Building on the success of other campuses in Berlin, Philadelphia and elsewhere, Deakin University in Melbourne staged an Anthropocene Campus in September 2018. I am grateful to have been part of this event.
The campus, as the name implies, focused on the Anthropocene. How should we think, act, and collaborate to productively engage with the challenges we face in this ‘Age of the Humans’? While four days proved to be too short to solve the global environmental issues we are dealing with, the campus led to more interesting questions, approaches, and future possibilities to think about these topics more critically.
The week was perfectly organised. There were workshops and fieldtrips. The overall theme, as told by the organiser Timothy Neale, was The Elemental, with each participant assigned two elements; Earth, Air/Flesh, Water, and Fire.
My fieldtrip consisted of visiting the CERES community environment park to learn about sustainable farming and a very eye-opening tour of the Yarra River’s Aboriginal history. Others were invited to explore Melbourne’s sewer system where various activities were organised, visiting the museum, and studying the botanical gardens.
As impressive were the keynote lectures and panels. The opening keynote, by Lesley Head was Typha, the once and future plant companion. A great exposition of indigenous knowledge lost through colonialism as told through the scale, time, and matter of the indigenous plant Typha.
Hannah Landecker’s lecture The Anthropocene in / of the cell: on sediments, genomes, and reading the biology of history was an amazing piece, and hopefully it (and all the other lectures) will end up on the website https://www.anthropocene-curriculum.org/.
Biologist Claudia Vickers and artist Patricia Piccinini offered creative and important approaches to the futures of this Earth and its beings. Other keynote lectures by Margaret Jolly and Karen Barad, amongst many others, left all participants inspired to think about key questions concerning the concept of the Anthropocene. The general consensus was that no matter how difficult the challenges humanity and its fellow beings on this Earth face, it is as important to recognise resilience and stay positive next to being critical.
It was a great experience to be part of an event with so many like-minded people from such diverse backgrounds and stages in their careers. I am looking forward to seeing how the legacy of the campus will live on through media, scholarship, and digital forms and to keep collaborating with the amazing group that was brought together.
Author: Yvette Kim Clarissa Wijnandts (PhD candidate, FGC Alliance member), with additions from Gail Wright (PhD candidate, FGC Alliance member).