Public Seminar - How do we experience the environment in our everyday life?

In this seminar, John will explore the seemingly impossible project of trying to understand how we experience the environment in our everyday life.

The topic appears too vast for the usual forensic analysis of an academic project because the environment is so multi-faceted, people’s lives are so varied, and experience is personal and changeable. Some aspects of the environment may confront us immediately, but we walk by others unseen in our busyness. ‘The personal is political’ may have been a rallying cry of the past but it seems too remote from environmental science and from Australian political life to be much noticed now.

Everyday life is the focus of study in several disciplines, but it has received much less attention in environmental studies. I have turned to literary essays in order to think about the quirks and paradoxes of the environment in everyday life. I have taken an opportunistic approach to finding topics. Dusting, solar panels, having stuff, parks, botanic gardens, fashions in trees, and rebuilding suburbs are some of the dozen essays I have written so far. Although I focus on present experience, it is always shadowed by history. I hope that such essays can encourage readers to draw their own conclusions and nudge the personal towards the political. They may offer an additional way of communicating environmental and human interactions.

To stimulate discussion in the seminar, I will ask, ‘What is your experience of the environment today?’

- Dr John Dargavel

About the speaker

Dr John Dargavel is an Hon. Assoc. Professor of the Fenner School. His long-term interests in forests started from practice, biometrics and planning in South Australia and Victoria, before evolving into political economy and policy at ANU. He was a leader in developing the broad field of Australian forest history based at ANU. His most recent publications have been a book about the history of forest science and a paper about why Australia has forest wars.