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Environmental activism and academia

14 October 2016
Pursuing research in the public interest

The Sydney Environment Institute has partnered with Greenpeace Australia Pacific and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to deliver this year’s National Environment Meeting 2016.

A photo of people erecting a wind turbine at sunset.

Over four days, activists, non-government organisation staffers and academics will gather at the University of Sydney for the annual event.

Since 2014, the National Environment Meeting (NEM) has strived to be a forum for environmentalists across Australia to meet, network and discuss key issues facing the environmental movement.

The new partnership with University of Sydney’s Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) highlights the important role research can play in this crucial area of public policy.

On Friday 21 October the SEI is hosting a full day symposium, ‘Movements and Researchers: Defining the Questions’.

There will be four panel discussions during the day: ‘Justice and the Environment’, ‘New Forms of Political Organising – The Impact of Social Media’, ‘Everyday Life and the Australian Environment’ and ‘Hope in the Wake of Climate Change’.

The participants will examine key developments and issues, with a focus on what movements and scholars can learn from one another. The goal is to develop a set of real research questions that can continue to be explored together.

The power of collaboration

Co-director of the Sydney Environment Institute Professor David Schlosberg said: “We’re very pleased to be working with Greenpeace and the Nature Conservation Council on the organisation of the NEM 2016.

“We want to better understand the issues being raised by the environment movement in Australia, and to complement the passion of its activism with cutting edge research.

“The power of this collaboration lies in developing practical solutions to complex problems, backed by evidence – on questions that that academia and the movement have generated together.

“The University has a commitment to engage with external partners, including community organisations and policy makers, and this is an invaluable opportunity to do both.

“We intend for the meeting to serve as a model of best practice on how to develop relationships and research questions in order to better target future research and achieve genuine outcomes.

“The broader goal is also to demonstrate the value and importance of doing research as a public good, in contrast to the push for research as a profit maker that has inundated the sector.

Research questions generated by this engagement between environmental groups and academics will form the basis of ongoing collaboration and linkages, with the hope that we can, together, do good for the Australian public and the environment.
David Schlosberg, co-director of the Sydney Environment Institute Professor

David Ritter, Chief Executive Officer, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said: “Great problems require great solutions. The dynamic relationship between independent intellectual inquiry in the public interest that can be provided by universities and the great wave of democratic advocacy represented the environment and climate movements is critical to Australia's future progress.

“Social progress is only possible with a good understanding of how things are, how they were and the options for how they might be in the future so it is essential that academics and those involved in civil society are in constant dialogue with each other. The NEM will provide a vital opportunity for these conversations to take place.”

Kate Smolksi, CEO of the NSW Nature Conservation Council, said: “The environment movement and the research community have a long history or working together to achieve the best outcomes for nature.

“Not surprisingly, environmental advocacy is always most effective when it is informed by rigorous research.

“It is therefore very fitting that this year’s National Environment Meeting is being held at Sydney University, a world leader in scientific research.”

Sydney Ideas

The NEM will launch with a Sydney Ideas event open to the public at 6.30pm on Thursday 20 October, ‘Truth & Beauty: What We’re Talking About When We Talk About The Environment’.

Acclaimed Australian author and public speaker Don Watson and others will discuss the challenges and joys of communication about the environment at a time when the natural world is under great threat.

Members of the public are welcome to attend.

They can register at http://sydney.edu.au/environment-institute/events/truth-beauty-talking-about-the-environment/.

Rachel Fergus

Media and PR Adviser
Social progress is only possible with a good understanding of how things are, how they were and the options for how they might be in the future.
David Ritter, Chief Executive Officer, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

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