Author Archives: RGS-IBG Managing Editor: Academic Publications

Cities as Anthropocene landforms

By Simon Dixon, University of Birmingham, UK

Blog_Area12358

Attributions A) Used with permission of author, appears in Hartland A, Fairchild I J, Lead J R, Dominguez-Villar D, Baker A, Gunn J, Baalousha M and Ju-Nam Y, 2010, The dripwaters and speleothems of Poole’s Cavern: a review of recent and ongoing research Cave and Karst Science 36 37–46, B) Bradley Garrett, used with permission, C) CC BY 3.0, User Σ64 on Wikimedia commons, D) Photo by Aheneen for State of California (public domain)

Sinkholes regularly appear in city streets around the world, but despite often widespread media interest, there is almost no academic research into sinkholes in urban environments. This is symptomatic of a wider lack of urban-based earth surface research. The world is becoming increasingly urbanised, with the majority of people already living in cities and the proportion expected to rise to 66% by 2050. We are undeniably living in the age of humankind, the “Anthropocene”, but we are still coming to terms with what this means for the planet and for ourselves. Researchers and policy makers have begun to consider the social and environmental impacts of our increased urbanisation. There are also efforts to understand the impact human activity is having on the surface of the earth more broadly – for example, through the creation of anthropogenic landforms like open-cast mines, and by changing erosion processes in rivers through human activity. However, so far there has been little attention paid to the way earth surface processes are slowly altering and morphing the fabric of our cities to create new, startling and potentially dangerous features.

In our new Area paper, we argue, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that in neglecting to consider how earth surface processes are changing the urban fabric we risk repeating the fate of Ozymandias, the great king in the Shelley poem of the same name. In the poem the famous lines: “look on my works ye mighty and despair” are inscribed on the plinth of a ruined and eroded statue. One way of interpreting this is the king did not consider whether time and earth surface processes would degrade the monuments he constructed. We argue that without considering the forces acting within our cities we cannot understand the way they will change, decay and potentially fall into ruin in the future.

There are several interesting ways we have identified earth surface processes working on our cities, including the development of limestone cavern-type formations in old tunnels running under cities, formed from dissolved concrete. A key component in how earth surface processes develop in a city is the degree of maintenance. Social pressures and conditions which mean parts of a city are neglected or abandoned could allow these physical processes to proceed unchecked. Indeed places such as Detroit, Chernobyl and Hashima Island provide examples of hybrid urban landforms created by decay and weathering.

One important example of hybrid urban landforms is that of urban sinkholes, which although a natural phenomenon, occur in different ways in the urban environment. The formation processes for sinkholes in areas of limestone bed rock are well-documented and understood, and they can be classified partly according to the layer of rock and soil above the limestone. However, in urban environments we have created a very unusual situation where there is a hard, impermeable “rock” (tarmac/asphalt/concrete) sitting on top of a soft layer (soil or “made earth”). Flowing or percolating water can remove the soil, creating a void under the tarmac, which eventually develops into a sinkhole. It is possible this process played a role in the collapse of the Oroville Dam spillway in February 2017, with flowing water removing material under the spillway. The combination of a hard impermeable layer over a soft, easily-erodible layer only really occurs in nature during some volcanic eruptions where pumice is overlain by lava. We therefore have no natural comparisons for how soil piping sinkholes form in cities. Without specifically researching these it is hard to design ways to prevent them from occurring, or devise early warning systems.

Once we begin to think of the whole urban fabric as a human created “landform”, and the buildings, and infrastructure within it as like Anthropocene rock formations or outcrops, multiple research avenues open up. Understanding the processes happening within our cities would obviously help civil engineers and municipal authorities, but potentially also help archaeologists studying ancient ruined cities to interpret the features they find. We argue this exciting new frontier in earth science is fundamentally interdisciplinary, as it is not possible to disentangle the social drivers from the physical processes. It is our hope that researchers will start to view the urban environment in a slightly different way and work to together to explore some of the unknown earth surface processes acting in our cities.

About the author: Simon Dixon is a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham.  He is currently working a NERC “MegaScours” project looking at river confluences in the world’s largest rivers.

