Climate resilience and adaptation: raffia production in Makira Natural Park, north-east Madagascar

By Joseph J. Bailey (@josephjbailey), University of Nottingham, UK.

Support for women’s associations in Madagascar to enhance raffia production is also helping the conservation of biodiversity in the Makira Natural Park.” (AllAfrica, Aug 18th 2015)

Local climatic changes, such as an increase in the frequency and/or severity of droughts, can have a significant impact on communities and businesses that rely on natural resource extraction. Building climate resilience is therefore vital to secure a sustainable income from these products. In parallel, these products must be sold for a fair price by means of establishing a solid value chain between the producers at one end and retailers at the other. Such businesses can also contribute tremendously to the economic empowerment of women in these communities, and safeguarding such provisioning ecosystem services can operate neatly alongside biodiversity conservation and the protection of other ecosystem services (e.g. flood prevention, carbon storage). The benefits therefore seem plentiful and ensuring the environmental and socio-economic sustainability of such schemes under future climate change should be a priority.

Raffia production around Makira Natural Park (NP), north-east Madagascar, provides a fine case study for demonstrating this interplay between climate resilience, economic empowerment, and biodiversity conservation, as reported earlier this week by AllAfrica. This area has an environment that allows for the production of high quality raffia products, which may be used in the fashion industry, for example, but has been affected by frequent droughts in recent years1. A current project by the International Trade Centre (ITC) (see their news article on the project) in collaboration with World Conservation Society (WCS) Madagascar is training several women’s associations (totalling 180 people) around Makira NP in raffia extraction, from the harvesting to the processing stage. For long-term sustainability, importantly, this includes training on planting techniques for new raffia trees in an effort to increase climate resilience and decrease losses. Training on contract negation is planned for next year. This is part of a broader ITC programme across Madagascar, which is supported by the government of Madagascar.

A use for raffia. High quality raffia, such as that produced in north-east Madagascar, is also frequently used in the fashion industry. Image from: Wikimedia Commons, by gripso_banana_prune (Antony Stanley). Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raffia_animals_created_by_artisans_in_Madagascar.jpg

A use for raffia. High quality raffia, such as that produced in north-east Madagascar, is also frequently used in the fashion industry. Image from: Wikimedia Commons, by gripso_banana_prune (Antony Stanley). Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raffia_animals_created_by_artisans_in_Madagascar.jpg

While still underway, this scheme seems to be going very well and it is hopefully progressing towards a situation where tangible, sustainable economies can operate for the people and empower women, whilst also contributing positively to the natural environment and the protection of many important species. This project is about adaptation by building climate resilience in situ to mitigate potential effects (e.g. increased frequency of droughts). However, this is not the only approach to climate adaptation, and more extreme approaches may be required when the environmental changes become severe.

A recent article by Bose (2015) in Area considers various approaches to climate adaptation, including strengthening resilience in situ, but also the idea of environmentally induced displacement (EID). This is where people are either completely relocated where there is a purported risk to their lives or to make space for climate adaptation infrastructure, or where people are prevented from accessing certain areas, which they may rely on for various resources, for connectivity, or cultural activities, in the hope that protecting such areas will produce a more resilient environment (these restricted areas may also be used for climate adaptation measures such as flood defence). The case study of Bangladesh, one of the countries presently most at risk from flooding and sea-level rise, is discussed by Bose, who considers the potential for the displacement of people not because of environmental transformations but because of climate adaptation schemes themselves, leading towards “the production of a new form of environmental refugee” (p. 6).

Here, we have therefore seen two very different approaches to potential climate change; building resilience in situ versus moving people from at-risk areas or areas that are required for adaptation infrastructure. Circumstances and the (potential) severity of the environmental changes will no doubt guide any such decisions, all of which will probably be highly idiosyncratic to the place in question. As a global community, we are already seeing the overwhelming need for climate adaptation solutions, from flood defences in London, UK, to managing increased drought frequency in north-west Madagascar, to the potential of moving people en masse when the environmental changes become too much to cope with. It strikes me that any solutions that can bring nature and people into accord will be the most sustainable and potentially highly beneficial culturally, economically, environmentally, and socially, to the people who live there.


