Using spatial science and lightning to predict thunderstorms

By Joseph J. Bailey, University of Nottingham

Lightning, while visually stunning and often quite exciting, poses a very real threat to humans (e.g. Europe in May; increased deaths in the USA) and associated thunderstorms can endanger lives and livelihoods through high winds and intense rainfall. An improved ability to predict thunderstorms may help to mitigate their impacts. Using spatial science to study lightning patterns has the potential to assist in this area of research and ‘save lives rather than end them’ (p. 196), say the authors of a recent Geography Compass article (Ellis and Miller, 2016).

'Shocking Lightning!' by Darren Hsu via flickr. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/darren8221/9193099396/

‘Shocking Lightning!’ by Darren Hsu via flickr. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/darren8221/9193099396/

The behaviour of lightning can be reflective of a storm’s intensity. Short-term storm intensity is very difficult to predict, even when forecasters are confident in the coverage and direction of a storm. Indeed, a rapid increase in the frequency of lightning strikes may be observed before a storm that produces severe weather. With this in mind, spatial science might be able to help us analyse the vast spatial datasets of lightning strikes and contribute towards understanding these systems and predicting ‘imminent storm severity’ (Ellis and Miller, 2016). Specifically, this work addresses lightning jump algorithms (LJAs) and understanding storm-specific lightning trends and the importance of their spatial and temporal components. By doing this, lighting strikes can be clustered in space and time and the overall patterns understood and hopefully linked to short-term storm severity.

Increased quantity and quality of data nearly always assists with science, where the analytical skills and technology exist in parallel. As discussed in Ellis and Miller (2016) a new instrument called Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) will soon be integrated with NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (also see this NASA article). This will be able to monitor lightning from space, providing novel data and enhancing our ability to monitor and predict storms, complementing (and providing a backup for) existing, ground-based instruments such as radar.

Such an advancement seems all the more important when we consider that the number of lightning strikes (Romps et al., 2014) and overall storm intensity (NASA Earth Observatory) are expected to increase with global warming, as well as overall storm intensity. These are therefore very interesting times for understanding and predicting storm activity. Hopefully all of these efforts from spatial scientists, geographers, and meteorologists will lead to fewer losses and a reduced numbers of deaths and injuries from thunderstorm events and lightning strikes.

books_icon Ellis, A. and Miller, P. (2016). The Emergence of Lightning in Severe Thunderstorm Prediction and the Possible Contributions from Spatial Science. Geography Compass, 10, 192–206.

60-world2 Romps et al. (2014). Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming. Science, 346, 851–854.

A great north post-capitalist plan?

By Paul Chatterton, University of Leeds

gnp-blueprint-thumb

Blueprint for a Great North Plan. IPPR North.

When you write an academic article, it’s always useful to watch out for contemporary events to connect to. On 17th June 2016 I had that opportunity when a Blueprint for the Great North Plan (for the north of England that is) was launched. The idea for a Great North Plan has been building momentum for a number of years, especially on the back of the now-defunct Northern Way . The whole context for this current great North plan is a desire to see economic devolution and elected Metro mayors under the brand of the Northern Powerhouse, a strategy led by the UK Government Treasury that aims to re-balance economic growth between the South East/London and the rest of the UK. The Blueprint for the Great North and was launched by the Institute for Public Policy Research North (IPPR), along with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). While it began largely as a transport strategy, its purpose has grown into laying out a vision for the North and a set of collaborative strategies around the economy, transport, environment population and place.

On one level it could be read as a business-led economic growth and inward investment strategy.But, from the position of the recent article that I wrote in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, this whole process raises a fascinating example of the complexities and contradictions in future transitioning, and the potential of advocating for an embedding more radical options beyond the capitalist present.

The Great North Plan represents a desire from various stakeholders to undertake some kind of socio-technical transition to a more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable future. What kind of plan actually emerges over the next few decades will largely be determined by the extent to which stakeholders are prepared to experiment with novel, and often uncomfortable forms of development, and take leaps into the unknown. If a region like the north of England is genuinely serious about reducing its carbon footprint by 80% and making headway in reducing persistent levels of multiple deprivation, then, this kind of risky innovation and experimentation will be key.