60-world2 Boxall B 2017 Water under Oroville spillway probably caused February collapse, state consultants say The LA Times http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-oroville-spillway-20170424-story.html

books_icon Dixon, S. J., Viles, H. A. and Garrett, B. L. (2017), Ozymandias in the Anthropocene: the city as an emerging landform. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12358

60-world2 Mitchell K 2017 Denver Uber driver ignores warning, plunges car into sink hole The Denver Post May 27 2017 http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/26/uber-drives-into-sinkhole/

60-world2 Practical Engineering ‘How do sinkholes form?’ http://practical.engineering/blog/2017/6/28/how-do-sinkholes-form

60-world2 Roxburgh H 2017 Endless cities: will China’s new urbanisation just mean more sprawl? The Guardian 5 May 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/may/05/megaregions-endless-china-urbanisation-sprawl-xiongan-jingjinji 

 

Finding a Heiferlump and curing bovine Tuberculosis

By Gareth Enticott, Cardiff University, UK

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(c) Gareth Enticott

In April 2017, Brian May – the rock star turned badger conservationist – brought together policy makers, scientists, veterinarians and farmers to discuss the continuing problem of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in badgers and cattle. Whilst most media attention has focused on the controversy of badger culling, my recent paper in Transations of the the Institute of British Geographers, “Navigating veterinary borderlands: ‘heiferlumps’, epidemiological boundaries and the control of animal disease in New Zealand” (Enticott, 2017), examines a fundamental question: how do we even know what bovine tuberculosis is? And, is it the same everywhere, or do we need different ways of seeing disease to meet different local contexts?

Knowing Bovine Tuberculosis

Confronted with disease, most people want to be certain that a disease is present or not – that somehow disease can be routinely and easily diagnosed, and that this diagnosis would be the same anywhere. Such a belief in the universality of disease is popular amongst policy makers and epidemiologists too: it provides the basis for standardised responses to disease throughout an area or country. As my paper shows, though, in the field or on the farm, these universalities can be far from helpful. Rather, than relying on universal perspectives, the paper shows how accepting the mutability of disease by combining different knowledges and understandings can be central to its management.

Heiferlumps and Striking Farmers

The argument made in the paper comes from an historical analysis of attempts to eradicate bTB from New Zealand. Records of meetings held by the Department of Agriculture in New Zealand National Archives show that as the eradication programme was rolled out in the 1960s, the effects upon farmers’ businesses began to be felt, leading many to question the accuracy of the diagnostic tests. The problem was felt most on the West Coast of New Zealand. Farmers here refused to test: their strike causing political consternation. Local vets, too, had their doubts about the accuracy of the test. The problem seemed to be what was known locally as ‘Heiferlumps’ – young cattle testing positive to the skin test used to diagnose bTB, but which had no internal signs of disease at slaughter. One of these vets, Peter Malone, led pleas for a ‘lighter’ interpretation of the test results – what he called ‘reading light’ – but was ignored by senior government vets in the capital, Wellington.

The relationship between vets and farmers on the West Coast and government officials in Wellington turned toxic when Malone admitted to ignoring heiferlumps when interpreting the results of bTB tests. The Department of Agriculture’s leading vet, a Scotsman called Sam Jamieson responsible for the eradication program, and known for his short temper and scientific approach, was outraged. Malone was forbidden from testing, only stoking an air of mutual mistrust between vets and farmers on the West Coast and distant government vets like Jamieson.

In the ensuing controversy, Jamieson turned to a field trial to establish the veracity of the bTB tests and rule out the possibility that there could be local variations in the nature of bTB. It had little effect: although the trial proved the test was good, no test is ever 100% accurate and farmers and vets continued to raise doubts. But rather than more science, what came to settle the dispute was a new kind of science: a version of epidemiology that was not confined to a particular discipline but crossed boundaries to combine different ways of knowing disease .

The paper refers to this new approach as ‘borderland epidemiology’ in which
government vets came to recognize during the 1970’s that bTB was as much a social and moral problem as an epidemiological one. Archive documents show that they began to dispense with the rule-book, and instead working with farmers, to modify and adapt how bTB should be diagnosed, and reflect unique geographical variations. Understanding that managing disease is a balancing act made from negotiations rather than universalisms has since become a principle on which New Zealand has been able to almost eradicate bTB

Lessons for the UK?

