Exploring a relational approach to water management

By Liz Charpleix, University of New England, Australia


Whanganui River at Pipiriki, December 2014 © Liz Charpleix

The recent election of Labour politician Jacinda Ardern as Aotearoa/New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister since 1856 has caught the world’s attention, for reasons ranging from the personal to the political. One of the planks in her party’s policy platform is ‘Clean rivers for future generations’, an appropriate goal for a nation that markets itself as ‘100% Pure’ and ‘the home of Middle Earth’. In pursuing this policy, the party has declared that they intend to ‘work with iwi [people who share a common ancestor] to resolve [Waitangi] Treaty water claims in a manner that respects iwi’s mana [authority], and restores the mauri [life force] of our rivers and lakes’ (Labour, nd).

Given that Aotearoa/New Zealand was colonised on the basis of a treaty signed by Māori chiefs and the English Lieutenant-Governor at Waitangi in 1840, a declaration of respect for Māori culture and law by the nation’s ruling government should not need explicit expression today. However, due to the mistranslation of the treaty from English into Māori at the time of signing, the rights and obligations of each party were different in each language. Disputes ensued as a result of the mistranslation and, finally, in 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was set up to settle such disputes; the declaration by the Labour Party emphasises its support for the corrective process set in train by the tribunal.

One Waitangi Treaty claim that sought to restore respect for an iwi’s mana and a river’s mauri was Wai 167, which resulted in the recognition of the legal personhood of the Whanganui River. The enacting legislation, passed in March 2017, brought to a conclusion more than a century of legal and direct actions by Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi, the Māori who live along the river and have long disputed the removal of its management and control from their hands by the European colonists (known as Pākehā ). I have described this case, and discussed its contributions to decolonising a legal system shaped within a colonial context, in a paper recently published in The Geographical Journal. Although place-specific, the claim demonstrates the potential for environmental management to be enhanced by drawing upon relational ontologies with less anthropocentric visions than the dominant Western model.

Inherent in the relational ontology of the Māori is the concept that ‘it is not possessions that most count but how we relate to, and respect the mana of each other and the environment’ (Waitangi Tribunal 1999, xix). Throughout their long dispute, Te Atihaunui battled a range of issues that demonstrated the colonisers’ lack of respect for the Māori and the standing held by the river in their culture. These issues predominately stemmed from the treatment of the river as an economic resource by the Pākehā, such as water abstraction for the Tongariro power scheme, damage to in-river fishing structures, and removal of gravel from the river for commercial reasons. Compounding the disrespect is the fact that for the Māori, a river comprises much more than a stream of water: ‘… it include[s] all things related to the river: the tributaries, the land catchment area… the silt once deposited on what is now dry land’ (Waitangi Tribunal 1999, 39). If the river is damaged, then it is not only the water that has lost mauri; the harm seeps into the earth beneath and beyond.

By contrast, Western hierarchical ontologies locate rivers as one thing and land as another, with humans overseeing them all. From this anthropocentric point of view, environmental features are resources to be used in support of, but never as an equal participant in, the human economy. The idea, as demonstrated by the outcome of Wai 167, that a river can be a person in its own right  supports the egalitarian perspective that a river has the right to stand up for its own health. It has the right to demand back its mauri, to expect a restoration of its mana, to require, in conjunction with the iwi that live upon and by it, respect.

Imagine the river and its surrounding environment, including the Māori and other residents and visitors to the river, as an interconnected network, radiating its mauri outwards along pulsing riparian arteries. The end result, which hopefully wouldn’t take another 150 years to achieve, would be much more than clean rivers and lakes. It would be a healthy vibrancy that permeates the entire nation, infusing humans, flora, fauna, air, water and earth alike with a prospect of a positive future.

About the author: Liz Charpleix is PhD candidate at the University of New England, Australia. 


60-world2 100% Pure New Zealand nd Home of Middle-Earth (https://www.newzealand.com/au/home-of-middle-earth/) Accessed 13 November 2017

books_icon Charpleix L 2017 The Whanganui River as Te Awa Tupua: place-based law in a legally pluralistic society The Geographical Journal doi/10.1111/geoj.12238

60-world2 Jones A 2017 Jacinda Ardern: ‘Stardust’ ousts experience in New Zealand BBC News October 19 (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41226232) Accessed 10 November 2017

60-world2 Labour nd Clean rivers for future generations (http://www.labour.org.nz/water) Accessed 6 November 2017

60-world2 New Zealand Parliament 2017, March 28 Innovative bill protects Whanganui River with legal personhood (https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/features/innovative-bill-protects-whanganui-river-with-legal-personhood/) Accessed 10 November 2017

books_icon Waitangi Tribunal 1999 The Whanganui river report: WAI 167 GP Publications, Wellington

Do investigations of urban channel change prompt proactive channel management and greater focus on design in research and learning and teaching?