60-world2 AllAfrica (2015) Madagascar: Empowering Malagasy Women Through Climate-Smart Raffia Production (online). Available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201508180892.html


books_icon
Bose, P. (2015). Vulnerabilities and displacements: adaptation and mitigation to climate change as a new development mantra. Area. doi: 10.1111/area.12178

60-world2 ITC (2015). Empowering Malagasy women through climate-smart raffia production (online). Available at: http://www.intracen.org/news/Empowering-Malagasy-women-through-climate-smart-raffia-production/

NOTES
1 It is impossible to know whether what is being seen in north-east Madagascar is the result of short-term fluctuations or whether more frequent droughts are going to be an ongoing issue. It seems sensible to plan for the worst, though.

‘Beach body ready’: Fitness holidays and the ‘natural’ body

By Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s that time of year again; the holiday season is in full swing and many of us will be taking some much-needed time off for rest and recuperation during the summer. But instead of lazing about on the beach, drinking cocktails, and eating ice cream, increasing numbers of Brits will, in fact, embark on ‘fitness holidays’. Instead of crash-dieting in order to get ‘beach body ready’ pre-holiday, fitness holidays aim to have you ‘beach body ready’ post-holiday, having made some lasting changes to your habits and mind-set. Little’s (2015) paper in The Geographical Journal approaches this relatively new phenomenon from a geographical point of view, considering the intrinsic links to nature and the body.

‘Fitness holidays’ represent a large and varied market, which has expanded over the past decade. Offering exercise and fitness training, combined with health and well-being programmes, fitness holidays help relieve stress, improve diet, and promote fitness. The emphasis is on enjoyment and lasting health benefits; such holidays are transformative, encouraging sustainable lifestyle changes.

Sarah Knapton (2015), Science Editor for The Telegraph, wrote in March about the increasing popularity of fitness holidays amongst Brits, attributing this trend to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, at work and at home. She contrasts the active nature of fitness holidays to what she terms ‘fly-and-flop’ holidays, characterised by idleness and excess. Citing a recent travel survey, Knapton (2015) states that one third of Brits want to ‘tone up’ whilst on holiday, and one quarter want to lose weight. In January this year, the Telegraph listed the top 10 fitness retreats for 2015. From a detox holiday in Italy (£5,249 for seven nights), to trail running in the Alps (£1,145 for seven nights), to tennis in Cyrpus (£945 for seven nights), to sea swimming in the Mediterranean (£815 for seven nights); the options for fitness holidays are not cheap, but, nevertheless, are increasing as their popularity also booms.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Little (2015) conceptualises fitness tourism using a Foucauldian approach, arguing that underlying these holidays are important questions about the management of healthy bodies. Fitness holidays are, Little (2015) argues, a response to modern pressures to conform to the ‘ideal’ body image, including aesthetic norms in relation to size, weight, and appearance. According to prevailing discourses, the ‘natural’ body, a body in its ‘natural’ state, is fit and healthy. We are increasingly encouraged to take responsibility for our own fitness, disciplining and regulating – in Foucauldian terms – our own bodies, and learning more about our corporeal ‘needs’. Fitness holidays combine all of these elements, providing a way of (self-)regulating health and fitness.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The importance of nature to health is well-known. Natural landscapes are widely recognised as therapeutic spaces, having healing and relaxation effects. Nature has become an active agent in shaping our well-being. Throughout history, due to our increasing disconnection with nature following extensive urbanisation and industrialisation, access to the countryside has been linked with a better quality of life, the clean air and pleasant surroundings acting as natural medicine. ‘Untouched’ nature is deemed to provide a more ‘authentic’ engagement with the natural landscape and, therefore, is better for human health. Thus, fitness holidays, as a means of getting people out in the fresh air and into the natural environment, have perceived beneficial qualities for health and well-being. Simultaneously reinforcing and blurring the nature-culture binary, fitness holidays emphasise the exceptional qualities of nature, whilst highlighting the ways in which nature and culture combine to produce our bodies.

So how will you be spending your summer holiday? Indulging in ice cream and cocktails whilst acquiring some unfortunate tan lines, or making a real difference to your health and well-being?

