The Sydney Environment Institute announces a new two-day symposium that reflects upon how heightened ecological distress informs our responses to the climate crisis.
SEI is currently accepting paper proposals for its new symposium, Nature Feelz: Perspectives and Reflections on Ecological Emotions, convened by Dr. Blanche Verlie, Dr. James Dunk, Professor Danielle Celermajer, Associate Professor Paul Rhodes and Associate Professor Rosanne Quinnell.
As interconnected biodiversity, climate, water and related socio-ecological crises intensify around the world, experiences of ecological distress are proliferating. Variously termed solastalgia, climate anxiety, or ecological grief, these multifaceted experiences of loss are becoming more common, and are being articulated and shared, but they are also significantly differentiated. This is particularly the case for many young people who, from early on, have been conscious of the insecurity of their ecosystems, the transience of other species, and their own profound vulnerability. All of this would be almost prosaic by now – a well-known narrative – were it not so visceral, and so wrenching. Yet such painful experiences resist easy binaries of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’. Ecological grief is now often recognised as a transformational force, generating understanding, love and commitment to multispecies kin even as – indeed because – those relations are threatened.
Despite the recent surge in attention, ecological emotions are not new, though they may feel new to many who are embedded in Western, modern lifeworlds. Affective ties with other beings have always been a core part of human experiences, despite colonial-capitalist-patriarchal extractivism which has denied, denigrated and punished emotional engagements with the environment. Many cultures have held, and continue to hold, vibrant conceptions of the human self as affectively connected to the more-than-human world. Surviving and resisting the violence of colonial forces, Indigenous peoples have developed powerful languages of ecological grief and practices of survivance. But extractive cultures are not unemotional either. They prioritise and normalise certain emotions which benefit particular stakeholders, as systemic climate denial exemplifies.
Specific structures of feeling have therefore created these intersecting ecological crises, and are driving the world towards a turning point, or great transition. Different emotions and affects, mobilised in different ways by different people, will play critical roles in whether this moment of planetary change leads towards ‘the Anthropocene,’ or somewhere more promising (the ‘Symbiocene,’ ‘Planthropocene,’ ‘Chthulucene’ or otherwise). As scholars, activists, citizens and community members, we want to take stock of how diverse humans are creating, experiencing, suppressing, making sense of, managing, preventing, intensifying, and resisting ecological distress. We are also interested in what it would mean to consider the ecological emotions of beings other than humans. No single discipline or practice possesses the toolkit, conceptual scope, or sufficient influence to address these questions; narrow visions have been a core part of the problem.
We therefore invite contributions from across academic disciplines and diverse practices to address these questions of affect, emotion, selfhood and connection, including research, practice/activist, and artistic contributions. These might explore:
- Naming and understanding distinct forms of ecological emotions;
- Practical support for people struggling to cope with ecological grief;
- Evidence-based explorations of what kinds of action are ‘the antidote to despair’;
- Political, economic, social and/or cultural analyses of how and why specific people do (or do not) feel specific things about the environment;
- The ecological emotions of non-human beings.
We are especially interested in contributions that reach beyond disciplinary divides, and that are community-connected.
How to register
Registrations for the symposium are now open. If you would like to speak at the symposium, please submit a description of your proposed contribution and detail the format/medium of your talk (approx. 200 words), via the registration form by Sunday 31 July 2022.
- 15-minute presentations are the standard.
- Alternative formats, including poetry, flashtalks, walk-shops and roundtable discussions, are encouraged and we will do our best to accommodate them (including through longer time slots as required). Please make sure to specify in your application what kind of format you would prefer.
- This symposium will include a final session where we discuss potential collaborations and outputs from the event.
- We will endeavour to respond by 31 August.
This symposium is part of the Ecological Emotions, Feelings and Affects research project.
Image: Jeremy Bishop at Unsplash