The very Australian camel

Just in time for Australia Day, AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs talks with award-winning radio producer Michael Schubert of Soundminds Radio on the subject of the very Australian camel.

Their conversation challenges the ideas of ‘feral’ and ‘invasive’ species, and questions what it means to belong in Australia.

Tune in to the Community Radio Network at 10:45am EST on Thursday 26 January, or listen here.   Continue reading

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

‘Camel country’: on radio 3CR & Geoforum

Camels are the focus of this week’s ‘Freedom of Species’ program on 3CR Independent Radio. AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs will be talking with 3CR’s Emma Townshend this Sunday, 17 May, at 1pm on 3CR (855am). You can also catch the show later as an MP3.

The interview comes on the back of a paper recently published in Geoforum, by Leah Gibbs, Jennifer Atchison and Ingereth Macfarlane, titled: ‘Camel Country: assemblage, belonging and scale in invasive species geographies’. Below is a taster of the published paper.

Invasive species and their impacts have become a focus of global environmental policy and action. Invasive, alien and in Australia ‘feral’ species have come to represent categories of destructive animals and plants that do not belong. They are frequently pitted against ‘native’ species, which are deemed good and do belong. But in the context of contemporary environmental change and uncertainty, established categories such as ‘invasive’ species need to be examined more closely.  Continue reading

Call for interest in a rural natural resource management session for IAG 2015

The Institute of Australia Geography 2015 conference organisers are calling for session proposals. We are looking to provide a forum for environmental geographers and others working on natural resource and environmental management in rural areas, but we need your interest to put the session up! Our proposed session outline is below. If you are interested, please send us your paper titles as detailed below.

Natural resource management, land use change, and governance in peri-urban and high amenity rural areas: Taking stock.

Shaun McKiernan and Nicholas Gill, University of Wollongong

In 2012 Abrams et al reviewed the environmental implications of amenity migration to rural areas, concluding that it ‘is perhaps best conceptualised as a redistribution of (variably-defined) environmental harms and benefits at multiple scales, due to….[the] consequences of the uneven processes of recreating rural places’. Continue reading

AUSCCER welcomes Noel Castree

This week we have been very excited to welcome Prof Noel Castree and family to Wollongong. Noel has joined AUSCCER to help create the new Department of Geography and Sustainable Communities, in UOW’s new Faculty of Social Sciences. Amidst the banalities of a university restructuring (which printer do we now use? who signs this form? when is X going to make a decision about Y so that we can get on with Z? who pays for the milk?), we are thrilled to have Noel’s participation in a range of research, teaching and strategic discussions.Castree

Noel Castree’s scholarship on nature, politics and academic geography will be well known to many readers of this blog. His expertise in the political economy of environmental change adds breadth and depth to our existing expertise, and we hope that working in the Australian context will enrich his own work in a variety of ways.

We also hope to entice him to this blog, so watch this space!

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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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)

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On ‘passing through places’, ‘so-far stories’ and movement improvisation

This post was originally posted on the ‘Working the Tweed’ site; a ‘Year of Natural Scotland 2013’ funded collaboration between artists and environmentalists in the Scottish Borders. The post is a conversation between AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs, and Working the Tweed artists Kate Foster and Claire Pençak.

Introduction
In the project Working the Tweed, we set out to work with different kinds of specialist knowledge. This yields various ways to think about the Tweed Catchment, and make different artistic connections and new kinds of maps. We are thinking through what we, as artists, might offer in engaging with projects that deal with sustainable land-use and the realities of environmental change. We are delighted to be able to converse with Leah Gibbs, a human geographer at the University of Wollongong, whose work concerns the cultures and politics of water. Leah has considerable experience of multi-disciplinary work focusing on land management. She explains her concept of ‘passing-through places’. This overlaps with Kate Foster’s ideas of documenting ‘so-far stories’, and Claire Pençak’s thinking on improvisation as a way to investigate relationship to place through movement.

Conversation
KF: Leah, you have written about ‘passing-through places’, which is an intriguing idea and keeps coming to mind as we plan the Working the Tweed project. Can you explain why you find the concept of ‘passing through’ helpful, and how you came to adopt the term?  Continue reading

‘Redneck, barbaric, cashed-up bogan? I don’t think so’: Hunting and Nature in Australia.

But please hunters, don’t try to wrap your pathetic, arcane blood lust in a pretty light by saying you’re protecting the environment or whatever.

Everyone who eats meat has blood on their hands. Everyone who lives, works, shops or drives in a deforested area has blood on their hands. Get over it. No one is innocent and the only difference is a Hunter is able to see where their food comes from.

The responses from redneck and cashed up bogans come as no surprise. To equate intelligence with nothing more than the possession of facts and academic achievements is indicative of the superficial mindset of said bogans. They have offered no new insights or valid justifications for their desire to hunt. Some even see themselves as conservationists. Hunting takes no skill other than stalk and shoot – as long as the target is hit, it doesn’t seem to matter if the animal is maimed or dead. They lack empathy and show no sophisticated social maturity. Ultimately the sign of a civilised society is how it treats its most disadvantaged members and species. Please go to America where rabid republican hillbillies will gladly welcome you back to the family. You’ve got nothing this country wants or needs.

Redneck, barbaric, cashed up bogan, I don’t think so. No I think just down to earth who enjoys living the outdoor life now and to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday living.

These comments illustrate some of the polarised positions around hunting in Australia, where somewhere between 300,000 to one million people hunt. I am working with people who hunt, where lives are sustained through the ending of the lives of others. Hunting is constantly controversial, with arguments ranging from ‘the first hunters were the first humans’ to ‘meat is murder’. But there are distinct cultural variations: there is a general acceptance of traditional Indigenous peoples’ hunting, while in middle-class Australia often an assumption that ‘shooting’ is a redneck activity. Across the world, there is a wide range of social attitudes and beliefs around modern hunting. Anthropologist Tim Ingold argues that in relationships between hunters and animals, there is ‘a working basis for mutuality and coexistence’. I have a paper just published in Environmental Humanities (their 3rd most downloaded paper in May) that explores some of these networks of relationship and respect.

CZ455 Lux – my small game rifle

 

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Ocean-users and sharks in Western Australia

Do you use the ocean in Western Australia?

If so, we would really appreciate your help with our research. Please click here to fill out our survey. It should take about 15 minutes to complete.

Source: theconversation.edu.au

Over the past couple of years encounters between people and sharks have received a huge amount of public attention. This is particularly true in Western Australia, where five reported fatal encounters tragically took place in a 10 month period during 2011 and 2012. In response to the fatalities, the Government of Western Australia has introduced new measures in shark management, including enabling Department of Fisheries to ‘track, catch and, if necessary, destroy sharks identified in close proximity to beachgoers’ (Gov. of WA, 27 September 2012).

We are two researchers working at the University of Wollongong (Leah Gibbs) and University of New England (Andrew Warren) interested in learning more about the views of ocean-users on this topic. We want to better understand the WA government response to recent events, and the implications of the new approach. We’re particularly interested in hearing from you – as an ocean-user – about your ocean-based activities, your sightings or encounters with sharks (if you’ve had any), and your attitudes towards sharks and shark management.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Leah Gibbs (leah@uow.edu.au).

Thanks in advance for your help with our research.

Leah Gibbs & Andrew Warren