Author Archives: Inselberg

About Inselberg

I am a graduate from Staffordshire University with a First Class BSc Hons Geography degree and from Ulster University with an MSc (Distinction) in Coastal Managenment. At the moment I am a full time carer for my mum and about to start a further MSc in Equine Science at Edinburgh University.

Portsmouth University ‘Bomb Site’ Created

By Paulette Cully

As someone whose grandfather and two great uncles (all brothers) were firemen in London during the Second World War, I was fascinated to read that an interactive map showing the location of bombs dropped on London during the Blitz has been created. The map shows the devastation caused by the bombing which took place between 7 September 1940 and 11 May 1941, killing over 20,000 people and making 1.4m people homeless. The year-long project, called Bomb Sight, was developed by a team from the University of Portsmouth. They combined the locations of bomb sites with geo-located photographs from the Imperial War Museum and from the BBC’s WWII People’s War Archive to produce an interactive map.

However, as much as the Bomb Site map may be interesting to us today,  during the blitz, Londoners had to live with the real life threat and aftermath of the bomb attacks. In search of an understanding into the effect this would have on London communities, I turned to Frank Furedi’s informative article “The changing meaning of disaster”.  Furedi’s article provided an insight into the dynamic of public reaction to large scale destruction by charting the shifting conceptualisation of society’s reaction to adversity and disasters, from community resilience to community vulnerability. For anyone interested in this subject, this article is highly recommended.

  London Blitz: Bomb Sight interactive map createdBBC News, 7 December 2012

  Frank Furedi, 2007, The changing meaning of disasterArea 39 482-489

 Interactive ‘Bomb Site’ map

South Sudan: A New Nation with Old Problems

By Paulette Cully

Flag of South Sudan by User:Achim1999 ( [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThe world’s newest nation, South Sudan, celebrated its first birthday this year. However, the country remains one of the poorest in the world having few tarred roads and a poor water and electricity infrastructure. Statistically, a South Sudanese woman has more chance of dying during childbirth than completing her secondary school education.

Separated from its old adversary Sudan on July 9th 2011, old feelings of distrust between the two countries still remain and fighting erupted along their border earlier this year, when South Sudan’s army briefly occupied the Heglig oilfield, which is vital to Sudan’s economy. When South Sudan, which is landlocked, separated from Sudan, it took three-quarters of the region’s oil production, although the pipelines to export the oil are mainly in Sudan. The two countries came to an agreement last month to establish a demilitarised zone along their border and restart oil exports from South Sudan after the pipeline was shut down in a dispute with Sudan over transit fees. The shutdown put the economy of South Sudan under pressure as it depends on oil production for around 98% of its income. To resolve further conflict, South Sudan is considering building two alternative pipelines, one to a Kenyan port and another through Ethiopia and Djibouti. But where will the finance for the project come from? The answer is, China.

China, which has major oil interests in both South Sudan and Sudan, has offered South Sudan $8 billion for development projects over the next two years with the projects being conducted by Chinese companies. China is already the biggest investor in oilfields in South Sudan, through the state-owned Chinese oil companies China National Petroleum Corp and Sinopec.

To gain a greater understanding of the complexity of interactions between China and Africa it is recommended to read Emma Maudsley’s (2007) article in Geography Compass. She reviews Sino–African relations from 1949-2007 describing how China has over the last few years (fuelled by its astonishing economic growth) tirelessly pursued stronger economic and diplomatic relations with many Asian, African and Latin American countries. Emma also describes how “China’s rise will lead to changes in the present structures and loci of power in an uneven world”.

China offers South Sudan $8 bn in development funds over next two years, Firstpost, 29th April 2012

South Sudan marks first anniversary of  independenceThe Telegraph, 9th July 2012

Emma Mawdsley, China and Africa: Emerging Challenges to the Geographies of Power, Geography Compass 405-421

Ecuador’s deal to preserve the Amazon

By Paulette Cully

In a 2005 article in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, entitled “New views on an old forest: assessing the longevity, resilience and future of the Amazon rainforest” the authors Maslin et al. describe how the Amazon rainforest originated in the late Cretaceous period. This means that the forest has been a permanent feature of South America for at least 55 million years, surviving the high temperatures of the Early Eocene, the gradual cooling during the Cenozoic and the drier and lower carbon dioxide levels of the Quaternary glacial periods.  Now, the forest is entering an uncertain future due to climate change with a predicted more arid tropical climate, which the forest has not experienced before.

