Exploring political-economic influences on official environmental reports

By Yonten Nyima, Sichuan University, China


A local government billboard that reads, “Implementing the policy of grassland protection subsidy and reward, to restore grassland ecosystem functions”, Shentsa, Tibet, March 2017 (Photography by Yonten Nyima).

Not long ago, China’s state media, Xinhua News Agency, reported that grassland cover in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has increased by 2.5% since 2010 according to the regional Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. According to the report, the increase results from an ongoing grazing ban and a destocking policy implemented to prevent and reverse grassland degradation. Grazing has been banned on approximately 10% of the region’s total area of grassland and the number of livestock has been reduced to 18 million from 23 million in 2010, as per the report. The report does not detail how this increase in grassland cover was figured out. Nonetheless, my recently published Area paper suggests that it is sensible to be skeptical about the credibility of such reports as they are often influenced by political-economic factors.

China claims that, with a total grassland area of 400 million hectares, which it says accounts for 13% of the world’s total area of grassland and 41.7% of China’s total area of land, it has the world’s second largest grassland area after Australia. Within China, the TAR is believed to have the largest grassland area with 25% of China’s grassland area. In China, narratives of grassland degradation underlie ongoing state policy on grassland management and pastoralism. As it believes that there is pervasive rangeland degradation across the country due to overgrazing, China has launched two large grassland protection programs since 2003. The programs call for grazing restrictions and destocking through a reward mechanism.

This Area paper critically examines the credibility of official reports on grassland degradation through a case study from the TAR. It analyses the political-economic motivations behind official reports on grassland degradation over two decades, between 1992 and 2011, in the region. It reveals internally inconsistent or contradictory figures and statements regarding the magnitude and extent of grassland degradation and shows political-economic factors influencing official reports on rangeland degradation. Specifically, the government tends to play down the problem of grassland degradation when it responds to criticisms for its alleged environmentally damaging activities. The opposite is true of official reports on grassland degradation produced for economic motivation, i.e. government agencies tend to overstate the problem of grassland degradation in order to capture funding. The paper concludes that political-economic motivations behind official reports on grassland degradation may prevent alternative input about the actual condition of grassland, and alternative policies to be considered and adopted.

This finding is consistent with research elsewhere in the world; non-environmental factors play an important role in shaping environmental narratives. For example, Sayre’s review of the global history of grassland science shows that grassland science is guided more by capital and the agendas of state agencies (Sayre 2017). Another example is Davis’s study of arid lands in North Africa, which shows that desertification assessment has been politically motivated and exaggerated, and yet such assessment still frequently informs policy (Davis 2016). Lastly, it should be stressed that pointing out that non-environmental factors shape environmental narratives is not the same as denying environmental problems, but it is vital to have a more accurate understanding of environmental realities.

About the author: Dr. Yonten Nyima was Associate Professor, Institute of Social Development and Western China Development Studies, Sichuan University, China


Davis D 2016 The arid lands: history, power, knowledge MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

Sayre N 2017 The politics of scale: a history of rangeland science University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Tibet sees expanding grassland http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-12/25/c_136850815.htm

Nyima Y. Political‐economic factors in official reports on rangeland degradation: A critical case study from the Tibet Autonomous Region. Area. 2018;00:1–9. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12418

http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/2017-12/25/c_129774826.htm (in Chinese)

Trucking Transformations

Photo Credit: Tesla

Photo Credit: Tesla

“Smokey, old diesels” – this summarizes a long-held perception of the trucking industry.  It has been, perhaps, a valid perception. Nevertheless, with electric transports entering the industry, opinions may be poised to change. Where has the trucking industry been and where is it going? How is geography going to impact the emergence of electric trucks?

Diesel exhaust has choked cities for decades. Diesel-powered transports have traditionally spewed up to 30 percent of the particulate matter (PM) in polluted urban air (Toy, Graham, & Hammit, 2000). Particulate matter in the United States alone caused 15,000 premature deaths each year (Nel, 2005). Diesel PM has been tied to increases in emphysema, asthma, and heart disease. Moreover, long-term exposure to diesel exhaust particles also poses the highest cancer risk of any toxic air contaminant (American Lung Association, n.d.).

Likewise, trucks have conventionally comprised about 10 percent of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in America (Toy, Graham, & Hammit, 2000). Exposure to ground-level ozone – for which NOx is a precursor – has been linked to lung inflammation and decreased immunity (American Lung Association, n.d.). Furthermore, diesel exhaust is an irritant to mucosal membranes (eyes, nose, throat) and can precipitate coughs, headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, and allergies.

