Bee poop, BBQ corn and a Burundian community in search of farmland: reflections from fieldwork in Australia’s Sunraysia Region

Post by Olivia Dun & Natascha Klocker

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. Farmer_Olivia blogOur 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.

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On One Breath

Flying in to the Big Island of Hawai’i, the two largest volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, are capped with snow and surrounded by an aureola of clouds. Driving east to west across the island between the volcanoes, I pass through several climatic zones and multiple ecosystems. The journey takes me from the wet, windward eastern side to the much drier lee coast on the west.

It’s my second time on a tropical archipelago in a few months. In February I accompanied ten UOW undergraduates to India’s Andaman Islands for our pilot iteration of GEOG334 ‘Geographies of Change: International Fieldwork’. A great trip with a fantastic group of students – fun, resilient and very hard-working. Relevant to this research blog because each student completed their first ever independent research project while there, ranging from studying the territorial behaviour of damsel fish, to a detailed supply chain analysis of everything we ate. Great work.

apneista

The Apneista team, Indonesia (http://apneista.com/)

But I’m in Hawai’i to continue research on freediving, which I started last year in Indonesia. Freediving, or breath-hold diving, is at once a commonplace and unique form of engagement between humans and oceans. Continue reading

Fieldwork food

Written by Lesley Head, with culinary and photographic contributions by Natascha Klocker, Olivia Dun, Ananth Gopal, Sophie-May Kerr and Lulu.

There are few things more important to successful fieldwork than food. It sustains the bodies and the community of the fieldwork team. It provides points of connection with the broader community. And in our current project on Exploring culturally diverse perspectives on Australian environments, it is an important dimension of the research itself. We are currently in the Sunraysia region of Victoria (around Robinvale and Mildura), where irrigated agriculture provides an abundance of late summer food choices. In the midst of such abundance there are puzzles and challenges – people who don’t have enough to eat, farmers who don’t eat their own produce, and widespread concerns over pesticide use and the changing political economy of Australian food. Here are some moments in our food journey so far. Continue reading

Fieldnotes from Christchurch: ‘A wonderful disaster’

I visited Christchurch in New Zealand recently. This is the second largest city in the country, and one that has been dealing with the after effects of a series of major earthquakes which first struck almost 5 years ago. The impact of the quakes is most visible in the centre of the city. A great deal of the city’s buildings were damaged and had to be pulled down. I hadn’t visited the city for some 15-odd years but was unable to make any sense of the city from memory.

The view inside the 'Red Zone'

The view inside the ‘Red Zone’

The quakes have had a raft of impacts on people living in Christchurch – apart from damaged buildings that is. There were service disruptions, housing shortages, work relocations and, of course the psychological impacts. Financially the quake has taken a toll, both for individuals but also the country. The estimated cost has ballooned to over NZ$40 billion making it New Zealand’s costliest natural disaster. And, interestingly, it’s the third costliest earthquake (nominally) worldwide – apparently New Zealand has a high rate of building insurance.

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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

Embodiment in Miami – final thoughts from America

Post by Nick Skilton

America is a bewildering place. The best and worst of everything. Sometimes it’s difficult to pull the whole scenario together into a comprehensible picture. You can grasp at the edges. Make mosaics out of fragments. Recall all the pop culture you’ve ever accumulated and attempt to overlay it upon reality. Doing so, certain nonsensical things begin to make sense, like American patriotism for ‘the greatest country in the world’. There is a lot to like about it. But there is a lot that isn’t great. For example, the real poverty and hardship of living with a minimum wage less than $10/hour. It’s a beautiful place visually, but sometimes life isn’t pretty. This is what confronts me in Miami, 8th most populous city in America. After 2 days, I have no idea what to make of this town. It’s too big and weird. The only way I am able to write about it, is to tweeze apart the layers and concentrate on one striking aspect of this place: Bodies. The differences in bodies were remarkably different on each day, almost dichotomous in nature. Hence I have attempted to write as such. Continue reading

When The Saints Go Marching In NOLA

Post written by Nick Skilton

It’s a weird thing to fall in love with a place, but that is what has happened. I have fallen in love with New Orleans. What does that mean exactly? Is it the way that a place makes you feel? Is it the people you connect with that give life to the place? Is it the opportunity that a place represents? Is this a ‘gut feeling’? There is obviously no one answer to that question. It is likely a combination of those things, and many more included. Trying to articulate the connections, opportunities, and gut feelings associated with loving a place in any meaningful kind of way, especially a place as chaotic as New Orleans, is part of the same impossible tragedy as describing any other kind of love (and better writers than me have failed at describing love). I’m not even the first writer from AUSCCER this month to make an attempt to uncover the words that will describe the ‘rawness’ and the ‘mesmerising’ engagement with this place. What this is then is an oratory, an attempt to tell New Orleans what made it so impressive, so beautiful, and so compelling. Continue reading

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

Journey through Dharawal and Dhurga Indigenous landscapes – Part 1

Post written by Heather Moorcroft, Sue Feary and Michael Adams

This November Sydney will host the World Parks Congress. Held every ten years, the congress is considered one of the major events on the international conservation calendar. Thousands of delegates will come together to discuss emerging ideas on conservation as well as setting the course for the next decade’s protected area work programs. Previous congresses have not only been the catalyst for innovative strategies in conservation, charting the way for the development of new paradigms, they have also resulted in vigorous and ongoing debates, particularly on the role conservation plays in social justice and economic development of local and Indigenous peoples (see the accounts on the last Congress by Brosius (2004) and Terborgh (2004)). Continue reading

Community gardens in Bangalore

Ellen van Holstein is completing her PhD with The Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research. She recently visited Bangalore, India, to explore shared garden spaces that could serve as future fieldwork sites for her PhD research. Ellen plans to write more posts about her experiences in Bangalore, but in the meantime has shared a selection of photographs she took while asking locals about vacant plots, chillies and worms on the city’s rooftops.

Community gardens in Bangalore