The third day of the inaugural UNSW Environmental Humanities Symposium took place outdoors and it was a walking workshop or ‘walkshop’. Dr Matt Kearnes designed the day as an kind of scholarly experiment, allowing different discourses to flourish in the same conversation. Dr Thom van Dooren and I (Jennifer!) helped out.
We engaged a community conservationist (Peter Stevens from the Wolli Creek Preservation Society), an urban ecologist, a historian (Professor Ian Tyrell, Cooks River History, UNSW), a human geographer (Professor Lesley Head, AUSCCER, UOW), a poet (Andy Kissane) and a performance artist (me!) to animate the site from a variety of different perspectives.
Lunch was at the Farm, Andy Kissane read parts of his poem ‘The Earlwood-Bardwell Park Song Cycle’ and Lesley Head was charged with the task of linking some of the threads of the day in an informal keynote talk. The photos that follow capture the different aspects of the day.
It is great to use the farm as a site for critical thinking about broader environmental and political issues, as I did in previous weeks with the NYU Students. What Lesley’s thoughts demonstrated with regards to our site was that you only need to look as far as your own backyard to find an array of complex and contradictory concepts and materialities situated side by side, sometimes within the one plant. Lesley spoke of tensions between ‘weeds’ and ‘natives’, bioregions and local government jurisdictions, the vast imaginings invited by geological time and the immediate pressures of the present moment. While all these things may play out in our yard, garden or, if you will, farm, what Lesley’s talk highlighted for me it that is important not to have that thinking end in the privacy of your yard, but to extend them out to connect to wider social, political and ecological concerns. Some photographic evidence of the day is included below!