In this three part series I examine the impact of whiteness and research fatigue when considering climate change in the Pacific, and some directions from Pacific Studies on how to address it. Over three posts I will introduce the ways in which I have witnessed and been told about manifestations of whiteness in academic research; how lived experiences and perspectives push against academic inquiry and theorisations of resilience; and some tactics from Pacific Studies and Pacific Research Protocols for building reciprocity and exchange in climate change research.Continue reading →
Kiribati, one of the large ocean states most immediately threatened by the effects of climate change, is as remote as it is expansive. Comprising 33 atolls and reef islands, which have a combined landmass of around 313 square miles, Kiribati spreads over 3.5 million square miles uniquely reaching across all four global hemispheres. The population is estimated at around 118, 000 with over 50, 000 people living in the capital South Tarawa alone (around 9, 500 or so people per square mile) – an urban density to rival London or Hong Kong but clustered into small villages and communities rather than channeled upwards into high rises. Sitting at only 2 meters above sea level and with an average width of under 500 meters, the archipelago is defined by its waters – you are quite literally in eye line of both the ocean and the lagoon at almost all times. This is where myself and University of the South Pacific marine conservation student, Krystelle Lavaki, stayed when we went to speak with I-Kiribati climate justice advocates and educators about the impacts of rising sea levels, inundation and coastal erosion. Along with speaking to activists, we planned to listen to and record the marine and coastal environments. Continue reading →
I have just returned from Fiji where I was working with colleague Anja Kanngieser looking at on-the-ground responses to climate change in the region. It has been an amazing experience at the personal level as well as at the academic and professional level. Given the latest announcements about funding from UOW’s Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) and the Australian government of $10 million that aims to promote the sustainability of the fisheries, I thought it was timely to share some of the experiences of the Pacific with AUSCCER friends. Continue reading →
I am here in Fiji doing fieldwork on community led response to climate change and climate justice. For many of us in Australia, Fiji conjures up images of swaying palm trees, white beaches, romantic sunsets and friendly smiling locals. This is the tourist experience that is marketed successfully by foreign corporations in prime real estate on the north-western coast of the main island of Viti Levu, and offer exclusive resort retreats on the smaller islands close to the mainland. Denarau and Sigatoka on the main island have a large number of high end hotels which focus on cloistering guests, providing goods and services at inflated prices, providing ‘cultural’ displays and privately-operated tours. Continue reading →
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.
In recent months there’s been much talk about our so-called ‘post-truth era’. Wilful ignorance of the truth and the promotion of patently false claims have, rightly, become a cause of concern among many political analysts, media watchers and others. However, let’s not forget that another, much older problem confronts anyone seeking to understand the world in which we live: namely, the selective reporting and use of evidence. This is the ‘salad bar’ approach to truth. The evidence reported may be valid, but it only paints a partial – and sometimes, absent other evidence – a misleading picture of the realities it supposedly sheds light on.
A case in point is Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and related sequestration levels. Australia’s contribution to the problem of anthropogenic climate change continues to command considerable media attention, and – if the problem were to be taken seriously – has very large and immediate implications for government policy, business behaviour and people’s consumption practices. Yet the precise nature of this contribution remains unclear to many people because of two things. First, there is a plethora of official statistics about emissions and sequestration levels. They are reported by various national, sub-national and international bodies. Second, this richness of credible data provides anyone wanting to talk about the climate change issue in Australia – indeed, in most countries – a chance to confuse (knowingly or innocently) those with whom they wish to communicate. Continue reading →
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 →
AUSCCER’s Stephanie Toole is currently seeking residents from the Greater Sydney area who are willing to share their experiences of weather, thoughts about climate change and views on the future. The study encourages contributions from residents from a diverse range of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds.
You can take part in two ways:
A one-hour interview. The interview can be organized for a time in July (including weekends) and a place that is most convenient for you (e.g. your home, a café, or library).
A 30 minute online survey,titled Preparing for climate change? A survey of views and practices in culturally diverse Australian households. You do not need to believe in climate change in order to complete the survey – all views are valued. If you provide your contact details on the final page you will have a chance to win one of five $100 shopping vouchers.
(An abbreviated version of this paper was published in Swedish for World Science Day (14.11.14) as Head, L. and Stenseke, M. 2014 Humanvetenskapen står för djup och förståelse In E. Mineur and B. Myrman (eds) Hela vetenskapen! 15 forskare om integrerad forskning. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet. ISBN: 978-91-7307-245-8, pp. 26-33. Marie Stenseke is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Gothenburg)
Human and physical sciences alike have reached a convergent point on recommending urgent research on climate change’s social and cultural dimensions (Hulme 2008) since, if these are ignored, it is likely that both adaptation and mitigation responses will fail because they simply do not connect with what matters to individuals and communities (Adger et al. 2012). Increasingly, recognition of the cultural dimensions of sustainability issues goes hand in hand with calls for interdisciplinary approaches to these important problems (Seidl et al. 2013). However that cross-disciplinary collaboration is often on terms defined by the natural sciences. In this paper we seek to articulate the particular and distinctive contributions of qualitative cultural research methods in the environmental field.
We do so in order that they are understood in their own terms, and as a basis for more respectful collaborative research. For too long lone social scientists have been ‘tacked on’ to environmental management bureaucracies dominated by natural science models (Roughley 2005). Among these sole practitioners Roughley has documented a history of marginalization, despite some good intentions by management. Further, these individuals often face the misplaced expectation that their research will result in neat instrumental policy outcomes rather than a more diverse conceptual contribution (Amara et al. 2004). These issues have been encountered long before climate change dominated the agenda; for example in natural resource management, land-use planning and biodiversity conservation (Gill 2006). Continue reading →
Australian residents, from a range of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, are being sought to help researchers at the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research answer the following questions:
How do Australians feel about climate change?
How might climate change affect Australian households?
How might Australians’ everyday lives change due to climate change?
Are Australians prepared to cope with these changes?
Are some households better prepared to cope than others? Continue reading →