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Online Colloquium No. 27: Quantum Social Science: Responding to the Climate Crisis

Date and time
2 Stunden

Prof. Dr. Karen O'Brien, University of Oslo

Karen O’Brien is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo in Norway. She holds a PhD in Geography (1995) from the Pennsylvania State University, where she studied the relationship between tropical deforestation and climate change in Chiapas, Mexico. Over the past three decades, Karen has focused on understanding the social and human dimensions of environmental change, including its relationship with globalization and implications for human security. She has participated in four IPCC reports and published numerous books and articles about climate change. Her current research projects, AdaptationCONNECTS, emphasizes the role of creativity, collaboration, empowerment, and narratives in adaptation and transformation processes, including the role of paradigms in generating conscious social change. Karen is cofounder of cCHANGE, promoting integrative perspectives on transformation in a changing climate and coauthor (with Robin Leichenko) of the textbook, Climate and Society: Transforming the Future.


Climate change research makes it clear that the world is on a dangerous path, and that we have a small window of opportunity to avoid severe, widespread, and irreversible global impacts. At a time when radical social transformations are called for, most people feel they cannot make a difference. Some conclude that we are heading for societal collapse and doomed for extinction. Yet, what if we are drawing on the wrong paradigm for understanding deliberate transformations to sustainability? What if we are underestimating our collective capacity to generate for social change? In this Colloquium, I will explore ideas from quantum social theory and their implications for climate change responses. I will suggest that closer attention to metaphors, meanings, and mattering can empower quantum social change. In fact, I will argue that when it comes to climate change responses, we matter more than we think.