Could these experiences from New Zealand be relevant to the management of bTB in the UK? On the one hand, Defra – the government department responsible for managing bTB – look favourably upon the New Zealand approach to managing disease, their recent strategy mentioning them more than any other country (Defra, 2014). Yet, at the same time, there appears to be little room for manouvre to experiment and try new approaches to managing disease. In fact, as revealed at Brian May’s summit, attempts of the kind conducted in the 1970s in New Zealand, but by vets in England, have been ruled illegal and halted, despite their positive impacts upon disease and farmer engagement with disease management process.  In future, however, as my paper argues, adapting and adjusting diagnostics to local geographical variations by working with farmers to develop new kinds of veterinary knowledge may offer the best chance of dealing with disease.

About the author: Gareth Enticott is Reader in Human Geography in the School of Geography and Planning. His research focuses on biosecurity, practices of environmental regulation and governance, and scientific controversies in animal health. His main focus is on the ongoing controversy surrounding bovine Tuberculosis in the UK, as well as the management of the disease in New Zealand.  His work has helped inform policy on bovine Tuberculosis in England and Wales.

books_icon Defra (2014) The Strategy for Achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis Free Status for England, London: Defra. 

books_icon Enticott, G. (2017), Navigating veterinary borderlands: ‘heiferlumps’, epidemiological boundaries and the control of animal disease in New Zealand. Trans Inst Br Geogr, 42: 153–165. doi:10.1111/tran.12155

60-world2 Midley O (2017) Rock star Brian May hosts bovine TB debate https://www.fginsight.com/news/rock-star-brian-may-hosts-bovine-tb-debate-20023 FG Insight 

Jewish heritage tourism in Bucharest between neglect and rediscovery

By Andrea Corsale, University of Cagliari, Italy

The Great Synagogue of Bucharest surrounded by communist apartment blocks, empty areas and new high-rise buildings. Source: Author’s own, 2016.

The Great Synagogue of Bucharest surrounded by communist apartment blocks, empty areas and new high-rise buildings. Source: Author’s own, 2016.

Multicultural and cosmopolitan places, where different national groups have made their mark on the landscape and contributed to territorial identity, offer significant opportunities for niche cultural tourism. Aspects of a complex heritage can be created, recognised, highlighted, reinterpreted and ultimately sold, diversifying the image of a tourist offering even after previous phases of neglect or destruction.

In places where minority cultural heritage has (re)surfaced in recent times, majority groups may react in terms of nationalistic confrontation or cultural dissonance (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996). However, in many cases there is a clearly visible trend toward greater appreciation of historical minority group heritage. Besides locally specific political, social and cultural reasons, a pragmatic, growing interest in the development of niche tourism products is often one of the driving forces of this ongoing change (Krakover 2016).

One of the most remarkable and controversial examples is the growing interest in Jewish history and culture in central and eastern Europe, even in countries where Jewish communities have disappeared, or have been reduced to tiny and barely visible minorities, Jewish history and culture is increasingly recognised as a significant part of local and national history and identity (Gruber 2002). This heritage can be metaphorically viewed, and used to re-think and re-define collective histories, representations and narratives which either consciously or unconsciously support dominant or minority group images. This growing interest has produced an expanding niche within cultural tourism (Schwarzbaum 2015). However, Jewish heritage tourism in Europe presents unique features, as the sites generally represent the legacy of a minority which either disappeared (in some cases centuries ago), or is now represented by small groups of people with high median age and advanced degrees of assimilation. This implies that Jewish communities are not always able to keep a central role in decision-making related to the management and promotion of their heritage.

Both positive and negative aspects can be identified in past, ongoing and planned practices of revitalisation and commodification of Jewish heritage (Silverman 2001). Rampant commercialisation of Jewish-related sites raised significant negative reactions in parts of the Jewish community; at the same time, rehabilitation and revitalisation of Jewish heritage in many European cities has turned decaying and forgotten neighbourhoods into vibrant and cosmopolitan urban spaces (Sandri 2013).

My recent paper (Corsale 2017), published in The Geographical Journal, discusses the case of Jewish heritage in Bucharest. In this historically cosmopolitan city, the large and vibrant Jewish community has been dramatically reduced by emigration, but has left a considerable cultural legacy and still asks for involvement and participation in the management and promotion of their tangible and intangible heritage.

