The UK’s response to a rapidly-changing Arctic

By Richard Hodgkins, Loughborough University

Brøggerbreen: Photo credit: Richard Hodgkins

Brøggerbreen: Photo credit: Richard Hodgkins

The House of Lords has established an Arctic Committee, with a remit to “consider recent and expected changes in the Arctic and their implications for the UK and its international relations”. The Committee has already started taking evidence, and has just issued a call for written submissions. The UK has more of a natural claim to be interested in the Arctic than many probably realise: it is the northernmost country outside of the eight Arctic States, with the northern tip of the Shetland Islands being only 400km south of the Arctic Circle. The House of Lords’ interest largely stems from the rapid environmental changes evident in high northern latitudes, which are warming at least twice as quickly as the global average (Jeffries et al., 2013). In fact, as I argue in my recent commentary published in The Geographical Journal, the Arctic is almost uniquely susceptible to rapid change brought about through climate warming, mostly as a result of strong, positive feedbacks driven by the loss of snow and ice (Hodgkins, 2014). A greatly more accessible, ice-free Arctic Ocean particularly holds out the prospect of significant geopolitical change in the high North in the coming decades. Given current tensions between Russia and the west, this change may not necessarily be achieved harmoniously.

Our response to a changing Arctic should of course be informed by thorough understanding, free from assumptions, misconceptions or fallacies. It should not therefore be assumed that warming, by ameliorating the Arctic, will necessarily “improve” its environment or ecosystem. For instance, sea ice loss, warmer sea-surface temperatures and greater accumulation of freshwater are likely to stratify the ocean, preventing the free cycling of nutrients from shallow to deep and actually limiting biological productivity: “A warming Arctic… will simply be an ice-free version of the desert it already is” (Economist, 2013). Furthermore, the strong, positive feedbacks of “Arctic amplification” ensure that the actual atmospheric temperature increase in high northern latitudes will be much greater than the global average. Under a business-as-usual scenario, a mean 3.7°C global average temperature increase is likely by the 2090s. This implies a warming of 9°C over large parts the Arctic (IPCC, 2013). This rate of warming – which is not a worst-case scenario – exceeds anything previously encountered during human occupation of the Arctic. Terra incognita et mare incognitum, our response to the changing Arctic cannot be anything other than unprecedented; it’s to be hoped that it’s also wise.

About the author: Dr Richard Hodgkins is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Loughborough. 

60-world2 The Economist. 2013. Tequila Sunset.

books_icon Hodgkins, R. 2014. The 21st-century Arctic environment: accelerating change in the atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial spheres. The Geographical Journal, in press.

books_icon IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2013. Summary for Policymakers. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

books_icon Jeffries, M., Overland, J., Perovich, D. 2013 The Arctic shifts to a new normal. Physics Today 66, 35‒40.

Moving towards a living wage in the UK

By Izabela Delabre, University of Reading

4.9 million people in the UK earn less than the living wage (image credit: By George Hodan, via Wikimedia Commons)

On 18th October 2014, thousands of people took to the streets of London for a mass demonstration, arguing that “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” (BBC News, 2014). In their 2008 report for the Institute for Public Policy Research, Working out of Poverty, Lawton and Cooke found that, for the first time, more people in work are below the poverty line than those out of work. A report by The Resolution Foundation, Low Pay Britain 2014, states that as many as 1 in 5 workers or 5.2 million people earn less than than £7.70 an hour. Last year, the number of people in low-paid work (defined as less than two thirds of median hourly pay) rose by 250,000.

Wills and Linneker, writing in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers in 2014,  describe a living wage as one that reflects the local cost of living and the real cost of life. It is an instrument of pre-distribution, rather than using the state’s mechanisms to re-distribute wealth as a way of alleviating in-work poverty. Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) argue that Governments would be better advised to minimise the production of inequality to start with, rather than spending billions of pounds in welfare initiatives to ‘mop-up’ after the party.

Wills and Linneker write that in the UK, the living wage campaign has targeted both private and public sector employers, and the campaign is gaining pace. The Greater London Authority (GLA) has applied the living wage across its own supply chain to include the Metropolitan Police Authority, the London Fire Brigade and Transport for London. The Living Wage Foundation has been pivotal in deepening the impact and spreading the demand of the campaign through the participation of a wide coalition of champions, including Trust for London, Save the Children, Queen Mary, University of London, KPMG and Linklaters.  Flint et al. (2014), writing in the Journal of Public Health, find significant differences in psychological wellbeing between those who did, and didn’t, work for London Living Wage employers.  Recent figures show that the campaign has a long way to go.

