Tag Archives: European Union

The Future of European Aviation?

by Benjamin Sacks

Proposed European FABs.

Proposed European FABs.

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökul volcano on 20 March 2010 demonstrated the weaknesses in Europe’s diverse air traffic control network. As a massive ash cloud up to 8 kilometres high gradually extended across western Europe, forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights and stranding millions of passengers across the entire continent. Although European air controllers correctly prioritised passenger safety above all other factors, the scenario left many airline industry commentators and journalists frustrated with the European Union’s apparent inability to swiftly and effectively act on changing meteorological and airline information. With few exceptions, the maintenance of separate airspace quadrants by each EU member, each with different processes, response mechanisms, as well as external pressures from airlines and politicians, all contributed to delayed and even contradictory responses in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Oslo.

In Eyjafjallajökull’s wake, the International Aviation Transportation Authority (IATA), in cooperation with the EU, proposed the establishment a single European air zone, divided into nine ‘functional airspace blocks’. Citing the current system’s woefully inefficiency – e.g., ‘With fewer air traffic controllers the United States FAA [Federal Aviation Authority] is able to deliver 70% more controlled flight hours than Europe]’ – the IATA / EU consortium called for a reorganisation, or ‘rationalisation’ of air traffic control hierarchies, technological modernisation, and substantially better (and more transparent) communication between national aviation authorities. Optimistically entitled ‘Single European Sky’ (SES), officials set a date of 4 December 2012 for its implementation.

But, as Dr Christopher Lawless (Durham University) reminds us in his March 2014 Geographical Journal commentary, 4 December 2012 came and went with little change. Only two of the nine blocks – Denmark-Sweden and UK-Ireland – had reached operational status. National-level aviation oversight bodies – intended to be the vanguard of transnational cooperation – had made little progress in communicating or facilitating with their neighbouring counterparts. Bickering, unsurprisingly, had early on replaced collaboration. At the EU Aviation Summit in Limassol, Cyprus, Siim Kallas, European Commission joint Vice President and Transport Commissioner, attacked EU states for ‘their “undue protection of national interests'” (Lawless p. 76).

Of the seven non-operational airspace blocks, two (Iberian Peninsula and Central Mediterranean) had not even progressed beyond the ‘definition stage’ (p. 77). Fearing the loss of their jobs and the complete overhaul of learned ATC procedures, French and German air traffic controllers repeatedly threatened strikes.

Lawless examined SES’s problematic history through Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim’s 2009 paradigm of ‘sociotechnical imaginary’. The European SES programme sought to mix technological requirements with larger political aspirations, inevitably leading to discord between various member states. Airlines, already struggling to break even financially, balked at restructuring costs (p.80). Spatially, air spaces were eventually designed along largely existing geographical and geopolitical lines, as the UK-Ireland, Denmark-Sweden, and Italy-Mediterranean sectors clearly demonstrate (p. 78). In reality, these geopolitically-influenced air spaces make little sense with the traffic patterns of most passenger flights:

[T]he highest density region of European air traffic…spans a corridor encompassing the airspace of the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Under the current arrangement, this straddles four separate FABs…(p. 78).

Lawless concludes by calling for a comprehensive inquiry into sovereign states’ concerns, risk assessments, and considerations, and re-drawing the air space landscape in a more logical (and less state-specific) manner. Ultimately, he stressed that even such ‘apolitical’ projects as SES are unfortunately ridden with politics, negotiation, and self-interests.

The SES debate will continue to fascinate observers for some time. Agonising, protracted discussions over the future of London’s airspace – the world’s busiest – between Conservative officials, led by Boris Johnson, and Labour opponents seem unlikely to end amicably, or soon. This regional crisis, combined with Britain’s current national debate over its long-term role within the EU, will only further complicate the SES’s possible re-development and implementation.    

