Reimagining our future: communities confronting the realities of climate change

Many of us understand the gravity of the climate crisis and what needs to be done, so what’s standing in our way? What will it take for our future to be reimagined to enable all life to flourish? In this panel discussion, hear from researchers and communities from across Australia and India who are taking collective action to create real and sustainable futures.

The climate emergency poses a crisis of imagination, which poses a crisis for action. Knowing the causes of the climate crisis is only part of the challenge. Understanding the barriers to creating change and learning about the actions and solutions communities can implement is the next step. There are various barriers to communities taking action, including how they imagine what the future can look like. Dominant ways of imagining the future, such as ‘business as usual’, ‘technology will fix everything’ or ‘we are doomed’ leave people feeling that action is meaningless. How can we inspire communities to imagine the future differently?

Join us for this special panel discussion featuring researchers from the Grounded Imaginaries project and community leaders from across Australia and India who are transforming the future of their communities through innovative solutions. From the south-east coast of India in the Tamil Nadu region, through the foothills of the Himalayas, across the ocean to the small town of Moruya on the southern coast of New South Wales, we’ll hear the stories of communities forced to reimagine how they live in the face of climate change. From reforestation efforts to regenerative farming practices and community-led social justice initiatives, we’ll learn the creative ways that communities are taking action to tackle climate change on a local level.

This event was held online on Thursday 6 April 2023.

Listen to the podcast


Danielle Celermajer (Chair), sociologist

Danielle Celermajer is the Sydney Environment Institute’s Deputy Director – Academic and lead of SEI’s Environmental imaginaries and storytelling research theme. Dany is the project lead of the Grounded Imaginaries project and also leads SEI’s research cluster Concepts and practices and multispecies justice and is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. After living through the 2019/2020 NSW bushfires, Dany wrote of her experience of the “killing of everything”, which she calls “omnicide” and published her book Summertime: Reflections on a Vanishing Future.

Deepthi Indukuri, a curious rewilder

Deepthi Indukuri is a multi-disciplinary applied researcher and practitioner. She has been studying how humans respond to diseases, extreme environments and stories. She is a weaver who has worked in biomedical science, sports science, and communication. She is curious about ecological regeneration and the human and more-than-human interactions with a focus on the deep relationships with their environments. Citizen science and conscious collective initiatives and networks inspire her work. She weaves through connections and lives and works in and from a forest community in Auroville.

Rohit Nair, researcher and activist

Rohit Nair is a Research Fellow from the Grounded Imaginaries project Auroville team and a resident of Chennai. The power of storytelling, which is at the base of Grounded Imaginaries, excites him the most about the project. The project also helps him connect with his city better, and he is grateful for that opportunity. Along with Grounded Imaginaries, he anchors a non-profit environmental education initiative called Project Living Cities.

Mayank Shah, Himalayan researcher

Mayank Shah is a researcher from the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand with a PhD in economics. Mayank’s research interests include socio-ecological systems research focussed across the Himalayan region. Mayank actively pursues research that is multi-disciplinary, draws upon plural epistemologies and co-produces knowledges with indigenous and local communities.

Gijs Spoor, social change leader

Gijs Spoor is one of the project leads from the Social Entrepreneurship Association Auroville team. A father of two, Gijs is originally from Amsterdam, but lived in India for 20 years, of which 13 in Auroville (Tamil Nadu) where he co-stewards a 9-acre reforestation site. Shaken by injustice, inspired and energised by beauty in all its forms, Gijs offers creative thinking, start-up launching and systems thinking to movements for social change, youth, alternative economies and overland travel. Find out more here.

Lobzang Wangtak, glacier and water conservationist

Lobzang Wangtak is a glacier and water conservationist and the co-founder of Navikarana Trust and Zanskar Conservancy Movement. Lobzang and his colleagues at Navikarana Trust have worked tirelessly to provide water to the people of Zanskar by lifting the water from the nearby spring in a sustainable way through solar water pumping. In 2021, the Pishu Village finally got water lifted to their village through Lobzang’s intervention and community collaboration and now more than 20 villages are in need of his help. Without any institutional support Lobzang’s work relies on public funding or NGOs support. To support the incredible work Lobzang and his team are doing, contact him here.

Stuart Whitelaw, founder of a community-led food initiative

Stuart Whitelaw is an architect whose practice always had a focus on passive solar design and the use of sustainable materials. Stuart also held a builders license for 15 years. His life long dedication to the power of design and art began when he taught these subjects after graduation for a period of four years. He is an exhibiting visual artist with a particular interest in painting landscapes, mostly in situ. In 2003 he designed, built and ran a restaurant (the River Moruya). This experience gave an insight into the local Moruya food system, an interest and passion which continues to this day. Stuart was one of the founders of SAGE in 2008 and has been involved in every aspect of the organisation. He believes in demonstrating ideas rather than talking about them. He is on the SAGE executive and on the board of Stepping Stone Farm (the SAGE teaching farm). 


Header image: Mural by Janet Orlene (Grounded Imaginaries youth fellow), near Upstream Ecology at Ooty, India. Janet led a street art project co-created with the Nilgiris (India) community. 'Mountain Murals - Narratives from the Nilgiris' champions the voices and perspectives of community - both human and nature - in the scenic hill stations of Ooty, Kotagiri and Coonoor. In this mural, the questions and statements flow along the contours of the mountains, echoing over the Nilgiris. The public art piece is self-facilitating over time, encouraging the community to reflect and add to the statements and questions that address the possibilities of imagination.

Featured articles