MICHAELMAS 2020 | VOL. 06 ISSUE 01
LOCKDOWN THROUGH PHOTOS | HOMELESSNESS | DIGITAL DIVIDE
MICHAELMAS 2020 | VOL. 06 ISSUE 01
THE COMPASS TEAM EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Sean Cobb Bridget Tiller HUMAN GEOGRAPHY Abi Smith Ffion Edwards PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY Eswyn Chen Minali Alwis TRAVEL Arthur Seymour George Worrall INTERVIEWS Izzy Taylor Laura Bailey Olivia Byrne
PUBLICITY Sara Atanasiu DESIGN EDITORS Lucy Page Hannah Wetton SECRETARY Zhanna Levitina BLOG EDITORS Daria Ghezzi Hannah Harrison Sophie John OUTREACH Claudia Davey Jennifer Perratt
CONTRIBUTORS Izzy Taylor, Laura Bailey, Ffion Edwards, Hannah Badger, Claudia Davey, Ellie Ong, Tom Ward, Eswyn Chen, Arthur Seymour, George Worrall, Olivia Byrne, and Ava Kondazi Front Cover Lighthouse at Rubjerg Knude, Denmark by Chris Rolfe, a Researcher at the Scott Polar Research Institute
During some of lockdown I was fortunate to be with family in Denmark. The stay included a trip to Rubjerg Knude (North Jutland) to see the lighthouse and impressive (Late Pleistocene, 28Ka) sand dunes. The lighthouse is a beacon of hope and safety Appropriate in the continuing challenging times and especially during lockdown. The dunes, through time, the ever moving sands with the wind and rising sea level are very much like the people facing everyday challenges - in the past, present and future. The blue sky with sun hopefully represents a brighter future for all.
Back Cover Sunset goat by Thomas Ward, a Third Year Geographer
A goat at sunset, taken on the South West Coast Path by the Valley of Rocks, Lynton, Devon – very much inspired by John Wylie’s stuff…!
Welcome to Compass! It will not be a Cambridge term anyone can easily forget. One defined by Zoom supervisions, the ‘academic rigour’ of watching lectures in bed and the strangeness of not seeing the familiar faces of the Geography Department in person every week. In many ways, the uncertain state of the world today presents us as geographers with opportunities and challenges, some of which this issue aims to explore. We have been thrilled with the number of exciting and interesting interpretations we’ve been able to publish, both in this magazine and on our online blog, which has experienced an incredible surge in readership this term! While the summer lockdown was undoubtedly a stressful and uncertain time, for many in the geography community it represented a chance to reconsider issues which have long been at the forefront of geography and an opportunity to consider conscientious reform for the future. In his emails over the summer, Bhaskar Vira emphasised the unequal effects of coronavirus across society. The featured section of this issue of Compass explores this through thoughtful analysis on the pressing issue of homelessness in Cambridge and the politics and inequalities of access to the internet. We are also proud to display the fantastic results of the photo competition - a snapshot of the amazing locations and experiences of members of the department during the first lockdown. We are very grateful for the Compass readership and your great support of the blog this term. There are some insightful interviews and quirky Christmas pieces lined up online so keep an eye out for them! As always, thank you to CUGS and the Geography Department for the funds that make this magazine possible. Enjoy this issue which will hopefully provide a reprieve from the long lockdown days and stay safe! Sean and Bridget Co-Editors in Chief
cambridgecompassmagazine.wordpress.com firstname.lastname@example.org cugscompass compass_cugs
4 Photo Competition
18 Simplifying the Sea
32 Counting Countries
20 Remote Sensing
34 Extinction Rebellion
10 The Digital Divide
22 Dead in the Water?
38 Essay Competition
12 Food for Thought
14 Connection & Community
28 North Macedonia
Lockdown through the Lens
A Compassionate Volteface: In Conversation with Johannes Lenhard
A luxury or necessity?
Supermarket shortages and food justices
Increasing importance of Public Space
Idealised models in physical oceanography
Should you try and visit every country?
A Tool for Conservation
The use of diatoms in legal medicine and criminal investigation
Sixth Form Competition Winner: Ava Kondazi
Community-based tourism in Jordanâ€™s Wadi Rum
An inexplicably undiscovered destination
Disclaimer The views expressed in this magazine are those of the individual authors only and do not represent the views or opinions of Compass Magazine as a whole or the University of Cambridge Department of Geography.
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 3
FEATURED "During some of lockdown I was fortunate to be with family in Denmark. The stay included a trip to Rubjerg Knude (North Jutland) to see the lighthouse and impressive (Late Pleistocene, 28Ka) sand dunes. The lighthouse is a beacon of hope and safety. Appropriate in the continuing challenging times during lockdown. The dunes, through time, the ever moving sands with the wind and rising sea level are very much like the everyday challenges.....in the past, present and future. The blue sky with sun hopefully represents a brighter future for all". (Chris Rolfe, SPRI Researcher).
â€œI had to stay in college for an exra period at the start of lockdown. This was one of the 'golden hour' shots I got when it was just me and my friend wandering around the grounds by ourselves - very eerie". (Tom Ward, Undergraduate).
4 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
"A bee pollinating a flower in my garden in late May. I think this is geographically relevant as there was quite a few news ariticles during this period about how bee populations have done very well this summer due to decreased air pollution as a result of lockdown". (Sam Allen, Undergraduate).
"What one retired Geography professor was doing during lockdown. The resulting wine is still a 'work in progress' but we are encouraged by the knowledge that the monks at Ely produced good wine during the Medieval Warm Period". (Tim Bayliss-Smith, Geography Lecturer, Reader and Professor, 1973-2015).
"The lockdown...for me, refocused my interactions with wildflife from large-scale and large-bodied charismatic species to the minute ecologies of my smalgarden. Without being lockeddown with any appropriate photographic gear, I resorted to drawing the species that we found there. This wren visits occasionally under the hedge at the back fence. I think its image speaks to the fragility we all now feel against the backdrop of a crazy 2020. At the same time, there is something hopeful in it too". (Henry Anderson-Elliott, PhD).
"Daily Patrolling. Protecting forests and its wildlife is a 24/7 job regardless of seasons, festivals pandemic or lockdown. Throughout the pandemic period the forest department and the frontline soldiers-the rangers continued their work of protecting the forest, sometimes helped by the non-human staff. In this case, a 'department' elephant and his mahout are leaving for their daily patrol in the Dudhwa tiger Reserve in north India. The park is home to endangered wildlife like tigers, elephants, rhinos, Bengal floricans, dolphins and monitoring on a daily basis is crucial for protection. Its monsoon, when elephants serve as the best vehicle for patrolling the slushy terrain". (Prerna Bindra, PhD)
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 5
Homelessness: A Compassionate Volte-face In Conversation with Johannes Lenhard Interview by Izzy Taylor and Laura Bailey Researched and written by Izzy Taylor
» He has studied homelessness since 2011 when he moved to London from Germany and was ‘confronted by lots of homelessness’. » During his postgraduate study he spent ‘3 summers writing about how homeless people make money out of begging and how they have relationships among themselves. In the third summer [he] volunteer[ed] in a homeless shelter which focused specifically on people with mental health issues’. » He then spent 2 years researching homeless people in Paris between 2014 and 2016. » He describes his research as ‘concerned with the economics of how homeless people themselves make a living and how...[they are] trying to make a better life on the street’. Background image courtesy of Joshua Paul, entered for the lockdown photo competition
6 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
along the streets of Cambridge during the peak of the UK lockdown would have been surreal for students that are used to the fast paced and chaotic nature of the city. But the pavements of Cambridge were not just missing thousands of feet pounding them, they were also missing those who call the streets their home. There are usually around 30 rough sleepers in Cambridge city centre, according to official statistics- which we know to be an underestimate. For example, between 2017-18, local teams found 200 individuals sleeping rough at one point (It Takes a City, 2018). However, during lockdown rough sleeping decreased to almost zero. The government and local council implemented astounding policies which have really created a glimmer of hope in the midst of rising homelessness. The most visible form of homelessness is rough sleeping. This group are highly vulnerable and often have complex medical needs and are three times more likely to experience a chronic health condition. (Crisis, 2020) Laura Bailey and I interviewed Johannes Lenhard, the Centre Coordinator for the Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change to find out more.
Reasons for rough sleeping
We asked Johannes why people end up on the streets and if there is a single greatest factor pushing people onto pavements. He tells us that there is usually never just one reason that pushes people into situations of homelessness, but a whole spectrum. Reasons start with ‘physical health problems, mental health problems, family issues like a divorce, losing a loved one, unemployment’ and continue with ‘structural issues which are really not on the individual level – such as a shortage of housing and [people who] can’t access the benefit system...[because they are illegal immigrants, for instance]’. And it is these factors which usually combine and back people into a corner with very few options but the street. He also expands on the issue of addiction. ‘Most of the people I have spoken to were not addicted to any kind of substance before they were on the street, particularly when it comes to heroin.’ Heroin, he goes on to explain, is ‘the perfect leveler [for the street]...it makes you feel nothing...but it’s rarely a reason for [people] to be homeless in the first place but a way for people to cope’. And these
distinctions are important in breaking down perceptions and stereotypes which are hanging over rough sleeping individuals. This is a very caring response to a crisis so often generalised, stigmatized and reduced to a state of hopelessness. It is important to deconstruct negative perceptions because they reduce our collective ability to help, as well as because these highly vulnerable members of society simply deserve better. They deserve to be heard and helped in a way which supports and stabilizes their lives. One such activity which depicts rough sleepers in a far from hopeful way is begging. This is, for many onlookers, the outstanding image of what homelessness means in practice, but Johannes tries to explain that it is ‘not just this annoying activity’ but can actually be viewed as a ‘form of work’ or a ‘profession’, and is especially seen like that by many of the people he encountered doing it. Johannes explains from his experience in Paris that ‘it was a structured activity... and it has meaning for people beyond the idea of informal work’. Johannes explains how the street is in many ways a place of hope. ‘...the general attitude I saw a lot on the street is not one of suffering and being passive, it was one of doing something. One of working towards...getting something out of the street.’ In many cases, begging is a ‘way of generating meaning’ which can be aligned to how we typically view labour: a productive, structured, gainful and meaningful activity. For some people sleeping
rough, begging fulfils these criteria.
Hope in a pandemic
Johannes was discussing stories of hope on an individual level here, but this can also be related to shift in government stance since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. On 17 March 2020 the government announced £3.2 million of emergency funding would be provided wto support local authorities accommodate rough sleepers and ensure that they were able to self-isolate. These changes came under the ‘Everyone In’ government scheme which Johannes credits as an ‘immense...effort’. Locally, Cambridge City council accommodated around 100 people by 24 April 2020, some of which were in college dorms such as Bene’t Steet, Kings College. Other charities, such as Jimmy’s Cambridge ‘were on the front line confronted by people going in and out...’ every day of the lockdown. Johannes explains to us that although this new-found sense of urgency and compassion also stems from homeless people being seen as a possible ‘public health hazard because they might be spreading Coronavirus, this almost doesn’t matter because... lots of homeless people took [the accommodation offer] up and lots of those people were for the first time in a ‘system’ … which was massively sped up due to the urgency the virus provided...’. This has been a real ‘silver lining’ of the pandemic. Johannes, clearly excited, tells us that ‘all these people [were] suddenly talking to us [the charities
providing support] and were willing to engage...’. In fact, ‘about 50% of the people had already been offered long term accommodation/had moved into longer term housing’ according to his sources earlier in the summer. He exclaims that it was ‘an absolutely absurd development which wouldn’t have occurred without the virus’ and means that the support teams ‘can really do something meaningful with this longer term.’
People sleeping rough are ‘in a sense the individuals most marginalised, [with the] most complicated problems that are also very likely to have what is called complex needs (addiction and mental health [issues]) on top of housing, [poor]... food provision... and a long history of unemployment. One of the ideas Johannes strongly backs is the provision of safe injection facilities. This is a space where substances and paraphernalia are given out with medical supervision. Johannes believes it would ‘be a fantastic next step, because the addiction[s]...sit at the core of what’s happening...’ for lots of rough sleepers. The country can be criticised for ‘lagging behind’ other places such as Switzerland, Canada, or the Netherlands and Johannes argues that there is ‘no reason beyond ideology and politics... not to embrace this’. Johannes goes on to talk about the longer-term impacts with even more enthusiasm. ‘A safe injection place is not just a place where people can easily... take drugs and be provided with paraphernalia and the substances directly. It is also a way of creating engagement.’ And
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 7
this idea of nurturing co-productive ways forward is a recurring theme within homelessness research, partly because it is challenging to do effectively. Clients of the safe injection centre may be visiting up to ‘3 or 4 times a day, over months’ and if they hit ‘rock bottom’ they are likely to go back to the place where a support worker has been helping and interacting with them over a long time period, and a mutual trust has been built. Johannes explains that these longer-term benefits are ‘already well documented, we just need to change our ideology about it’.
sues, how to find a new job and how to apply for benefits...’. And as much as housing is a vital step off the street for people sleeping rough, it is important to remember that ‘housing in itself is not going to solve homelessness...’.
We asked Johannes how students can best act to make a positive impact. He replies, ‘I
sions. For example, addiction is central to the vulnerabilities of many rough sleepers. In order to help with that for instance, Johannes advises that you ‘talk to the people who know best... go to an organization like Wintercomfort, Jimmy’s or It Takes a City... [but again], I think is the most important thing is to be empathetic as... possible.’ Something really striking while talking with Johannes was how
Future in Cambridge
The Cambridge Housing Strategy 2019-2023 emphasises moving away from short term accommodation towards a more holistic and supportive process including skills and employment development. Johannes tells us about one example which he has been a part of from the late planning stages which is the first project of its type in England. The Cambridge Modular homes are Modular homes @Jimmy’s ‘25m2 studio apartments... fully Cambridge (copyright) furnished with a walk-in shower, washing machine, big bed think the most important aim and a kitchen/living area.’ The is to think about it from the project is supported by Jimperspective of people you my’s Cambridge, New Meaning are trying to help.’ One of the Foundation and Allia, and first most common methods of aid is accommodated residents early to buy food for rough sleepers July. but Johannes explains to me that ‘to a certain extent, [there What makes this project even is] an oversupply of safe food... more useful and productive [and] people in Cambridge are than simply just accommodavery unlikely... to starve.’ Buying tion, is the level of support on food may be a very welcome offer for the residents. ‘Everydonation, but what Johannes one has their dedicated social is saying here is that there are worker, there are specific and perhaps other more pressing individual plans of how to... needs of rough sleepers which take care of your addiction iscannot be met by food provi8 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
he spoke about the daily experineces of rough sleepers. He says ‘the invisibility of people just walking by pretending that you don’t exist... is the worst thing happening.’ This is where students can make a huge difference in a very small way: ‘Even if you don’t have money [and] even if you don’t want to give money, say hello and acknowledge that people are there.’ For many students in Cambridge, particularly geographers, inequality is a multi-faceted issue that is frequently studied. Johannes urges us, however, to not just acknowledge inequality on pa-
per but ‘real’ inequality in the form of homelessness. ‘Shutting our eyes also means just living our own life and not really understanding inequality... [whereas] engaging with people that are living through this [and] listening to their stories is a very direct way for you to understand a little bit better and more directly what’s going on.’ Overall, there have been some fantastic breakthroughs which have resulted partly due to the sense of urgency Coronavirus created. Massively reducing rough sleeping in the city during lockdown is a major achievement- but one which cannot remain temporary. Longer-term accommodation and individual social support must be in place in order to keep the positive momentum going, especially as we move into winter. This interview has covered many sensitive, raw and uncomfortable truths about homelessness. When you next see someone sleeping rough on the streets of this city, try where you can to acknowledge and remember their humanity because it may be the only smile they see all day. ■
Images courtesy of Izzy Taylor
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 9
The Digital Divide By Ffion Edwards
digital divide is ‘the problem of some members of society not having the opportunity or knowledge to use computers and the internet that others have’ according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Though perhaps once a divide in the realm of luxuries, our technological usage in 2020 means that digital access and ability are notable vectors of inequality. Local authority websites, educational institutions, and jobs require forms and applications that are undertaken exclusively online. The degree of access to digital services ranges according to location (rural areas often lack faster fibre optic services), wealth, and age. On one level access to digital resources and devices is controlled by economic limitations. However, digital education and ability is also a major factor in the divide. The Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research estimates that 22% of the UK population have an inability to use or difficulty using digital technology. Discussion of digital services, specifically the internet, as necessities is ongoing at various political levels. The UN’s addition of digital divide reduction to their sustainable development goals is a particularly notable decision. Though their addition to this list does not en-
shrine digital services as rights; it is instead a step towards highlighting the perceived importance of digital services. Freedom on the internet, and to access the internet affordably are recognised as important and greater access is sought, but they are not yet binding rights in the UN convention. This means that for many who do not have access to such services independently of the state, pathways to gaining access are often roundabout. Increased centrality of access to digital resources has created a tension with these often difficult paths to access that has stimulated the predictable politicisation of this sphere. Theresa May promised UK-wide access to Wi-Fi with minimum ten megabytes per second download speed for all affordably by 2033, but Boris Johnson
10 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
has made this more immediate - 2025. Corbyn’s 2019 manifesto proposed the nationalising of part of BT to work towards WiFi as an entirely free resource. Despite the various controversies surrounding details of their respective policies, 2019 was the first general election in which all major parties included proposals about digital services and the overarching direction of policy seemed to agree upon the centrality of the digital world, specifically Wi-Fi, to daily life. How these policies relate to the new idea of digital access as a right however, is complicated by the entanglements of devices, property and security alongside Wi-Fi provision, in providing digital ‘access’. In 2019 the digital climate was such that an ambiguous promise of limited internet access was enough for
become increasingly reliant upon it for everyday life; social activities, work, schooling, medical care. This re-raises the question of whether, if we continue to digitise, it is harmful not to enshrine digital access as a right for all. Our current reliance upon digital resources may be stimulating a period of transformation in attitudes towards such media. In a period when the accessible tools of reduction of the digital divide are unavailable to those who need them, it is more notable than ever that we have digitised to a degree that nullifies arguments for digital access as luxury. It is now perhaps pertinent to instead query whether, if not a right in itself, digital resources have become necessary for the assuring of various other human rights. If the only way to access council housing under some councils is by using the internet then is the internet still a commodity open for just exploitation?
many people - public internet and support systems for digital literacy existed for those without the resources or usage skills themselves. This public access meant that the complexity of enshrining digital access for all seemed unnecessary to many. Tension runs between our view of digital services as luxuries, and policies that treat them as such, These impacts of COVID-19 may have re-shaped and our use and expectations of digital services as what digital ‘access’ means and placed further non-negotiable modern tools. The social distancing demands on the term than would have been in in place as a result of COVID-19 has only accelerplace during the 2019 elections. The Conserva- ated an already increasing need to explore either tives defined ‘access’ as ten megabytes per sec- dialling back systems that we operate exclusively ond download speed, but this ‘access’ would be in digital space, or further exploring greater acincapable of maintaining a connection to, say, cess options that go beyond the promise of low Zoom. The ramifications of the novel coronavirus quality wifi provision. ■ have reshaped what it means to have ‘access’, raising the threshold as the UK switched to primarily digital contact in mid-March. Digital access is currently not the easier option by a small degree: for a lot of education, work, and bureaucratic services it is either the only option, or the easier and safer option by a vast degree. Internet speed, and the number of devices available within a household have become increasing issues; schools have been lending computers and offering paper packs to children who cannot access online teaching, but for most of these children these alternatives still mean they receive a lesser degree of educational input than their classmates. A majority of the public facilities discussed above are currently shut or unavailable as a result of COVID-19, placing those demographics who relied upon them at an even greater disadvantage than before. Amidst a public health crisis there is a strong correlation between those being asked to shield themselves, and those with statistically lower rates of internet access and digital literacy. Simultaneously, those with internet access have MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 11
‘Food for thought’
Supermarket shortages and food justice By Hannah Badger
all remember the empty supermarket shelves that faced shoppers across the country in the height of lockdown. Toilet paper, tinned goods and pasta were hoarded as panic-buyers rushed to stockpile essential items. The major supermarkets are already anticipating a second surge in demand (in the event of a circuit-breaker lockdown) and are actively boosting their supply chains accordingly. Whilst these shortages may be deeply frustrating for both consumers and suppliers, they also highlight a fundamental flaw in our food system: that access to food is entirely contingent on supermarket access. The extent of our reliance upon a neoliberal food system, governed by multinational corporations such as Walmart, has never been so starkly demonstrated as it was during lockdown. This raises important questions about food justice. According to Alkon and Agyeman’s Cultivating food justice: Race, class, and sustainability (2011), food justice has two distinct parts: food access and food sovereignty. Food access means that healthy and nutritious foods are plentiful and readily accessible in an area, whilst food sovereignty refers to the agency of individuals in the management of the food system. Empty supermarket shelves should serve as a reminder of the food injustice experienced by populations across the UK: many had unreliable access to essential goods, particularly at
the start of the pandemic, and almost all suffered from a complete lack of food sovereignty (to be expected when just seven corporations dominate the UK’s supermarket sector). And yet, there is evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic could be a turning-point for the food justice movement. I spent the summer collecting data for my dissertation, which examines the relationship between neoliberalism and community gardening in Hackney. Although the pandemic is not the focus of my research, the interviewees were keen to talk about the events of recent months. The gardeners and activists I spoke to each had a similar story to tell: they’d witnessed a huge upsurge in interest in community gardening. As Clair, the creator of ‘Rainbow Grow’ (an LGBTQI+ gardening initiative), put it: ‘when there was a threat to society as we know it, people went back to growing their own food… people’s reaction was to start growing vegetables in any conceivable space’. Clair suggested that the supermarket shortages may have served as a wake-up call for the local residents of Hackney. I also spoke to Kate, the UK’s first ‘postcode gardener’ (a professional post funded by Friends of the Earth), who saw gardening as a: ‘way of giving people control… if people can grow their own food, you can extract yourself from the supermarket system’. Both Clair and Kate saw grassroots alternative food movements, and specifically community gardening in Hackney, as a
12 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
response to the dominant discourses of food production and provision - food growing enables local residents to bypass the supermarket system and exert agency over their own nutritional intake. This assertion perfectly reflects the ideas of food sovereignty that characterise the Food Justice Movement, which is a grassroots initiative that emerged in North America in the late-1990s. The movement seeks to combat food insecurity and the economic pressures that prevent access to healthy and nutritious foods, recognising that food justice is unequally experienced along both racial and class divides. Although it is predominantly minority and low-income communities that are disproportionately affected by food injustice, local food activism tends to find its most dedicated adherents among educated middle-class and affluent white people, as noted by Alkon (2013) in his article The Socio-Nature of Local Organic Food, particularly in urbanised areas such as Hackney. This is, in part, because lower-income residents often work longer hours (or several jobs) and are therefore unable to invest time in the cultivation of fresh produce. My interviewees were often aware of this divide, but many seemed optimistic of the diversity apparent in their growing groups. For instance, Clair spoke of Spitafields City Farm (across the border in Tower Hamlets) and their involvement in minority ethnic communities; they provide the opportunity for women like Luftun Hussain, a Bangladeshi woman who runs the ‘Coriander Club’, to hold events and communal lunches to promote gardening to non-white local residents. The importance of encouraging minority groups and low-income residents to participate in urban agriculture has never been great-
er. With the recent government decision to cease funding for free school meals over the half-term break and Christmas holidays, and with many families unable to achieve food justice, could community gardening be the solution? The food shortages experienced earlier in the year might signal a turning-point for food justice by encouraging individuals to take control of their access to, and sovereignty over, food. We will have to wait and see what the next growing season brings: will these new gardeners keep their green fingers until next spring, or will our reliance upon corporate supply chains increase once more? â–
Above: Raised vegetable plots on the Debeauvoir Estate in Hackney. Photo taken over summer. (Used with permission from the owner, Kelly Olivares) Below: Clairâ€™s tomato plant growing on the windowsill of a south-facing window. used with permission from the owner, Clair Battaglino)
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 13
Background image courtesy of Tom Ward, entered for the lockdown photo competition
Connection and community: a perspective on the increasing importance of public spaces By Claudia Davey
14 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
the time of coronavirus, communal risks becoming a dirty word. But the pandemic gives us a unique opportunity to reframe how we think about public space. The virus has brought to a head many crises that have been brewing under years of austerity, including the slow erosion of community space. The lesson to be learnt from the pandemic is double-sided. Not only have we seen how enriching public spaces can be, but also how they have been engulfed and corrupted by the slow creep of privatisation. No-one can deny that this past year has illuminated the importance of space outside the home. During the summer months, as lockdown eased, parks and commons became a lifeline for many. Twitter was flooded with images of people gathering in parks and beaches, of National Trust car parks crammed full of visitors. Although many regarded this as a flagrant flaunting of lockdown measures, these images were an embodiment of the public’s connection to communal space. In a time when all commercial spaces were unforeseeably closed, parks came to the forefront of recreational living. People, especially those in city flats without gardens, were reminded of the beauty of parks: that they are a space in which one can exist and enjoy oneself without the expectation of spending money. However, while this has illustrated the importance of public spaces, we can turn to libraries and community centres to reveal the other side of the coin: how they have long been neglected. Restaurants, pubs and coffee shops all re-opened in the summer, while the majority of libraries are operating on restricted hours or a click-and-collect service. The message is clear; public spaces are at the bottom of the
reopening agenda. While the immediate argument may be that consumption-driven spaces must open first in order to rebuild the economy, a more insidious effect emerges. As the UK’s winter weather draws nearer, parks and outdoor spaces are left unusable. Thus, the accessibility of free public spaces diminishes, enforcing a quasi-lockdown on the poorer socio-demographic classes alone. The experience of those who can afford daily coffees or meals out is vastly different to those with little disposable income. For the former, life is varied and dynamic, with multiple chances for socialisation and a semblance of normality. For the latter, life remains much as it was in lockdown: lonely and confined. These disparities multiply when you consider just how essential libraries and community centres are to those who need them most. Not only would the complete reopening of libraries provide means of stimulation to those who cannot afford to pay for it elsewhere, but coronavirus has created greater need for the services libraries offer. As the world moves online, those without reliable access to technology risk being left behind. TNS (2013) reported that library users consider free access to the internet and computers as one of the most important services provided by public libraries. Keeping libraries closed while the need for technological access increases essentially enforces an economic threshold for participation in society. As those who can afford their own devices integrate and adapt, those without are shut out of education, employment and enrichment. The consequences of this are devastating. The prioritisation of private businesses over public spaces has the potential to cause inequality and poverty that will last long
beyond the effects of the virus. It is not just coronavirus that has caused this issue; public space has long been under attack. From the enclosures of the thirteenth century to the coalition’s ruthless sell-offs, public ownership of space is regarded at worst as a socialist ideal and at best as a commodity to be sold for quick cash. In his 2018 book The New Enclosure: The appropriation of public land in neoliberal Britain, Christophers notes that in the past 40 years, half of the land owned by public bodies in 1979 has been sold to private owners. According to The Guardian (2019), since austerity, councils have closed 800 libraries, while 92% of parks have experienced budget cuts. The situation gets worse. It is shocking to see how little of what we consider ‘public space’ is publicly owned. In 2017, The Guardian launched an investigation into London’s pseudo-public spaces: areas that appear public but are in fact privately owned. They found that many of London’s squares and thoroughfares are privately owned, despite giving a semblance of public space. Even England’s green and pleasant lands are not free from the encroaching creep of private ownership. Many of England’s National Parks are dominated by private owners; ninety-five percent of the Yorkshire Dales are privately owned, as are ninety percent of the Norfolk Broads, while over 2,419 of the country’s commons are privately owned, according to Guy Shrubsole’s 2019 book Who owns England? How we lost our green and pleasant land, and how to take it back . Private ownership poses a threat to conservation and the protection of natural spaces; companies and individuals are subject to less scrutiny and transparency than governments and local councils. Additionally,
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 15
the owners of privately-owned public spaces can remove anyone from their land at any time. This can be used to quash protests, remove the homeless, or eject anyone deemed ‘unacceptable’ to occupy such places. Thus, instead of being a place of community and equality, so-called ‘public spaces’ risk becoming a physical manifestation of social elitism. The treatment of public spaces during the coronavirus pandemic is symptomatic of a far deeper issue. The right of everybody to enjoy public spaces, unfettered and unmonitored, is being eroded. Instead, libraries have been neglected and forgotten, while privatisation is accelerating so quickly that we could have no public land left by 2050. In the short term, it is essential that politicians push the reopening of public services to the top of the agenda. If not, they risk deepening disparities that will continue for decades. Libraries and community centres provide much needed stimulation and socialisation without the expectation of spending money. Furthermore, the need for equal technological access grows in an increasingly virtual world, rendering library services essential. In the long term, we need to start thinking seriously about land reform: it is one of the few options left. As geographical study often reminds us, space is a palimpsest; it becomes imbued with the emotions and experiences of those who use it. Public spaces can become places of connection and community, but first they must be protected from the unrelenting grasp of privatisation. Otherwise, we risk losing some of the only spaces left where we can exist freely- in every sense of the word. ■
16 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
Image courtesy of Roxanne Corbeil, entered for the lockdown photo competition
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 17
Simplifying the Sea Idealised models in physical oceanography By Ellie Ong Ellie Ong is a visiting scholar at the Department of Ocean Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and studied for her undergraduate and Masters degrees in Physics at Jesus College, Oxford. Here, Ellie explains all about the research she has been doing into oceanographic models: what they are, how they’ve evolved, and what they can and can’t tell us.
climate models are extensively used to study a range of issues: from sea-level rise in a warming planet to the functioning of carbon sinks in oceans. Describing almost every process imaginable within the integrated Earth system, these models are built upon the most basic of fluid dynamical processes that underlie the complex constellation of eddies and forcings with response to atmospheric, cryospheric, as well as aerosol processes. However, these integrated processes are immensely difficult to understand because they, in themselves, reflect the workings of potentially even more elusive individual physical processes. In such a case, idealised models, which simplify physical system modelling by representing only the aspects of interest, may aid our understanding of the climate system. This does mean that the models are not realistic, but examples of their application in oceanography do show parallels with observed phenomena, and prove them extremely useful.
One of the most well-known idealised models in physical oceanography is the Stommel model. First proposed in 1948 by Prof Henry Stommel, this idealised model is based on the concept of the conservation of angular momentum, and that the vorticity added to the ocean system via the wind forcing is balanced by the Earth’s rotation, with any excess momentum being transferred into forming ocean currents. Applying these assumptions and modelled surface wind forcing and the Coriolis effect to an idealised, closed ocean basin, circular wind-driven gyres form. Additionally, as seen in Figure 1, a strong boundary current, modified latitudinally by the Coriolis force, also forms on the western side of the basin – this is known as western intensification. This phenomenon can be seen on the western sides of the Gulf Stream, and it also manifests as the Koroshio Current off the coast of Japan. Part of my master’s project (Ong, 2020) applied the Stommel model to an idealised global ocean where the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans connect in the Southern Ocean channel, and found that only when the Coriolis effect and wind-driven forcings are taken into consideration, wind forcing is a prominent (though not exclusive) contributing factor to the strength of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), the largest current on Earth (Donohue et al., 2016). In Figure 2, the orange contours indicating strong flow align with the ACC. Figure 2 also shows how
18 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
the wind-driven gyres (grey contours) generated by the Stommel model in mid-latitude ocean basins, too, agree with reality and earlier work. Even with a two-dimensional model on the ocean surface, the simple combination of individual physical processes can already explain the origins of certain oceanographic features. Going beyond two-dimensional surface flows, idealised models can also represent the vertical structure of the ocean. In the Gnanadesikan model proposed in 1999, the pycnocline – a layer of the ocean in which water density increases rapidly with depth – increases in thickness with mixing and Southern Ocean wind-driven transport, while the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW, part of the Meridional Overturning Circulation) and Southern Ocean eddies cause the layer to be more shallow; these are depicted in the schematic in Figure 3. In the Southern Ocean in particular, the simple model is able to reproduce realistically the depths of the mixed layer and the pycnocline, whereas other previous models require greater-than-realistic diffusion rates to produce a vertical structure comparable to reality. Aside from being able to effectively provide a clear representation of these dynamics, the model also implicates the significant role of Southern Ocean processes in maintaining the global ocean structure. The Gnanadesikan model has been further developed into a conceptual model of heat uptake in the ocean. Building on the Gnanadesikan model, Marshall & Zanna (2014)’s multilayer model demonstrates the relative contribution of various already well-studied processes to ocean heat uptake. Their model takes into account the transfer of heat
via eddy transport, Southern Ocean wind-driven dynamics, the NADW, and mixing. Their experiments aimed to quantify the effect of each of these processes on ocean warming under anthropogenic climate change, and the computation itself is based upon a main equation that illustrates the heat transport into and out of each defined layer of the ocean:
Figure 1: Streamfunction showing flow in an idealised ocean basin, with Coriolis force varying linearly with latitude. The strong western boundary currents are visible. Based on a diagram in Stommel’s 1948 paper
Figure 2: Streamfunction showing flow in an idealised global ocean, calculated from the Stommel model (Ong, 2020)
Figure 3: Schematic of the Gnanadesikan model and the flows included. Based on a diagram in Gnanadesikan’s 1999 paper References: Caesar et al.,2018.,Nature, 556(7700), pp.191-196| Donohue et al., 2016.,Geophysical Research Letters, 43(22)| Marshall and Zanna, 2014.,Journal of Climate, 27(22), pp.8444-8465.| Marshall, 2003., Journal of Climate, 16(24), pp.4134-4143| Ong, 2020., https://ongqingyee.github.io/MPhys_Project_Report_EO_2020.pdf
(Rate of heat transport into ocean layer = Southern Ocean wind-driven heat transport - Eddy heat transport + NADW heat transport + mixing heat transport.) where relevant heat transport quantities are varied in accordance with climate change predictions, such as those in which NADW formation weakens (Caesar et al., 2018) whilst Southern Ocean winds strengthen under climate change (e.g. Marshall, 2003). Model experiments showed that ocean heat uptake increases in the event of attenuated NADW formation, and the magnitude of this increase is amplified by an increased weakening. Meanwhile, an amplification of the Southern Ocean winds results in an increased net heat uptake in the ocean, while an additional increase in eddy transport reduces this heat uptake, opposing some of the effects brought by the former. This ‘big-picture’ conceptual model has given us insights into the relative contributions of largescale dynamics to ocean heat uptake, while being in itself a useful visualisation tool that can be used to direct further research. Admittedly, much is amiss in these idealised models by nature. For example, eddy parameterisations and salinity variations are left out in some, and some do not include density variations in sea water as they are restricted to two dimensions. However, for early career scientists and policy makers, these models are informative anduseful in clarifying our understanding by dissecting the physical mechanisms driving our climate system. The examples discussed above demonstrate that the value of these idealised models lie very much in that they can be ‘customised’ and upgraded to include new components of interest and give new findings. To summarise the value of conceptual models in climate research, we can turn to a famous quote by mathematician Samuel Karlin: ‘The purpose of models is not to fit the data but to sharpen the questions.’ ■ MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 19
Remote Sensing: A Tool for Conservation By Tom Ward
the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve (OROAFR) in Chad, a reintroduction programme for the Scimitar-Horned Oryx is underway. Believe it or not, the use of remotely sensed data by Freemantle et al. (2013) in their article ‘Earth observation: overlooked potential to support species reintroduction programmes’ in the African Journal of Ecology actually informed the design of this project. But what is remote sensing, and how has it become such a useful tool for conservation projects like this all over the world? According to Lillesand and Kiefer’s Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation (2000), remote sensing is the ‘science and art of obtaining information about an object, area, or phenomenon through the analysis of data acquired by a device that is not in contact with the object, area, or phenomenon under investigation’. Much, though not all, remotely sensed data comes from satellites, such as the Landsat series (USGS), or more recently the Sentinel series (ESA). Remotely sensed data has become particularly useful in the fields of ecology and conservation biology in the monitoring of protected areas and their mapping. So, how does remote sensing work? One way in which remotely sensed data can contribute to our understanding of protected areas is computation and subsequent analysis of vegetation indices, most often the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI). Vegetation indices are values based on the brightness of certain bands of remotely sensed data from satellites such as Landsat – in the case of NDVI, this value is defined as detected red light subtracted from detected near-infrared (NIR) light, divided by the sum of the red and NIR light. Amazingly, this gives us a proxy for photosynthetic activity of vegetation, such that a higher value (e.g. 0 to +1) is more productive and a lower value (-1 to 0) is not productive, and often bare land or water. This works because photosynthesising vegetation, containing chlorophyll, reflects much more infrared and NIR light than green light, and thus is a better measure than using green alone.
20 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
Image courtesy of Tom Ward
In terms of monitoring protected areas, this is useful in several ways. Time series of NDVI can be used to measure the condition of ecosystems over time, which can be used to assess, to an extent, the biological diversity of these areas. This is not to say that NDVI is always positively correlated with species richness, as highly productive areas are not always the most biodiverse. Unfortunately, this means that we cannot always rely on NDVI alone to determine biodiversity. However, there are often correlations, so it is often the case that NDVI can track where areas are more productive, allowing a concentration of conservation efforts in these areas. Existing protected areas can also benefit from NDVI; the reintroduction of certain species to enhance existing ecological dynamics can use it to ensure a focus on more productive areas within the wider protected habitat. For example, the Scimitar-Horned Oryx programme at OROAFR used Freemantle et al.’s (2013) NDVI assessment. They found that the south of the reserve was much more productive over the last three decades than the north of the reserve, leading to the consequent reintroduction programme being structured around the remotely sensed data to account for the spatial dynamics of productivity in the area. Whereas NDVI is one method of remote sensing that can be used to protect many areas, marine protected areas (MPAs) are a type of protected area that can be surveyed and monitored by many types of remote sensing. These protected areas are significant in that they are not in great abundance; 13.9% of the terrestrial environment is protected, yet only 3.2% of the oceans are protected by MPAs, according to ‘The appli-
cation of remote sensing for marine protected area management’ in Ecological Indicators (Kachelreiss et al., 2014). It is therefore vital to monitor existing MPAs to ensure that current levels of protection are adequate and in areas of significant biodiversity. Remote sensing is useful in the monitoring of MPAs because it can be used in several ways. Louazo et al. (2016), for example, surveyed a range of MPAs in the Mediterranean to explore the effectiveness of existing structures, using remotely sensed data on sea surface temperature (SST, which positively correlates with species diversity in some taxonomic groups) derived from infrared and NIR sensors. They found that benthic species were protected to a greater extent than pelagic species, recommending that future zoning extends beyond areas proximal to the coastline; remote sensing here can be used to make recommendations as to the success of existing MPAs. (For more information, check out their article ‘Oceanographic habitat of an endangered Mediterranean Procellariiform: implications for marine protected areas’ in Ecological Applications.) In addition to SST, the activity of phytoplankton can be assessed insofar as phytoplankton photosynthesise using chlorophyll a, meaning that the colour of the ocean can also be surveyed using remote sensing, such that productivity can be measured.
areas, part of a larger issue of a lack of integration between the remote sensing and ecology communities. Bridging the gap between these fields will ultimately produce work that addresses both areas effectively – this is necessary to ensure that remote sensing data is not undervalued by the ecological community. Increasingly, remotely sensed data is open access; USGS made all Landsat data freely accessible as far back as 2008. Improving access to this data is critical in ensuring that researchers can effectively carry forward work in the monitoring of protected areas and conservation more generally, in a field that is chronically underfunded. Remote sensing is clearly advantageous to the conservation biology and ecology communities: this data facilitates not only the standardised, efficient and unobtrusive analysis of protected areas and conservation efforts more generally, but it allows the development of this conservation to progress in ways that maximise biodiversity conserved and increase the effectiveness of existing schemes. To ensure this work continues, data must be as freely available as possible, and collaboration of remote sensing scholars and ecologists is necessary to ensure that these tools are being used to their full potential in the conservation field. ■
However, there remain limitations to the use of remote sensing. There is a general lack of access to remotely sensed data in remote parts of the world, including the tropics, where remotely sensed data would be most useful for the field of conservation biology. Access problems are compounded by the fact that trained individuals are not in abundance in these
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 21
Dead in the water?
The use of diatoms in legal medicine and criminal investigation By Eswyn Chen
CN: Crime, death, violence, autopsy
a quarter of the Earth’s oxygen, and being extensively used in palaeoclimate reconstruction for their extraordinary sensitivity to environmental changes, natural scientists would have at least heard of these small but mighty unicellular, silica-shelled, photosynthesising microalgae called ‘diatoms’. Forensic limnology, however – the study of inland aquatic biota and/or abiota in a legal context – might be more of a niche field. In midsummer 1991, two boys were beaten and dragged into the water to drown by three teenage assailants whilst fishing at a suburban pond in Connecticut, USA. Luckily, the pair managed to escape and reported the attack. Bioenvironmental reference samples of the pond and its vicinity were obtained along with the sediment samples from the victims’ and the suspects’ footwear for comparative analysis by Prof Peter Siver et al. at the limnological laboratory of Connecticut College. Their study found no statistically significant difference between the ratios of three species of a common diatom genus Eunotia observed in the distinct samples; and these ratios are rarely similar between communities from different bodies of water. These results were presented to the court and the suspects pleaded guilty to their
charges. This is a classic example of forensic algology in case resolution, using diatoms.
Diatoms are especially effective in defining the ‘evidence environment’ – the totality of characteristics unique to the crime scene – owing to the rigorous nature of their species-specificity, diversity, and high environmental selectivity. The species-specific components of their siliceous cell walls – the frustules – are able to ‘geotag’ the localities in which they inhabited, because different species have markedly different habitat preferences, and these very particular and restrictive requirements are subsequently reflected in their distributions. They are, by nature, ideal circumstantial trace evidence indicators, following their transfer and persistence from a crime scene to a suspect or a victim. The Connecticut case was resolved using the environmental descriptions given by the diatoms; this is a very intuitive application of their ‘geotagging’ property in the first principle. However, diatoms are
22 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
in fact more frequently used in the medicolegal realm. A forensic pathologist examining a body recovered from the water is presented with the difficult task of distinguishing drowning from other causes of death, when post-mortem signs of drowning, such as abnormal lung and spleen weights and the presence of foam at the mouth and/or nostrils and in the airway, have disappeared after prolonged immersion in water. The significance of diatoms in the diagnosis of drowning lies in that the presence of which in a body is telling of, firstly, that the person still had breathing and heartbeat when he/she entered the water and, secondly, that he/she died there if the diatom assemblage in the body matches that in the water it was found. The principle is simple: water aspiration is a vital reaction to drowning; diatoms in that water enter the lungs, cross the alveoli-capillary barrier to enter the bloodstream, and are then transported to and incorporated into remote organs and the bone marrow (Lunetta et al., 1998). During autopsy, tissue samples of these organs and/or the bone marrow can be taken for a diatom test, in which the diatoms will be extracted via a laboratory process called ‘acid digestion’ and studied under a microscope. If the person was placed into the water post-mortem, there would be no diatoms
present in the body – because water aspiration did not occur. If the person drowned elsewhere, then the relative abundance of the diatom species in his/her body would be different to that observed at the site of retrieval (Ludes et al., 1999). Therefore, a diatom test can constrain an obscure case of body discovery in water by providing at least one piece of information: whether the victim died from drowning in a natural aquatic environment. In early autumn 2019, the naked body of a teenage girl was spotted in an inland harbour in Hong Kong. Autopsy findings were inconclusive on the cause of death, as informative macroand microscopic evidence had degraded along with the body. When the case was heard by the coroner’s court this summer, the pathologist who examined her body admitted that he did not conduct a diatom test, even when her lungs and stomach displayed notably unusual characteristics compared to those expected of a definitive case of drowning. His reasons were that it was not routinely required locally, and that a ‘map’ of diatom abundances for the city’s waters had never been produced for reference. The jury gave an open verdict to the case, and emphasised the need for a diatom test even when the power to pinpoint drowning sites is amiss, as its value lies instead in its ability to clarify the cause of death and provide crucial guidance for the reinvestigation of the incident. In many other countries still, the diatom test is one of the routine practices in forensic pathology. As a technique, it is constantly being refined and quantitated. For example, numerical models, such as a transfer function, have been piloted in quantitatively
describing the relationship between control diatom samples from the environments and diatoms recovered from the victims to localise the sites of drowning (Horton, Boreham & Hillier, 2006). Still, diatom species recognition based on morphology remains an extremely laborious task that requires specific professional expertise. Several new approaches, such as DNA barcoding (Li et al., 2019), have been developed in recent years, but their integration into forensic practice has been proven financially or computationally costly. Machine learning could be a plausible solution that actualises low-cost automatic species detection and calculation by enabling feature extraction on photographs of the slides. To augment these ongoing developments, data for algorithm training and diatom ‘atlases’ will need to be composed with care. A more thorough understanding of the physiological pathways undergone by diatoms in the human body will also help pathologists and microscopists improve sample extraction, preservation and calibration. The study of diatoms in forensic science is of interdisciplinary interest as it brings together ecology, medicine, and geography. As a practice, it is of much importance as it has the power to lead or redirect criminal in-
vestigations by revealing evidence that is not easily concealed by suspects, or by pointing towards or ruling out a cause of death with scientific certainty. We cannot revive those dead in the water, but there are still many more mysteries that diatoms may solve, and many more silent victims to speak for. ■ Bibliography: Horton, B.P., Boreham, S. and Hillier, C. (2006). The Development and Application of a Diatom-Based Quantitative Reconstruction Technique in Forensic Science. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51(3), pp.643–650. Li, Z., Liu, X., Yu, Y., Huang, H., Li, X., Ji, Q., Li, K., Yu, Y., Li, D., Mao, Z., Pu, Y., Chen, P. andChen, F. (2019). Barcoding for diatoms in the Yangtze River from the morphological observation and 18S rDNA polymorphic analysis. Forensic Science International, 297, pp.81–89. Ludes, B., Coste, M., North, N., Doray, S., Tracqui, A. and Kintz, P. (1999). Diatom analysis in victim’s tissues as an indicator of the site of drowning. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 112(3), pp.163–166. Lunetta, P., Penttilä, A. and Hällfors, G. (1998). Scanning and transmission electron microscopical evidence of the capacity of diatoms to penetrate the alveolo-capillary barrier in drowning. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 111(5), pp.229–237.
