Environmental Humanities Extinction

Living on the Edge

How can Australians come together to better appreciate and care for our precious places at a time of devastating environmental decline?

Living on the Edge: Caring for Australia’s Threatened Places explores eight ecological communities from across the continent. The project considers what these places are like, why they matter and how we can protect and regenerate them. Each is a vibrant land and waterscape, home to unique plants and animals. Each is threatened by habitat loss, invasive species, resource extraction, pollution and climate change.

Living on the Edge is a multi-year collaborative project being developed by the National Museum of Australia (through the James O Fairfax Senior Fellow in Culture and Environment Program) and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney. The project is being led by Kirsten Wehner (NMA), Cameron Muir (NMA), and Thom van Dooren (SEI). The project webpage is available here.

It brings together cultural researchers, writers, curators, traditional custodians and artists, as well as policy-makers, scientists and community conservationists, to share knowledge and explore ideas about how best to care for these threatened places. Ultimately, we will produce an online exhibition, a series of events, podcasts and broadcasts, creative commissions and education resources.

Ecological communities make our lives possible, providing food and fibre, and nourishing us through soil, air and water. They also enrich and give meaning to our lives. Their forms and forces, plants and animals shape our cultures and fire our imaginations. They inspire wonder and invite solace. They connect us with the past, anchor us in the present and draw us to the future. Their stories are our stories.

The first event for this project is called River Country and it will take place at the National Museum in Canberra on 15 October 2023. It will be a day of art, music, performance, storytelling and conversations exploring Australia’s remarkable river places and celebrating the launch of Living on the Edge: Caring for Australia’s Threatened Places. Through talks, walks and creative activities suited to all ages, visitors can learn about the Murray–Darling’s unique river and wetland communities, why these places matter and how we can protect and regenerate them. Further information is available here.