Steven Schilizzi Lecture

22 October 2019


Image of Grandfather on the vidda

Image: Rosie H.’s grandfather “on the vidda” near Karasjók

The Last Indigenous People of Europe, but for how long?

A public lecture by Steven G.M. Schilizzi, Professor of Environmental and Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Science, UWA

Sápmi, or Lapland, sits at the extreme north of Scandinavia, mostly above the Arctic Circle, and straddles four countries. Its people, the Sami (formerly the Lapps), have inhabited this land for several millennia. Yet today, their future as a people is threatened. Yes, there has been a revival of their sense of identity, of their culture and their customs; but paradoxically, unlike the past, the present danger comes perhaps more from within than from without. The new “black gold rush” in the Barents Sea is creating as many threats as opportunities, while economic and environmental pressures, with government policies, are undermining the very foundations of their culture and of their social norms.  

In this talk, Steven shared, with pictures and videos, his experience in Sápmi where he spent part of the winter 2019. He was lucky enough to stay with actively engaged Sami people, in their homes in Kautokeino and Karasjok, their two main townships. He learnt first-hand about their current situation; their collective and personal histories; their treatment by their respective governments (with parallels to indigenous Australians); the status of their languages; and, given the threats and opportunities created by the new “black gold rush” in the Barents Sea, the challenges facing their cultural survival in the 21st century.  

Steven Schilizzi is Professor of Environmental and Agricultural Economics in the Faculty of Science at UWA. His work, both in Australia and in Europe, currently focuses on how public agencies can incentivize private landholders to supply environmental services (like biodiversity protection or reduced pollution into waterways), and on how equity concerns can be rigorously incorporated into environmental policies in trade-offs with other policy objectives. He has authored or co-authored more than 120 scientific articles, 20 book chapters and 4 books including Natural Resources and Environmental Justice.

Steven obtained his PhD in Resource Economics in France, but was also laureate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Ulm) in Paris, having read the humanities, the classics and languages, among other things. He also obtained in Paris a Master’s in Sociology and a Bachelor’s in International Law. When working for the National Institute of Agriculture Sciences in Montpellier (France), he gained experience in South-East Asia, central Africa and Central America. After joining UWA, he built on his experience in Vietnam by heading an ACIAR project, with a new one about to start. Faced with challenges in economic development, he became very interested in cultural aspects and kept adding to his knowledge of several languages and cultures, including eight years as a child in Egypt.

Born in Canada, his background mixes a cultural heritage from England, France and Italy, with a touch from Greece and Germany. Outside his main occupation as an agri-environmental economist, Steven actively engages, in his free time, in several areas of linguistics and language comparisons. This has brought him into contact with colleagues at UWA in the Humanities and Linguistics departments, with whom he may engage more in the future.