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 23
‘Community-based tourism in Jordan’s Wadi Rum’ Photography and Written by Arthur Seymour
24 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 25
reaching Aqaba during the Cambridge RAG 2020 Jailbreak, Arthur Seymour and Adam Oussena took a spontaneous overnight trip into Jordan’s desert and learnt just how rewarding community tourism initiatives can be. In all honesty, I had never heard of Aqaba when we set out from Parker’s Piece at 9am on the opening Saturday morning of the Jailbreak competition. But 36 hours later, come 11pm Jordan time, myself and my teammate were as mystified as our friends back home to find ourselves nearly 4000km away. Our room looked out over the Red Sea with views of Israel and Egypt beyond the gulf and we spent the evening relaxing at one Aqaba’s many shisha cafes erected on the beaches. We had arrived an hour earlier without any plans for where to go beyond the airport, and despite having had the time to attempt a push for the Saudi border only a few kilometres to the South, we decided to stay put in Jordan as Aqaba’s Special Economic Zone status meant we could avoid paying a visa fee if we didn’t cross any international land borders. Refusing to let our weekend of spontaneous travel run out of steam, we planned a trip to the desert for the following morning with the help of the owner of our guesthouse, Amir. Following a 7am wake up, we spent the morning eating breakfast with Amir and his family. After being chased around the house by his son Ahmed (wielding a dangerously sharp fishing rod), we hit the roads that carve through the mountains towering above the coast and made our way to the sleepy village of
Wadi Rum. The initial view as you enter the wadi is mind-blowing. Having passed a iconic rock face carved over millennia into ‘7 pillars’, our jeep cruised offroad down an avenue of stone hills and into the desert proper. Red sand stretched out as far as the eye can see and Monument Valley style towers of sandstone created an amphitheatre around our first viewpoint. It’s a panorama I will never forget, and taking the view in, it’s no surprise Jordan’s otherworldly Wadi Rum was chosen as the set for both The Martian and Star Wars. Only an hour away from the Red Sea resorts, this easily accessible yet truly wild place provides the trip of a lifetime. The community tourism setup in partnership with the Bedouin Zalabieh tribe has enabled a thriving, yet authentic tourism experience to become established. Wadi Rum has also
26 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and forms part of the recently created national Jordan Trail, another community-based tourism initiative aiming to show off this part of the world to travellers. As part of our community-based tour from the village of Wadi Rum, we are guided in a jeep by a Bedouin man named Mohammed. Despite a near total language barrier, he uses his local knowledge to teach us about the surrounding landscape. As we enter Khazali Canyon, he points out petroglyphs which are attributed to the prehistoric Nabataean inhabitation. Other markings have been found in the area dating back as far as 10,000BC. It’s remarkable that humans have settled here for such a long time despite the seemingly barren and inhospitable landscape. The slot canyon is also one of countless rock-climbing opportunities, which forms a central part of the adventure tourism
industry in this part of Southern Jordan, along with hiking and sandboarding. Encouraged by Mohammed I tried my luck at free climbing. After climbing about 7 metres off the ground, at least 10 minutes were spent stuck nervously at a ledge I had reached, unable to find the required handholds to get back down. So spontaneous was our trip, that the existence of travel insurance had been foolishly forgotten when booking our flights and it was only when facing the prospect of a couple of broken ankles that I admitted perhaps a bit of planning would probably have been a good idea. Thankfully with the guidance of others below telling me where to put my hands and feet, disaster was averted, and our trip continued with all feet safely on the ground. We climbed to the top of a redrock arch, drank fresh camel milk and tea with Bedouin camel drivers, hiked up sand dunes and scrambled up more rock for
mations (confidence surprisingly intact). Then, as the afternoon heat began to take its toll, we made a beeline for our camp. As promised by Amir back in Aqaba, the camp was spectacular. Words simply cannot do justice (nor photos for that matter) to our surroundings. There are no buildings, no Wi-Fi, no roads. Only desert, mountains and the clear blue sky. Nature put on a dazzling show as the sun set behind the canyons and the tepuilike mountains described by T.E. Lawrence in 1918 as ‘capped in nests’ of swirling rock, resembling Byzantine architecture. Fooled by our enjoyment of 28°C in Aqaba, by nightfall we quickly began to realise just how inadequately equipped we were for the diurnal range of the desert. Temperatures dropped to below freezing as heat escaped to the cloudless night sky and even inside the tent it was impossible to get warm wearing only the limited clothes we had brought in our backpacks. Yet despite
the discomfort, camping under he Milkyway in a Bedouin desert camp is an experience I would not have traded for anything else. Come the end of our trip, we had spent time with Bedouin families and camel herders, we had enjoyed the local cuisine and spent a night camping in the wilderness. Travelling in Jordan is not about a sanitised, luxury or performative form of tourism. It’s about getting off the beaten track and putting comforts aside in order to appreciate a completely different way of life in an immersive and authentic manner, and I believe it is the style of travel community-based tourism offers that makes this possible. Next time you are able to plan a trip, try visiting southern Jordan and you will not be disappointed. For more information about RAG Jailbreak see: w w w. c a m b r i d g e ra g . o rg . u k / events/jailbreak/ ■
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 27
An inexplicably undiscovered destination By George Worrall
28 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 29
you have any more than a passing interest in visiting North Macedonia, you’re probably one of three things – a fan of Eurovision ballads, a lover of iconic national flags or, strangely enough, a London bus enthusiast. But once you discover its stunning landscapes and diverse culture, you’ll be shocked as to why this country of two million people isn’t firmly on the tourist trail. Bordered by the seemingly indomitable tourist magnet of Greece to the south, it’s superficially easy to see why North Macedonia escapes the attention of would-be visitors to southern Europe. It’s a small, aspiring EU member state which was formerly part of Yugoslavia and joined NATO in March 2020. Recently renamed North Macedonia after being called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia since independence in 1991, this period of transition makes it an ideal time to visit. Arriving in the capital Skopje, you’ll probably notice two things. If arriving in the summer months, it’ll be the heat that hits you first. It hovers around 30 degrees centigrade but can be closer to 40 and beyond. However, you’ll also notice for a capital city it’s incredibly quiet and laidback, with very few locals around in the daytime - let alone international tourists. The wide dual carriageways and boulevards from the airport to the city centre are almost empty which is a welcome change from other bustling European tourist centres. For a capital city the size of Glasgow, it’s not surprising Skopje is lacking in world famous tourist attractions. However, it makes up for this with an eclectic mix of spectacular, surreal and sometimes controversial sites. For starters, the local bus network is made up of replicas of London Routemasters, which are built in Henan Province, China. It’s difficult to prepare you for the peculiar feeling of seeing these iconic buses 2000 kilometres from London - but it’s certainly unique. Similarly distinctive is the Millennium Cross, one of the largest crosses in the world which stands above the city on Vodno Mountain. It’s illuminated at night and the contrast of it against the black backdrop of the sky makes for a truly spectacular sight. The city’s centrepiece is the ‘Warrior on a Horse’ statue which is staggering in both scale and grandeur. However, it has become the symbol 30 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
of prolonged political tensions between North Macedonia and its neighbour Greece. The statue’s deliberately ambiguous title of ‘Warrior on a Horse’ is seen to hide it truly being a representation of Alexander the Great, whose ancient Macedonian Empire ruled over much of contemporary Greece. This has caused tensions with the Greek government, who saw its construction as an ‘provocative and retrograde’ according to Balkan Insight. Statues define Skopje as a city, with it seemingly filled with hundreds of them. These statues are also embroiled in controversy, owing to their part in the Skopje 2014 redevelopment project, of which the ‘Warrior on the Horse’ was a key part of. The Guardian estimates this project to have cost over £156 million and saw the city centre reconstructed in a neoclassical style. Whilst the results are undoubtedly unique, the frustration of Macedonians who feel the money could have been spent more wisely, given the IMF lists it as one of the poorest countries in Europe, is understandable. However, whilst the statues are themselves superficially impressive, other sites such as the House of Mother Theresa and Skopje Bazaar are what makes Skopje truly worth visiting.
