Free download: Household Sustainability

The cover of Household Sustainability: Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday LifeLast year Household Sustainability: Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life was published. You can now download the Introduction of the book for free.

The book is written by: Chris Gibson, Carol Farbokto, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt.

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.

The book is now also available in paperback.

Seeking households for Warm as Toast project

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.

Continue reading

‘Getting stuff done’ on a bicycle

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

Call for papers: Sustainability in the Anthropocene

Institute of Australian Geographers/New Zealand Geographical Society Conference University of Melbourne, June 30 to July 2, 2014.

Organisers: Dr Lauren Rickards (Uni Melb) and Prof Lesley Head (Uni Wollongong)

Still under review as a formal geological term, ‘the Anthropocene’ – the idea that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch due to the accumulated effect of human influences – is, like sustainability, an interdisciplinary concept. It not only brings together multiple scientific disciplines, from geologists and geomorphologists to ecologists and climate scientists, but is fast becoming an intellectual meeting point for a far wider range of scholars, including those coming from historical, political, economic, social and cultural perspectives. Combined with the way that the Anthropocene thesis challenges the ontological basis of the disciplinary divisions listed above, and demands close attention to spatial and temporalscale and boundaries, the Anthropocene is a rich theme for many geographers.

The implications of the Anthropocene for the environmental sustainability project are contested. Some commentators, including some of its originators, see the concept as a call-to-arms for the environmental movement. But others suggest that it reveals the environmental sustainability enterprise to be out-dated or out-moded: ahopeless or misguided exercise.  This session calls for papers that address challenges to sustainability in the Anthropocene from a range of critical perspectives. These could include papers on how issues such as climate change, ocean acidification or species extinctions are positioned within the Anthropocene discourse, critique of certain Anthropocene narratives or images, or implications of Anthropocene relationships for particular policy areas such as geoengineering, mining oragriculture. Other possible topics include the relationship between the Anthropocene and debates about ‘human impacts’, planetary boundaries, species thinking, the human-nature relationship and imaginaries of the future.

Session format: Normal paper format (4-6 papers), with possible discussant depending on number of papers

Instructions: Please email Lauren Rickards (lauren.rickards@unimelb.edu.au) with your abstract of 250 words or less by March 28. And submit it on the conference website when you register.

Are you interested in submitting a paper for the IAG conference?

Ruth Lane (Monash University) and Juliana Mansvelt (Massey University) are proposing the following session for the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) conference (30 June – 2 July 2014) and are seeking researchers who may be interested in submitting papers. If you’re interested please contact Ruth directly. Continue reading

Transition, adaptation, metamorphosis: framing climate change and regional response

This is the third and final in a series of posts by AUSCCER’s Chris Gibson on climate change and regions, building on papers presented in recent weeks at the 4th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions at ETH Zurich, the annual Institute of Australian Geographers conference at the University of Western Australia, and the 2013 National Climate Change Adaptation (NCCARF) conference in Sydney.

In this final post in my series of post-conference debriefs, I wish to explore further what conceptions of transformation might be required to respond to climate change, and what kinds of perceptions of time are involved.

In this I duly acknowledge on-going conversations with my AUSCCER colleagues and especially Lesley Head, who has written extensively on the topic. In her 2010 PiHG essay Lesley reminded us that ‘adaptation’ was a core concept of twentieth-century cultural ecology, applied in much earlier frames in the context of cultural evolution, ‘traditional’ societies and environmental determinism to describe a combination of general flexibility within new environments, and ‘specific reconfigurations of genetic material’. The term ‘adaptation’ now finds itself reinvented in the context of climate change in ways that retain some of that term’s baggage and limitations. As Lesley warns, ‘there is a risk of discredited dualisms becoming re-embedded in patterns of thinking and proposed solutions to problems’. Continue reading

Back to the future: climate change and regional inheritances

This is the second in a series of posts by AUSCCER’s Chris Gibson on climate change and regions, building on papers presented in recent weeks at the 4th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions at ETH Zurich, the annual Institute of Australian Geographers conference at the University of Western Australia, and the 2013 National Climate Change Adaptation (NCCARF) conference in Sydney.

