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Democracy in a Changing Climate

Held on the 10th Mar 2020

at 6pm to

, Southern Tasmania

Add to Calendar 2020-03-10 18:00:00 2020-03-10 19:30:00 Australia/Sydney Democracy in a Changing Climate University of Tasmania experts in law, international relations and geography discuss the risks to political and social stability posed by climate change. Stanley Burbury Theatre, University Centre, Sandy Bay Campus
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Stanley Burbury Theatre, University Centre, Sandy Bay Campus


University of Tasmania experts in law, international relations and geography discuss the risks to political and social stability posed by climate change.


  • Professor Benjamin J. Richardson, Faculty of Law & IMAS
  • Dr Matt Killingsworth, Head of Politics & International Relations
  • Dr Kate Booth, Senior Lecturer - Human Geography, Extinction Rebellion
  • Moderated by Jenny Weber, Bob Brown Foundation

Protest pic

Climate change is challenging our identity as the places we cherish and our iconic species are pushed towards extinction. Impending climate catastrophe is also reconfiguring regional and global economies, as climate risks are now indistinguishable from economic risks. These changes herald growing social and political instability. Democratically elected governments are failing to take decisive action. Some, like the Tasmanian State Government, are instead pursuing draconian anti-protest laws. ‘Democracy as usual’ is being called into question.

Refreshments from 5.30pm.

Creative Protesting: Counter-aesthetic activism in a changing legal climate

Professor Benjamin J. RichardsonProfessor Benjamin J. Richardson

Climate activism increasingly harnesses the arts to shape public debates and gain influence. Some modes of civil disobedience, such as associated with the Extinction Rebellion movement, mobilise the arts in their costumes, banners, social media platforms and street performances for public engagement. Some activist groups deploy ‘counter-aesthetic’ strategies that aim to disrupt and challenge the marketing or propaganda of business and government in order to provoke new ways of perceiving the climate crisis and the accountability of those responsible for it. Arts-based activism operates in a legal milieu fraught with risks for its practitioners, and governments in Australia, the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions are seeking to increase police surveillance and penalties for such activism. Such legal manoeuvres may require even more creative protest tactics to stay ahead of authorities and win the hearts and minds of the public.

Climate Change and Conflict

Dr Matt KillingsworthDr Matt Killingsworth

Climate change, by altering the world’s physical landscape, is also changing its geopolitical landscape. According to Professor Ole Wæver, climate inaction could lead to armed conflict. The aim of this presentation is to interrogate Wæver’s claim, and explore the degree to which climate change, as a political issue, challenges traditional conceptions of security and, in turn, the relationship between climate change, democracy and increased conflict.

Democracy or Idiocracy: How climate action changes our understanding of politics

Dr Kate BoothDr Kate Booth

As democratically elected governments negate climate action and ignore public sentiment, ‘politics as usual’ is appearing increasingly idiotic. Politics is commonly understood as disputes over power or competition between multiple interests. This understanding dominates news reporting of party politics. A theme emerges – a lot of ‘politics’ is happening, but nothing fundamental is changing (except the climate!). As our climate changes, there is an alternative view of politics emerging: that climate action should not and cannot be premised on machinations of power and competition. The emergency we have entered is beyond this kind of politics. Rather, fantasies of infinite growth must end with sweeping reforms across our economic, social and political systems. This is what some term a true political moment – systemic, radical change in response to the catastrophic change we have set in motion.