Christine Winter Reveals New Zealand Heritage Inspired PhD Research

Christine reveals how her New Zealand heritage prompted her to explore environmental justice.

Christine Winter is a PhD candidate of the Sydney Environment Institute and holds an undergraduate degree in geomorphology and a Master in applied and professional ethics. She reveals how her New Zealand heritage prompted her to explore environmental justice.

It’s been a rather long and convoluted journey for Christine – from a childhood desire to be a vulcanologist, to an undergraduate degree in geomorphology specialising in coastal processes; to business studies and finance, through to a Masters in applied and professional ethics (spurred by observations of ethical distortions and amoral rationalisation within the financial services industry); before finding a new home in the Sydney Environment Institute as a base for the PhD journey.

Various human activities are resulting in very long term intrinsic and instrumental environmental harms and changes  things like greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, large scale deforestation and monoculture leading to loss of living species and degradation of landscape, landform, soils, river courses and the seabed, fish, corals and so forth, and resource extraction which has a similar environmental impact in the environment to deforestation and monoculture. From the irremediable, non-reversible loss of living and non-living resources arise questions of what, if any, obligations the living have to past and future generations:  Can the non-living make claims on the living? What do we owe ancestors? How much do we gift or deny future peoples? Does technological knowledge and monetary wealth compensate for environmental damage? How do we compensate for cultural losses?

These are questions of intergenerational environmental justice. And they are questions that have another layer of intensity and complexity when societies like Australia and Aoteoroa New Zealand are called to make decisions that respect the intergenerational environmental justice arising from cultural traditions and environmental obligations of their first nations or indigenous peoples.

So blending my cultural heritage from Aoteoroa New Zealand, my connection to and early studies in the environment, and studies of applied ethics and justice, my PhD is directed at exploring the intersection of intergenerational justice, environmental justice and indigenous justice. It will examine the adaptations required to the Capabilities Approach to justice to formulate a robust and just intergenerational indigenous environmental justice framework.

This research dovetails with the SEI’s search to understand and redesign the fundamental relationship between human communities and the natural world that supports them; and its an examination of ways people and societies might respond positively to environmental change, to pay respect to ancestors, protect the living and fulfil obligations to the yet-to-be-born from with more than just anglo-colonial philosophical, political and cultural tradition.

There are a range of opportunities that grow from engaging diverse ways of conceiving each of intergenerational, indigenous and environmental justice, and justice at their intersection. Recognising intrinsic value in culture embedded in nature, where there exists no bifurcation, opens the possibility of legislative imaginings that will provide just protections for environment and culture for future generations from a multiplicity of cultures .


To get in touch with Christine email: