Fran Molloy teaches Journalism and Society: Science, Environment and Politics at NYU Sydney. She describes her exciting approach below:
Environmental journalism lies at a fascinating crossroad today. Focus on environmental issues has never been stronger as the crisis of climate change becomes apparent; and at the same time, media is transforming hugely, subject to unprecedented shifts in power and audiences as the web drives participation and a demand for information and conversations that can no longer be one-way.
Sydney is a great place to learn about environmental journalism as we are close to some fascinating places and people, and can get first-hand observations as we explore this journalistic tradition, its forms and its themes, and the place it takes in the new media world.
In the Journalism and Society course, we spent four weeks of the first half of the semester in the field, which really informed our writing-based second session.
Students walked through coastal wetlands, visited a bird sanctuary, and remnant urban forests; they met Senators, activists, developers and scientists – (at least one in each category!); and then they all developed a news and a feature story for publication and wrote about the latest in environment media and various environment topics for our class blog: http://ozonenyu.wordpress.com. .
We took a train to Wolli Creek, walking through threatened urban forest where we were thrilled to see a three-metre black snake devouring a frog. (Some of us were less thrilled than others!)
We also went by bus to the sensitive Kurnell peninsula, where local expert John Atkins of the Botany Bay Environment Centre guided us through the National Park. We visited the Cape Solander whale-watching research platform, and looked at the impact of heavy development on Botany Bay and the adjoining wetland of Towra Point, a listed bird sanctuary where many threatened migratory bird species rest from journeys of more than 12,000km, from distant sites in Siberia, China and Japan.
We went from observing tiny, brightly coloured anemones in rockpools to marveling at beautiful littoral rainforest inhabited by kookaburras and parrots and the odd wallaby. Our timing was a little out, we realized, when finding out that the cast of Modern Family had been at the same spot just a week earlier.
Though we stopped for lunch and potentially a swim at the beautiful Cronulla beach, this semester the weather turned cold, so no-one braved the water – though we did look at the million-dollar mansions being built just one sand-dune away from the open sea and mused on the impact that sea level rise might have on these homes.
Our other field trips included a visit to the $6 billion Barangaroo development, where we heard about their sustainability initiatives and challenges, and a walk up to NSW Parliament, where we met with Jeremy Buckingham, a Member of the Legislative Council – the equivalent of a US State Senator – who is part of the Greens Party. It was a favourite with our students and gave us all a real insight into the political process.
At a ceremony at St. Martin-in-the-Fields on May 14, Czech theologian and philosopher Tomas Halik received the prestigious Templeton Prize – an annual prize for a living person who has made “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimensions.”
Halik’s life has been dedicated to bringing people together to promote inter-religious understanding. “Tomas Halik represents the contemporary global trend of religions to find mutual cooperation and dialogue,” said NYU Prague professor Petr Mucha. “Dialogue is a key word in Tomas Halik’s life. You could call him a ‘Philosopher of Dialogue.’”
In his acceptance speech at the Templeton ceremony, Halik spoke of the dangers of losing site of the Christian concept of loving thy neighbor. The current idea of tolerance is contributing to the failure of multiculturalism in Europe. “Let everyone live as they like, so long as they don’t disturb or restrict others – this is certainly a more humane situation than constant quarrels or permanent warfare, but can it be a lasting solution? That sort of tolerance is fine for people living alongside each other, but not for people living together.”
Halik founded the religious studies program at NYU Prague in 2000 and continues to maintain close ties with NYU. Along with NYU Prague Director Jiri Pehe, he was also one of the initiators of Forum 2000 – an international conference launched by Vaclav Havel in 1997 that brings together political, spiritual and nongovernmental leaders of the world each year.
Tomas Halik has been dedicated to the idea of dialogue since the early years of Communist rule, when he organized secret underground seminars with intellectuals and dissidents such as Vaclav Havel. Dubbed an enemy of the people for criticizing the government, Halik’s seminars undoubtedly contributed to the ultimate fall of the regime.
After the Velvet Revolution, Halik became famous for his initatives promoting dialogue between athiests and people of spiritual backgrounds. He then began organizing inter-religious dialogues, attempting to build bridges between Christians, Muslims, Buddhists Jews and atheists. “By awarding Tomas Halik this prize, the Templeton Foundation is showing their support for the world global inter-religious dialogue,” says Professor Mucha.
Halik plans to use the $1.83 million prize – one of the world’s largest prizes for an individual – to develop his work promoting dialogue with people of other faiths.
Templeton Prize Laureate Tomas Halik with NYU Prague Professor Petr Mucha at the ceremony.
Along with NYU Prague Director Jiri Pehe, he was also one of the initiators of Forum 2000 – an international conference launched by Vaclav Havel in 1997 that brings together political, spiritual and nongovernmental leaders of the world each year.