In addition, the forest is facing anthropogenic destruction with an estimated 232,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest having been destroyed since 1970. However, a radical and forward-looking deal has been struck between Ecuador and the UN whereby the richer countries pay Ecuador $3.6billion not to exploit the  Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha oil block in the eastern fringe of the Yasuni national park. The object of the deal is to preserve the biodiversity of that part of the Amazon forest and to prevent climate change emissions from the oil.  Under the agreement, the oil and the timber in Yasuni will never be exploited. Described as a “fantastic project to combat global warming” Ecuador’s President Correa ,first visualised  the Yasuni Initiative in 2007 as a way to resolve the OPEC country’s conflicting aims of growing its economy and preserving a national treasure. As a result the project could stop an estimated 407 million metric tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere and may help to reduce the predicted effects that climate change could have on the Amazon forest.

 Click here to read the full news article about Ecuador’s Amazon deal

 Click here to read Maslin et al. (2005), New views on an old forest: assessing the longevity, resilience and future of the Amazon rainforest, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 30, Issue 4, Pages 477-499.

Eat to be healthy and save the planet

By Paulette Cully
It is well documented that around the world pristine environments are being destroyed to produce some of the food that we eat in the United Kingdom. For instance, the Brazilian savannah or Cerrado is currently being destroyed faster than the Amazon; this is largely due to soy production (most of which is fed to the animals we eat), beef and other agriculture. A further example is that of Borneo whose tropical forests are being cleared to plant palm trees to produce palm oil for biscuits and fish fingers. If everyone in the world lived as we do in the UK we would require two planets by 2030. But now we may be able to save the planet over lunch. Researchers believe that we can and they say that if we all ate what they would like to see on our plates, Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by a quarter, our meat consumption would be reduced drastically and we would be a lot healthier at the same time.  All this comes in the guise of the Livewell Diet, which is a weekly menu assembled by nutritionists, which sets out the best ingredients to balance healthy eating with sustainable food production. The average weekly cost of the diet would be £29 per person.
At present an estimated 79kg of meat a year are consumed by the average UK resident and the Livewell 2020 diet is expected to reduce this to 10kg a year; thus reducing the pressure on natural resources.  Scientists from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at Aberdeen University have produced the diet commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which is designed to be familiar and normal. The diet is based on nutritional guidelines from the government for eating healthily. It will also help us meet the 2020 targets for greenhouse gas reductions, as laid out the in UK Climate Change Act by steering away from processed food (whose environmental impacts are due to their extra production, packaging, transportation and energy consumption) and                 meat.
For a more complete discussion and explanation of the complicated interplay between  human diet, energy, climate change, the financial crisis and the socially and environmentally unsustainable grain–livestock relationship it is recommended to read, Energy, Climate Change, Meat, and Markets: Mapping the Coordinates of the Current World Food Crisis in the Geography Compass journal. In the meantime the WWF will lobby the government and the food industry to use the Livewell diet as a blueprint and if we just adapt our diets slightly by eating less meat and fewer processed foods, and replacing them with more fruit, vegetables and grains, we’ll be making a positive difference for ourselves and the planet.

Climate Change and Inuit Food Security

By Paulette Cully

As part of a wider research program, a five-year study  by Professor Barry Smit of the University of Guelph, Canada has revealed how climate change is altering the diets and lifestyles of the Inuit people in the Arctic. Professor Smit led research projects into the ways that melting ice and wildlife habitat changes are impacting on the lives and livelihoods of communities in the far north. The most salient findings were; the increasing difficulty in hunting for traditional food because knowledge on safe routes across the ice is no longer reliable because of breaking and shifting ice; and the changing migratory patterns of animals such as seals, walrus, types of whales and polar bears, which form a large part of the Inuit diet. The traditional Inuit diet is almost exclusively raw meat which is very healthy, but an important finding has been that the difficulty in hunting was leading to more junk food being consumed by the Inuit leading to greater teeth problems and obesity. Looking ahead over the next couple of decades, the transformation in the Inuit lifestyle will be huge and it is likely that they will have to modify their way of life completely.

Elaborating further on this, an upcoming article in the Geographical Journal, by Ford and Beaumier (2011), characterises the experience of food insecurity amongst the Inuit and examines the conditions and processes which limit the access, availability, and quality of food. Using community case studies and the results of interviews, the article highlights multiple causes of food insecurity
operating over different spatial-temporal scales. The majority of participants of the study reported experiencing reduced access, availability, and quality of food in the previous year. They also expressed feelings of anxiety concerning food on a regular basis, reporting not having enough to eat at least once in the previous year.

However, the future may hold new prospects and even though climate change poses many challenges for the food security of the Inuit people there will also be new  opportunities. For instance open water fishing and hunting, new species availability, and improved ship access, due to the melting ice, may moderate negative consequences of climate change, if the necessary support is in place and the Inuit people are fully involved in decision-making.

Click here to read the Inuit news item

Click here to read Ford, J.D. and Beaumier, M., 2011, Feeding the family during times of stress: experience and determinants of food insecurity in an Inuit community, The Geographical Journal.


