Social Sciences Week field trip in search of climate justice
Coinciding with Social Sciences Week and mid-session study vacation is a field trip to Narrabri in rural NSW by the teachers and students of the Professional Pathways Project subject, accompanied by two UTS climate technology researchers.
Associate Professor James Goodman and Dr Elizabeth Humphrys have been busily refining the content for this final-year experience which enables students to undertake a social research project in a practical setting.
Narrabri Shire is variously described as ‘home to emerging resource industries of coal and gas’ by the and part of the ‘New England Renewable Energy Precinct’ by the .
With energy policy arguably the most critical political, economic, social and environmental challenge of our time, Narrabri sits at the crossroads. Several new mines have expanded as part of a coal boom in the region over the past decade and an extensive coal seam gas proposal by Santos (850 new gas wells over 20 years) is under review by the NSW Government.
But according to census data, there is five times as much local industry and employment connected to agriculture as to mining (Narrabri sustained only full-time miners in 2016–17).
The objective of the field trip, building on previous work done by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, was to investigate the direction of the local coal and gas industries, as well as the outlook for renewable energy.
The students spent an intensive week in the town researching historical and economic contexts; surveying residents; conducting focus groups; attending events; interviewing stakeholders from business, government and the community; and exploring archives and policy changes over time. The questioned the local population about their views on the future of the area in terms of work, lifestyle, farming, mining, gas drilling and renewables.
It is incredibly exciting for students and staff when we can design authentic assessments that test students’ scholarly skills and at the same time prepare them for the sorts of tasks they will encounter after graduation in their new careers – Dr Elizabeth Humphrys
The findings of the students will contribute to a report for the UTS . This innovative centre examines where the science of climate change intersects with socio-political forces to address climate justice, a term which frames climate change as an ethical issue that ultimately impacts those who are the least responsible for it and the least equipped to respond to it.
The centre regards climate justice as a dynamic concept which can transform policy and social attitudes. The data gathered by the students will inform the centre’s future evaluations and outputs, including consideration of the flux and direction of Australia’s national energy policies.