After the Velvet Revolution, Halik became famous for his initiatives promoting dialogue between atheists and people of spiritual backgrounds. He then began organizing inter-religious dialogues, attempting to build bridges between Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and atheists.
Congratulations to the members of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Class of 2014 who graduated today on the University’s new campus on Saadiyat Island. In addition to a speech by NYUAD Vice Chancellor Al Bloom and a welcome by graduating senior Shamma Sohail Al Mazrui, the ceremonies included a video tribute to the senior class and a keynote address from 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton.
The NYU Middle East Alumni Club hosted a networking reception at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi in early May with many alumni coming from Schools at NYU New York, including Stern, Law, Wagner, and Steinhardt. About 30 of NYU Abu Dhabi’s soon-to-be-graduating seniors were also present at the event, which created a unique opportunity for members of the Class of 2014 to meet and mingle with NYU alumni in this region.
NYU London Professor Guy Wilson, along with co-authors, recently published a paper in Euro Physics Letters, a letters journal exploring the frontiers of physics. The paper focuses on electron transport in polydiacetylene crystals and derivatives.
Dr. Anna Westbrook is NYU Sydney’s lecturer in Creative Writing and has recently been offered a book deal. Anna was shortlisted for the prestigious Australian/Vogel Literary Award for unpublished manuscripts by writers under the age of 35. Her debut novel, The Quiet Noise, will be published by Scribe Publications in 2015.
Dr. Westbrook’s novel The Quiet Noise is eloquent and spare, based on the real-life murder of a young girl in inner Sydney in the 1940s.
Dr. Westbrook, who has a PhD in creative writing, says of the book, “The Quiet Noise came from a chance dalliance in a coffee shop with a pictorial history of Newtown and a story about a murder in a cemetery. The cemetery I knew intimately – it was around the corner. The dark night in 1946 I knew nothing about, but could not shake. It took more than five years to listen to the noise and learn about the history of my community in those turbulent years after the Second World War and find the traces of that world left in this one. I’m thrilled to be publishing with Scribe because I want to see more diverse voices in Australian historical novels to tell the stories that the ghosts want told.”
The Quiet Noise will be published next year, but you those of you in Sydney can see Dr. Westbrook at the Emerging Writers’ Festival next week.
This spring, NYU Prague students got a chance to see Prague from a very different point of view – through the eyes of homeless people. Pragulic – an award-winning nonprofit organization in Prague- employs guides who have lived on the streets to share their experiences with their audience. Since 2012, when the organization was launched, thousands of people have gone on these tours – including NYU Prague student Christina Karahisarlidis, who shares her reflection on the experience:
With one walk-through, it’s not possible to know all of the secrets Prague’s Wenceslas Square is keeping. After going on a tour with Pragulic, my knowledge of what really happens at Wenceslas Square and beyond it increased dramatically. I hadn’t really thought about what I’d be seeing on the tour and I didn’t have any expectations.
When our small group gathered for the tour, we were standing around two men and a woman. One of the men had striking black eye shadow and false eyelashes. Looking down at his hands, I noticed his long, acrylic, purple nails and countless silver and gold rings. He wore a long black coat, carried a black messenger bag, leaned on a cane, and had cigarettes in his pocket. The other man was dressed in a plaid button-down and khaki pants. His appearance was not as striking as the first man’s. The woman’s hair was red but other than that, her appearance was rather conservative. We were introduced to our two tour guides and our translator, respectively. Our tour guides had been homeless and they were immediately open to any of our questions.
We were given an introduction to homelessness in Prague. There are about 8,500 people living on the streets for reasons such as mental disabilities, unemployment, divorce, etc. We headed to Wenceslas Square where we were told many prostitutes work. Many of the prostitutes are men and some start as young as eleven years old. Our false-lashed tour guide told us he began prostitution when he was fifteen years old. After being asked how he managed to get out, he told us he did because a client gave him HIV. I had hoped he was going to say he stopped because a client took him out of that situation. The truth saddened me.
The atmosphere of the tour was darker for me from that point on. We were shown an old hotel that used to host prostitutes. We heard about odd sexual requests that prostitutes have had; many included being beaten by clients. Hearing about these things from someone who experienced them firsthand made it all seem more tangible.
The corruption that fuels the prostitution in Wenceslas Square was difficult for me to understand. The Square is essentially divided in two legal authorities: one that doesn’t tolerate prostitution and one that does. I find this division strange, but I guess it works.
Our tour guides quizzed us to see if we knew where the homeless slept. Sometimes they sleep in airports; if they look clean, no one will kick them out. Being accepted into a squatting community is a long process, but one of our guides squatted for a while. Because of health complications, he had to move elsewhere. Luckily, healthcare in the Czech Republic is a beautiful thing and it’s available for everyone, as long as they have their card. This might have been the only positive thing I heard on the tour.