Jewish heritage in Bucharest suffered significant destruction over World War II and especially during the last years of Ceauşescu’s regime, when a large part of the old Jewish district was demolished and replaced with wide avenues, standardised apartment blocks and empty spaces (see the image at the beginning of the blog post). In spite of these losses, Jewish heritage remains significant, and includes lavish Moorish Revival synagogues, the last Yiddish theatre in Europe, Ashkenazic and Sephardic cemeteries and valuable buildings once designed or decorated by Jewish architects and artists. Thus, tangible heritage shows elements of both cultural and architectural flourishing, as well as neglect and destruction (see the Jewish Virtual Library). The intangible Jewish heritage of Bucharest, on the other hand, includes a rich tradition of literature, music, traditions, folklore and food which has been dramatically undermined by mass emigration.

The strategies, practices and discourses of different stakeholders linked to Jewish heritage protection, production and management need to be assessed and understood. The largely unexpressed potential of this niche within the development of tourism in Bucharest, along with early signs of economic and political exploitation by non-Jewish stakeholders, makes this case study relevant for the broader study of sustainable cultural tourism.

I have described and analysed the case of Jewish heritage in Bucharest to illustrate how the Jewish community perceives the critical elements and economic potential of its cultural heritage, and envisions its development (see The Romanian Jewish Community), and compared these perceptions and practices with those of non-Jewish stakeholders interested in this niche tourism development. Controversial and contradictory signs, ranging from ongoing heritage destruction to restoration of key buildings, reveal the underestimation of and interest in this cultural tourism niche (Romania tourism). Significant growth of this tourism niche and its structural integration into the city’s image might perhaps risk powerful stakeholders taking control and excluding both the tiny Jewish community and the small-scale specialist tourist operators. Through this case study, my paper ultimately aims to contribute to the discussion about the complexity of niche heritage tourism practices in multi-ethnic contexts.

About the author: Andrea Corsale is Assistant Professor of Geography at the Department of History, Cultural Heritage and Territory, University of Cagliari, Italy. He has a Ph.D. in African and Asian Studies. His research interests include international migrations, ethnic minorities, rural and cultural tourism, participation and local development, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Region.

books_icon Corsale, A. (2017), Jewish heritage tourism in Bucharest: reality and visions. Geogr J. doi:10.1111/geoj.12211

books_icon Gruber R E (2002) Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish culture in Europe.  University of California Press

60-world2 Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/bucharest 

books_icon Krakover S (2016) A heritage site development model: Jewish heritage product formation in south-central Europe Journal of Heritage Tourism 12 (1) 81-101

60-world2 The Romanian Jewish Community http://www.romanianjewish.org/en/# 

60-world2 Romania tourism (n.d) Jewish heritage in Romania http://romaniatourism.com/jewish-heritage.html 

books_icon Sandri O (2013) City heritage tourism without heirs: a comparitative story of Jewish-themed tourism of Krakow and Vilnius  Cybergeo  DOI : 10.4000/cybergeo.25934

books_icon Schwarzbaum L (2015) Tracing Jewish Heritage Along the Danube The New York Times, 13 March 2015 

books_icon Silverman J (2015) Polish tourism benefits from Holocaust memories BBC news, 9 January 2001.

books_icon Tunbridge J E and Ashworth A (1996) Dissonant heritage: the management of past as a resource in conflict Wiley

Mapping ICT-mediated food sharing initiatives in 100 cities around the world

By Anna Davies, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

sharing tomatoes

Sharing Tomatoes

It seems that not a week goes by without some media coverage of our unsustainable cities and unsustainable urban food systems, whether related to food waste or food poverty or indeed grappling with the challenges of connecting the two as a means to transform the abhorrent geographies of persistent waste and hunger in our urban areas. Technology is increasingly being seen as a solution to these problems, whether it’s open source mapping of public harvests or apps for food sharing, with information and communication technologies (ICT) increasingly being used as tools to help people in cities share their food with each other. However, little is known about the scale of such food sharing in cities and what impacts they have on key dimensions of unsustainable urban food systems, such as food waste, hunger, social connectivity and economic vitality. As a result, media coverage elevates a small number of high profile cases to illustrate an emergent phenomenon, but gives little indication of the extent or diversity of such activities. A broader landscape analysis is required.

