Geographer Winter 2010-11
The newsletter of the
Royal Scottish Geographical Society
Mind the Knowledge Gap Myth, magic and modern misconceptions
In This Edition... •N ews Features: Weather Disruption & Student Fees • Inside the RSGS: The Fair Maid’s House Latest News •E xpert Views: Myth & Magic - Maps, Miners, Medicine •O pinions on: Land Rights in Borneo, Canada and Scotland •R eader Offer: The Poor Had No Lawyers
“So geographers, in Afric maps, With savage pictures fill their gaps, And o’er uninhabitable downs Place elephants for want of towns.” Jonathan Swift
plus other news, comments, books...
RSGS – Making Connections between People, Places & the Planet
myth, magic & modern misconceptions
elcome to the winter issue of The Geographer, on the theme of myth, magic and modern misconceptions. It is with uncontained excitement that I pen these words. Yesterday I looked round our new geographical education centre in the Fair Maid’s House. While I have been deeply involved in the project, from defining the vision through planning the details, working with the architects and keenly watching progress on the ground, it was only yesterday that the scale of our achievement struck home. Little did Barrie Brown and I realise what was involved when we took on the roles of Chairman and ViceChairman of your Society. Three years ago we began a process of modernising RSGS and we are now seeing the benefits. Membership is rising and our new staff have bonded into a dynamic team, pulling together with our invaluable volunteers. Mike Robinson has been a powerhouse; bringing his experience to bear with remarkable benefit to RSGS. All of this means we are able to run the Society better and begin to think about extending our mission and doing more for our members. But most exciting is what we have been able to do in the Fair Maid’s House. Never before has the Society had a shop-window (literally!). As work is completed on this £750,000 project, we see a fantastic building having been restored, extended and brought back into use after lying empty for more than 20 years. And what a building it is! We can now re-explore our roots as an educational charity, spreading the message of the importance of geography in defining our relationship with the planet. The next step is to finish designing the exhibition, with a view to opening in the spring, and to recruit volunteers to help run it, but more of that on page 6. These developments are not without risk, and we rely on you, and your family, friends and neighbours who are not yet members, to support the Society and secure its future. There is much more to do, but we are on the cusp of creating something very special. Bruce Gittings, Vice Chairman RSGS, Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU tel: 01738 455050 email: email@example.com www.rsgs.org Charity registered in Scotland no SC015599 The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the RSGS. Cover image: Elephants in the Okavango Delta, Botswana (part image) © Yann Arthus-Bertrand Masthead image: T he Fair Maid’s House, December 2010
Ray Mears FRSGS Back in October, Ray Mears visited Perth Concert Hall to be presented with the RSGS Mungo Park Medal and to speak to a large audience of fans. The event was hugely enjoyable, with Ray and the evening’s host, journalist Frank Gilfeather, treating the show Barrie Brown presents Ray Mears with the RSGS Mungo Park Medal as more of a relaxed chat around the campfire than a lecture. Ray’s enthusiasm certainly played a starring role on the night – whether it was regaling tales from his childhood growing up in the North Downs, or learning survival skills from aboriginal tribes all over the world, his passion for his subject was evident throughout. The night was a great success and, in addition to receiving his RSGS Medal, Ray also presented three of our 2010 University Medals, happy to share the spotlight with the next generation of budding geographers.
RSGS membership hits 2,000 mark! We are delighted to be able to report the early signs of growth in the number of our supporters – the lifeblood of the Society. Membership has seen a downwards trend for much of the last decade, so it is heartening to see the signs of a recovery – as we have just recruited our 2,000th membership, up from around 1,610 at the end of 2008. We still need to earn more income to cover our annual operational costs, so further increasing membership income, donations, legacies and talks income remains critical. We hope that this encouraging growth in membership is only the beginning, and that we can one day get past the previous high of 3,700 memberships back in 1972, so please keep helping to promote membership wherever you can.
RSGS Medals 2011 Call for Nominations We are now inviting nominations for the RSGS Medals 2011. Nominations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by post to RSGS HQ in Perth, to arrive by 18th March 2011. The categories are: •S cottish Geographical Medal, for conspicuous merit and a performance of world-wide repute •C oppock Research Medal, for an outstanding contribution to geographical knowledge through research and publication •L ivingstone Medal, for outstanding service of a humanitarian nature with a clear geographical dimension •M ungo Park Medal, for an outstanding contribution to geographical knowledge through exploration or adventure in potentially hazardous physical or social environments •S hackleton Medal, for leadership and citizenship in a geographical field •G eddes Environment Medal, for an outstanding contribution to conservation of the built or natural environment and the development of sustainability •T ivy Education Medal, for exemplary, outstanding and inspirational teaching, educational policy or work in formal and informal educational arenas •B artholomew Globe, for excellence in the assembly, delivery or application of geographical information through cartography, GIS and related techniques •P resident’s Medal, to recognise achievement and celebrate the impact of geographers’ work on wider society
RSGS – Making Connections between People, Places & the Planet
Winter 2010 -11
NEWS People • Places • Planet RSGS Fellow is one of America’s top ten heroes Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow FRSGS, the founder of Scottish charity Mary’s Meals, was named as one of only ten ‘Heros of the Year 2010’ by the international television station CNN, in an award scheme that recognises “ordinary people having an extraordinary impact”. In 1992, Magnus got the idea to help victims in war-torn Bosnia; a trip to deliver food, clothing and blankets led to a life’s work of helping people in need. After working in Malawi in 2002, Magnus started Mary’s Meals, which today provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children in 15
countries around the world. Magnus attended an award ceremony in Hollywood in November 2010, to receive a prize of $25,000 which will be spent on new projects in Mwanza, Malawi, feeding 1,763 children in 2011. He said “I never cease to marvel at the way doors seem to open for Mary’s Meals. I know lots of heroes and I am not one of them. However I realise that this is the most amazing chance to tell more people about the difference that a meal a day, in school, can make to a child’s life.”
Global Change and the World’s Mountains In September 2010, Perth College UHI Centre for Mountain Studies (CMS) and the Swiss-based Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) organized an international conference on Global Change and the World’s Mountains at Perth Concert Hall, following a previous conference on a similar theme in 2005. As well as providing numerous opportunities for networking, its aims were to present, evaluate and synthesize progress in our understanding of global change in mountain regions since 2005; and to work proactively on a global agenda for research and action relating to global change and mountain regions, taking into consideration global assessment and policy processes. Especially on the last day, particular attention was paid to the inclusion of mountains in the process leading up to the Earth Summit 2012 (Rio + 20). The conference attracted about 450 participants from 60 countries on five continents, and was probably the largestever international gathering of mountain scientists. Resources permitting, a similar conference will take place in 2015.
Talks in Giffnock & Bearsden On Wednesday 30th March, acclaimed journalist, travel writer and broadcaster Anthony Sattin will give an extra talk (not listed in the printed programme), in Eastwood Park Theatre, Eastwood Park, Rouken Glen Road, Giffnock, Glasgow, G46 6UG. And on Thursday 31st March, he will be speaking at Kilmardinny House Arts Centre, Kilmardinny Avenue, Bearsden, Glasgow, G61 3NN. These venues provide alternatives for members who prefer not to travel into central Glasgow, and should help us to reach some new audiences in those areas. Anthony will be speaking about The Temptations of Egypt, the subject of his book A Winter on the Nile (see back page of this newsletter). Admission to either talk is £8 for adults, 30th-31st March free for RSGS members, students and under-18s.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Centre for Mountain Studies is holding a public event at Perth Concert Hall, in conjunction with the RSGS. Colin Prior, Scotland’s top landscape photographer, will give a special presentation – Mountains of Inspiration – at 19th January 7.30pm on Wednesday 19th January 2011. Tickets (£8, with a reduced price of £5 for RSGS members) are available from Perth Concert Hall box office on 01738 621031.
The National Library of Scotland has launched a collaborative online project where anyone with Internet access is invited to help with georeferencing of various historical maps from the NLS collection. Maps that are georeferenced by volunteers can then be viewed as an overlay in Google Earth. Georeferencing maps allows you to compare historic maps directly with present day satellite images; to share, use and georeference the maps in more detail; to view the maps alongside other georeferenced
Colin Prior: Mountains of Inspiration
More Inspiring Sponsors
historical maps; and to help improve search methods to find maps in future. See geo.nls.uk/maps/ georeferencer for more information and to get involved.
We are grateful for the further financial support towards our Inspiring People talks programme received from Geoghegans, Grieve Grierson Moodie & Walker, the International & Urban Studies Trust, and UHI Millennium Institute, and for the in-kind support given by The Highland Council and the University of Edinburgh. Our talks programme is still our main activity, and is one of the best ways of reaching new audiences, so we are delighted that these, and all the other organisations listed in the autumn edition of The Geographer, have been able to help us.
NEWS People • Places • Planet Background image: NERC Satellite Receiving Station, University of Dundee, Scotland, www.sat.dundee.ac.uk
Disruption to Talks & AGM
Dr Ben Brock, University of Dundee One of the unusual features of the cold weather in the UK in late November was the occurrence of lightning during snow showers. While these ‘snow thunderstorms’ are a rare phenomenon, the causal mechanisms are very similar to summer thunderstorms. Both require strong convection, rising columns of air, and low enough temperatures for ice crystals to form within the cloud. In summer, the convection is driven by strong heating of the ground by the sun. In the recent thunderstorms, the convection was driven by the relative warmth of the North Sea compared with the extremely cold airflow from eastern Europe above it. When cold air overlies relatively warm air, the atmosphere is described as unstable, and air warmed at the ground surface will rise upwards through natural buoyancy. As the air ascends, it cools, leading to condensation of water vapour and, if the air is cold enough, sublimation of ice crystals. During summer thunderstorms, clouds might have to extend several kilometres high to reach cold enough regions of the atmosphere. A storm cloud is a turbulent mix of different sized ice crystals, hailstones and super-cooled water droplets. When ice crystals collide, smaller crystals lose negatively charged ions, leaving them with a positive charge, while larger crystals gain ions and a negative charge. The smaller positively charged crystals tend to get carried upwards to higher parts of the cloud while the larger negatively charged crystals remain in the lower parts of the cloud. Eventually, this differential is discharged as a lightning bolt. Sometimes lightning is discharged between the cloud base (negative) and the ground (positive). So, while snow thunderstorms are a rarity, it is ironic that ice is actually essential for lightning to form.