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Gertisser R, Eyjafjallajökull volcano causes widepread disruption to European air trafficGeology Today 26.3 (May-Jun.: 2010), 94-95.

books_icon IATA / EU, A Blueprint for the Single European Sky: Delivering on safety, environment, capacity and cost-effectiveness, 2011.

books_icon Lawless C, Commentary: Bounding the vision of a Single European SkyThe Geographical Journal, 180.1 (Mar., 2014): 76-82.

60-world2 Sacks B, Eyjafjallajökull: Geography’s Harsh ReminderGeography Directions, 18 February 2011.

60-world2 Q&A: EU response to Iceland volcano ashBBC News, 25 May 2011.

60-world2 Iceland volcano ash: German air traffic resumingBBC News, 25 May 2011.

60-world2 Hofmann K, French, German ATCs postpone strikes over Single European SkyAir Transport World, 24 January 2014.

 

Gibraltar: The Fortune of Location

by Benjamin Sacks

'The Rock' looms large in political and geographical discourse. © 2013 Wikimedia Commons.

‘The Rock’ looms large in political and geographical discourse. © 2013 Wikimedia Commons.

As is the case every few years, Gibraltar recently returned to many newspapers’ front pages as London and Madrid exchanged heated words over the British-controlled territory. Speaking to reporters after meeting with Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, Prime Minister David Cameron stated that ‘the UK would always stand up for the British territory and the interests of its people’. Spain’s Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel-Margallo, responded that Gibraltar ‘is, has been and will be a national priority’. But why?

Gibraltar is an oddity amongst the world’s remaining colonial possessions. A tiny peninsula, only part of which is habitable thanks to a 1,398-ft limestone promontory, Gibraltar and its environs have been contested by various European and North African empires for a millennium, each seeking control of ‘The Rock’s’ ideal position at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea. Today, it remains an occasionally emotional source of tension between two states otherwise intimately allied via NATO, the European Union, and almost countless cultural and economic relationships. Its remarkable physical and topographical geography has long fascinated explorers and politicians alike. Pero López de Ayala, a fourteenth century chronicler and counselor, described it as possessing near-mythical qualities: ‘With uplifted hands he [Ferdinand IV] gave thanks to Providence for the reduction [from the Moors] under his dominion of a Rock and Castle so important, and almost impregnable’. Alexander Von Humboldt described Gibraltar’s prehistoric formation at the rupture between Eurasia and Africa as ‘ante-historical, or far beyond any human tradition’, a point to which, in 1867, then-Royal Geographical Society president Sir Roderick Impey Murchison agreed. H T Norris intertwined Gibraltar and its central position with the vivid, exotic life and travels of fourteenth century Arab explorer Ibn Battūtah, who described the peninsula in lush prose:

I walked round the mountain and saw the marvellous works executed on it by our master (the late Sultan of Morocco) Abu’l-Hassan, and the armament with which he equipped it, together with the additions made thereto by our master (Abū ‘Inān), may God strengthen him, and I should have like to remain as one of its defenders to the end of my days. 

Spain formally ceded Gibraltar to Great Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) – a peace which recognised the latter’s global ascendancy over the former’s empire. The Rock rapidly became a byword for British imperial power, the supposed stability of ‘Pax Britannica’, and – just as importantly – a slogan for the Empire’s geographical extremes. Scholars, explorers, and entrepreneurs turned to Gibraltar (or, at the very least, its image) to describe similar oceanic passages, strategic outposts and, albeit more recently, territorial-colonial disputes. ‘The best parallel I can give to tidal observation of Barrow Strait’, Sherard Osborn, for instance, argued in 1873, is that of the strait of Gibraltar…where the flood-tide flows into two enclosed seas from the Atlantic Ocean’. H H Johnston, visiting Stanley’s way stations along the Congo River, borrowed the colony’s importance and meaning to describe Franco-Italian competitor Pietro Paolo De Brazza’s attempts to control the Congo region:

Should De Brazza ever reach the Congo in his present expedition, and succeed in establishing himself at Mfwa, it is rumoured that he would like to take Calina Point and make it the Gibraltar of the [Stanley] Pool, and then with this fortified post and the station of Mfwa opposite he would be able to close, if necessary, the mouth of Stanley Pool where it commences to narrow into the rushing lower portion of the Congo.