Moreover, this will need to be underpinned by novel meso-level institutional forms (linking bottom-up and top-down processes) that bring together civil society, universities, government and business can come together to co-produce solutions. A Great Plan for the North would also need to avoid lock-in to options that yield weak gains.

To embark upon what I call ‘post-capitalist transitions’, a Great North Plan would need to tackle many difficult and uncomfortable issues such as automobile dependency, critical levels of air pollution, dependency on outdated and centralised energy provision, and climate vulnerability. It would need to have an open, honest debate about some of the real limitations and negative consequences of the contemporary, pro-growth free-market society we live in. A realistic assessment of these challenges would free is up to explore more creative and durable solutions that could deliver brought prosperity and sustainability.

Geographers like myself who are taking part in these debates, have a key role to play in advocating for novel and disruptive policy solutions, reminding stakeholders of the profound level of the challenges we face, as well is process level innovations such as co-production and participatory research. Given our often pragmatic yet critical approach to societal challenges, geographers can help steer the future trajectories of our localities in very positive ways.

About the author: Paul Chatterton is Professor of Urban Futures in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds. 

60-world2 Blueprint for a Great North plan http://www.greatnorthplan.com/ 

books_icon Chatterton P 2016 Building transitions to post-capitalist urban commons. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. doi: 10.1111/tran.12139

60-world2 Institute for Public Policy Research North http://www.ippr.org/north

60-world2 Northern Way Transport Compact http://www.northernwaytransportcompact.com/

60-world2 Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) http://www.rtpi.org.uk/ 

60-world2 UK Northern Powerhouse https://www.uk-northern-powerhouse.com/

Opposing Development? Development narratives of oil palm production in Sarawak, Malaysia

By Anna Frohn Pedersen, Víctor Suarez Villanueva, Milja Fenger, Simone Klee, Lærke Marie Lund Pedersen, Thilde Bech Bruun, Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen, and Kelvin Egay 

(c) Anna Frohn Pedersen

(c) Anna Frohn Pedersen

What is ‘development’?  While this term is frequently used in various contexts, we rarely take a step back and look at the meaning of the word. Our reason for posing this question begins in a small Iban village in Sarawak, Malaysia. We went to the village to study oil palm production and its effects on the local community. However, when we asked the villagers about their newly established oil palm plantation, their replies most often involved the word ‘development’. The connection between oil palm production and ‘development’ struck us. When we asked the leader of the village about his reasons for engaging in production of oil palm, he explained:

“We must change our mentality, our style of life; if you just keep quiet you never see development. Then people get poorer and poorer.”

To him, the establishment of the oil palm plantation was  “when the development came.”

Globally speaking, palm oil is the most used edible oil and can be found in many industrial baking goods, cosmetics, and a wide array of products we use in our daily life (see WWF guide to products containing palm oil and The Guardian for examples). In Malaysia, many communities engage in oil palm production in order to earn money from land that was otherwise seen as ‘idle’ or ‘empty’, and be part of what the Malaysian government praises as the country’s ‘development’. Yet, a problem arises when tropical forests are swiped to cultivate this panacea for smallholders. This is not only a source of environmental concerns but it has also become a problem for several local communities, causing internal conflicts (for similar perspectives from neighbouring Indonesia, read this news story from Inside Indonesia).

When leaders of the Iban village we visited characterised the decision to engage in large scale oil palm production as a way to ‘bring development’ to the village, other villagers described the decision-making process as secretive and suspicious. As we discuss in our research paper, recently published in The Geographical Journal, they felt excluded from the process and did not approve of the oil palm scheme that was chosen. Moreover, they feared that the oil palm scheme would only accentuate the inequality of the village. As some villagers expressed it: “The rich are getting richer, the poor, poorer”.

Based on these concerns, the opposing villagers formed a group and initiated a court case against the oil palm company. This resulted in two differentiated groups within the village: a group for the oil palm scheme, and a group against it.