Air pollution and public health, however, are not the only concerns weighing heavy-duty vehicle transportation. Trucking accounts for approximately 20 percent of North America’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (U.S. Department of Transportation, n.d.).  The preponderant GHG’s include water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). The primary GHG’s associated with trucking are CO2, CH4, N2O, and HC (US EPA, 2010).

In the interest of public health and environmental preservation, curtailing freight truck emissions is evidently prudent. In March of 2011, President Obama announced – with liquefied natural gas (LNG) trucks as a backdrop – a public-private partnership aimed at reducing gasoline and diesel consumption in large commercial fleets. Trucking companies throughout Canada and the United States began branding themselves “green” by embracing LNG engine technology. LNG, however, has its own issues. Though inherently cleaner burning than diesel, LNG is still a fossil fuel. While natural gas is touted as having an environmental advantage over diesel in terms of life cycle (Riva, D’Angelosante, & Trebeschi, 2006), the ability to extract copious volumes of natural gas from vast shale reserves in North America still poses problems, including aquifer contamination, water use, fracking fluid impacts, land industrialization, and fugitive emissions (Verrastro & Branch, 2010).  And although LNG has had a rather exemplary safety record, fears about attacks, vapour cloud fires, and accidental spills have been raised.

Electrics, hybrids, LNG’s, diesels with particulate filters/selective catalytic reduction – technology has always driven change in the trucking industry. Simpler solutions –reducing truck idling time, installing speed limiters, training “green” drivers, and improving service inefficiencies – also reduce fossil fuel consumption. Yet, an even more obvious answer exists: reduce vehicle miles driven! How senseless it seems to transport bottles of water thousands of miles when, for many, potable water is available from a kitchen faucet. How peculiar that we opt to move millions of pounds of food that could be grown in backyard gardens. Regardless, the foremost dilemma with solutions aimed at resolving these peculiarities is that it places the burden on humanity; it would encompass a difficult social paradigm shift.

Fortunately for humanity, technology marches on. The new year rolled in with big trucking news – the Tesla semi-truck. Though not the first electric semi-truck, the Tesla has an enviable range of up to 800 km (Clouthier, 2018). Ultimately, however, geography will determine any realized range. Temperature, wind, grade, payload, traffic, and topography will all influence actual range. Regardless, fewer fossil-fuel-powered trucks on the road is good news in terms of air quality and GHG emissions (assuming renewable electric generation). Again, this assumption is highly dependent upon geography; it obviously makes more sense to run electric trucks in areas where electricity is generated from renewable sources.

Even with consideration of all these existing variables, there is still one major hurdle electric trucks must overcome, one that that share with passenger vehicles – adequate recharging networks. In a recent paper that highlights strategies to increase electric vehicle uptake, the absence of recharging stations is earmarked as a key concern among potential customers. Surveys indicate that some drivers are more concerned about inadequate infrastructure than vehicle cost (Broadbent, Drozdzewski & Metternicht, 2017). The authors go on to state that faster transition to electric vehicle adoption should include appropriate legislation, sufficient recharging networks, procurement programs, and information programs. Adoption of electric semi-trucks would surely benefit from similar programs. Realizing these objectives will not be easy, but certainly worth it – for the health of the public and the planet.


American Lung Association. (n.d.). Health Effects of Diesel Exhaust. Retrieved 2018 from Air Toxicology and Epidemiology: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/public_info/facts/dieselfacts.html

Broadbent GH, Drozdzewski D, Metternicht G. (2017). Electric vehicle adoption: An analysis of best practice and pitfalls for policymaking from experiences of Europe and the US. Geography Compass. 2017;e12358. https://doi.org/10.1111/gec3.12358

Clouthier, D. (2018). Using electric trucks for what today’s technology allows. Retrieved 2018 from Truck News: https://www.trucknews.com/blogs/using-electric-trucks-todays-technology-allows/

Nel, A. (2005). Air Pollution – Related Illness: Effects of Particles. Science, 308, 804-806.

Riva, A., D’Angelosante, S., & Trebeschi, C. (2006). Natural gas and the environmental results of life cycle assessment. Energy, 31(1), 138-148.

