Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (Honours)


School of Earth & Environmental Sciences


The State Emergency Service prides itself on the motto “The worst in nature, the best in us” but does the worst in nature bring out the best, in the organisation’s environmental management. This thesis asks what are the practices and attitudes of SES members towards nature. The research draws on discourse analysis of SES documents, survey and interviews with SES volunteers, and ethnographic fieldwork.

The literatures of natural hazards and contemporary nature including more-than-human geographies and the social construction of nature have been drawn upon. The fieldwork undertaken suggests most volunteers’ associate nature with pristine flora and fauna, an idea which has been perpetuated through the environmental guidance given to volunteers in the service. Discourse analysis of SES documents also found that nature has been positioned as threatening other. Kaika’s (2004) ideas of the commodification of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ nature are prevalent throughout the service as volunteers are called in when so-called ‘good’ nature goes feral and becomes threatening. Within the organization no volunteers were able to identify any official policy towards nature, instead practices nature are informally passed on between members. The researchers own ethnographic experience in the SES, proposes that there needs to be more clearly written guidelines on nature. As there is a tendency for volunteers to become over-enthusiastic with chainsaws.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.