Message from Charles Darwin Symposium convenors 

Symposium co-convener Professor Bruce Campbell

The 8th Charles Darwin Symposium, ‘Prepare for Impact! When people and the environment collide in the tropics’ was an extremely successful event, attended by more than 200 delegates.

The event was chaired by Justin Murphy, from ABC TV, who left no doubt in the minds of the attendees of the important role the media play in distributing academic research to the general public.

Over the two days, we heard some very confronting presentations and we were left with no doubt that our region is facing a number of challenges. The opening presentation by Dr Rolf Gerritsen set the tempo for the whole symposium, with his often controversial discussion of the future demography, economics and policy issues in Northern Australia. His presentation emphasised the need for people to ‘think outside of the square’ when working in Northern Australia, and outlined a new ‘Human Ecology’ economy that fully embraced the state, capitalist and communal/hybrid economic sectors.

In this opening session, we also heard about the massive energy needs of India, and their increasing focus on nuclear technologies for power generation from one of India’s leading experts, Dr Leena Srivastava. With so much Australian media attention on this issue, Dr Srivastava provided a rare insight into India’s dire need to increase their people’s access to a reliable power supply.

The following presentations focused on the regions changing environment, with Dr Joseph Wright outlining the pressures on the regions forests and the need for an adequate and enforceable reserve system, while Professor Will Steffen did not beat about the bush when bringing to our attention how significant and rapid climate change is taking place – with major issues including flooding from sea level rise, possible increased cyclone intensity and the acidification of our oceans. And this was all before lunch time!

The next day and a half did not slow down, examining the values and livelihoods of people in Northern Australia and SE Asia, the socio-economic and environmental changes which have already taken place in our region and the future vision for our region, including identifying those issues we can and can’t manage in the future.

Throughout these presentations, the audience challenged the speakers with a number of questions that often led to very stimulating debate. This, together with the significant media interest generated by the Symposium, is perhaps one of the most successful outcomes of the event.

As convenors, we feel the event created stimulating and enriching debate which has reached beyond the walls of academia and will truly “enable people of differing perspectives, disciplines, vocations and contexts to signpost policy and research issues relevant to imagining and managing our future.”  We are indebted to all people involved in making this symposium happen and hope that everyone found it as exciting, challenging and successful an event as we have!

Dr Guy Boggs and Professor Bruce Campbell