Tag Archives: environment

Nicholas Mangan–recreate the past for the future

Installation shot from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Installation shot from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Nicholas Mangan is a Melbourne artist with a strong interest in the material histories of the Pacific. His previous show at Sutton Gallery Nauru, Notes from a Cretaceous World concerned the history of phosphate mining in the remote Pacific island, which had become a processing centre for asylum seekers (see article). His recent show, Progress in Action, concerns struggle in 1988 by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army to close the Panguna Copper mine which was polluting their island.

Copper plate from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Copper plate from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Mangan’s strategy is to re-stage the BRA’s attempts to cope with the blockage of food and energy by developing new modes of self-sufficiency. Locals took to the ubiquitous coconut as a resource to sustain their existence (as told in the film Coconut Revolution). Mangan learned how to extract oil from the coconut which could then be refined as a fuel to power a generator. This energy was then used to project a film documentary montage from the time. Alongside the installation and performance were copper plates, reproducing publications such as the Bougainville Copper annual report.

Mangan’s work follows that of others who seek to re-enact past struggles, such as Tom Nicholson. What’s particularly interesting here is the contemporary relevance of the energy system that he re-creates, showing the way in which the necessity of deprivation can lead to the invention of renewable energies. As Mangan says,

Beyond the politics or history for me it always comes back to the core materials that are formed or sculpted by an ideological determination, like copper being used for capitalist extraction or the coconuts being used as the agency for an eco-revolution.

In Australia, this has particular meaning as a challenge to the way neighbouring Melanesian region can be dismissed as an ‘arc of instability’. It ranks alongside the television series Straits as a way of imaginatively connecting the continent to the oceanic web in which it is embedded.

Installation shot of documentary projection in Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Installation shot of documentary projection in Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Mangan’s work also opens up a particularly southern strategy for art making, in revealing the means of production. Exposing the supply chain works against the commodification of art by revealing the process that lies behind the product. It sociology it demonstrates the kind of creative potential in the ecological knowledge outlined by Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

Of course, it could go further. The exhibition itself is lacking a relational dimension. There is no active role played by people in Bougainville today. If only Mangan had the opportunity to visit Bougainville himself, and find ways in which they might like to become actively involved in his work.

Fortunately, the project is far from over. Mangan is in the process of shipping the installation to Brazil, where it will feature in the Mercosul Biennial at Porto Alegre. According to the curatorial statement, the biennial

gathers works together that explore different kinds of atmospheric disturbances propelling travel and social displacement, technological advancement and world development, vertical expansions in space, and transversal explorations through time.

This seems a perfect fit for Mangan and an important opportunity to have an Australian artist represented in this key South American event.

Southpaw on Climate

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Southpaw issue 2: ‘The climate’

Southpaw is a new literary journal dedicated to publishing fiction, poems, critical cultural commentary and many other forms of writing and image-making from and about the global South. Each issue is loosely themed around a concept, issue or experience (and we hope their mutual relationship) affecting or of interest to those who live in the South. By the ‘South’ we mean both the geographical South (the Southern hemisphere) and those regions and peoples relegated by global forces to much less powerful, and sometimes invisible status, in the play of global cultural relations.

The editors are seeking fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, play scripts, reviews and essays of 500 to 3000 words and images in colour and black and white for Southpaw issue 2.

The theme of our first issue (2012) was ‘displacement’. The theme of issue 2 will be ‘The Climate’. We expect writers and artists will take this theme up in more and less literal terms. The climate is a pressing question for the global community, but especially for many southern communities – whether south-east Australia and its increasingly fire-prone countryside or Indian Ocean and Pacific island communities’ immediate struggle with the effects of rising sea levels. Another point of departure could be Australia and South America’s special relationship in the mutuality of the la nina and el ninocycles that have shaped cultures on either side of the southern Pacific for millennia. And Southern climates generally, to put it another way, speak of other, and sometimes contrary colours and tones to those dominant in the North, and may have a connection with colonial and anti-colonial settings and experiences.

‘The climate’ carries over into every level of our personal and communal relations, and we hope that this notion will inspire collateral thinking about what ‘climate’ might mean to us in all its shades.