Politics were deeply embedded in the conflict. The pro-group was led by a government leader using the argument that the oil palm plantation would bring ‘development’and get farmers out of poverty. On the other hand, the opposing group was being supported, legally and economically, by the national opposition party, even with the risk of being branded as ‘anti-development’ for disagreeing with the governmental development narrative. In this way, the oil palm plantation caused the Iban village to become a political battlefield, where national politics became of local concern and divided the community. Even within families, opposing opinions emerged and family ties were challenged — in some cases broken.

The story of this Iban community shows that in order to understand the impacts of development narratives, we have to look closely at how these are replicated and enacted in local communities. When we explore the issues related to oil palm, we must avoid reducing these to merely a question of right vs. wrong, good people vs. bad people, development vs. anti-development. These categories rarely reflect the complicated ways in which oil palm production influences the concerns and everyday lives of the affected communities. Instead, this story leads us to question how we define development in relation to oil palm, and what the consequences of this might be — locally as well as globally.

About the authors: Astrid Oberborbeck Anderson is a postdoctoral researcher within the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen; Thilde Bech Bruun is an Associate Professor within the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management at the University of Copenhagen; Kelvin Egay is a Senior Lecturer within Faculty of Social Sciences at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak; Milja Fenger is a MPhil candidate in Zoology at the University of Cambrige; Simone Klee is a Sociology Student at the University of Copenhagen; Anna Frohn Pederson is an Anthropology Student at the University of Copenhagen; Lærke Marie Lund Pedersen is based at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen; Víctor Suárez Villanueva is a Research Assistant within the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen. 

books_icon Andersen, A. O., Bruun, T. B., Egay, K., Fenger, M., Klee, S., Pedersen, A. F., Pedersen, L. M. L. and Suárez Villanueva, V. 2016 Negotiating development narratives within large-scale oil palm projects on village lands in Sarawak, Malaysia. The Geographical Journal. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12181

60-world2 Afrizal 2009 The trouble with oil palm Inside Indonesia 98 Dec 2009

60-world2 Park J 2015 Is Malaysia’s palm oil worth the cost? BBC News online 4 August 2015

60-world2 The Guardian 2014 From rainforest to your cupboard: the real story of palm oil – interactive 10 November 2014

60-world2 The Guardian 2016 The palm oil debate 

60-world2 WWF Which everyday products contain palm oil? 

 

Cricket farming as an alternative livelihood strategy

By Afton Halloran, Nanna Roos, University of Copenhagen, and Yupa Hanboonsong, Khon Kaen University

A cricket farmer in Nahon Rachisima Province

A cricket farmer in Nahon Rachisima Province

Rapid urbanization, major losses of biodiversity, climate change, water shortages, and desertification. This is the depressing list which reflects our global society’s failure to maintain ecological balance. The impacts are manifold and widespread, and they quickly lead us speculate how our basic needs will be met in the future: what will we eat?

For every single issued fact, there is amplitude of both far-fetched and realistic solutions of how to ensure sustained food supply like farming with robots, growing algae and in vitro meat and eating invasive species. For others, the future of food lies in the mass-farming of insects in lieu of more conventional livestock like cows and pigs.

To put this all into perspective, we first need to imagine a timeline of agricultural history. Between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago, human beings began domesticating and farming wild animals in the so-called Fertile Crescent. Moving onward in history, we can see honey bees were the first insect species to be domesticated for human use nearly 7000 years ago. Few farmed animal species have been domesticated in the last thousand years; in fact, current trends have tended towards the loss of genetic diversity of the multiplicity of breeds which once dotted our agricultural landscapes.

Small-scale cricket farming was developed in Thailand nearly 20 years ago. Domestication of wild insect species has been proposed to relieve pressure on the hunting and collecting of wild populations as well as to create a safe food product for consumers and generate rural employment. The easy-to-implement and low-investment farming techniques faced few barriers to their adoption, partially due to the existing prevalence of insects (including crickets) within the local diet.