The Warrior on a Horse statue alongside North Macedonia’s iconic national flag
The Archaeological Museum of North Macedonia encapsulates Skopje’s unique architectural style
Skopje is also an affordable destination. Pizza on the main square and drinks with a city view cost just a few pounds, creating an experience few European capitals could offer at such an accessible price. This further adds to the question of why North Macedonia has escaped tourists seeking the next great value destination. The only explanation seems to be the absence of cheap flights to the country from airlines such EasyJet or Ryanair, but given North Macedonia’s obvious potential this absence is unlikely to last. But it’s arguably outside the capital where North Macedonia displays this potential most convincingly. To the south lies Lake Ohrid – a colossal tectonic lake 700 metres up in the mountains. It’s best reached from Skopje by taxi as transport infrastructure is lacking, but the three-hour drive is anything but dull. Along the way a visit to Mavrovo National Park would be thoroughly recommended. Its rugged terrain, deep green forests and mirror lakes break up the journey nicely. The Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery, perched on a steep mountainside, also shouldn’t be missed. On arrival in Ohrid, the lake feels so vast it’s more like being on the Mediterranean coast with one important difference - the lack of international tourists. The abundance of restaurants along the Ohrid riviera (many of which are only accessible by a slightly precarious wooden boardwalk!) combined with stunning forts, churches
and monasteries means Ohrid town is certain to become a tourist hotspot. North Macedonia has so much to offer to so many different types of traveller. The food, the culture, and the landscape are all stunning, but the combination of it all is what makes it such a worthwhile place to visit. And to cap it off, Albania, another titan of European tourism in waiting, is just next door. Its dynamic capital Tirana is just three hours from Ohrid by road. North Macedonia is a fascinating nation which despite political controversies will undoubtedly be on the tourist map in the years ahead. So, now’s the perfect time to get to North Macedonia, soak up the sights and feel the confusion as to why this country isn’t firmly on the tourist trail. ■ Ohrid town in the summer sun In-article photos courtesy of George Worrall
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 31
Should you try and visit every country in the world?
By George Worrall
Discussing the merits of trying to visit every country in the world might seem like a pointless
intellectual exercise concerning a farfetched pipe dream, yet this discussion poses questions which go to the very heart of what it means to travel: is this objective worthwhile? Is this appropriate in an age where we need environmentalism more than ever? Does it play a part in disregarding the inherent privilege of travel? It appears the answers to these questions are more complex than they first appear. For starters, it’s important for me to mention that yes, I do want to visit every country in the world. Quite how many countries this comes to exactly is a matter of intense debate, so I’ll leave it up to your own political affiliations and personal opinions to decide how many there are. Trying to visit every country is a challenging objective to have and is one not widely shared. The first question that’s often asked is ‘surely that’s impossible, or at least incredibly challenging?’ The latter is certainly true, but it’s far from impossible. Conde Nast Traveller reported in 2019 that around 400 people have visited every single country. For context, Business Insider estimates around 5,000 people have summited Everest and twelve people have walked on the surface of the Moon. So, finding someone who’s visited every country is somewhere between as difficult finding someone who’s climbed Earth’s tallest summit, and someone who’s visited our nearest celestial neighbour. Pretty impressive for those 400 then. But much like the people who climb the highest mountains or travel into space, the question often asked of them is ‘why?’ ‘Why do you want to visit every country - surely some of them are not worth visiting?’ ‘Surely some of them are too dangerous?’ In response to the former question, I honestly believe every country, no matter how small, remote or off the tourist trail it is perceived to be has something to offer to tourists. Even if it is lacking in world famous sites like the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal, sometimes just the culture or feel of a place can make it worth experiencing. There are also some truly spectacular sites in countries that are far from ‘mainstream’ destinations - like the Tibesti in Chad or gazing at the stunning night sky from the darkness of the Mongolian steppe.
32 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
But understandably there are some relevant and important objections people hold to this mentality of trying to visit every country. Concerns about individual carbon footprints are a key part of this. It surely follows that if you were to visit every country, you’d rack up some significant air miles and a substantial carbon footprint. Being environmentally conscious is something I’m concerned about, but it is not necessarily a barrier to visiting every country. Yes, there are some countries which can only really be reached by air such as the tiny Pacific state of Nauru, but it would be conceivable to visit every country without the use of a plane. Take Torbjørn “Thor” Pedersen, who according to Insider is aiming to become the first person to visit every country without flying (although COVID-19 has currently left him stranded in Hong Kong). Now I’m not suggesting this is a practical solution for everyone, but it does go to show that planes and travel are not, and should not, become intrinsically linked.
But understandably there is legitimate concern about the very nature of this travel mentality, namely that it encourages travel to become a box ticking exercise or a race - whereby the person who has superficially travelled the most becomes some sort of winner. In certain situations, this can lead to problematic travel habits. I personally am guilty of this – I certainly don’t think the two minutes I’ve spent in a Slovakian service station across the border from Poland has done the country justice from a tourist’s perspective. However, a genuine desire to see and experience every country in the world, through immersing yourself in the culture rather than just ticking them off, can only be a good thing. Yet there is an issue of privilege that must be addressed. The previously discussed idea of treating travel as a game or race ignores the fact it is not a level playing field. Aspects like financial status, national-
ity, gender, race and sexuality all play an important part in determining how open the world is to certain travellers. I feel it is important for all travellers with privilege to keep this in mind, and the fact that I can consider visiting every country is even remotely feasible shows I have a high level of privilege. There are also of course political considerations to be made, though making broad statements about the morality of travelling to certain countries is challenging. Some people see travelling to countries that violate human rights as an unacceptable endorsement of that government’s actions. Others see tourism as a means of engaging and understanding new perspectives on the world which can help challenge the narratives perpetuated by certain regimes. This is a complex and controversial issue, and one I feel warrants a whole article to properly do it justice.
Image coutesy of George Worrall
Whether actively trying to visit every country is a good or bad thing really depends on individual behaviour. If you see travel as a superficial game in which very country is just another box to tick, then that is problematic. Travel after all is about the richness and depth of experience. However, visiting every country in the world in an environmentally conscious and respectful way would be a challenging but worthwhile feat to accomplish – particularly if used as a means to experience the world rather than an end goal in itself. ■ MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 33
In Conversation with Extinction Rebellion Cambridge Interview with an anonymous member
Interview by Olivia Byrne, Geographer at Newnham and Izzy Taylor, Geographer at Downing. structive company. Since they are a large firm they get a large Extinction Rebellion have been police response, even with a relincreasingly seen in the atively small number of protestheadlines over the sumers, which in turn brings lots of mer, with Extinction Rebellion media attention. Cambridge’s ‘Summer Rebellion’ over the last few months putting pressure on the University Are you positive about the and the colleges to divest. We direction the University is spoke to an anonymous member heading with divestment, of the Extinction Rebellion Camand the University’s most bridge group to hear their views recent statement that they on the University’s recent divestplan to completely divest ment status and the next steps by 2030? for further college divestment and tackling the climate crisis. I tend to approach this with caution, it seems positive to How did you get involved in me. The University has said that Extinction Rebellion Camthey won’t be taking any further
positive that the University is looking to be more responsible with their financial relationship with these companies.
How can we raise awareness of the damage investments in intensive animal farming and biodiversity destruction are doing, as well as investments in fossil fuels and arms, to ensure that colleges also divest from those? Personally, I think that making a big fuss through non-violent direct action has been more
bridge and how long have you been involved for?
