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 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