In our article, published in The Geographical Journal‘Cricket farming as a livelihood strategy in Thailand,’ we offer insight into why and how farmers have added this relatively new form of farming to their repertoire and the social and economic impacts that it has had thus far. We examine how farmers organize themselves, obtain knowledge and problem solve, and how they interact with other farmers and other stakeholders. By doing so, we formulate a complex picture of how rural communities in northern and northeastern Thailand interact with this livelihood strategy. We also explain that cricket farming was not created out of a food crisis, but rather an economic and ecological one.

This exploratory study arises from the GREEiNSECT research project which looks at producing insects as an alternative contribution the green economy in Kenya and examines the farming systems that have developed in some countries in order to gain more in-depth knowledge of their contribution to rural livelihoods. Thailand has the largest known global production of crickets for human consumption, and therefore provided a suitable region for such a case study.

About the authors: Afton Halloran is a PhD candidate within the Department of Nutrition, exercise and sports at the University of Copenhagen. Nanna Roos is a Project Coordinator at the University of Copenhagen. Yupa Hanboonsong is Associate Professor in Entomology at Khon Kaen University, Thailand.

60-world2 GREEiNSECT Research Project – Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen

books_icon Halloran, A., Roos, N. and Hanboonsong, Y. (2016), Cricket farming as a livelihood strategy in Thailand. The Geographical Journal. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12184

60-world2 Kameoka R 2016 Crickets cast as the future of food in project to beat global hunger May 29 2016

60-world2 Malakoff D, Wigginton N S, Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink J, Widle B 2016 Use our infographics to explore the rise of the urban planet  Science 

60-world2 Munchies (Vice) 2016 Whole foods wants you to eat this invasive, poisonous, awesome-looking fish 31 May 2016

60-world2 North A 2016 California’s Water Future The New York Times May 20 2016

60-world2 Palmer H 2016 Africa’s Great Green Wall is making progress in two fronts PRI

60-world2 Simon M 2016 The future of humanity’s food supply is in the hands of AI Wired

 

Collaring domestication: human relationships with pets and pests

By Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

4 apr

Source: Author’s own photography

Pet-keeping in Britain is at an all-time high, so it hasn’t come as much of a surprise that The Secret Life of Pets, the latest animated film from the makers of Despicable Me, has proved so popular with the British public. Animal geographers often turn to domestication in order to understand human-animal relationships, the term, itself contested, serving to both separate and bind nature and culture, human and animal. From the turn of the twenty-first century, research in geography began to demonstrate the limitations of human control – in part due to animal agency – challenging the extent to which humans have control over domesticated animals. Whilst by no means a socio-cultural commentary on modern pet-keeping, The Secret Life of Pets reveals some of the key themes that challenge animal geographers today, most notably the idea of animal agency vs human control.

That age-old mystery of what our pets do when left alone in the house sparks excitement and imagination, in true Schrödinger’s Cat style. The Secret Life of Pets provides a rather comical answer to the puzzle; pets enjoying the freedom of the house getting up to all sorts of antics. The film shows pets watching TV, raiding the fridge, throwing house parties, and em-bark-ing on an even bigger adventure. Whilst these scenes are thought up for entertainment, many pet-owners can testify to having found the evidence of their pets’ mischiefs when left alone. Others have strapped GoPros to their animals in the hope of uncovering ground-breaking footage of their furry friends. Our apparently innocent intrigue, some argue, is underpinned by a desire for control, to be able to regulate our pets’ lives. An interesting piece in The Guardian has recently argued that being left alone often makes pets anxious or depressed, and, thus, the resultant (mis)behaviour is, in fact, caused by us, their owners (Pierce, 2016 [online]). Nevertheless, pet-owners, particularly dog-owners, often work hard at disciplining their pets, teaching them ‘good’ behaviour.

