Seminar to explore social sustainability of WA

January 13, 2012

Is Perth losing its unique sense of place and identity? And if so, what does it mean for the future?

Those are the questions being posed at a seminar on Friday, January 20, organised by prominent environmental philosopher Professor Glenn Albrecht, Professor of Sustainability at Murdoch University.

Professor Albrecht said the uniqueness – or endemism – of the south west of WA, a biodiversity hotspot, has been marginalised because of the past 200 years of colonisation and globalisation.

The result is the transformation of much of south west WA and almost all of the Swan Coastal Plain into a landscape which lacks the natural variety it once had. Are we seeing the end of endemism in WA?

“The endemic has retreated to the margins and this has had an effect on our ability to be sustainable,” said Professor Albrecht, who is best known for creating the term ‘solastalgia’, which describes the lived experience of negative environmental change.

“Genuine sustainability has close affinities with the locally and regionally distinctive, not a bland city scape where everything looks and feels the same.”

The Endemic Sense of Place Seminar, to be held at Murdoch University, will bring together a diverse range of people to speak on and discuss questions about the effects of colonisation and globalisation on Perth and south west WA and what can be done to protect what remains of the endemic of the region.

The keynote speaker will be Professor Steve Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, who will present on living sustainably in unique, biodiverse places. Other presenters include historian Geoffrey Bolton, poet Nandi Chinna, Alec Coles from the WA Museum, academic writer Rod Giblett, Susan Hunt from Perth Zoo, poet/writers John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan, artist Philippa Nikulinsky, wildflower horticulturalist George Lullfitz, composer/playwright David Milroy, writer Annamaria Weldon and film maker Glen Stasiuk.

“We will be asking what we can do to promote endemophilia, which is a concept I have created to describe the particular feeling of the intense love of the locally and regionally distinctive held by people of that place,” added Professor Albrecht.

“The outcome I am hoping for at the end of the seminar is for a re-emergent awareness of an endemic sense of place, one that unites people and generates creative culture.”

The seminar, which takes place at ECL4 lecture theatre at Murdoch University from 9am to 5.30pm, will also mark the official launch of the Institute for Social Sustainability within the School of Social Sciences and Humanities.

The institute, which replaces the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, will focus on the social aspects of sustainability but will continue to have broad research interests in the domain of sustainability.

There are still places left on this free seminar. Please RSVP to Professor Albrecht or Alexa Taylor by Wednesday, January 18.

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