Toy, E., Graham, J. D., & Hammit, J. K. (2000). Fueling Heavy Trucks: Diesel or Natural Gas? Retrieved 2017 from Harvard School of Public Health: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/Organizations/hcra/diesel/diesel.pdf

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2011). Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse. Retrieved 2017 from: http://climate.dot.gov/

U.S. EPA. (2010). Regulations and Standards: Heavy-Duty Regulations. Retrieved 2017 from Transportation & Climate: http://www.epa.gov/oms/climate/regulations/420f10901.htm#1

Verrastro, F., & Branch, C. (2010). Developing America’s Unconventional Gas Resources: Benefits and Challenges. CSIS Energy & National Security Program

Improving Learning and Applying GIS in Interdisciplinary Research

By Patrick Rickles, UCL

I guess I’m not alone in either struggling with GIS (Geographic Information System) technologies, or seeing colleagues struggle to effectively use it. When the GIS does not work, or when learning resources use jargon that the would-be GIS users do not understand, they tend to blame themselves. This should not be the case – though never intentional, badly designed systems, materials or practices should be held accountable and either improved or completely rethought. These problems exist, regardless of discipline, when using GIS.

My professional experience includes working in private, public and academic sectors, across a variety of industries, and I have seen this same issue continually arise – enthusiasm turning to frustration when people cannot do what they want to do with the GIS, so they abandon the technology. As GIS professionals, I believe we have a duty to do better and promote the overall understanding of GIS and associated materials, to improve the likelihood of success and uptake. It is my hope that through my research, we can learn how to better support an increasingly diverse range of GIS users, foster that enthusiasm for GIS and create a better and more inclusive community of practice with and around GIS.


Patrick Rickles helping an interdisciplinary researcher learning GIS

My recently published article, published in Geo: Geography and Environment, titled “A suggested framework and guidelines for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research”, is based upon my PhD research and has been written with co-authorship and support from my supervisors, Claire Ellul and Muki Haklay. In the article, I share elements of my PhD work which focused on how people go about learning to use GIS, particularly in the context of interdisciplinary research. From this work, I make recommendations on how these results can be used, going forward, to improve the process of learning GIS for future learners.

To begin, I had to first understand what interdisciplinary researchers were doing with GIS and the issues they faced that might affect uptake. These preliminary findings were discussed in Rickles & Ellul (2015), which identified challenges and suggested solutions in interdisciplinary research, as well as a theoretical understanding of learning approaches. Based on an evaluation of prominent interdisciplinary studies using GIS, and observations of an interdisciplinary team’s use of GIS, the relevance of those challenges and suggested solutions were reviewed to support a learning approach. The knowledge gap and time constraints were the most common challenges, with building relationships and training often suggested as solutions.  Problem Based Learning (PBL) – where learners restructure their knowledge to solve real world problems as part of a collaborative process with other learners and/or educators – was put forward as a viable approach for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research.


Modified Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research

This article provides updates to and further enriches that initial research. An online survey of interdisciplinary researchers provided verification of the issues uncovered in the first article, with interviews providing a more in-depth exploration of what those issues may mean in a practical sense. An overview of those findings shows that interdisciplinary researchers are using GIS to create, analyse and visualise information; that they are using ArcGIS and QGIS desktop platforms as well as web GIS platforms such as Google Maps/Earth and ArcGIS Online; and that they are using informal learning methods (e.g. internet searches, watching a video, asking a more experienced person). The findings also suggest a more structured learning approach may be supportive of the learner, but PBL can be time consuming for both the learner and educator. Therefore, Context Based Learning (CBL), which recognises the importance of the context of the problem domain for the learning activity, but allows for materials to be created in advance, may be a more appropriate approach. Combining these elements, which modify the Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework, guidelines and a specific framework are suggested for educators to use to support interdisciplinary researchers learning GIS. My further research has applied these in a practical setting using a learning resource titled “GIS Lessons for You” (www.patrickrickles.com/tutorial), to test the guidelines and framework. The results will be published as part of my PhD and potentially as a future article.

About the author: Patrick Rickles is a PhD student in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at University College London, and is also an Implementation Analyst for the Department of Communities and Local Government.

[reblogged from Geo: Geography and Environment. Read the original: https://blog.geographyandenvironment.com/2018/01/08/improving-learning-and-applying-gis-in-interdisciplinary-research/]

Rickles, P. & Ellul, C. (2015). A preliminary investigation into the challenges of learning GIS in interdisciplinary research. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39(2), 226-236

Rickles P., Ellul C., and Haklay M. A suggested framework and guidelines for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research. Geo: Geography and Environment, 2017; 4 (2), e00046 (open access)


Reappraising the place of geography textbooks

By Tim Hall, University of Winchester, and James D Sidaway, National University of Singapore.  