In my last post I made the case for focusing on regions as a scale of climate change response. In this, I wish to consider briefly the issue of how to rethink future responses in light of the past.

Regions inherit numerous legacies from previous generations: their physical infrastructure, economic base, demography, political culture, workforce skills and social mix. Regions will, with some urgency, need to assess the strengths of their institutions, rethink residential, transport and environmental planning, and document vernacular cultural assets that may prove helpful in adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of climatic extremity.

How well are we positioned to ‘retrofit’ regions, physically, economically, and culturally – and how quickly can it be done? The task is to figure out which bits of regional historical inheritances will count towards transition and adaptation, and which bits will somehow need to be jettisoned. Continue reading

The Connected Household: Understanding the role of Australian households in sustainability and climate change

How well do we understand households in environmental policy? Households make sense both to the people who live in them, and to government policy makers, as foundational social units, and as sites through which it is logical to understand the consumption of energy, water and materials that have implications for sustainability issues such as climate change. In affluent urban societies households are an increasing focus of government policy in relation to sustainability issues, and an expanding research literature considers the household as a crucial scale of social organisation for pro-environmental behaviour.

In Australia we have seen activity at all levels of government, including support for solar panels, home insulation, water tanks, light globes and shower timers. Local councils have established programs such as Sustainable Illawarra’s Super Challenge, in which householders were encouraged to become more environmentally sustainable by engaging in activities such as refusing plastic bags, composting, establishing vegetable gardens and catching public transport. The marketing materials used phrases like, ‘take the challenge to see just how easy it is to take control of your ecological footprint. You’ll be surprised at how little time it takes to make a difference … and how good it makes you feel!’ (Sustainable Illawarra 2008). Continue reading

PhD Scholarship Opportunity – Enhancing Resilience of Aged Care Systems to Climate Change: Retrofitting Buildings and Sociocultural Systems

PhD Scholarship Opportunity $AUS24 653 per year (3 years max)

Enhancing Resilience of Aged Care Systems to Climate Change: Retrofitting Buildings and Sociocultural Systems
With ageing and urbanising populations in affluent countries, and rising costs of care, it is urgent to enhance the resilience of aged-care systems to climate change. Climate change has a number of connected implications for aged-care, including increasing energy costs in heating and cooling, and the vulnerability of elderly people to extreme weather events such as heat waves. The aged care sector is under increased pressure to become more environmentally sustainable yet meet regulatory standards that often demand increased use of energy for lighting or heating/cooling. The broad project aim is to enhance the economic, social, cultural and environmental resilience of aged-care facilities by retrofitting buildings and sociocultural systems.

Continue reading

Sustainable Mobility?

Sustainable mobility?

This is the first in a series of posts by AUSCCER authors on mobility and questions of sustainability. In this post, Gordon Waitt and Theresa Harada discuss cars, concepts and experimental methodologies.

Driving in Wollongong
(source: participant #5)

Wollongong is an archetypal Australian regional city in that the car dominates everyday life. The car is integral to its very geography, particularly since the 1960s when its residential population boomed and new suburbs and undercover shopping malls were built away from the old town centre. In Wollongong there is an underpinning assumption that if you are going anywhere, you are going to travel by car. Cycleways do exist. However, they are mostly oriented around leisure activities and thus provide access to places valued for their aesthetics – like beaches or Lake Illawarra – rather than workplaces like the Central Business District. Likewise, there is a train line that dates from the late 1800s and is closely aligned to Wollongong’s coal mining legacy. Hence, the rail infrastructure while connecting Wollongong with Sydney, does not connect many Wollongong suburbs with the city centre. Roads and cars dominate the transport infrastructure rather than train lines, cycleways or even pavements. Car parks are ubiquitous; you find them at the shops, the beach, the university and the steelworks. In Wollongong, people spend a lot of time going places in their cars.  Continue reading