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Lunch Pitches with Keith Larson and Helen Forman

To encourage cross pollination of ideas between researchers from different disciplines, IceLab hosts interdisciplinary research lunches with the vision of allowing ideas to meet and mate. During the Lunch Pitch Season, the creative lunches take place at KBC every other Tuesday.

Place: KBCon Glasburen  (KBC Focus Environment’s glass room), KBC

Time: Tuesday 10 March at 12:00.



Pitch 1: Keith Larson: Stories of Change: How do we reduce the perceived distance between humans and the biodiversity and climate crises to effect real change?

Researcher, Science Communicator and Project Coordinator for the Climate Impacts Research Centre at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Umeå University


Despite Greta Thunberg’s call to unite behind climate science, emissions and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 rose to a record high in 2019. A recent report from the UN working group on biodiversity sees “over 1,000,000 species threatened with extinction” at the hands of humans. However, an expert-driven discourse alone will not persuade the public and policy makers that the climate crisis is immediate, dangerous and requires decisive action. There is an urgent need to find new ways of raising public support and pressuring governments to actually commit to and deliver on the promises of social and environmental policy agreements.

The framing of climate change in the public and political discourse has recently become the focus of research on how to improve the effectiveness of climate change action on personal and societal levels. For example, can a focus on stories about climate change engage audiences across known, traditional divides, such as political views, encourage a change of perspective? The understanding of people’s stories, informed by considering direct and indirect experiences, may serve as the basis for risk and coping appraisals. Research has shown that direct experiences of environmental changes and how we interpret them, are key to understanding our commitment to action. However, because environmental problems are not always experienced first-hand by people, a hierarchy of collective values, environmental beliefs (i.e., an ecological worldview, awareness of consequences, ascription of responsibility), and personal norms may form the basis or lack thereof of pro-environmental behaviours.

Can we create a digital story-telling network to give individuals a sense of shared experience and create a feeling of inclusion? Do personal stories shared broadly that link all citizens reduce an individual’s perception of distance to these crises? Further, could these connections and co-creation of “knowledge” lead to structural changes that support positive changes in human and societal behaviour? Finally, could this network of stories on an aggregate level inform decision-makers on new approaches for public engagement and action on the climate crisis?

Pitch 2: Helen Forman: Events and children’s sense of time

PhD Student at Department of Psychology, Umeå University


I was tasked with investigating children’s understanding or sense of time.

There is a large amount of literature on the topic of time, and I have found it to be sometimes a little foggy and farfetched.

For my purposes such an approach is not very useful, as the subject of my inquest is of a rather pragmatic nature: How do humans get through everyday life in a timely manner?

As adults we have an ingenious tool available to us in the standardized time-units emanating from the mechanical clock. Every event, activity or chore may be translated into minutes and hours so that they can be related, coordinated or compared any way you want, and thus help us to organize our day.

Clock-time is a mystery to children. Only gradually do they come to grasp the meaning of standardized time-units. But this lack of clock-time competence does not mean that they have no understanding of time whatsoever. Even children as young as five, have a fairly solid understanding of how the events of everyday life are organized.

I thought it would be helpful, for my inquiry, to learn how adult humans reasoned or thought about abstract time before there were mechanical clocks available to them. Turns out they didn’t.

The idea of an objective, abstract and uniform time with concomitant standardized time units, hours, minutes and seconds, is a recent occurrence in the human community. The first clock-towers in Europe – equipped with mechanical clockworks – went up, about 700 years ago. Before that time, they had to rely on events, natural as well as man made ones, for time-keeping, such as  the suns trajectory across the sky and the routine events of everyday life. The sun could be used as a ‘Master Event’ of sorts, but could not be used as a basis for standardized time-units, since the duration of each day varies. Not so much from day to day, but over the year the difference is substantial. Instead individual events and activities had to be related directly to the ‘sun time’ and to each other, without first translating them to the ‘common currency’ clock-time.

I think this mode of time-keeping is still with us today, and that a precursor of this event based time-keeping mode may be available to children, long before they reach adult competency in using clock-time.

My project therefore involves devising a relevant method for studying children’s understanding of temporal relations among events. I will bring a prototype of my experiment to the presentation. Any thought or suggestion would be very much appreciated!

About the Pitchers

Keith Larson is a researcher, science communicator, and Project Coordinator for the Climate Impacts Research Centre, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. He has a PhD in evolutionary Ecology from Lund University. He coordinates a team of over 40 climate researchers conducting arctic climate research and is based at the Abisko Scientific Research Station. His research focuses on arctic ecosystem change and resilience in response to climate change. He is recognized internationally for his climate communications efforts and expertise in science communication pedagogy.


Helen Forman is a PhD student, loosely associated with the Department of Psychology at Umeå Universitet, mainly interested in cognitive development, and working on a dissertation on Children’s understanding of time for the purpose of cross temporal organization of behavior, or time-keeping.



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