Vegemite Anthropocene: Conferencing transformations and law in Australia - Christopher Lyon
In July, LCAB’s Katie Noble and I climbed into some metal and carbon fibre tubes and travelled through the sky and the future to The Land Down Under. Apparently, the hippie trail is rewilded, and gassy, fried-out Kombis are harder to come by, so aeroplanes it was.
Anyway, some amount of hours (or was it days?) later, bleary-eyed and wrestling with carbon guilt, I crawled out of the sky-tube to find myself tomorrow in Australia. I bravely set off to find my hotel and promptly saw the sky again as I naturally tripped myself inverted on the kerb...
The following days, still in the upside-down night and day of jet lag, went much better as Katie and I were able to attend the fantastic Transformations 2023 conference led by staff at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, with satellite events in Prague and Portland, Maine. This gathering, which started in Oslo in 2013, has grown to run every few years and this year brought together 400 speakers and 700 delegates from academic and practice communities to discuss and share insights and experiences of sustainable transformations. Not your typical academic conference, it hosts learning labs, talks, diverse keynotes, artists and wellbeing practitioners and events, and a slew of people describing what they’re researching and doing to make the world a better place.
The 2017 conference in Dundee even workshopped ALL the attendees into authoring a 2020 paper with 169 citations so far and about as many authors! Speakers discussed and ran workshops exploring inner transformations, Indigenous initiatives and knowledge, ocean changes, and how our unconscious habits might block us from seeing opportunities.
Katie led a talk with, I have to say, brilliant slides she made on gamifying food systems sustainability, based on our ongoing collaboration with Environment and Geography’s Professor Sarah Bridle. This prompted a lengthy and engaged discussion among various attendees at all career stages. Well done, Katie! I later spoke about how long-term approaches to time can shape opportunities for sustainability transformations, again to good discussion and connections for collaboration.
Following this event, I boarded the ageing but serviceable (No wifi! No data!) 10-hour train to Melbourne to satiate my backpacker’s nostalgia for Australian landscapes and assuage my carbon guilt. Leaving an autumnal Sydney, the train slowly wound its way under antipodean winter skies through flat fields, forested hills, red and amber rock, gum trees, multiple kangaroo and Galah (eolophus roseicapilla) sightings, and into the greening approaches to Melbourne.
Here, I attended a fascinating and very LCAB workshop on Anthropocene law hosted by the La Trobe University Law School. Featured were speakers radically probing the ontological and epistemological foundations and applications of law to a rapidly changing Earth environment. Author and PhD student Roanna McClelland then held a reading from her well-reviewed new novel, The Comforting Weight of Water (I’ve left a copy in LCAB). As an outcome, LCAB will host speaker Dr Emille Boulot from the University of Tasmania. Dr Boulot will visit LCAB in October to discuss their work with McGill University PhD candidate Joshua Sterlin and discuss collaborations.
A winter (UK summer) conference season well spent.