Introducing Climates of Listening

By Anja Kanngieser 

This is the first blog post in a series dedicated to documenting fieldwork I am undertaking across Fiji and Micronesia in 2018. The blog posts will deal with a range of themes, outlining the project, the importance of anti-racist climate justice work and the ethics of undertaking such work as a white settler academic, using oral testimony, field-recordings and data sonifications for climate witnessing, listening to non-human environments as political geographical practice, how climate justice groups elevate and centre Indigenous experience and knowledge, and how to bring together arts and sciences to more broadly communicate experiences of climate change.

Global Climate March Suva, 2015. Image credit tomvierus.com

Across the Pacific, climate justice organisations have been campaigning for increased awareness and intervention into global environmental change, which sees catastrophic events, such as high intensity cyclones, drought, flooding and ocean inundation already occurring to impact the lives of small-island developing nations. While an international audience might be familiar with the high profile public platforms for this campaigning, such as the yearly United Nations Climate Change conferences, most of the work being done by organisations is on the ground, often invisible, working to build community relations and regional networks, to forge connections and to collaborate on strategies for negotiation between government decrees and community desires.

I have recently moved to Suva, Fiji to amplify the work of community–led environmental groups at the frontlines of climate change. Over the next year I will be travelling across Fiji and Micronesia on invitation to spend time with those engaged in climate justice, particularly women and LGBTQIA people who are most affected by environmental inequality, framing the challenges that they see increasingly intensifying in their region as directly correspondent to larger political and ethical positions, which value capital, resource extraction and infrastructure over human and non-human lives.

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Meet Freya Croft

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 be introducing some of our academics and PhD candidates to give greater insight into AUSCCER’s work.

Freya is in the first year of her PhD, initially starting her studies in history, but transferred to human geography and AUSCCER at the start of 2017. She is supervised by Associate Professor Michael Adams and Dr Jenny Atchison. In this post Freya answers some questions about her research.

Freya, about to dive the Exmouth Navy Pier at Ningaloo Reef, WA.

 

What is the focus of your research?

Photo by Alex Kydd from Ningaloo Wildlife Encounters. Tiger Shark and snorkelers in the water at Coral Bay, Ningaloo Reef, WA.

Put broadly, the topic of my research is storytelling and ocean conservation.  I’m interested in the ways in which storytelling can act as a catalyst for change and inspire stewardship of the marine environment.

I am really interested in the ways in which emotions shape the encounters humans have in marine environments and how these can be used to encourage people to alter their behaviour to be more conservation minded.  Continue reading

Meet Md. Abdul Malak

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 be introducing some of our academics and PhD candidates to give greater insight into AUSCCER’s work.

Meet Abdul, one of our newest PhD Candidates.

Abdul moved from Bangladesh to Wollongong to begin his PhD at the end of July 2017.

Whilst only just starting out Abdul describes his research project as focusing on “vulnerability, resilience and livelihood of wetland communities of north western Bangladesh.” He is supervised by Professor Noel Castree and Dr Jenny Atchison.

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Salt Blood

I have written about freedive research on this blog here, here and here, but only just now managed to publish about it. Freediving is at its most basic just holding your breath and diving underwater. It is likely as old as humans. But in its modern recreational and competitive formation, it has been described as the second most dangerous extreme sport. It is undergoing a dramatic rise in popularity, with PADI, the largest global dive organisation describing it as the fastest growing segment of the dive market. I have been using ‘full-immersion’ methodologies (becoming as close as possible that which I am researching) to try to understand why.

My essay on freediving, ‘Salt Blood’ has just won the 2017 ABR Calibre Prize.

I wrote:

Mirroring our time in the tiny sea of the amniotic sac, freediving is the most profound engagement between humans and oceans: the unmediated body immersed and uncontrolled in saltwater. It is simultaneously planetary and intensely intimate – the ocean is both all around us and within us. That breadth of scale can be terrifying or reassuring. It is not about discovery, it is about recovery: we can freedive expertly from the minute we are born, but slowly forget. Continue reading

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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Transformative disaster

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Winter in Wollongong is usually a fairly benign affair. Cool dry air, blue skies. But this past week we’ve had an east coast low that has brought severe weather warnings, heavy rain and localised flooding.

On Tuesday I was teaching our big first year human geography class. Five hundred students spread across five campuses – Wollongong, Shoalhaven, Southern Highlands, Batemans Bay and Bega. The theme of the lecture was ‘natural disasters’, and we were considering how they’re not quite as ‘natural’ as they might seem. Continue reading

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

Oceanic matters: Call for papers, AAG 2015

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, 21-25 April 2015

Session organisers: Catherine Phillips (University of Queensland) c.phillips2@uq.edu.au; Leah Gibbs (University of Wollongong) leah@uow.edu.au

This session aims to advance oceanic geographies that push in directions less ‘landlocked’ (Steinberg 2001; Anderson and Peters 2014) and more lively (Lambert et al. 2006) to examine the materiality and politics of oceans. Despite the flourishing in recent years of ‘more-than-human’ and material approaches, oceans and associated creatures have only recently come to the fore in a selection of analyses (see Bear and Eden 2008; Probyn 2011). Likewise, ocean geographies have largely neglected the materiality of the sea. This inattention to human-ocean relations and ocean materiality is puzzling given that oceans are central to so many pressing debates, including biodiversity protection, food security, climate change, water pollution and scarcity, and invasive species control. Such ocean crises highlight questions about cultures of living with/in marine environs, and processes of governance. Continue reading

Shark cull begins

Post written by AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs and Andrew Warren (University of New England)

Australia Day began badly for sharks. The day before, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett rolled out the lines of large baited hooks along parts of the WA coast that he’s been promising as part of the state’s Shark Mitigation Strategy. Within 24 hours the first shark was caught and killed. A 3m long tiger shark. The lines of hooks – known as baited drumlines – are anchored 1km off the shore. Their purpose is to kill sharks deemed to pose a threat to people. Continue reading

Let the sea reclaim the pools?

I’ve just returned from the beach. Made my usual, favourite stop at the ocean pool. One of Wollongong’s series of bathing pools cut into the rock platform in the mid- to late-19th Century. Today saw a mix of people there: a bearded guy doing laps; the elderly woman with bright swimming cap I see regularly (I’m sure she swims every day); and a bunch of early 20-somethings looking happy and relaxed.

Climbing the stairs back up to the path, I spotted the flyer – neatly attached with cable-ties to the metal railing – that motivated this post. A newspaper clipping and hand-printed note announcing ‘Save Our Rock Pool’. You see, Wollongong City Council is proposing that it cease to maintain and/or demolish two or three of the city’s ocean pools as a cost-saving measure.

Community action to ‘Save Our Rock Pool’.

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