2019 Winner of the Capstone Editing Research Scholarship for Honours Students
We are very pleased to present Thomas Overton-Skinner as the 2019 recipient of the Capstone Editing Research Scholarship for Honours Students.
Thomas Overton-Skinner is a graduate from the University of Melbourne’s Geography and French faculties. He is currently an Honours student at the Australian National University School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, under the expert supervision of Dr. Gemma King.
Thomas’s topic is an admirable area of research both in terms of its level of difficulty and its importance to the climate change community. His Honours project will explore the effects and implications of climate change for New Caledonia, a semi-autonomous French archipelago in the South Pacific. It will seek to analyse how climate change is represented and debated in the territory.
New Caledonia is currently undergoing three referenda on independence—a key aspect of the accords that calmed les événements of the 1980s. The first referendum late in 2018 delivered the ‘no’ vote while simultaneously underlining the key divisions between different provinces and communities in the territory. Climate change is an increasingly pervasive political issue on local, regional and global scales and responses to this issue have in turn divided political communities in France, Australia and beyond. Thomas’s project will seek to understand what effect climate change has on New Caledonia and how the issue is framed in political, media and policy discussions.
Thomas has worked in research and tutoring at RMIT University and the University of Melbourne. Having worked, studied and volunteered in Australia, France and China, he can offer numerous skills and experiences to his work, as well as a strong interest in learning more about the world.
Thomas’s research interests include the nexus of environmental and social justice, activism and social change, and Asia–Pacific geopolitics. In his free time, he listens to too many podcasts and works with a team of dedicated volunteers to build meaningful events at the Environmental Film Festival in Australia.
Thomas plans to use the scholarship funds to visit New Caledonia to conduct interviews and visit archives, thereby substantially enriching and contextualising his research on this community and its relationship with climate change. Thomas will be able to apply this understanding of climate change, policy and public discourse—as well as a better understanding of our Pacific neighbours—in his ongoing and future contributions to Australian society.
We are incredibly happy that Capstone Editing can play a role in supporting such an outstanding member of the academic community and we look forward to keeping in touch with Thomas over the course of his Honours degree.
New Caledonia in Uncertain Climates
Climate change is an increasingly pervasive socioeconomic and environmental threat on local, regional and international scales. In this Honours thesis, I will explore its predicted impacts on New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, as well as the realities of policymaking and public discourse around this subject in a community shaped by its dependence on resource extraction and external capital transfers. A subtropical archipelago in the Pacific, closer to Australia than even New Zealand, New Caledonia will experience significant environmental threats in a changing climate ranging from rising sea levels to more frequent and intense weather events. New Caledonia faces not only an uncertain climate, but also an uncertain future. This future will be shaped by local socio-political challenges, major shifts in regional geopolitics, exposure to volatile mineral markets, and dependence on mainland French financial transfers. Much academic discussion on New Caledonia relates to independence movements and the impact of mining, I will consider and move beyond these two dominant subjects into the under-explored area of climate change politics in this community. I plan to engage in coding analysis of publications and media coverage of climate change, drawing comparisons between what is put forward by the political and media establishment and what is desired by the public, as represented in social media commentary. In this thesis, I will combine discourse analysis with semi-structured interviews of activists and stakeholders ‘on-the-ground’, developing a rich, contextualised understanding of New Caledonian politics around climate change.