The Truth About Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Noel Castree and Karen Renkhema-Lang

In recent months there’s been much talk about our so-called ‘post-truth era’. Wilful ignorance of the truth and the promotion of patently false claims have, rightly, become a cause of concern among many political analysts, media watchers and others. However, let’s not forget that another, much older problem confronts anyone seeking to understand the world in which we live: namely, the selective reporting and use of evidence. This is the ‘salad bar’ approach to truth. The evidence reported may be valid, but it only paints a partial – and sometimes, absent other evidence – a misleading picture of the realities it supposedly sheds light on.

A case in point is Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and related sequestration levels. Australia’s contribution to the problem of anthropogenic climate change continues to command considerable media attention, and – if the problem were to be taken seriously – has very large and immediate implications for government policy, business behaviour and people’s consumption practices. Yet the precise nature of this contribution remains unclear to many people because of two things. First, there is a plethora of official statistics about emissions and sequestration levels. They are reported by various national, sub-national and international bodies. Second, this richness of credible data provides anyone wanting to talk about the climate change issue in Australia – indeed, in most countries – a chance to confuse (knowingly or innocently) those with whom they wish to communicate. Continue reading

A wave of change – ‘A Plastic Ocean’ Film Screening event wrap up

Sophie-May Kerr and Carrie Wilkinson reflect on the UOW Human Geography Society’s  A Plastic Ocean’ Film Screening event and the possibilities for real change through individual and collective action.   

Last week we hosted over 150 people at our sold out A Plastic Ocean film screening event. In addition to the film, we also had stalls hosted by representatives of local organisations committed to educating on the impacts of and reducing marine plastic pollution. It was so encouraging and inspiring to see so many people come together to be part of the wave of change that we so desperately need to combat the devastating global effects of plastic pollution.

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Mushroom Geographies: Wild Food with Diego Bonetto

This is a Polish story, told on Dharawal lands by an Italian man in the Southern Highlands, Australia.

Michael Adams, Dan Musil and I arrived at Penrose State Forest to learn how to forage for wild mushrooms.  We were here to learn from Diego Bonetto, an environmental artist, educator, activist and first generation migrant. I pulled up in the carpark was immediately struck by the demographic diversity of the workshop participants: students from Bangladesh, second generation Eastern European migrants, Anglo farmers, foodies, inner city hipsters, PhD students, academics and children gathered for a different kind of Easter Hunt.

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Turn back the tide – ‘A Plastic Ocean’ Film Screening Event with UOW Human Geography Society

Post by Carrie Wilkinson

Plastic in ocean © Rich Carey/Shutterstock

Each year more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced, half of which is designed for single use. A plastic bag, for example, has a “life” of around 15 minutes but once disposed of can take 400 years to biodegrade. 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic ends up in our oceans every year. By 2050 it is predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.

The Plastic Oceans Foundation is working to change the way we deal with plastic waste by challenging our perception that this substance can be treated as ‘disposable’. At the core of this global awareness campaign is the release of a documentary feature film, ‘A Plastic Ocean’.

The University of Wollongong Human Geography Society invites you to their screening event of ‘A Plastic Ocean’. 

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AUSCCER @ the AAG 2017 Boston

 

Association of American Geographers’ Annual Meeting

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

5th – 9th April 2017

 

Next week from the 5th – 9th April eight AUSCCER staff and postgrads will be attending the Association of American Geographers’ (AAG) Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

From papers and discussions on parenting, sharks, natural disasters, to urban development, we sure are a diverse group! We’ve trawled through the extensive program so you don’t have too. Catch them speaking at the sessions and times listed below.

If you’re not attending the AAG, you can follow the conversation via twitter using #AAG2017, following @AUSCCER or checking out each AUSCCERites’ twitter handles.

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Risk Assessment

Pondi Unleashed Bulleteers, south India

I have nervously watched the institutionalised mayhem of Indian traffic for years, ‘safely’ as a passenger: India has the highest number of annual traffic incidents in the world. This year I actively took part – in Pondicherry I rented a Royal Enfield ‘Bullet’. Old style, heavy, single-cylinder 350cc: lovely motorbike design dating from the year I was born.

Joining the traffic in the Bullet taught me many lessons – no helmet is better (improves peripheral vision); check the fuel tank (we pushed it down dusty roads for a kilometre the first day); it’s a delicate balance between assertion and deference in Indian traffic, and almost every Indian out-asserted me. Ananth Gopal was the perfect pillion passenger: balanced, navigating, laughing. Risk is broadened on a motorbike: Ananth, me, the people on the bikes next to me I might bump, pedestrians… It is all about flow: after ten days it was just exhilarating to negotiate insanely crowded intersections and nudge through crowded marketplaces. Continue reading

The very Australian camel

Just in time for Australia Day, AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs talks with award-winning radio producer Michael Schubert of Soundminds Radio on the subject of the very Australian camel.

Their conversation challenges the ideas of ‘feral’ and ‘invasive’ species, and questions what it means to belong in Australia.

