Opinion

Planting Digital Roots

The Sydney Environment Institute launches into the blogosphere

Image by Neerav Bhatt

“It’s just hopeless. We don’t know how to fight it”. You can feel the firefighter’s misery radiating through the TV screen as the South Australian bushland burns behind him. He is just one of hundreds of firefighters who worked tirelessly to quell the latest bout of bushfires that hit Victoria and South Australia.

The most recent 2013 IPCC report has reiterated that in a changing climate, extreme weather events are likely to be more frequent and intense in the future. The Climate Council’s latest bushfire report builds on this assertion by outlining that climate change is already increasing the risk of fires in Australia, particularly in the southwest and southeast. Yet these findings struggle to translate into changes in policy or permeate the predominate public consciousness. The difficulty in transforming this kind of knowledge into practical policy and public understanding extends far beyond bushfires; it’s a problem that cuts through a diversity of research that examines climate change and our possible responses to it. It’s a dilemma touched upon by Bill Gates at the most recent World Economic Forum when he spoke about the ‘awareness problem’ surrounding climate change. It’s a challenge encapsulated by the University of Sydney’s Eric Knight when he described climate change as the quintessential ‘wicked problem’ of politics today.

One of the aims of SEI is to address this ‘awareness problem’ by developing and synthesising cutting edge environmental research and sharing it, with the intention of informing public discourse, decision-making and policy. SEI draws together the University of Sydney’s top researchers working on a spectrum of environmental issues. These issues include the social impacts of climate change, human and non-human relations, environment and culture, sustainable cities, food security, and organisational adaptation in both the public and private realm.

This new blog is an extension of this aim. Here, PhD students, SEI experts and guest contributors will take their unique areas of expertise and break them down into sharable and accessible stories, vital for understanding the environmental issues shaping our planet.

Some of our PhD contributors will include Anne Dickson representing SEI’s Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) node. Anne lectures in the University of Sydney Business School and is particularly interested in the intersection of climate change and business. Kate Owens from SEI’s Sydney Network of Climate Change and Society (SNCCS) teaches in the university’s environmental law program and is researching the role of law in market-based water allocation frameworks. Steve Doo, from SEI’s Maricultures Environmental Research (MER) node, works in the school of biological science and is currently researching the impact of a changing climate on animals in the Great Barrier Reef. Bronwen Morrell represents the Human Animal Research Network (HARN) and is currently working on a PhD in the Centre for Values, Ethics & the Law in Medicine. She is also the Managing Editor of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. Finally, Leah Lui- Chivizhe, representing the Mellon node, is a doctoral student in history whose research focuses on Torres Strait Islander engagements with the marine environment and the Islander-turtle relationship.

The full bio’s for each of both our PhD and SEI executive contributors can be read here.

As we enter an unprecedented age in which humans shape the very life processes of Earth, we look forward to you joining these important conversations as we plant our digital roots and begin to grow online.


Alix Pearce recently graduated from the University of Sydney with first class honours in government and international relations. Her thesis focused upon the implications of climate security for the Australian Defence Force. She currently works for SEI.