The Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) is a teaching and research group focusing on cultural and social aspects of environmental issues. AUSCCER’s expertise and research is wide-ranging. Over the next few months we’ll introduce some of our academics and PhD candidates to give greater insight into AUSCCER’s work.
Ren Hu began his PhD with AUSCCER at the start of 2015. Here he answers questions about his research.
- You’ve just begun your PhD candidature within AUSCCER. What is the focus of your research?
My focus is Illawarra dairy farmers. So far, I’ve been reading about the historical background of farming in order to dig up why the majority of Australian farmers live in a kind of economic hardship. Farmers here do not simply represent an occupation, but represent a class of people who are disadvantaged in the global capitalist system.
2. Why did you decide to pursue a PhD?
I want to make sense of the world. Many people assume they know exactly how the world is functioning. I want to be able to see the world differently. I want to move beyond mainstream thinking, for example, to think about governments as representing the welfare of the people; policy change as an effective tool to reduce social inequality; the power of individual change in creating a sustainable future; and the possibility of a capitalist economy transferring peacefully to a socialist one. A PhD will give me the opportunity to do just this.
- What do you think may be one of your biggest hurdles during your PhD journey?
My spoken English. As you may know, English is not my mother tongue, and I have lived in Australia for about three years. Talking to domestic students, they often suggest that I simply need to practise. But I do not think it is that simple. I think people underestimate how hard it is to master a language. About two years ago, there was a time when I took every chance to practise, but my speaking barely changed. Language is probably the only thing that I cannot master by hard work. It is going to take time.
- What made you decide to go down the path of human geography?
Human geography gives you the advantage of alternate perspectives. Right now, I am enjoying actor network theory. It allows you to look at the links within a process. In my mind, links or connections are one of the most beautiful things about human society and history.
- What are you looking forward to most during your PhD journey?
To see through to the future. The way things are going, the future world will not be a good one. I have a personal belief that humans have reached a point of significant change. I need to read more to justify my thinking.
- It was only last year that you completed your Masters degree. Can you briefly describe the focus of your research and where readers can find your published work.
The focus of my masters was plant purchasing decisions, and garden and weed management by householders. I was interested in how purchasing decisions and plant information at the point of purchase might influence the movement of plants into gardens and potentially into native bushland as weeds. . Specifically, I looked at some garden-related behaviours of randomly selected Wollongong residents who live adjacent to natural areas or bushland. By means of a mail survey, I measured a range of socio-demographic and psychological variables of those residents, and tested their relationships with two garden-related environmental behaviours. Suggestions for weed management were presented based on the most influential variables of garden-related environmental behaviours. Among other things, the results indicated that we cannot rely on consumers alone to do the right thing and to not buy plants that may become bushland weeds. Lack of information, plant preferences, impulse buying, and a lack of knowledge about alternative sources of plants (such as council run native nurseries) among plant consumers, highlight the need for industry and retailer action.
My thesis is available online and I have publications in Geographical Research and Society & Natural Resources:
Hu, R. and Gill, N. (2015) Movement of garden plants from market to bushland: gardeners’ plant procurement and garden-related behaviour. Geographical Research, 53(2), 134–144.
Hu, R. and Gill, N. (In Press) Garden-related environmental behavior and weed management: an Australian case study. Society and Natural Resources (Accepted 15 January 2015).
Hu, R (2014) ‘Garden-related behaviour and invasive plants: a case study in Wollongong LGA, New South Wales’, Master’s Thesis, University of Wollongong, Wollongong.