In our recently published paper, Creative Construction, we document the trials and tribulations of developing the first international ICT-mediated food sharing database to try and overcome the data gaps that exist in our knowledge of ICT-mediation of urban food sharing activities. The paper outlines how food sharing activities utilizing online tools are an increasingly visible part of our everyday lives, providing new subjects, objects and relationships – essentially new landscapes – for research, as well as new conceptual and methodological challenges for researchers. It documents the co-design process and international crowdsourcing of data that was carried out in order to document more than 4000 ICT-mediated food sharing initiatives across 44 countries and 100 cities. The research was undertaken by an international team of researchers, including geographers, using a combination of coding and online collaboration with sharing initiatives and networks such as Shareable to develop a system for exploring the practice and performance of ICT-mediated food sharing in cities.

Full details of the project and the open access SHARECITY100 Database are freely available online or watch our video  (above) explaining the work of the database. With articles in Swiss media, public and community radio in the States and Australia, academic blogs, sharing networks, and European science communication organisations, the SHARECITY100 Database is beginning to leave its own mark on food sharing landscapes. In just three months the database had been viewed more than 1,800 times by people from 20 countries – from South Korea and Mexico to Brazil and Canada – and in 2017 the database was shortlisted as a finalist in a European food waste solution contest run by REFRESH. We are pleased to be able to share what we are learning in such diverse venues, and really look forward to watching the SHARECITY100 change and grow based on user submissions and feedback. Food sharing is happening now, not only in your homes and with your friends, but also in urban gardens, community kitchens and online fora. We invite you to join SHARECITY in this growing conversation about food sharing and its potential contribution to transitions towards more sustainable urban food systems.

About the author: Anna Davies is Professor of Geography, Environment and Society at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Anna’s current research interests include smart and sustainable places, environmental governance, sustainable production and consumption. She is currently Principal Investigator of the SHARECITY project funded by the European Research Council, award number: ERC-2014-CoG – Step 2 – SH3 – 646883.

60-world2 Barber D 2017 Home cooks can beat food waste. So where do we start? The Guardian Online https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/mar/09/food-waste-manifesto-dan-barber-opinion?CMP=share_btn_tw

60-world2 Butler P 2016 Trussell Trust to deliver more emergency food parcels than ever before The Guardian Online https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/08/trussell-trust-to-deliver-more-emergency-food-parcels-than-ever-before

60-world2 Chemin A 2014 France remains faithful to food as meals continue to be a collective affair The Guardian Online https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/07/france-food-ritual-meal-tradition

60-world2 Merrified R 2017 How can we cut down on food waste? The EU Research & Innovation Magazine https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/how-can-we-cut-down-food-waste_en.html

60-world2 Singh M 2016 Eat it, don’t leave it: How London became a leader in anti-food waste NPR  http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/11/22/502933703/eat-it-dont-leave-it-how-london-became-a-leader-in-anti-food-waste

60-world2 Smithers R 2017 Instagram generation is fuelling UK food waste mountain, study finds The Guardian Online https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/feb/10/instagram-generation-fuelling-uk-food-waste-mountain-study-sainsburys

60-world2 Westbrook M 2016 A guide to urban fruit foraging in the East Bay Nosh: Dishing on the East Bay http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/06/15/a-guide-to-urban-fruit-foraging-in-the-east-bay/

60-world2 What the experts say: how to make our cities more sustainable The Guardian Online 7 April 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/apr/17/how-to-make-our-cities-more-sustainable-expert-view

60-world2 Wang U 2017 Will 2017 be the year we get serious about sustainable food? The Guardian Online https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jan/03/challenges-sustainable-food-2017-organic-farming

60-world2 Wong K 2017 Tackling food waste around the world: our top 10 apps The Guardian Online https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/feb/06/food-waste-apps-global-technology-leftovers-landfill 

60-world2 van der Zee R 2016 Celebrating food and refugee chefs: ‘I’m happy you have come to eat my food!’ https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/dec/23/food-festival-celebrates-refugee-cultures-strasbourg

“The ice edge is lost” – but can it be mapped?

By Philip Steinberg, Professor of Political Geography, Durham University and Berit Kristoffersen, Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway

Stein&Krist

Photo courtesy of US National Snow and Ice Data Center, http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/files/2012/09/Figure4b.png

Drawing chaotic natures onto mobile seascapes

Amidst a steady stream of news stories announcing record-setting lows in sea ice extent, our recent publication in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers asks a question that is fundamental to efforts to understand and manage our changing planet: What is sea ice?

