Decolonising geographical knowledges: new papers in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and Area

The 2017 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference Chair, Sarah Radcliffe, University of Cambridge, has chosen the theme ‘Decolonising geographical knowledges: opening geography out to the world’.

A series of articles that directly engage with the conference theme have been published in the RGS-IBG journals Transactions and Area. The following papers are free to access until August 2018.

Transactions Themed Intervention, Decolonising Geographical Knowledges. Guest edited by Sarah A Radcliffe

Decolonising geographical knowledges  by Sarah A Radcliffe (University of Cambridge) and RGS-IBG Conference Chair.

Mainstreaming geography’s decolonial imperative by Tariq Jazeel  (UCL)

From where we stand: unsettling geographical knowledges in the classroom by Michelle Daigle and Juanita Sundberg (The University of British Columbia)

Decolonial theory in a time of the re-colonisation of UK research by Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham)

Decolonialism by Stephen Legg (University of Nottingham)

Area Special Section, Decolonising Geographical Knowledge in a Colonised and Re-colonising Postcolonial World. Guest edited by Patricia Noxolo

Introduction: Decolonising geographical knowledge in a colonised and re-colonising postcolonial world by Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham)

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) student and staff in contemporary British Geography by Vandana Desai (Royal Holloway University of London)

A day in the life of a Geographer: ‘lone’, black, female by Divya P Tolia-Kelly (Durham University)

Decolonising geographical knowledges: the incommensurable, the university and democracy by Andrew Baldwin (Durham University)

‘Free, decolonised education’: a lesson from the South African student struggle by Adam Elliott-Cooper (King’s College London)

Commentary: The 2017 RGS-IBG chair’s theme: decolonising geographical knowledges, or reproducing coloniality? By James Esson (Loughborough University), Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham), Richard Baxter (Queen Mary University of London), Patricia Daley (University of Oxford), and Margaret Byron (University of Leicester)


“Ethical Oil”: Does geography matter?

By Jillian Smith, University of Birmingham


Photo Credit: Peter Essick

The phrase “ethical oil” went mainstream in Canada in 2010 after a national bestseller of the same name.  The book, written by Ezra Levant, a right-wing political activist and lawyer, gave this simplified primer: Canada is a friendly, secure petro state; Saudi Arabia and OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) are conflicted and undemocratic.  In other words, the opinion is that Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and climate change aside, Canada’s oil is “ethical”.  Opinions aside, the International Energy Agency – a Parisian-based intergovernmental organization – states that depending on the region, Canadian oil is 5-10 per cent more GHG intensive than U.S. conventional fuel from extraction to combustion (well-to-wheel) (IEA, 2011).  Bradshaw (2010) recognises that globalisation, climate change, and energy security are intricately linked; he strives to explain why geography complicates the interaction of climate change and energy security. Bradshaw dubs this the ‘global dilemma’.  While the momentum of Levant and his ‘ethical oil’ campaign may have become distant memories, given the scope of climate change and energy security, it is worth reflecting on why it was paradoxical to rebrand Canadian oil, or any oil, as “ethical” in the first place.

Oil sands development constitutes Canada’s fastest growing source of CO2 because of the large amount of energy required to extract bitumen from sand.  Additionally, after accounting for the natural gas that powers the process of converting bitumen to crude and the removal of Boreal forest (a large carbon storehouse), Canadian tar sands oil can emit up to three times more GHG’s than conventional oil (Hatch and Price, 2008).  Despite plans to reduce emissions per barrel, with development scheduled to proceed, overall emissions will inevitably rise and the global issue of climate change could weigh heavily on Canada’s shoulders.

In March of 2017, President Trump gave an enthusiastic green light to the “incredible” Keystone pipeline.  This 1400 kilometre mile pipeline will transport up to 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude to Texas.  The State department said it considered foreign policy and energy security in making the approval.  This aligns with Levant’s argument that the world has a choice: embrace Canada’s peaceful, democratic oil or continue its dependence on OPEC’s dictatorship, conflict oil.  Levant, however, went further to suggest that the question of morality must encompass human rights issues independent of environmental costs.  In his mind, reliance on oil from dictatorships to “save modestly on greenhouse gases” was a misguided notion.  Many Americans and Canadians, however, would beg to differ – environmental costs do matter.

Levant, however, is no stranger to controversy and libel.  A former tobacco lobbyist, he is adept at weaving intricate webs.  His favourite spin in the oil debate was lambasting Saudi oil. Certainly a healthy dose of skeptisim and a critical eye is healthy in any society, yet when skeptics are given the same airtime as legitimate researchers, facts become blurred.