By Ken Gregory, University of Southampton UK and Anne Chin, University of Colorado, Denver

Fig 1

Terrain adjacent to Fountain Hills in the middle distance (c) Ken Gregory

Rivers and streams are important to the 54% of the world’s population living in urban areas. Although environmental pollution, and its reduction, were a first concern for streams in urban areas, river channel quality has recently attracted more attention. For example, restoration schemes have been undertaken for specific areas, and ‘daylighting’ is now uncovering portions of buried rivers (The Guardian, 2017). Research has engaged several disciplines, with the urban stream syndrome evident in the work of ecologists, and geomorphologists showing effects of changed processes in urban rivers, with research results useful for management (e.g. Chin and Gregory, 2009). Hitherto emphasis has been on parts of urban areas or on specific stream problems, but it is now feasible to use a more holistic approach to evaluate the effects of changes and management on the stream system in a single area.

In our recent paper, ‘Evaluation of the imprint of urban channel adjustment and management’, we report analysis of the area of Fountain Hills, Arizona, a town area of 52.4 km2. In this area, which has been urbanised since 1970, at least 43 individual wash channels from the McDowell Mountains flowed naturally eastward to the Verde River, and three drained westward. Population increased rapidly from 2,772 in 1980 to 22,489 in 2010, with the eventual prospect of >36,540 in 2050. Although stream channels were identified as the primary mechanism to remove storm waters, roads in Fountain Hills were built to function as storm drainage as an alternative to investing in costly, but infrequently needed, storm sewers. We have studied specific areas within Fountain Hills identifying channel effects of urbanisation (Chin and Gregory, 2001), the hazards (Gregory and Chin, 2002), and management implications (Chin and Gregory 2005). Analysis of the entire urban wash channel system enables us to evaluate how successful management of the washes has been.

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Although evaluation is often employed as a component of environmental assessment, usually associated with specific projects in post-project appraisal, few geomorphic evaluations of adjusting channel systems have been conducted together with consideration of management success. We suggest that geomorphological success can be evaluated by considering three inter-related aspects of a managed urban drainage system: the functionality (does it work?), the appearance (does it look appropriate?), together with its resilience (is it sustainable?). For Fountain Hills, functionality is satisfactory in the 60% of wash length that has achieved naturalization; appearance is appropriate for that same wash length, although golf course developments produce wash lines at variance with the natural character. Short term resilience is accommodated by the wash management programme and by ongoing adaptive management. Land ownership, especially of private land with areas developed for golf courses, accounts for some of the variations encountered because such areas are not subject to the controls upon public land.

Overall, therefore, management of the wash system in Fountain Hills has been successful, enabled by adaptive management including a wash management programme and new policies implemented for the most recently developed areas. However, the policy intention to maintain what is ‘natural’ has not been realised; it could have more realistically been stated as the need to undertake naturalization. This relates to the debate in the literature of several disciplines concerning what is ‘natural’ and the perception of ‘naturalness’, and in the EU Water Framework Directive, this is the ‘reference condition’ of high ecological status against which river condition is judged.

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This evaluation approach, which could be applied to other areas, suggests that a holistic basin plan could be developed to anticipate geomorphological change throughout the basins outlining the most appropriate measures to adopt, thus reducing the need for adaptive management as urbanisation progresses. Whereas adaptive management is reactive to changes which have already occurred, and anticipatory management has been suggested for instream habitat (Beagle et al. 2016), should proactive catchment management be envisaged for adapting to future change? Such a proactive approach is analogous to catchment-scale longer-term perspectives in restoration (Gregory and Downs 2008), which enable geomorphic consequences to be included and managed.

Where washes have been modified, could geomorphologically-based alternatives be devised, and should design practices become more evident in both applied research and in contemporary learning and teaching? (Gregory  2017)

About the authors: Ken Gregory is Visiting Professor University of Southampton and Emeritus Professor University of London and was President of the BSG (2009-2014), Anne Chin is Professor Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Denver and is currently Editor of Anthropocene.

books_iconBeagle , J. R., Kondolf, G. M., Adams, R. M. and Marcus, L. (2016). Anticipatory management for instream habitat: Application to Carneros Creek, California. River Research & Applications 32, 280-294.

books_iconChin, A. and Gregory, K. J. (2001). Urbanization and adjustment of ephemeral stream channels. Annals Association of American Geographers 91, 595–608.

