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ThoughtLines 2019

Regrettably, the 2019 series has been postponded due to the ill health of one of our presenters.
Please refer back to this site for updates.


China and Australia:
Do We Need to Worry?

Saving Ourselves from Ourselves:
The Challenge of Human Intervention in Nature

Reaching for the Stars:
An Australian Journey Through the Cosmos

China and Australia: Do We Need to Worry?

China is a country that is much on Australia's mind. Its rise over the last forty years from vast poverty to an economic and military powerhouse -- and the world's most populous country -- is one of modern history's truly remarkable narratives. From the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 to the ascension of Xi Jinping as president in 2012, the Chinese people have seen their nation, their economic well-being, and how the rest of the world perceives and interacts with them, change dramatically.

Australia's world has also changed in many ways during this period -- not least because our most important economic partner is now, in fact, China -- a country dramatically different in size, politics, values, language and culture from our own.

At the same time, our security ally, the United States has started acting in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways, provoking a trade war with China, and withdrawing its support for the international trade rules that offer protection for middle powers like Australia.

Almost inevitably, questions about China's financial and political influence, as well as security concerns, are being raised and often hotly debated in the media and public forums.

In this talk James Laurenceson will address these questions and discuss what China's rise means for Australia now and in the future.

Professor James Laurenceson Professor James Laurenceson is Acting Director of the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at UTS.

He has previously held academic appointments at the University of Queensland (Australia), Shandong University (China) and Shimonoseki City University (Japan).

His research has been published in leading scholarly journals including China Economic Review and China Economic Journal.

Professor Laurenceson also provides regular commentary on contemporary developments in China's economy and the Australia-China economic relationship. His opinion pieces have appeared in Australian Financial Review, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, South China Morning Post, amongst many others.

Saving Ourselves from Ourselves: The Challenge of Human Intervention in Nature

We are no longer able to think of ourselves as a species tossed around by larger forces – now we are those larger forces.
Bill McKibben, The End of Nature, 1990

We humans have, in effect, become bio-physical forces of nature that are reshaping our planet in permanent ways, thereby introducing a new geological age known as the Anthropocene. Many scientists say we are now living in this new age, following 12,000 years of the Holocene, which produced ideal conditions for human activity to flourish.

Said to date from as early as the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century or, more recently, from when the first nuclear weapon was detonated in 1945, the Anthropocene has seen greenhouse gases increasing at an enormous pace; nitrogen accumulating on land and in water; the oceans acidifying; and species becoming extinct at a rapid rate.

A significant debate among scientists around the world is taking place about how to deal with the effects of the Anthropocene. Should we interfere with nature in order to save it -– employing, for example, large-scale geo-engineering projects to alter the earth's climate system to mitigate the effects of global warming?

Close to home is Australia's Great Barrier Reef – the only living organism that can be seen from outer space, and which is fast dying. Is reducing carbon emissions enough to save it? Or should scientists directly intervene by manipulating the genes of its coral - thereby changing the course of its evolution – in order to prevent even graver harm to the Reef than it is already suffering?

But what might be the unintended consequences of geo-engineering and genetic manipulation be? What risks do they pose? Could they actually make the situation worse? The moral and philosophical questions they present are profound.

The so-called Restorationists (those who want to intervene) and the Conservationists (those who don't) are at loggerheads over what to do. How their differences are resolved – how we act to save ourselves from ourselves -- will have important consequences for us all, as well as for our children and grandchildren.

Iain McCalman AO Iain McCalman AO, an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Sydney, and former Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute, has established a national and international reputation as an historian of science, culture and the environment whose work has influenced university scholars and students, government policy makers and broader communities around the world. In addition to his considerable achievements as an undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate teacher he has published fourteen books with leading international academic and trade presses, including The Reef: A Passionate History.

In 2007 Iain was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to History and the Humanities. A member of the ThoughtLines Advisory Panel, he is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Iain has consulted on and narrated several film and television documentaries, and is a sought after keynote speaker for conferences around the world.

Reaching for the Stars: An Australian Journey Through the Cosmos

Shortly after the Big Bang, a veil was lifted from the cosmos, transforming the cold and dark universe into a hot and luminous birthplace for stars and galaxies. When did the veil rise, and how long did it take? What first created such massive amounts of energy? What did the first generation of stars and galaxies look like, when did they form, and how did they evolve over 13 billion years, forming galaxies like our own Milky Way? And the most fundamental question of all: how did we get here -- from the Big Bang and the stars that first lit the cosmos to the evolution of the universe that surrounds us today?

Australian astronomers are world leaders in providing answers to these questions, combining radio, optical, and infrared technology with new supercomputers to propel us to the forefront of astronomy research into our origins. No single telescope or theoretical simulation can answer these questions. What is required are new all-sky surveys to capture the light from hundreds of thousands of galaxies.

Renowned ANU astronomer and astrophysicist Lisa Kewley will take you on an fascinating journey from the Big Bang to the Milky Way, describing how Australian astronomers are revealing our origins, and concluding with the exciting discoveries she and her colleagues expect to make with new mega-scale telescopes in the coming decade: the Square Kilometre Array, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the Giant Magellan Telescope.

Lisa Kewley Lisa Kewley is a Professor and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the Australian National University, she obtained her PhD in 2002 from the Australian National University on the connection between star-formation and supermassive black holes in infrared galaxies. She is a world leader in galaxy formation and evolution and has worked on galaxy collisions, supermassive black holes, star formation and the amount of oxygen in galaxies across cosmic time.

As Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence of All-Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D), Lisa leads a network of 193 scientists and students around the world. ASTRO 3D aims to understand the origins of the stars and galaxies that surround us, from shortly after the Big Bang to our own Milky Way today.