Thursday, May 31, 2012

Enjoying a little R&R in Olso

With the semester winding down I have found myself with more free time than I have been recently accustomed to, and I must say... I love it! I am sure things will get crazy again once I get the feedback on my thesis proposal... so I may as well enjoy it while it lasts. Anywayyyy we have been blessed with some really fantastic weather lately in southern Norway. Last week was warm enough to go swimming at Sognsvann, and although its gotten a bit colder since... it has hardly rained at all. Here are some photos from over the past week, hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tvergastein - A New Interdisciplinary Journal of the Environment

For the past several months I have been collaborating with a group of other students from my masters program (as well as two students from UMB) on Tvergastein - a New Interdisciplinary Journal of the Environment.

Our mission is, firstly, to showcase the wide variety of work being done on environmental topics across the different academic disciplines. Secondly, we wish to help bridge the gap between academic scholarship and environmental activism.  Source:

The first issue features contributions from several distinguished authors such as Dr. Vandana Shiva, professor Robyn Eckersley and professor David Rothenburg. It also includes a lengthy interview with professor Bruno Latour. I have also contributed an article titled "Ethical Oil: Greenwashing Canada´s Oil Sands?", as well as a couple illustrations and photographs.

The launch of our first issue was a great success and we are now preparing for the next issue!
The online edition of the journal is now available online on our website

Tvergastein Editorial board and design team.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Message to my Norwegian friends, don't drop the ball on this!

Its true, Norway is truly one of the best places on earth to be a student. Tuition at public Universities and Colleges is free for both domestic and international students and although there are some problems regarding student housing and the high cost of living, over all the Norwegian state is extremely generous. 

Luckily for foreign students, Norway is in a unique position to afford such generosity. Thanks to oil and gas revenues, it’s one of Europe’s wealthiest countries, with a G.D.P. per capita (P.P.P.) of $54,600 in 2010, compared to Sweden’s $39,100 and Canada’s $39,400.1

However if you are a student in Norway, and particularly if you are involved in student government or politics in general my message to you is do not get complacent. Regarding Norway's generous policy towards international students, Stig Arne Skjerven (director of academic affairs at Aalesund University College) warns that, "It might be changing for several reasons, there is already pressure on the system and the box has already been opened by Denmark and Sweden".2

Typical Norwegian student (sorry Ingerid!)

Over the past decade, more and more countries all over the world (and particularly in Europe) have began to shift towards tuition based models of education financing. In 2003 England introduced its so called "variable tuition fee act"; under this act Universities in England began to charge tuition fees of up to £3000 a year for its domestic students. Within a few years both Northern Ireland and  Wales had both adopted this system and in 2009 the £3000 tuition cap was raised to £3225.3 Furthermore, International students from outside of the European Union now pay tuition fees independently set by individual Universities . With youth unemployment numbers hitting record levels in Europe (and much of the world) this type of legislation essentially makes it impossible for most young people to get an education without incurring what is often insurmountable amounts of debt.

Beginning in 2011, Sweden began charging tuition fees to international students from outside the European Union. Given the current economic climate across the world, it is in a sense understandable that nations begin to institute such policy changes, however the benefits of such a system may be short lived and in the end make countries like Sweden less attractive to skilled migrants. Although these changes only effect non-EU students, one has to wonder how long it will be before countries such as Sweden transition to models which resembling the English variable tuition system.

Last years student protests in the United Kingdom and the ongoing student standoff in Quebec signify a growing frustration felt by students all over the world. Not only are the fewer jobs to be had, but the costs associated with even being considered eligible for employment continue to rise. 

While there has been no official comment by the Norwegian government regarding the possibility of introducing tuition for international or domestic students, it is imperative that student groups and activist organizations keep themselves informed regarding this issue. It is not paranoid for Norwegians to wonder how long education in Norway will remain tuition free for international students and its own citizens given global trends and the example set by countries such as England and Holland. 

While charging tuition to international students attending public institutions is obviously within the right of any state, consider the precedence such a decision entails. While access to free quality education is seen by most in Norway to be a right, it is important to remember that rights often require defending and that complacency is a rights worst enemy. 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Syttende mai i Oslo. HIPP HIPP HURRA!

Today Norway celebrates "syttende mai" or simply May Seventeenth which is the main civic holiday in the country (think US independence day or Canada day). On this day Norwegians all over the country celebrate the signing of their constitution, but in reality the seventeenth of May  is about much more than just that. I will be the first to admit that despite having lived in Oslo for nearly a year and being married to a wonderful Norwegian woman... much of Norwegian culture and society is a mystery to me. That being said, in my mind syttende mai seems to represent everything that is good  about Norway s(respect, equality, dignity and democracy).  Now don't get me wrong, Norway is by no means perfect... but you would be hard pressed to find many other countries on earth with comparable standards when it comes to quality of life.

In Oslo the mainstay of the festivities (other eating sausages and ice cream) is the massive parade which makes its way up Karl Johans gate all the way up to the royal palace. Now, there is some truth in the stereotype that Norwegians are a fairly reserved, stoic and unassuming people, but during this parade that all goes out the window. The most impressive features of the parade is its sheer size and duration... at nearly three hours and with literally tens of thousands of participants, yes, again, tens of thousands. The parade represents seniors, people with special needs, the military, police, the kings guard, the royal family (from a balcony anyway) and students from just about every single school in the entire commune. Another wonderful feature of the holiday are all the women, men and children dressed in their stunning local costumes (as you can see by the photos).

A couple of days ago I was speaking to a North Korean man on the tram when going to university... he was telling me about how he had just received his permanent immigrant status papers and was looking forward to starting a new life in Norway. Those of us lucky enough to call ourselves nationals of countries such as Norway or Canada need to once in a while take a brake from complaining and being cynical (not that there is not anything to complain or be cynical about!) and acknowledge how truly fortunate we are.  HIPP HIPP HURRA FOR NORGE!

And of-course the most lovely Norwegian of them all :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Oslo´s Islands

Today my friend Sofia and I decided to take a little trip out to the islands which lay just off the coast of Oslo.There are several of these little islands and most of them are accessible using public transit, so yea, that is a big plus! Anyway, the weather was absolutely for a little photography and to greet the returning geese. Towards the end of our little adventure we stopped by the island of Hovedøya which has the ruins of an 11th century monastery... which as far as I know is the oldest in southern Norway. The ruins are quite interesting and make for a lovely little day trip. Hopefully the weather will hold and I will be able to take Jeanette out there this weekend. Anyway, hope you enjoy the photos!