Illuminating wildfire vulnerability through environmental history

The following is a discussion of how environmental history recently has broadened my understanding of wildfire vulnerability. It is based on my reflections from the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) conference in San Francisco, which together with the Association of American Geographers (AAG) conference in Tampa bracketed my recent trip to USA. The purpose of attending both conferences was to share key lessons on gendered dimensions of wildfire vulnerability and resilience as presented in my new book. Yet, the format of my input to each conference was distinctively different. Continue reading

The AAG jostle: last thoughts from the bar

By Ellen van Holstein

Having presented my own work at the AAG early in proceedings, I spent the rest of the conference walking around the rooms like a little girl in a candy shop. So much to see, so little time. Oh! Tim Cresswell tweets about a lecture on epigenetics that is about to start. That does not sound like my field of interest, but Tim Cresswell has probably been to the AAG a couple of times; he knows what he is talking about. Right? So I decide to go.

The next hour and a half the speaker, Becky Mansfield, plunges into a critical discussion of the fascinating science of epigenetics, leaving me in a deep state of excitement and confusion. A state I don’t get myself out of until the end of the conference.

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Meeting my book critics at the AAG 2014

Writing my first book was an incredible experience. Empowering when words flowed. Exhilarating when thoughts came together coherently on paper. Frustrating when nothing seemed to make sense – in my head or on paper. Terrifying when writer’s block set in. Mind numbing when faced with the fourth, let alone the four-hundredth round of edits and proofs. Gratifying, exhausting, emotional – sometimes all at once depending on the moment. An experience beyond words really. It was therefore both exciting and terrifying to invite four academic colleagues to provide a public critique of my newly published book Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Meeting – held this year in Tampa, Florida. The following is a summary of my author-meets-critics session.

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Plunging into the Anthropocene

For geographers, discussion around the Anthropocene provides an interesting recent take on long standing disciplinary debates over issues such as ‘Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth‘, human impacts and human relations to nature. Last year I was struck by the parallels between how people are conceptualising and talking about the Anthropocene, and how the Neolithic or agricultural revolution has been discussed in archaeology over the last few decades.

I am not talking  about the debate over whether the Anthropocene started 8000 or so years ago as a result of methane emissions from rice agriculture, as argued by William Ruddiman, although that is a fascinating and important discussion. Rather it is about how phases or periods of history can become reified in public and scholarly consciousness, to the detriment of considering their spatial and temporal nuances. If we’re not careful we can end up with deterministic and teleological rather than contingent understandings of historical change. Continue reading

AAG 2014 Tampa Conference, Day 3: Thoughts From The Bar

By Chris Gibson

A short blog post from the bar tonight, because we’re having our AUSCCER drinks – an annual tradition at the AAG conference where we put a token amount of money on the bar, and spend time as a research group with friends and collaborators from elsewhere. This post is standing between them, and me, so I’ll keep it brief.

It was my turn to present today, on a terrific panel organized by Laura Price and Harriet Hawkins (Royal Holloway) on Revisiting Production. It was a high powered lineup included Wendy Larner (Bristol), Dydia DeLyser (Louisiana State), Alistair Pinkerton (Royal Holloway) and Nicola Thomas (Exeter), tossing around ideas about the future of manufacturing, restoring and remaking ‘things’, statecraft and ‘making’, alternatives to masculine productivist imaginaries of large-scale industries and export orientation, and the performance of the neoliberal entrepreneurial subject. Continue reading

Looking for the Heart in America

By Nick Skilton

Nick Skilton is a PhD Candidates with the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research. He is currently at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida.

CanineSexuality and gender is something that I’ve always spent a lot of time thinking about. Even when I’ve gotten it wrong (it’s been a regular feature of my life as a kid from the suburbs), I’ve tried to use it as an experience to help me get it right. It’s been a long, rocky, weaving, disastrous and beautiful trail. I’m not saying I understand things perfectly these days – I mean, who could? – but I feel I’ve definitely found enlightenment to the point where I can approach sex and gender from both a personal and an academic place and find meaning there. Writing a PhD from a queer perspective, you spend a lot of time interrogating your own life, trying to find meaning that is academically relatable. It’s not always apparent. Often it’s completely invisible, as your life descends into a mess that academic writing can never capture or represent. But sometimes personal experience is a catalysing process that lends meaning to everything that you write about, everything that you wanted to say but lacked the embodied form that makes expression possible, every thought that inhabits your daily being and inevitably threads its meaning into academic praxis anyway, so that as ever, the two become inseparable. Continue reading

AAG 2014 Tampa Conference, Day 2: Thoughts From The Bar

By Chantel Carr

Chantel is a PhD Candidate with the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research. She is currently at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida.

A nice evening wander back to the hotel bar tonight, via a quick pit stop at the taco bar. Cheap! Another night for ranging across topics and thoughts spurred by the day’s diverse conference sessions – so far Ellen’s recount of a plenary about epigenetics, discussions about urban morphology and materials, ‘selfies’ and what it’s like to live in different places, making new friends and learning from the local. A somewhat calm recap of what has been a great day. Continue reading

AAG 2014 Tampa Conference, Day 1: Thoughts From The Bar

By Nick Skilton and Ellen van Holstein

Nick Skilton and Ellen van Holstein are both PhD Candidates with the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research. They are currently at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida.

Nick presenting at the AAG conference in Tampa, Florida.

Nick presenting at the AAG conference in Tampa, Florida.

Nick: We’ve finally all found each in the downstairs bar of the Floridan Hotel. The chandeliers scream old school bling, and the waitress is surly because we don’t get tipping etiquette. They don’t have kettles in hotel rooms, but they have great bourbon, and burgers that get served ‘bloody’ enough to send me – the vegan AUSCCERite – upstairs to my room for dinner. Continue reading

Known unknowns in New Orleans

“Come on, honey! I need to get laid”, echoes through the hallways of the old building, as I close the door wondering if ‘hotel’ is the right description for the establishment I have just checked in to in New Orleans. As it turns out, these are the parting words of the disappointed woman, as the hotel’s black bouncer escorts her off the premises. The sound of her stiletto heels taps down the street – unevenly.

Later that same afternoon, I once again have the indirect company of the bouncer. As I scribble notes in one corner of the shaded courtyard, he sits in another corner quietly reading aloud one word after another from an English dictionary. Within the first hours of my visit to New Orleans, I am witness to the racial, class and educational divides that Hurricane Katrina brought so brutally to the fore in 2005, as New Orleans first fought to stay alive and then faced the mammoth task of rebuilding the hurricane ravaged city. Continue reading

Cities and more-than-human thinking

This post was written by Justin Westgate and originally appeared on his personal blog.

I attended an interesting presentation by Gehl Architects last week. Wollongong City Council has approached Gehl to consult on helping to make the city centre more vibrant and liveable for people.

Gehl’s approach to town planning is a human-centered one – they focus on the the relationship between the built environment and people’s quality of life, carrying out empirical research to help make better decisions about how to design – or redesign – urban spaces. Their most visible work is perhaps that inCopenhagen, using it as a ‘living laboratory’ choreographing the extraction of cars from the city and the development of alternate mobilites – cycling, walking and public transport – and ways of making the city a more people-friendly space. But they also work in cities around the globe. Continue reading