Seven contributions of cultural research to the challenges of sustainability and climate change

Lesley Head and Marie Stenseke

(An abbreviated version of this paper was published in Swedish for World Science Day (14.11.14) as Head, L. and Stenseke, M. 2014 Humanvetenskapen står för djup och förståelse In E. Mineur and B. Myrman (eds) Hela vetenskapen! 15 forskare om integrerad forskning. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet. ISBN: 978-91-7307-245-8, pp. 26-33. Marie Stenseke is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Gothenburg)

Human and physical sciences alike have reached a convergent point on recommending urgent research on climate change’s social and cultural dimensions (Hulme 2008) since, if these are ignored, it is likely that both adaptation and mitigation responses will fail because they simply do not connect with what matters to individuals and communities (Adger et al. 2012). Increasingly, recognition of the cultural dimensions of sustainability issues goes hand in hand with calls for interdisciplinary approaches to these important problems (Seidl et al. 2013). However that cross-disciplinary collaboration is often on terms defined by the natural sciences. In this paper we seek to articulate the particular and distinctive contributions of qualitative cultural research methods in the environmental field.

We do so in order that they are understood in their own terms, and as a basis for more respectful collaborative research. For too long lone social scientists have been ‘tacked on’ to environmental management bureaucracies dominated by natural science models (Roughley 2005). Among these sole practitioners Roughley has documented a history of marginalization, despite some good intentions by management. Further, these individuals often face the misplaced expectation that their research will result in neat instrumental policy outcomes rather than a more diverse conceptual contribution (Amara et al. 2004). These issues have been encountered long before climate change dominated the agenda; for example in natural resource management, land-use planning and biodiversity conservation (Gill 2006). Continue reading

Fieldnotes: 3D Printshow London

While I have been aware of 3D printing it’s just been a cursory interest – I haven’t paid it too much attention. So when I was shoulder tapped to help out with some field interviews at a 3D print expo in London I thought I’d go along as it might be interesting, though not because I thought it’d be particularly relevant to my own research. I was wrong.

3D Prinshow London

The floor – 3D Prinshow London

The 3D Printshow is an expo organised in cities around the world – London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Dubai, Mexico and others – to showcase applications and developments in 3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it is also known. The one in London just happened to be on while I was there doing some fieldwork of my own. The show ran over three days at the beginning of September, catering to everyone from your simple back-room tinkerer to your industry heavyweight. Held in a large display space in the heart of the City of London, the show was packed with stands, exhibits and talks that ran throughout the three days.

The reason for being there was part of an exploratory project funded by University of Wollongong’s Global Challenges Program investigating the potential of 3D printing in reenergising manufacturing in the Illawarra, being undertaken by Thomas Birtchnell, Robert Gorkin and Chantel Carr. Continue reading

UOW researcher to investigate the experiences of parents/care-givers who take their children to Viva La Gong

Held annually each November, Wollongong’s Viva La Gong is promoted as a ‘family-friendly’ cultural festival with children’s entertainment and involvement being a main focus of the event.

In 2014 Viva La Gong will be held on Saturday 8th November at MacCabe Park and PhD Candidate Susannah Clement from the University of Wollongong’s Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research is looking to talk to parents/care-givers who plan to attend with their children. Continue reading

Rethinking redundancy: necessity, excess and uncertain futures

Call for Papers, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, 21-25 April 2015

Organizers:

Chantel Carr (University of Wollongong) [email protected]

Chris Gibson (University of Wollongong) [email protected]

Redundancy is often expressed as a singular event that speaks to our deepest fears and emotions about our own necessity. It conjures the anxieties we carry through our working and social lives, of becoming surplus or unnecessary to future plans. Experiences of workplace redundancy and accompanying precariousness have multiplied in recent years, across an increasingly diverse set of workplaces affected by deregulation and shifts in labor process. Yet redundancy increasingly encircles us in other, more silent ways. For an increasingly diverse set of commodities, from smartphones to washing machines, future redundancy is assumed, and obsolescence a key principle of product design that enrols consumers materially within high throughput systems of provision. In aerospace engineering, systems are often designed in duplicate or even triplicate, in case crucial components fail. In programming, redundant code lies dormant, either never executed or having no external effect until failure occurs. These examples point to different ways in which excess or surplus might be planned, to be invoked when something goes wrong – when crisis is encountered. At this point, such “redundant” systems, processes or devices are deployed to ensure that insufficiencies are addressed and interruption is minimised  Such alternative framings extend and amplify notions of redundancy. They complicate our conceptions of necessity, surplus and value, and require that we pay attention to redundancy as calculative rather than happenstance, and as a process that occurs over time, rather than a singular event. Continue reading

How do rural communities cope with drought? Exploring the role of festivals and events

Festivals and events are frequently staged to reinvigorate community and stimulate economic development – especially in rural and remote places suffering from general decline. In such circumstances festivals and events contribute far more beyond their singular purpose as an agricultural show or a music concert, promoting regional development and community cohesion. Over the past few years researchers here at AUSCCER have been documenting these sorts of contributions, on a large project funded by the Australian Research Council. A free, downloadable summary report of our project’s findings is available here.

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A selfie taken in June this year, at the Gulgong Races, NSW

As we continue to sift through our findings, we have also realised how important festivals and events are to rural communities suffering from conditions of extreme environmental stress. Continue reading

Exploring climate change in culturally diverse Australian households

Australian residents, from a range of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, are being sought to help researchers at the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research answer the following questions:

How do Australians feel about climate change?
How might climate change affect Australian households?
How might Australians’ everyday lives change due to climate change?
Are Australians prepared to cope with these changes?
Are some households better prepared to cope than others? Continue reading

Oceanic matters: Call for papers, AAG 2015

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, 21-25 April 2015

Session organisers: Catherine Phillips (University of Queensland) [email protected]; Leah Gibbs (University of Wollongong) [email protected]

This session aims to advance oceanic geographies that push in directions less ‘landlocked’ (Steinberg 2001; Anderson and Peters 2014) and more lively (Lambert et al. 2006) to examine the materiality and politics of oceans. Despite the flourishing in recent years of ‘more-than-human’ and material approaches, oceans and associated creatures have only recently come to the fore in a selection of analyses (see Bear and Eden 2008; Probyn 2011). Likewise, ocean geographies have largely neglected the materiality of the sea. This inattention to human-ocean relations and ocean materiality is puzzling given that oceans are central to so many pressing debates, including biodiversity protection, food security, climate change, water pollution and scarcity, and invasive species control. Such ocean crises highlight questions about cultures of living with/in marine environs, and processes of governance. Continue reading

Geoscientists: saints or sinners?

Professor Noel Castree has recently published in Nature Climate Change, a monthly journal dedicated to publishing the most significant and cutting-edge research on the science of climate change, its impacts and wider implications for the economy, society and policy.

The paper argues that geoscientists must forge new alliances with social scientists and humanists to bring the climate change debate to the next level and allow society to better respond to global environmental change. Continue reading

Exploring the everyday experiences of inter-ethnic couples in Australia

New research from the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) has found that Darwin and Sydney have higher proportions of inter-ethnic couples than any other Australian city. These couples are those in which the two partners involved have different ethnic backgrounds. Continue reading