From a geographical point of view, Power’s (2012) study of pet dogs provides a framework for theorising this relationship. She states that pet dogs are created as ‘domestic’ bodies, disciplined to behave in ways deemed appropriate for the home. House training is a ritual for all new dog owners; dogs are taught to “modify their bodily rhythms”, such as toileting and sleeping, enabling them to be “integrated into household rhythms” (Power, 2012:376). Dogs, therefore, Power (2012) claims, are malleable and help their owners perform ideals of domesticity. However, our four-legged friends, of course, rarely fit with such an ideal. This leads dog-owners to make changes – conscious and unconscious – to their lives; they change their routines, they make decisions about house-layout, and they give special care to their companions’ individual peculiarities. Some cunning canines don’t even try to be subtle, manipulating us to give them treats or let them sit on the sofa! Whether consciously or not, people with pets allow themselves to be moulded by their cuddly companions, re-imagining and re-making their lives, their homes, and their relationships with their pets. Dogs, therefore, Power (2012) postulates, have agency to shape and control our everyday lives. In this way, through domestication, humans and animals are both (re)shaped. Domestication, therefore, is collaborative, humans working with their dogs, learning to understand each other.

This relationship can, of course, be juxtaposed with animals that do not conform to our expectations, such as feral animals, pests, or some wild animals. Such animals become marginalised by human society as their behaviour is deemed ‘out of place’ in the spaces that they share with us. Our reaction is to try to control them, either removing them entirely or limiting their spatial range. Whilst examples such as the grey squirrel, the feral pigeon, and the urban fox have been well-documented and hotly-contested, Ginn’s (2014) study of garden slugs proves that there is a huge range of animals that are not quite as lucky as our domestic companions. Living in close proximity with humans, their innocent slimy trails and taste for garden plants are behaviours with which we cannot live, ranking them highly in that imaginative category of ‘pest’, a category produced by humans to label – and simultaneously legitimise the exploitation of – any non-human whose behaviour does not fit with our own.

Whilst the title, The Secret Life of Pets, promises, and delivers, a film about domestic companions, the contrast with pests is pertinent. The stars of the film, pampered pets of all varieties, come face-to-face with a gang of abandoned pets, living in the sewers, going by the name of ‘Flushed Pets’. This vast army of human-hating, Pest Control-dodging animals includes dogs, stray cats, reptiles, rats, a tattooed pig, and, their leader, Snowball the rabbit. Their bitter hatred towards humans is extended towards domesticated animals, the simple collar seen by them as a tool for human control, defining pets as property or slaves. An exaggeration, yes, but perhaps something which should not be completely disregarded in an age when animal cruelty is worryingly common.

At the risk of giving away any spoilers, I’ll stop at that! A deep analysis of multi-species cohabitation, it is not, but The Secret Life of Pets can still help us reflect on our relationships with domestic and wild animals. The more geographers study human-animal relationships, the more they break down that once-rigid division between humans and animals that has underpinned the ways in which animals have been considered. Such studies of domestication show that the superiority and control over Nature, which mankind once thought was irrefutable, is being broken down, bit by bit, by every stray cat, every garden slug, and every mischievous pet.

 

books_iconGinn, F. (2014). “Sticky lives: slugs, detachment and more-than-human ethics in the garden”, Transactions of the IBG, 39(4): 532-544.

books_iconPower, E.R. (2012). “Domestication and the dog: embodying home”, Area, 44(3):371-378.

60-world2Pierce, J. (2016). “The Secret Life of Pets? Forget the movie, here’s what it’s really like”, The Guardian Online. Available at: www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jul/28/the-secret-life-of-pets-forget-the-movie-heres-what-its-really-like

 

Climate change must always be viewed from somewhere

By Rory Padfield, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, and Kate Manzo, University of Newcastle

A palm oil plantation (left) borders a degraded peat forest swamp in South Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia. Source: (c) Rory Padfield.

A palm oil plantation (left) borders a degraded peat forest swamp in South Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia. Source: (c) Rory Padfield.

