CANCELLED: Carbon emissions reduction in Arnhem Land, north Australia: The precarity of postcolonial possibilities
Event type: Seminars26 March 2020 from 12.00 pm - 1.00 pm
Prof Jon Altman
After a summer when south-east Australia burned dramatically there seems to be some growing awareness that carbon emissions mitigation alongside zero carbon energy generation and industry are essential. For the past thirteen fire seasons, Indigenous rangers have engaged in a carbon emissions reduction program. Initially a pilot in West Arnhem Land carbon reduction through prescribed burning has spread to almost all of Arnhem Land making it an exemplary region of 100,000 sq kms (a third of the size of Aotearoa/New Zealand) that operates as a negative emissions region, a carbon sink of tropical savanna forest. In this seminar, focusing on the operations of Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (NT) Limited, I want to examine how people who in the 1980s I described as ‘hunter-gatherers today’ have also become carbon farmers in the 21st century. I then outline some of the institutional, environmental, cultural and economic challenges and barriers that make this extraordinary postcolonial carbon reduction project unnecessarily precarious. I end by making some broader observations on how north Australian Indigenous savanna burning projects that deploy a mix of Indigenous knowledge and western science might help to cool the planet.
Jon Altman is an emeritus professor of the Australian National University currently located at the School of Regulation and Global Governance. He has an academic background in economics (University of Auckland) and anthropology (ANU) and has undertaken field research in western Arnhem Land with the Kuninjku community since 1979. From 1990–2010 Professor Altman was the foundation director of the centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the ANU. He is a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society Te Aparangi.