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Zero Carbon Imaginaries: Imagining a transformed Australian Energy System

Friday 1 July 2022 – 11:00 – 13:00   AEST

Prof Chris Riedy, Juan Garzon

After decades of debate, there is consensus that the world must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to zero, and perhaps even further. While the pace and details of that reduction remain hotly contested, few publicly dispute that zero carbon must be a goal. Achieving this after more than a century of steady growth in greenhouse gas emissions requires a deliberate transformation of key social-ecological systems, particularly energy, transport and agricultural systems.

To realise such a transformation, we must first be able to collectively imagine it. We need to create social imaginaries – collective meaning systems for understanding the present and envisioning the future – that can guide the necessary transformation to a zero carbon future. Further, we need to develop ways of evaluating the transformative capacity of our imaginaries and responding if they are found wanting.

There is abundant evidence that our imaginaries are not even keeping pace with current changes in the energy system, let alone the transformation that is to come. For example, planners in the Australian energy system comprehensively failed to imagine and prepare for futures in which consumer uptake of air conditioning and rooftop solar would fundamentally shift the nature of electricity demand. Those futures are now here, and our collective imagination has followed, rather than led, transformation.

In this workshop session, we will collectively imagine transformative zero carbon imaginaries. After initial presentations examining the nature of zero carbon imaginaries in institutions, the solarpunk movement and climate fiction, we will introduce the principles of transformative narratives. Participants will draw on these principles and engage in a creative activity to expand zero carbon imaginaries by producing a story, drawing, collage, poster or poem for a chosen audience. We will conclude by reflecting on these creative pieces and drawing out what gives them transformative capacity.

Prof Chris Riedy
Chris Riedy is Professor of Sustainability Transformations and Associate Director Learning and Development at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney. Chris is a transdisciplinary action researcher with a focus on sustainability transformations. He uses sociological and political theory, narrative theory and futures thinking to design, facilitate and evaluate practical experiments in transformative change towards sustainable futures.

Juan Garzon
Juan is a Colombian designer interested in transformation/transitions towards plural sustainable futures. He has worked for nearly a decade in socio-spatial design and design for social innovation in Colombia, supporting community development processes in socioeconomically vulnerable spaces. Juan has worked both in the public and private sector and has been involved in higher education, teaching about the role of design in transformation. Currently a PhD candidate at the Institute for Sustainable Futures – UTS, he is exploring alternative transition pathways emerging from the Global South(s).