The heavy snow in late November was a treat for some.
The heavy snow and freezing conditions of late November and early December unfortunately meant that we had to cancel several of our Inspiring People talks, because the venue closed or the speaker was unable to get to the venue or it was felt that audiences could not travel safely. We are sorry for any inconvenience and disappointment caused. Also affected by the weather was the Society’s AGM. We are currently rearranging this for Monday 24th January, again at Perth Concert Hall. We are also arranging for one of the Society’s Vice-Presidents, David Hempleman-Adams to attend, to present some of the 2010 RSGS Medals and Honorary Fellowships, and to give his lecture on The Heart of the Great Alone. Details will be posted on the RSGS website as 24th January soon as possible.
Aberdeen & Stirling Talks Venue Changes Unfortunately, two of the venues listed in the talks programme have had to be changed. We would like to apologise for any confusion this may have caused. •A berdeen – all talks will now take place in the Fraser Noble Building, Kings College, Aberdeen, AB24 3UE.
•S tirling – the 12th January talk will now take place in the Mayfield Centre, Sunnybank Road, St Ninians, Stirling, FK7 0DB.
The Winter We’re Having The Met Office Across the UK, the winds usually blow in from the west off the Atlantic Ocean, bringing with them cloud, wind, rain, showers – keeping our winters relatively mild. However, during November we saw a large area of high pressure develop in the Atlantic, which ‘blocked’ the westerly winds that tend to keep us that little bit milder. As a result, this ‘block’ allowed very cold Arctic air to move south and west across mainland Europe and over the UK.
At this time of year, the long nights over the landmass of Europe cool down rapidly, and so the air has often remained bitterly cold. However, this air has had to cross relatively warm sea temperatures to get to the UK, and has picked up heat and moisture. Since the air is so cold, this has resulted in snow showers forming and with the wind coming from the east, it is eastern coastal regions that have seen the heaviest snow. The localised nature of showers means that the amount of lying snow has varied greatly from place to place. The cold spell has produced a minimum temperature of minus 21°C in Scotland, and a provisional UK mean temperature which indicates that November 2010 is likely to be the coldest across the UK since November 1993. December has seen the cold weather continue with no abrupt end to this wintry spell expected.
Winter 2010 -11
NEWS People • Places • Planet W S Bruce Medal Instituted in 1923, this Medal commemorates the work of Dr W S Bruce, the explorer and scientific investigator, and leader of the RSGS’s Scottish National Antarctic Expedition 1902-04. The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) acted as trustee for administration of the Bruce Medal fund, and the award was made by a joint committee appointed by the RSE, the Royal Physical Society, and the RSGS. However, this has now been transferred to RSGS for administration within our
Medals programme. The Bruce Medal is awarded for notable contributions to Zoology, Botany, Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography or Geography, where new knowledge has been gained through a personal visit to polar regions. This year’s recipient is Alison Cook, from Dollar, the first female awardee of the Bruce Medal, who is starting her PhD under the prestigious AXA Research Fund Fellowship, after several years working with the British Antarctic Survey on mapping Antarctic coastal changes.
Nagoya – A New Biodiversity Compact In the last issue of The Geographer, we reported on the imminent World Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya. It resulted in a new tenyear global strategy designed to halt the loss of biological diversity, with environment ministers from 193 countries agreeing to draft national plans to safeguard genetic resources within two years, and adopting a new protocol on sharing the benefits of the planet’s genetic resources. The protocol outlines how benefits will be shared with countries and communities who conserved and managed that resource, and lays out rules on how substances and compounds derived from genetic resources, including vaccines, will be managed. By signing the Nagoya Biodiversity Compact, countries agreed on 2020 targets to: • halve the rate of loss of habitats, including forests; • increase land nature reserves from 13% to 17% of area; • increase sea nature reserves from 1% to 10% of area; • restore 15% of areas with ‘degraded’ biodiversity; • safeguard 75% of threatened plant species in collections. The voluntary drawing up of the national plans is intended to stop over-fishing, reduce pollution, protect coral reefs and reduce the loss of genetic diversity in agricultural ecosystems.
RSGS Maps on TV Margaret Wilkes A fine, detailed map of Perth from our collections, made by William Macfarlane in 1792, was recently taken on an exciting outing across Perth to be filmed alongside Nick Crane, explorer, author, BBC broadcaster and RSGS Mungo Park Medal joint-winner. The filming, in a superb early 19th
century town house, was a wonderful experience in terms of the hospitality of the house owners and the insight it gave into filming for TV. Nine more of RSGS’s early maps featured as background, adding colour and lustre to the image. The action was part of a Tern TV (Glasgow) production for BBC2 of a series on four historic British towns - Perth, Scarborough, Totnes and Ludlow - to be shown in autumn 2011.
Green light for electric vehicles The UK Government is to support a new network of c375 electric vehicle recharging points across Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Central Belt. Dr Sam Gardner, Climate Change Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said, “It’s great news that Scotland will soon have a network of charging points in place to help jump start the electric vehicle revolution. To deliver Scotland’s Climate Change Act we need to see at least 300,000 electric cars on Scotland’s roads by 2020. To realise the full carbon saving benefits from electric cars, it is also essential that we decarbonise our electricity supply and reduce total road traffic levels.”
Inspiring People Talks Feedback We have been thrilled with the number of positive responses to our talks this season. Here is just a sample of some of the feedback we have received this year: “We were enthralled throughout, 9½/10”, “delighted with his humour and professional presentation”, “everyone left with big smiles on their face”, “excellent talk with first class photography”, “an excellent, informative talk”. This is extremely encouraging and, aside from a few weather-related hiccups, overall our 2010-11 talks programme is shaping up to be one of our best ever. To recommend a speaker for the 2011-12 season, please contact the office before the end of March 2011.
Geography graduate options look good Statistics suggest that graduate employment prospects are at their worst level for some 17 years. However, it seems that geography graduates have a better than average chance of finding a job within six months of leaving university. While the Higher Education Careers Services Unit assessed the overall unemployment rate for recent graduates at 8.9%, the figure for those with a geography-related degree was 7.4%. Reasons for this apparent advantage may include an increase in the demand for environmental professionals as we move towards a ‘greener’ economy, and a recognition that geography graduates have a broad range of transferable skills that are useful in many different careers. Fittingly, Macfarlane’s map and its companions were gifted by the late Mrs Cuthbert whose husband, Bill, was a solicitor in Perth. And Tern TV’s Assistant Producer, Tom Cebula, who accompanied me to transport the maps, revealed he was a geographer too.
NEWS People • Places • Planet ‘Future-proofing’ the economy The Sustainable Development Commission Scotland (SDCS) has warned that the Scottish Government is putting Scotland’s long term prosperity at serious risk by failing to make the hard choices for a sustainable economy. In its fourth annual assessment of the Scottish Government’s progress on sustainable development, SDCS welcomed the good work on renewables but warned that the Government had failed to signal the move away from dependence on oil and gas which is crucial to ‘future-proof’ Scotland’s economy. SDCS Vice-Chair Professor Jan Bebbington said “The Government’s ability to turn its world leading climate change ambitions into action and provide Scotland with a resilient low carbon economy is seriously undermined by patchy, slow and inadequate action. We need to look at the foundations for our whole economy, and define green jobs as more than renewables and carbon capture. Green jobs are healthy, fair and sustainable and they grow out of resilient low-carbon communities.”
The SDCS report hails the Children’s Parliament’s EcoCity Project, which lets children re-build models of their communities focussing on sustainability. © Drew Mackie
Sustainable Development Commission to close Following the lead of the UK Government, the Scottish Government has announced that at the end of March 2011 it will withdraw funding from the SDCS, which independently advises on the Scottish Government’s progress on aligning policy with Scotland’s environmental, social and economic needs, now and in the future.
Tuition Fee-asco? Why have students been so animated regarding the recent tuition fees and university funding changes? Is this good or bad for Scottish universities? Should all of us be more concerned? Do capped fees mean fairer education? Or do uncapped fees threaten the quality of education? Undergraduate numbers have increased sixfold in the last 25 years, with around 480,000 new starters in 2010 compared with 80,000 in the early 1980s. Can we simply not afford this level of university education? Or, as a successful nation competing on a global stage, can we afford not to invest? In a recent worldwide study, Finland was reported as the best performing nation in its quality of education, but it spends more than any other nation on university education (1.63% of GDP), double the UK level (0.85% GDP). How can we have the quality of education we want without paying for it? And whilst we battle out of debt as a nation, should we be teaching a whole generation to live so casually with large debts – is that the modern legacy of higher education? This chart shows the number of undergraduate students admitted (ie the first year intake) at fiveyearly intervals from 1965
We asked Ruth Dawkins, former President of the University of Edinburgh Student Association, to give us her view.
Students are angry. Every day over the
fund themselves through charging higher
last few weeks has brought yet another
fees, they will be able to attract the best
news story about some kind of student
academic staff from north of the Border,
protest. There have been sit-ins, walk-
and the resulting ‘brain drain’ from
outs, candlelit vigils, opinion pieces,
Scotland to England will decrease the
lobbying, postcard campaigns and, in
quality of Scottish students’ education.
early November, a march of 50,000
The fact that the recent demonstrations
students through central London.
have been attended not just by students
The source of their anger is the coalition
but by lecturers, school pupils, parents
Government plans for massive cuts to
and others is a good indication of the
higher education budgets (40%) and
value this country places on education.
allowing tuition fees to treble. The most
A well-educated society is a healthier,
passionate fury is reserved for the
happier and wealthier and more
hypocrisy of the Liberal Democrats, who
sustainable society, but that can only
stated in their election manifesto that
happen when education is available to all,
they would not just oppose a rise in fees,
not just the elite.
but that they would scrap them entirely.
As the NUS National President Aaron
Although Scottish universities don’t
Porter stated recently, “A truly progressive
currently charge fees for Scottish
system is one where students are able
students, the proposals will still have a
to make decisions according to their
huge impact north of the Border; Scots
ambitions and aspirations without
wanting to study at English universities
concern at all to price or potential
will be left with up to £40,000 of debt,
the cuts to education budgets will leave
There are other models of education
Scottish institutions struggling, and tens
funding out there that offer exactly
of millions of pounds will be lost from the
that – the NUS-proposed Graduate Tax
student support budget which provides
being just one of them. Until those other
loans and bursaries.
models are given due consideration by the
Another serious concern is that if English
Government, you can expect students to
universities are able to better
stay very angry indeed.
