Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Live Aid and LDC's

Dear All

as a summary to the work we have done so far this year on LDC's and the reasons for current levels of development, I though some persepective would help you to place our current studies in context.

Many of you will have heard of Live Aid and some of you may have even been one of the 3 billion people who in 2005 watched one of the 10 live concerts, but how much do you really know about the cause, the history, and the success of this unique campaign?

To start, the originl Live Aid was broadcast in 1985, following the release of the Band Aid single, which in case you havent heard it, here is the original:

Formed in 1984, the single was released on 25th November 1984, but re-recorded in 1989 and 2004, topping the charts each time, and is so named as a play on the name "Band Aid" or the plaster company, and is a little self deprecating as the artists at the time recognised that monies raised are like using a bandaid to stem a major wound. Each time this British/Irish super group formed, it collected leading artists of the time, and estimates out the amount of money raised from november 1984 to January 2004 as £75 Million.

A summary of Band Aid charitable activities till 2004

The Live Aid concerts took place the year after the release of the first single, taking place on three continents, and countless countries. But to understand why, in a time before the internet and email, live streaming and Facebook, whose idea was it, and why did it happen?

The answer can be seen by watching any news broadcast of the current crisis in East Africa, but one report, by Michael Buerk, highlighted the famine of 1984 more clearly than any other, and had a profound impact on the coverage and attention the crisis received. It was one of the first, and certainly one of the most emotional, and remains to this day, some of the most moving news footage on record:

So, what was Live Aid? A collection of the best and brightest artists performing in Philadelphia and Wembley, with Concorde on standby to chauffeur Phil Collins from the first concert in London to play in the second. My favourite from the performance, the everlasting, enigmatic and energetic Freddy Mercury, with a fabulous performance:

The freddie Mercury Tribute Concert:

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Hello Upper Sixth! In time for this tuesdays session, here is the ticker for you to submit any questions about the subtopic of LDC's and the Millenium Development Goals. The live audio feed will start at 530, hopefully with some better quality broadcasting on my part!


 All questions will be answered on tuesday night, we are about to move on from LDC's to the issues surrounding globalisation and developing countries and further case studies to include India and China, South Korea and a carefully selected TNC. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for a post regarding feminism, following the shocking views of some of my upper sixth classes, and the notes from the video on Globalisation. See you tomorrow, with your completed essays, ready at the start of the lesson! Millie

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Equality Across the World, and yes, we still need it.

Dear All Following the discussions held in many of my A2 classes this week, don't worry I shalln't name and shame, I felt it was time for an imaprtial assessment of how closs to true equality we are across the globe, and a reasoned, written response as to why it is. in fact, considered to be one of the driving forces behind development, and on of the largest challenges we face. Don't worry, this is not a feminist rant, merely a subjective (well, mostly) review of the current statistics, and an explanation as to why so many of the MDG's focus on equality for women. The womens rights movement, started in developed countries in the late 19th century, and most of you will have heard the term "Suffragette", whilst "Suffrage" means the civil right to vote, it is a term that has become linked to the granting of votes to women. New Zealand, was in fact the first country to afford women the vote in 1893, whilst in the UK, the "National Union of Womens Suffrage Societies", founded in 1897, and spearheaded by Millicent Fawcett led over 20 years of peaceful political campaigns, (Wo)mannedlargely by the UK Middle class. It is worth noting, that the Womens Social and Political Union, was a separate, and more Militant offshoot of this organisation, who wanted more action on womens votes, and was headed by Emmeline Pankhurst.

The suffragette movement has attracted much speculation over its course of action, but the sacrifices made by these women should not be underestimated. Pankhurst was arrested 8 times, and staged hunger strikes in Royal Holloway with other WSPU leaders, which led to the practice of forced feeding of women prisoners in 1912. She continued to campaign, and support the policy of property destruction and activism, which led to many fo the original members of the WSPU leaving the organisation

To start, we have had legislation in the UK for 41 years, making it illegal to give preferential treatment to either one of the sexes. Ms. Fawcett said in a speech in 1911 that their movement was "like a glacier; slow moving but unstoppable".