Deadline: 15 September 2012

Send to: [email protected]com

www.southpawjournal.com

From Tasmania to Patagonia

 

28 years ago, the Australian Supreme Court banned the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Franklin River, Tasmania, in a case which came to be internationally known as Tasmania v. Commonwealth.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the unemployment rate in Tasmania was 10 per cent (the highest in the country), and the local liberal government together with some big businesses and industries saw the construction of the Franklin dam as the remedy for all evils. This, however, required the flooding of a unique ecosystem, which had been declared as part of the World’s Natural Heritage by UNESCO. Against the plan stood the members of the Wilderness Society and the nascent Green Party who, joined by a number of community associations and independent citizens, proposed a different path to growth: one based on the respect for nature.

Eventually getting the support of the national Labor Party, those opposed to the dam generated the largest environmental campaign in the history of this Southern country. Their main argument was that the dam would not only violate the country laws, but also international agreements to which Australia had subscribed. After five years of protests, lobbying and media work, they triumphed and their story became one of the most quoted in the history of environmental litigation.

I cannot help comparing this case with HidroAysén, a project from the Spanish multinational Endesa (subsidiary of Italian Enel) and Chilean Colbún, which involves the construction of five dams in Chilean Patagonia, to generate 2.750 megawatts –fifteen times more than the aborted Franklin Dam! Whereas the energy that was meant to be produced in Tasmania was at least destined for local consumption, in the Chilean case it is not the Patagonians who are going to get the benefits, but the capital, Santiago, and the big mining industries in the North of the country. After the controversial approval of the Environmental Impact Study of the dams last May, what is now under discussion is the other half of the project: namely, a transmission line of 2.300 kilometers that would cut through six national parks and 11 nature reserves, and would mean chopping over 20 thousand hectares of forests. If approved, this would turn out to be the longest line of direct current in the planet (and probably one of the most inefficient, losing an estimated 10 per cent of the energy on the way).

Some people are more prone to be convinced by arguments, while others are more easily persuaded by shocking images, powerful slogans and even musical jingles. The No Dams movement in Tasmania worked on both fronts effectively. On one hand, they won the support of public figures and intellectuals who repeated the message of what would be at stake if the dam were authorized. Together with the organizers, they led the protests, rallies and road blockades, and they even ended up in jail, together with hundred other campaigners. (At the peak of the movement, the Tasmanian prison system simply collapsed, unable to fit them all). Thanks to generous donations, the No Dams campaign could also be heard on the radio –Let the Franklin flow–, but arguably the most effective way to raise the public’s attention were the spectacular photographs taken by Peter Dombrovskis: emerald waters flowing down a rocky patch of the river, surrounded by dense forests and half covered by the early morning mist. “Could you vote for a party that would destroy this?”, was the question posed under the picture by the Labor party, in the federal elections of 1983. Few voters dared to answer in the affirmative, and Labor won with a large swing.

Another important point is that it was understood from the beginning that the decision whether to approve or reject the Franklin dam was not technical, but political. The solution could not come from a mere cost-benefit analysis, because what was at stake was something priceless, namely, what Tasmania wanted to be and to become. The Green Party and its founder, Bob Brown, clearly saw this and, after the battle was won, remained as crucial actors in the Australian political scene: today they are part of the governing coalition, and Brown is one of the most popular senators countrywide.

Finally, the campaign was not so much about opposing, but overall about proposing an alternative path to development. The No to the dam was a Yes to sustainable growth. Three decades later, the decision has proved to be correct. Today, tourism is the second major economic activity in that state, and gives jobs to half a million Tasmanians, it generates a billion dollars annually and it attracts almost a million visitors. Moreover, Tasmania is Australia’s leader when it comes to the production of renewable energy, which amounts to 87 per cent of its total. This comes mainly from wind farms and hydroelectricity (yes, hydroelectricity, but not from large dams, but from run-of-the-river power plants for local use).

How should the Tasmanian story illuminate the Chilean case? To start with, the Patagonia Sin Represas campaign has powerful arguments on its side. Among them, firstly, that what looks like the cheapest option in the short and maybe medium term will be the most expensive in the long term. Secondly, that HidroAysén is not the only alternative available to solve the country’s purported ‘energy shortage’, because we have other options in abundance, like wind, geothermal energy and sun. Thirdly, that if HidroAysén benefits anybody, it is not the Patagonians. And fourthly, that a number of recent studies show that big, old-fashioned dams like the ones planned are not the clean energy that they claim to be (given increased sediment build-up, the fragmentation of the river ecosystem which results on the massive death of fish, etc.). Patagonia Sin Represas has used all this arguments effectively, and it has also appealed to our senses through powerful images, like those of the beautiful rivers Pascua and Baker, where the dams would be constructed; the huemules, our national emblems who are now an endangered species and many of whom live in the five thousand hectares to be flooded; and the dramatic effect that the transmission line would have on some of the most pristine landscapes in Chile and the world. Moreover, just as the No Dams campaign, Patagonia Sin Represas has progressively won the support of the general public, transforming itself from a narrow environmental movement into a social one. The best example of this is that, after the initial approbation of the dams by the government, on the 10th of May, 30 thousand Chileans gathered in Santiago to march against the decision. In every regional capital from north to south, this support was replicated.