Winter 2010 -11
NEWS People • Places • Planet Eruptions of Mount Merapi, Java, Indonesia Michael Thomas
Gunung Merapi is situated 7.5° south of the Equator on the island of Java some 28km from Yogyakarta, a city of 400,000. Standing 2,968 metres above sea level, this stratovolcano dominates the surrounding plains and is claimed to be the most active in Indonesia. Merapi (literally ‘mountain of fire’) is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending north-northwest to Ungaran volcano. The date of initial formation remains in doubt (possibly ~40,000 years), but the oldest radiocarbon date for the construction of the modern cone is close to 10,000 years BP. The volcano produces viscous lava domes and lava tongues, and occasional gravitational collapses of parts of oversteepened domes occur to produce pyroclastic ash flows with a high content of gas, often called nuées ardentes (glowing clouds), which can overwhelm local communities with tragic results. A major collapse of the mountainside occurred during an eruption in 1900. Collapse on this scale has not been repeated, but lava flows and ash clouds have been emitted more frequently than in the 19th century. According to NASA, “seismic activity around the volcano increased in mid-September 2010, culminating in repeated outbursts of lava and ash, which began with three eruptions on 25th October, spewing lava down the southern and southeastern slopes”. So far, more than 200 people have been killed by this eruption; some have been buried by ash, others have been burned or have succumbed to breathing hot gases. Damage to the ecosystems and agriculture on surrounding slopes has been extensive, and there is concern for the survival of the rare Javan leopard, Panthera pardus melas. Residents have also reported thousands of brown monkeys fleeing to the relative safety of the neighbouring Mount Merbabu. What makes these eruptions so dangerous is the presence of a
very dense population, farming the incredibly fertile slopes of the volcano. The humid tropical climate here sustains a wide variety of crops, from rice and cassava to large orchards, especially of snake fruit (Salacca zalacca) and coconuts. Tobacco is also widely grown. At higher altitudes the hill people herd sheep, while in the surrounding lowlands paddy fields are everywhere. Large villages are found to heights of 1,700m, and the productivity of the rapidly weathering, volcanic ash soil is a magnet for farmers. According to the Jakarta Post (10th December 2010), “The month-long eruptions have killed more than 200 people, displaced over 100,000 residents, killed over 1,000 livestock and destroyed over 1,000 hectares of productive farming fields.” There is also a wider significance to eruptions leading to extensive ash fall in this area. The region is a major religious and cultural centre in Java. Borobudur (an ancient Mahayana Buddhist temple from the 9th century) and Prambanan (an important Shivaist Hindu temple also from the 9th century) are both World Heritage Sites less than 30km from the volcano. Javan rulers switched from Buddhism to Hinduism in the 9th century, then converted to Islam in the 14th century. The temples fell into disrepair and were looted in subsequent centuries, and it is thought that an earthquake may have toppled the buildings at Prambanan in the 16th century. Restoration has been recent, assisted by UNESCO at Borobudur (1975-82), and completed by the Indonesian Government as recently as the 1990s at Prambanan, which was damaged again by an earthquake in 2006. For the Yogyakarta Sultanate, Merapi is also a sacred symbol, associated with a north-south axis through Yogyakarta to the Indian Ocean. In the sultan’s palace (keraton) the symbols for the three great religions can be seen superimposed, overlain by the
Dutch colonial architecture and the trappings of 19th century European royalty. The cultural heritage of Java is rich and complex, and can seem mysterious to visitors from the West, but the Javan people, in their desperately overcrowded island, have developed gentle manners in their personal dealings, and are welcoming to visitors.
Dense agricultural settlements on the midslopes of Mount Merapi. © Michael Thomas.
Impromptu sheep market on the higher slopes of Mount Merapi. © Michael Thomas.
One of the hundreds of exquisite bas reliefs at Borobudur. The presence of elephants points to connections with mainland Asia in the 9th century. © Michael Thomas.
Summit of Mount Merapi at 2,968m. Photo by Yustinus Sulistiyo, 1994 (Volcanological Survey of Indonesia). Held by Global Volcanism Program, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, USA.
Inside the RSGS
The Fair Maid’s House Project
he main construction works were largely completed by the end of 2010, with the large windows of the new collections store being fitted in early December even as it snowed. We are now focusing on furnishing the Fair Maid’s House, creating and installing a range of inspiring and engaging interpretative displays, and developing our plans to open and run the new centre from around Easter 2011.
Volunteers Needed! It is essential that the Fair Maid’s House is manned when it is open to visitors, and so we need to build up a rota of volunteers, ideally people who are able to make a regular commitment of a half-day or a whole day each week/fortnight/month, though there will also be opportunities for more ‘casual’ volunteers to get involved. The main task would be simply to chat with visitors, to tell them interesting stories, and to answer their queries; we would of course provide all volunteers with supporting information to help. If possible, we would like to open the centre for six hours a day, at least two days a week, depending on the number and availability of volunteers. If you are interested in helping, please contact us on email@example.com or 01738-455050.
Opportunity to Name the Rooms! So far, we have been using simple descriptive names for the main areas of the new centre (reception room, education room, etc). We would like to consider options for more creative and evocative names, perhaps geographical issues or features, or inspirational people. Please let us know what you think, and help play your part in the next chapter of RSGS’s history. Send your ideas by 27th February 2011 to enquiries@ rsgs.org or write to us at 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU.
Winter 2010 -11
Scott-land & The Fair Maid’s House Stuart Kelly
William Japp did not go down in history. He did, however, along with and independent of a huge number of landowners, amateurs, eccentrics, visionaries and opportunists, play his part in the ‘Great Work’ of Sir Walter Scott. Japp, like Scott, nudged the ‘Realm of the Real’ towards the ‘Realm of Fiction’. And he did it by buying the former workshop of a cabinet maker in Perth. No doubt some readers will think his actions two parts vandalism and one part negligence. I care to think of it as more real than truthful. The ‘Great Work’ is the unintended corollary of the Magnum Opus. In the Magnum Opus, Scott and his publishers created the definitive, if not exact, version of the Waverley Novels, the Poetical Works, the Miscellaneous Prose Works and even the Life of Sir Walter Scott. It was a major piece of publishing, drawing talents such as Turner to provide etchings: no novelist beforehand had had such a prestigious edition. But it had an occult and unexpected consequence. As James Skene, one of the artists on the Waverley Novels wrote, “such subjects as are now in ruins, are, where practicable, restored to the state they were in at the particular period assumed by the Author of Waverley”. Japp probably never read Skene’s words, but he made them true outside of the pages of a book. No one knows where the Fair Maid lived, and as a fictional character it is doubtful she lived anywhere anyway. Though archaeological evidence dates parts of the building to the late 15th century, the building associated with her was first acknowledged in textual records in 1629, when the Glovers Corporation bought the property. Their motto, “Grace and Peace”, is carved above the door lintel, and survives to this day. It was sold to Lord John Murray in 1758, leased back, sold back in 1768, and abandoned by the Corporation when they decided to build a new property in George Street. Although it was sold to James Bell, a cabinet maker, it returned to the Glovers before being sold again in 1890.
Japp bought the property commonly called The Fair Maid’s House that year; a full 62 years after the novel, 261 years since the Glovers Corporation bought the building that “Simon Glover”, the Fair Maid’s father in the story, occupied, and 415 years from when it is known there was a building at that site. Like a good Victorian, he started to refurbish, refashion and reconfigure – or rather, demolish – the site. He changed an industrial building into a tourist destination. It attracted tourists such as William McGonagall, who wrote, afar and “All ye good people, near, lend an ear; To my request pray t delay hou I advise you all wit to go id’s House And see the Fair Ma . it is a rare show.. se is The interior of the hou n, see magnificent to be ng, I’m And the wood panelli the Queen; sure, would please , with its And the old fire-place , fire big ld desire... Is all that visitors cou house is The mistress of the very kind, n would be A more affable woma herd to find; very good, And to visitors she is tory, be it And well versed in his understood.”
In a career of overstatement and exaggeration, McGonagall perhaps never bettered the idea that the Japp construction was the work of someone well versed in history. But William Japp’s architectural intervention and invention is hardly unique in 19th century Scotland. Abbotsford itself, Sir Walter Scott’s home, was a pre-post-modern fantasia on themes from Scottish architecture, mixing the modern, the antique and the pastiched with gleeful abandon. Other properties – such as Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders, owned by Scott’s nemesis, the Earl of Buchan; Hermitage Castle in Liddesdale; and Fatlips Castle, re-imagined by Sir Robert Lorimer as a hunting lodge cum antiquarian collection – were selectively restored. More often than not, the chief inspiration
“Indeed, it can be argued that no author ever changed the built environment of his or her country as much as Scott did to Scotland.”
behind these developments was Scott himself. Indeed, in the case of a property like Melrose Abbey, the architectural reconstruction was deliberately modelled on the illustrations to the Magnum Opus edition. Such features as the drying green, sniffily remarked upon by the bibliographer Thomas Dibdin when he visited in 1838, were removed to heighten the cosmetic effect of seeing a ‘real-life’ illustration. Indeed, it can be argued that no author ever changed the built environment of his or her country as much as Scott did to Scotland. Whether it is in road names (such as the Ivanhoe themes area in Glasgow) or altered toponymy (Ellen’s Isle at Loch Lomond) or the profusion of examples of the Scots Baronial style, the hand of the “Author of Waverley” can be seen everywhere. There’s a simple thought experiment that reveals the amplitude of his influence. Think about any place, street or business that uses the name “Abbotsford” or “Waverley”. Now try to count the number of Hamlet Avenues, Falstaff Drives or Prospero Properties.
Stuart Kelly was born and brought up in the Scottish Borders, and studied English at Oxford. He is the Literary Editor of Scotland on Sunday, and a freelance critic and writer. In Scott-land: The Man Who Invented a Nation, Stuart explores the enigma of Scott and the disparity between his influence and his status, his current standing and his cultural legacy, in a voyage around Scotland.