In 1915, P M Sykes similarly invoked The Rock to describe Kala Márán, a mountain near the village of Pá Kala in Persia.

Gibraltar’s position extended far beyond the Mediterranean and European Atlantic. It proved to be an ideal replenishing site for expeditions in Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and, after the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Indian Ocean. Writing in The Geographical Journal months before the outbreak of the First World War, Rudyard Kipling reduced the Britain-to-India route to four essential steps: ‘London-Gibraltar; Gibraltar – Port Said; Port Said – Aden; Aden – Bombay’. Its pivotal location also greatly aided British and allied efforts during the First and Second world wars, and in a number of Cold War-era conflicts, including Suez, Aden, Malaya, Dhofar, and the Falklands.

The Royal Geographical Society was quick to discuss the Gibraltar issue following Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s decision in 1969 to close the border with the British colony. That year, John Naylon described how Spain intended to recover Gibraltar via the creation of an economic and social development around the peninsula: the so-called Campo de Gibraltar. Madrid indeed invested in the region’s growth, but Gibraltar steadfastly refused to revert to Spain.

books_icon Gilbard, G J, 1881, A Popular History of Gibraltar, Its Institutions, and Its Neighbourhood on Both Sides of the Straits, and a Guide Book to Their Principal Places and Objects of Interests, London, 52.

books_icon Kipling, R, 1914, ‘Some Aspects of Travel‘, The Geographical Journal43.4: 365-75.

books_icon Johnston, H H, 1883, ‘A Visit to Mr. Stanley’s Stations on the River Congo‘, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, 5.10: 569-81.

books_icon Murchison, R I, 1867, ‘Address to the Royal Geographical Society‘, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London37: cxv-clix.

books_icon Naylon, J, ‘The Campo de Gibraltar Development Plan’, Area

books_icon Norris, H T, 1959, ‘Ibn Battūtah’s Andalusian Journey‘, The Geographical Journal125.2: 185-96.

books_icon Osborn, S, 1873, ‘On the Probable Existence of Unknown Lands within the Arctic Circle‘, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London17.3: 172-83.

books_icon Sykes, P M, 1915, ‘A Seventh Journey in Persia‘, The Geographical Journal45.5: 357-67.

60-world2 ‘On This Day: 1982: Spain’s Rock Blockade Ends‘, BBC News. 

60-world2 ‘Gibraltar: Talks on sovereignty discounted by UK and Spain’BBC News, 3 September 2013.

The Local vs Global in Caribbean Sugar

by Benjamin Sacks

Cut sugarcane waiting for transport and processing. © 2013 Wikimedia Commons.

Cut sugarcane waiting for transport and processing. © 2013 Wikimedia Commons.

The Caribbean, with over five hundred years of continual direct Old and New World involvement, remains a unique world region. At present, the Greater and Lesser Antilles comprise a motley collection of European and North American overseas possessions (including four French département d’outre-mer, two American unincorporated territories, and one French, six British, and six Dutch overseas territories), independent democracies, and one of the world’s last remaining Communist states. It is home to some of the world’s poorest nations by GDP per capita (Haiti) and some of its wealthiest (Cayman Islands). Few independent countries, however, enjoy full autonomy; most remain subject to strong European and American influence. Consequently, the Caribbean has often been subject to European Union economic, political, and social policies. Sugar has been at the centre of Europe-Caribbean relations since the late sixteenth century, and continues to play a dynamic role.

Most pre-existing scholarly studies of the lucrative EU-Caribbean sugar relationship have focused on high level negotiations, or generalised trends between islands and regions. Peter Jackson (University of Sheffield), Neil Ward (University of East Anglia), and Polly Russell’s (The British Library) 2009 Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers article sought to bridge the gap between thematic and local conceptions: they carefully examined moral questions and concerns in the international sugar industry, albeit from a Euro-centric perspective, interviewing British farmers and market trade representatives.