So, how does any of this affect development? Quite simply, it is the "Girl Effect" and here is a video from the charity promoting the issue, which sums up the problem far better than I can:

In terms of factors that affect fertility and mortality, we have covered the idea that the more control and education a woman has, and importantly the more access to family planning and contraceptive materials we have, the later they will have their first child, the more they contribute to the workforce, the tax base and the politics of their country.

This leads us to the question, which countries are leading the way, and who is falling behind with regards to Gender Equality. Here is one of my favourite images, a complex graph, but one that relates the ratio of earnings, and the percentage of seats held in parliament:


According to the 2006 statistics, Sweden is the country with the highest degree of equality, women earn 85% of male earnings, and occupy just under 50% of the seats in parliament. In contrast, Oman, the UAE, the Sudan, Eqypt and Morroco have under 25% of their parliamentary seats held by women, and they earn on average, 25% of equivalent male salaries. There are some suprises here, and of course some significant uprisings since this graphic was produced. Kenya has few female politicians, but women earn 80% of a typical male salary, whereas in Rwanda, over 5% of places are held by women, and the earnings ratio is 0.70.

Fascinating stuff, but in a country like the UK, where it is illegal to discriminate, and we were one of the first to give women the vote, and legally, a woman can do the same as any man, why are we in the middle of the pack? Women in the UK earn less than 70% of their male equivalents, and hold 15% of parliamentary seats. I wonder what Emeline Pankhurst would think of this?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Drainage Basin Terminology

Dear Lower Sixth Please see below for a summary of the drainage basin processes and factors affecting them from the lessons this week, remember, if you are in Millie's AS group, you have a test on this on Monday!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Upper Sixth Workshop

Dear all please use the text function here to ask any questions

Tonights session will focus on the colonialism essay and the work on the Millenium Development Goals we are doing in class. Please ask any questions about the last weeks work and the live audio should start at 530, lasting for around half an hour, longer if there are more questions.

Here is the audio stream: under development See you all in a minute, please submit questions throughout! Millie

Monday, 19 September 2011

Your Colonialism Essay: A timeline to help you.

Dear Upper Sixth

Here is a the mentioned timeline, it is by no means meant to be a complete history of Colonialism, or contain all information you would need, but does cover a range of events up to the present day crisis that could be relevant to you essays, here is the title again:

"To what extent are the the current low levels of development in Sub-Saharan Africa a product of European Colonialism"

If you feel you have another event which should be included here, let me know and I will add it in.

Please remember the live sessions on a tuesday evening, starting at 530, but you can submit any questions through the blog in advance, and replay all text and voice sessions at any time.

See you tomorrow!


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Iain Stewart in a Box?

As many of you will already know, and the rest of you in my classes will soon gather, I, like many other geography teachers, am rather fond of Iain Stewart, Professor of Geocommunications at Plymouth. If you haven't already seen them, his documentaries are excellent, and in the library, and make up a very informative, easy to watch part of your four hours extra reading a week (Check out "Power of the Planet" and "How Earth Made Us" - particularly good as an introduction to higher level geography).

Iain is in the news today for taking part in an experiment for his next documentary, the test is taking place this weekend at the Eden Project, where you can see Iain living in a perspex box with 120 plants:

Why? This should be an excellent demonstration of the role plants play in the regulation of our atmosphere. The plants will not be able to convert all of the CO2 produced into oxygen, and the experiment could be terminated early if oxygen levels drop too low, but with the range of plants in the box, the concentration of oxygen should drop no lower the 12%, which is roughly comparable to an altitude of over 4000m.

This has been done before, in the mid 18th century, with mice, so lets wish Iain the best, and keep an eye on this story as it develops over the next couple of days!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Climate Change comes to Somerset? (Oh no, not the Cider!)

