News and Events


Living in the Anthropocene: The Role of Environmental Humanities and Social Sciences

February 26-28 2014
Level 1 Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney

Human beings now control the very life processes of the Earth; we have moved from being serial depleters of local environments to becoming a geophysical force that shapes the planet. While geologists make their case to formalize and adopt this epoch, the role of environmental humanities and social sciences has become crucially linked with our allies in the natural and technological sciences in seeking to understand and meet the challenges and changes thrown up by the new epoch. Our role is to help interpret the impacts, understand the implications, and engage the public in developing alternative ways forward. How to do all this will be explored and debated in the conference and its related events and workshops.

We will interrogate such issues as:

  1. The relationship between the natural and technological sciences and the humanities as we engage from different perspectives in the new geological era of the Anthropocene.
  2. The social and cultural meaning and significance of the planet's entry into an Anthropocene epoch.
  3. The roles that artists and writers play in the interpretation and popularization of scientific ideas and themes in the broader cultural landscape.

Dr Jan Zalasiewicz
, University of Leicester
Rom Coles, Northern Arizona University
Giovanna Si Chiro, Swarthmore College
Libby Robin, Australian National University
Kate Rigby, Monash University
Kirsten Wehner, National Museum Australia

For more information:
Michelle St Anne

9351 5445

SyReNS Network on Climate Changed Society

Professors David Schlosberg, Iain McCalman and Alison Bashford were successful in coordinating a bid for a SyReNS network centred on Climate Change and Society. This was built squarely around key members of the Environmental Humanities Group, but has also been extended to include relevant figures involved in this field within other departments such as Marine Biology, Medicine and Anatomy, Geosciences, Architecture and Design, Business and Law. The considerable funding will enable the Group to grow into the much larger and more diverse Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society.

Mellon Foundation Pilot Scheme for Humanities for the Environment Network

Professor Iain McCalman, as a representative of the group and a member of the CHCI International Advisory Board, in conjunction with members of the CHCI Humanities for the Environment Group was successful in an application to the Mellon Foundation for pilot funding in order to build an international collaborative research network on Environmental Humanities.
for more information please visit the CHCI Humanities for the Environment website


Rethinking Invasion Ecologies: Natures, Cultures and Societies in the age of the Anthropocene, Monday 18th & Tuesday 19th June, 2012

This conference will seek to explore the role of Australia, and Australian scholarship, in environmental thought about invasive ecologies for the Anthropocene. How will biological and cultural invasions of the past impact on the futures of Australian places? How should we think about the more-than-human roles of camels and carp; or willows and baobabs, or Nordic and Ngarrindjeri in environmental change? What of the Australian plants, animals, people and ideas that travelled out of Australia, that re-made other global places? What sorts of futures have we imagined for climate changing environments? How will we account for environmental justice on policy agendas and political campaigns? How do different spatial scales of analysis help us to understand the impacts of invasive species and their more-than- biological events? What other methodological challenges do we face?

Click here for more information

Student Workshop, Tuesday 15 November, 2011

On Tuesday 15th November the Environmental Humanities Group hosted a student workshop with 12 post-graduate students from the disciplines of History, English, Philosophy, Government & Public Relations and Social Policy & Sociology. The workshop was run by Profs. Iain McCalman, David Schlosberg, Alison Bashford and Cindy McCreery.

Students were asked to give short presentations of their work, which was discussed amongst the group and feedback was given. They were encouraged to participate in the Group and to develop networks in order across their respective disciplines.

In the afternoon the students joined a symposium of grant members to discuss in detail the international conference scheduled for next year on 17-18 June and the edited book of scholarly essays, which will come out of this.

Public Lecture, Monday 4 July, 2011, Associate Professor Stephen Gardiner

a co-presentation with Sydney Ideas and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Despite decades of awareness, we are currently accelerating hard into the climate problem in a way that defies standard explanations. This suggests that our current focus on the scientific and economic questions is too narrow, and that the tendency to see the political problem as a traditional tragedy of the commons facing nation states is too optimistic. Instead, we should recognise that climate change is genuinely global, dominantly intergenerational, and takes place in a setting where our prescriptive theories are weak.

This “perfect moral storm” poses a profound challenge to humanity. The key issue is that the current generation is in a position to pass on most of the costs of its behaviour (and especially the most serious harms) to the global poor, future generations and nonhuman nature. This “tyranny of the contemporary” helps to explain both the past failures of international climate policy, and the current push towards geoengineering. Part of the solution is better public ethics. We must work harder on articulating both the ethical problem, and moral constraints on solutions. In addition, there is a role for “defensive” moral and political philosophy, aimed at preserving the quality of public discourse.

Professor Stephen Gardiner

Stephen Gardiner is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Program on Values in Society at the University of Washington, Seattle. He specialises in ethics, political philosophy and environmental ethics. Steve's current research focuses on future generations, global environmental problems (especially climate change), and Aristotelian virtue ethics. He received his PhD. in Philosophy from Cornell University in 1999 and has an M.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a B.A. from Oxford University in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

Steve is the editor of Virtue Ethics, Old and New (2005), and the coordinating co-editor (with Dale Jamieson, Simon Caney and Henry Shue) of Climate Ethics (2010). His most recent book is A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change (2011).

Australia’s best know ethicist, Professor Peter Singer, said of the book: “Stephen Gardiner takes to a new level our understanding of the moral dimensions of climate change. A Perfect Moral Storm argues convincingly that climate change is the greatest moral challenge our species has ever faced - and that the problem goes even deeper than we think."