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Climate Change and Colonial Legacy: NTNU Hosts the 28th IGCT

The NTNU Department of Geography hosted the 28th International Geographical Conference of Taiwan (IGCT) 2024 on May 4th and 5th. The conference, themed "The research achievements of climate change science and responses of society in Taiwan: Risks, impacts, and resilience," aimed to facilitate the exchange of ideas among scholars, experts, and graduate students to promote a sustainable Taiwanese society.

The two-day event included keynote speeches and presentations of numerous papers. Q&A sessions that followed each keynote provided opportunities for interaction and discussion of solutions. Topics on the first day covered climate change, hazard assessment, risk management, and the evaluation and application of scientific data. The second day addressed issues such as the impact of colonial settler society, the pursuit of climate justice through listening and learning, and dual pathways for healing communities and ecosystems.

A highlight of the conference was the keynote speech delivered by Professor Richie Howitt, a Yushan Scholar and Chair Professor in the NTNU Department of Geography at a session titled “Worlds Turned Upside Down: Optimism, Realism, Responsibility, and Accountability in Colonial-Settler Societies” moderated by Retired Professor Huei-Min Tsai from NTNU’s Institute of Sustainability Management and Environmental Education.

As an Australian from Australia’s First Nations, Howitt emphasized that geography as a discipline predominantly represents the knowledge of colonizers. He highlighted the importance of acknowledging and reflecting on the discipline's impact on the colonized and stressed the need for cooperation and connection over conquest.

During the Q&A, Professor Shew-Jiuan Su of the Department of Geography asked about the pandemic's impact on teacher education. Howitt noted that school closures forced a shift to home learning, which compelled parents to recognize the importance of teachers and collaborative learning in schools. He encouraged students in the audience to use their college years to think, listen, and learn as they prepare for a rapidly changing future.

As an indigenous person, Associate Professor Tibusungu 'e Vayayana (Ming-huey Wang), also from the NTNU Department of Geography, supported Howitt's views. He pointed out the complexity of indigenous culture in Taiwan compared to other indigenous populations worldwide, emphasizing the need for dialogue between settlers and indigenous people to establish a new relationship for a constructive future.