t have to pay for it from my project money. I don’t have to think about what money I can spend on the other things, I can just do it. It’s a no brainer.
I’ve been able to share some of the research directly with others without having to think about these periods of, No, I can’t share this or that. I can share it with whoever I think could really benefit from this without second guessing if I’m allowed to do that.
I’m interested in research in general and [because of OA agreements] I’ve been able to read and learn more about other fields that I wouldn’t otherwise get access to. Sometimes [there are] interconnections between different fields. Especially in the COVID era, more people are starting to get interested in areas of health that might not have been before. They have a lot more readers now.
What advice you would give to researchers in your field about publishing OA?
Do it. If you publish open access, you can have a broader audience, you don’t have to think twice, you can choose who to share with and when. In general, I don’t think there’s anything negative about it whatsoever. If you’re able to do so, then do it.
Clickhere to read Elisie’s full article for free. To find out more about OA, and how you can support researchers at your institution, click the button below.
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