 

books_iconLittle, J. (2015), Nature, wellbeing and the transformational self. The Geographical Journal, 181: 121–128. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12083

60-world2Knapton, S. (2015). “Britons ditch fly-and-flop holidays for fitness retreats”, The Telegraph Online. March 22nd 2015. Available at: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11488447/Britons-ditch-fly-and-flop-holidays-for-fitness-retreats.html.

60-world2www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/spaholidays/11307791/Best-health-and-fitness-retreats.html

 

The Life and Death of Zero Carbon Housing Policy

By Andrew Karvonen (University of Manchester), Gordon Walker (Lancaster University) and Simon Guy (Lancaster University)

On 10 July 2015, the UK government announced that it was abandoning its 2016 commitment to require all new housing in England and Wales to be zero carbon. In ‘Fixing the Foundations: Creating a More Prosperous Nation’, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne cited the zero carbon housing policy as a constraint on new homebuilding and an apparent drag on the productivity of the UK economy. The announcement served as an anticlimactic and rather brutal conclusion to a decade of active working towards decarbonising the future housing stock in England and Wales. This particular case provides a fascinating window on wider debates over sustainable transitions and the politics of reducing carbon emissions (see our paper Walker et al. 2015, recently published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers).

About a quarter of the total UK carbon footprint is attributed to the construction, operation, and demolition of the British housing stock. Housing thus provides an important target for climate change mitigation policies. In December 2006, the mainstreaming of zero carbon housing was kickstarted in the UK with the introduction of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH). The CSH established a ten-year period of innovation for the homebuilding industry to improve the energy efficiency of new-build houses, culminating in the regulatory zero carbon standard taking effect in 2016. The Government simultaneously funded cutting-edge housing developments through the Homes and Communities Agency to demonstrate how zero carbon housing could be achieved in practice.

Park Dale zero carbon social housing scheme in Wakefield

Park Dale zero carbon social housing scheme in Wakefield

The UK’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions through the CSH was significant and tangible. The definition of ‘zero carbon’ was intentionally left to housing industry stakeholders (homebuilders, building professionals, policymakers, and NGOs) working together through the Zero Carbon Hub to ensure that the target was achievable. In the ensuing years, debates about the definition of zero carbon have revealed how deeply fossil fuels are embedded in the economy, planning regulations, and the daily life of British households. Reducing carbon emissions involved a wide range of discussions that centred on how energy and housing are connected. While some of the deliberations were highly technical and involved building scientists devising strategies to reduce carbon emissions through improved efficiency and renewable energy sources, others revolved around how to reduce and manage the costs of low-carbon strategies and technologies and how homeowners should (or should not) be drawn into shifts towards new patterns of zero carbon living.

As the zero carbon standard evolved, there was a clear separation between how a house was designed and built versus how it was occupied and lived in. This was particularly evident in March 2011 when the definition of ‘zero carbon’ was changed to create a distinction between ‘regulated emissions’ such as space heating, ventilation, hot water, and fixed lighting versus ‘unregulated emissions’ from plug-in appliances such as televisions, computers, and tumble dryers. This watered down the ambitions of the zero carbon target considerably by restricting the CSH to design and construction of building fabric and energy supply. The CSH effectively became just another requirement of building regulations (although one that was more stringent than existing energy performance requirements) while avoiding a broader social commitment to low-carbon lifestyles.

The demise of zero carbon housing regulation diminishes but does not signal the end of the carbon reduction agenda. The Government apparently continues to work towards carbon emission reduction targets, although they are not specific to the housing stock and do not have a clear route to reduce domestic emissions. And it is likely that some if not all of the stakeholders in the homebuilding industry will continue on the innovation journey that began in 2006. The technical, economic and construction principles developed through the CSH might continue to influence the homebuilding industry (especially if they are not perceived to add to the costs of housing). However, without the regulatory push of Government, it is likely that decarbonisation of the housing stock will slow considerably rather than become embedded in the mainstream practice of homebuilding. Meanwhile, a bubbling undercurrent of localized experiments, demonstration projects, and community based initiatives will continue to take a more expansive approach to low-carbon housing design, development, and living that recognises domestic carbon emissions as unavoidably wrapped up in the combination of both the built environment and occupant practices.

About the authors: 

Dr Andrew Karvonen is a Lecturer in Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Manchester. Professor Gordon Walker is based in the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University and is the co-Director of the RCUK funded DEMAND Centre (Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand). Professor Simon Guy is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Lancaster University.