Tune in to the Community Radio Network at 10:45am EST on Thursday 26 January, or listen here.   Continue reading

‘And then the sea came back’ – using sound art to tell stories of climate change

AUSCCER’s Anja Kanngieser talks about her sound art piece telling stories of climate change:

“To recall the day that the earthquake happened is to recall the immensity of devastation, beyond what one could imagine, beyond what words could explain. I can’t even tell you, I can’t find the language to convey the scenes of that day… There was a vacuum, a vacuum of air, of understanding, of words. And then of course there wasn’t. And then of course the sea came back. And it told its own story”

In 2016 I was commissioned by ABC Radio National’s sound art program Soundproof to make a radio work about climate change. Working with audio-visual artist Polly Stanton in our collective form of Burrow, we decided that we wanted to make a radio piece as beautiful as it was chilling, which would have the possibility of revisiting an event of anthropogenic, or human caused, environmental crisis through myriad historical, political and affective narratives. We called our piece And then the sea came back.

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Green Connect – A different Warrawong

AUSCCER PhD Candidate Ananth Gopal reflects on his time volunteering with social enterprise Green Connect and the possibilities for productive relations to grow.

 

Warrawong sits on the south side of Port Kembla, downwind of the steelworks sloping into Lake Illawarra. For decades from the 1930s it housed successive waves of migrant communities. Before that, colonial migrant farmers knew it as a place of rich, fertile soils fed by Mt Kembla’s alluvial material. For millennia prior, the Dharawal nation nurtured this Country.

 

Compost - Green Connect Farm Warrawong

Compost – Green Connect urban farm Warrawong

Today, a Google search yields some underwhelming, albeit unscientific, findings: A 75 year old woman mugged last week, a gas fire which blew up a building and, the immolation of 16 puppies in a house fire. Its Wikipedia entry offers tepid consolation: ‘home to the third largest shopping centre in the Illawarra.’ With industrial decline in full-swing one could easily conclude Warrawong’s best years are behind it.

I’ve been spending time in Warrawong for nearly 18 months now. There’s a farm there at the back of Warrawong High School. One quite unlike any I know: Urban Grown, run by Green Connect. In the last three years Warrawong has begun to grow a different kind of notoriety, one that reimagines what industrial decline can look like. One that Human Geographers ought to take notice of. Continue reading

Firing the imagination – A walkshop with Professor Nigel Clark

The pre-walkshop conversation focuses on one important question – shorts or longs? Heading into the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area we’ll head to Mount Kembla and walk a short way through rain forest. The name – Kembla – is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘plenty of game’ and the local fauna includes swamp wallabies, deer, bandicoots, flying foxes, wombats, possums, water dragons, water skinks, frogs, blue-tongued lizards, as well as snakes and a raft of birds. After a night of rain, however, the main concern is with one species in particular – leeches – and their veracity in searching for a mid-morning snack. A variety of combat strategies emerge ranging from Thomas Birtchnell’s longs and masking tape security fix to Nick Gill’s shorts and open sandals – ‘it lets you see them’ – approach.

_walk2Arriving at the summit car park our path through the bush is an easy descent. The atmosphere is humid and warm – slightly cooler under the umbrella of the canopy; the ground underfoot damp from the overnight rain. Every few steps is followed by a scan of shoes looking to spot any wriggling invader before it gains purchase on bare skin and begins to feed. We stop to observe an echidna foraging in the undergrowth; spot a young blackwood tree; admire the spread of a large sandpaper fig.

Emerging from the bush the track hits a fire road and we stop. Our purpose here is less pedagogical, more conversational. And what better place to to have a conversation about our relationship with the Australian bush than in the bush. Professor Nigel Clark, visiting from Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University invites us into a conversation considering bush and fire and coal. This thinking Clark tells us builds on research he has been undertaking with Dr Lauren Rickards (RMIT) that has looked at instances where extractive activity has unintentionally sparked fires – the bushfire-triggered Hazelwood coalmine fire in Victoria (2014), the close encounter between oil sand mining and wildfire at Fort McMurray, Alberta (2016) and the ongoing interface between coal mining and open-field burning in Indonesia. This is an odd feedback loop, as he says: “‘a new species of trouble’ in which the climatic effects of extracting and burning fossil fuels circle back in the form of wildfire (or storms, flooding and other extreme events).” The Illawara region itself has a history of both coal mining and of impact by bush fire.

_talk2This line of thinking then asks what might be the implications of human-induced destratification – such as coal-mining – knocks into these increasingly ‘deterritorialised flows’ – bush fires and other human-induced environment impacts. How might we think about this relationship – make sense of it? Who is affected by these kinds of impacts, and what political and ethical questions do they prompt? And indeed can these ideas be used in shaping pathways and strategies that provide vectors through potential stresses? – that is, possibilities for shaping “alternative geosocial or pyropolitical futures” as Professor Clark puts it.

This is an interesting conversation to have – and even more so when had on a fire road in the bush within a long-serving coal mining region. It acts as a spark for thinking, and hopefully one that has the potential to catch and move in different directions.

Throughout the discussion the vigilance for crawling invaders continued. Brave explorers were picked off boots and shirts and returned to the bush. But nature can be more cunning than we give it credit. The following day a well-fed leech was found wandering the corridors of the AUSCCER offices. It was only later that Professor Clark discovered an ankle covered in blood where the attacker had quietly attached itself and fed after it must have hidden itself perhaps in his shoe. Thus unfortunately for Professor Clark, his presence provided more than just food for thought – for some it was nourishment in the simplest sense.