books_icon Chin, A. and Gregory, K. J. (2005). Managing urban river channel adjustments Geomorphology 69, 28-45.

books_icon Chin, A. and Gregory, K. J. (2009). From research to application: Management implications from studies of urban river channel adjustment. Geography Compass 3, 297–328.

books_icon Gregory, K. J. (2017). Putting physical environments in their place: The next chapter? The Canadian Geographer 61, 11–18.

books_icon Gregory, K. J. and Chin, A. (2002). Urban stream channel hazards. Area 34, 312–321.

books_icon Gregory, K. J. and Chin, A. (2017). Evaluation of the imprint of urban channel adjustment and management. The Geographical Journal doi:10.1111/geoj.12231

books_icon Gregory, K. J. and Downs, P. W. (2008). The sustainability of restored rivers: Catchment scale perspectives on long term response In Darby, S. and Sear, D. eds. River Restoration: Managing the uncertainty in restoring physical habitat. Wiley Chichester 253 – 286.

60-world2 The Guardian (2017). A river runs through it: the global movement to ‘daylight’ urban waterways. The Guardian 8 September 2017.

Exploring London’s New Brewing Geography

By Sam Page and Adam Dennett, University College London

Brewing is all the rage again. BrewDog, one of the largest new British brewers and self-styled ‘Punks’ of the industry, are starting to try and sink their teeth into the US market, and have even published a book on how to do business. Beer is now cool, interesting, and something that many are starting to cotton on to. Indeed, it’s difficult to walk into a pub in the UK these days without being confronted by at least one ‘craft’ drink, speculatively in the form of craft pale ale or a craft larger. It would seem that, after a long decline – where the number of brewers plunged to just 87 in the mid-1970s, down from 2000 in the mid-1920s – British beer manufacturing is thriving. Indeed, the Society of Independent Brewers have reported that brewing from their members almost doubled from 2009 to 2014. And while not exclusive to London, there has been a significant rise in the capital: from a handful of breweries within the M24 prior 2009, to 84 active breweries in 2016.

In many ways – physically and metaphysically – space and place have always been important in brewing. But, while terroir (perhaps most simply thought of as the impact of geography on the character of food and drink) has become less important as ingredients now come from all over the world (a lot the hops from of those very high-note bitter IPA’s are ‘New World Hops’, from the US or New Zealand), provenance and identity remain crucial to brewing – London being no exception. To take one example, the importance of location is evident for The Brixton Brewery, naming their beer after local roads: Electric IPA (Electric Avenue), Coldharbour Lager (Coldharbour Lane) and Atlantic APA (Atlantic Road). Other location-based themes are available in abundance: Five Points (brewery), Gipsy Hill (brewery), London Pride (beer), and so on. And so, in our paper for The Geographical Journal, we were keen to explore the role that geography plays in the emerging London brewing scene.

Carrying out some initial spatial analysis, we discovered that London brewers are not randomly distributed over the city in an ad hoc manner. Instead, there is evidence of clustering, particularly in the inner boroughs of Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Hackney and Lambeth. To try and find out why this would be so, we went down to Southwark (as a particularly strong cluster) to carry out some ‘field work’ and not at all to drink beer.

In the north of Southwark, just near the River Thames, is what has become known as the “Bermondsey Beer Mile” (rather erroneously, as it’s almost exactly two miles long between London Bridge Station, beginning with Southwark Brewing Company and ending with Fourpure near South Bermondsey Station). Most of the breweries along the beer mile run ‘tap rooms’ at the weekend. This is a phenomenon where they open their doors, clear away some of the brewing equipment, set up trestle tables and benches and invite the public in to sample and buy beers directly from them. This has helped to turn the Bermondsey Beer Mile into something of a honey-pot for tourists, beer aficionados and other wastrels (including academic geographers) for the last few years.

During the course of our brewing fieldtrip ‘research’ we found several factors that helped Southwark, and in particular Bermondsey, become a new hub for brewing in the city. First were the presence of many brick railway arches supporting the railways running out of London Bridge Station. All of the Bermondsey breweries were under them. Indeed, within London almost 30 breweries are situated under railway arches. Railways have a historic association with brewing in the UK (through transporting products), but this is the first time in history we could locate that they helped form the space within which the brewing process took place. These arches are imposing Victorian brick structures more commonly the home of minicab firms and car garages. Traditionally damp, dingy and noisy, many been refurbished in the last few years and have started to provide spaces where now coffee is roasted, bread is baked, beef is salted and beer is brewed (if you know where to look). The refurbishment and opening up the use of these arches has been a conscious plan from the owner, Network Rail, to foster new businesses, but the crucial factor is that (for now) they are relatively cheap to rent and this has allowed relatively low-rent generating industries to penetrate the centre of London where access to some markets is greatly improved.