Sea ice is never simply frozen sea water. It exists amidst dynamic processes of freezing, melting, and brine rejection; it supports complex ecosystems of primary algal production; its edge (where sea ice extent meets open water) is never clearly defined; and because that edge is perpetually moving it can never easily be mapped. Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of, sea ice’s indeterminacy its appearances and disappearances are regularly enrolled to support one political project or another – oil drilling, sovereignty claims, environmental protection, etc.

The politics of sea ice

The political utility of sea ice was driven home to us by the publication of two maps within months of each other in 2015: a Norwegian map that moved the sea ice edge 70 kilometers northward and a Canadian map that moved it 200 kilometers southward. In “’The ice edge is lost….nature moved it’: mapping ice as state practice in the Canadian and Norwegian North,” we research the genealogies of these maps to explore the pitfalls that emerge when sea ice is mobilized as a planning object.

Is the ice edge lost?

The title of our article is derived from two statements made about the Barents Sea ice edge. The first is from Nikolai Knipowitsch, a pioneer in sea ice research, who sent a telegram to his colleagues in 1930, proclaiming: “The ice edge is lost. Those who find it, please deliver it to the address: Longitude 81”. Knipowitsch was celebrating that he had correctly predicted that, due to higher temperatures and changes in the Gulf Stream, there would be an almost total absence of sea ice that summer in the Barents Sea. The title’s second quotation comes from a statement made 85 years later by Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg. Defending a map that, moved the ice edge northward and thereby lent support to efforts to open new areas of the Barents Sea to oil exploration, Solberg stated, “We are not moving the ice edge. It is actually nature that is currently moving the ice edge”.

Both statements can be contested. Knipowitsch knew very well that the ice edge was not mysteriously ‘lost’; indeed his research was devoted to uncovering the processes behind variation in its retreat and appearance. Solberg fails to share Knipowitsch’s sense of irony, but her statement can nonetheless be subjected to critique that resonates with the large body of geographic research that questions simplistic understandings of a unidirectional relationship where ‘nature’ influences ‘culture’. In this case, for instance, one could note that the ‘nature’ that Solberg blames for ‘moving’ the Barents ice edge is itself a product of carbon emissions from oil and gas extraction similar to that which would be facilitated by the map’s redrawing of sea ice extent.

But perhaps most profoundly, both quotations refer to the ice edge as an object that can be measured, mapped, and enrolled in economic development, state building, and a host of other projects. Our article suggests that whether the ice edge is said to be lost (as it was by Knipowitsch) or found (as it was by Solberg), the significance in both of these quotations – and in the Canadian and Norwegian maps that followed – is that the ice is said to exist as an object.

Toward a politics of probabilities and processes

In “’The ice edge is lost…nature moved it’” we urge that the retreat of sea ice should be incorporated into political discourse and conversation, not by drawing and reading lines on a map but by interpreting sea ice within a confluence of probabilities and processes: probabilities because sea ice cover is both spatially and temporally uneven and dynamic, and processes because the value of sea ice is less as an object with single purposes (e.g. to hinder ships, to support marine mammals and their hunters) than as an essential element of polar ecosystems and global circulations. Drawing a line on a map and calling it an ice edge smooths over insecurities, scientific knowledge gaps, and ecological risks involved in conducting economic activities above or below that line. It follows that sea ice management needs to be directed less toward protecting the places where sea ice was most recently located and more toward management of a zone where, amidst probabilities of its occurrence, environmental and social processes are preserved.

This presents a challenge for lawyers, legislators, and activists, as well as cartographers. New forms of mapping and legislating are required for a politics of probability and processes. We hope that geographers are up to this task.

About the authors: Philip Steinberg is Professor of Political Geography and Director of IBRU: the Centre for Borders Research at Durham University. Berit Kristoffersen is Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway.

books_icon Hjort J (1939) N. M. Knipovich. 1862–1939 ICES J Mar Sci 14 (3): 335-336. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/14.3.335
books_icon Steinberg, P. and Kristoffersen, B. (2017), ‘The ice edge is lost … nature moved it’: mapping ice as state practice in the Canadian and Norwegian North. Trans Inst Br Geogr. doi:10.1111/tran.12184

60-world2 Thompson A (2017) Sea Ice Hits Record Lows at Both Poles Scientific American https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sea-ice-hits-record-lows-at-both-poles/

Alternative spaces of urban sustainability: the case of Brescia, Italy

By Marco Tononi and Antonella Pietta, University of Brescia, and Sara Bonati, Universidade da Madeira

Untitled

Industrial buildings in Brescia – Francesco Bonati

Brescia is a medium-sized city in northern Italy. It is located in the country’s densely-populated industrial area, the Po valley. In the past, the economy of Brescia was based on the metallurgic and chemical industries. However, in recent decades Brescia has experienced, as in many European cities, a process of industrial change. This is evidenced in the number of disused industrial sites and quarries in the urban area. Some of these sites have been regenerated, while others have become objects of contention between institutions, private industry and communities due to ecological conflicts or divergent economic interests.