The battle so far has not been easy, though, and will not be. Whereas in the Tasmanian case the company which proposed the project had limited resources to promote it, HidroAysén, backed by the multinational Endesa, has spent millions of dollars lobbying for and publicizing its cause. An important part has been to infuse fear in the population, through threats such as that we are going to be left in the dark, or that the country will not be able to grow if the project is not carried out. Against this, the only option for Patagonia Sin Represas is to stand as a truly social and political movement with the legitimate support of the citizenry. Regarding this point, another important difference with the Tasmanian case is that, while in the latter the political parties swiftly took sides for or against the Franklin Dam, the main political parties in Chile have only made lukewarm declarations in support or against the project. Discounting a couple of independent senators and representatives, it looks as if our politicians are dragging behind the times, unable to take a stance on the national problems that really matter. In the background, members of the right-wing government have been explicit on their support to HidroAysén, and have had no quibbles to use their position of authority to put the message through. Moreover, no Green Party has been born to work for this and other pressing environmental and social causes (whoever the Greens are in Chile, so far, they have not managed to capitalize on the many voices of discontent).

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HidroAysén has still a long way to go before its definitive approval, and it is in the meantime that those who oppose it have to come with concrete alternatives. Together with the No to the dams in Patagonia has to come a Yes to other paths not only of energy production but, more widely, of development and even property rights over common goods (under Pinochet´s dictatorship, the Chilean waters were privatized, and it was thanks to this law that Endesa could acquire a significant amount of the water rights, especially in the area of the project). What is at stake here is not only one of the most pristine landscapes in Chile, but in the planet. The conclusion should be obvious: One Patagonia is worth more than a thousand dams.

Author: Alejandra Mancilla, Chilean Journalist and PhD candidate in Philosophy, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE), Australian National University, Canberra. www.alejandramancilla.wordpress.com

Education for Sustainable Development – from South Pacific

An important new initiative from the University of the South Pacific:

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The Pacific Regional Centre of Excellence for ESD, the University of the South Pacific through its School of Education has produced a 3-volume book series devoted to Education for Sustainable Development. The books are an outcome of a School of Education initiative under the USP Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO [ACCU] ESD Project. Contributors represent a number of Pacific island countries including Fiji, Kiribati, Rabi, Rotuma, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The book series is of particular interest to those seeking to find out more about how indigenous knowledge can and should influence development in the Pacific islands today and the role of the University in promoting and supporting these movements. Significantly, they offer insight into the role that education (formal, non-formal and informal) should play in preparing Peoples for life long learning and for survival in the changing turbulence of our contemporary times.

About the books

Volume 1 “Continuity and Survival in the Pacific” presents a selection of articles by Pacific scholars exploring the ways by which Pacific societies live the principles of Education for Sustainable Development. The articles also provide some insight into current thinking about ways by which Pacific peoples may take control in determining the future of the region.

Volume 2 “Pacific Stories of Sustainable Living” includes stories of Sustainable Living presented through the arts including visual arts, poetry, chants, stories, dance and life stories. 

Volume 3 “An Annotated Bibliography” provides a collection of abstracts and bibliographical information on ESD in the Pacific – useful text for those interested in further study on ESD.

About The Editors – Vols 1 & 2 

Cresantia F. Koya (Fiji) is the product of multiple diasporic journeys. Of Arab, Indian, Samoan, Irish and Solomon descent, she  teaches courses in Curriculum, Educational Theory and Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific. An artist and writer, she is actively involved in the development of the arts in Fiji. Her research interests include Education for Social Change and Justice, Pacific Studies and the Arts, Teacher Education for the future and Education for Sustainable Development. She is currently the Acting-Director of the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies at the University.           She is also a member of the core-group tasked with developing the Regional Cultural Strategy for the Pacific and the Culture and Education Strategy. Combining her work in curriculum development and the arts, she is keen to see indigenous knowledge, culture and the arts provided a platform in mainstream and non-formal education.