“I well remember observing him [Scott] many times in the Advocates’ Library poring over maps and gazetteers with care and anxiety.” John Gibson Lockhart, Sir Walter Scott’s son-in-law and biographer
Country in Focus: Botswana
Botswana David Edwards
“The symbolic animal of the country was the zebra and its stripes were incorporated in the flag to embody black and white living harmoniously together.”
Parliament Buildings, Gabarone
Botswana is the ‘Switzerland of southern Africa’, a stable, democratic, little-known country that has avoided the tragedies and upheavals of its neighbours. Its low profile has recently been raised thanks to Alexander McCall Smith’s No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, and it is indeed a fascinating country. Botswana is two and a half times the size of the UK but has a population of only 1.7 million. Much of the central and south western portions are covered by the Kalahari Desert, and Botswana is predominantly flat. Gaborone in the south east is the capital and is on the main rail and road link between South Africa and Zimbabwe. In the north west is its main tourist attraction, the wetland of the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest Ramsar site, with its superb wild animals.
of the Bechuanaland Democratic Party in 1961. In 1966 British Bechuanaland became Botswana, with Seretse Khama as its first president and with Ruth as the first white first lady of an independent African state. Both Britain and South Africa thought it valueless, but a year after independence, diamonds were discovered and Botswana now produces a quarter of the world’s output. Khama was a true statesman, held in high regard by Nelson Mandela, and much of Botswana’s stability and welcoming character is due to him. He implemented a corruptiondefeating constitution that firmly kept in mind what was best for the people and the country. The symbolic animal of the country was the zebra and its stripes were incorporated in the flag to embody black and white living harmoniously together.
Apart from the Delta, Bechuanaland, as it was known prior to independence in 1966, was a valueless, land locked scrap of desert. It became a British protectorate in 1885 at the request of three of its tribal kings, concerned by incursions from Boers and other tribes, and looking to Britain for protection.
The wealth that accrued from diamonds was ploughed back into infrastructure. Roads became tarmaced; schools, modern hospitals and a university were built; infrastructure was decentralised. High value tourism is another major source of income.
Bechuanaland had eight principal tribes. The king of the Bangwato, Seretse Khama, travelled to England after WWII to study law, prior to taking up the leadership of his people. While there he married Ruth Williams, a clerk at Lloyds of London, in 1948, the same year that South Africa introduced apartheid. South Africa’s policies were predicated on a black man not being allowed to touch a white woman, and they feared a royal mixed marriage across the border would threaten stability in the area. South Africa therefore placed pressure on Britain in a very modern way: it threatened to deny Britain access to energy, specifically uranium that the UK needed to develop its nuclear programme. To its shame Britain conceded, and Ruth and Seretse were exiled in Britain for six years.
There is a lack of surface water in Botswana – boreholes are vital for both cattle and people. The Okavango Delta is the one place where there is no shortage of water – yet. The Okavango River originates in the highlands of Angola as two tributaries, but never reaches the sea; it is an endoreic drainage system. Like many rivers whose catchment crosses international borders, there is conflict over this scarce resource.
A burgeoning independence movement throughout Africa brought stirrings of independence to Bechuanaland too. Seretse’s exile gave him credibility and he became the leader
The Delta floods seasonally, beginning about mid-summer in the north and six months later (May/June) in the south, as the waters travel the length of the Delta before finally trickling away into the Kalahari sand. The Delta covers about 15,000 km2, roughly half the area of Highland region. Faults and earthquakes occur, altering the flow in channels as the 1 in 4,000 gradient land tilts. Because it is situated in a desert climate, scientists have deemed the Delta to be one of the most ecologically sensitive areas on the planet, and it is a wetland of international importance and incredible biodiversity. This sensitivity is heightened by the constant competition among would-be users
of the land, including cattle ranchers, tour operators, and conservationists. Like so many African countries, Botswana is struggling with AIDS. Life expectancy has dropped from 62 to under 40, which is extremely low for a country with no experience of wars or famine. 25% of the adult population is HIV positive. Five years ago it was 38%, so progress is being made thanks to health education programmes which robustly addressed the issue from the beginning. This desire to provide universal health care and education is one of the reasons used by the government to justify a relocation policy of the San bushmen, the indigenous people of southern Africa. The San Bushmen are being supported by Survival International as they battle the Botswana government for access rights to land they have lived on for thousands of years. Seretse and Ruth’s son Ian (born in Surrey during their exile) became the fourth president in 2008. Botswana faces many challenges and Ian Khama, perhaps influenced by his time as head of the armed forces, is instilling measures which he thinks are for the best of the country, but often without consultation. Lawyers in Botswana have expressed concerns about a curtailing of free expression. It will be interesting to watch how Khama attempts to move the economy more toward agriculture and tourism (both main airports are being expanded) and away from a reliance on diamonds, while also maintaining freedoms for all
Botswana government rejects High Court ruling In 2002, the Botswana government evicted the San Bushmen from their ancestral lands inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In December 2006, after the longest and most expensive legal battle in the country’s history, Botswana’s High Court ruled that the government had acted illegally and unconstitutionally. However, the government has continued to prevent the Bushmen from returning home, and in December 2010 issued a statement rejecting the High Court judgment. The statement said that the government “does not force [the Bushmen] to move out of the Game Reserve”, and that it has provided the Bushmen with “developments at their new settlements, such as the provision of educational and medical facilities, for improving their quality of life.” Yet 13 years after the main resettlement camp was created, virtually no Bushmen have found permanent employment, and alcoholism and disease are rife. As one of the judges said, “[The government] might want to consider whether the disappearance of a people isn’t too high a price to pay for offering services at a centralized location.”
Off The Beaten Track
Winter 2010 -11
One leaf at a time
China, using traditional materials and techniques. They asked us to visit the school to give the children their first flesh-and-blood encounter with Europeans, and the children asked me how I honour my ancestors. I had to think long and hard about that. Going slowly, I learned the value of looking back in time.
It was January 2006 and, at the remote border crossing beyond Kuhmo, I was close to achieving a long-held ambition: to visit the snow-bound vastness of Russia in the depth of winter. The immigration officials shook their heads at our visas and told us to take a seat. We waited. We watched a log truck having its cargo of timber weighed and checked before setting off for a Finnish paper mill. The driver of the only bus that day tired of waiting, dumped our baggage, and left without us. A Russian arrived with a car full of Finnish shopping, and drove on down the icy highway into the Motherland. We waited. Another log truck headed west. And another. We waited. And another. While Russian Customs tried to work out how to deal with their two visitors from Scotland, they gave us an unexpected chance to monitor the export of Russian wood to the paper industry of Europe. Six hours, and 35 thought-provoking log trucks later, our passports were stamped and a Russian traveller was commandeered to give us a lift to Kostamuksha.
had brought us to Finland, the heart of the European paper industry. With my partner Bill, I planned to cross Europe, Asia and the Americas, to discover where all the paper we use comes from.
“To each far horizon, rows of silent and identical trees wobbled in the heat haze, leaves like plastic plates sucking in sunlight, secret roots pumping the ground dry.”
It was the first of many insightful delays on an overland journey that had begun two weeks previously, setting out from home in northwest Scotland, and via bus, train and ferry to Holland, trains through Germany and a slow boat across the Baltic,
Two weeks later, I was once again brought to a halt in a Manchurian railway siding, after many days of the glorious lethargy that is Russian train travel, with ice-cream at every station stop (usually 19 minutes, sometimes 23) while the provodnitsas took crowbars to the icicles on the bogies. The epic taiga, its rune-trees etched in snowy monochrome, had rolled past the window for thousands of miles. Now, as the samovar steamed, we watched logs, carriage after carriage of logs, haemorrhage into China, and understood that the epic is a tragedy: a quarter of the world’s forest being decimated for toilet roll and fast food packaging. Going slowly, I saw the big picture. There were joys, too. One of the pleasures of travelling without aeroplane bookings is the chance to go astray, and in China we found ourselves lost in the distant past, discovering the ancient history of paper making. In Jingxian, Annhui province, after following various tenuous and unlikely leads, we met the descendent of Cai Lun, who invented paper two millennia ago. Cai Zhang’s family-run factory still makes the finest calligraphy paper in
By the time we reached Indonesia, after four months of mountains and jungles, tuk-tuks and tofu, elephants and oil palm, I was adept at spotting the tell-tale plume of a pulp-mill on the horizon, and unravelling its impacts from the goods trains, lorry parks and deforested landscape around it. Yet nothing prepared me for Riau province, Sumatra, where two paper companies, APRIL and APP, have clear-cut more than half the rainforest in the past twenty years, replacing it with monoculture plantations, mostly of Acacia crassicarpa, to pulp for photocopy paper. With no schedule to constrain us, we could follow Pak Jafri, tribal elder of the Domo people, to his village land, which the government has given to the paper industry without a by-your-leave from its inhabitants. “Look around. This used to be my community’s forest, but now – look at it,” he said. To each far horizon, rows of silent and identical trees wobbled in the heat haze, leaves like plastic plates sucking in sunlight, secret roots pumping the ground dry. “We used to fish, but when there’s no water in the river there is no fish. We cannot hunt here any more, we lost the animals. We lost our bee trees, so we can’t get honey any more. We lost our medicine trees. We lost everything.” By taking time, I could not only look and learn, but also respond emotionally, whether with sorrow at forest loss, wonder at artistic skill, or anger for the abuse of people’s basic rights. Going slowly, I felt and therefore understood the connections between our paper consumption in the north and distant people’s land and lives.
“...the epic is a tragedy: a quarter of the world’s forest being decimated for toilet roll and fast food packaging.”