With Canada’s oil being celebrated and extolled, while simultaneously being criticized and decried, it is not surprising that Canadians can be confused about the dizzying array of incongruous oil sands reports.  As such, decisions and reformations must first be based on sound scientific assessments of the facts.  Consequently, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) – Canada’s most prominent group of scholars and scientists, experts in their fields whom are peer-elected to receive this highest academic accolade and fellowship – published a peer-reviewed, comprehensive, 437-page evidence-based study of the oil sands in late 2010.

The report, while not as blasphemous as environmentalists would have liked, is certainly proof that Canada’s oil needs more than a rebranding makeover to be considered “ethical”.  The report concludes that “carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not appear to be a feasible option” and that increasing GHG emissions will create a major challenge for Canada to meet international commitments for overall emission reductions (Gosselin et al., 2010).

Fossil fuels, though intrinsically unsustainable, are the crown jewel of Canada’s multi-billion dollar energy sector.  But virtuous, ethical societies must aim to ultimately reduce oil consumption and pave the way for cleaner, renewable energy developments around the globe.  Additionally, ethical societies must conscientiously manage the resources they are entrusted with and devise coherent energy policies.  To date, North America lags behind the rest of the world in terms of energy efficiency and innovation.  Canada, with its enhanced regulatory oversight, can choose to perform ethically by embracing intergenerational thinking of a world beyond mere decades of oil.  Could some of Canada’s oil proceeds help pave the way toward a more sustainable future?  Regardless, it seems the words “ethical” and “oil”, though a clever marketing pitch, are not to be metaphorically mixed in the long-term interests of the planet or its people.



books_icon Bradshaw, M. J. (2010). Global energy dilemmas: a geographical perspective. The Geographical Journal176(4), 275-290.

60-world2 Gosselin, P., Hrudey, S. E., Naeth, M. A., Plourde, A., Therrien, R., Van Der Kraak, G., et al. (2010, December). Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from The Royal Society of Canada:

books_icon Hatch, C., & Price, M. (2008). Canada’s Toxic Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth. Toronto: Environmental Defence of Canada.

60-world2 IEA. (2011, April 13). Oil in the global energy mix: Climate policies can drive an early peak in oil demand. Retrieved July 2, 2017, from International Energy Agency:

books_icon Levant, E. (2010). Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands. Toronto: McLelland & Stewart Ltd.

Cities as Anthropocene landforms

By Simon Dixon, University of Birmingham, UK


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

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

60-world2 Practical Engineering ‘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 


Are salamanders finally feeling the heat? The overlooked effects of climate change.

By Catherine Waite, University of Nottingham

Our society is inundated with information about climate change: it is in the news, infiltrating film and television, science, and policy.  And yet misconceptions remain regarding the importance and prevalence of such change.  Often, focus is placed entirely on the impacts to flagship species; the polar bear losing its icy home, for instance.  Unfortunately, this example is just the tip of the iceberg.  Climate change is affecting many more species than previously estimated and in myriad ways, including behavioural and physiological changes, as pointed out in a recent article in Geo: Geography and Environment (McCarthy et al., 2017).

File:Plethodon cinereus.jpg

A Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)
Photo Credit: Brian Gratwick, Wikimedia Commons via CC BY 2.0

In this article, the authors investigated the effects of a warming climate on the body size of redback salamanders, finding that body size varies greatly depending on temperature.  The salamanders were 2.3% larger in warmer areas versus cooler ones.  Meanwhile a size increase of 1.8% was observed within areas that had experienced warming of 0.5-1.2oC between the periods 1950-1970 and 1980-2000.  This is by no means the only species to have been affected by the changing climate.  Both behavioural and physiological changes in other species have been noted: marmots now end their hibernation three weeks earlier compared to 40 years ago, martens in the Americas are getting bigger, and the skull shape of alpine chipmunks is altering due to climate pressure.

It is essential to recognise that such responses and adaptions do not mean that these species are successfully adapting to our warming world.  Ecologists have noted that climate is changing too fast for species, as they cannot adapt fast enough to keep up with projected rates of future climate change (Jezkova and Wiens, 2016).  So, even if the salamanders studied by McCarthy et al., (2017) seem to be adapting to, and tolerating, changes in temperature so far, they may not continue to do so in the future.  The same can be said for other species; if they can’t adapt quickly enough, extinction may be the outcome, and we can forget the notion that this is purely a theoretical, future event.  The first mammal global extinction due entirely to climate change has already been confirmed: the Bramble Cay molomys, an Australian rat-like rodent, went extinct due to rising sea levels inundating the coral island on which it lived.