Wills and Linneker argue that, “in the context of a Conservative-led coalition government, along with on-going economic malaise and a weak trade union movement, the demand for a living wage probably represents the best route to reducing the extent and impact of in-work poverty, and ultimately, the degree of inequality within the UK” (2014: 187-188).  By taking on a geographical perspective, the authors find that the living wage is a spatial intervention, which attempts to set a new moral minimum for wages across a labour market in a particular locality. They highlight how the impact of the living wage at one scale is very different to that experienced at other dimensions, and this shapes the arguments to be used in its defence. The living wage also raises important questions for geographers seeking to understand poverty and its potential solutions, as it can “put the scourge of economic injustice and inequality at the heart of political campaigning at all spatial scales” (2014: 192).

60-world2Low paid Britons now number five million, think tank concludes BBC News, September 27

60-world2A. Corlett and M. Whittaker 2014. Low Pay Britain 2014. The Resolution Foundation

books_iconE. Flint, S. Cummins and J. Wills 2012. Investigating the effect of the London living wage on the psychological wellbeing of low-wage service sector employees: a feasibility study. Journal of Public Health. 36 (2):187-193. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdt093

60-world2K. Lawton and G. Cooke 2008. Working Out of Poverty: A study of the low-paid and the ‘working poor.’ Institute for Public Policy Research.

books_icon

R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett K 2010. The spirit level: why equality is better for everyone Penguin, London

books_iconJ. Wills and B. Linneker 2014. In-work poverty and the living wage in the United Kingdom: a geographical perspective. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers39 (2): 182–194. doi: 10.1111/tran.12020. 

The Funny Side of Geography

By Ashley Crowson, King’s College London

Comedian Russell Brand. Via Wikimedia Commons

Comedian Russell Brand. Via Wikimedia Commons

If you have been anywhere near a television or radio this week it can hardly have escaped your attention that Russell Brand has a new book out. In place of the politicians, CEOs and commentators who are usually grilled in the studios of ‘Newsnight’ and the ‘Today’ programme, the stand-up comedian and actor has been quizzed about his plans for a global revolution based on spiritual enlightenment and radical economic restructuring. In roughly equal measure, Brand’s foray into politics has been dismissed as ‘pseudo-revolutionary blather’ and praised for engaging his mostly young and presumed apathetic fans.

In the United States another British comedian, satirist John Oliver, has been inundating print and broadcast media. He was recently featured on the front page of Rolling Stone magazine and his HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight’ continues to grow in popularity. The show, which is comprised mainly of comedy monologues on topical issues, has, in recent weeks, dealt with topics such as Special Immigrant Visas for translators, gay rights in Uganda, the US embargo against Cuba, and Argentinian debt restructuring. A number of surveys have pointed to the influence of this kind of satirical show; the Pew Research Centre found that during the 2000 US presidential campaign 21% of 18-29 year-olds cited comedy shows as a primary source of information about the election. A poll by the same organisation in 2007, placed Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’, fourth in a list of most trusted people in the media.

It is perhaps this prevalence of funny men and women in political and geopolitical discourse that is fuelling interest in geographical studies of humour. The most recent issue of Geography Compass features a review of such studies by Juha Ridanpää. The article illustrates:

[H]ow practices of popular media are geopolitically charged, how humor is intertwined with issues of social marginalization, how humor operates as an important element in the construction of group cohesion, how humor works as a non-cognitive element of human actions, feelings, and emotions, as well as how it represents a useful tool for educational and economic purposes, and how all of this has been studied by scholars of geography. (p. 701)

Ridanpää’s review suggests that the subfield of popular geopolitics is taking the lead in geography’s engagement with humour. Popular geopolitics, according to Dittmer (2010), ‘refers to the everyday geopolitical discourse that citizens are immersed in every day’ (p. 14). These ‘everyday discourses’ are important as ‘the general manners of perceiving political issues and their spatial nature are learned and assimilated through popular culture’ (Ridanpää, 2014, p. 702).

