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Introducing the Living in a Warming World Lecture Series

Frances Flanagan and Christopher Wright introduce the upcoming Living in a Warming World lecture series, presented by the Sydney Environment Institute in partnership with Sydney Ideas.

Image sourced via Shutterstock, stock photo ID: 69767005.

Any observer of the politics of climate change and inequality can find ample grounds for pessimism: leaders who are complicit in the expansion of fossil fuel extraction; austerity governments determined to deplete the nation’s common resources for health, education and transport; the casual passage of anti-democratic laws silencing voices of dissent, and an international system for carbon emissions that is perpetually vulnerable and currently on track to deliver far too little too late. Across the OECD, levels of wealth inequality are deepening, insecure work is rising, and a return to the social divisions of the nineteenth century seems likely. Not only do the policy outcomes seem bleak, but there also seems to be little recognition by national politicians of the fact that destructive environmental change and inequality are inexorably entwined processes; common causalities of a system premised on the privatisation, alienation and extraction of value from the human and non-human worlds alike.

What happens, though, if we look beneath the national level, to instead consider politics at the scale of the city, or the region, or industry, or profession? Here we find more grounds for hope, as communities and organisations who are not waiting for national permission to start the practical work of creating a fairer, and more environmentally sustainable system, are just getting on with it, working in earnest on projects that aim to address both environmental and socio-economic challenges, while simultaneously manifesting a challenge to the broader politics.

The Living in a Warming World series of public talks brings together policy experts, intellectuals and activists who are creatively grappling with the entwined challenges of climate change and inequality in a variety of contexts: in cities, in regions in transition, in professions and in re-thinking new energy systems.

The first discussion in the series considers spatial inequality in Australian cities and the ways that an uneven distribution of economic and environmental resources are perpetuated and challenged. The speakers are Ollie Jay, Associate Professor in Thermoregulatory Physiology; Kurt Iveson, an expert in social justice and cities, and Abby Mellick Lopes, a design theorist with practical and academic experience in design for sustainability.

Our second discussion poses a theoretical question – do we need to think about inequality and climate change together? – to three distinguished panellists: David Schlosberg, a seminal thinker in the area of environmental justice; Kate Auty, ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment; and Marc Stears, head of the University of Sydney’s Policy Lab and former Professor of Politics at Oxford University and Chief Executive of the UK New Economics Foundation.

Part three of the series asks how we might go about building a renewable energy system that is genuinely fair and democratic, that allows for the common ownership of energy generation and takes into account differences in citizens’ capacity to cope with hot weather. The speakers are Amanda Cahill, Director and Founder of the Centre for Social Change; Godfrey Moase, Assistant General Branch Secretary of the National Union of Workers, and Maria Cirillo, Acting National Director of Solar Citizens.

The fourth and final part of the series examines the challenge posed by global warming to every profession, from accountancy to law to journalism, and asks how professional standards and codes of ethics are shifting in light of catastrophic environmental threats.  Speaking will be the author and journalist Anna Krien, Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter, and Sarah Barker, Special Counsel at Minter Ellison.

Chairing the series will be Professor of Organisational Studies Christopher Wright, a member of the Discipline of Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Sydney Business School and author of Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction (Cambridge Uni Press, 2015).

Events & Key Dates 

‘Spatial inequality and Australian cities in a warming world’

Monday 7 May 2018 | 6.00 – 7.30pm

‘Why we need to think about inequality and climate change together’

Monday 4 June 2018 | 6.00 – 7.30pm

‘Making the new energy system fair’

Monday 2 July 2018 | 6.00 – 7.30pm

‘Professional obligations in an age of climate change’

Monday 24 September 2018 | 6.00 – 7.30PM