About Christine Eriksen

Dr Christine Eriksen is a social geographer focusing on the ways people learn, communicate, and engage with social and environmental uncertainty in everyday life. She is the author of 'Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty' (2014). Follow Christine on Twitter: @DrCEriksen

Known unknowns in New Orleans

“Come on, honey! I need to get laid”, echoes through the hallways of the old building, as I close the door wondering if ‘hotel’ is the right description for the establishment I have just checked in to in New Orleans. As it turns out, these are the parting words of the disappointed woman, as the hotel’s black bouncer escorts her off the premises. The sound of her stiletto heels taps down the street – unevenly.

Later that same afternoon, I once again have the indirect company of the bouncer. As I scribble notes in one corner of the shaded courtyard, he sits in another corner quietly reading aloud one word after another from an English dictionary. Within the first hours of my visit to New Orleans, I am witness to the racial, class and educational divides that Hurricane Katrina brought so brutally to the fore in 2005, as New Orleans first fought to stay alive and then faced the mammoth task of rebuilding the hurricane ravaged city. Continue reading

Questioning the legality of forced evacuations during the Red October bushfires

In the aftermath of the recent State Mine Fire in the Blue Mountains, my team at UOW revisited interview participants who were initially interviewed mid-2013 on their preparedness for bushfire. The State Mine Fire provided a unique opportunity to investigate if their preparations withstood the attack.

During one interview, a participant vented his frustration with police orders to evacuate his property, as he was well-prepared to face the fire. He candidly asked me if legally he had to follow such an order when the ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.‘ policy guides people on how to prepare their property in order to stay and defend it. I promised to get back to him with an answer, as I needed to get my facts straight first. I sought the advice of a barrister and academic colleague at the ANU College of Law, Dr Michael Eburn who specialises in emergency law.

Extent of the NSW State Mine Fire

Continue reading

Reflections from the fire front and research in its ashen wake

By Christine Eriksen and Trent Penman

Bushfire is a constant and ongoing part of Australian history, ecology and culture. The love of a sunburnt country, the beauty and terror of fire, and the filmy veil of post-fire greenness described in the century-old poem Core of my Heart (Mackellar 1908) are still apt depictions of Australian identity today (as illustrated in the ‘Suiting Up’ cartoon below). Yet, the bushfires currently burning in the greater Sydney region provide a stark reminder of the challenges and uncertainty of coexisting with fire.

‘Suiting Up’ (The Sunday Telegraph, 30 October 2013)

Continue reading

Mapping amenity in bushfire-prone landscapes

Blog post by Chris Brennan-Horley, Olivia Dun, Christine Eriksen and Nick Gill

“Treating a forest merely as a collection of trees ignores its contextual relevance to people” (Stankey and Shindler, 2006)

We have spent the past month looking at vegetation in the context of ‘amenity landscapes’. This blog post finds us currently in Bilpin – in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, NSW – conducting interviews with residents to try and understand the interplay between amenity values and bushfire preparedness. This relates both to vegetation in and around residents’ properties and in the surrounding landscape. This fieldwork is part of the ‘Co-existing with Fire: Managing Risk and Amenity’ project funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre. A key aspect of this project is to develop mobile and spatial interview methods. Continue reading

Landscapes of Uncertainty in California

Post by Christine Eriksen and Michael Adams

Three weeks into our California fieldwork, the United States Senate failed to reform the country’s gun laws (270 Americans are shot every day) and two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, tragically killing three people and injuring many others. For many people in the USA, uncertainty is part of the daily social fabric.

Camouflaged lizard, Joshua Tree NP (photo: C Eriksen)

We were in the USA with several aims: to negotiate new international student exchanges as part of a UOW International Links Grant co-funded by the Faculty of Science; to participate with a group of AUSCCER researchers at the Association of American Geographers conference; to explore contemporary conservation initiatives and challenges, including Indigenous involvement and NGO conservation initiatives; and to continue research on wildfire and hunting.

While pursuing all these interests, we were repeatedly struck by dimensions of uncertainty in American life, some of which might be particularly acute in California. Continue reading

Householder Bushfire Preparedness Survey

Do you live in Australia? If so, please click here to participate in our online survey of householders’ bushfire preparedness. The survey takes 15 minutes to complete.

The survey is being conducted by AUSCCER and the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong as part of a study funded by the NSW Rural Fire Service. It will support the development of an online Bush Fire Household Assessment Tool.

Please complete the survey by 20 February 2013 and forward the link to colleagues, neighbours, friends and family who might be interested in taking part in this study.

For further information, please contact Dr Christine Eriksen via email: ceriksen(at)uow(dot)edu(dot)au

Thank you in advance for your time and contribution.

The Gendered Dimensions of Natural Disasters

Call for Papers: Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), Los Angeles, California, April 9-13, 2013

Session Title: The Gendered Dimensions of Natural Disasters

Session Organizer: Christine Eriksen, AUSCCER, University of Wollongong

The aim of this session is to evolve the growing awareness within both academia and emergency services of the gendered nature of disaster risk engagement, response and recovery. Covert and less visible as well as overt gender roles and traditions have been shown to be important factors in understanding how women and men engage with risk. The ‘doing of gender’ in everyday practices, for example, has with time ensured the normalization of hegemonic masculinity in everyday life. Research has furthermore shown how the normalization of patriarchal relations through discursive practices is legitimized through the media, while institutional patriarchal structures resistant to change reinforce them. The applications of shifting scales of analysis have, however, revealed gender relations and gender identities as being socially constructed and ideologically premised. It has highlighted the importance of understanding how boundaries are drawn and redrawn and how gender identities are performed over time. Hegemonic masculinity in many rural landscapes has, for example, been challenged on many fronts since the 1970s due to the demographic and structural changes associated with amenity-led migration from urban centers to rural landscapes. The outcomes of particular discourses (such as communicating in recovery or wildfire management) may furthermore be quite pluralistic as there are manifold ways of acting upon it. It is therefore important to pay greater attention to explicitly gendered social experiences and the construction and performance of gender identities within the context of, for example, risk mitigation, disaster management, and trauma recovery. What, for example, are the implications of embedded gender roles on the vulnerability and resilience of the growing number of people living in wildfire-prone landscapes at the wildland-urban interface today?

This session seeks paper contributions on the gendered dimensions of a wide variety of natural disasters and associated aspect of risk engagement, mitigation, response and recovery.

Please email a 250 word abstract to Christine Eriksen (ceriksen@uow.edu.au) by Friday 12th October 2012. Successful submissions will be confirmed by Wednesday 17th October 2012 and will be expected to register and submit their abstracts online at the AAG website by October 24th 2012 (www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting). Please note that a range of registration fees will apply and must be paid before the submission of abstracts online.

Living and working with bushfire

Carbon Canyon, Southern California

In pursuit of lifestyle change, affordable property, and proximity to nature, people from all walks of life are moving to the rural-urban interface. Tragic bushfires and a predicted increase in high fire danger weather with climate change have triggered concern for the safety of such amenity-led migrants in bushfire-prone landscapes. Continue reading