On the Map
Charting Between Myth & Reality Chris Fleet, Senior Map Curator, National Library of Scotland
“Myth and reality are not always easy to distinguish. The chart shows the fabled huge inland bay in Ireland, reportedly with 367 islands, the Purgatory of St Patrick.”
his strikingly colourful sea chart, drafted in 1560 on a sheet of vellum (98 x 57 cm in extent), depicts a European coastline which is instantly recognisable to us today. Yet it also includes several more obscure symbols and features, fragments of an enigmatic past, which, when deciphered, provide powerful insights into the late medieval mind and its perception of the world. From the late 12th century, mariners’ charts such as this – often called ‘portolans’, deriving from the Italian
portolano, referring to a written list of ports along a coastline – were drafted as practical tools for maritime trade. Depicting the coast was, of course, the main priority. Names of important harbours and capes were written at right angles to the coastline, whilst hazards such as rocks and sandbanks were shown by dots or crosses. As most navigation followed compass bearings along coasts, the radiating rhumb lines were also key features, both for the chartmaker as a copying aid, and for the mariner at sea. This portolan was drafted by Georgio Sideri, often called Calapoda (after the name of the town near Chania on
Crete where he was born), who was a frequent visitor to Venice as master of a merchant ship. On the neck of the chart is the coat-ofarms of the Venetian family,
Bragadin; those portolans that have survived were often those given to shipowners and capitalists, rather than those actually used at sea. Calapoda’s charts, which date between 1537 and 1565, reflect other Italian charts in their style and features, especially the work of Grazioso Benincasa, from a century earlier. It was the careless copying of Benincasa that led to the depiction shown here of Scotland almost as an island, in contrast to most other portolan charts of the time. Myth and reality are not always easy to distinguish. The chart shows the fabled huge inland bay in Ireland, reportedly with 367 islands, the Purgatory of St Patrick. At
Winter 2010 -11
Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland (MS. 20995)
the north-east tip of Scotland is the mythical island of till like a No Entry sign, to the west of Scotland is the mythical island of scurçe and (further south) the clovershaped Isle of Man. The large red island of montorio/brazil, with its serrated outline, floats ominously to the south-west of Ireland. Yet many other features are impressively accurate – the rivers tueda (Tweed), fert (Forth) and latara (Tay), as well as the ports of bernith (Berwick), donde (Dundee) and donfres (Dumfries) are
depicted. The British Isles were on the periphery of the Mediterranean maritime world, and the aesthetic elements of the chart – crowns and flags as country emblems, wind roses, city views and the striking Atlas Mountains in North Africa – helpfully fill the void in the absence of more detailed geographical knowledge.
“The large red island of montorio/ brazil, with its serrated outline, floats ominously to the southwest of Ireland. Yet many other features are impressively accurate.”
Expert Views: Myth & Magic
Africa’s Invisible World
Gerrie ter Haar, Professor of Religion & Development, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam Stephen Ellis, Researcher, African Studies Centre, Leiden, and Desmond Tutu Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Everyone knows that there are invisible forces that affect our lives. Social class, trust, credit and debt are all things that we bring into being through our interactions. Perhaps most important of all the invisible forces at work in the modern world is capital. This is not to be confused with money, which is just the form in which capital most often becomes visible.
“African societies before the 20th century generally managed to organize themselves without any writing at
All of these invisible entities exist only as long as people, collectively, agree that they do. Only then can they be made effective. They become the foundations on which we build banks, governments and other institutions. Africa’s one billion inhabitants tend to think about the world not in material terms only, but as including also a range of invisible forces that are spiritual in nature. They imagine that individual spirits, like people, have a distinct character. This is comparable to our habit of giving names to hurricanes, like the vicious Katrina that devastated New Orleans five years ago. When a whole society has historically been formed around the supposition that the material aspect of reality is inseparable from movements in the world of spirits, communication with spirits becomes a matter of the greatest importance. Most children are brought up in this environment. They grow up believing that power, health and prosperity all have their ultimate source in the invisible world. Just as it is important to maintain good relations
with family and friends for the well-being of individuals and society, so do spirits require regular attention if they are to be turned to good account. Spiritual knowledge is passed on from parents to children as part of their upbringing. While many African societies in precolonial times did not have a caste of priests as in Europe, they all had ritual experts of some sort, people known for their special knowledge of the spirit world. Often, they had developed their skills through years of training. In short, spiritual knowledge is an important part of understanding the world in African traditions of learning. African traditions of knowledge – particularly their spiritual aspects – have not always been appreciated by Europeans. Christian Europe has a long tradition of its own that makes a sharp distinction between the material and the immaterial world. It also distinguishes ‘religion’ from ‘superstition’, or ‘good’ from ‘bad’ religion, an idea that goes as far back as ancient Rome. Reasoning in this vein, many writers have classified African religious knowledge as superstition, or by other pejorative terms. The meaning of these terms is historically conditioned, as writers from many parts of the non-Western world have shown. Scholars, not only from Africa but also from Asia, argue that even the blanket concept of ‘religion’ imposed in colonial times reflects European notions of spirituality, based in Europe’s own history, and excludes key areas of their experience. Europeans often have the idea that African spirit beliefs imply fatalism – that people simply wait for the spirits to make things happen. This is not the case. Many Africans communicate with
the spirit world through religious techniques such as prayer, trance and divination as a normal part of their lives. Religion in Africa is best defined as a belief in the existence of an invisible world, distinct but not separate from the visible one, that is home to spiritual beings with effective powers over the material world. All religions suppose the existence of invisible forces that shape human life, although not necessarily in the form of individual spirits. But perhaps what is most notable about traditional religion in Africa is its lack of scripture. Except for areas that adopted Christianity or Islam at an early date, African societies before the 20th century generally managed to organize themselves without any writing at all. Knowledge that needed to be passed on from one generation to the next was communicated primarily by religious means. In such a context, religious thought and practice become extraordinarily flexible. Having no scripture, religion of this sort lacks dogma. This has strongly influenced outsiders’ views of African religions. They are often seen as constituting cultural activities only, and not ‘real’ religion, which is so closely associated with holy texts. These days, however, Africa is the world’s fastest-growing location of both Muslims and Christians. When Africans convert to these world religions, they bring with them many older ideas about the nature of the spirit world, and this is one of the factors leading to the extraordinary growth of pentecostal and charismatic Christianity, the forms in which African religion is most often to be found in Britain today. For African Christians, the Holy Spirit is the most important member of the Trinity.
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Miners, Sorcerers and Albinos in Tanzania Deborah Fahy Bryceson & Jesper Bosse Jønsson Geographical & Earth Sciences School, University of Glasgow It is estimated that artisanal miners now constitute over half a million people in Tanzania, of whom roughly two-thirds are gold miners. Mining camps offer a stark contrast to Tanzanian agricultural villages rooted in lineage responsibilities and community reciprocity. The miners are mobile and multiethnic, with a continually high turnover of non-familial people working in close contact with one another. In view of the recent surge in mining and the entry of large numbers of miners from agrarian and trading backgrounds, we sought to understand how artisanal mining operations managed to achieve work efficiency and facilitate personal prosperity for many, while avoiding mayhem in the extraction and processing of such a valuable commodity as gold, despite the deep rural poverty of the Tanzanian countryside. Despite miners’ mobility being economically rational and logistically sound, the decision to migrate contains multiple uncertainties of livelihood failure, family separation, accidents, physical attack, disease and destitution. And despite the rational benefits, success was often attributed to charms (dawa) obtained from sorcerers (waganga) giving the miners luck. Wagangas’ advice is usually conditional: diggers may be instructed to purify themselves (kutakaswa) by washing with water infused with certain ‘potions’, or bath naked at a path junction in order to take the luck of all the people passing through that particular place, or avoid ‘polluting practices’ such as drinking alcohol or having sex at certain times or out of wedlock. More complex procedures can involve being instructed to look out for certain omens (ndagu) that are symbolic of the ancestors’ agreement to reveal mineral deposits, as illustrated here: “Getting the right dawa from the right tree (nyonyo) is key
(ni lazima). You take three black seeds [from the tree] and put them next to a very small hole you dig in the ground. Next day, the way the seeds lie will tell you how and where to mine.” (45 year old miner, Londoni) As geographers, we rationalized miners’ recourse to magic as a response to their inability to predict where they would find gold. However, we began to realize that the charms represented far more, as a series of murders of albinos began to unfold in 2007, motivated by a trade in albino body parts in which sorcerers concocted lucky charms from pulverized albino bones for the miners to use in order to enhance their luck. What is striking about this spate of murders is that expert commentators did not see any precedent in traditional beliefs and practices, either from the perspective of the targeting of albinos or the butchering of corpses for body parts. There was no special symbolism, nor anything traditional to suggest that albinos would be a likely target. It was rumoured that many albinos had historically suffered mercy killing at birth, given their anticipated health problems in rural communities where working in the hot sun would have restricted their contribution to family agricultural production, suggesting that albinos were socially devalued. When asked why albinos were being targeted, one miner replied: “Waganga believe that the albinos (zeruzeru) are not able-bodied (hawafai) and will not be missed in the community if they die.” (48 year old miner, Matundasi) Many miners were condemnatory about the practice, yet defensive about the role of the waganga: “The bad waganga are those that cause these murders. Many Africans have the belief that some illnesses can’t be treated at a hospital. People with these ailments depend on traditional medicine, so those so afflicted
would be very adversely affected if all waganga were forced to give up their uganga practices.” (39 year old miner, Matundasi) As of November 2010, close to 50 albinos have been murdered and seven others maimed. Tanzania’s population of albinos has been terrorized by the threat of abduction, murder and dismembering. The Tanzanian government has stepped in to raise consciousness amongst the population for the need to protect the human rights of albinos. Most recently, in the October 2010 national elections, an albino woman was popularly elected to parliament. Nonetheless, these efforts cannot address the underlying material forces that have generated such a tragic outcome. It is simplistic to assume that the creation of a market in albino charms simply reflects primitive beliefs that will be overcome through education. Nor can it be regarded solely as a response to the quest for profit on the part of waganga and miners. The albino charm has arisen from the logics of two radically different social orders colliding in circumstances of exceptionally rapid social change. The charm represents a bridge between the old agrarian order of the countryside and a new coalescing mine-propelled trajectory. In the risk-prone context of artisanal mining, lucky charm transactions have been perceived to be mutually beneficial exchange by both waganga and miners and in so doing, albinos have been objectified, dehumanized and murdered.
“Getting the right dawa from the right tree (nyonyo) is key (ni lazima). You take three black seeds [from the tree] and put them next to a very small hole you dig in the ground. Next day, the way the seeds lie will tell you how and where to mine.”
Expert View: Myth & Magic
African Modernities Jo Sharp & Rhona Warcup, University of Glasgow
”A favoured method was to seek diagnosis in a western health facility, and then to use traditional medicine once malaria was confirmed.”
