Burning questions - generational change or apocalypse

A message from the Associate Vice-Chancellor (Queensland) Professor Jim Nyland: Will we choose sustainability and transformation or apocalypse?

I would normally extend new year’s greetings now that most staff are back on board but I am (like all of us) consumed by the social and environmental destruction of the current bushfires. We know that there are many things to be done to become better stewards of our country and avert the impending disaster and many of these must necessarily be done by those in government and industry. However, there are things we can do to change awareness and consciousness, bearing in mind that our context of Impact through Empathy brings its own specific challenges and opportunities.

As we know, universities are already ranked globally in terms of their impact - ACU performed well in the inaugural Times Higher Education Impact (THE) ranking last year.  THE uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) framework to assess impact and early adopters of these goals are looking to embed them at this conjunctural moment into their curriculum to develop the next generation of critical thinkers.

We are currently experiencing several interlocking crises all at once; climate, ecology, rising sea levels, pollution, fires, deforestation, fuel, cars and city air pollution, air travel, plastic, re-cycling, species extinction, war, poverty, melts on glaciers and polar  ice-caps; this is a (the) conjunctural moment where we change our practices and ways of thinking or go over the tipping point to irreversible ecological damage.

If this is then the conjuncture what must critical thinkers do and how shall they act to secure a future for their children?  What is the point of accumulating fabulous wealth whilst watching the earth burn and the planet becoming uninhabitable for future generations? Who could have imagined that we, in this generation, would be seriously considering such things? The unimaginable seems to be coming a reality literally before our eyes as we devote ever more screen time to surveying the impending global crisis - whilst often planning our next holiday flights and the purchase of our SUVs.

Nobody obviously stands ten feet above contradiction, someone once observed, but it is equally clear that nobody can stand outside this coming crisis. What then to do and when to do it? Is to ask the question now to presuppose an answer? The conjuncture demands an answer- which is not yet forthcoming – however the price of the answer must be worth paying for non-payment will cost the earth.

I hope you, your family and friends are staying safe and well throughout the current bushfire crisis.


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