But what of the sugar growers themselves? The labourers who harvest sugarcane, process it, and prepare it in an uphill battle to somehow satiate the world’s ever-growing demands? In the most recent issue of Area, Pamela Richardson-Ngwenya (University of KwaZulu-Natal) sought to examine the local impact of EU-Caribbean sugar policy reforms, particularly in recent light of what she described as ‘the on-going entrenchment of neoliberal principles in the EU’s trade regime’. Richardson-Ngwenya followed Clarence Thompson, a Barbados sugar farmer, through his daily routines and his negotiations with other farmers and local agencies concerning prices, wages, and regulation. Thompson and his colleagues remain steadfast supporters of the Caribbean sugar industry, a trade that, according to the World Bank, the West Indies should wind down and ‘move on’ from in favour of considerably larger Brazilian production efforts. Thompson, in recorded video interviews, articulated the centrality of sugarcane beyond its immediate EU-centric impact: ‘Let me tell you something: if we ever stop planting sugar cane in Barbados, the whole island is finished. Because sugar cane is the only crop that keep the island into cultivation. It’s the best crop we have’. The lives and experiences of such farmers as Thompson remind us that industries are often more than the ‘bottom line’ – they represent ways of life, and can resound with deep historical and cultural meanings.

60-world2 2013, Country Comparison: GDP – Per Capita (PPP)The CIA World Factbook 2013, accessed 18 June 2013.

60-world2 2013, The EU’s relations with the CaribbeanEuropean Union External Action, 25 January 2013, accessed 18 June 2013.

books_icon Jackson, P, N Ward, and P Russell, 2009, Moral economies of food and geographies of responsibilityTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series, 34, 12-24.

books_icon Richardson-Ngwenya, P, 2013, Situated knowledge and the EU sugar reform: a Caribbean life historyArea45, 188-97.

On the history of sugar, see Sidney W Mintz’s extensive scholarship:

books_icon 1960, Worker in the Cane: A Puerto Rican Life History, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press.

books_icon 1985, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, New York: Viking.

The Geography of Thatcherism: 1979-1983

By Benjamin Sacks

Margaret_Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013). © Wikimedia Commons.

Irrespective of one’s opinion of Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister, few would disagree that her policies and legacies deeply impacted the British Isles, Europe, the former Soviet Union, and much of the developed and developing world. Her domestic and overseas endeavours altered our geographical focus, highlighting new lands, peoples, and conceptions of the world even while others faded from view. But this presents us with new, underlying questions: how, where, and why?

To begin our investigation, one must go back in time, before Thatcher’s famed 1979 election, to 1973, a year that would symbolise heightened, competing tensions. That year, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark officially joined the European Community (later European Union, or EU). Britain’s ascession marked the end of a turbulent decade in colonial relations. Since the early 1960s, the country had pulled out of Kuwait, Aden, much of Africa, and the Caribbean. Increasingly, Britain’s economists, industries, and politicians looked to Europe and the United States for a solution. Watching Britain’s imperial retreat from his office in New Zealand, that year historian J G A Pocock called for a new approach to British history and international affairs, which he termed ‘New British History’. He sought to remind the British of their international responsibilities and legacies, their historically intimate and fluid relationships with the so-called ‘settler colonies’ – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the British West Indies, and South Africa (India is often included as well) (p. 431), and pondered on where Britain’s path lay next. For early observers, the answer was unpredictable at best.