ICHC 2015: the global history of cartography

logo-ichcBenjamin Sacks, Princeton University

Antwerp, Belgium recently hosted the 26th International Conference on the History of Cartography, bringing together 150 of the world’s leading historians of cartography, geographers, spatial specialists, and young career scholars and practitioners. The biannual conference seeks to promote the critical historical study and analysis of maps, map makers and geographers, and their impact in society. conference director Joost Depuydt, Universiteit Antwerpen, and Imago Mundi, the history of cartography’s flagship academic journal, closely collaborated to bring the conference to fruition. A large Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) contingent attended, including (amongst others) retired RGS-IBG librarian Francis Herbert, Peter Barber, the British Library’s director of maps, former British Library map director Tony Campbell, Catherine Delano-Smith, Imago Mundi‘s chief editor, early modern map expert Chet Van Duzer, Matthew Edney, director of The History of Cartography series, and Imre Demhardt, a director of the International Cartographic Association.

The week-long conference has become famous for its single-panel, single-room format, with no concurrent sessions. Each panelist presents to the entire conference. The week format also provides ample time for panels on nearly every conceivable topic in the history of cartography and the history of geography. Both Karen De Coene (Universiteit Gent) and Joaquim Gaspar (Universidade de Lisboa) articulated the longevity of maps’ usefulness: De Coene demonstrated how composite atlases remain potent sources of understanding the formation of geographical knowledge networks; Gaspar investigated how accurate the 1569 Mercator world map proved to be for maritime navigation – some two centuries before its full adoption by shipping firms.

Linda Rui Feng (University of Toronto) highlighted how textual and non-cartographic evidence (e.g., manuscripts, letters, poetry) could be used to reconstruct early maps and regain previously lost geographic knowledge. ‘The concept of map (tu) in pre-modern China was a highly capacious one’, she argued, ‘and existed as part of an interface across the genres of text, pictorial illustration (also termed tu), and painting (hua)’ (Programme 32). Her work echoed David Cooper and Ian Gregory’s (Lancaster University)’s 2011 Transactions article ‘Mapping the English Lake District: a literary GIS’. In the latter piece, Cooper and Gregory discussed the possibilities of incorporating an array of visual, contemporary, quantitative, and qualitative information – from geographical coordinates to Thomas Gray’s 1769 account of his walking tour – via GIS to create a truly interdisciplinary understanding of one of the British Isles’ most famed natural regions.

ICHC 2015 Antwerp attendees. Photograph (c)  2015 Joost Depuydt.

ICHC 2015 Antwerp attendees. Photograph (c) 2015 Joost Depuydt.

Borders, boundaries, and their complex geographies constitute an important, recurrent theme in RGS-IBG journals. In ‘Border Landscapes’ (Area June 1989) Dennis Rumley (University of Western Australia) reported on a conference held to grapple with borders’ historic and contemporary problems: combating negative perceptions of border regions as poor, peripheral frontiers (175), critically examining ongoing bilateral border disputes, and re-examining historical disputes in a search for future solutions. Alec McEwan (International Boundary Commission) took a more focused slant, carefully deconstructing a century-old African boundary dispute. In ‘The establishment of the Nigeria/Benin boundary, 1889-1989’ (The Geographical Journal March 1991) he concluded that despite two clear imperial agreements cementing the boundary, a propitious lack of accurate and readily available maps, combined with the constantly-changing nature of the Okpara River, led to a nearly a hundred years of sociopolitical headaches, antagonism, and missed diplomatic opportunities. In a similar vein, Madalina Veres (University of Pittsburgh) turned her attention to the Habsburg’s forty-year failed effort to secure late eighteenth-century Lombardy’s frontier. She concluded that despite the Habsburg Empire’s best efforts, the deft use of conflicting maps and surveying engineers by three other monarchs prevented the region from being conclusively demarcated or controlled. Catherine Dunlop (Montana State University), author of the recently-published book Cartophilia: Maps and the Search for Identity in the French-German Borderland, buttressed Veres’ and McEwan’s respective points. In her analysis of Alsace’s fractured history, she promoted the role of maps as peaceful tools of negotiation and clarity, even in regions famed for armed conflict.