Not many people have heard about the Bramble Cay molomys.  They have heard about the polar bear or the Bengal tiger, though.  These attention-grabbing species have been used as ‘flagships’ for conservation organisations, but are they any more important than their overlooked counterparts?  Is it justifiable to focus on flagship species in an attempt to attract attention and money that can then be used to support conservation at larger scales?  Or, is a disproportionate amount of conservation resources being spent on these flagship species?  It’s a delicate issue, and one that few agree on.  All we can do is remain aware that, even if the intent behind flagship species is to help raise attention and funds for wider conservation efforts, we can’t let them overshadow other, overlook, species that are also in trouble.

It has been suggested that “most species on Earth have been impacted by climate change in some way or another” (The Guardian, 2017).  However, there has been enormous under-reporting of these impacts to date.  The IUCN Red List only classes 7% of mammals and 4% of birds as threatened by climate change and severe weather.  This is undoubtedly an underestimate, as many species wait decades for updates within the list and most of the Earth’s species have never been evaluated.  Indeed, a study published in Science late last year found the current warming of just 1oC has already left marks on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species’ distributions and physical traits.  This is supported by another study published in Nature Climate Change earlier this year, which found 47% of land mammals and 23% of birds have already suffered negative impacts from climate change.  This huge difference in percentages from the IUCN Red List demonstrates how wrong we were about the numbers of species being affected by climate change.  And the full extent is likely worse even than this.  This research only considered two well-studied groups (mammals and birds) and the authors commented that we are likely to be significantly underestimating the extent of climate impacts on lesser studied groups even more.  If we can be so wrong for our most studied groups, how much worse are our predictions likely to be for species we don’t know much about, like corals, bats, fungi and frogs?

Perhaps most disconcertingly, we have only experienced a relatively small amount of warming so far (~1oC), in relation to that predicted by the end of the century (4-5oC). When considering the changes that only 1oC of warming has wrought, it does not seem hyperbolic to say that the effects of further warming may be colossal.  So what can we do?  We need to change the way we think about and report climate change.  It has been pointed out that many studies into climate change focus on forecasting, and tend to ignore the fact that our climate has already altered.  When climate change is viewed only as a future threat, the impetus to do something today may be reduced.  But climate change is happening now, and it is already having serious effects on many more species than we previously thought.  Hopefully, with articles such as McCarthy et al.’s acknowledging alterations that have already taken place, we can begin to accept that changes are already affecting nearly all species on Earth; and that the time to act is now.

60-world2 Briggs, H., (2016) Climate changing ‘too fast’ for species BBC , 23 November 2016

60-world2 Hance, J., (2017) Climate change impacting ‘most’ species on Earth, even down to their genomes The Guardian

books_icon Hunt, E., (2017) Act now before entire species are lost to global warming, say scientists The Guardian

books_icon Jeskova, T., and Wiens, J.,  (2016) Rates of change in climatic niches in plan and animal populations are much slower than projected climate Proceedings of the Royal Society B change 

books_icon McCarthy, T., Masson, P., Thieme, A., Leimgruber, P., and Gratwicke, B. (2017). The relationship between climate and adult body size in redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Geo: Geography and Environment, 4:1.

books_icon Pacifici, M., Visconti, P., Butchart, S., Watson, J., Cassola, F., Rondinino, C., (2017) Species’ traits influenced their response to recent climate change Nature Climate Change 7, 205-208 doi:10.1038/nclimate3223

60-world2 Scheffers, B., de Meeseter, L., Bridge, T., Hoffmann, A., Pandolfi J., (2016) THe broad footprint of climate chante from

60-world2 Slezak, M., (2016) Revealed: first mammal species wiped out by human-induced climate change The Guardian 14 June 2016

Finding a Heiferlump and curing bovine Tuberculosis

By Gareth Enticott, Cardiff University, UK


(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 FG Insight 

Climate Change: Politics and Perception in the United States

By Jillian Smith, University of Birmingham 


Donald Trump. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

It has been a battle worthy of Cervantes, had he been alive in this era of anthropogenic climate change.  Simply mentioning the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ can elicit impassioned, often divisive, rejoinders from an audience.  Invariably, belief and cultural systems drive the discourse of climate change opinion and news reportage; it is a complex chicken and egg scenario.  There does, however, appear to be an esoteric climate change–political nexus that also, perhaps deplorably at times, influences public opinion.  Nowhere does this egregious unification seem more prevalent than in the United States.  How do the politics around climate change influence the narratives and public perception?

