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11 January 2011

Dr. David O. Kronlid: “If you think about the existential dimension of mobility you also have to embrace the fact that there are values integrated in the use of mobility technology”

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Dr. David O. Kronlid at Uppsala University in Sweden is conducting research in environmental ethics, mobility and climate change justice. He talked about mobility at the core of climate change research and policy

You suggest that climate change research could benefit from embracing a complex or holistic concept of mobility. How?
Geographical and social mobility is tied into what I call existential mobility. When displaced or stranded people are forced to move their opportunities to make meaning of the world is influenced. For example, when you are displaced you are not able to continue to go to school where you used to and you are exposed to new people and new surroundings. All this is part of the learning process or what we call the meaning making process. We need to look into existential mobility if we want to understand what it means to be vulnerable and learn more about climate change vulnerability.

Could the concept of holistic mobility change the development of sustainable transport?
Yes, because if you think about the existential dimension of mobility you also have to embrace the fact that there are values integrated in the use of mobility technology. For example, I’ve heard all my life that it’s bad to drive my car, but the driving is so tied into my idea about what it means to be a good divorced father so I don’t care about this. I just drive my car because it’s part of who I want to be at the moment. If we start to think about the existential dimension of mobility then maybe we can also see that values are not external to the practices of mobility, but internal. That could help us to develop new research approaches from the humanities. Then we can start to address what is actually relevant for people who for example drive cars and we can see that there are values tied into the practice of driving and owning a car. For men in their fifties in the north of Sweden there are values tied into the car use practice that isn’t tied into the car use practice of my 22-year old daughter who lives in the city. This can also help us to see that the values which are integrated in mobility practices are actually different and we can then get results that can help us to address these values. 

You mentioned that other researchers have suggested that the links between mobility, freedom and rights are well established and mobility is still a pressing political and ethical issue. What is the main focus in this debate?
Politically, mobility as a positive freedom is one of the most striking values. The whole industrialization process is about moving people, objects, information and knowledge. The main focus in climate change justice, which is the main ethical discourse within climate change research, is the distribution of climate change induced burdens and benefits. For example, distribution of responsibility and vulnerability and they all have different consequences in action and policy.

You have focused on the meaning of mobility which is not a well represented focus in the scientific climate change discourse. What conclusion have you reached that could be used in a practical way?
If we can take this ethical perspective on mobility we can understand more of what it means to be vulnerable. This could be useful in policy making. This research could highlight the function of mobility in well-being in relation to climate change, that mobility is part of what is means to be vulnerable. We can add a different perspective. Policy making is about choice and if the existential aspects of mobility are highlighted we can understand more about what it means to be displaced or stranded and then we find out how we can deal with that specific kind of mobility. We know a lot about how people react to natural disasters, psychologists and policymakers deal with this, but not from an ethical and climate change justice point of view. It’s a part of well-being and how we, for example, think of what kind of world we would like to have and how to treat each other. provides its content to all media free of charge. We would appreciate if you could acknowledge as the source of the content.
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