Britain’s industry-backed healthy-eating plan

By Paulette Cully
In the search for the environmental causes of weight gain, Smith and Cummins (2009) in a Geography Compass article, explore how aspects of our environment might disrupt the ‘energy balance’ through influencing food consumption and physical activity. Being overweight or obese, is indirectly associated with an increased risk of death through its role as a major risk factor for a wide range of chronic diseases including coronary heart disease and some cancers, Obesity is also directly associated with other serious health problems including hypertension, diabetes and osteoarthritis. The fact that the rapid rise in obesity rates over the last 30 years – which is a relatively short biological time scale – suggests that changes in the environments to which we are exposed may be to blame, rather than individual genetic legacy. Focusing on developed world nations, the article reviews the emerging ‘ecological’ perspective in the search for the causes of obesity and focuses on three hypothesised pathways. The first is the organisation of the built physical space which for instance, may not promote walking as a means of transport or recreation (such as footpaths) and  connectivity of residential areas, limited access to leisure facilities, fewer supermarkets and a relatively high accessibility to fast food/takeaway shops. The second is the social environment, which can influence eating habits, both in terms of the types of food consumed and the amount of calories eaten at a meal. The third is the political environment, which can for instance influence low-income consumers to purchase less expensive food options which may exceed dietary guidelines of fat, salt and sugar intake.
With the above in mind, the coalition Government unveiled a 250 million pound plan over the New Year weekend, which is financed by the food industry, to promote good eating. As part of the Change4Life programme the scheme is aimed at combating Britain’s high obesity rate by encouraging people to eat more healthily and to exercise more. The Government has pledged to stop lecturing people and instead nudge them toward a healthier lifestyle. Under the scheme millions of people will receive vouchers which offer discounts on healthy eating. In England millions of people will get 50 pounds’ worth of vouchers giving discounts on foods such as low-fat yogurts, whole grain rice, frozen vegetables, fruit and alcohol-free lager. The News of the World will distribute three million books of vouchers, Asda, will hand out a million and community groups a further million. However, some experts have accused food manufacturers of using it to enhance their image because the vouchers offer discounts on products from food companies including Kellogg, Unilever, Nestle, Mars, Warburtons, Bird’s Eye and some Asda own-brand goods and trainers from JJB Sports. The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the scheme was a “great example of how government, the media, industry and retailers can work together to help families to be healthy.” In response, a board member of the National Obesity Forum, set up by doctors to highlight the health consequences of obesity, called the programme a step in the right direction but said it was too short-term to change people’s mindset about food. Only time will tell.

The Dilemma of Global Energy

By Paulette Cully

A recent article in the December Geographical Journal by Michael Bradshaw entitled “Global energy dilemmas: a geographical
perspective”, examines the relationship between global energy security and climate change policy. With growing concerns about the sustainability of the future supply of hydrocarbons and the fact that they are the single largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, decarbonising the way energy is produced is a key component of climate change policy. The central proposition of the paper is that as the world faces a global energy dilemma can we have a secure, reliable and affordable supply of energy and at the same time, manage the changeover to a low-carbon energy system? The paper considers the present-day challenges to global energy security, and focuses on the possibility that future oil production might not be able to meet demand. It also looks at how the dangers of climate change are forcing us to rethink the meaning of energy security such that a low-carbon energy revolution is now called for. In addition, the paper explains that while the developed world is principally responsible for the anthropogenic carbon emissions in the atmosphere, a global shift in energy demand is underway and over the next 20 years it is the developing world that will contribute an ever-increasing amount of global emissions. The article also looks at global energy relationships explaining how the processes of globalisation are the driving force behind the shift in energy demand and carbon emissions. Finally, Bradshaw explains how the global energy quandary plays itself out in different ways across the globe.

Shedding further light on the future of fossil fuels, a report published in the same month by Deloitte’s Global Energy & Resources group, “The Oil and Gas Reality Check 2011, a look at 10 of the top issues facing the oil sector” analyses the oil and gas trends and issues for the coming year. The issues range from deepwater
drilling, where the next alternative energy source will be found and the
growing influence of Asia on the industry. According to the report it is
estimated that oil and gas will continue to constitute the world’s primary
energy supply for the next 25 years. It explains how Asia’s share in the growth in
demand for hydrocarbons has risen substantially while that of the Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and the European Union has declined. This shift has been caused by high rates of economic growth and increasing populations in many Asian countries. Simultaneously, up to three billion people in developing nations will have bought cars and adopted middle class consumption patterns by 2030. This suggests that more fossil fuels will be needed despite the fact that alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar have grown rapidly. In the meantime oil and gas producers feel they are a bridge to the new energy economy.

Click here to download the Delottie report.

Click here to read Bradshaw, M., 2010, Global energy dilemmas:a Geographical Perspective, The Geographical Journal, Volume 176, Issue 4, pages 275-290.