Astoundingly, when a group of researchers set out to examine seventy-four American public opinion polls between 2002 and 2010, they discovered that neither extreme weather events nor scientific stories affected public perception of climate change (Brulle et al., 2011).  News reports – but more importantly, the politicians framed in the reports – were the biggest influences (Brulle, et al., 2011).  The two strongest events driving public concern in the United States at the time were the Democratic Congressional action statements and the Republican roll-call votes (Brulle, et al., 2011).  Indeed, most studies indicate that American views of climate change are strongly influenced by partisan politics.  Worldwide, however, educational attainment is generally regarded as the single biggest predictor of climate change awareness.

Interestingly, while Americans and Canadians share a border and enjoy similar lifestyles, a 2010 cross-border poll revealed fewer Americans claim solid evidence of global warming “based on what they have read or heard” (Borick et al., 2011).  Remarkably, 58 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Canadians answered affirmatively to the evidence of global warming (Borick et al., 2011).  A more recent opinion poll suggests that while 70 percent of American adults believe global warming is happening, only 53 percent think it is caused by human activities (Marlon et al., 2016).

To delve into the cultural and worldview disparities between the United States and Canada would be an exhaustive endeavor.  Still, it remains striking that Canada, within reach of America’s massive media kingdom, consistently reports and frames anthropogenic climate change differently than the United States.  While American reports continue to debate the science behind global warming, Canadian reports tend to frame the mitigation of anthropogenic climate change  (Good, 2008).

Novelty, controversy, geographic proximity, and relevance are all important frames in scientific stories (Caravalho, 2007).  Experts employ frames to simplify technical jargon; journalists use frames to craft appealing news reports; and audiences rely on frames to envisage an issue (Nisbet, 2009).  When climate change basics are framed as scientifically tenable positions, audiences must choose to question or quarantine their comfortably held beliefs.  In documenting Arctic ice edge narratives, Veland and Lynch (2016) state that we tend to rely on narratives that provide comfort to us.  The authors add that ontological insecurity can be a major challenge in making sound environmental decisions.

Once upon a time, scientists were informers and people listened.  Today, because the average citizen does not read peer-reviewed scientific literature, many rely on media and opinion pieces to educate themselves on newsworthy science stories.  Disparagement between petulant politicians and scientists often overshadows the science.  But climate change is a science; it does not require belief.  In that sense, public opinion matters little.

Moreover, the post-modernist notion that all ideas are worthy of expression can become unfavorable in the realm of climate science.  Science is indeed stronger with scrutiny; but those scrutinizing it are often politicians, journalists, and bloggers, not scientists.  It is not difficult to weave scandalous narratives about anthropogenic climate change: one side includes ‘alarmists’ and ‘manipulators of science’ who say the earth is doomed; the other claims global warming is an ‘elaborate hoax’.  This ‘experts in conflict’ narrative is a popular practice used predominantly in the United States.  International research demonstrates this custom is not widely used outside of America (Young & Dugas, 2011).

Undoubtedly, the path to re-engineering society will require a reorganization of thought – perceptions without politics, notions detached from debates, narratives with new frames.  Veland and Lynch (2016) assert that the Anthropocene narrative warns that stories–and the networks that make them–must change.  As Cervantes said through Quixote, “he who walks much and reads much knows much and sees much.”  The path forward surely involves assembling this collective knowledge and having discussions, not debates.


Borick, C., Lachapelle, E., & Rabe, B. (2011, February 23). Climate Compared: Public Opinion on Climate Change in the United States and Canada. (The University of Michigan; The Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion) Retrieved from Public Policy Forum/Sustainable Prosperity:

Brulle, R. J., Carmichael, J., & Jenkins, J. C. (2011). Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the US, 2002-2010. Climatic Change.

Carvahlo, A. (2007). Ideological cultures and media discourses on scientific knowledge: re-reading news on climate change. (S. Publications, Producer) Retrieved from Public Understanding of Science:

Good, J. E. (2008). The Framing of Climate Change in Canadian, American, and International Newspapers; A Media Propaganda Model Analysis. (C. J. Communication, Ed.) Retrieved from

Marlon, J., Howe, P., Mildenberger, M., & Leiserowitz, A. (2016). Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016. Retrieved from

Nisbet, M. (2009). Communicating climate change: Why frames matter for public engagement. Environment, 51 (2).

Veland, S., & Lynch, A. (2016). Arctic ice edge narratives: scale, discourse and ontological security. Area, 49.1, 9–17 doi: 10.1111/area.12270

Young, N., & Dugas, E. (2011). (C. S. Association, Producer, & University of Ottawa) Representations of Climate Change in Canadian National Print Media: The Banalization of Global Warming:

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 

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 

60-world2 Romania tourism (n.d) Jewish heritage in Romania 

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