Governance and Grief in the Anthropocene: the case of invasive Gamba grass in northern Australia

On behalf of the Technological Natures cluster I would like to invite you to a seminar on ‘Governance and Grief in the Anthropocene: the case of invasive Gamba grass in northern Australia’ by Professor on Thursday November 2014, 2:30-4:30 pm in the Gottman Room. Lesley is Professor of Geography and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia ( and visiting Oxford later this term for a few week – Dr Tim Schwanen.


Predicted nonlinear changes in the Anthropocene will challenge the extent to which environmental issues are governable. Climate change projections highlight positive feedbacks between invasive species spread and increased bushfire risk. Yet many aspects of current invasive species management reflect mourning for past losses rather than preparedness for future surprise. Scholars have identified elements of grief in biodiversity conservation policy, in the loss of loved places and in species extinctions.
In this paper I examine these broader issues through the lens of Gamba grass Andropogon gayanus), a significant threat to tropical savanna biodiversity through its influence on fire regimes across northern Australia. Recent improvements in cross-scalar and cross-jurisdictional coordination have made Gamba the most ‘governed’ plant in Australia. I analyse the practices of Gamba governance via policy analysis, interviews with over 50 managers and participant observation. Results show the multiple ways in which Gamba exceeds and escapes governance, exposing the impossibility of absolute control and the risks of a linear management framing. I argue for an alternative framing in which living with weeds is a more explicit part of the governance framework. This would contribute to more effective – and thus hopeful – practice by valorizing pragmatic knowledge about the messy reality of living with weeds and mobilizing a broader range of resources, including those now resistant to the state.