Welcome to the first post of the year! A summary of recent climate change activity, and the potential dangers to a somerset tradition.

This year has seen a flurry of discussion about how climate change, and the Rio +20 summit (Rio Earth Summit 20 years on, Kyoto runs out next year, leaving a gaping void in binding climate agreements), and the general consensus seems to be that the way to get people to listen on the climate change front, is to tell them that it will hit them where it hurts. Their wallets.

Much research has been done since the Stern Report on the impacts of climate change, and governments all around the world are starting to see some changes. We have had two extreme winters, costing many millions in repairs to roads and infrastructure, Hurricane Irene reached New York, unusual for Atlantic Hurricanes, and Africa is gripped with one of its worst droughts on record. This month has seen the start of a geo-engineering trial, the SPICE Project (Stratospheric Particle Injection Climate Engineering), which is in the early stages of testing, and over the next few months the kit will go through field trials with a kilometre long hose and Helium balloon spraying water at altitude, with an aim to identify three key issues surrounding the highly debated idea of geo-engineering (reproduced from: http://bristol.ac.uk/news/2011/7895.html):

Evaluating candidate particles: Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge and the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory are considering what would be an ‘ideal’ particle to inject into the stratosphere.  The researchers will aim to identify a particle with excellent solar radiation scattering properties, and consider what potential impacts might be on climate, weather, ecosystems and human health.
Delivery systems:Engineers from the University of Cambridge and Marshall Aerospace will test the feasibility and design of using a tethered-balloon to inject particles into the stratosphere. They will be using the data obtained from the test-bed project in computer models to examine how a full-scale system might work at an altitude of 20km.
Climate and environmental modelling: Researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and Bristol are working with the Met Office Hadley Centre to consider what can be learned from past volcanic eruptions.  They are also modelling the potential impact on ozone layer concentrations, regional precipitation changes and atmospheric chemistry.
SPICE is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), with support from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) who are providing laboratory facilities and expertise for the project.

The full article is well worth a read, and will be useful for our final module this year.

For those of you still debating the idea of manipulating the climate system, against taking radical political and economic action to reduce our carbon emissions, here is an excellent blog post from todays Guardian, by John Shepherd, part of the comprehensive section on all geo-engineering issues that can be found here. 

Some countries are already considering preventative measures, Kiribati was in the news this week for their contemplation of a radical scheme involving the creation of artificial islands , that their vulnerable population could relocate to. The scheme proposed by Vincent Callebaut, the Lillypad  scheme, images below, would see vast floating islands holding hundreds of people each and capable of handling the coming challenges of global climate change.

Extreme though this sounds, the idea is feasible and as Kiribati is already facing a $900 million bill for protecting its infrastructure, against a $2 Billion bill for constructing an oil-rig like structure to house several hundred people, the economics are becoming more justified with every centimetre rise in sea level. Artificial islands are in fact, nothing new, several have been built over our history, some more famous than others, such as the controversial Palm Islands and the World in Dubai:

On a smaller scale, the floating villages of Lake Titicaca are older and still in use to house the Uros people, there are believed to be around 40 of these islands anchored in the lake, very few accept visitors, and the Islands anchor them using long poles to reach the lake bed. Other island states have started to construct "Rubbish Islands" such as Thilafushi in the Maldives, which has been controversial, but perhaps the only way to handle the 3.5kg of waste produced each day by tourists who now number over 100 000 per week to the islands. Semaku is the island cretaed from nothing but open water to hold Singapores rubbish, which is incinerated or rcycled, then compressed into vast ocean based chamber, and now is a recognised nature reserve and mangrove swamp, and a tourist attraction for the city state.

So, this year should prove to be interesting, you would be well advised as aspiring geographers to keep abreast of the developments at Rio +20 the official website is here, and here is the link to the Guardians coverage of the event which will develop over time, so keep this link handy!

