Relational landscapes and rock star geographers on a solo flight

After a very smooth trip to Malmö, Sweden I stepped into an IKEA catalogue. This hotel room was going to be home for the next four days. I was in Malmö for the Relational Landscape Studies of Urbanisations Conference at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. I have blogged before about how I find conferences exciting and overwhelming experiences. It was great “flying in AUSCCER formation” at the two first conferences I attended. In those instances there were colleagues who introduced me and who guided me and other starting PhD students around. None of that on this occasion, it was time for my first solo flight.

A stranger in Bangalore: reflections from the field

As I prepared to present my Indian work at the Relational Landscapes of Urbanisation Conference at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Alnarp, I reflected on interactions with research participants. I visited Bangalore in January to scope out community gardens for future fieldwork.  With a research assistant I visited several communities of gardeners who were very eager to share their thoughts and show us around. Their enthusiasm made me think about what it means to be an outsider as a researcher and about how to be considerate in an unfamiliar environment.
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Journey through Dharawal and Dhurga Indigenous landscapes – Part 1

Post written by Heather Moorcroft, Sue Feary and Michael Adams

This November Sydney will host the World Parks Congress. Held every ten years, the congress is considered one of the major events on the international conservation calendar. Thousands of delegates will come together to discuss emerging ideas on conservation as well as setting the course for the next decade’s protected area work programs. Previous congresses have not only been the catalyst for innovative strategies in conservation, charting the way for the development of new paradigms, they have also resulted in vigorous and ongoing debates, particularly on the role conservation plays in social justice and economic development of local and Indigenous peoples (see the accounts on the last Congress by Brosius (2004) and Terborgh (2004)). Continue reading

Expeditions in India: from A (Andamans) to B (Buddha)

Post written by Michael Adams

I have just returned from New Delhi, the capital of India. I was also in Calcutta (Kolkata), the city of my birth, after spending a week in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, between India and SE Asia, an extraordinarily beautiful and fascinating place. This post continues my series engaging with India.

Sunset over North Andaman

Sunset over North Andaman. Photo credit: Michael Adams

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Shards of the past and seeds of the future

Pondering the details of everyday life in the Bronze Age, as I did in a post several weeks ago, took me back to a discussion between Nigel Clark and Michelle Bastian at the RGS-IBG conference in late August. They wondered how we might need to reassemble the shards of the past in different ways in the future. As I pack up to leave Gothenburg and head home, my head is spinning with ideas, comparisons and lists of things to do. So I will just present a few thoughts as disconnected shards that may or may not sit together in a strong stone wall.

Stone wall, Gotland. Photo: L. Head

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Layers of heritage

I have been fortunate enough on the last two weekends to visit two world heritage areas, the Bronze Age rock art of the Tanum area in Bohuslän, and the mediaeval town of Visby, on the Baltic island of Gotland. The Gotland visit was part of a field trip with old colleagues from the Landscape Science program at Kristianstad University, where I worked in 2005-06. A nine day field trip underpins the second year subject Svenska Landskap. It is described as a smörgåsbord of landscapes – a quick taste of many different things. Intensive or block teaching is standard in many Swedish universities, with students concentrating on one subject completely for five weeks.

Seeing with a bus. Photo: L. Head

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Words and weeds in Sweden

Late summer landscape at Vrångö, in Göteborg’s southern archipelago.

I am back in Göteborg (Gothenburg) as Visiting Professor in the Unit for Human and Economic Geography at the University of Gothenburg. Each time I visit Sweden for a prolonged period, I try to do something systematic to improve, or at least regain, my limited Swedish. On this visit I opted for an intensive course. It was hard work; I haven’t thought about subordinate clauses for more than forty years, and learning vocab is much harder for me than it was then. Many people express surprise at this use of my time, since English is the second language of operation of Swedish academic life. All my colleagues here have to publish in English in order to establish an international reputation, and they speak and write English to a very high level. I don’t anticipate that I will ever be able to have an academic conversation in Swedish.

So why would I bother? Continue reading

Back to the future: climate change and regional inheritances

This is the second in a series of posts by AUSCCER’s Chris Gibson on climate change and regions, building on papers presented in recent weeks at the 4th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions at ETH Zurich, the annual Institute of Australian Geographers conference at the University of Western Australia, and the 2013 National Climate Change Adaptation (NCCARF) conference in Sydney.

In my last post I made the case for focusing on regions as a scale of climate change response. In this, I wish to consider briefly the issue of how to rethink future responses in light of the past.

Regions inherit numerous legacies from previous generations: their physical infrastructure, economic base, demography, political culture, workforce skills and social mix. Regions will, with some urgency, need to assess the strengths of their institutions, rethink residential, transport and environmental planning, and document vernacular cultural assets that may prove helpful in adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of climatic extremity.

How well are we positioned to ‘retrofit’ regions, physically, economically, and culturally – and how quickly can it be done? The task is to figure out which bits of regional historical inheritances will count towards transition and adaptation, and which bits will somehow need to be jettisoned. Continue reading

Daring to simplify: multifunctional landscapes and Twitter

Do we environmental social scientists make things too complicated for ourselves? That was one of the stimulating questions that emerged from the workshop Marie Stenseke and I organised here in Göteborg last week – Enhancing the contribution of the social sciences to sustainability debates: how can we be proactive and practical without compromising on complexity? Klas Sandell from Karlstad University encapsulated the dilemma as ‘daring to simplify’ in the public arena. Natural scientists do it all the time, when announcing the latest discoveries in climate change, cancer research or human evolution. Most people accept that there is a huge amount of complexity and detailed research behind such simplifications. Are social scientists too precious about their expertise in complexity?

Reflecting on the discussion later, and having to report on AUSCCER’s activities for the year, I was reminded that we have made significant steps in 2012. What are Twitter, The Conversation and this blog* if not examples of ‘daring to simplify’ our current thinking and research findings? One great thing about each of these arenas is that they contain the architecture to link to the more detailed work in the background. I at least feel more confident to simplify if I can point the reader to the basis on which I do so. A second advantage is that they are our words (with the concomitant disadvantage that we cannot blame a journalist when things are wrong!). Continue reading

Whiteboards and contingency

I approached the week with some trepidation. Three days teaching the first part of an intensive PhD course. As we don’t have PhD coursework in Australia, what is the appropriate level? What is the right balance between me talking and engendering a conversation within the group? How many authors to include on the reading list? Better to try and give a broad sweep, or a focused ‘take’ on the topic – ‘Sustainable Landscapes’? And the students themselves were at a range of different levels, from Masters coursework to some nearly ready to defend their PhDs, so it had to be accessible in different ways. Continue reading