Ridanpää argues:

In many cases, humor makes complicated or sensitive issues easier to comprehend and digest. In popular culture, geopolitical questions are often intentionally forged in the form of a caricature, easily approachable stereotypes are used for the purposes of narrative-building, and complex issues become (overtly) simplified. (p. 702)

A skilled and witty satirist, then, such as John Oliver, adept at synthesising and caricaturing complex political and geopolitical issues, arguably holds a highly influential position in shaping the crucial ‘everyday geopolitical discourse’ that scholars of popular geopolitics are interested in.

Drawing on studies from geography education literature (Alderman and Popke, 2002; Hammett and Mather, 2011), Ridanpää argues that ‘by processing harsh social reality through laughter… the legitimacy of established ways of seeing the world can be questioned… [S]atire… can be used to raise consciousness about global forms of social inequality, politics of difference, and otherness.’ (p. 706) While the prospect of a Russell Brand headed global revolution hardly appears imminent, perhaps his phrase ‘The revolution cannot be boring’ will prove prophetic.

Although investigation into the geographical aspects of humour remain relatively limited, as Ridanpää suggests:

If we think how important a part humor plays in people’s everyday lives, for instance, how people form their conceptions of the modern world through media in which humor is constantly present, it is obvious that some need or even imperative for further study exists. (p. 707)

 ‘Russell Brand’s Revolution: panel verdict‘, The Guardian, 23 October 2014.

 Juha Ridanpää, 2014, Geographical Studies of HumorGeography Compass 8 701-709

 Jason Dittmer, 2010,  Popular culture, geopolitics, & identity. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

 Alderman, D. and Popke, E. J., 2002, Humor and film in the geography classroom: learning from Michael Moore’s TV Nation, Journal of Geography 101 228–239.

 Hammett, D. and Mather, C., 2011, Beyond decoding: political cartoons in the classroom, Journal of Geography in Higher Education 35 103–119.

Ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul, South Korea: Who are they? And why are they important?

By Minkyung Koh and Ed Malecki, Ohio State University

For the past decade, Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, has witnessed the emergence of two groups of ethnic entrepreneurs: Nigerians and Pakistanis. Even though South Korea has experienced a rapid increase of immigrants from all over the world, their emergence is an unexpected phenomenon because most immigrants to the country are labor workers or spouses from less-developed countries, or elite foreigners from developed countries. Who are these entrepreneurs, why are they in Seoul, and what does their emergence mean for Seoul and other Asian cities?

Ethnic business in Itaewon, Seoul (photo by Minkyung Koh)

Ethnic business in Itaewon, Seoul (photo by Minkyung Koh)

Ethnic entrepreneurship studies have developed mostly in Europe and America which has relatively long history of immigration. In this literature, Ethnic entrepreneurs have been depicted as separated from the host country and depending on the coethnic community.  However, our case study (Koh and Malecki 2014) finds that ethnic entrepreneurship not only relies on their coethnic community but also can be not separated from the Korean host society. Pakistani entrepreneurs in Seoul, who mainly do import-oriented business from Pakistan, are similar to the traditional ethnic entrepreneurs who are largely independent of the host society. To purchase Pakistani goods, they transact with mostly Pakistani entrepreneurs throughout Korea and resell goods to the Pakistani community. In contrast, Nigerian entrepreneurs concentrate on exporting Korean goods to Nigeria so they are deeply connected to Nigerians as well as Koreans.

In a globalising era, why are these ethnic entrepreneurs important? How can we explain their transnational trading activities? As traders, their transnational activities cross borders and contribute to visibility in urban landscapes and the flows between home and host countries. Ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul are spontaneous actors of contemporary globalisation. Their trade connections are an instance of ‘globalisation from below’, which represents the processes of global activities by voluntary actors (Mathews et al. 2012). The emergence of ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul shows that immigrants are not passive agents who follow global economic or political power.

Is this globalization from below possible to only Pakistanis and Nigerians? We carefully answer ‘no’. Transnational trading activities in Seoul are also expanding beyond the Nigerians and Pakistanis. Other ethnic entrepreneurs such as Mongolians and Uzbekistanis run their businesses in Seoul, too. The rapid growth of ethnic communities and entrepreneurs demonstrates that Seoul facilitates – and is constructed by – the globalization from below by immigrants. The fact that the Korean government has released a set of measures to promote foreign entrepreneurs (Gov’t luring foreign entrepreneurs) reflects this new phenomenon. And it seems that this measure may contribute to the continuous growth of ethnic entrepreneurs.  The relationship between ethnic entrepreneurs (or immigrants) and cities has received little attention in urban studies. Research on world cities focuses mainly on economic and technological functions (GaWC 2014). Our article would be a first step to probe the relationship between migrants and cities.