The apparent failure of half a century of development has led theorists and practitioners alike to question the validity of simply transferring western ideas to the Global South, and instead to seek to involve local people, their beliefs and their knowledge, within new initiatives. While this is presented by organisations such as the World Bank as being an entirely unproblematic process, experience suggests that western and local knowledges do not necessarily complement one another, but may be rather contradictory. In Africa, perhaps the most challenging instance of this is the significance of enchantment, witchcraft and other ‘traditional beliefs’ to many people’s understanding of their place in the social and natural order. Accepting the existence of causes and beings that would be considered superstition by modern western thought, requires the recognition of truly different ways of being in the world that cannot be simply added to development as usual. Conventional western accounts have tended to dismiss witchcraft and other beliefs deemed to be non-scientific and non-rational, as being based at the wrong end of the continuum between tradition and modernity, and their continued existence within African societies as a hindrance to further development. However, to suggest that this is an entirely different way of understanding the world runs the risk of exoticising African knowledges and viewing them as entirely separate to those from the west. After centuries of contact, this is clearly untenable. Instead, it has now been suggested we reconsider the place of socalled ‘traditional’ beliefs. Modern western science offers explanations
of how things happen (from poor crops to contracting AIDS to becoming wealthy) but not why; most importantly, why has this happened to one member of the community and not others? Thus, for example, the spread of global capitalism through Africa has led to increased inequalities in wealth, meaning that, rather than becoming irrelevant and disappearing, witchcraft presents a useful set of explanations for why some have been so successful and others have missed out. The invocation of witchcraft may include political strategies by people who have little other recourse to hit back at the powerful (which is why frail older women are more often accused of witchcraft than strapping young men). However, there are also cases where the effects of belief in witchcraft have worked to maintain dominant power, and to keep people ‘in their place’. Whichever is the interpretation, there is evidence from throughout the continent that, in recent years, rather than somehow being eroded by modernity, the power of ‘traditional’ beliefs seem to be on the rise in Africa. This can be seen in less dramatic examples. The World Health Organisation stated recently that 80% of Africans still turn to traditional medicine as their primary method of healthcare. Rhona’s research, concerned with health-seeking behaviour related to malaria by Tanzanians in Dar es Salaam in 2009, found a third of participants used traditional medicine in some form. However, there was a geography to this, with twice as many of those claiming to use traditional medicine living in the higher income area of Sinza than in the squatter settlement of Manzese. The cost of bringing traditional medicines from rural areas of northern Tanzania means that prices rise to 20 times that of standard malaria medicine. Rather than traditional medicine being associated with poorer, more traditional communities, the research suggested it was becoming more of a luxury product
of the urban, educated, middle classes. In the Dar es Salaam case, we can see tradition and modernity mixed together into a pluralistic health care system. Both medical doctors and traditional healers explained that their patients relied upon a combination of traditional and modern methods. A favoured method was to seek diagnosis in a modern health facility, and then to use traditional medicine once malaria was confirmed. One doctor working from a dispensary commented that he got up to five cases per week in which patients checked their malaria status with him and moved on to seek treatment from a healer, while a traditional practitioner explained that in most cases “reputable healers will ask their customers to seek diagnosis before medicine is sold”. In Africa today, the cases of witchcraft and healthseeking behaviour need to be seen as strategies for negotiating modernity (perhaps even a product of modernity), rather than as something in opposition to it. Hence, rather than placing societies along the trajectory of tradition-modernity, the concept of ‘alternative modernities’, which combine aspects of different belief systems and health-seeking behaviours, is much more helpful. Even the director of one of the main malaria control organisations in Tanzania appeared to recognise the possible place for traditional medicine in the future of disease control. Although he noted that the National Malaria Control Programme had no interest in traditional medicine at the time, he went on to admit, “we do not see it as relevant yet”.
Opinion On: Myth & Magic
Winter 2010 -11
Lost Cities of the Amazon
Hunting the Legend of Paititi, the Lost Inca City of Gold Andrew Nicol Clinging to the eastern flanks of the Andes mountain range, the Peruvian Amazon forest descends rapidly in altitude, quickly becoming a verdant, humid carpet of green. Standing on its periphery some 500 years ago, the Inca people must have felt a sense of foreboding as they attempted something that had not been done to this scale before; conquering the jungle areas and tribes to the east of what is today known as Peru. It would be in these moments that, legend would later tell, the Inca expansionist army would build large cities in the jungle, that were destined in time to vanish beneath the thick forest undergrowth, hiding the secrets of an Empire – and perhaps even its gold. Since the discovery of the incredibly beautiful site of Machu Picchu by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, the world has been intoxicated with the perceptions of finding lost cities. At its core revolve themes of adventure, exploration and discovery – a chance to journey uncharted frontiers and unpack centuries worth of legend. Machu Picchu is in many ways emblematic of such perceptions, as it stands on the verge of the cloud-forest and rainforest environments, and was, for almost 400 years, left in abandonment and awaiting discovery. Peru, standing proudly on the western margin of South America, represents a vast crucible of fascinating history, unique geography, and mystifying legend. Once home of the mightily powerful and vastly wealthy Inca Empire, the country of Peru harbours deep regional mythology that defines its place within convention and continues to be passed on to further generations. The Lost City of Paititi, perhaps one of the most well-known legends within Peru, focuses on a mythical Inca retreat into the jungle section of the Empire, a supposed site to which the Inca fled, carrying copious
amounts of gold to secure out of the hands of the greedy invading Spanish conquistadors in 1532. The legend emerged almost as the dust began to settle within the Spanish conquest of the Incas in the mid-sixteenth century. As the Spanish tightened their grip on a rebellious NeoInca state that had fled to the very edge of the Peruvian Amazon (a site just out of reach of the Europeans, known locally as Vilcabamba), many Spanish conquistadors chanced their luck at further Inca settlements or cities existing in the depths of darkest Peru, the uncharted Amazonian Basin. One such conquistador, a man named Juan Alvarez Maldonado, led an ill-fated expedition into the Peruvian Amazon in 1567, taking with him 250 like-minded men on a conquest to discover (and hopefully plunder) cities of gold said to exist within the jungle. So enraptured was he by the recently invented Spanish legend of El Dorado (a legend which has grown to have international fame even to this day), that he nearly lost his life in the attempt. With nearly all his men dead, he managed to limp back into the Peruvian capital of Cuzco, and told of a great city that he had found in his exploits, filled with gold and fine wool, and named by locals as ‘Paititi’. Since the formation of the legend, the Lost City of Paititi has captured imagination and excited desire, spurring its evolution and distortion over time. Only in recent years has archaeological evidence given fleeting possibilities of the existence of lost Inca cities of the Amazon. In recent decades, discoveries of Inca outposts on the jungle border of modernday Bolivia have allowed us to redefine the eastern boundary of the Inca Empire, which even yet is an ill-defined and little studied area in our understanding of the limits
of the Empire. The thick, dark, claustrophobic jungle environment of the Peruvian Amazon presents considerable barriers to study, but may perhaps hold a few remaining secrets, a few pieces left of the unfinished puzzle. Paititi, therefore, continues to be entrenched in mythology and imagination among native communities, intrepid explorers and, most recently, pioneering scholars. It encapsulates a mystery that challenges us in furthering our knowledge of some truly last unknowns in the Inca story, and encourages exploration in its most primitive form; going beyond the next horizon and discovering what lies beyond. And so our exploration continues; for each step we take into one of the last great uncharted areas of our planet brings Paititi just that little bit closer. Andrew is speaking to an RSGS audience in Lanarkshire in January 2011.
“Since the discovery of the incredibly beautiful site of Machu Picchu, the world has been intoxicated with the perceptions of finding lost cities.”
Unlike the conquistadors, the Incas prized gold and silver, not for their monetary value, but because they represented two of their most powerful gods - the sun (Qori) and the moon (Killa).
On the Map Opinions On: Land Rights
Letter from Borneo Miriam Ross, Researcher, Survival International
Miriam Ross, who was brought up in Edinburgh, was inspired to join Survival International, the organisation supporting tribal peoples, after learning about the situation of Brazilian Indians, during the year she spent in Brazil before going to the University of Sheffield to study history and politics. She is currently focusing on Survival’s campaign to support the land rights of the hunter-gatherer Penan tribe in Sarawak,
“It’s the only place left for us to hunt, to find animals and food. But there is only a little bit left.”
in the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo, who are struggling to prevent the destruction of their rainforest home by logging companies, oil palm plantations and hydroelectric dams. Miriam travelled to Sarawak to meet some of the tribe. In one nomadic Penan community, Pisang, a Penan hunter, told her his story.
ney, and brick houses, give us water tanks, mo re, he e cam y an g comp ll not survive on that. When the first loggin t will only kill us. We wi tha us e giv d he would rtant for our survival the manager promise only thing that is impo e Th d sai d an and money, development projects nt, is the forest.” n. Before developme na Pe us lp he how many of your uld wo he nager said,“No matter ma uld e wo Th y an mp co the re d, we will still continue we wanted to make su people defend your lan e developments Th . us for ay and est for e reserve som And then he walked aw er. Now the with the logging.” lat me co uld co d ise that they prom got into his car. ing all the forest on company has gone, tak asking for help because Now we, the Penan, are er. riv the of e sid this nment refuse to listen company and the gover ck the ba e cam I , ing com re When I heard you we to what we say. u can help us protect the from hunting. I hope yo s entered our area, on the other ce the logging companie bit Sin the t – lef ve ha we only forest Because of that, we is trying have polluted our river. ny y pa the com er oth An er. side of the riv we seldom got sick, we are always sick. Before, er side of that ridge d to log there now. The oth the water was clean an were healthy because I want you to help us y. ead alr d are r be cle tim en d be has l of unwante ar. Now the river is ful place left for us to cle ly on the It’s rt. pa s thi protect into the river. ly that the loggers throw d food. But there is on hunt, to find animals an , we want is for our virgin y when we go hunting The ‘development’ that a little bit left. That’s wh . t be destroyed. We can come back with nothing forest to remain, and no like I did last night, we gin s from the forest – us protect this bit of vir ar many types of sound lp he l he stil to u yo ing ask I’m ices the birds and from the nothing to eat. Our vo from the animals, from d forest, or we will have the rattan [a plant use panies to hear. insects. We want to see r are too small for the com ou for that we use t the workers make baskets], the herbs bu to p, sto to ny pa in com ally I asked the wing natur , and the sago tree gro If you fight ine t. dic jec me pro t en nm ver go said,“This is a be the forest. d kill you. We will not us, we will shoot you an a. es that provide food are “This is not your nt to keep the fruit tre d, wa sai ey We Th .” ble nsi po ey. res ld boar, deer and monk it to us. It belongs to us. for the animals like wi The government gave d. foo us e giv d and also The trees give them foo Go somewhere else.” rs and the chainsaws, oze lld e noise of the bu m your area, how Th fro ay aw u yo sed cha If people used for logging, other machines that are re since the the he d an en be ve ha We l? would you fee s. r is the poison in our live grandparents. This is ou time of our great-great the forest, and cestors lived happily in an r Ou d. lan l tra ces an th all d they want us to live happily as they did, wi said,“Let me build a roa that so als im The company manager an the wild the jungle produce and the trees. I’ll give you wn do cut d an a, the are nt s to thi well. I also wa d, we can eat well and live ringgits (£9,000).” I sai a water tank and 45,000 erations of Penan. gen give me hundreds same thing for future u yo if en Ev . 000 45, “Save your t take it. I only want the of thousands, I will no u ll fight to protect it. If yo forest and the land. I wi To find out more, make a donation or write a letter in support of the Penan, please see www.survivalinternational.org, or contact Survival International on 020 7687 8700 or info@ survivalinternational.org.
