Currently, I am in the early stages of fieldwork. It has been fun getting to know families in Wollongong and talking about my study. I thought I would share on the AUSCCER blog a bit about my project and advertise to anyone who is interested in participating in the local area. Also, I would like to share some really great media coverage that I have had the last month!
Generally, my PhD research project is looking at play in the city. Play is often associated with children’s activities (Aitken, 2001; Skelton, 2009). Children are assumed to be playing outside of adults’ supervision and in their free time (Van der Burgt & Gustfson, 2013). However, play is a term that has been socially and culturally constructed, and a term used by adults to understand what children are doing (Thomson & Philo, 2004). Through theorizing play, children’s geographers have tried to unravel social constructions of play, and to understand, from a children’s perspective, what exactly play means (Cloke & Jones, 2005).
Fire management agencies in southern Australia have increased the amount of prescribed burning in southern Australia in recent years as a strategy to reduce the risk from bushfire. One of the potential downsides of this strategy is an increase in smoke exposure to communities on the urban interface because a larger area is treated than would burn from bushfire. Planners of prescribed fires try to avoid smoke impact by modelling the likely dispersion of smoke and avoiding days when smoke will affect local communities. We know very little about the actual smoke impact from prescribed fires, especially near the fire, and the accuracy of smoke dispersal models.
Naomi Klein’s (2014) book ‘This changes everything’ documents the lack of political will to address climate change in any meaningful way. While she points to the neo-liberal capitalist system as the underlying problem she also makes some interesting points about why it is so difficult motivate people to change their behaviours in the light of climate change. One of her arguments is that change involves a certain level of discomfort and that many people are unwilling to give up their comfortable high emission lives. This is why government strategies that encourage individuals and households to lower their greenhouse gas emissions by for example, reducing the amount of car driving they do are not particularly successful. We argue here that it is not just physical comfort that is significant but also the emotional comforts that make it difficult to reduce driving for the sake of the environment. Continue reading →
Last week’s blog opened this series on ‘writing and space’ with a reflection on how the sabbatical (if available) should be approached more strategically to create space for writing in the neoliberal university. This week I want to continue the theme of making space for writing with a reflection on the field of ‘pedagogies of research writing’. In particular I want to examine what such approaches have to offer in the broader context of the training/professionalization of higher degree research students and how human geography understandings of space-time may be applied to these approaches.
You might have seen the photo – a simple pile of bicycles that made it to the front page of the New York Times earlier this month. The photo was followed by an article about Syrian migrants reaching Europe through an ‘arctic bike race’. The story also reached Australian news, which explained how asylum seekers are using the northernmost (and for many a most unlikely) route, which requires that they pass the Russian–Norwegian border either by car or bike. As drivers who bring them directly to the border crossing risk being fined, the solution is to get on a bike when approaching the Russian border station.
Last week, 489 asylum seekers crossed the border on bike, the week before 501. Before ending up on a bike at the border, they have come through Moscow either by bus, train or plane to the city of Murmansk. On this last part of this journey they will pass through a little known but truly fascinating region. For the last seven years our department has taken masters students in geography on an annual fieldtrip to Kirkenes, Murmansk and other parts of the Kola Peninsula. The purpose has been to provide initial training in practical fieldwork as well as to get the students to know more about our powerful neighbour to the east. We have travelled the route the asylum seekers now take quite a number of times.
This semester I am taking my first sabbatical since I completed my PhD in 2008. After seven and half hectic years of full-time teaching-research (with ten months of maternity leave thrown in for good measure – just in case I didn’t feel busy enough) it feels like (and it quite literally is) an utter luxury to be spending six months on the research projects and writing I promised my university I would work on. I am sincerely grateful to Western Sydney University for providing this opportunity and the Universities of Wollongong and Sydney for hosting me while on this leave.
The term sabbatical is derived from the Hebrew ‘shabbat’ literally meaning ‘ceasing’ (thank you Wikipedia). Reflecting the monastic tradition from which academia is derived; the sabbatical generally involves providing (tenured) academics with the opportunity to take a six-month period of leave from teaching to focus on research (usually every 3-4 years). At first glance, this is a tradition that appears not to have been impacted by the various reforms that have come to characterise the neoliberal university.
It’s been over a year since we started working on the project Exploring culturally diverse perspectives on Australian environments and environmentalism. The project is funded by the Australian Research Council and also includes our colleagues Lesley Head, Gordon Waitt and Heather Goodall. So far this project has prompted us to think about Australian landscapes, agriculture and back/front-yard spaces in new ways. Our work on the project primarily centres on the town of Robinvale and the rural city of Mildura within the Sunraysia region. This region spans a corner of north-western Victoria and south-western New South Wales united by the Murray River and the possibility of irrigated agriculture. We were drawn to the Sunraysia because one third of horticulturalists in the region speak a language other than English at home (Missingham et al. 2006). The Sunraysia is also host to diverse horticultural industries including table grapes, dried fruit, citrus, almonds, olives, carrots, avocado and asparagus, accounting for much of the national supply of these crops. Our aim is to explore the contributions that ethnically diverse residents make to farming in this region – through their labour, businesses and growing practices.
On the 2nd September the body of a 3 year old Syrian boy washed up on the beach of Bodrum, Turkey. He, along with his brother and mother were 3 of 12 people to drown as their boats capsized trying to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. I’m not going to post the picture here, it’s fairly distressing and to be honest you’ve probably already seen it splashed across newspapers and webpages. It’s the image that brought the plight of Syrian refugees into the immediate consciousness of the rest of the world.
This unfolded whilst I was attending the RGS/IBG Annual Conference at the University of Exeter, a week before my trip to Turkey. Relatives and friends asked, ‘You’re not going to Bodrum are you?’ ‘Ummm I don’t think so’, but as I googled my tour destinations I realised that whilst I wasn’t going to Bodrum, I was going very close, touring up the same coastline.
Debates raged in the media and in conversation around ‘the image of the little boy’. Should this be shown? YES, I though, we need to be shocked into action. We need to see this! But do shocking images really make us change? I thought so, but now I doubt myself. Continue reading →