Published 18 May 2021
Researcher Lynne Chester investigates the multitude of intersecting cumulative events, (in)actions and institutions that led to the devastating Australian bushfires.
The Conjunction of Cumulative Events, (In)actions and Institutions Causing and Exacerbating Recent Bushfires and the Aftermath
The unprecedented intensity and duration of the 2019-20 Australian bushfires is a much more complex story than one of climate change, as posited by some. Lynne Chester contends that the scale and catastrophic impact of these bushfires were caused—and exacerbated—by a conjunction of cumulative events, (in)actions and institutions. This story is a potent mix of: the problematisation of bushfires and governing; a federation of nation and local states fractured by constitutional responsibilities; the impact of neoliberal austerity policies on land management; discordant local-state policies; a long-term disregard of Indigenous fire practices; the role of community (volunteerism); the transmission of (mis)information by social and traditional media; record temperatures; national rainfall the lowest for over a century; at least a third of the continent experiencing a severe three-year drought; and more. Lynne will outline this potent mix and explore if a similar conjunction could recur given all the recent inquiries.
Lynne Chester is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Economy and is recognised as a leading Australian scholar in the empirical application of French Régulation theory—a heterodox (non-conventional) school of economic thought inspired by Marxian and Institutional Economics. Her research has primarily focused on a range of energy issues such as the economic-energy-environment relation, energy justice, household energy affordability, energy problematization, and the economic regulation of energy sectors. More recently, her research has included Australian bushfires, COVID-19 and universities, and an ARC Linkage Project ‘Solar solutions to improve energy affordability for low-income renters’.
Scott Webster (Chair) was recently awarded his PhD with the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. His research explores the ‘killing of memory’ (or memoricide) as a phenomenon and argues that, beyond its emblematic imagery as part of conflict in Bosnia, Israel and Syria, it also has normalised, everyday dimensions. Scott also has a longstanding interest in the destruction of home (‘domicide’) and is currently researching how human/nature entanglements complicate our theoretical frameworks for understanding home loss.
About the series
The Living with Bushfire: Emerging Research Seminar Series brings together researchers from around the University of Sydney and beyond to explore diverse approaches to the topic of bushfire from the humanities and social sciences. The series seeks to offer an informal space to share emerging research with interested colleagues in order to gain feedback and to inform collaborative conversations.