Outstanding lectures

 

 

Tragedy of the Commons (3/8/00; 17/08/00) -case studies from Vietnam and the Philippines

 

These lectures re-enforced the outright poverty experienced by so many people in the world; and how for so many people good environmental management will be the only way to avoid starvation. I got the sense of how important it is to be both flexible and creative in offering solutions. For instance, the 'de-coupling' (eg. of basic survival and resource use) and 'coupling' (eg. resource conservation with eco-tourism) of interests to encourage less intensive use of resources.

  

In comparison to Vietnam and the Philippines, Australia is remarkably politically stable, and we have a relatively high degree of control over activities; so compared to many countries we are very well placed to deal with environmental problems if there is the will to do so.

 

 

Environmental Education (7/8/00) - guest lecturer David Eastburn

 

David's lecture highlighted the importance of socio/cultural, as well as technical, considerations in addressing environmental concerns. He emphasised the fact that participative learning is most meaningful and affective for both social and environmental sustainability. The success, popularity and continuation of the 'Special Forever' program is testament to this. However, he demonstrated that engineering solutions are administratively the most efficient and is consistently favoured over other approaches, like education and community involvement, by government departments. The fact that he lost his job in the MDBC as a social scientist is a stark reality of this. This raises the challenge that is underlying many 'conservation' agencies- a challenge that those of us working in them in the future will have to confront and attempt to work around. Proving the economic effectiveness of education; and 'slipping in' such programs may be ways to attempt to get around people unwilling to invest in non-technical projects.

 

 

Politics of the Environment (16/10/00) - guest lecturer Lorraine Elliot

 

Lorraine provided the large scale context of global environmental politics, which is the ultimate framework which we are all operating within. She presented the depressing fact that despite the existence of numerous working groups and committees, the state of the environment is continually declining. Also, powerful global economic 'agreements' (eg the GATT)- that are increasingly pushing for deregulation of world trade- can undermine efforts of the less powerful but arguably more important environmental decisions. Indeed, it is reflective of the obsession the current world order has with economic growth at all cost. If nothing else, Lorraine's lecture made me realise the importance of working on small, local scales and operating external to 'the system' to avoid excessive bureaucratic and political delays and complications. Of course, for some issues the global forum is essential- but it seems that we cannot rely on this to make meaningful changes to environmental degradation and management. I also came to this conclusion in my Special Topics report last semester, which touched on the potential for the Earth Charter. Although I am still interested and am still involved with the Earth Charter, there are many examples were such high level initiates and rhetoric cause little change on the ground where it counts. 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Environmental Movement (30/10/00)

 

This was a very important lecture that explained the various approaches NGOs can take in their efforts to represent the environment (eg. through media actions, sitting on executive boards, working/ not working with government). And unlike the popular impression of 'Green Groups', they do not necessarily have a common goal, and some have greater access to government than others. Again, this is a topic not well covered by other courses that I have studied, but is an important part of understanding the totality of environmental issues and solutions.

 

 

Environmental Economics (9/10/00)

 

Economics is the current preoccupation of the vast majority of people in power, and certainly money is one of the major factors people consider when making decisions. Thus, putting environmental arguments in economic terms, and using economic structures to achieve environmental ends may be one of the most pragmatic routes to 'sustainability'. There are a plethora of economic instruments/incentives that can be applied to various circumstances. However, as Richard outlined in this lecture, it is necessary for economic instruments to be just one approach among education, regulation and others. Most fundamentally, many environmental services and benefits can not be well represented in monetary terms. Also, the jargon used in economics eludes most people, which means that it is hardly an approach that most people will feel a part of. An uncertainty that still exists in my mind concerns how much of pure environmental integrity is being sacrificed when adopting economic measures. That is, although it may be accepted, is it low on substance?  

 

 

History and National Park Management (10/08/00)- Libby Robins

 

Although I have encountered some of Libby's arguments before, it is a topic that I am surprised is not more often spoken about. That is, the idea of a National Park being a pristine environment or 'wilderness' is by no means inevitable, and indeed, is not necessarily ideal. In this lecture, it was good to hear the historical details that lead to the formation of national parks. The most fascinating aspect to this whole issue is the fact that the emphasis on national parks may be a divergence from the more critical task of making all land areas ecologically healthy.

 

 

Sonya Duus- Supertut- Cultural Heritage     

 

KEY ISSUES

· Cultural heritage is in some respects a troublesome, value-ridden, anthropocentric, static, male dominated and euro-centric concept.

· Conflicts that exist include what white Australian’s consider to be heritage and what Aboriginal people see as cultural heritage (sometimes what we would call ‘wilderness’). There is also conflict over what is natural and cultural heritage

· Besides the concept of cultural heritage, there is also the practical application of cultural heritage conservation. In Australia there exists a bureaucratic institution (The Heritage Commission) which identifies, classifies and protects sites of cultural value

· The Commission is working to make the process more participatory so as to accommodate community values as well as just (typically) sites of architectural and ‘measurable’ value- is this working? Is it an impossible task?

· Nonetheless, cultural heritage is a very important part of forming our identity as Australians. (One could argue that the early europeans effectively dislocated many Aborigines by over-riding/not recognising the prior cultural heritage)

· Cultural heritage is important, but in considering how we deal with it, we need to make sure it accounts for the many views that exist in society

 

IDEAS- The first part of the tutorial can be based around discussions

* Ask what (5) things people consider worthy of conserving for their heritage value (personal attachment)

-          classify these into ‘natural’, ‘cultural’ and maybe subdivide them into things that are classically considered to be worthy of cultural heritage conservation and others

* Ask people to identify conflicts (from the readings or from their own lives) that exist with cultural heritage

* With the whole tut group, attempt to establish a definition of cultural heritage 

* Discuss any uncertainties/ lack of clarification of issues in the readings

-          The second part of the tutorial could involve an activity

* Divide the class into groups representing women, indigenous people, ethnic groups, traditional business developers, and representatives from the heritage commission

-          a hypothetical situation where the site of the polling booth where women were first allowed to vote is being considered for cultural heritage listing. It also exists on a Aboriginal sacred area, and the area has become important to the local Italian community. A developer also wants to clear it and construct a new restaurant (or something). The Heritage Commissioners are at the meeting to come to a decision.

 

POSSIBLE EXAM QUESTION

·         Identify and discuss some of the conflicts involved in the concept and conservation of cultural heritage. Is cultural heritage worth conserving?

 

REFERENCES

· Australian Heritage Commission: www.environment.gov.au/heritage/

· Culture and Policy Journal: www.gu.edu.au/centre/cmp/journal.html

· Habitat

-          ‘Digging Up Trouble: how Australia’s heritage is being undermined’ Vol. 25

       No 1 February 1997 p 17-24

-          ‘Cape York Peninsula: the land needs its people’ Vol. 23 No4 August 1995 p 17-24