In March 2016 two newspapers on opposites sides of the world covered stories on climate change but with contrasting perspectives. The UK’s Daily Mail painted a picture of impending doom and global catastrophe as climate change is predicted to cause the death of half a million people in 2050 due to food shortages. Regions most vulnerable to climate change induced starvation were reported to be in Asia and the Pacific, although the problem will also affect some richer countries. Conversely, a national newspaper from Malaysia – a country in Southeast Asia at risk from ‘impacts to food production from climate change’ as reported in the Daily Mail – presented both concern at the expected impacts of climate change but also the various opportunities in store. The article in the New Straits Times (‘Adapting to climate change’, March 14, 2016) argued that climate change mitigation and adaption presents an opportunity to invest more substantially in research and development in fields such as biotechnology. Reflecting on the different and at times polarized geographical representations of this important environmental issues, Professor Mike Hulme, from King’s College London, observes: “Climate, and hence climate change, must always be viewed from somewhere”.

Recognising the importance of situated knowledge and cultural politics in framing climate change media narratives, our research, published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, examines representations of climate change in Malaysian media. We investigate the ways in which climate change is framed in five English-language media sources in Malaysia over a three year period, 2009 – 2011. We were interested in the salience of a North–South perspective on climate change in Malaysia and the extent to which the problems of climate change have been reframed as an opportunity for particular modes of development.

The results of our study were interesting on a number of levels. First of all we found that climate change is being framed not only as an environmental issue of concern for society but as a positive opportunity, particularly for neoliberal market forces. Here, Malaysia’s emerging ‘green growth’ policy agenda is shown to be supported by the expectation for greater investment in environmental sectors following climate change mitigation and adaption policies. We found evidence that similar trends exist in other Asian countries, such as India, China and South Korea.

Second,we show that climate change represents an opportunity for geopolitical actors interested in restructuring the international political economy along lines reminiscent of the new international economic order (NIEO) demands of the 1970s. Key themes emergent from this part of the analysis were ‘climate capitalism’ and ‘green nationalism’. Palm oil – one of the most important commodities to national economic development in Malaysia – was illustrative of the interaction of these themes. The Malaysian media was shown to strongly defend the position of palm oil in the global commodities market against perceived injustices and unfairness, such as trade barriers linked to climate policy.

Finally, our analysis brought together the frames of opportunity and responsibility in a frame referred to as a structuralist model of green development. Here, we argued that a hybridisation of different development models (and not just of climate change frames) is at work in Malaysia which support opportunities for so-called ‘green business’, responsibilities for various actors and also emphasizes a key role for the developmental state – in formulating policy, facilitating investment, accessing finance, and lobbying for changes in international relations of power.

For Malaysia, therefore, climate change policy action has not just stimulated a form of internal ‘ecological modernisation’ but it has presented an opportunity to press historic demands for changes in the international political economy.

About the authors: Rory Padfield is a Senior Lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Kate Manzo is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle. 

60-world2 Ibrahim A 2016 Adapting to climate change New Straits Times Online 14 March 2016

books_icon Manzo, K. and Padfield, R. (2016), Palm oil not polar bears: climate change and development in Malaysian media. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. doi: 10.1111/tran.12129

60-world2 Swan R 2016 Climate change ‘will kill half a million people’ by 2050: global warming will ruin crops leading to disease and malnutrition Daily Mail online 2 March 2016

The beautiful game? Violence, security and safety at Euro 2016

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of whether you have been following the football or not, you won’t have been able to escape the disappointing reports of crowd violence at this year’s Uefa European Championships in France. Since the turn of the century, sports mega-events like the Euros have come under the academic radar, with research drawing attention to issues surrounding surveillance, security, governance, and control (Foucault, eat your heart out!). Geographers in particular have been keen to kick off enquiries into the inherently spatial nature of both surveillance and violence across a variety of spaces. One such paper, published almost a year ago, is Fonio and Pisapia’s (2015) investigation into security and surveillance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Whilst this paper considered the approaches to surveillance – and their impacts on the community – in Johannesburg, a formerly hazardous city in a developing country, there are some striking comparisons which can be drawn with the disruption at this year’s Euros.

England fans were involved in some of the earliest instances of unruly behaviour in France. Before the tournament had even begun, fighting broke out between England fans and locals in Marseille, causing French riot police to step in. Furthermore, in the build-up to England’s first group game against Russia, Police were forced to use tear gas and a water-cannon, when English, French, and Russian supporters clashed. On the day of the much-anticipated game, the violence continued, this time inside the stadium. Russian fans set off flares during the game and, after scoring a last-minute equaliser, proceeded to charge at English supporters, forcing some to climb over fences to escape.