A wide area of Brescia has been affected by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contamination, PCDD-PCDF, arsenic and mercury, arising mainly a chemical plant which has produced chlorine derivatives since 1900, including PCB production from 1930 to 1984. The city also faces other environmental problems due to its highly-industrialized economic base. These include groundwater contamination and exploitation by open-air quarries and landfill waste sites. As a result of such pollution, Brescia has been designated a contaminated Site of National Interest (Siti di interesse nazionale or SIN), indicating that contamination poses a risk to human health.

Monitoring activities have underlined the severity Brescia’s pollution. Every year EU Member States, the European Environment Agency (EEA) member countries, and some EEA collaborating countries, contribute to the European air quality measurement database, AirBase. According to AirBase, Brescia, like many cities of the Po Valley, is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. Likewise, all Italian municipalities report municipal solid waste data annually to the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), which develops the National Municipal Waste Report. Brescia has one of the highest per capita levels of municipal solid waste in Italy (ISPRA 2015).

Brescia is undergoing a transition towards becoming a post-industrial city. Accordingly, institutions and community are starting to reflect on possible directions for the city’s transformation. Environmental problems have prompted a response from civil society to promote a better urban environment and enhance the quality of life. Many associations and informal groups of citizens continue to struggle against the pollution that affects the city and its province. These struggles aim to influence the city administration and politics, and change how local human-nature interactions are conceived and lived.

The first step is recognising the need for a transition towards a new culture of sustainability based on environmental justice and the right to a green and sustainable city. Accordingly, in recent years, some parts of the city have experienced positive transformations thanks to integrative approaches between top-down and bottom-up actions. However, these encouraging signs should take shape through sustainable urban plans with a clear strategy; this means valorising the experiences and work of citizens, associations and researchers looking at the sustainability transition.

In our recent paper, entitled ‘Alternative spaces of urban sustainability: results of a first integrative approach in the Italian city of Brescia’,  we present a participatory process, called the Altrevie project, which took place in the San Polo and Sanpolino neighbourhoods. San Polo became the site of conflict between the town administration and its citizens over existing and defunct or delocalised industrial sites. Over the last decade, this led to the creation of environmental committees that lobby against industrial pollution, the creation of new waste disposal areas and for the development of a shared natural park.

The paper examines processes of socio-ecological change that characterise the city (Heynen, Kaika and Swyngedouw 2006), with a focus on citizen involvement and power relations (Cook and Swyngedouw 2012). The research group worked with the local community to build a project based on the participation of civic associations and citizens, with a democratic approach to alternative practices and policies of urban sustainability. The project’s objective was to create awareness about the unsustainability of many individual choices, and to show members of the local community how they could achieve a higher degree of sustainability by altering their behaviours in daily life and taking part in collective action. In particular, the idea was to make the community aware of how to create alternative spaces of urban sustainability in their neighbourhoods and to show people how they could extricate themselves from the predominant energy-hungry and hyper-productive consumer model.

The paper analyses the potential of local spaces of alternative consumption to promote alternatives to the traditional market system. Moreover, the research reshapes a space of alternative participation that could promote an integrative approach between top-down and bottom-up processes. The project provided the participants with ways to improve the sustainability of their lifestyle choices through a number of participatory processes, including: interviews, focus groups, an ecological footprint analysis, and the activation of sustainability laboratories.

This approach helped us to clarify the sorts of motivations at play within power relations, enabling us to imagine where political points for intervention exist (Heynen 2014). It was the first study in Brescia to analyse both the dynamics of environmental policies and civic activism focusing on the socio-ecological relationships.

About the authors:  Marco Tononi is Fellow Researcher in Geography at the University of Brescia (DEM). Marco has a Ph.D. in Human and Physical Geography and his works are focused on the topics of urban political ecology, urban sustainability, cultural sustainability and GIScience.

