Tag Archives: Florida

Hurricane Documentation

by Benjamin Sacks

As Hurricane Sandy hits the densely populated US eastern seaboard, commentators and pundits alike compete to depict local reactions and identify those populations who will be hardest hit. Much of the current concern stems from officials’ highly criticised response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (2005), which devastated New Orleans and left at least 1,200 people dead. But, collection and analysis of valuable data on constituency responses, first-aid services, and suggestions for future defences against hurricanes has its own history. Sociologists, political scientists, and geographers have experimented with various field research methods.

In 1855, Andrés Poey, of Havana, organised a list of some 400 hurricanes documented in various forms since Christopher Columbus’s 1492 trans-Atlantic expedition. He hoped, by publishing his tables in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, to advance awareness on hurricane theory: for it had ‘now been proved…that wind, in hurricanes and common gales on both sides of the equator, has two motions; and that it turns or blows round a focus or centre in a more or less circular form’ (p. 291).

Nearly 150 years later, using techniques they had earlier tested in nuclear power accidents, in 1996 Donald J Seigler (Old Dominion University), Stanley D Brunn (University of Kentucky), and James H Johnson, Jr (University of North Carolina) documented their use of small focus groups to learn about hurricane responses and better react to future storms. In December 1992, six months after Hurricane Andrew slammed into Florida, the three researchers conducted several focus groups in the Miami area. They believed that their experiment was one of the first implementations of focus groups in post-hurricane emergency planning. Questions were organised around: ‘the pre-impact period’, or preparations for the hurricane; and ‘post-impact period’, or the storm’s psychological, physical, and social consequences. Seigler, Brunn, and Johnson delineated between ‘therapeutic’ and ‘parasitic’/‘exploitative’ responses – unified, communal support versus an “everyone for themselves” mentality (p. 127). The researchers concluded that focused, group discussion in post-disaster scenarios could provide information crucial to more rapid, comprehensive first aid.

 For an official U.S. estimate of casualties from Hurricane Katrina (2005), see here (p. 5).

 Donald J Seigler, Stanley D Brunn, and James H Johnson, Focusing on Hurricane Andrew through the Eyes of the Victims, Area 28 124-29.

 Andrés Puey, A Chronological Table, Comprising 400 Cyclonic Hurricanes Which Have Occurred in the West Indies and the North Atlantic within 362 Years, from 1493-1855: With a Biographical List of 450 Authors, Books, &c., and Periodicals, Where Some Interesting Accounts May be Found, Especially on the West and East Indian Hurricanes [sic], Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 25 291-328.

An American Tale: the residential origins of Florida’s homeless

by Fiona Ferbrache

Yesterday, 4th July, marked National Independence Day for the United States; a day commemorating independence of the US from Great Britain in 1776.  Throughout the US, and elsewhere around the world, Independence Day is celebrated with feasting, music and patriotic parades that reinforce the imagined sense of nation and community (see DA France Toulouse Independence Day Party, 2011, National Independence Day Parade, 2011).  By waving flags, singing anthems and eating certain foods, many Americans use these national symbols to celebrate their nation’s story, cultural values and freedoms.

With Independence Day fresh in our minds, I have chosen to present an article by Rukmana (2011), an American-based academic, which draws upon research undertaken in the US.  Rukmana’s paper deals with homelessness in Florida and compares residential origins of homeless families and homeless individuals.  The article is fundamentally geographic in that it deals with the spatial distribution of residential origins and subsequent patterns of movement engaged by homeless persons.  Drawing from these patterns, Rukmana identifies statistically significant differences between homeless individuals and homeless families.  This paper indicates some of the potential patterns that major cities and regions might anticipate among their homeless populations, thus helping to inform the design and implementation of homeless prevention and management programmes.

With Independence Day representing a fine opportunity to observe people reproducing American’s myths and symbols, I wonder to what extent these homeless persons feel themselves to be, or are perceived to be, part of America’s “imagined community”?

DA France Toulouse Independence Day Party (2011) Democrats Abroad.