Unaisi Nabobo-Baba (Fiji) is an indigenous Fijian. She has  taught at a number of secondary schools in Fiji and at the Fiji College of Advanced Education before joining the University of the South Pacific in 1996. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Education. Her areas of research and publications include: Teaching and Learning in specific contexts, Teacher Education in Pacific Islands contexts-pre service and in-service, Indigenous education and development related discourse, Pacific Islands and Small Island States education, Education and Global Change Agendas, School and Community Relations and Education, Women and development, women teachers and their stories, Remoteness and islandness, Indigenous Knowledge and Epistemology and, International Aid and Education.

Teweiariki Teaero (Kiribati) taught art and Kiribati Studies at secondary school before joining the University. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Education and Head of the School of Education at USP. His interests are in the areas of educational leadership, indigenous epistemologies, indigenous and contemporary Pacific art and culture and Kiribati orature. He has presented many scholarly papers in regional and international conferences and published numerous articles in peer-refereed journals. He is an accomplished artist and poet, with several publications and exhibitions to his credit.

Vol 3 – Compiled by Paserio Furivai

Paserio Furivai has taught for over 20 years in various parts of Fiji at both primary and secondary levels. He also worked as a Teacher Educator at Corpus Christie College and at the University of the South Pacific. In 2008, he founded the IPA Learning Centre, an education related company with the vision of ‘Sustainable learning through the use of innovative resources”. He is also the Director of the Kip McGath Education Centre in Nasinu.

Paul Carter ‘Dry Thinking and Human Futures’

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An opportunity to hear one of Australia’s leading thinkers reflect on the philosophical challenges of living in a recalcitrant environment:

Australia’s natural water body is, as it were, too humid to be relied upon. It spreads out and refuses to solidise. It collects in billabongs and necklaces of ponds that do not communicate with one another, and cannot be accumulated.

Alongside the desiccation of parts of the planet, thinking also grows drier. Instrumental reasoning not only fails to imagine the reciprocities that inform living human and non-human regions – and their exchange – but actively inhibits a capacity to narrate these. In effect, the disparagement of concrete thinking mediated through metaphors of all kinds is a leaching of language that directly impoverishes the physical and the psychic domain.
Paul Carter is Professor of Creative Place Research at Deakin University. His book Dark Writing: geography, performance, design was published in the Institute’s Writing Past Colonialism series in 2009. His new book is entitled Ground Truthing: Explorations in a Creative Region.

Event details :

Paul Carter ‘Dry Thinking and Human Futures’
Thursday 29 April 2010, 7:30-9:00pm
Institute of Postcolonial Studies
78-80 Curzon Street
North Melbourne (map)
Tel: 03 9329 6381
Admission – $5 for waged, $3 for unwaged, and free for members

Papers for Southern Connection Congress

Information about papers for the upcoming VI Southern Connection Congress have been released. The conference will be held in Bariloche, Argentina form 15-19 February 2010. Confirmed speakers include:

  • William Bond, University of Cape Town, South Africa
    “Reinterpreting plant traits and the geography of vegetation with fire”
  • Richard Hobbs, School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Australia “Invasive species and global change: novel ecosystems and their implications for conservation and restoration”
  • Peter Lockhart, Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology and Evolution,
    Massey University, New Zealand
    "Using new sequencing technologies to investigate species radiations in the New Zealand alpine flora" 
  • Jérôme Munzinger, Laboratoire de Botanique et d’Ecologie Appliquées, Herbarium Nou, New Caledonia
  • “New Caledonia flora, and talk about questions about the gondwanian origin”
  • Imanuel Noy-Meir, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
    "Southern semi-arid lands: management and conservation"
  • Victor Ramos, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina 
    "Late Cenozoic uplift of the Patagonian Andes and the beginning of the glaciation"
  • Ricardo Villalba, IANIGLA-CONICET, Argentina
    “The Antarctic Oscillation: A common forcing of climate variations in temperate regions of the Southern Hemisphere”
  • Rory Wilson, Swansea University, Wales UK
    “Surfing southern ocean currents; a perspective on seabird tracks through 3-d space”