But the availability of suitable physical space has not spawned similar clusters everywhere in the city. More must have been going on to encourage these breweries to set up near each other. Talking informally with some of the brewers, we discovered that they were actually something of a community and were operating a sort of ‘economies of cooperation’ were they were benefiting through being beer comrades rather than business rivals. An indicative anecdotal story is that Kernel (the first of the new breweries in the area), not only helped to teach the brewers at Anspach & Hobday, how to brew, but they gave the Partisan brewery their original brewing equipment in order that they could get started. Anspach & Hobday also shared their equipment, until recently with the Bullfinch brewery. Through sharing knowledge, equipment, and customers, the breweries in Bermondsey were able to thrive.

So we could see how and why breweries were beginning to cluster in space in Bermondsey, but this new wave of brewing only began after 2011. Why the sudden growth at this time? Laying the important groundwork was the unlikely figure of Gordon Brown, who when Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2002, introduced a progressive beer tax meaning that small volume breweries benefited from a significant tax break such that they could compete with the economies of scale which benefited the big players in the industry. However, this had no immediate effect. It is only after the 2008 global financial crash that we start to witness the growth in the number of breweries, so that by the start of 2011, there were 24 breweries (including Kernel), reaching a high point (thus far) in 2015 with 87 active breweries. Anecdotally, there has been suggestion that the financial crash led a number of people to re-evaluate their career choices (either voluntarily or involuntarily) and, for some, a career in brewing beckoned.

About the authors: Sam Page is doctoral student at the Department of Geography, University of College London. Adam Dennett is Lecturer in Urban Analytics at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London.

60-world2 Dennett, A. and Page, S. (2017), The geography of London’s recent beer brewing revolution. The Geographical Journal. doi:10.1111/geoj.12228

books_icon Scott K 2017 Scotland’s craft beer punks are bringing their brews to America CNN Money http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/03/smallbusiness/brewdog-craft-beer-america-ohio/index.html 

Decolonising Geographical Knowledges in Settler States

By Jillian Smith, University of Birmingham 


Rupert’s Land

Is decolonising geographical knowledges actually reproducing coloniality? Geographers have recently been posed this question for consideration; in fact, the 2017 RGS-IBG chair’s theme states that debating decoloniality might be a good starting point towards decolonisation (Esson et al., 2017). This statement complements Tuck and Yang’s earlier notion that the recent proliferation of decolonial language by non-Indigenous scholars can have the effect of reproducing coloniality (2012). Esson et al. (2017) assert that as we open geography out to the world in an effort at decolonisation, we actually “run the risk of speaking instead of those eager and equipped to speak for themselves.”

I took this last statement as an invitation to offer up my own unsolicited version of what prompted my interest in geography ­– my Indigenous forefathers. At the risk of romanticizing my Métis heritage, I often think of my Indigenous ancestors as early geographers. As Indigenous trappers, fur traders, and Voyageurs on the Great Lakes of Turtle Island (now North America), my ancestors undoubtedly had vast geographical knowledge of their territory. But like so many things in the colonial era, it did not last. The quasi-nomadic lifestyle ended as new settlers arrived and the First nations and Métis people living in Canada were assigned parcels of land under new colonial structures. By 1840, my 4th great-grandfather had signed a petition (with all the makings of an early treaty) requesting traditional land back from the Crown.  Though his petition was unsuccessful, I am a proud that my grandfather was not only an early geographer, but an aspiring decoloniser.

Indisputably, one of colonisation’s earliest effects was Indigenous land dispossession; as such, it is imperative that any discussion of decolonisation must include programming to reconnect Indigenous peoples to the land that was lost, and the knowledge, languages, and relations associated with the land (Wildcat et al., 2014). Tuck and Yang (2012) go further to suggest that decolonisation must go beyond repatriation of land; they infer that decolonisation is also about deconstructing colonial institutions.

Meanwhile, Matsunaga (2016) notes that governments and academics are expanding transitional justice theory to harms inflicted to Indigenous peoples in settler states such as Australia, Canada, and the United States. Matsunaga adds that two faces of transitional justice will need to be examined if decolonisation is to occur: an internal focus on reconciliation, and an external focus on the expertise required to heal a fragile state.  The use of the term ‘fragile state’ here is significant. Recall that fragile states have traditionally been regarded as post-conflict states. Australia, Canada, and the United States are certainly not ‘fragile’ in this context. Nonetheless, a historical injustice has occurred in each of these nations, and as Teital (2003) astutely notes, the paradoxical goal in transition is to undo history. The mechanism in which transitional justice will contribute to decolonisation in Canada, or in any settler state, remains to be seen (Park, 2015).

