The Arctic route to Europe

Post by Haakon Lein

You might have seen the photo – a simple pile of bicycles that made it to the front page of the New York Times earlier this month. The photo was followed by an article about Syrian migrants reaching Europe through an ‘arctic bike race’. The story also reached Australian news, which explained how asylum seekers are using the northernmost (and for many a most unlikely) route, which requires that they pass the Russian–Norwegian border either by car or bike. As drivers who bring them directly to the border crossing risk being fined, the solution is to get on a bike when approaching the Russian border station.

 

murmansk_regionLast week, 489 asylum seekers crossed the border on bike, the week before 501. Before ending up on a bike at the border, they have come through Moscow either by bus, train or plane to the city of Murmansk. On this last part of this journey they will pass through a little known but truly fascinating region. For the last seven years our department has taken masters students in geography on an annual fieldtrip to Kirkenes, Murmansk and other parts of the Kola Peninsula. The purpose has been to provide initial training in practical fieldwork as well as to get the students to know more about our powerful neighbour to the east.  We have travelled the route the asylum seekers now take quite a number of times.

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Making space/time for writing in the neoliberal university: The role of the sabbatical

Post by Rae Dufty-Jones

Writing and Space Series: Post 1/3

This semester I am taking my first sabbatical since I completed my PhD in 2008. After seven and half hectic years of full-time teaching-research (with ten months of maternity leave thrown in for good measure – just in case I didn’t feel busy enough) it feels like (and it quite literally is) an utter luxury to be spending six months on the research projects and writing I promised my university I would work on. I am sincerely grateful to Western Sydney University for providing this opportunity and the Universities of Wollongong and Sydney for hosting me while on this leave.

The term sabbatical is derived from the Hebrew ‘shabbat’ literally meaning ‘ceasing’ (thank you Wikipedia). Reflecting the monastic tradition from which academia is derived; the sabbatical generally involves providing (tenured) academics with the opportunity to take a six-month period of leave from teaching to focus on research (usually every 3-4 years). At first glance, this is a tradition that appears not to have been impacted by the various reforms that have come to characterise the neoliberal university.

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Bee poop, BBQ corn and a Burundian community in search of farmland: reflections from fieldwork in Australia’s Sunraysia Region

Post by Olivia Dun & Natascha Klocker

It’s been over a year since we started working on the project Exploring culturally diverse perspectives on Australian environments and environmentalism. The project is funded by the Australian Research Council and also includes our colleagues Lesley Head, Gordon Waitt and Heather Goodall. So far this project has prompted us to think about Australian landscapes, agriculture and back/front-yard spaces in new ways. Farmer_Olivia blogOur work on the project primarily centres on the town of Robinvale and the rural city of Mildura within the Sunraysia region. This region spans a corner of north-western Victoria and south-western New South Wales united by the Murray River and the possibility of irrigated agriculture. We were drawn to the Sunraysia because one third of horticulturalists in the region speak a language other than English at home (Missingham et al. 2006). The Sunraysia is also host to diverse horticultural industries including table grapes, dried fruit, citrus, almonds, olives, carrots, avocado and asparagus, accounting for much of the national supply of these crops. Our aim is to explore the contributions that ethnically diverse residents make to farming in this region – through their labour, businesses and growing practices.

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Poking about in fridges

Post by Gordon Waitt and Catherine Phillips

What’s the point of poking about in fridges? One of us was asked this question at the recent conference of the Institute for British Geographers. The person asking seemed sceptical of the value of such an undertaking. For us, however, the short answer is: ‘plenty’. One aspect of our fuller answer makes connections between refrigeration, everyday household practices, and food waste.

combined

Images: on left, inside fridge taken by research participant; on right, Australian landfill by Ropable via Wikimedia Commons.

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Meet Ananth Gopal

Ananth Gopal

Ananth Gopal

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.

 

 

Ananth began his PhD with AUSCCER earlier this year. Here he answers questions about his research.

 

You’ve just begun your PhD. At this early stage, what can you tell us about your research focus?

I’m interested in growing cultures, literally. By that I mean, looking at what role culture and ethnicity might play in the everyday food growing practices of people in the Illawarra. My research sits under the ARC discovery project led by Lesley Head, Natasha Klocker, Heather Goodall and Gordon Waitt. They are investigating the role cultural diversity has on people’s perceptions of the environment and environmental practices. The project is multi-pronged looking at a number of migrant communities and how their background may shape encounters in the Australian environmental context. I hope I can contribute something of worth with my focus on backyards and small-scale local agriculture.

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Geographies of the Anthropocene –––– RGS-IBG annual conference

RBGA flock of AUSCCERites are flying out the door, making the annual migration to the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers’ conference (1-4 September). This year the conference is held at the University of Exeter, focusing on ‘Geographies of the Anthropocene’.

 

If you’re attending the conference or following conference conversations via Twitter (#RGSIBG15 @RGS_IBG), be sure to mark the following sessions in your diaries:

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Meet Kiera Kent

Kiera Kent

Kiera Kent

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.

Kiera began her PhD with AUSCCER at the start of 2014. Here she answers questions about her research.

 

You’re in the second year of your PhD. What is the focus of your PhD research?

My research looks at where and how children play in the city. For example, built playgrounds are common spaces that represent ‘children’s spaces’ in the city. Playgrounds can provide a lot of play opportunities for children; however, when talking to children about where they prefer to play, research has shown that children will often talk about informal spaces in their neighbourhood or near their school. For example, a favourite tree to climb. When creating city spaces with children in mind, these everyday play spaces are more challenging to plan and design.  This is where my current research interest lies.

The playground at Brighton Lawn/Belmore Basin is one location where children are often seen playing. This is a regional playground meaning that it is larger, and has more play opportunities.

The playground at Brighton Lawn/Belmore Basin is one location where children are often seen playing. This is a regional playground meaning that it is larger, and has more play opportunities.

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Indigenous people and invasive species – proceedings from the World Parks Congress

Last December, Jenny Atchison (with Lesley Head) shared a video of their presentation delivered at the World Parks Congress in Sydney. Since this time, Jenny, Lesley and a number of symposium presenters have collaborated and proudly present a global community booklet – Indigenous people and invasive species: Perceptions, management, challenges and uses.

Published by the IUCN & CEN Ecosystems and Invasive Species Thematic Group, the booklet encapsulates 15 case studies on Indigenous people and invasive plants from around Australia, including Lesley and Jenny’s research on Indigenous Invasive Plant Management in Northern Australia.

IPIS booklet_V4_Page_01

Ens, E., Fisher, J. and Costello, O. (Editors) (2015) Indigenous people and invasive species: Perceptions, management, challenges and uses. IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management Community Report.

Reviewing the 2015 IAG conference

Post by Chris Brennan-Horley

Now that a few days have passed and everyone at AUSCCER has regrouped and defrosted from IAG 2015, it’s time to reflect on our week in the National Capital. Canberra provided the full winter experience, with most nights dropping below zero and daytime temps occasionally making it into double digits. Kudos goes to Tom Measham and the conference organising committee for pre-empting the weather as we were greeted at registration with our very own IAG 2015 puffer vest! A truly functional piece of conference merch, sported by many grateful participants over the coming days.

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