I attended the April Rebellion in 2019 and then someone got in touch with me about arrest support – welcoming those that had been arrested - so I went to do that. Talking to people whilst doing that made me realise the importance of direct action and the urgency of the situation. I realised that this was the approach that I had been looking for and the outlet I wanted, so I began to go to local weekly meetings.
Do you have a favourite protest/piece of activism that you have been involved in? Blockading Schlumberger’s research laboratory – an oil service provider - in West Cambridge is satisfying as they are such a de34 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
Image coutesy of XR Cambridge Facebook Page
donations from fossil fuel companies which is a huge step, and I’m obviously glad that the recent statement is a step forward, but the 2030 target still feels disrespectful to all those whose lives and habitats are already being destroyed, especially given the University’s global influence. But it is very
effective at getting people’s attention than social media campaigns alone. I wish that that wasn’t true as it has a real impact on the people carrying out the non-violent direct action, it’s exhausting, but there doesn’t seem to be another effective way to get people to listen.
Why do you think some Cambridge colleges have divested faster than others? Certain colleges perform quite poorly when it comes to divestment as they don’t have so much money, so I think they see the profit motive with their fossil fuel investments. That is a challenge that is outdated though as we have seen how insecure fossil fuel investments are now. There’s also apathy from some colleges that they don’t hold any responsibility, which is untrue when their international students are coming from regions that are currently being destroyed by the climate crisis. They have a responsibility globally but also directly to their own students too.
How can we facilitate a more joined up effort between the University and the colleges towards divestment and becoming carbon neutral, and also promote city-scale collaboration? Once we started the divestment campaign this summer, we found it really surprising that several colleges announced that they are already partially divested. So I think pushing for more transparency and an open conversation about divestment seems to be the way forward. I think this is where students can make a big difference – by asking their colleges what is the college’s divestment status? Why don’t we have a statement on this? It’s a really challenging thing [to promote city scale collaboration with the university]. I’m really in favour of having some form of citizens assembly which invites different stakeholders within the town as well as ordinary people to discuss these issues and make collective decisions about the way the town is run regarding climate and the environment in general. This would be good to ensure that marginalised groups are also represented, as citizens would be randomly selected in numbers to represent the city as a whole. I think we need more forums for open discussion, but this needs to be done with a genuine attempt to engage those people.
Image coutesy of XR Cambridge Facebook Page
What do you think is the biggest success for XR in Cambridge? I would say the recent divestment announcement from the University feels like a big step. But of course, this has been a collaborative effort with Zero Carbon, Friends of the Earth Cambridge and other groups. The small successes also feel important to me too, like when people have heard of Extinction Rebellion Cambridge as a local group. Also, we had a roadblock in February during a storm and that was important to me as it was a symbol of our resilience that we managed to keep the road blocked for a week in bad weather conditions. MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 35
What do you think are the next steps needed to tackle the climate crisis?
How do you think we can get more students engaging with the climate crisis?
For me, we need recognition that the endless economic growth agenda cannot be sustained without suffering and is not compatible with meaningful climate action. I think the pandemic has really shown people what it looks like to be presented with an existential threat - nature can do much more damage to us than we think. Since we are on the receiving end of so little extreme weather in the UK in comparison with other places, I think people don’t have the strong sense that nature is powerful and that we are totally dependent on the land that we live on. I think it has shown people quite how vulnerable we are, but also that there are alternatives - we can do things differently, and sometimes we have to in a crisis.
Divestment is a really good issue to get involved with as it is really relevant to students. It can be really hard to engage in an issue when you feel helpless so I’m hoping that student societies collectively organising for big pushes within their colleges and the University on environmental issues will help people become more engaged. You really can make a difference as an individual, and even small campaigns can make an impact. ■
‘The endless economic growth agenda cannot be sustained without suffering.’ 36 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
‘We can do things differently and sometimes we have to in a crisis ’
‘You can make a difference as an individual and even small campaigns can make an impact’
MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 37
Humans and Sustainability
‘The needs of humans should have priority over those of nature in any planning for sustainability’. Discuss this suggestion. By Ava Kondazi, 2020 Sixth Form Essay Competition Winner The Compass Sixth Form Essay Competition is back for its third year! This year’s winner, Ava Kondazi, reflects on sustainable planning, drawing on indigenous understandings of nature to question some of the assumptions of western environmentalism. Thank you to everyone who entered, and to Professor Bhaskar Vira for judging the competition.
this question is posing the query ‘Are humans more important than nature?’ and we, as humans, have to detach ourselves from our inner, egocentric views in order to answer this question fairly. Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, or material world. Nature can refer to the phenomena of the physical world and also to all life in general. When we think or discuss the subject of ‘nature’, our minds go to a place of serenity, locations for emotional rejuvenation or an ecosystem whose purpose is to serve us food, clean water and fresh air. As history progressed, the population learned to separate themselves from the natural world and denied the real truth; humans are a part of nature and are not in an unrelated category. It is no secret that the Earth is in trouble and that it is the fault of us humans. The average wildlife population has plummeted by 60 per cent in just over 40 years at the current rate of destruction. Oceans are being overfished to the point of depletion and coral reefs are collapsing from ocean acidification. It has been the greatest mass extinction since the demise of dinosaurs. Anthropologists have stated that this denial has led to making us physically and mentally ill, and more self-centred and less accepting of others, diminishing our sense of meaning. We live in a generation where most people in the world are conscious of policies such as environmental discipline, global warming and sustainability. Nonetheless, this has not always been the case. For generations, humans have been degrading this situation in pursuit of personal and business prof38 | MICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS
its. In some instances, they do not realise the consequences of their actions. Humans rationalise these actions of dominance over the environment when they see themselves as separate from nature. This being said, just four decades ago, the Environmental Change, which fought for legislation surrounding environmental matters and the security of the environment, took place. The move was an indication that humans need to restore the harm they have caused to the Earth. Since then, environmentalism has grown in popularity. Many may argue that in a world of science and technology, it is impossible to restore that connection and maintain a happy life. This is a complete contrast to the way most indigenous cultures see themselves as a community of beings that may even extend beyond plants and animals to include mountains and rivers. Many indigenous cultures have found ways to live in harmony with the rest of nature, including adapting to environmental and climate change over many centuries, perhaps millennia. In particular, the culture of the Maori people of New Zealand reflect this. They believe that humans are deeply connected with nature; the equal and interdependent. The idea is reflected in the Maori word ‘kaitiakitanga’, which means guarding and protecting the environment in order to respect the ancestors and secure the future. The Maoris’ intimate relationship with their lands and the natural world is shared by many other indigenous peoples around the world, and highlights why these often marginalized
groups are gaining recognition as vital stewards of our environment and its fast-depleting resources. The world’s 370 million indigenous people are only 5 per cent of the total population but they officially hold 18 per cent of the land and lay claim to far more. Their home areas across 70 countries from the Arctic to the South Pacific include many of the planet’s biodiversity hotspots. Indigenous communities are at the forefront of climate change and planning for sustainability even though they are most affected by global warming. Indigenous peoples in the Central, South American and Caribbean regions are shifting their agricultural activities and their settlements to new locations which are less susceptible to adverse climate conditions. For example, indigenous peoples in Guyana are moving from their savannah homes to forest areas during droughts and have started planting cassava, their main staple crop, on moist floodplains which are normally too wet for other crops. In North America, some indigenous groups are striving to cope with climate change by focusing on the economic opportunities that it may create. For example, the increased demand for renewable energy using wind and solar power could make tribal lands an important resource for such energy, replacing fossil fuel-derived energy and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The Great Plains could provide a tremendous wind resource and its development could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as alleviate the management problem of the Missouri River hydropower, helping to maintain water levels for power generation, navigation, and recreation. In addition, there may be opportunities for carbon sequestration. The potential threat of climate change to indigenous peoples’ very existence combined with various legal and institutional barriers, which affect their ability to cope with and adapt to climate change, makes climate change an issue of human rights and inequality to indigenous peoples.
inite journey, not a short-term issue. What we do now is essential and delicate, not because it endangers nature’s needs but because it endangers any idea of a future. In conclusion, the people of the indigenous culture are the most affected by global warming however they are determined to adapt themselves for the world they live in because they have fathomed that they are one with nature and not in a separate dimension. They have created the mindset that they live in nature’s world, not nature intruding on our consumer-driven world. The dominant worldview will never be able to successfully plan for sustainability until they realise that nature’s needs are their needs. ■
But why now? Why is it important to ask ourselves such questions? The more the population is in denial, the more we further ourselves from the natural world we live in. It is important to realise that the issue is in its prime now and weighs heavy on our shoulders. This is an indefMICHAELMAS 2020 | COMPASS | 39
Lockdown Photo Competition // Homelessness in Cambridge // Digital Divide // Community-Based Tourism in Jordan ... and much, much more in t...
Published on Dec 3, 2020
Lockdown Photo Competition // Homelessness in Cambridge // Digital Divide // Community-Based Tourism in Jordan ... and much, much more in t...