Tag Archives: US

Energy security

I-Hsien Porter

Our dependence on energy is increasingly fragile. In the US, oil companies are drilling deeper and taking more risks in response to the demand for cheap oil. In April, a Transocean/BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank, resulting in a massive oil spill. Regardless of how the situation has been managed, it was the demand for oil that meant that the oil rig, with all its associated risks, was there in the first place. Energy supplied by fossil fuel is becoming more risky to obtain.

Meanwhile, on the Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, residents have been urged to use household appliances less as a lack of rain has reduced the amount of electricity generated through hydro-power schemes. Energy supplies are becoming more difficult to sustain.

In Belarus recently, piped gas supplies from Russia were reduced in response to a disagreement over payment for gas and the use of transit pipelines. Energy security is therefore not just a case of the geographical distribution of supply and demand, but is also dependant on complex social processes and international relations.

Michael Bradshaw deals with these themes in an article in Geography Compass, published in 2009. Bradshaw illustrates the multidimensional nature of energy security. For example, climate change policy is driving a reduction in reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels. At the same time, China and India’s rapidly developing economies are increasing their demand for energy, reshaping the challenges of energy security as they add their voices to the debate.

Geographers are well placed to understand the interface of the physical and political drivers of changing energy supply and demand. A key challenge remains in translating this into an understanding of energy security and the policies needed to sustain affordable and sufficient energy supplies.

Bradshaw, M. J. (2009) “The Geopolitics of Global Energy Security.” Geography Compass 3 (5): 1920-1937

US Oil Spill coverage (BBC News, 30th June)

No rain puts Eigg on toast watch (BBC News, 29th June)

Russia ‘to restart’ full gas supplies after Belarus row (BBC News, 24th June)

Recent Catastrophic Flooding

By Andy Hacket Pain

This morning I typed “flooding” into Google News and, limiting the results to the last week, found that you get almost 20,000 hits.

By scrolling through the first few pages of results I then discovered that flooding disasters of different scales have affected Southern China, the US, Burma, Singapore, Winnipeg, India and southern France over the last few days, with several hundred reported deaths and many more people still missing. For example, 132 people are now confirmed dead in China, although this figure is likely to rise significantly, and almost a million people have been evacuated.

After reading these reports, and viewing pictures of the devastation, the immediate question of what, or who, is responsible for these disasters obviously springs to mind. Chang and Franczyk (2008) review the causes of floods in an article in Geography Compass, highlighting both the natural and human factors responsible for these events.

While intense or prolonged rainfall is clearly the primary cause of flooding, land-use change and potentially climate change have also played a major role in the reported increase in flood damage over recent decades. Furthermore, the urban development of high risk areas puts increased numbers at risk; in response to this weeks flooding, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction has again called on governments to take flood risk into account in urban planning efforts.

There is also of course the question of whether climate change also has some responsibility for these flooding events. According to Chang and Franczyk (2008) this is not yet clear, but the evidence is building…

Chang and Franczyk (2008), Climate Change, Land-Use Change, and Floods: Toward an Integrated Assessment, Geography Compass, 2(5), 1549-1579

“Floods across southern China take heavy toll” from the BBC News website

Photographs of the flooding in southern France from The Guardian website

The UNISDR calls for governments to take action, reported at webnewswire.com

Satellite images of the weather system over southern China, from the Chinese National Meteorological Centre

The Geographies of Childhood Obesity

Sarah Mills

The recent criticism Jamie Oliver received for his attempts to combat obesity in the US highlight how emotive the issue of childhood obesity can be.  The American backlash to Oliver’s latest show – Food Revolutions – has been widely reported and analysed in British newspapers.  Some commentators have remarked it is merely a response to ‘pushy’ Brits and demonstrative of the dwindling ‘special’ relationship between US and Britain.  It has, however, raised the issue of childhood obesity and policies regarding school dinners once more.  This latest venture by Oliver follows on from Jamie’s School Dinners, which aired in the UK in 2005 and focused on improving healthy-eating in British schools.  Whilst his approach received criticism from some quarters, it has had a marked effect on the approach and policies of the UK Government towards school meals.  Indeed, recently published research has shown an overall improvement in children’s health and performance at schools that participated in Oliver’s ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign.  It is yet to be seen how successful Oliver’s campaign in the US will be, yet I would argue his programmes and the debates they raise clearly demonstrates the need for a critical geography of obesity.

Geographer Bethan Evans has focused specifically on childhood obesity and UK policies in her recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  She explores geographical work on obesity and pre-emptive biopolitics, before examining the “dystopian production of the future nation in obesity policy” (2010:21).  She argues how “children are central to the production and pre-emption of obese futures because of the affective potential of childhood and the paradoxical position of children’s bodies both as children in the present and adults of the future” (2010:21).  Though focusing on the spatiotemporalities of obesity policies, Evans speaks to broader debates about the role of young people in pre-emptive politics and the geographies of ‘globesity’.

Read Toby Young in The Guardian on Jamie Oliver’s US criticism

  Read the BBC Online Story on Oliver’s successful ‘Feed Me Better’ Campaign

  Read Evans, B. (2010) ‘Anticipating fatness: childhood, affect and the pre-emptive ‘war on obesity’’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (1): 21-38