What is most evident from this period was the Thatcher movement’s profound influence in determining where geographers would focus their attention and resources, as well as what areas slipped into relative negligence. It is therefore possible to construct a geopolitical ‘roadmap’ of 1980s British geographical scholarship, demonstrating that, in an effort to maintain their relevance and avail themselves to the broadest possible audience, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, and political experts largely published in lockstep with upcoming trends and changing situations at home and abroad. In the aftermath of the government’s struggle with mining unions, scholars took advantage of national attention on the North to publish a series of related studies. These articles, importantly, were not narrowly limited to union organisation, nor to mining, but rather sought to engage with broader geographical and ethnographic themes. In 1980, for instance, Alec H Paul and Paul Simpson-Housley published ‘The Novelist’s Image of the North’, reminding audiences of the region’s immense natural beauty and cultural clout. I M Evans stuck to a closer, geopolitical analysis in his examination of how the then-international steel crisis had affected other EEC states, rather than simply Britain. Two years later, John North and Derek Spooner returned to Northern England, to re-examine the wider implications of the Coal Board’s investment programme in the heavily-affected (and marginalised) Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and Derbyshire regions.

The Falklands War directly catalysed a flurry of investigative discussions and scholarly explorations of the contested British territory. As a previous Geography Directions article discussed in detail, the war presented the RGS-IBG with a unique opportunity: to educate itself, the government, and the public about a series of islands that had already been in Britain’s continuous (but largely ignored) possession for over 150 years in 1982. Similarly, the United States’ invasion of Grenada – a Commonwealth Realm – in 1983 spurred a similar rush to, as Brian J Hudson suggested, ‘Put Grenada on the map’. In response to his September 1985 Area article, however, Rex Walford conducted a series of impromptu surveys with British and American audiences to determine whether recent popular and academic coverage of the invasion (and of the island more generally) had actually resulted in greater awareness of Grenada’s location, society, and affairs. The answer, Walford discovered, was certainly not encouraging. ‘At only one venue (a joint RGS/GA lecture at Hull) has a majority of the audience identified the island [of Grenada] correctly[!]’ (p. 57). John S Brierley, then an associate professor of geography at the University of Manitoba, preferred a less humorous, more serious approach, arguing that the social and economic development programmes created by the People’s Revolutionary Government of Grenada, led by Maurice Bishop, should be closely examined to determine what lessons could be learned. He uncovered that some social welfare initiatives could prove quite useful in other Caribbean states. Writing nearly a decade later, Robert Potter recalled Brierley’s assessment, and reminded contemporary development anthropologists, geographers, and planners of how ideas gained from Grenada, brought by the RGS-IBG in the war’s aftermath to public attention, could be incorporated into current grassroots/NGO/small government schemes.

books_icon Armitage, David, 1999, Greater Britain: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis?, The American Historical Review 104.2, 427-45.

books_icon Paul, Alec H and Paul Simpson-Housley, 1980, The Novelist’s Image of the North: Discussion, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 5.3, 174-84.

books_icon Evans, I M, 1980, Aspects of the Steel Crisis in Europe, with Particular Reference to Belgium and Luxembourg, The Geographical Journal 146.3, 396-407.

books_icon North, John and Derek Spooner, 1982, The Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Coalfield: The Focus of the Coal Board’s Investment Strategy, The Geographical Journal 148.1, 22-37.

books_icon Hudson, Brian J, 1985, Putting Grenada on the Map, Area 17.3, 233-35.

books_icon Walford, Rex, 1986, Finding Grenada on the Map, Area 18.1, 56-57.

books_icon Brierley, John S, A Review of Development Strategies and Programmes of the People’s Revolutionary Government in Grenada, 1979-83, The Geographical Journal 151.1, 40-52.

books_icon Potter, Robert, 1995, Urbanisation and Development in the Caribbean, Geography 80.4, 334-41.

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Sacks, Benjamin, 2012, (Re)Introducing the Falklands: The March 1983 ‘Geographical Journal’, Geography Directions, 18 February.

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.

