The starting point for what has become the NESS bi-annual conferences, was the workshop on Environmental Politics and Administration at the 10th Nordic Political Association Conference (NOPSA) in Oslo, August 1993. This workshop included 40 participants, also from other disciplines than political science. Since then, corresponding workshops have been held in subsequent NOPSA conferences. These, however, remained meeting places mainly for political scientists. Environmental social science research conferences have also been arranged on national bases, for example annually in Finland since the mid 1990s. In addition, Nordic sociologists studying the environment meet biannually in the well-established working group ‘Environment, risk and expertise’ at the conference of the Nordic Sociological Association. At the world congress of the International Sociological Association, in 11-17 July 2010 held in Gothenburg, the Research Committte on ‘Environment and Society’ was one of the research committees that attracted most interest at the congress. It encompassed 20 working groups at the conference and an extra conference was arranged two days ahead of the congress in order to find time for all the presentations. Environmental historians have also repeatedly gathered both at national and Nordic level and have established the Nordic Environmental History Network with support from NorForsk, which runs a series of Nordic-based workshops in 2009-2011. Likewise, environmental lawyers have their own Nordic networks which gather on regular basis including the recent establishment of the Nordic Environmental Law, Governance and Science Network (NELN+). Furthermore, environmental economists have ever since 1993 gathered at the Ulvön Conference on Environmental Economics. However, these social science networks are largely discipline-oriented. Finally, the Nordic Network on Forest Policy Science was established in 2010.
There was thus an obvious need for cross-disciplinary Nordic environmental social science conferences. The Department of Political Science at Göteborg University took the first initiative to arrange a Nordic research symposium, titled Environment and Society, in Gothenburg, June 1995. This 2nd conference was attended by 125 Nordic researchers, including all major social science disciplines. Four workshops were arranged, and many papers were presented. Keynote speakers were, among others, Martin Jänicke, Folke Ölander, Michael Haneman, and Sheila Jasanoff.
The 3rd conference was arranged in Oslo, August 1997, by The Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR) in cooperation with the Department of Political Science, Göteborg University and the Research Council of Norway. It was called Society, Environment and Sustainability – The Nordic Perspective. Plenary sessions had presentations by Arne Naess, Yvonne Rydin, and Lennart J. Lundqvist. Eight workshops were this time arranged more in terms of problem areas than disciplines.
The 4th conference, Towards a Sustainable Society in the New Millennium, was arranged in June 1999 by Umeå Miljöhögskola and Umeå University in cooperation with the Agricultural University of Sweden and the Spatial Modelling Centre in Umeå, It included, at the same time, a closing seminar for the Nordic Council of Ministers NERP research programme. Keynote speeches were presented by Bert Bolin, Susan Baker, and Sirpa Pietikäinen. Papers were presented and discussed in seven different workshops.
The 5th conference, The Ecological Modernisation of Society, was arranged in Århus, June 2001 by the Centre for Social Science Research on the Environment (CeSaM). Once again, all major social science disciplines were represented in seven workshops. Peder Agger, Kirsten Halsnæs, Martin Jänicke, Kazuhiro Ueta, Joseph Murphy, and Arthur PJ Mol delivered keynote presentations.
The 6th NESS on Scales, Limits and Borders: Problems in Political Ecology was arranged by three different universities in Turku (Åbo), in 2003, which together constitute one of the main centres for social science environmental research in Finland. All major social science disciplines were represented in six workshops. Keynote speakers were Juliet Schor, Riley Dunlap, Yvonne Rydin, Avner de-Shalit and Monica Tennberg.
The 7th NESS in 2005 on A New Generation and a New Climate for the Environmentwas arranged by the Faculty of Social Sciences, the School of Economics and Commercial Law, and the Centre for Environment and Sustainability at Gothenburg University. Nine workshops were convened. Keynote speakers included Andrew Dobson, Robyn Eckersley, Robert Gifford and Michael Grubb.
The 8th NESS in 2007 on Internationalisation of Environmental Policy – Challenges, constraints and opportunities took place in Oslo and was arranged by the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional research (NIBR). There were six different workshops. Keynote speakers included Arild Underdal, Susan Baker, Terry Marsden and Jan Erling Klausen.
The 9th NESS on Knowledge, Learning and Action for sustainability in 2009 was a co-arrangement by the Finnish Environmental Research Institute in Helsinki and UCL Environment Institute in London. It took place in London and included ten workshops. Key notes were given by Andrew Barry with comment by Pekka Jokinen, Terry Hartig with comment by Tim Ingold, and Maria Akerman with comment by Claire Waterton. The final panel session involved Yvonne Rydin, Helena Valve, Katarina Eckerberg and Inge-Lise Saglie.
The 10th NESS on Power landscapes – histories and futures in 2011 was co-arranged by Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, and Stockholm Environment Institute. It took place in Stockholm and included twelve workshops. Key notes were given by Miranda Schreurs (Environmental Policy Research Centre, Dept of Political and Social Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin), Per Krusell (IIES, Stockholm University), Noortje Marres (Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford) and Kristin Aasdal (Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo), and Melissa Leach (STEPS Centre, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex).
The 11th NESS Conference Welcome to the Anthropocene in 2013 was arranged by Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen. It took place in Copenhagen and included eleven workshops. Key notes: Elizabeth Shove (Dep. Sociology, Lancaster University), Maarten Hajer (University of Amsterdam), Nicholas A. Robinson (Pace University and Pace Law School), John Renner Hansen (University of Copenhagen).
The 12th NESS Conference Contested Natures – new strategies, ideas and dialogues in 2015 was co-arranged by Centre for Rural Research and Norwegian University for Technology and Science (NTNU) in Trondheim and included fifteen workshops. Key notes: Mike Hulme (Dep. Geography, Kings College London), Marina Fischer-Kowalski (Alpen Adria University/University of Vienna), Katrina M Brown (James Hutton Institute) and Paul Robbins (Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison).
The 13th NESS Conference hopefulNESS in 2017 was co-arranged by the Politics of Nature and the Environment research group, within the University of Tampere School of Management, and the Finnish Society for Environmental Social Science and included working groups divided into eleven thematic tracks. Key notes: Yrjö Haila (University of Tampere), James Meadowcroft (Carleton University), Morgan Meyer (Université Paris-Est Marne-la Vallée), Josephine Mylan (University of Manchester) and Esther Turnhout (Wageningen University).