Even though our article probes the globalisation from below by ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul, we would like to expand its applicability. Already other cities such as Guangzhou in China or Hong Kong also have experienced African entrepreneurs (Mathews 2007; Mathews and Yang 2012). Asian cities have been considered to be accelerating a homogenizing globalisation mainly emulating Western global cities so that their actual localized globalisation has not been fully explored. In contrast to typical indices of global cities such as cross-border linkages initiated by transnational corporations and foreign direct investment, this globalisation from below by immigrants might be a footstep to understand grounded globalisation of Asian global cities.

About the authors: Minkyung Koh is a PhD student in the department of geography at the Ohio State University. Ed Malecki is a Professor of Geography at the same institution. 

60-world2 GaWC 2014 The world according to GaWC 2012 Accessed 11 May 2014

 Koh M and Malecki E J 2014 The emergence of ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul, South Korea: globalisation from below The Geographical Journal doi: 10.1111/geog.12111

 Mathews G 2007 Chungking Mansions: a center of “low-end globalization” Ethnology 46 169–83

 Mathews G, Ribeiro G L and Alba Vega C 2012 Globalization from below: the world’s other economy, Routledge, New York

 Mathews G and Yang Y 2012 How Africans pursue low-end globalization in Hong Kong and Mainland China Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 41 95–120

Nature and economics: a necessary marriage?

By Joseph Bailey, University of Nottingham, UK.

Adams et al. (2013; p. 585): “Neoliberalism may offer a new set of mechanisms in pursuing conservation ends, but also creates new risks and challenges.”

Sustainability and social and economic human prosperity resulting from ecosystem services provided by nature form the heart of the principle of human–nature connectivity (see UK NEA, 2011). Such services are categorised as supporting (e.g. soil formation), provisioning (e.g. food), regulating (e.g. flood regulation) and cultural (e.g. education, recreation) by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA, 2005). These services can then be assigned an economic value and, theoretically, be more wholly incorporated into a neoliberal economy where conservation is seen as protecting an area’s economic value, rather than diminishing it.

Adams et al. (2013) note regular mention of such ecosystem services in UK ‘Large Conservation Area’ (LCA) project descriptions; a shift towards neoliberalism in conservation, and the apparent need to assign an economic value to designated conservation areas, is present in the UK. Such themes also extend to conservation the world over, as we can see by two recent major biodiversity reports.

Near Ullswater, Lake District National Park, UK. Should this ancient landscape be valued?

Near Ullswater, Lake District National Park, UK. Should this ancient landscape be valued?

Two separate recent international reports on biodiversity – Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 by the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity and the WWF’s Living Planet Report – have been widely referred to by the press. Both reports discuss ecosystem services and the benefits of nature conservation to our well-being and economy. The Telegraph, on the WWF’s report, discusses how humans “depend on ecosystem services”. Meanwhile, The Guardian and Blue & Green Tomorrow discuss the Global Biodiversity Outlook report and the overall failure to meet current global conservation targets. Perhaps then, better incorporation of nature into neoliberal economies via ecosystem services is necessary to convey the value of nature to policy and decision makers, in the UK and beyond.

Of course, ideas of ecosystem services are seldom isolated from opposition to the valuation of nature and for its inherent value, which is arguably priceless. Key arguments against such valuation include: (i) not all of nature’s outputs are useful services, indeed some are disservices, or are neutral, in relation to ‘serving’ people, but the areas providing these may house amazing species and ecosystems (are they at risk if they cannot provide a useful service?); (ii) ecosystem service arguments imply that the conservation of nature should only happen when it is profitable to do so; (iii) technological advancement may surpass nature’s services in the future (then what of a nature reserve that was being protected just because of a service and associated value?); (iv) nature has an intrinsic value and would be better argued for on moral, rather than economic, grounds (list summarised from McCauley, 2006 in Nature). Also see The Ecologist on biodiversity offsetting who ask: “How many pandas is a five star hotel worth?”.