Winter 2010 -11
Scraping the bottom of the barrel Colin Baines, Toxic Fuels Campaign Manager, The Co-operative Sitting beneath the pristine boreal forest of Alberta, Canada are the world’s second largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia. These reserves are not crude oil you can just pump out of the ground, but tar sands, a complex mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen. To extract the low quality tarry bitumen and upgrade it into synthetic crude oil suitable for refining into petroleum products is a very dirty and energy intensive process, resulting in three to fives times more greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of oil compared to conventional oil production. Canada is now emitting over 30% more carbon than its Kyoto protocol target, which it officially abandoned in 2007, and is lobbying against international climate change legislation that would penalise tar sands derived fuels, such as the European Fuel Quality Directive. The NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, has described the tar sands as “one of our
planet’s greatest threats” which, if exploited, “would initiate a continual unfolding of climate disasters over the course of the century”. Yet virtually every major oil company in the world has, or plans to develop, tar sands operations. Current production stands at 1.7 million barrels of oil per day – oil companies have announced plans to increase this to 7.5 million. Locally, there are dangerous levels of air pollution, and the pristine boreal forest is being heavily degraded and destroyed, threatening extinction for Alberta’s woodland caribou. Huge quantities of fresh water are being taken from local rivers, becoming too contaminated to return, and then being stored in vast man-made toxic lakes (c172 km2), leading to thousands of wildlife deaths and toxic spills. This all has a profound effect on local wildlife and First Nation communities, such as the Beaver Lake Cree, threatening their culture, traditional way of life, and wellbeing.
In 1876, the Beaver Lake Cree signed a treaty with representatives of Queen Victoria, ceding vast tracts of land in return for guaranteed rights to hunt, fish and gather plants. They have now begun a legal challenge to enforce recognition of their treaty rights, requiring the preservation of their ancestral lands and the protection of the critical habitat of the woodland caribou. If the Beaver Lake Cree are successful, not only will they have protected their environment and traditional way of life for future generations, they will also have massively curtailed the oil industry’s expansion plans for the tar sands, a real David vs Goliath battle. For more information, or to help stop tar sands expansion, please see www.co-operative.coop/ toxicfuels.
“Not willing to stand by and watch this destruction, the Beaver Lake Cree have begun a legal challenge to enforce recognition of their treaty rights...”
According to a recent article in the journal Nature, Canada’s tar sands, like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, are a warning sign of things to come, with future sources of fossil fuels only getting dirtier and riskier, so that it is more important than ever for scientists to monitor environmental impacts and to speak up with legitimate concerns. Some environmental regulations are already in place. In October 2010, the oil company Syncrude was fined Can$3.2m for the deaths of 1,600 birds that landed in its tailings ponds – the biggest environmental fine in Alberta’s history. But many of the regulations are weaker than they seem. Only a single 1km2 plot has been certified as reclaimed so far, and of five mining operations whose plans for dealing with tailings ponds have been evaluated, three were granted grace periods to 2018.
“Canada, once considered a progressive country on environmental issues, is now emitting over 30% more carbon than its Kyoto protocol target...”
Around the world, according to a report by Friends of the Earth Europe and others, new deposits of tar sands and other ‘unconventional’ oil sources have been discovered or are already being exploited, in countries like Venezuela, Madagascar, Congo-Brazzaville, Russia, Jordan, Nigeria and Angola. In countries with weaker political and environmental governance frameworks than Canada, the consequences of tar sands expansion are likely to be devastating.
Ray Mears with Adam, Alessa and Sophie
Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh – IPR/126-35CY British Geological
Survey. © NERC. All rights reserved.
Ray Mears was not the only person to receive accolades and an RSGS Medal at his talk on 28th October. In a brief presentation after the show, Ray presented three Scottish geography graduates with their 2010 RSGS University Medals, awarded to the best graduating honours geography student in each of the Scottish universities. Although not all the winners could make it on the night, it was a great way to publicly celebrate their achievements, and we hope they thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The full list of university medallists is: University of Aberdeen – Konrad Piegat University of Dundee – Sophie Larcombe University of Edinburgh – Kirsty Maclean University of Glasgow – Alessa Geiger University of St Andrews – Elizabeth Daniels University of Stirling – Gavin McNicol University of Strathclyde – Adam Lockyer
Scottish Geographical Journal (SGJ) The SGJ editorial board includes representatives of academic staff from all the Scottish University Geography Departments, and other national and international colleagues who have been supportive of the SGJ in recent years. Mike Robinson of the RSGS, and Louise Glenn of the publisher, Taylor and Francis, make up the newly revised board, whose purpose is to support the editorial team (co-editors, Book Reviews editor and Scottish Landform Example editor) in promoting SGJ. The board is pleased to announce online sales and EBSCO sales are buoyant, and international uptake of the SGJ is good, with large numbers of subscriptions in the USA, Canada and mainland Europe. Electronic downloads of articles have increased significantly, and SGJ will be one of the top six Taylor and Francis geography journal downloads for 2010.
Geodiversity Conference a Rocking Success!!! Jim Hansom, FRSGS, FRGS
Over 100 folk braved a very snowy Edinburgh on 1st December 2010 to make the RSGS/SNH/BGS/BSSS-badged Geodiversity Conference a huge success. Held at Our Dynamic Earth, and opened by Roseanna Cunningham MSP followed by Professor Iain Stewart (the popular TV earth scientist), the conference highlighted the importance of geodiversity (rocks, processes and landform services) as an essential underpinning of the natural environment, and thus fundamental to the support of all biodiversity functions as well as the nation’s socioeconomic health. Conference themes spanned the geodiversity links to biodiversity, ecosystem services and conservation in soil, river and coast, planning, geotourism, geoparks and geoeducation. For those who attended, it heralded the (re-)awakening of a positive movement to raise awareness of geodiversity functions and services, both at the political level and in communicating its utility to the wider public. RSGS’s Bruce Gittings gave the closing address, emphasising the importance of telling people about Scotland’s remarkable geodiversity, and the need to capitalise on the evident enthusiasm to move towards developing a Geodiversity Framework for Scotland and perhaps establishing a longer term Scottish Geodiversity Forum. In the face of climate and economic challenges, we need to take a more holistic approach to how the land, nature and humans will respond to the pressures ahead.
Scottish Association of Geography Teachers (SAGT) Erica Caldwell, Honorary President, SAGT SAGT held a very successful conference in late October, with the theme Geography for Excellence, very appropriate with the launch of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in secondary schools in August 2010. It offered delegates a chance to enhance their teaching and provide further innovative approaches for the delivery of geography in CfE, in which schools are required to provide an interdisciplinary context for learning. Geography has a great contribution to make to, say, a study of climate change in conjunction with colleagues in science. However, it is essential at the same time to retain the focus on and the development of the discrete disciplines, as they are also required contexts for learning. All our organisations need to work together to ensure that geography remains a viable and successful subject in the new national exams currently being developed and at Higher and Advanced Higher.
Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Erica Caldwell As Senior Examiner for Advanced Higher (AH) Geography with SQA, I have recently delivered two Understanding Standards events to support teachers and their pupils studying AH Geography. The skills learned during the AH course are very important transferable skills for young people as they continue into university or other post-school
training, whether choosing to continue to study geography or not. These include, in particular for the Geographical Issues essay, research, selection and critical evaluation of sources and viewpoints; and for the Geographical Study, fieldwork, statistical and graphical techniques, presentation and meeting deadlines! The essay and study form
the folio of work submitted to SQA in May. The examination sat by candidates during the normal SQA diet in May/June requires candidates to answer either a decision making or a map reading/interpretation question based on a 1:25,000 map extract, one of two statistically based questions, and one fieldwork ‘scenario’ question.
Geographer First-order topography of Africa The School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, together with the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), has been awarded £420,000 by the Natural Environment Research Council for a project entitled Resolving the age of the first-order topography of Africa. The aim of this three year research project, being undertaken by Professor Rod Brown, Dr Cristina Persano and Dr Fin Stuart, is to determine why and when southern Africa acquired its unusually high average elevation (nearly all greater than 1,000 metres). This work will combine apatite fission track measurements with the technique of helium isotope analysis, which has been pioneered at SUERC, to measure the deep erosion of the crust over geological time scales. Results will reveal when and how much of the land surface was eroded, and so when the topography was created.
Knowledge Exchange in the Cairngorms In November, the CMS organised a Knowledge Exchange Event for the Cairngorms National Park, bringing together over 60 participants from academia, research institutions, students, general public, trusts and NGO’s, to increase awareness about ongoing research, and discuss opportunities and activities to improve the value of existing knowledge for practitioners. The event’s recommendations will contribute to the next National Park Plan and, overall, sustainable development in the Cairngorms. For further details, see www.perth. ac.uk/specialistcentres/cms/ activities/CNP-KTP or contact Catalina.Munteanu@perth.uhi. ac.uk or 01738-877223.
