Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne
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This webinar is the sixth in the Australian Centre’s 2023 Critical Public Conversations series: Country, Climate, Colonialism.
Full title: From colonial conservation to natural capital: the green assault on Indigenous lands.
Scientific evidence shows that Indigenous people understand and manage their environment better than anyone else: 80% of Earth’s biodiversity can be found in Indigenous territories. The best way to protect biodiversity is therefore to respect the land rights of Indigenous peoples – the best conservationists.
Nevertheless, the mainstream conservation model today is still, just as in colonial times, “Fortress Conservation”: a model that creates militarised Protected Areas accessible only to the wealthy on the lands of Indigenous peoples. This “conservation” is destroying the land and lives of Indigenous peoples. But this is where most of the Western funding for nature protection is going.
Why? Because the myths that sustain this model of conservation are reproduced in school texts, media, wildlife documentaries, NGO adverts, etc. The images we have seen since our childhood about “nature”, and the words we use to describe it, shape our way of thinking, our policies, and our actions.We tend to assume these words and images are the reality, as if they were neutral, objective or “scientific”. But they are not.
Conservation has a dark history, and it’s rooted in racism, colonialism, white supremacy, social injustice, land theft, extractivism and violence. Today, the main conservation organisations (like WWF and WCS) not only haven’t questioned this past, but keep perpetuating it. Conservation is an industry, a business, often “partnering with” (i.e. taking money from) big polluting companies and turning nature into something to consume, mostly by white and rich people. This is part of a process of commodification of nature in which it is “valued”, traded and can be profited from (and now also in the name of “climate mitigation”). But our “nature” is other people’s homes. It is the basis of their way of life, the place of their ancestors, the provider of most things that sustain them.
It is essential to think about the words and concepts we use when writing or talking about environmental issues. The violence and land grabs faced by millions of Indigenous and other local people in the name of conservation stem in large part from these concepts.
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Law Rare Book Lecture 2023
‘The Weird and Wonderful World of Animals and the Law’
Presented by Professor Katy Barnett
For this lecture, Professor Katy Barnett will discuss the book she co-wrote with Professor Jeremy Gans Guilty Pigs which considers the history and development of the law as it relates to animals. Does the King really own all the swans? Were medieval animals put on trial? And should animals (in captivity or otherwise) be treated like people? Since Guilty Pigs has come out, the New York Court of Appeal decided that Happy the Elephant was not entitled to legal personhood, but the Panamanian government has said that people can sue on behalf of the interests of sea turtles.
We hope you can join us for this opportunity to hear Professor Katy Barnett speak. The lecture will start at 6.00 pm and is hosted by the Law Library, Melbourne Law School.