Nature conservation, and associated themes (e.g. biodiversity offsetting, ecosystem services), in the UK and the wider world will only increase in importance and relevance as environments continue to change and, perhaps inevitably, the so called neoliberalisation of nature continues. As territories reserved for nature (and the value of these) are debated, understanding the spatial patterns of biodiversity, and indeed how these will change through time, will be vital so that we can move towards informed, resilient and sustainable decisions. Perhaps true sustainability can only ensue if nature’s intrinsic value takes a dominant role in discussions? Perhaps not, though; perhaps economic valuations will dominate by necessity? Personally, I hope that such intrinsic value is never overshadowed and that economic arguments, where necessary, simply supplement moral ones.

 Adams, W. M., Hodge, I. D. and Sandbrook, L. (2014). ‘New spaces for nature: the re-territorialisation of biodiversity conservation under neoliberalism in the UK‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39, 574–588.

60-world2 Bertini, I. (2014). Governments have failed to protect wildlife, UN biodiversity report findsBlue & Green Tomorrow.

60-world2 Global Biodiversity Outlook 4: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2014)

60-world2 Lean, G. (2014). Life on earth is dying, thanks to one species. The Telegraph.

60-world2 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC.

 McCauley, D. J. (2006). Selling out on natureNature 443, 27 – 28.

60-world2 Scrivener, A. (2014). Nature as an ‘asset class’ – the free market’s final frontier? The Ecologist.

60-world2 UK NEA (2011). The UK national ecosystem assessment: technical report UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge.

60-world2 Vaughan, A. (2014). UN biodiversity report highlights failure to meet conservation targetsThe Guardian.

60-world2 WWF et al. (2014). Living Planet Report 2014.

Researching In Post-Conflict Areas: Thinking Reflexively About Nationality

By Will Andrews, Aberystwyth University

A recent article in the journal Area, written by Matthew Benwell (2014) discusses the challenges of conducting research on different sides of a socio-political conflict and is based on his fieldwork experiences in Argentina and the Falkland Islands. Recently post-conflict tensions between Britain and Argentina have been highlighted by an incident involving the motoring programme Top Gear. During filming for the programme’s Christmas special in Argentina one of the three cars used was seen to have the number plate H982 FKL. This was believed by many Argentinians to be a distasteful reference to the 1982 Falklands conflict (BBC News, 2014). However a spokesperson for the BBC denied that the number plate was chosen deliberately and that it was “…a very unfortunate coincidence.” (BBC News, 2014). The programme’s film crew were forced to flee the country by protesters who threw stones at the car involved and at the film crew’s vehicles. Whilst this incident is unlike anything that might happen during fieldwork it shows that there are underlying tensions in fieldwork spaces which may remain many years after a conflict. In particular when the person present, be they motoring journalist or academic researcher, identifies with a nationality previously involved in said conflict. The tensions which this incident revealed are well known to British researcher Benwell, who found that his being from the UK raised suspicions with some Argentinian participants however largely they were curious about his presence in remote Argentina where being British was seen as ‘exotic’ (p167).

A British Map of the Falkland Islands (Wikimedia Commons)

A British Map of the Falkland Islands (Wikimedia Commons)

Benwell (p164) argues that those working in areas of socio-political conflict or with post-conflict tensions should think more self-reflexively about their nationality and the performativity of this in the field. As geographers we should think about our positionality in the field and think reflexively about factors such as, “class, gender, ‘race’, sexuality, ableness, age and education, whether we are a parent or not” (Skelton, 2001: 89). Yet often, as Benwell (p164) argues, we do not think about our nationality as one such factor. Furthermore Benwell argues that as geographer’s we understand that national identity is dynamic and can be performed differently depending on a range of factors and influences, in his case these were gender, age and class. Nationality is performed relationally rather than being predetermined (p167). In actuality Benwell’s positionality as a British researcher did not lead to conflict in the field although he notes that it may have restricted him as participants spoke variously of following a certain official line in answering his questions (p165). Participants had a chance to give Argentine arguments about the sovereignty dispute to a British researcher with an ultimately British audience. Furthermore Benwell’s ability to speak Argentinian Spanish (p167) was helpful in gaining the trust and confidence of participants. Whilst this article provides a detailed reading of how performing nationality can play out in the post-conflict field it also acts as a call for more methodological writing on nationality as a part of researcher positionality, particularly in geopolitical research contexts.