What is worrying is that this was not an isolated incident. Reports of violence at this year’s tournament have been disturbingly common; fans from Northern Ireland, Hungary, Turkey, Croatia, Belgium, and Portugal, just to name a few, have been charged for violent and racist behaviour. Uefa have tried to curb violence by fining the national football associations involved, and has also threatened clubs with expulsion from the tournament. But what is being done by the French authorities to deal with the violent scenes? And how does their approach relate to the precautions taken for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa which, despite concerns about the safety of fans and players, was praised for being a safe tournament for all involved?

The terror attacks in Paris in November, in which the Stade de France was one of the targets, meant that this year’s Euros had a heightened level of security. The French packed their defence, employing 90,000 security staff (42,000 national police officers, 30,000 local gendarmes, and 10,000 soldiers) and 12,000 stewards, and erecting 42km of temporary fences (26km of high fences and 16km low barriers). Security checks were undertaken on entry to every stadium, with a long list of prohibited items, and regular bomb sweeps and body checks in fan zones and stadiums were in operation. This year is the third time that France has hosted the Championships – ‘Le Rendez-Vous’ is the tournament’s very fitting slogan – and French Authorities were determined to make this year’s tournament a success.

Such a high level of surveillance is vital to ensuring the safety of everyone affected by such a major sporting event. However, preparation is just as important. Preparation, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) argue, is what contributed to the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The tournament, they state, represented a shift in FIFA’s approach to security, from reactive security provisions to more proactive policing. In preparation for the World Cup, South African officials visited the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece; the South Africans had done their homework. During the 2010 tournament, security and surveillance were practised by multiple parties; local police, people within the community, nationally-appointed security forces, and FIFA officials. Focussing on Johannesburg, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) identify two main approaches to security that were used, both of which emphasised the highly spatial – and visual – nature of security at major football tournaments. Firstly, Geographical Information System (GIS) technology proved vital to Johannesburg police, who compiled all the relevant event-information into geographical layers – facilities, transportation hubs and routes, security, traffic black spots, road closures – which could be laid over each other to identify high-risk areas for congregations of people. Such technology was also used to analyse physical and social disorder after the events, which was captured and recorded by policemen using GIS handheld devices. The second approach was to use surveillance cameras, South African authorities developing a network of CCTV systems across the host cities. The use of such surveillance technologies, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) claim, created institutional ‘knowledge networks’, in which knowledge about how to tackle disorderly behaviour was shared and transferred, helping the authorities to prepare.

So what went wrong in France? Whilst the French authorities were seemingly prepared, English eyewitnesses have identified gaps in their defence; they were simply not prepared enough. For fans inside the Marseille stadium watching a rather dull game, waiting for England to inevitably concede a last-minute equaliser, it was obvious that trouble was brewing. The perpetrators were renowned Russian ‘ultras’, hardened hooligans who plan and choreograph violent acts. They were wearing logos identifying their allegiance, well-known to the rest of the world, and, as a result, the French police have been heavily criticised for not being more on the ball. There was also a lack of crowd segregation within the stadium, something unheard of even in most English non-league grounds! It is really disappointing that ‘the beautiful game’ has taken such an ugly turn, but let’s hope that the continued work of geographers into understanding both the socio-spatial dynamics of violence and the use of surveillance technologies, will help turn the game around.

 

books_iconFonio, C. and Pisapia, G. (2015). “Security, surveillance and geographical patterns at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg”, The Geographical Journal, 181(3):242-248.

60-world2BBC Euro 2016: Who is to blame for the Marseille violence? BBC online. 14 June 2016

60-world2Nurse H 2016 Euro 2016: How is French security ensuring fan safety? BBC online. 14 June 2016

60-world2BBC Hungary fans clash with riot police inside Marseille stadium BBC online. 18 June 2016.

60-world2BBC Euro 2016: Hungary, Belgium and Portugal federations charged BBC online 19 June 2016.