Plenary Session: Responding to Global Environmental Crises

Day 1, Plenary Session 1B: 4:30pm – 6:00pm

Location: Storey Hall (Building 16) – Main Auditorium, Level 5, Room 1

Chair: Professor Paul James (RMIT University)


Robyn Eckersley Robyn Eckersley

  • Extending Responsibility for Global Environmental Problems
  • Abstract: If global environmental problems were caused by a few ‘rogue’ states or corporations, then it is quite likely that we would see a concerted and effective international and national response.  However, such a response is lacking because global problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss are largely the by-products of routine, ‘normal’ practices in which we are all implicated, in varying degrees. Growing global economic interconnectedness has also extended the separation between the various actors and institutions that generate these problems and the social and ecological communities that suffer the worst impacts across space and time. This has made it very difficult to pin down responsibility and very easy to evade responsibility. This presentation will argue that an effective response to global environmental problems demands that we rethink conventional notions of responsibility, based on individual agency, direct causation and culpability, and move towards a post-liberal, cosmopolitan understanding of “extended responsibility” that is more appropriate to a complex and interdependent world. The argument will be illustrated through a range of different examples, such as extended producer and consumer responsibility, and various forms of enlarged political accountability to wider communities-at-risk in space and time. 
  • About Professor Eckersley: Robyn Eckersley is Professor of Political Science in the School of Social and Political Sciences at The University of Melbourne. She has published widely in the intersecting areas of environmental politics, policy and political theory and is best known for her books Environmentalism and Political Theory (1992) and The Green State: Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty (2004). She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and was appointed as the Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo for the northern winter of 2010-2011.
Jerry Harris Jerry Harris

  • Urban Sustainability, Jobs and the Environment 
  • Abstract: Sustainable cities cannot exist without sustainable jobs. But technology and globalization has destroyed the old mass base industrial economy. Information technologies deskilled and reduced the need for labor, particularly in those industries that provided a decent standard of living for the working class. These technologies also created new tools for capital investments that lead to the financialization of capitalism, widespread speculative stocks and a growing gap between productive labor and wealth. At the same time globalization opened the door to millions of new workers, undercut the ability of governments to design and implement national developmental strategies outside of neoliberal constraints and largely destroyed the social contract. The economic crisis coincides with a deep ecological crisis of which global warming is only one important aspect. The toxic chemical soup and fossil fuel pollution in which our cities stew degrades our health and quality of life with every breath. The solution points to building an urban environment with sustainable jobs based in the green economy and run with democratic principles of control and community responsibility. Cooperatively owned business’ under local control and situated in the broad and growing field of green technologies can be an important step towards building the sustainable cities of the near future.
  • About Professor Harris: Jerry Harris is a founding member and national secretary of the Global Studies Association of North America, and a founding member and on the international executive of the Network for the Critical Study of Global Capitalism. He is the author of The Dialectics of Globalization: Economic and Political Struggle in a Transnational World, and with Carl Davidson, CyberRadicalism: A New Left for a Global Age.  He is Professor of History at DeVry University in Chicago. He was previously assistant to the Commissioner of Employment in the Chicago city government; Public relations director and editor for the United Steelworkers Union in Chicago, and a union activist in Kentucky.