National Independence Day Parade (2011) Marching.com

Rukmana, D. (2011) Comparing the residential origins of homeless families and homeless individuals in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Area. 43.1, pp.96-109

The Rise of Hate and the Battle for Understanding

By Alexander Leo Phillips

Those of us who follow the news will be no strangers to the controversy surrounding the proposed Park 51 Community Centre in Lower Manhattan.  Also known as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ (despite being neither a Mosque nor located at ‘Ground Zero’), the project has led to numerous claims that its a signal of the ‘victorious Islamic take-over of America’.  Given it’s true nature, the project is  naturally supported by President Obama; or has a member of the Tea Party Nation likes to call him as a result the “Muslim crypto-commie usurper”.

Emotions are running high this week as Saturday marks the 9th anniversary of the 11th September, 2001 terrorist attacks, which so painfully defined the last decade.  To the mark the occasion a small Florida church known as the Dove World Outreach Centre (DWOC (an ironic title as we’ll see)) has propelled itself into the media spotlight by holding an ‘International Burn a Koran Day’; after all little invokes the image of doves and outreach quite like a good old book burning, just ask the Nazis!

Their intentions have rightly sparked a sense of horror and disapproval from many Americans, with General Petraeus stating that the action “could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort [of American foreign policy]” (BBC).  Sadly, along with the Park 51 project and the rising levels of ‘ hate crimes’ like the Jacksonville Mosque pipe bomb perpetrated in the US, this action appears symptomatic of the wider issue of Islamophobia which fails to go away.  As a direct result of the DWOC’s plans the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have recently launched a new campaign to battle what it terms as the “growing anti-Muslim bigotry in American society”. This ‘bigotry’ is indeed widespread amongst a vocal minority and is increasingly backed up by elements of America’s right-wing media outlets, politicians and fringe religious organisations.

In the current issue of Transactions, Dr. Nick Megoran details how the ‘Reconciliation Walks’  project has acted to transform the “deeply entrenched geopolitical understanding[s]” (2010:395) of those who participated in them. Furthermore, it demonstrates how just the simplest acts of genuine outreach and understanding work to easily destroy pre-existing feelings of fear and mistrust.

As many geographers with an interest in politics and religion would argue, both are often inseparable.  Indeed religious groups can act as a positive force as Dr. Megoran’s paper implies; but I feel its equally important to remain mindful that the opposite is often just as true as the DWOC so shamefully demonstrates.  Furthermore, I suggest that our work is largely wasted if we don’t in some way conduct some ‘outreach’ activities ourselves, in order to help end these circles of hate, lies and fear.

For more information on Park51: http://www.cordobainitiative.org/

For more information on the DWOC: http://www.doveworld.org/

For more information on CAIR: http://www.cair.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?ArticleID=26609&&name=n&&currPage=1

N, Megoran, 2010. “Towards a geography of peace: pacific geopolitics and evangelical Christian crusade apologies”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 35 (3). pp. 382-398.

Everglades National Park on UNESCO’s ‘Danger List’

By Richard Gravelle

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee met in Brazil on Thursday (29th July 2010) to discuss the ‘danger list’ of world heritage sites at risk.  The meeting brings good news for the Galapagos Islands, well known for inspiring Darwin’s Origin of Species, which have been removed from the list after significant steps made by Ecuador to protect its ecosystem. 

Sadly however, both the tropical rainforest of Madagascar, and the Everglades National Park of Florida, USA have been added to the list.  Madagascar’s rainforest has suffered at the hands of loggers and illegal poachers in the past year, and development in the Everglades has resulted in a 60% decrease in water flow through the wetlands.

Worryingly for the national park, the addition to the list of the Everglades at the request of the US government isn’t the first time.  The wetlands were previously classified as ‘at-risk’ between 1993 and 2007 due to the effects of Hurricane Andrew.  On this occasion however, the committee cited urban and agricultural development and pollution as the causes for serious degradation of the wetlands aquatic ecosystem.

It is hoped that experts from UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will visit the property in 2010 to evaluate the state of the park and assist in the development of a conservation plan.  It is hoped that these steps will result in the area being removed from the danger list as soon as possible.

 BBC News – Everglades and Madagascar forests on Unesco danger list. 31st July 2010

 UNESCO – World Heritage Committee inscribes Everglades National Park on List of World Heritage in Danger. 30th July 2010