 Benwell, M. C. (2014) ‘Considering nationality and performativity: undertaking research across the geopolitical divide in the Falkland Islands and Argentina’, Area, 46(2), 163-169

60-world2 ‘Protests cut short Top gear shoot’ BBC News 4th October 2014

 Skelton, H. (2001) ‘Cross-cultural research: issues of power, positionality and ‘race’ ‘, In Limb, M. & Dwyer C. (eds.) Qualitative methodologies for geographers: issues and debates, Arnold, London, 87-100

 

Flying the flag: flagship species as a conservation tool

By Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Reports on the threat of extinction to animals proliferate academic and popular media. Whilst this is by no means a new phenomenon, Gupta et al.’s (2014) recent article in Area provides some food for thought. Their paper draws on the use of ‘flagship species’ to promote environmental protection and conservation. This term, for me, resides at an unusual intersection between scientific biogeography and culturally-influenced animal geography.

Flagship species are chosen for their ‘charisma’, a certain charm or appeal that makes them attractive to humans. Having the capacity to evoke empathy, such species are used as symbols for environmental protection and awareness, and are sometimes used by conservation organisations for brand identification. Examples include elephants, pandas, and tigers; large mammals, attractive and popular, threatened at continental scales. The ‘Flagship Species Fund’ – a joint initiative between Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) – explicitly focuses on ‘primates, sea turtles, and trees’ and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which uses a panda in its logo, admits that flagship species tend to be large animals favoured in western cultures.

How refreshing it is, then, to read about an unusual and divergent case; a species of fish that could help promote local habitat protection. Fish, it appears, are overlooked by flagship species initiatives and, indeed, by studies in animal geography. Gupta et al. (2014) draw our attention to the example of the golden mahseer, a river fish endemic to northern India. Local villagers are extremely passionate about this culturally-significant fish, which is beautifully colourful and elegant, described as the ‘pride of the area’. Anglers treat it with great respect, praising its intelligence and ability to evade capture. Not since we ‘found’ Nemo has a fish had such a powerful effect on human emotion. However, the golden mahseer is threatened by illegal sand and boulder mining, which is causing habitat destruction. Conservationists, therefore, argue that the golden mahseer has huge potential as a flagship species for Himalayan rivers.

This got me thinking about another taxonomic group that has been overlooked; birds. My own work looks at pigeons – more elegantly known as the rock dove (Columba livia) – and whilst they themselves are far from becoming extinct, two of their close ancestors have not been so lucky; the dodo, now symbolic of extinction, and the passenger pigeon. You may have read about the tragic fate of the passenger pigeon in the news of late. This year marks the centenary of the extinction of what was once the most abundant bird in North America. Due to a lack of laws restricting shooting, over the course of the nineteenth century, between 3 and 5 million passenger pigeons were shot and sold for food. Their population dwindled exponentially and Martha – the last passenger pigeon – died in Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. One good thing to come of this was a heightened public interest in conservation, although, like the dodo, it was all too late for the passenger pigeon.

Passenger Pigeon (image credit: Trisha M Shears)

Passenger Pigeon (image credit: Trisha M Shears)

Birds, like fish, appear to induce different emotional responses in humans to the cute and cuddly mammals used as flagship species. This is possibly due to the very different environments that they inhabit; we can’t possibly relate to what it is like to soar amongst the clouds in the sky or to reside in vast underwater worlds. Could this explain the notable absence of avian and aquatic flagship species in conservation schemes? Alanna Mitchell’s article for National Geographic at the end of August stated that 1,300 species of bird are currently at risk of extinction. Surprisingly, amidst this long list of ill-fated birds are parrots, puffins, and penguins; birds that capture public imagination with their charming dispositions. Thus, as a catalyst for action, such ‘charismatic’ birds should surely be considered as potential avian flagship species that could pave the way not only to species protection and extinction prevention, but also to the taxonomic widening of this valuable conservation strategy.

 Gupta, N., Sivakumar, K., Mathur, V.B., Chadwick, M.A. (2014). “The ‘tiger of Indian rivers’: stakeholders’ perspectives on the golden mahseer as a flagship fish species”. Area doi: 10.1111/area.12124.

60-world2 Enget M (2014) The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, Financial Times.

60-world2 Mitchell A (2014) The 1,300 Bird Species Facing Extinction Signal Threats to Human Health, National Geographic Magazine.