The festive season is almost upon us but many of us will find it surprisingly difficult to switch off and have a real break. E-mails, text messages, social media and all the other digital ways we are linked in, make it hard to step back and focus on what really matters – our health. Continue reading →
Naomi Klein’s (2014) book ‘This changes everything’ documents the lack of political will to address climate change in any meaningful way. While she points to the neo-liberal capitalist system as the underlying problem she also makes some interesting points about why it is so difficult motivate people to change their behaviours in the light of climate change. One of her arguments is that change involves a certain level of discomfort and that many people are unwilling to give up their comfortable high emission lives. This is why government strategies that encourage individuals and households to lower their greenhouse gas emissions by for example, reducing the amount of car driving they do are not particularly successful. We argue here that it is not just physical comfort that is significant but also the emotional comforts that make it difficult to reduce driving for the sake of the environment. Continue reading →
How Australian homes are heated in winter is of recent policy interest because of greenhouse gas emissions, fuel poverty and public health risks. Policy initiatives around winter warming practices are often contradictory, advising people to heat more for health and less to save money and the environment. Furthermore, how people should live with lower winter temperatures is configured within two assumptions. First, that households should not let the ambient temperature of the rooms in which occupants spend the day fall below 18 degrees Celsius, or, above 21 degrees Celsius. Second, that when it comes to heating choices, people are positioned as rational consumers rather than parents, grandparents, carers or employees working from home. Overlooking the personal in favour of the financial, costs are often envisaged by policy makers to be the key mechanism to change home heating choices of most Australians.
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.
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 introduce some of our academics and PhD candidates to give greater insight into AUSCCER’s work.
Sophie-May Kerr began her PhD with AUSCCER at the start of 2015. Here she answers questions about her research.
You’ve just begun your PhD candidature within AUSCCER. What is the focus of your PhD research?
I’m interested in social and environmental transformations that address high carbon and space-intensive urban lifestyles. In a climate changing world, one way in which cities are changing to accommodate for population growth and an increased demand in housing is through a shift towards urban consolidation. My goal is to inform understandings of sustainable urban living by examining sharing as a sustainable practice. My research will focus on the way urban residents share space (for instance, by living in apartments) and material resources (such as vehicles and household items). Responses to the challenges of urban population growth and carbon intensive lifestyles need to be grounded in an understanding of everyday life and efforts to increase rates of apartment-living must be informed by an understanding of how this mode of living can become socially sustainable. A key aspect of the research will be to consider how high-rise apartments might be made an attractive long-term residential option for a diverse population, including families. My research will focus on sustainability at the household level – understanding the everyday experiences of living in an apartment and the ways people consume material resources and inhabit spaces. I am interested in building form and layout and the strategies families have for making effective and efficient use of small spaces. An important part of this study will be exploring the discourses around raising children in apartments and the way this is portrayed, represented and stereotyped. Whilst living in apartments with children is not yet the norm in the Australian context, many cities around the world have high rates of apartment living, including families and there are no doubt lessons to be learned from these contexts.
(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 →
Contrary to the common rhetoric that being green is ‘easy’, household sustainability is rife with contradiction and uncertainty. Households attempting to respond to the challenge to become more sustainable in everyday life face dilemmas on a daily basis when trying to make sustainable decisions. Various aspects of life such as cars, computers, food, phones and even birth and death, may all provoke uncertainty regarding the most sustainable course of action. Drawing on international scientific and cultural research, as well as innovative ethnographies, this timely book probes these wide-ranging sustainability dilemmas, assessing the avenues open to households trying to improve their sustainability.
Do you have some form of central heating or reverse cycle air conditioning at home? If so, please consider being part of a University of Wollongong research project called Warm as toast? Home heating and energy use in the Illawarra. We seek households who are willing to discuss their home heating practices and energy use, and have their household electricity measured over approximately three months over winter 2014.
I love bicycles. Such simple, efficient, elegant machines. ‘The pinnacle of human endeavour’ according to my companion; I think he’s right. So I’m excited that Wollongong City Council is undertaking a City of Wollongong Bike Plan. More on that in a minute. First, a couple of reflections on cycling. Continue reading →