University of Oulu organizes the World Congress of Environmental History

The University of Oulu has been elected organizer of the 4th World Congress of Environmental History (WCEH) in August 2024. The congress is one of the most significant environmentally themed events in the world.

The congress will be co-convened by the Faculty of Humanities and the Academy of Finland-funded Biodiverse Anthropocenes research programme.

The proposed overarching theme of the conference is Transitions, Transformations and Transdisciplinarity: Histories beyond History. Held every five years, the event is attended by leading researchers of environmental history and social and natural sciences from around the world to discuss and to propose solutions for current environmental issues. About 400 attendees are expected for the event.

The Northern location of the University of Oulu gives it a particular responsibility for addressing pressing environmental issues. “The congress is a unique opportunity to present to the world University of Oulu’s groundbreaking research in the field of energy transitions, biodiversity and sustainability,” explains Roger Norum, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Oulu and vice director of the Biodiverse Anthropocenes programme.

“This congress will encourage historians and other scholars in the humanities and social and natural sciences to work together in addressing pressing environmental questions of today. History matters if we try to understand ongoing transitions. Organizing the event in the northern environment allows participants to explore an area important for environmental change at regional and global levels,” says Esa Ruuskanen, an environmental historian who co-leads the Environmental Humanities and Social Sciences Minor at the University of Oulu.

For linguistic anthropologist and Biodiverse Anthropocenes coordinator Laura Siragusa, diversity is crucial in this endeavour. “When addressing pressing environmental issues and looking for solutions, it is important to pay careful attention to different views and opinions. The world congress proves an excellent forum to convene scholars of a diverse background, stakeholders, indigenous and local representatives, to critically think through urgent questions together.”

Oulu-based environmental historian and anthropologist Dmitry Arzyutov stresses the importance of creativity in this thinking. “Given the rapid growth in our knowledge about the vibrant life of the environment as both a zone of human concern and an academic concept, this congress aims to shine light on multiple histories beyond the boundaries of discipline of history itself. The environment we all live in is not only what unites us but also what fires our imaginations by offering unpredictable paths to our futures.”

The winning bid was led by a team of Oulu-based historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and environmental humanities scholars Dmitry Arzyutov, Vesa-Pekka Herva, Roger Norum, Esa Ruuskanen and Laura Siragusa.

The congress is organised as a hybrid event for researchers to participate both on-site at the University of Oulu and remotely. The congress has previously been held in 2019 in Florianopolis, Brazil, 2014 in Guimarães, Portugal, and 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The background organization for the World Congress is the International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations (ICEHO), which promotes transparency in the study of environmental history and communication about it.

Last updated: 8.9.2021