Esson et al. (2017) concur with Tuck and Yang (2012) and explain that the decolonisation of geographical knowledges cannot occur while structures inherited from geography’s colonial past are upheld. It is, however, still possible (and indeed, desirable) that geographers engage in discussions about Indigenous worldviews. Without Indigenous involvement in these discussions, however, they are moot. For example: the reputable British journal, Third World Quarterly (an egregious 40-year-old journal name itself), recently published a piece entitled, “The case for colonialism.” Astoundingly, the author, Bruce Gilley, states that colonisation has been wrongly vilified and that it is time to re-colonise parts of the world (2017). Would my Indigenous ancestors, friends, and relatives of Turtle Island believe that re-colonisation is a good idea? Assuredly not. A petition asking for the article’s retraction has been signed many thousands of times and fifteen of the journal’s thirty-four editorial board members have resigned in protest (Flaherty, 2017). Though the outrage over the piece has been swift and ferocious, the fact that the article was published at all illustrates a point that Western notions of ideology still exist in academia.

Resistance, reconciliation, repatriation, storytelling, deconstruction, transitional justice – decolonisation means different things to different people in different parts of the world.  Perhaps it should be less about what decolonisation is, and more about who is unlocking their voice in the discussion. Indigenous voices have been silenced for hundreds of years. If we collectively spend more time listening, and less time proselytising, perhaps those of us attempting to decolonise knowledges will have a better chance at avoiding any reproduction of coloniality.


Esson, J., Noxolo, P., Baxter, R., Daley, P., & Byron, M. (2017). The 2017 RGS-IBG chair’s theme: decolonising geographical knowledges, or reproducing coloniality? Area, 49:384-388. doi:10.1111/area.12371

Flaherty, C. (2017). Resignations at ‘Third World Quarterly’. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/09/20/much-third-world-quarterlys-editorial-board-resigns-saying-controversial-article

Gilley, B. (2017). The case for colonialism. Third World Quarterly, 1-17.

Matsunaga, J. (2016). Two faces of transitional justice: Theorizing the incommensurability of transitional justice and decolonization in Canada. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 5(1), 22-24. Retrieved from: http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/26530/19735

Park, A. S. (2015). Settler Colonialism and the Politics of Grief: Theorising a Decolonising Transitional Justice for Indian Residential Schools. Human Rights Review, 16(3), 279– 293.

Teitel, R. G. (2003). Transitional Justice Genealogy. Harvard Human Rights Journal, 16, 69.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1–40. Retrieved from: http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18630/15554

Wildcat, M., McDonald, M., Irlbacher-Fox, S., Coultard, G. (2014). Learning from the land: Indigenous land based pedagogy and decolonization. Decolonization: Indigneity, Education & Society, 3(3).






The ice edge is a high-risk environment for Arctic industries

By Siri Veland and Amanda Lynch, Brown University

Veland (copyright) Barrow sea ice

Near shore sea ice from Barrow, Alaska June, 2014. (C) Siri Veland

Expectations of receding, thawing and melting of the Arctic have prematurely driven investments and geopolitical negotiation over Arctic marine territories and resources. The elusive mathematics of ice dynamics hamper robust forecasting and modeling, and the incongruent scales at which it is defined pose challenges for planning and coordination. Together, these form a high-risk context for Arctic industries and nations that seek to follow the ice edge northward.

Mapping sea ice
Sea ice behaves unlike other major earth surface processes. Neither purely fluid nor solid, ice does not conform to classical Newtonian physics. Fluids like water and air respond to stress continuously and evenly down to the molecular level. Solids respond to stress by deforming elastically or plastically, or by shattering. Sea ice shares characteristics with each. To represent ice in mathematical models, therefore, physicists have developed ‘parametrisations’ by combining different Newtonian behaviors. These include a ‘cavitating’ fluid and a ’viscous–plastic’ or ’viscous–plastic– elastic’ solid. These Newtonian approximations, called ‘rheologies’, seek a compromise between computational efficiency and realistic stress responses. Dynamical rheologies are incorporated in models that also include the thermodynamical response of ice to sunlight and heat. The model developer judges the level of detail to include – the impacts of brine pockets, algal growth, soot, and ice nucleation, for example. Finally, the ice model is connected to models of ocean and atmosphere. Balance is sought between accuracy and spatial detail on the one hand, and available computing power on the other.

