Sydney Environment Institute takes holistic approach to tackling climate change

13 September 2013

coal mining
The Sydney Environment Institute will bring together scholars working across the University of Sydney's 16 faculties to conduct cutting-edge research into global ecological issues.

Some of Australia's leading sustainability thinkers across a broad spectrum of disciplines will join forces to seek innovative solutions to climate change with the launch of the new Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of Sydney next Tuesday 17 September.

As one of the nation's first wholly interdisciplinary environment networks, the SEI will conduct cutting-edge research, bringing together historians, marine biologists, environmental scientists, veterinarians, urban planners, and other researchers across the University of Sydney's 16 faculties in pursuit of integrated knowledge and action on global ecological issues.

From climate change to food security, cultural studies and sustainable business, the SEI draws upon the University's research strengths to unite academics to understand and redesign the relationship between human communities and the natural world.

"Any hopes of tackling climate change will require such broad thinking, combining both scientific approaches and a keen awareness of how human societies need to adapt to our warming world," says co-Director of the Institute Professor Iain McCalman.

"We need to face up to how best we can live in this extraordinarily changing world, which is changing faster than any of us realise," he says.

"What can we do to live with these changes, to make something good and positive out of these forces we cant stop? That's our mission."

SEI researchers will work across seven nodes that mirror the multifaceted nature of sustainability issues worldwide: climate change and society; environment and culture; Australian marine and maritime culture; the human animal research network; sustainable cities; food security; and sustainable business and balanced enterprise.

At the launch event on Tuesday 17 September, co-presented with Sydney Ideas, Professor McCalman will discuss the goals of the Institute and draw upon his forthcoming book, The Reef: A Passionate History (Penguin), a ground-breaking analysis of the shifting status of the Great Barrier Reef from colonial labyrinth of terror to today's global treasure.

Importantly, the SEI will also raise awareness of these issues through several planned public outreach programs, working with non-government organisations, government bodies, museums and the private sector to share their findings on environmental action.

In one of the first events co-presented by the Institute on Wednesday 25 September, internationally renowned environmental campaigner Dr David Suzuki will deliver the public lecture 'The Challenge of the 21st Century: Setting the Real Bottom Line' at the University of Sydney's Great Hall.

An inclusive approach to environmental problems can help counter the undue criticisms facing the scientific community in the wake of serious climate threats, Professor McCalman says.

"We can't afford to neglect that people also have feelings about places and changes to their lives; about their homes and places they love disappearing, and these human sides of the problem need to be addressed.

"We need to work with both things: our imagination and a love of beauty, as well as with science and technology, which has a great capacity to solve problems and change things.

"If we don't take people with us, we get nowhere."


What:Sydney Environment Institute Launch, a Sydney Ideas event

When: Tuesday 17 September, 6.00-7.30pm

Where:Law School Foyer, Eastern Avenue, The University of Sydney.

Cost: Free, registration required

RSVP: Sydney Ideas 9351 2943 or

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Contact: Emily Jones

Phone: 02 9114 1961; 0405 208 616

Email: 10420e3e1e792d1b395700330b1d271e0f361a09300f7a224d