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WG5 Meeting: Education and Palaeoecology

WG5 Meeting: Education and Palaeoecology

WG5 meeting:
Education and Palaeoecology – Friday 15 December 2023, 12.00 p.m. CET – 1.30 p.m. CET


Rebecca Hamilton (University of Sydney), “Colonisation, Conservation, and the ‘Misremembering’ of High-Value Landscapes”

 Conservation targets commonly focus on preserving vaguely defined ecological baselines, often conceptualized in modern settler colonial states as a pre-colonial, ‘natural’ ecosystems. However, these ‘natural’ landscapes are typically classified without long-term data, making it unclear as to whether the ecosystem being protected is indeed ‘natural’. This talks highlights how geo-historical techniques, including palaeoecology, can reveal flaws in how we remember and manage protected sites. It uses two palaeoecological case studies – one from urban wetlands in Sydney, Australia, and one from a tropical biodiversity hotspot in the highlands of Southeast Asia – to highlight how quickly landscapes can be misremembered and to encourage discussion about how best to manage ‘high-value’ landscapes in the Anthropocene. We encourage a reimagining of protected sites not as snapshots of the past, but as human-impacted places with educational, ecological and historical importance.

Rebecca Hamilton joined the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney as a Lecturer in 2023. Prior to this, she held research fellowships at the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthrolopology in Jena, and the Australian National University in Canberra. She works at the intersection of the physical and social sciences, and is interested in using long-term environmental data to better understand relationships between people, landscapes and climate, and to support decision making in a rapidly changing world. You can read more about her work here.

Simon Probst (University of Vechta), “Teaching Time Consciousness: Remembering Earth History as a Basis for Futures Literacy”

In my talk, I will present some preliminary thoughts that might guide the development of teaching materials bringing together slow memory and Earth history. a) Time Consciousness (Marcia Bjornerud) is the knowledge of and a sense for the multiple rhythms and time scales that are entangled in the becoming of our planet. b) Planetary Multiplicity (Bronislaw Szerszynski and Nigel Clark) expresses the idea that the Earth has been many different planets in the course of it’s history and has the capacity to “become other to itself”. c) Futures Literacy (UNESCO) is defined as the universal ability to imagine different futures and to use these imaginations in the present, e.g. for decision-making, cooperation, innovation. The UNESCO’s idea of futures literacy is charged with the aim to democratize the “origins of people’s images of the future.”

The proposition of my talk is that a functioning (even if highly mediated) memory of Earth history – a vivid consciousness of past planetary multiplicity that incorporates many different tempi and scales – is the foundation for the development of an ecological futures literacy and for a democratic ‘access’ to images of our planet’s future. What I would like to discuss is on the one hand this conceptual framework and on the other hand, which aspects or moments of Earth history might be especially interesting for teaching time consciousness (e.g. events of mass extinction; the history of the atmosphere; the Cambrian explosion …).

Simon Probst is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Vechta. He lives and writes in Berlin. His dissertation Instauration der Erde. Konstitutives Erzählen im Anthropozän und die kritischen Zonen der Literatur was published this year by Metzler in the Environmental Humanities series. Since March 2022, he has been working on a postdoctoral project on the outlines of a planetary literary theory, funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. His work focuses on environmental humanities and ecocriticism; his research and publications include narratives and literatures of the Anthropocene, nature writing, ecological utopias, ecological education and memory studies in the light of Earth history. His research is driven by the challenge to rethink literature and culture on a warming planet.

To receive information on how to join, contact Stef Craps or Lucy Bond

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