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Gold, gas, data: online conference drills into meanings of mining


The Political Ecology Research Centre's online conference will present diverse international views on mining and extraction industries and impacts.


‘Extraction’ has long been at the core of much human activity ­– from large-scale mineral mining for energy and profits, to the digital extraction of personal information. An free online conference starting next week will explore the diverse meanings, scenarios and impacts of extraction in modern times.

Extraction: Tracing the veins is a two-week, fully online, “nearly carbon neutral” conference hosted by Massey University’s Political Ecology Research Centre from June 29 to July 10, with live sessions, workshops and panel discussions that span multiple time zones. 

With over 80 presentations from academic, activist and expert speakers from around the world, the event is free and open to all, says co-organiser Dr Alice Beban, a sociology lecturer from the School of People, Environment and Planning. 

It is the third consecutive year the centre has run an online conference with an environment and sustainability theme, as a way to both reduce the carbon footprint of  the event and to make it more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience, says co-organiser Professor Glenn Banks. 

Conference presenters scheduled for this year will address the obvious as well as more nuanced interpretations of what ‘extraction’ means, including in tourism, art and even on the moon. The conference seeks to; “re-examine extraction and its contested place in contemporary capitalism.”

Conference co-organiser and presenter Professor Glenn Banks, pictured on a research trip to Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea several years ago.


Speakers offer indigenous views on mining’s impact

Keynote speaker Deanna Kemp, professor and director at the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, University of Queensland, Australia, will share her insights on the mining industry in the era of COVID-19, including her view on how “the lack of oversight of the industry currently has enabled the destruction of an ancient Aboriginal site in Australia, and how the industry is responding” – a topic she wrote about for The Conversation. Other keynotes are Dr Katharina Ruckstuhl, Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne, who works on Māori ‘social license’ in the oil, gas and mining industries, and Dr Jason W. Moore from New York, on transcending the current economy based on extraction. 

A number of presenters will discuss the impacts of the oil, gas, gold, sand, cobalt, hydropower, phosphate and agricultural industries on the environment as well as on indigenous communities, including in New Zealand, Brazil, Australia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia and India.  

“We have fascinating presenters, including policy-makers and academics and others bridging disciplinary and professional divides – like scientist Gloria Benedikt, a former professional dancer who now works for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, exploring how to use artistic expression to bridge scientific knowledge to social action,” says Dr Beban.

Other speakers include Alexander Bernier, a Canadian lawyer working in policy and governance issues at the intersection of data privacy, research ethics, and health data sharing. 

Presenters from Massey include Professor Banks, who will speak about the long-term community change in Papua New Guinea resulting from gold mining. Dr Beban will talk on gender, land inheritance and agrarian change in Cambodia; and Dr Stella Pennell will apply the ‘extraction’ theme to an analysis of Airbnb and its impact on the lives of hosts. Dr Sy Taffel will explore data and oil and Dr Graham Macrae will explore sand mining for the construction industry in his presentation; Cultures of Extraction: frontiers of value.

Panel sessions each day will bring together several presentations on one of the conference’s six big themes. Each panel will have its own webpage consisting of video presentations and chaired comments. 

“We hope that the work done at this conference will encourage collaborations across boundaries between activists, social sciences, arts, and humanities,” says Professor Banks. “We look forward to all the presentations and subsequent discussions that open up new conversations, perspectives and debates about the possibilities and problems of the human relation to the non-human world.

Conference co-organiser and presenter Dr Alice Beban in Prey Long forest, Northern Cambodia, on a research trip.


Why an online conference? 

Traditional academic conferences are responsible for a considerable amount of carbon emissions, as presenters fly from around the world to present in a single location, say conference organisers. “This also incurs significant financial costs, which often precludes researchers from developing countries and postgraduate students from attending.”

The Environmental Humanities Initiative at the University of California Santa Barbara estimated that running an online conference reduces the carbon footprint of a conference by 99 per cent, as well as broadening their reach and accessibility. 

“COVID-19 highlights the need for such new forms of collaboration and conferencing,” says Dr Beban. “There are still significant ecological issues surrounding the mineral extraction, manufacturing, waste disposal, and energy costs of the computational and networking technologies required for an online conference. 

However, unlike the carbon emissions associated with travel to a venue for a conference, the costs associated with computers, cameras, and undersea fibre-optic cables do not correspond to a one-off event; they will continue to be used long after the conference finishes. Our conversations can also continue using this format; at the close of the conference, the presentations will stay online as an open access resource unless presenters request otherwise.”

For more information check the conference website: http://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/extraction/

condimentum nunc.

 

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