At the borders of ‘Fortress Europe’

Fylakio detention centre (Evros, Greece), 9th October 2010. Author: Georgios Giannopoulos

By Rosa Mas Giralt

The outer borders of the European Union and their ‘barrier’ structures are back in the news. Since FRONTEX, the EU’s agency for border security, started to reinforce the policing of unofficial migration routes through the Canary Islands in 2007, the course of these routes has turned towards the Eastern side of ‘Fortress Europe’. In these new trajectories, Malta, Greece and the Italian islands have become the major border spaces that undocumented immigrants attempt to negotiate. In recent reports, the BBC and The Telegraph have brought to the fore the situation on the border between Greece and Turkey, where an increasing number of undocumented immigrants are being stopped and held in detention centres. FRONTEX has also become active at this border, allegedly cutting the crossings from 350 to 60 people a day. Consequently, those would-be immigrants arrested (men, women and children) are held in detention centres, which human rights organizations have denounced as overcrowded and unhygienic. The image of crowds of people calling to journalists from behind the bars of these detention centres causes many to question the politics behind ‘Fortress Europe’.

Human geographers have long battled with trying to understand the decision-making processes of people who decide to leave their countries of origin for what, on many occasions, is an unknown future in an unknown land. A complex combination of macro and micro factors play a role in migrants’ decision-making processes; insecurity, natural disasters, poverty, family obligations, the wish for safety and a better future are all powerful factors that many contemporary migrants face. In a forthcoming article for Area, Van der Velde and Van Naerssen (2010) propose a geographical approach for analyzing cross-border mobility by using the case of the European Union. The EU’s policy is based on the premise that migration can be controlled by its outer border system so the authors consider whether these borders act as barriers to the potential mobility of people (from outside of the EU but also across European countries). Overall, they try to develop a model which can take into account all the factors influencing spatial behaviours in international migration, analyzing them through the basic components involved in human (im)mobility: people, borders and trajectories. Their approach brings to the fore, once more, not only the diversity of factors that play a role in people’s movement (or not) across borders but also the difficulty in developing models which can accommodate complex understandings of human agency, borders and trajectories.

 Read the BBC’s report by Razia Iqbal “Migrants at Greece-Turkey border face bleak future”

 Read The Telegraph‘s report “Sharp rise in illegal immigrants entering Europe through Greece”

 Read  Martin Van Der Velde and Ton Van Naerssen (2010) “People, borders, trajectories: an approach to cross-border mobility and immobility in and to the European Union”. Area. [Early View]

You expect me to talk? No Mr Bond I expect you to buy

SIS (MI6) Headquarters, London

By Alexander Leo Phillips

We were reminded today about the grim realities of life in the global intelligence community, with the discovery of a thus far unidentified body in a London flat.  Such stories have become increasingly  common place since the end of the Cold War, as many governments have opened up (relativity speaking) and comment more regularly upon matters of state intelligence.  So much so in fact, its now often forgotten that the British Government only recently publicly acknowledged the very existence of SIS. Now they even have an official website.

Before this time the complexities of international espionage were a mystery to the general public.  All we had to go on were the entertainment industries best attempts to turn this unknown world into an exciting (and often slightly camp)  two hours of fast cars, women and guns.  In such a world James Bond was never puzzled by the ill defined notion of the Britain he was fighting for, nor was he ever concerned by his carbon footprint.  As a result, many could be said to hold an overly romanticised image of this world; as something they can buy into for its ‘promises’ of thrills, excitement  and sex.

Stijn Reijnders has explored the increasing profitable world of James Bond tourism in Area’s September 2010 issue.  In it he details the journeys of 007 “pilgrims” as they visit various locations from Bond films across London and the wider world.  From a simple door way to SIS headquarters itself, these pilgrims relive their favourite Bond moments; wishing, if only for an instant, to be part of that world.  However, it seems unlikely to me that these same fans would find as much joy reflecting upon locations like Piccadilly’s Itsu sushi restaurant.

Reijnders, S. 2010. ‘On the trail of 007: media pilgrimages into the world of James Bond’, Area, 42 (3). pp. 369 – 377.