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Waikato University professors awarded Rockefeller Grant

1 January 2015

Debashish and Priya

Priya Kurian and Debashish Munshi

Waikato academics: Professors Priya Kurian and Debashish Munshi will host Climate Futures: Re-imaging Global Climate Justice in Italy this year.

Two University of Waikato academics have been awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Grant to organise and host a major international symposium, not in Hamilton, but in Bellagio, Italy.

Professors Priya Kurian and Debashish Munshi will travel to Italy in July this year to host Climate Futures: Re-imaging Global Climate Justice.

Climate justice

Climate justice is about addressing the unequal burdens created by climate change, and how its causes and effects relate to the concepts of justice - environmental and social. It's something the two Waikato professors have been researching for a good while and they are known internationally for their research in this area.

Their international partners on the grant are Professors John Foran and Kum-Kum Bhavnani of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"A couple of years ago we hosted these two American academics with whom we'd already written two books," says Professor Kurian. "As we worked to develop a third book, we realised we needed to bring people together for some intense conversations and debates around the issues of climate justice."

Successful proposal

They applied for the Rockefeller Grant to host the symposium and recently learned they'd been successful. "These grants are extremely competitive, so we worked very hard to make sure our proposal was as well-developed as possible," says Professor Kurian. 

The Foundation has a fully-equipped residential conference campus at Bellagio and the three day symposium (July 14-16) will bring together climate justice organisations and grassroots activists with public intellectuals and scholars from across the natural, physical and social sciences. The Foundation likes to see unlikely partnerships that scan sectors, which is what this collection of people will certainly be, says Professor Munshi.

Brainstorm on issues affecting climate change

He says the aim is to get the best minds together from both hemispheres to brainstorm ideas. "In particular, we'll be placing a strong emphasis on issues affecting climate change in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Pacific, because people from low- and medium-income countries are often under-represented at international conferences because of a lack of resources."

As well as funding the conference, the Rockefeller Foundation covers travel costs for all participants from developing countries and provides meals and accommodation.

Climate Futures: Reimagining Global Climate Justice

A book, Climate Futures: Reimagining Global Climate Justice will be published after the event, based on the symposium outcomes and subsequent collaborations. The professors also anticipate there will be several action plans as a result of the symposium that will assist communities and influence policy makers. Those plans will be presented at the 21st meeting of the international Conference of the Parties climate summit in Paris in 2015.

Professor Kurian says as well as generating some positive action for climate justice, the symposium will have the added benefit of providing significant international exposure for the University of Waikato.