As Federico Ferretti’s 2014 study on the role of cartography in the promotion of a unified Italy keenly demonstrated (see ‘Italy: A tale of popular geographic circulation‘, Geography Directions, 15 November 2014), maps have and continue to serve as vital assets in legitimising particular conceptions of ‘the state’, while subordinating or eliminating competing visions from public and private discourse. At ICHC 2015 Zef Segal (Ben Gurion University) examined how competing German states, actors, and organisations created, promulgated, and manipulated maps to promote their particular perspective of territory generally and ‘Germany’ specifically. In so doing, his ongoing research intends to unearth the complex cartographic and geographic politics of Germany’s modern formation.

Geography is inherently global, a fact Max Moerman (Barnard College/Columbia University) kept close to heart as he embarked on his now in-press book, The Japanese Buddhist World Map: Religious Vision and the Cartographic Imagination. After identifying ships on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Japanese Buddhist world maps ‘that otherwise vehemently rejected the cartography of European exploration and its attendant cosmology of a global Earth’ (Programme 52), Moerman launched an investigation into Japanese maps’ global history. He uncovered that Buddhist map makers negotiated the inclusion of particular European and Far Eastern geopolitical and topographical elements into a ‘cartographic hybridity’ that both reflected Japan’s gradual opening to the West and Japanese efforts to rectify their position within this globalising world. Moerman’s focus on the negotiated symbiosis of ‘East and West’ fits well with current trends in RGS-IBG scholarship.

Mark Monmonier (Syracuse University) identified an area of geographical scholarship little examined in RGS-IBG journals: patents and invention. Transactions, for instance, has only discussed patents and the invention of geographic/cartographic-aiding devices in the context of agricultural efficiency (e.g., David Nally, ‘The biopolitics of food provisioning’ January 2011). In ‘Inventors and cartographic creativity’, he detailed how geography, exploration, cartography, and transportation has spurred a vast range of inventions, inventors, and gadgets, ranging from the vital to the curious.

Building off of James Ackerman’s 2009 The Imperial Map and Peter Barber and Tom Harper’s Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art (2011), Katariina Kosonen (University of Helsinki) discussed the influence of maps in popular newsprint and media. In ‘Passive resistance and raging propaganda’, she recounted the various means newspaper and magazine maps influenced or reflected charged public opinions in young Finland’s struggle to maintain independence from Soviet Russia. Kosonen tapped into a important topic of current geographic inquiry: the diffusion of geographic knowledge through mass media, how it is manipulated, and what it means for geopolitics and the discipline itself. Geography, as Frances Harris (Kingston University) wrote in a 2011 Geographical Journal commentary, is especially well suited to take an important place in media’s visual future.

Tim Hall, Phil Toms, Mark McGuinness, Charlotte Parker, and Neil Roberts’ vital January 2015 Area article ‘Where’s the Geography department?’ sounded the alarm to secure maintaining academic geography’s future as a distinct discipline in British higher education. At ICHC 2015, scholars and research librarians detailed various efforts to keep geography and cartography influential, relevant, and technologically advanced. Martijn Storms announced the successful merger, digitisation, and promotion of the Netherlands’ three most important map collections, with the intent of connecting historical and contemporary Dutch mapping and geographical knowledge to academics and policy-makers.  G. Salim Mohammed updated the academic community on Stanford University’s acquisition of the David Rumsey Map Collection, one of the most important private, digital collections in the United States. Later in 2015 Stanford will open the David Rumsey Map Center, a fully-digital geographic and geospatial library, to the public. ICHC 2017 will be held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

books_iconCooper D and Gregory I N (2011), Mapping the English Lake District: a literary GISTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 36: 89-108, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2010.00405.x

60-world2Ferretti F (2014), Inventing Italy and the circulation of geographical culturesGeography Directions, 5 February 2014.

books_iconFerretti F (2014), Inventing Italy: geography, Risorgimento and national imagination: the international circulation of geographical knowledge in the 19th centuryThe Geographical Journal 180: 402-13, DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12068.

books_iconHall T, Toms P, McGuinness M, Parker P, and Roberts N (2015), Where’s the Geography department? The changing administrative place of Geography in UK higher educationArea, 47: 56-64, DOI: 10.1111/area.12154.

