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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Geography in the Times
Yet again, some Geography bashing. An article by Jane Shilling which starts about the G Team's appearance on Today and later, begrudgingly, appreciates that actually the My Walks project which was one of the items is actually a wonderful thing...
Here's the offending bit:

A certain new year’s languor meant that I wasn’t paying very close attention to the Today programme on Monday morning, especially as they seemed unaccountably to have handed it over to a bunch of geographers to edit. Very worthy, no doubt, but terminal moraines are so not my thing at crack of dawn on the first day of the year.

Reproduced below is Doreen Massey's excellent essay which was read out towards the end of the program. It succintly explains so much about the world we live in today, and the fundamental role of Geography in understanding it !

“Geographical perspectives”

A mini-essay for the Today Programme 1st January 2007

Professor Doreen Massey

There is an argument – about climate change – that goes like this.

  • “… the UK’s contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gas is only a small percentage.”
  • “ … there’s not much point in taking responsibility for our own place when India and China are growing as they are.”

Now, I might have found that a comforting argument. But it seems it is a totally inadequate geography.

What that ‘small percentage’ counts, is the greenhouse gas emissions from the UK directly. In that sense, it treats the UK as an isolated entity.

But it is not.

Firstly, that calculation, it seems, misses out the effect of all the things we import from elsewhere (many of them indeed from China). We demand those goods but we do not count as our own the pollution of producing them.

Secondly, that ‘small percentage’ does not take account of the role UK companies in production around the world. It has been estimated, for instance, that something like 15% of global carbon emissions derives from companies listed on the London Stock exchange. Our economy is said to benefit from those companies. So what responsibilities do we, as UK citizens, have towards them?

I could go on. The point is this. That ‘small percentage’ is meaningless in an interconnected world. We cannot pretend that because all that greenhouse gas emission doesn’t happen here it doesn’t happen because of us … that we are in no way implicated.

But surely, might come the reply, we are improving. The UK is on course to meet its Kyoto target.

Indeed it is. But why?

It is largely because:

  • we have allowed our manufacturing to collapse
  • we closed the mines and dashed for gas
  • we opted for an economy based on services and, especially, finance.

It is not so much that we are behaving better, as that:

  • we have exported our pollution
  • and we have reshaped the UK’s role in the global economy.

That reshaping has also reshaped the geography of the UK itself, as

  • manufacturing regions have declined
  • the north-south divide has widened
  • our economy revolves more and more around London’s financial sector

Forget that comforting geography of small percentages. These are some of the other geographies that lie behind responsibilities for climate change.

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