Using statistical models avoids these challenges by only considering sea ice area and movement, but comes with its own compromises. Here, modelers measure sea ice area and movement over a period of time using buoys, ship and aircraft observations, and satellite measurement, and predict future sea ice behavior based on its past behavior. Forecasts over two to three weeks based on this approach are usually acceptable; the challenge, though, is that predictions are only as reliable as the available data. Furthermore, this approach cannot anticipate sea ice distributions that have not previously been observed, such as a lower global sea ice extent. This is an important issue given the influence of climate change. As a result, the seasonal and decadal projections that industry needs for planning investments in Arctic activities have high uncertainty.

Governing sea ice
Arctic nations have developed different frameworks for governing seasonally ice-covered waters, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas is in the process of clarifying its framework to assist nations in staking claims to Arctic territory. In United States policy, Arctic industrial activities fall under Federal, State or Borough jurisdictions, depending where the ice edge lies any given time. Drilling and shipping in the United States Arctic therefore follows the freeze and thaw of the ice edge over its c. 1500km range.

In Norway, a political push to protect the ecosystems in the marginal ice zone led to the ice edge becoming a fixed line to regulate industry. As result, the ’15 percent’ ice edge definition of ice modelers has come to define the safe limit for oil and gas exploration. Until 2014, statistical models were based on observational data from 1967 to 1985, but in 2014 the more recently recorded dataset of the National Sea and Ice Data Center in the United States for 1985-2014 was adopted. Because of the polar amplification of climate change, this defined ice edge was further north than earlier decades, opening further oil fields for exploration, and opening pointed debates about the use of science for political interests.

Yet in the hustle of activity to define an unrealisable fixed boundary, the sea ice itself intervenes, along with global oil markets and geopolitical uncertainties, to create a high-risk environment for investments. The Kullug accident in the Chukchi Sea points to overconfidence, Barents Sea drilling has so far disappointed, and Shell has pulled out of the Arctic.

Ice edge narratives
Discourse on the ’melting’, ’receding’, and ’thawing’ Arctic has dominated climate change narratives over the past decades. ’Vulnerable’ Arctic Indigenous nations feature as poster children of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fund adaptation measures. With recent record-low sea ice extents, these perceptions have led to an assumption that the Arctic will soon be open enough to host petroleum installations and to compete with the Suez and Panama Canals as a sea route. National governance of Arctic sea ice sits at the intersection of highly dynamic and insufficiently understood earth system processes, old and new cultural values, and numerous valuable industrial activities. In this complexity, a cognitive simplification of processes may have overestimated the potential of this region as a new industrial powerhouse.

Our paper in Area approaches these insights by proposing narrative as a framework for analyzing multiple and complex representations of earth processes. The paper highlights the many discourses and scales across which the ice edge is defined and governed, and the challenge of reaching convergence in policy. We urge that industries and governments that would invest in petroleum, shipping, or other activities near the seasonal ice edge avoid relying on simplified narratives of receding Arctic ice. Risk is lowered if openings exist for deliberative processes that incorporate a variety of story-lines about what the Arctic is, and what activities are permissible.

About the authors: Siri Veland is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES). Amanda Lynch is Director of IBES and Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.   

books_icon Bravo, M. “Epilogue: The Humanism of Sea Ice “. Chap. 445–52 In Siku: Knowing Our Ice edited by I Krupnik, C Aporta, S Gearheard, G Laidler and L Kielsen Holm. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, 2010.

books_icon Cameron, Emilie S. “Securing Indigenous Politics: A Critique of the Vulnerability and Adaptation Approach to the Human Dimensions of Climate Change in the Canadian Arctic.” Global Environmental Change 22, no. 1 (2012): 103-14.

60-world2 Jordans F 2017 Battle for Arctic resources heats up as ice recedes Global News https://globalnews.ca/news/3690400/arctic-resources-shipping-routes/ 

60-world2 Lamothe D 2017 As Arctic melts, Coast Guard maneuvers through ice, wind – and geopolitics. http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/politics-government/article171548797.html

books_icon Pincus R, Ali HA and Speth JG 2015 Diplomacy on ice: energy and the environment in the Arctic and Antarctic Yale University Press, New Haven CT

books_icon Steinberg, Philip, and Berit Kristoffersen. 2017. “‘The Ice Edge Is Lost… Nature Moved It’: Mapping Ice as State Practice in the Canadian and Norwegian North.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers DOI: 10.1111/tran.12184

