Requiem: What Caused the Fires?

Photo by Stu Shaw, via Shutterstock. Stock photo ID- 1500952685
Sunday 17 January 2021
4.00 - 5.30pm

This event has passed


Paddington Reservoir
251-255 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW



Sydney Festival

More info

What caused the black summer mega-fires that devastated the homes and habitats of animals (including humans) across south-east Australia? 

Requiem discussion panels curated by Danielle Celermajer and Michelle St Anne.

As the mega-fires of the black summer were devastating ecologies and the homes and habitats of animals (including humans) across south-east Australia, theories about what caused them and accusations of who was responsible for them raged across the social and media landscape. The fossil fuel industry and the political right promoted theories about arsonists and greenies allegedly getting in the way of ‘backburning’; scientists, ecologists and communities on the ground who had been living with the realities of the drought insisted that the fires were the acute and violent expression of climate change.

This panel will try to make sense of what caused the fires, where responsibility for them lies, what exacerbated the vulnerability of those whose lives they destroyed, and most importantly, what we can do to protect all lives in a world where climate change makes wildfires an ever-present threat.


Danielle Celermajer is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. With a background in human rights practice and scholarship, her work now focuses on justice. Her forthcoming book Summertime (Penguin, 2021) weaves personal stories of the black summer fires with more abstract reflections on the ethics and politics of the climate catastrophe.

David Ritter is the Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. He has been with Greenpeace for nine years, campaigning to secure an earth capable of nurturing life in all its amazing diversity. He is an Affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute.

David Schlosberg (Chair) is Professor of Environmental Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. His work focuses on contemporary environmental and environmental justice movements, environment and everyday life, and climate adaptation planning and policy.

Julie Vulcan is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and writer. Her work spanning performance, installation, and digital media has been presented nationally and internationally. Her writing has appeared in a Power publication, arts journals and independent publications alongside flash fictions for social media platforms. A PhD candidate at the University of Western Sydney her current research draws on feminist, new materialist and environmental humanities discourse to interrogate notions of the dark and inform speculative imaginings for future worlds here and now. Julie lives and works on Gundungurra and Tharawal country South West of Sydney.

Glenda Wardle is Professor of Ecology and Evolution in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on the dynamics of populations, species and ecological interactions to improve conservation and management of ecosystems.


This is a free event, registration is required due to limited numbers complying with NSW Covid restrictions. For more information, visit the 2021 Sydney Festival website.