Author Archives: sbalsdon

Human and Physical interactions

The recent floods in the UK have captured the imagination of the media and general population.  The relationship between flood events and the human population have undeniably been highlighted by the UK media in the last week, with BBC articles such as Why do people buy houses in places prone to flooding? clearly outlining the interactions between humans and the natural environment.

This article clearly outlines the ways in which humans relate to rivers before and during flood events. Much research has been conducted into the effects of flooding with the effects of flood events being felt and seen for many months afterwards. The BBC article,  raise the point that whilst damp or a bit of subsidence may deter prospective home-buyers, living on a floodplain does not, the article then goes onto explore the reasons why.

Considering the physical processes at play during a flood has been considered in many contexts by Geographers. Tadaki et al.’s (2012) recent paper ‘Nature, culture, and the work of physical geography’ in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers discusses the implications of a cultural turn in physical geography. This paper makes thought-provoking points and concludes by stating ‘(it is about) realising all physical geography is applied and that all physical geography is relevant. It is the questions of ‘applied to what?’ and ‘relevant to whom?’ which need to be considered more carefully’ (Tadaki et al., 2012: 560)

It was intriguing to read this paper alongside the daily news articles which were being released. Tadaki et al. raise important questions about the cultural considerations and implications of research which involve the physical environment. Recent flood events prove the significance of research but also lead to enquiries as to how research is interpreted by the public and what knowledge is relevant with one resident in Barford’s article feeling that the ‘inconvenience’ of a flood every few years was worth it to live in such an attractive and convenient location.

books_iconTadaki, M., Salmon, J., Le Heron, R. and Brierley, G. (2012) Nature, culture, and the work of physical geography Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37 (4) 547-562

worldWhy do people buy houses in places prone to flooding? BBC News 29th November 2012

Disaster and the Importance of Place

By Stacey Balsdon

Tropical Storm Katrina on August 24 2005 by NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane Katrina hit ground in New Orleans in 2005, yet its magnitude and the devastation it caused has resulted in its continued discussion today. Over 7 years since the event it still seems poignant in many people’s memories. An interesting BBC article titled ‘Saving Lives from Space’ reinvestigates Hurricane Katrina alongside other disaster events.

Using satellite imagery, Dr Alice Bunn comments on the ways this imagery has and will be used to save lives using Hurricane Katrina as one of the examples. Interestingly, when discussing Hurricane Katrina, the importance of place is expressed as she notes the capture of the devastation involved a Nigerian satellite that happened to be overlooking the hurricane at the time it hit land.

Stephanie Morrice (2012), in her paper entitled Heartache and Hurricane Katrina: recognising the influence of emotion in post-disaster return decisions explores the way those affected by Hurricane Katrina decide whether to return ‘home’ or not and how these processes are driven by emotion. This interesting paper presents an alternate side to the focus in the media and global news of the continuing devastation to the built environment by investigating the impact on residents displaced by the event. Morrice  (2012) notes the way imaginations of place and ‘home’ are important in decisions linked to returning after a disaster.

Both pieces demonstrate the need to consider the after effects of a disaster, noting that whilst the event itself may be over the impact it has on the local area and the people living there can continue for some time. Geographical insights into disasters such as this can provide different perspectives and enable the importance of place to be clearly seen.

Saving Lives from space, BBC News

Stephanie Morrice, 2012, Heartache and Hurricane Katrina: recognising the influence of emotion in post-disaster return decisions, Area, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01121.x

Drinking at Home: Socially Acceptable or a New Moral Panic?

By Stacey Balsdon

By Jon Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Alcohol consumption and binging in public spaces has long been recognised both within the media and academia. More recently there has been a call to look at domestic drinking practices and the relationship between these practices and various social axes of difference. The BBC article discussing the 4Children report entitled, ‘Over the Limit: The Truth about Families and Alcohol’ is insightful into the domestic drinking practices of families in Britain.  This report suggests a large number of parents are drinking over their daily recommended number of units, with middle-class parents being more likely to consume substantial quantities.

This article made me think of an earlier paper written by Holloway et al. (2008) in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, which discussed a study conducted on the domestic drinking practices of adults living in Stoke-on-Trent and Eden. Their study noted class differences in the consumption practices of participants, which also linked the increasing consumption of alcohol to increases in income over the life course.  Both Holloway et al., and 4Children highlight the social acceptance of drinking in the home for the middle classes, with the freer ability of alcohol in supermarkets being linked to the increase in consumption for this group.

The BBC reports the 4Children study findings as if they are startling and something new to behold. Yet, Holloway et al.’s paper was published 4 years prior to this report and demonstrates that the trends noted by 4Children are not new but have existed for some time. Holloway et al.’s paper discusses the focus of studies on public and urban drinking practices and clearly shows the need to investigate drinking in the home. The moral panic often associated with public ‘binge’ drinking seems to be becoming more and more prevalent in studies which investigate drinking in the home, with both the health of the parent and the effect their drinking has on their children becoming a growing concern within the public domain.

What is clear from reading the 4Children report, alongside Holloway et al.’s paper, is the importance of geographical research, and the ability for academic research to be at the forefront of exploring everyday practices.

Warning over middle-class parents’ alcohol habits, BBC News

Over the Limit: The Truth about Families and Alcohol, 4Children

Sarah L. Holloway, Mark Jayne, Gill Valentine, 2008, ‘Sainsbury’s is my local’: English alcohol policy, domestic drinking practices and the meaning of home‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 4 532-547