My work engages with situated and cross-cultural understandings and experiences of risk and harm driven by climate change and associated processes of economic, social and ecological change. Through engaging with ideas of vulnerability, adaptation and justice, I seek to understand the differentiated way people and places influence and are influenced by climate change impacts and responses. I am currently collaborating with Vietnamese researchers to understand the implications of climate-related displacement in the Mekong Delta, a so-called ‘climate hotspot’.
By tracing the geographies of loss and displacement associated with climate change the aim is to reveal the harmful consequences of development for particular people and places. Collapsing the distance seemingly stretched across space and time between contribution and consequence is critical to a politics and ethics of climate justice focused on responsibility, recovery, reparation and restoration. As such, my work seeks to respond to Plumwood’s call that,
Discerning patterns of sacrificial and shadow places, based on the power and privilege – or lack of it – of the human communities associated with places is a major focus of critical geography and of studies of environmental racism.
I also have a long-held interest in the political ecology of water in the Mekong Region and in Australia. I was recently part of a team of researchers from Macquarie who worked with Aboriginal collaborators in Mudgee to engage with diverse water cultures. In this work we were greatly inspired by Plumwood’s idea of shadow places, and interpreted this in relation to how cultures privilege certain waters while render other water invisible and marginalised. We were concerned to see how shadow waters “brings to light the way power intersects with cultural practices” (McLean et al., 2018).
I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University, Sydney where I teach into the development studies, social impact assessment and human geography programs.