The tour was an eye-opening experience that made me reflect on my own life. Hearing about what life is actually like for those without a home allowed for a self-reflection that simply walking through Prague doesn’t permit.
Research shows that experience in other countries makes us more flexible, creative, and complex thinkers. Here’s the article:
Usually when students write for school publications, the target audience is fellow students. Not so at Prague Wandering, a student-written Webzine which covers cultural, political and social issues in Prague. “Our readership is the world,” says PW founder and mentor Professor Dinah Spritzer.
With this philosophy in mind, Prague Wandering has launched a new outreach program which targets local high schools. NYU Prague students visited Jan Neruda High School, where the high school students had read the PW articles in advance of the visit.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the prospect of speaking with students about articles we’ve published was an exciting one,“ said Alison Wallach, NYU Prague student and PW reporter. “The students opened up to us with ease, and spoke with genuine interest about the articles and Czech culture and asked eager questions about life in America. I even found myself in the middle of a heated discussion about the position of Roma in the Czech Republic, with opinions coming from all sides. “
Why did Professor Spritzer start the program? “The rule for our student reporters is to write about Czech subject matter, reflect on what’s going on around you, and practice being a real journalist. I also believe that Prague Wandering should be a teaching tool – both Americans and Czechs are hungry for interaction with each other. NYU students gained a new understanding of our readership – not only does the project get us more readers, but it also gives the NYU students new story ideas. “
Professor Spritzer plans to expand the program next semester, visiting more high schools and giving NYU students a better understanding of the culture in which they live.
Dr. Toby Martin, who teaches Global Orientations: Australian Society and Culture at NYU Sydney, describes his approach to the course and a recent trip with students to an Anzac day dawn service. Professor Martin is musician and historian and he’ll be teaching a second course – The Australian Experience (within the Social & Cultural Analysis program) – starting next semester. His first monograph, Yodelling Boundary Riders: Country Music in Australia, will be published next year. Here is his description:
In the Global Orientations course at Sydney we seek to understand what has contributed to that thorny issue of ‘Australian identity.’ We look at how Australians have imagined themselves as somehow ‘distinctive’, and we look at how the Australian experience differs from the American experience. We also equip students with a framework that will enrich their time in Sydney: helping them to become ‘critical tourists.’ Where possible, we connect these course aims with field trips, both as part of Global Orientations and as part of the Student Life program.
With this in mind, a trip to the Anzac Day dawn service was a marvellous opportunity to bring to life some of the things we had been discussing in the classroom and to take part in one of the big events of the Australian calendar. Anzac Day commemorates the landing at the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, by Australian and New Zealand troops on 25th April 1915 as part of the First World War. It was a failure. It resulted in huge losses of life and limb, and the eventual retreat by the Anzac troops. It was the first time Australia had gone to war as a nation and although losing the battle (which was the fault of the British anyway, or so the legend goes) had acquitted themselves nobly. Australians seem to love stories about noble, or even ignoble, losers, and this story is the mother of them all.
Anzac Day seems to have risen in significance and popularity in the last few decades. Some 10,000 Australians now make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli every year, while at home, thousands attend dawn services and the subsequent veterans parade. Television specials extol the wonders of the ‘Anzac Spirit’ while an eager audience gobble it up along with their ‘Anzac Biscuits’. For many people the ‘Anzac Spirit’ is otherwise known as ‘mateship’, an Australian word for a very universal ideal: loyalty to one’s friends in times of struggle. This idea of ‘mateship’ is seen to be embodied in the deeds of Anzac. Anzac Day has its critics. Notable historians have recently argued that it glorifies death and militarism, or encourages ugly displays of jingoistic nationalism. The problem is not that war is remembered, but that Anzac Day seems to make war the central experience of the nation, and in doing so excludes many other experiences and people from ‘nation-building’. It’s a thorny issue indeed.
With all this cultural significance in the backs of their minds, several students braved the early (4am!) hour and came with me to Sydney’s dawn service. There we stood with 5,000 other early risers in the narrow canyon of a city street while hymns were sung, excerpts from soldiers’ diaries were read and the ‘Last Post’ was played. Crowds are usually loud. This one was eerily silent. Onlookers ranged from WWII veterans, to Afghanistan War veterans, to those in boyscout uniforms. There were young people who had perhaps not gone to bed yet, to families with small children, not long roused from sleep. For a country not known for its religiosity, the service had an unusually spiritual feeling. This feeling has led some commentators to call Anzac a ‘secular religion.’
However, Australians’ sense of occasion always has its limits. When the national anthem Advance Australia Fair was played, barely anyone sung along. Very few Australians even know the words and it is not uncommon to see Australian Olympians on the gold medal dais stumbling over the lyrics. I asked the students what they thought would be different about such an event in America. Certainly everyone would be singing the national anthem, one of them noted.