The politics of nature

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

These days, everything feels like a partisan issue, be it immigration, national security, renewable energy or even lockdowns. More and more decision making seems to feel like a political football, even if it doesn’t make sense. Despite its history, a basic concern for the environment seems to have been caught in this trend and in recent years, just labeling yourself an “environmentalist” has been seen as a polarizing thing to do.

How did it happen that something as basic as caring for nature and making sure our society is sustainable became such a divisive issue? And is there a way out of this divisiveness so we can work together to create a strong and diverse support base for nature and commit to the necessary ‘tough decisions’. Or will we spend another few decades pulled aside and pacing on the political bench?

Cosmos presents this recording from South Australia’s Nature Festival, exploring the politics of nature with panellists Natasha Davis (Chair of the South Australian Nature Alliance and CEO of Trees For Life), Craig Wilkins (CEO of South Australia’s peak environment organisation Conservation SA), Michelle Grady (Australian Director, The Pew Charitable Trusts), celebrated Australian author James Bradley OAM, and facilitator Tory Shepherd.

If you’d like to listen to the full recording, listen to the podcast!


As CEO of Trees for Life, Natasha Davis helps turn the environmental ‘big picture’ into action. She is also the Chair of the South Australian Nature Alliance. She has worked as Director of a sustainability business and managed community engagement programs in water and biodiversity issues. Natasha holds a Masters of Environmental Management (Flinders University), a Graduate Diploma in East Asian Studies (Australian National University) and a Bachelor of Economics (University of Adelaide).    

Craig Wilkins is Chief Executive of the Conservation Council of South Australia (CCSA), leading and assisting community campaigns and movements for change.  His career spans almost 30 years, working in the areas of public health, social services, environmental change and politics with a variety of not for profit and government organisations.  He sits on a range of advisory boards and committees including the Adelaide Parklands Authority and the Grote Street Business Precinct.

Michelle Grady is director of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Before joining Pew, Grady’s nearly three decades of environmental work focused on conservation advocacy, management of nongovernmental organizations, and policy development at state, national, and international levels, including work with the Conservation Council of South Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF Australia, WDC/Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and Conservation Volunteers Australia. She also worked in government, politics, and the corporate sector, and is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Commission. Grady holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Australian history, and politics from Adelaide University and a graduate diploma in business administration from the University of South Australia.

James Bradley OAM is an Australian author and critic. His books include the novels Wrack (1997), The Deep Field (1999), The Resurrectionist (2006) and Clade (2015), a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus (1994), and The Penguin Book of the Ocean (2010). His books have won or been shortlisted for many major Australian and international literary awards, and in 2012 he won the Pascall Prize for Australia’s Critic of the Year. His latest novel, Ghost Species (2020), is published by Hamish Hamilton. As well as writing fiction, James writes for numerous Australian and international publications. His work has appeared in Cosmos Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Australian Literary Review, Australian Book Review, The Monthly, Locus, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Griffith Review, Meanjin, Heat, The Weekend Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He was awarded a Medal of The Order of Australia (OAM) in 2021.

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