Geographers declare (a climate emergency)?

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Australian Geographer


Over the last two decades ‘climate emergency’ has grown from a little-known term to a mainstream public issue. In Australia, the term gained traction during the 2019-2020 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires. The (un)natural disaster prompted local governments, industries, peak bodies and academic collectives to ‘declare’ a climate emergency and call for immediate action on climate change. We note, however, that there has been no declaration from geographers in Australia. As a discipline whose members are embedded in research, teaching and advocacy about climate change–and the interlinked crises of biodiversity loss and environmental and social justice–we found this surprising. It is self-evident that climate change matters to geographers. So, is a declaration of a climate emergency from the discipline necessary? In writing this piece we reflect on our experiences of the 2019–2020 summer and conversations with fellow geographers, to consider what a declaration of an emergency does, who it is for and what actions it might mobilise. In conclusion, we call on geographers in Australia to declare an emergency which foregrounds the interlinked crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and social (in)justice. The detail of what this declaration says and means in practice is open for discussion. We ask many questions throughout this paper as a way to invite you–our fellow geographers–to join us in this conversation.

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