International Conference on Environmental Crises in the Indian Ocean World since 1800

Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill University

28-29 May 2021

Climatic and environmental risks have always been part of the human condition, but we today face a fundamental transformation in their scale and complexity due to the unprecedented momentum of global warming, a process that some argue had its origins in the Industrial Revolution conventionally dated to around 1800. In this context, the Indian Ocean World (IOW), running from Indian Ocean Africa (including Egypt and South Africa) through the Middle East to South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and East Asia, is of special interest. This is due firstly to the centrality in the IOW of the monsoon system and associated phenomena, notably the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) systems, and other events such as cyclones and volcanic eruptions. The impacts of such phenomena are greatly affected by global warming. According to the latest Global Climate Risk Index, 7 of the 10 countries most at risk from climate change are located in the IOW, making it the globe’s most climatically vulnerable macro-region. Examples of such vulnerability include Australia’s recent drought and severe wildfires, and the unprecedented locust plagues afflicting swathes of the Middle East and Eastern Africa. Secondly, the IOW is the world’s most populous macro-region, China and India alone accounting for one third of the global population. The impact of climate change in the IOW is thus of major global concern. For example, the densely populated floodplains of the macro-region (e.g. the Ganges Delta) are at immediate risk of catastrophic sea level rise and concomitant health hazards, population displacement, and mass migration, as are the IOW’s low-lying islands (e.g. the Maldives).

This multi-disciplinary Zoom conference seeks to examine the current environmental crisis in the IOW and its historical roots. It calls for papers examining the interactions between environmental and human factors, notably the causes and impacts of environmental events, and human reactions and adaptions to them from circa 1800 to the present, during the transition from the Little Ice Age to warmer, wetter climates, and the recent acceleration of global warming. We invite papers from any relevant discipline, including climate science, health and epidemiology, and the social sciences ― from established academics, emerging scholars, and interested parties from international institutions and NGOs.

Presentations may be in English or French. We intend to publish at least one volume of conference papers. Authors of select papers will also to be invited to be interviewed in our IOWC podcast series (broadcast on Spotify, H-net, and the Appraising Risk Website).

Those interested in participating in the conference should submit a title and one paragraph summary by Monday 1 March 2021 to the Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill University at the following email address: [email protected]

Imago: imo.un at Wikimedia Commons.