Trump praises health care of Nambia, a nonexistent African country. Image Credit: Marco Verch CC BY 2.0

US President Donald Trump recently attracted mocking headlines and social media comment from around the world for praising the health care system of a nonexistent African country. During a United Nations speech to African leaders in September 2017, Trump lavished praise on the imaginary nation’s health care system, arguing “Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient.” After presumably drawing blank looks from the assembled leaders, it was later clarified by the White House that Trump was actually referring to Namibia, although commentators have speculated that he might have just as well been referring to Zambia or Gambia.

Donald Trump’s shaky grasp of the geography of Africa suggested he spent little of his time as a student at the University of Pennsylvania with his nose buried in an atlas or geography textbook. Geography textbooks though are far more than just crib sheets of basic geographical knowledge. They play important roles in shaping the discipline, student’s world views and the visibility of their authors, themes explored in our recently published Area paper and the subsequent collection on the production and utilisation of geography textbooks, for which it acts as an introduction.

Geography textbooks have undoubtedly played key roles in the evolution of the discipline, through the codification and communication of new perspectives and the education of geographers in the making (at school, college and university), for example. However, despite this they have been relatively little discussed within the literature on Geography’s histories. In our paper we mention Dorothy Preece’s (1938) textbook, The foundations of geography, written whilst she was a teacher at Crewe County Secondary School in north west England, which sold around 100,000 copies a year, a figure unimaginable today. Despite this though, it is a text largely forgotten by disciplinary historians. Similarly we point to the key role of Richard Chorley and Peter Haggett’s (1967) Models in Geography in disseminating geography’s quantitative revolution. Recognising changing technologies, pedagogies and modes of publishing now we argue that addressing this lack of critical debate on textbooks in geography is a timely endeavour.

The essays in the collection that follow our paper, all of which are authored by experienced textbook authors and editors from the UK, USA, Aotearoa / New Zealand and Singapore, explore these themes in the contexts of their own engagement in the processes of textbook production. The collection offers a series of highly personal perspectives but ones that connect with a range of wider disciplinary themes and debates.

Geographical illiteracy is a point picked up in Barney Warf’s paper ‘textbooks in human geography: an American perspective’. The essay was produced prior to Trump’s Nambia gaff. However, Nambia serves to remind us of the enduring importance of geographical knowledge and the vehicles through which it is produced, disseminated and consumed. Geography textbooks have changed radically since Dorothy Preece was writing in the 1930s and continue to evolve today, in an age of online delivery and proliferating fonts of opinion and demands on student attention. They are an enduring part of geography’s history, mirror to its present and will be keys to its future, and as this collection of papers shows, one that continues to deserve serious critical attention.

About the authors: Tim Hall is Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Studies and Head of Applied Social Sciences at the University of Winchester and James D Sidaway is Professor of Political Geography at the National University of Singapore. 

The associated papers are available in Early View, and are free-to-access until Feb 2018. The collection will be published in a issue of Area in 2018.


books_icon Sidaway, J. D. and Hall, T. (2017), Geography textbooks, pedagogy and disciplinary traditions. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12397

books_icon Couper, P. (2017), Visibility and invisibility in, of and through textbook publication. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12398

books_icon Inkpen, R. (2017), The ‘smugness’ of geographers: dismantling the caricatures of philosophies in Human and Physical Geography. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12399

books_icon Ramdas, K., Ho, E. L.-E. and Woon, C. Y. (2017), Changing landscapes as text: Geography and national education in Singapore. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12400

books_icon Warf, B. (2017), Textbooks in Human Geography: an American perspective. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12401

books_icon Sparke, M. (2017), Textbooks as opportunities for interdisciplinarity and planetarity. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12402

books_icon Murray, W. E. and Overton, J. (2017), Globalisation is not spelt with a zed: Geography texts for and from Oceania. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12403

60-world2  Karimi F 2017 Trump praises health care of Nambia, a nonexistent African country CCN  21  September 2017

60-world2  Zilber A 2017 ‘It was the world’s largest exporter of covfefe’: Trump is slammed on social media for referring to non-existent country ‘Nambia’ during his lunch with African leaders Daily Mail 21 September 2017



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