Mobilities in farming: Reflections on the Farmers for Climate Action conference

On Thursday October 25th, 200 or so farmers, young and old, and numerous others from the rural and agricultural sectors in Australia travelled from distant corners of the country to the beautiful town of Beechworth. What was it that motivated this relatively large scale movement of a collection of people that often face enormous barriers extracting themselves from their daily place-based demands? It was the promise of serious, passionate, positive conversation about what the rural sector in Australia can do about climate change, offered by Farmers for Climate Action https://www.farmersforclimateaction.org.au. Deeply frustrated by a lack of leadership among the professionally mobile political class, Farmers for Climate Action and the many others around their edges represents a new social movement for climate change action, centred in a sector of society that is conventionally represented - not without reason - as “stuck in the mud”. Besides the physical and political mobility that this new movement entails, the topic of mobilities emerged as a recurrent riff during the Beechworth Managing Climate Risk conference, whether in relation to practical topics like enabling or constraining flows of data, knowledge, resources, labourers, volunteers, livestock, trees, commodities and carbon as part of climate change adaptation and/or mitigation responses, or whether in relation to bigger picture movements such as the loss of young people and services from small towns, the need to recognise and reconnect Australian farming with our nation’s history of indigenous dispossession, or the large scale, long term spatial redistribution of climate envelopes, farming enterprises and land use types that climate change is ushering in. The upshot is that at least parts of the agricultural sector in Australia is thinking in mobilities terms (not that they would use that term). With many challenges ahead, including the need to push existing ambitions for transformation even further, there is an important opportunity for mobilities scholars of various stripes to engage with this field as a major change gets underway.

Lauren Rickards, RMIT

AusMob Launch Symposium 2017

The launch symposium of AusMob, took place on 7-8th of December 2017 in the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne. 

Peter Adey, who is currently a visitor in the school until early January, presented a fascinating keynote presentation that explored the ethics and politics of evacuation mobilities, drawing on a number of pertinent examples from Australia. This followed a provocative keynote presentation on the first day by Mimi Sheller whose talk explored the concept of mobility justice in relation to infrastructure.

The event had two parallel sessions to accommodate the 50 papers that were presented, which showcased a diverse range of mobilities approaches. The symposium was well attended, attracting over 80 delegates, with many interstate participants. Given that the theme of the symposium was ‘The Future of Mobilities Research in Australia and Beyond’, we were delighted to welcome a number of overseas guests and presenters from Belgium, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the UK, and USA. Representing our school, Uma presented on touring, postcolonialism and geopolitics, Tim presented on stone, materiality and circulation, and David presented on labour, technology and automation.

Thank you to the many of you who gave your support by attending the event. We are also grateful to Professor Lesley Head for opening the symposium and for providing financial support, and to Joanne, Tina and Darren in the School of Geography for their expert and invaluable assistance both before and during the event.

This launch symposium is only the start of the AusMob journey. We have exciting plans for growing mobilities research to enhance Australia’s research capacity in this field. We want AusMob to raise the recognition and impact of mobilities research in Australia, to facilitate collaborations between researchers, to foster relationships with government and industry, and, very importantly, to provide support for postgraduate and early career researchers working in this field.