books_iconHarris F (2011), Getting geography into the media: understanding the dynamics of academic-media collaborationThe Geographical Journal, 177: 155-59, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2010.00396.x.

books_iconInternational Conference on the History of Cartography (2015), ICHC 2015 Antwerp: Programme & Abstract of the 26th International Conference on the History of Cartography: Theatre of the World in Four Dimensions, Antwerp: FelixArchief.

books_iconMcEwan A C (1991), The establishment of the Nigeria/Benin boundary, 1889-1989The Geographical Journal 157: 62-70, DOI: 10.2307/635145.

books_iconNally D (2011), The biopolitics of food provisioningTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers, NS 36: 37-53, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2010.00413.x.

books_iconRumley D (1989), Border landscapesArea 21: 175-76.

60-world2Sacks B J (2014), Italy: a tale of popular geographic circulationGeography Directions, 15 November 2014.

60-world2Sacks B J (2015), What happened to the American geography department? Geography Directions, 8 April 2015.

Dinosaur displays, talking teddy bears, and plotting pets: what the movies (don’t) teach us about human-animal relationships

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

As an animal geographer, the heading ‘Becoming Human’ in The Guardian’s g2 film supplement immediately caught my eye. The title rang true of Deleuze and Guatarri’s notion of becoming, a transformative process of identity formation, which has influenced so many who study animals, including Donna Haraway. The article by Steve Rose (2015), the Guardian’s film critic, is also available online, and pays homage to shifting attitudes towards animals in Hollywood. As anyone studying animals will tell you, animals help shed light on what it means to be human. The reinforcement of their ‘otherness’ through the human-animal binary highlights human superiority and helps to redefine the category of ‘human’ as opposed to ‘animal’.

Taking the new blockbuster, Jurassic World, as his starting point, Rose (2015) considers the radical new ways in which more recent films with animals in their starring roles are re-framing what it means to be human. The dinosaurs in Jurassic World are highly problematic; genetically-modified ‘creations’, they are ‘attractions’ for a human audience and live unnatural lives in captivity. However, this monster movie turns the argument around, leaving us instead pondering the animality of the human owners of the dino-resort; it is the humans who are presented as the real monsters. As fetishized cultural products, however, the dinosaurs in Jurassic World raise questions about animal rights, human-animal relationships, and the ontological differences between ‘human’ and ‘animal’. There are similarities that can be drawn with Holloway et al’s (2009) paper, which applies Foucauldian biopower to genetic technologies used in livestock breeding. Here, the use of new genetic technologies to (re)create and (re)define farm animals’ bodies serves to control and regulate animal bodies and behaviour. Intervention in these animal lives – similar to the human intervention into the lives of the dinosaurs in Jurassic World – produces particular truths and subsequently affects human-animal relationships.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rose (2015), then, draws comparisons with another new film, Ted 2; a highly anthropomorphized story of a walking, talking teddy bear. This film presents an extreme illustration of changes in attitudes towards animal rights, tracing Ted’s battle to legally be recognised as a ‘person’ in order to adopt a child with his human partner.  Rose (2015) compares this rather surreal situation to changing animal rights attitudes. Citing examples in New York, the article suggests that animals are increasingly being given human legal rights. Animal rights activists, for example, are arguing that chimpanzees be given legal personhood, a decision that would redefine their imprisonment as illegal. Such examples of increasing animal rights refute the human-animal divide, blurring the boundary between ‘human’ and ‘animal’, and redefining animal subjectivity. Animals, it seems, have transgressed the species boundary; they are becoming human.

The re-definition of animal rights and subjectivity in films is by no means a new phenomenon. Take any Disney film with animals as its focus, and there are hidden geographical stories about animal rights, their daily struggles, and their identities. Bambi’s heart-breaking bereavement at the hands of a hunter; the objectification of Dumbo as a ‘performer’; the canine battle against a cruel, fur-crazed woman in 101 Dalmations; these are just a few of many examples in which Walt Disney has challenged us to re-think our treatment of, interactions with, and relationship to animals. Yes, any film written about animals is loaded with anthropomorphism, an approach to understanding animals that is heavily criticised in academia, but can such a device, in fact, help stress the importance of treating animals as our equals rather than an inferior ‘other’? Bear’s (2011) study of Angelica the octopus, after all, promotes the idea of ‘responsible anthropomorphism’ as a useful tool for understanding individual animals and increasing sensitivity towards their rights and subjectivities.

