World Earth Day is on April 22 and this year’s theme is ‘climate action’, urging the message that unless every country in the world steps up – and steps up with urgency and ambition — we are consigning current and future generations to a dangerous future.
Global Challenges supports a number of projects aiming to tackle the environmental issues contributing to the current climate crisis. ECO Antarctica explores how climate change is affecting the most remote regions on the planet, Blue Carbon Futures is investigating how carbon sequestration in mangroves can mitigate climate change.
Our Mapping the Islands and Energy-efficient Art projects have utilised the arts and music to communicate how recent environmental changes are impacting our planet.
Climate scientists tell us that if we don’t take action, extreme weather events will occur even more frequently. Australia has certainly been impacted by these weather events over the last few months, with floods, drought and bushfires sweeping across the nation, taking with it homes, businesses, wildlife and lives.
The Blue Futures team is working with communities on the South Coast, to explore coastal change, including how our oceans are governed, how technology can be used to monitor and address threats, and create innovative new opportunities.
The team’s Lead Investigator Dr Michelle Voyer says that coastal change encompasses climate change but also social and economic changes, including shocks like the fires, floods and public health emergencies we have experienced this summer.
“Through the Blue Futures project, we seeking to identify and track the ways in which our coastal waterways are changing – through the use of sensor based technologies and the analysis of sediment cores. But not only that, we need to examine how we govern our coasts in a way that is responsive to change and the competing needs, aspirations, uses and values we find on the coast.”
“We are examining how our relationships with the coast are changing and how we imagine the future will look in the light of the profound changes we are currently witnessing,” says Dr Voyer.
Dr Voyer says that while the story of climate change is a biophysical one, it is also a sociological, cultural, technological and economic story.
“To understand this story we need a range of expertise, so the Blue Futures team includes scientists to understand the biophysical processes at work, engineers and IT specialists to unpack the role of technology in addressing future challenges, artists and writers to explore the cultural responses to change, social scientists and economists to explore societal responses and business and marketing specialists to understand how local businesses are adapting, responding and innovating.”
The Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council are working with the team as project partners to ensure that cultural values drive and guide their research.
“The Land Council have already played a critical role in challenging us as researchers to reflect on our own relationships with country, with each other and with our research. They have helped us to position our research in a broader and much bigger narrative,” says Dr Voyer.
“The full team have undertaken an initial cultural appreciation workshop, which is the first step in a what we consider to be an ongoing journey of building appreciation and understanding of how Aboriginal values, knowledge and worldviews can inform and guide our research.”
The team is demonstrating an alternative path forward for our local economy, one based on sustainability.
“Ultimately we are driven by the global need to develop new economic models that can support our communities but also address the urgent environmental challenges of our time.”
The Blue Futures project team is a collaboration of over 30 researchers from the University of Wollongong and external partners and investigators established and supported by Global Challenges as a Keystone project at the end of 2019.