Torsten, Lund, Sweden
I’m a 35-year-old German, born in Berlin. For the past 10 years I have been living in Sweden, working for Lund University as a teacher, researcher and for a while also Programme Director for a Masters programme in sustainability science.
I’m interested in many different aspects of sustainability, but my main focus is on forest management and conservation in the tropics and the role of local and indigenous knowledge in forest governance.
I’ve spent considerable amounts of time conducting research in Ecuador and Colombia, and I love it.
There was no clear path for me to do what I do, at least not that I set out on a clear path. I studied Business Administration even though I originally wanted to study biology or veterinary sciences. I didn’t regret the decision though, as it perhaps nudged me on my path, continuing to study environmental studies and sustainability science and then a PhD in sustainability science.
I have never thought I would end up where I am now, it was not in the equation. But to be perfectly honest, I never really had an equation. I think one should make plans for the future, but also expect and accept, if these change, being open to grab opportunities that arise and that are interesting.
Let the wind take you, but do something if it throws you off direction or if you end up in the doldrums.
"I think of sustainability as the harmony between the world we created as people (society, culture, politics, economics) and the world that surrounds us and that we are an inherent part of."
Well, in the most basic form I think of sustainability as the harmony between the world we created as people (society, culture, politics, economics) and the world that surrounds us and that we are an inherent part of. It includes the acceptance that we are nature too, but that we have the responsibility and duty to treat each other and other living beings with respect and not destruction.
However, the tricky part is the application in choices and actions, as the systems become infinitely complex and any action in the current system will have an impact that is detrimental to some extent, either for someone or something.
I believe the biggest action is no action in some instances, most exemplary the rejection of consumption when it is clearly not needed.
Making better choices is certainly required too, but we should not be fooled by marketing and other narratives that, for example, “car A is more environmentally friendly than car B”. None is environmentally friendly, the terminology that is being used is misleading as both are environmentally (and socially for that matter) harmful, but car A to a lesser extent than car B.
There are many more examples and I think we need to question these openly propagated and narratives.
I would change a lot if I could; personally I would want to live with less, and I admire people who can pack up their life in a suitcase and be perfectly happy with that. I would probably do more activism, and I sometimes also admire people who risk so much to bring about change or raise awareness – I wish I had the guts for it.
"I would advise the next generations to be and stay positive – there is no need for being overly cynical or pessimistic, although it is sometimes really difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Otherwise, keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to question and criticise the status quo.
Talk to friends and family, change is best started with the people we know.
Start little and then if you have succeeded look beyond this inner circle.
Torsten’s Proust Questionnaire
The Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire about one's personality. Its name and modern popularity as a form of interview is owed to the responses given by the French writer Marcel Proust (Wikipedia). Our early readers were invited to share this questionnaire, here are Torsten's answers:
The principal aspect of my personality: Goal-oriented
The quality that I desire in a man: Integrity
The quality that I desire in a woman: Integrity
Your chief characteristic: Reliable
What I appreciate most about my friends: Funny and smart
My main fault: Orderly
My favourite occupation: Spending time with my family
My dream of happiness: Having a cold beer and a nice dinner with family and friends after a long day of hiking in the mountains
What would be my greatest misfortune? I don’t think like that
What I should like to be: A respected, integer, funny and honest person
The country where I should like to live: It depends, landscape – Canada / US; people – Brasil; food – Mexico/South Korea; politics – none (perhaps Sweden); work-life balance - Sweden
My favourite color: Green
My favourite bird: Albatros
My heroes in fiction: Indiana Jones
My favourite heroines in fiction: Ronja Röverdotter
My favourite composers: Beethoven
My favourite painters: Gauguin
My heroes in real life: Nelson Mandela
My heroines in history: Jane Godall
My favourite names: Anthony
What I hate most of all: People talking on their cellphones in busses and trains; dumping garbage (including cigarettes) on the street
Historical figures that I despise the most: Too many to be named – Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, Uribe, Thatcher…
The military event that I admire most: What’s to admire about a military event?
The gift of nature that I would like to have: Flying
How I want to die: Peacefully when I am old
My present state of mind: tranquil
Faults for which I have the most indulgence: Nothing – I’m German,…well – too much self-confidence perhaps
My motto: Seize the day and don’t look back but forward; stop whining.