60-world2 Thompson A 2017 Sea Ice hits record lows at both Poles Scientific America https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sea-ice-hits-record-lows-at-both-poles/ 

books_icon Veland S and Lynch A H 2017 Arctic ice edge narratives: scale, discourse and ontological security. Area, 49: 9–17. doi:10.1111/area.12270


More Than Pedestrian: The Magic of Walking

By Morag Rose, University of Sheffield

Abandoned Buildings Project 2: Image (c) Jane Samuels, used with permission

Abandoned Buildings Project 2: Image (c) Jane Samuels, used with permission

Public Health England has launched a new campaign “Active 10” to encourage adults to go for a brisk walk for just 10 minutes a day to help improve health and well being. Living Streets have been campaigning for walking cities and encouraging safe walks to school, and Chris Boardman has recently been appointed to become Greater Manchester’s first ever cycling and walking commissioner.

Walking is good for you and the environment. It can also be fun but “pedestrian” has a double meaning, and can be seen to be a bit, well, dull. In a recent article for Transactions, Alastair Bonnett shows us walking can also be magical. He follows an “enchanted path” to explore the work of psycheographers. Psychogeographers use walking to explore and critically engage with the urban landscape; psychogeography provides opportunities for “an uncovering of the city’s possibilities and a desire to listen to its occulded knowledge” (Bonnett 2017: 478).

A psychogeographer does not take the simple route from A to B. They wander, drift and derive. They may use playful techniques to choose the direction of their walk, for example throwing dice or following a line drawn on a map. Their journey began with the radical avant-garde of twentieth century Europe; The Situationist, Surrealists and Lettrists. Bonnett describes their walking as going “against the grain, avoiding and confronting routines and creating new patterns and situations” (2017:474). Psychogeographers concentrate on where they are walking to uncover hidden voices, and power structures that shape modern cities.

Bonnett paints a picture of psychogeographers casting spells and changing the landscape as they walk. He concentrates on three different writers who employ magic in different ways to remap and rewrite London. Nick Papadimitriou has a close, personal, mystical relationship with the Scarp in North West London. John Rogers often uses humour to uncover his alternative city whilst the work of Gareth Rees conjures poetic phantasmagoria from wasteland and evokes the ghostly in the everyday. His dreamwork is an activism, magic with a political intent.

The writers Bonnett focuses on are all doing fascinating and excellent work. However it is also worth noting that contemporary British psychogeography is more diverse than a focus on three men walking in London might suggest. In her excellent overview Tina Richardson identifies what she calls an emerging “new psychogeography” which is, amongst other things, heterogeneous, critical, strategic, and somantic. It can be seen in the work of Jane Samuels, whose work illustrates this blog, Phil Smith a mythogeographer and counter-tourist, and many members of The Walking Artists Network. If you fancy finding out more The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography convenes in Huddersfield this September for three days of talking and walking. You would also be very welcome to join me and The Loiterers Resistance Movement in
Manchester as we embark on a psychogeographical wander on the first Sunday of every month, celebrating creative mischief and search for magic in the Mancunian rain.

As Bonnett shows us, Psychogeography is a practice that combines art, activism, academia, and more. Magical modernism takes many enchanting paths and I encourage you to explore them.


60-world2 Bainbridge-Man (2017) Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman is announced as Greater Manchester’s new cycling and walking commissioner Manchester Evening News 28 July 2017 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/olympic-cyclist-chris-boardman-announced-13397128

books_icon Bonnett A (2017) The Enchanted Path: Magic and Modernism in Psychogeographical Walking Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 42 pp 472-484. doi:10.1111/tran.12177

books_icon Richardson T (2015) ed Walking Inside Out; Contemporary British Psychogeography London: Rowman and Littlefield

The fluid geographies of marine territorialisation processes

By Paula Satizábal, University of Melbourne, and Simon P J Batterbury, Lancaster University.


(c) Photo by Paula Satizábal, small-scale fishers on the Gulf of Tribugá.

Empty-yet-full imaginaries

Oceans are framed by policy makers and governments as being empty of people and full of resources available for capital accumulation (Bridge 2001). They are portrayed as containers of open access public goods (e.g. the Exclusive Economic Zones prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). These images are used to facilitate the privatisation of fishing grounds and other productive areas, as well as to justify the overexploitation of marine resources, which are generally under very limited state control. People who live near coasts are often excluded from conversations about how marine territory is negotiated.

People living at the intersection of land and sea have not been passive observers of these processes of accumulation by dispossession. Despite an absence of institutional instruments that recognise peoples’ marine territorial rights, several groups and communities have relied on marine conservation enclosures as the only legal tool available to legitimise their authority over the sea. However, for many, this is not a long-term solution; once a marine protected area has been established coastal peoples are often excluded from decision-making arenas.

