Narratives of Climate Change Symposium
5-6 JULY 2018 University of Newcastle, NeW Space Campus
Greenland iceberg floating past the village of Narsaq. Photo taken by Brendan Mackey
The struggle to solve the problem of human-forced climate change - which requires us to stop using fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas and end deforestation - has become an ever-present backdrop to political discourse, an intermittent topic in popular media, a central concern for community and social movements in the Global South and North, and a magnet for scholarly engagement.
The climate change problem is a disruptive, and potentially creative force that challenges, among other things, diverse ways of living, expectations of a good life, the dominant patterns of production and consumption, dominant frameworks of knowledge and the political, the fundamental precepts of legal systems, and the presupposition that our children’s children will inherit a world in which humans and the greater community of life can flourish.
At the same time, discourses around climate change risk invisibilising other histories of power and exploitation, such as colonialism, that have long inflicted violences upon First Nations peoples and their lifeworlds, and which underpin the reality that both the impacts and root causes of climate change are experienced disproportionally by the most vulnerable. Indeed, some climate change interventions serve to undermine rather than sustain Earth.
This symposium will be an interdisciplinary collaboration inspired by the possibility that the gap between scientific knowledge and effective political, legal and social action can be bridged by alternative forms of narrative, incorporated into and developed by artistic creations, works of fiction, social and other media, performances of all types including theatrical, activist and absurdist, visionary planning and innovative litigation such as the Children’s Trust lawsuits. In this collaboration, we envisage a partnership in which representatives from different communities and across academia work with diverse narratives, in particular the scientific narratives, to develop ways to ignite the public imagination and bring about effective action on climate change.
The collaboration acknowledges and seeks to support First Nations peoples’ ways of knowing and being, diverse forms of story-telling, and collaborations that support pluralistic, flourishing lifeworlds, both human and more-than-human.
The insidious process of cognitive dissonance renders many scholars incapable of contributing their expertise to the critical issues of our times, such as climate change. The academy continues to labour within the confines of coloniality and within a politics of knowledge which transforms subjects worthy of our moral consideration into objects and thus contributes to social alienation and political disempowerment. To paraphrase Mary Midgely, we are not aliens on a strange planet: our history and biology, which place us here, ensure that the facts of this planet have abundant meaning for us.