So, you ask, how does any of this affect us in Somerset? If you have been saying to yourself, or heard many others say, that this winter was so cold, how can global warming possibly be happening? Or, even better, as someone recently said to me "Yes thats all very interesting, but that sort of thing doesn't happen here", a little story about the weird weather this year, and how it could potentially affect our most precious of Somerset exports, cider.

You will probably remember, that spring this year was rather lovely, early and very hot, we had a fantastic easter break, short though it was, and all enjoyed a sunny Royal Wedding (See my earlier post on Royal Wedding Geography). Summer has been ok, not too hot but you may have noticed we have an abundance or soft fruit, and apples. No bad thing, for a county that still exports a lot of cider, but the trees are a little confused. Having blossomed and fruited early, they are not putting out their winter buds, normally not seen until the leaves drop later in autumn. The problem here, is that should we have a tradition "Indian Summer" late in September or October, as has happened for the last two years, the trees could start to put out new leaves again. When the winter finally comes, and judging by the last two years, it will be cold, the trees may suffer some fairly serious damage. Combined with the fact that a common sight at the moment, are apple trees breaking under the weight of their bounty this year, the increased tree damage, and potentially confused buds, could leave us in an awful position next year, as in, we may have a cider shortage.

Dont panic yet! If the winter stays cold, we could be ok, the trees will be fine, and come spring, we might have another great year for our apples, but we could be missing some of our small mammals and birds that depend on autumn fruit like Hawthorn and Elderberries, both of which are already fruited and going over, or Rosehips, which traditionally last till november. Even the Holly is coated in berries already, so when it gets cold, and food gets scarce, there will not necessarily be enough to fatten up hibernating or migrating species before the long winter.

What can we do about it? Well, firstly, do your apple trees a favour, and pick some fruit off the heavily laden branches to prevent too much damage, secondly, we may all need to provide a bit of grub for the birds later on in the year, last, but not least, enjoy this years apple crop, next years may not be any where near as good.

Lets hope that this doesn't happen, but the signs of coming climate change are all around us, having never had a day off for snow when I was at school or college, over the last three years I've had the better part of two weeks snowed out of work, remember, climate change does not mean we are just going to get hotter, we will suffer more extremes of temperature and shorter, more extreme seasons. Sound familiar?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Upper Sixth Workshop: Essays and an Introduction to Colonialism.

Dear Geographers!

Welcome back to the Upper Sixth, it has been a long holiday, and a while since the last blog post but this year we have some exciting new developments to help you with your reading for the subject.

Firstly, every tuesday night, from 530 on, for about an hour, there will be a live extension workshop here, the new development, is that you will be able to hear me through the player on the blog, and you will be able to ask any questions about that weeks topic through the CoverItLive function. This means that you do not need an account, or to sign in, you ask a question about the weeks lessons by typing, and I will answer through the miracles of live radio streaming!

This has been developed as a means to allow us to target the Upper Sixth at a more convenient time, and you can replay the session. If you cannot make the session, you should be able to submit a question through the Ticker on the blog and when the event starts I will answer all questions! 

Other developments:

We will be having a series of guest bloggers in throughout the year, people who are either ex-students now doing Masters of PhD's in relevant fields, keep an eye out for their articles! If you know of anyone working in a Geographical, or even better, Geological field, please out them in touch with me if they would like to contribute!

Lastly for now, if you are considering an earth science related degree, please do let me know, as we are always on the look out for more student bloggers, this would mean that as an enrichment, you put together your own blog, commenting on current affairs, writing up case studies you come across, etc. This will allow you to show your universities you are a dedicated earth science student, and has been well received in the past by university interviewers. Remember, competition for places is on the rise, and this is a good way to make yourself stand out from the crowd!

Come back to this page at 530 for the workshop, you should be able to access it through a 3g smart phone, but let me know if there are any problems!

In the meantime, if you have a question about the essay, please leave it here:

"To what extent are the low levels of development in Sub-Saharan Africa a result of European Colonialism"

Due: week commencing 26th September.