Previous research has highlighted the key role played by state and non-state actors in negotiating land-based territorialisation. However, the role played by socio-cultural dynamics on guiding and informing marine territorialisation processes has been largely overlooked. Our recent publication in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, entitled ‘Fluid geographies: marine territorialisation and the scaling up of local aquatic epistemologies on the Pacific Coast of Colombia’ (Satizábal & Batterbury 2017), addresses this gap. We examine the participatory process undertaken by coastal Afro-descendant communities along the Gulf of Tribugá on the northern Pacific coast of Colombia, which enabled them to take part in the state production of territory at sea through the creation of a marine protected area.

Local aquatic epistemologies

Ulrich Oslender (2016) coined the concept of ‘local aquatic epistemologies’ to denote the ways of knowing that result from the entanglements of humans in aquatic environments. We argue that coastal dwellers in the Gulf of Tribugá hold ‘local aquatic epistemologies’, which is where knowledge has been produced through the individual and collective experiences of people entangled in the fluid dynamics of rain, rivers, and sea, as well as through their interactions with indigenous and expert knowledge.

Coastal people along the Gulf generally conceived the sea as a lived space, where territory is constructed through everyday practices, moving beyond marine/riverine/coastal divides. However, the collective territorial rights granted to Afro-descendant communities in Colombia since 1993 only recognised their rights over the land, reproducing the spatial logics of the colonial period. Conflicts between coastal communities and the deep-water shrimp and tuna industrial fisheries have escalated since the 1990s due to the impacts of overfishing and excessive bycatch. These conflicts cannot be reduced to threats to coastal food security or access to fishing resources; they are an important part of coastal dwellers’ efforts to defend their marine social spaces and authority over the sea.

The marine protected area

With the support from conservation NGOs, and informed by their local aquatic epistemologies, these communities are navigating the state institutional apparatus. They have used formal institutional mechanisms to claim their marine rights through the creation of a marine protected area. The process has been centred on the conservation of fishing resources, relegating the socio-cultural dimensions of their marine claims to the background.

The creation of the marine protected area on the Gulf of Tribugá involved the scaling up of local aquatic epistemologies. This has enabled Afro-descendant territorial struggles to reach national negotiation arenas, transforming relations of authority at sea. The marine protected area emerges as a space of resistance that subverts the lack of legal mechanisms to assert the marine territorial rights of coastal people. These spaces are, however, still dominated by the interests of the fishing industry.

Although this process contests marine empty-yet-full imaginaries, the creation of marine protected areas remains centred on access and control over fishing resources. We emphasise the importance of developing legal instruments that overcome marine coastal divides and recognise the relevance of marine social spaces as part of indigenous and afro-descendant peoples’ territorial rights.

About the authors: Paula Satizábal is a PhD Candidate at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne, and Simon P J Batterbury is Professor of Political Ecology at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.


60-world2 Alexandersen A, Juhl S, Munk Neilsen J 2017 Ocean grabs: fighting the ‘rights-based’ corporate take-over of fisheries governance The Ecologist 21 November 2016 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988355/ocean_grabs_fighting_the_rightsbased_corporate_takeover_of_fisheries_governance.html 

books_icon Bridge G 2001 Resource triumphalism Environment and Planning A 33 2149–2173.

60-world2 Jarvis R and Bennett N 2017 Ocean conservation needs a Hippocratic oath – we must do no harm The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jun/28/ocean-conservation-needs-a-hippocratic-oath-we-must-do-no-harm 28 June 2017

books_icon Oslender U 2016 The geographies of social movements: Afro-Colombian mobilization and the aquatic space Duke University, United States.

60-world2 Ota Y and Cisneros-Montemayor A 2017 For indigenous communities, fish mean much more than food The Conversation https://theconversation.com/for-indigenous-communities-fish-mean-much-more-than-food-70129 30 January 2017 

books_icon Satizábal, P. and Batterbury, S. P. J. (2017), Fluid geographies: marine territorialisation and the scaling up of local aquatic epistemologies on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Trans Inst Br Geogr. doi:10.1111/tran.12199

60-world2 Silver Herrera J 2015 Los pescadores del Chocó que se empeñaron en cuidar su mar http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-15474539 (Spanish)

60-world2 Smiths M, Beal D, Lind F, Portafaiz A, Chaundry T 2017 The Economic Imperative to Revive Our Oceans Boston Consulting Group https://www.bcg.com/en-au/publications/2017/transformation-sustainability-economic-imperative-to-revive-our-oceans.aspx