Marsupium Photography

By magi

black and white

I work at the School of GeoSciences which is at the triple intersection of traditional geo-sciences (ie if you want to be provocative supplying talent to the extractive industries), environmental sciences and social sciences. Sometimes clear fault lines arise. We have many postgraduate students covering the spectrum outlined above. The gradschool organises and annual conference where first year and third year students present their work. The conference is large and is partly funded by industry. Industry tends to be extractive industry, although not exclusively. Not surprisingly some people object to industry sponsorship in general and extractive industry in particular. To the extend that some boycott the conference. Today the students had a big forum where the future of this conference was discussed. I attended because I enjoyed the conference as a student in the past and now I am enjoying it as a member of staff.

Some thoughts on these issues. I think it is a huge opportunity for the school to cover the entire spectrum from humanities to hard geophysics via geomorphology, geology, environmental sciences, meteorology. It is important to get everyone under one roof for one weekend which allows people to meet and exchange ideas and be challenged with different points of view. Given the size, it is expensive. Smaller won't do because you loose some of the spectrum. Industry sponsorship is not palatable to some. One suggestion was to get the school to fund the conference. However, at the end of the day the school is also funded by the same industries. So, that would be merely sweeping the issue under the carpet. 

My issue with the uncompromising stand point is that they open themselves to accusations of hypocrisy. I suspect at the very least they quite like a warm flat, the occasional shower, food and that shiny laptop. At the end we live in a very connected world and it is very difficult to be strictly principled. 

So, there is a spectrum of grey between the black and white and everyone locates themselves somewhere on that spectrum. And thus it is a personal decision of what is acceptable and what is not. The gradschool conference offers a forum where everyone can present their work. Not only do the people who boycott the conference miss this opportunity they also deny the others the chance to find out about their work.

Personally, I have some issues with the extractive industries, although I have worked for an oil service company. I have bigger issues elsewhere. So on balance, I think this is not a stand point worth fighting about. I have no idea how to tackle the bigger issues though. And that is exactly why I would very much like that dialogue with the human geographers.

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