Antonella Pietta is an Assistant Professor in Geography at the University of Brescia (DEM). Antonella’s researches explore political ecology, participatory processes, alternative economic geographies, environmental accounting systems and climate change.

Sara Bonati is associate researcher at Universidade da Madeira. She collaborates with the University of Brescia (DEM) and University of Florence (LaGeS). Sara has a Ph.D. in Human and Physical Geography and her main research interests are disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, risk and disaster governance, political ecology, participation and knowledge sharing, alternative economic geographies.

References

Cook I R and Swyngedouw E 2012 Cities, social cohesion and the environment: towards a future research agenda Urban Studies 49 1959–79

European Environment Agency 2017 Validated monitoring data and air quality maps, http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/air/air-quality/map/airbase

Heynen N, Kaika M and Swyngedouw E 2006 In the nature of cities. Urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism Routledge, London and New York

Heynen N 2014 Urban political ecology I: the urban century, Progress in Human Geography 598–604

ISPRA 2016 Rapporto Rifiuti Urbani 2016.

Tononi M, Pietta A, and Bonati S 2017 Alternative spaces of urban sustainability: results of a first integrative approach in the Italian city of Brescia. Geogr J. doi:10.1111/geoj.12207

Behaviour Mapping and Design of Small Urban Spaces

By Ensiyeh Ghavampour, AECOM Auckland, Mark Del Aguila, TAFE, SA and Brenda Vale, Victoria University of Wellington

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Behaviour mapping (c) Ensiyeh Ghavampour

In inner urban areas, where land values are high and city governments have limited budgets, designing successful public spaces and using resources wisely is essential. With the increasing need for more quality public spaces in cities, planning authorities usually prepare design guidelines based on international research to help ensure quality will be achieved. However, with design guidelines failing to create quality spaces with enduring success, placeless spaces continually need to be redeveloped. There are many successful public spaces around the world, however, the application of guidelines developed from observations and surveys of these spaces creates visionary spaces without connections to their context. With spaces lacking character and failing to fit with local use, there is an increasing demand for a rethinking of design methodology in public open space.

Our paper, ‘A GIS Mapping & Analysis of Behaviour in Small Urban Public Spaces’, recently published in Area, investigates links between behaviour and design in context. Using time interval still photography, activity in four small public spaces in Wellington CBD (New Zealand) was recorded and mapped with GIS. Comprehensive and detailed analyses of activity, age, gender, group size, and length of stay indicated that:

  •  Design elements can be successful in one space, yet under-utilised in a different context.
  • Functionality of a design is a result of the configuration of elements within the site with respect to the site’s location and orientation.
  • Guidelines should direct designers toward creation of spaces that afford opportunities for users rather than focusing on checklists of specific design elements
  • The process of defining and setting design guidelines for the physical environment should be re-conceptualised with an emphasis on planning for anticipated activities.

About the authors: Ensiyeh Ghavampour is an Urban Designer at AECOM, she has a PhD in Urban Design and Landscape Architecture from Victoria University of Wellington. Mark Del Aguila, Advanced Building Studies, TAFE SA, and Brenda Vale is a Professorial Research Fellow in the School of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington. 

References

60-world2 Bliss, L. 2017 The High Line’s Next Balancing Act Citylab Online 7 Feb 7 2017

60-world2 Cathcart-Keays, A. 2015 Guardian ‘mayors for a day’ demand more public spaces in their cities The Guardian Online 29 January 2015

60-world2 Carrington, D. 2013 England’s parks and open spaces have lost £75m in cuts since 2010 The Guardian Online 19 November 2016

books_icon Ghavampour, E., Del Aguila, M. and Vale, B. (2017), GIS mapping and analysis of behaviour in small urban public spaces. Area. doi: 10.1111/area.12323

60-world2 Hemmelgarn, S. 2017 Milk Plaza Redesign gets $500 K Bay Area Reporter Online Volume 7/ No. 7/ 16 February 2017

60-world2 Johnson C, 2016 Can Design Quality Be Regulated? Sourceable Online 18 October 2016

60-world2 Mccrary, L. 2016 Modernism, Food, and Public Space New Urbs Online 15 September 2016

60-world2 Persico, A. 2016 Rethinking Park Space Yorkregion Online 16 June 2016

60-world2 Waxmann, L. 2016 Troubled Public Plaza Will Be Fenced Off To Divert Homeless Mission Local Online 27 July 2016