The recent release of the trailer for The Secret Life of Pets (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-80SGWfEjM), an animated film by Illuminated Entertainment, poses another extreme in animal-centric films. The film, due for release next June, challenges us to reconsider our views of pets, giving an insight into what they get up to while we’re out. Whilst obviously fiction (I’m not suggesting that our pets are forming rival gangs in the battle for human companionship!), the film will ask us to consider the extent to which our pets are, in fact, active agents with complex subjectivities and the ability for conscious, rational thought. This is a stark contrast in the light of recent controversy over dog meat in China. The annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival, in which 10,000 dogs are slaughtered for their meat, took place at the end of last month, and reminds us that we are still far from achieving equal rights for animals (BBC, 2015 [online]).

The films mentioned above may be little more than light-hearted distraction. The reality may be, as harsh as it seems, that any hint of our changing relationship with animals and their rights is, in fact, as real as Hollywood’s dinosaur displays, talking teddy bears, and plotting pets.

books_iconBear, C. (2011). “Being Angelica? Exploring individual animal geographies”, Area, 43(3):297-304.

books_iconHolloway, L., Morris, C., Gilna, B., and Gibbs, D. (2009). “Biopower, genetics and livestock breeding: (re)constituting animal populations and heterogeneous biosocial collectivities”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 34: 394-407.

60-world2BBC, (2015). “China Yulin dog meat festival under way despite outrage”, BBC News online, June 22nd 2015. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-33220235.

60-world2Rose, S. (2015). “Becoming Human”, The Guardian, g2. June, 2015. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jun/18/jurassic-world-ted-2-evolutionary-leap-animal-rights.

 

 

Islands make the city

By Adam Grydehøj, Lund University

New York, Lagos, Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, Guangzhou, St Petersburg, Mumbai.

What do these cities have in common? What prompts major centres of population, trade, and political power to develop in some locations and not others? In his ‘How to build a city from scratch: the handy step-by-step DIY guide’ published in The Guardian, Stuart Jeffries mentions that, when it comes to finding a spot for your new city, “uninhabited islands are popular.” Jeffries has his tongue in cheek, yet the advice is more sound than he imagines, for the common attribute of all of the above cities and many more across the globe is that they had their decisive starts on small islands or archipelagos. Indeed, small islands and big cities coincide so frequently as to make it impossible to understand cities without also understanding island cities.

In an attempt to comprehend today’s global networks of urban processes, urban theorists have increasingly turned to abstract spatialised understandings of the city, at the risk of overlooking place-specific factors of urbanisation. One result has been that the link between islands and cities has gone largely unnoticed. It is time to redress the imbalance by investigating why major cities are so likely to form on small islands.

A new article in Area – ‘Island City Formation and Urban Island Studies’ (Grydehøj 2015) – argues that aspects of island spatiality encourage city formation. The article advances the theory that territoriality benefits help political and economic elites maintain local authority and project power outward, defence benefits help protect local powerholders from external military threat, and transport benefits make strategically located small islands ideal sites for port industries. Once urbanisation is underway on a small island, other aspects of island spatiality come into play: Lack of land due to the city’s water borders favours dense urban development, which in turn brings competitive advantages for local businesses.

'Hong Kong Island', Source: Adam Grydehøj.

‘Hong Kong Island’, Source: Adam Grydehøj.

Whatever the reasons, island factors seem to have a powerful impact on urban processes: Six of the world’s ten most populous cities; eight of the world’s ten busiest ports; the largest cities in the sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and the USA; and the capital cities of five European states have developed on or from small islands. However, the processes behind such island city development are diverse and are grounded in specific historical, political, and socioeconomic contexts (Pigou-Dennis & Grydehøj 2014). It is thus that different kinds of island cities have developed at different times in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It seems inescapable to study islands and cities in tandem.

The Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos research network and conference series as well as the open access journal Urban Island Studies have been established to explore the interaction between island and urban processes (Grydehøj et al. 2015). Following a successful conference in Copenhagen in 2014, University of Hong Kong will be hosting a new island cities conference in March 2016. There is thus reason to hope that the coming years will shed additional light on island city formation and development.

About the author:

Adam Grydehøj is a researcher based at the Department of Human Geography, Lund university. He is also Director of Island Dynamics (www.islanddynamics.org) and Chair of the Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos Research Network.

Further reading
books_icon Grydehøj, A. (2015) Island City Formation and Urban Island Studies. Area. doi: 10.1111/area.12207.
books_icon Grydehøj, A., Pinya, X.B., Cooke, G., Doratlı, N., Elewa, A., Kelman, I., Pugh, J., Schick, L., & Swaminathan, R. (2015) Returning from the Horizon: Introducing Urban Island Studies, Urban Island Studies, 1(1), 1-19.
60-world2 Jeffries, S. (2015) How to build a city from scratch: the handy step-by-step DIY guide, The Guardian, 30 June.
books_icon Pigou-Dennis, E., & Grydehøj, A. (2014) Accidental and Ideal Island Cities: Islanding Processes and Urban Design in Belize City and the Urban Archipelagos of Europe, Island Studies Journal, 9(2), 259-276.

Austerity will increase the North South health divide

By Clare Bambra and Kayleigh Garthwaite, Durham University

We were told by the Coalition government that we are “all in it together” and that recession, austerity, cuts to welfare and the privatisation of the NHS are the necessary medicine to revitalise our broken country. This is a dangerous, neoliberal myth as the effects of austerity are not being shared equally across our country.

Northern England (commonly defined as the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions) has persistently had higher death rates than the South of England, with people in the North consistently found to be less healthy than those in the South – across all social classes and amongst both men and women. This is a longstanding historical divide that can be dated back to the early 19th century.

In our paper published by Area, we argue that since 2010, these health inequalities between the North and the South of England have increased. For example, suicide rates have increased across England – but at a greater rate in the North. Similarly, antidepressant prescription rates have risen, again with the highest increases in the North. Food bank use and malnutrition rates have also increased more in the North of England.

Boarded up houses in Stockton on Tees, North East, 2015. Photo Credit: Kayleigh Garthwaite.

Boarded up houses in Stockton on Tees, North East, 2015. Photo Credit: Kayleigh Garthwaite.

We argue that these increases in health inequalities between the North and the South are a result of the uneven geographies of “austerity”. Welfare reform and public service cuts have disproportionately impacted on the older industrial areas in the North, whilst the South (outside London) has escaped comparatively lightly. By way of example, Blackpool (North West), will experience twice the loss of income per person as a result of welfare reforms, whilst the worst-hit local authority budgets such as Middlesbrough (North East) will lose around four times as much as those least affected by the cuts – located exclusively in the South (such as Hart, South East).

So what can be done? Drawing on our involvement in the Public Health England (PHE) commissioned Due North: The Independent Inquiry into Health Equity in the North (2014). We argue that certain policy measures need to be urgently undertaken if we are to prevent the English health divide from widening: (1) increasing the value of welfare benefits; (2) improving welfare rights advice services; (3) making work pay by introducing a living wage; (4) implementing health-first active labour market policies to tackle health-related worklessness; and (5) decreasing debt by capping loan rates, supporting credit unions and regulating energy companies. Some of these policies are being taken forward by the opposition parties in their 2015 party election manifestos.

Partly as a result of the Due North Inquiry, and partly as an outcome of renewed debates about English devolution, there is now a “policy window” around the English health divide. This represents a prime opportunity for geographers to influence this important area of research, policy and practice.

About the authors:

Clare Bambra is Professor of Public Health Geography at Durham University. Her research examines how politics and politics impact on the social and spatial determinants of health and health inequalities. Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite is a Postdoctoral Research Associate within the Department of Geography at Durham University. Her research interests focus on health inequalities, welfare reform and austerity, with a focus on narratives and lived experience.

books_icon Inquiry Panel on Health Equity for the North of England (2014) Due North: The report of the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North (pdf). Inquiry Chair: Margaret Whitehead.

books_icon Bambra, C. and Garthwaite, K. (2015), Austerity, welfare reform and the English health divide. Area. doi: 10.1111/area.12191