EnviroLab Asia aims to be a platform for producing and sharing knowledge about Asia and the contemporary environmental challenges the region faces. To develop the capacity of students, staff, and faculty to address these issues, research clusters composed of faculty, staff, and students from different disciplines and backgrounds were created for 2015-2016 academic year.
Theme: The Politics in Environmental Space: Conflict, Hope and Imagination in Asia
The policy research cluster (Cluster One) focuses on the relationship between political, economic, social and cultural processes and forest and coastal habitats. The communication and arts research cluster (Cluster Two) studies methods of communicating conflicted environmental issues that have arisen from the relationship between these processes and forest and coastal habitats. These two teams, in collaboration and separately, began their work in the fall of 2015 through activities such as reading and discussing the relevant scholarly literature and public discourse and studying forms of publicly communicating scientific concepts. In line with EnviroLab Asia’s mission to link knowledge with practice, Cluster One will work to investigate alternative strategies to mitigate an environmental issue while Cluster Two will develop a method to raise the public’s awareness of the issue.
Both clusters will pursue their research through the study of the concept of space, especially the intersection and relationship between environmental space and the space of political economy. They will tackle such questions as:
Can the relationships between spaces limit or unleash biodiversity, social renewal and culture?
How much agency do individuals and natural elements have in shaping these interactions?
Are there collaborative means by which to generate more human, just, and biodiverse landscapes?
How do studying environmental issues through a spatial lens help impart a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of scientific issues?
Can the concept of space be used to create alternative forms of communication in the cultural realm that could raise public awareness on the issues resulting from relationship between environmental space and the space of political economy? If so, how?
More precisely, the above two research clusters of EnviroLab Asia investigate the links between the production of oil-palm (political economy) and deforestation and aquatic life (environment) in Southeast Asia. Over the past two decades, the oil-palm industry has grown rapidly through support from governments in Indonesia and Malaysia and investments from companies in Singapore, which has led to rapid deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo. This alteration has threatened wildlife and biodiversity, weakened the land rights of indigenous people, damaged water quality, and sparked an increasing number of fires and resulting health hazards across Southeast Asia.
A third research cluster emerged in spring 2016 to study environmental issues in Japan, such as bird migration patterns, the legacy of the atomic bomb, and bunka, which means culture in Japanese.