I was invited to join a group of students and lecturers from the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, University of Newcastle, United Kingdom on a field trip in Kuching. I functioned as their ‘local’ academic resource person. The trip was to expose the students to geographies of globalisation in Kuching, especially in relation to how the palm oil industry has affected the process of globalisation here.
We visited a SALCRA (Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority) plantation and palm oil mill in Setenggang, about an hour away from Kuching. This was a great opportunity for the students to experience a real functioning organised palm oil operation, from plantation to mill.
Dr Rory Padfield, formerly of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and currently at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom very kindly wrote a review of my book, “The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: Palm Oil and Patronage”. An early, condensed version of this review was read out at my book launch at University Malaya last year (by Dr Roy Anthony Rogers), and the full-length version has been recently published in the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography.
A (quite amusing, if I do say so!) excerpt:
I was at the University of Sydney for a total of 4 1/2 years, for both my Masters in International Studies and PhD in International Relations. This period was an important formative phase for my academic career. So when I was invited to moderate two forums consisting of Australian graduates for the Down Under Camp 2017, I was happy to oblige.
Following the 16th International Peat Congress (IPC) in Kuching (Sarawak), Malaysia, widely read media reported that the congress supported the view that current agricultural practices in peatland areas, such as oil palm plantations, do not have a negative impact on the environment. However, this view is not shared by many of the participants, and does not reflect the broad message conveyed by the research presented at the congress.
In an effort to correct these statements, a number of the world’s leading researchers researchers and practitioners from around the world (including myself) have come together to publish a letter in Global Change Biology, one of the world’s leading environmental science journals. The 139 authors represent 115 government, academic, industry and non-governmental organizations from 20 countries. Forty of these organizations are based in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore; the countries most directly impacted by the adverse consequences of unsustainable management of tropical peatlands.
I was fortunate to be selected to be a participant in the KASEAS (Korean Association of Soitheast Asian Studies) ASEAN-Korea Academic Exchange Programme 2016. The programme this year was held at Sogang University, South Korea, from 26-27 August 2016, with the theme “ASEAN Centrality in the Multilateral Regional Architecture of East Asia”. I presented a paper entitled “Dust and Sandstorms in Northeast Asia: Potential for Enhancing ASEAN Centrality”. The Prezi for this paper can be found here.
I am fortunate to be part of a double feature at Inside Indonesia today. An article that authored has been published there, together with an in-depth and thoughtful review of my book kindly provided by Patrick Anderson from the Forest Peoples Programme.
- Transboundary haze by Helena Varkkey
- Review: Palm oil and patronage by Patrick Anderson
I was fortunate to have been chosen to participate in the Agri-Inno Workshop that brought together 34 early career researchers from both the sciences and social sciences to network and learn from each other, both in terms of career progression and more specifically the grant-seeking process. This workshop was made possible by a generous grant from Newton Links, and with the guidance of mentors from University of Reading and Crops for the Future.
Over the course of one week, we heard from both highly experienced academics and industry experts, as well as grant-giving bodies on tips and tricks of writing a winning grant. We were divided into teams to develop an extensive mock grant application over three days, which culminated in a nail-biting presentation session to a jury that included a representative from Newton Links. Unfortunately, our team, “Fantastic Four-estry” was not the winning team, but nevertheless we went away more inspired to apply our practical knowledge in the ‘real world’ of grant applications.