University of Stirling Fuego-Patagonia
University of Edinburgh Investigating the stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet A group of glaciological researchers, led by Dr Peter Nienow, presented eight different papers concerned with investigating the future stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet, at the annual December meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Their work has particular focus on the impact of projected atmospheric warming on the future motion (and thus dynamic stability) of the Greenland Ice Sheet. See www. agu.org/meetings/fm10 for further information. Locust monitoring
Centre for Mountain Studies (CMS), Perth College UHI Implementing the 2003 Land Reform Act The CMS and partners have completed a study of the implementation of the ‘access’, ‘community right to buy’ and ‘crofting community right to buy’ provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 for the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs and Environment Committee. It shows that the Access provisions are generally working well and have led to increased confidence by recreational access takers in exercising their statutory rights. The Community Right to Buy has been little used, due to the infrequency of eligible land coming onto the market, its administrative complexities, and a preference by community groups to conclude purchases outwith the Act if possible. The Crofting Community Right to Buy has yet to be used to complete a purchase; the contested efforts of the Pairc Trust on Lewis to buy the Pairc estate are a test case. See www.scottish.parliament. uk/s3/committees/rae/ currentinquiries.htm for the full report and executive summary.
Dr Bob McCulloch, with colleagues from the Universidad de Magallanes and the Universidad de Buenos Aires, is researching the past environments encountered by the early huntergatherers of Fuego-Patagonia, southern South America. The timing of when the first people arrived on Tierra del Fuego is contentious, but their migration probably took place against a backdrop of rapid environmental change at the end of the last ice age and the beginning of the present interglacial (the Holocene). The researchers have identified new evidence for early retreat of the southern Andean glaciers in FuegoPatagonia following the Last Glacial Maximum (~22000-25000 years BP). However, this is in contrast to considerable stratigraphic and glacial geomorphological evidence for a significant readvance of the Magellan ice field (~55oS) ~15100-12200 years BP, and this evidence has been the focus of several expeditions which have included undergraduate students from the University of Stirling. The timing of this readvance of the Magellan glaciers appears to be in phase with the relatively short interval
As part of a collaboration with the Emergency Centre for Locust Operations at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Steve Dowers and David Finnegan of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences will migrate their locust-monitoring geographical information system (GIS) from a proprietary core to become based on open-source software (PostGIS and Quantum GIS), which will reduce running costs whilst increasing flexibility and maintaining high standards of useability.
Winter 2010 -11
University of Glasgow
of climatic cooling known as the Antarctic Cold Reversal (ACR) and helps advance our understanding of the response of glaciers and the vegetation to changes in the southern hemisphere ocean-atmosphere system at the end of the last ice age. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Search and Rescue for Phones Joe Burkinshaw, a recent graduate of the MSc in Geographical Information Science, was runner-up as ‘AGI Student of the Year’ for his research on mobile applications in support of search and rescue. His work involved the design, implementation and evaluation of a service that records the location of search team members and their cumulative field of view as they move across the landscape, and dynamically conveys this information back to those in the field. Joe’s software utilises the global positioning technology increasingly being built into smart phones.
The RSGS’s academic journal is available from Taylor & Francis in hard copy or on-line at www.tandf.co.uk/ journals/RSGJ
Grimple’s Implementing Climate Change Measures Green Grants There has been a great deal of discussion in government, business and NGO circles about how to deliver In autumn 2010, the Green Insurance Company’s mascot Grimple launched the company’s Green Grants award scheme, offering total funding of £20,000 for community projects around the UK. More than 350 applications were received, indicating both a wealth of ideas and enthusiasm for small environmental projects, and a need for this type of funding. Jim Hansom of the University of Glasgow, Eleanor Logan of the Soil Association, and Mike Robinson of the RSGS formed the judging panel. Funding was offered to a variety of school projects and community events, as well as an apple press for a local orchard.
the Scottish carbon reduction targets. December saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s Report on Policies and Proposals, giving a sense of the actions that need to be implemented to make society more sustainable, and a public engagement strategy to help implement some of these changes. Mike has been contributing to these discussions, and working with the 2020 Group and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland on efforts to secure more funding for Scottish renewable energy schemes, sustainable communities and encouraging behaviour change. He has also been promoting the Society and the slow travel idea, and in October he chaired a public budget discussion in Perth, hosted by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth and the Environment Minister. “It is vital that the RSGS remains current and relevant to geographical issues that are going on around Scotland and further afield, and it’s great to be involved on both a local and a national level, ” he said. “It can sometimes be a juggling act balancing the immediate demands of the Society with the longer term need to reinforce the valuable role of geographical subjects within our schools, universities and employers, but ultimately both are essential.”
Voices from Scotland’s Past The fascinating Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o’ Riches project, launched in December, has digitised, indexed and geographically located 12,000 hours of recordings of songs, poems, tales and folklore in Scots, Doric and Gaelic from the archives of BBC Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection, and the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. The material was recorded from the
1930s to the present day, and represents a remarkable archive of Scotland’s intangible cultural heritage, available online free-ofcharge at www. tobarandualchais. co.uk. Included are interviews with mill workers and crofters, travelling people and farm workers from Shetland to the Borders and Aberdeen to the Western Isles. There are stories recorded by John Lorne
Campbell on wax cylinders in 1937, folklore collected from all over Scotland by Calum Maclean in the 1950s, and Scots songs recorded by Hamish Henderson in the 1960s. RSGS’s Bruce Gittings was involved in providing a means of geo-locating the material in old parishes through a place-name gazetteer, and providing maps.
What Geography Means To Me
An insight was standing on top into the of a mountain looking at the most amazing life of a view I had ever seen – the working Josterdal ice cap in geographer Norway – when I realised
geography wasn’t just an interest anymore, but more an obsession. Ever since I was little, I have had stunning landscapes thrust upon me, thanks to my mum, in Scotland and across the world, but this one topped the Morgan Gibson
lot! Whether I am walking in the
President of the University of Edinburgh’s Expedition Society and 4th year Geography and Geology student
mountains or exploring a new country, I always get to be doing geography. I chose to study it because of my interest in mountains and glaciers, and my degree hasn’t disappointed me.
It has given me the opportunity to do research on glaciers in Norway and Switzerland, as well as the ability to fully appreciate the landscapes around me.
and that at the moment we aren’t
To me, geography is something none of us can get away from, whether you spend your life outdoors or work in an office. It surrounds us and plays a role in our everyday lives. There are always more things you can find out and understand, and I love that geography is still not complete, with new bits being discovered all the time. Geography to me is more about our physical environment, but also allows me to understand the interaction between the environment and humans.
overcrowded populations, the
But this is also why geography has a sinister side. As I learn more, I realise that we have a huge responsibility for our world,
amazing views forever, so my
doing too well at looking after it. Geography is the changes in climate causing millions of people to be displaced, it is the reason people don’t have clean water to drink and enough food to eat, and it is the people who will never get to appreciate the world like I am lucky enough to do. To me, geography is not just a subject, it is what I owe the great experiences in my life to so far; without it I would not have travelled the world or become inspired by famous explorers. Geography is the awesome view that takes your breath away. My aim is to help keep those children and grandchildren get the chance to stand, look out and say ‘wow’, just like I do.
Opinion On: Land Rights
Winter 2010 -11
The Poor Had No Lawyers
The Legal Geography of Scotland’s Commons Andy Wightman With a few honourable exceptions, the study of Scotland’s legal geography – the spatial patterns of land rights – has been a somewhat neglected topic. Indeed it remains extremely difficult to obtain good data on land rights. The Government collects none (it merely records individual property rights), and no academic institution to my knowledge has done any meaningful work on this area for over two decades. It is perhaps indicative of this lack of interest that Dr Ian Adams’ key 1973 academic paper, The Legal Geography of Scotland’s Common Lands, was published in a Belgian sociological journal!
was imposed, through the appropriation of the lands of the pre-Reformation church, to the division of commonties in the 18th century and the illegal alienation of burgh commons from 1500 to 1833. What is particularly interesting about this history is that the Scots law of property, notably the Acts of Registration and Prescription of 1617, was designed to legitimise the theft of church lands, and continues today to enable people to grab land which does not belong to them.
The consequences of this struck me a few years ago when I ‘discovered’ an 88 acre parcel of common land in Lanarkshire. It is registered in the Land Register, and thus enjoys a state-guaranteed title. Since popular opinion holds that Scotland’s commons have effectively all disappeared, this was a significant discovery. However, none of the civic organisations in the parish knew of its existence, which of itself is an indictment of our ability to keep track of community assets. What was even more significant in this case was that the common was in the middle of what was at that time Europe’s largest wind farm. But Scottish Power had not built a turbine on the land because, as they told me, “we did not know with whom we would negotiate a lease”. Had the residents of the parish known of the existence of their common, they would now be earning a valuable annual rent.
For example, a few years ago I bought some land. It cost me £12.95 and is located at Area F-4, Quadrant Charlie on the moon in the Oceanus Procellarum. The deeds for the property are detailed and they appear to be legitimate and proper. Were I to try and defend my property rights, however, I would have difficulty doing so since there is no legal jurisdiction for lunar property. At the end of the day I simply have a few bits of worthless paper.
At one time, all land was held in common. The history of landownership in Scotland is essentially a history of land grabbing, from the medieval period when feudalism
By way of contrast, recently I uncovered the title deeds of a 400 acre parcel of common land in Scotland, and was intrigued to find out that in 1986 it had been split up among three landowners,
irrespective of the fact that many more people potentially had an interest in it. Not only that, but these landowners only had rights of use in the commonty and no rights of property (and their solicitor knew this). Nevertheless, despite all the blatant defects, this deed (unlike my moon deed) actually enjoys the full protection of the Scots law of property. Much the same situation applies to the historic common lands of Scotland’s 196 burghs. This common good land has been so poorly administered that most councils in Scotland still do not even know where it is. As a result, a valuable common like Waverley Market in Edinburgh (now the site of Princes Mall shopping centre) has been let for 206 years to a commercial property developer for one penny per year. This has huge implications since, if the Long Leases Bill is passed without amendment, ownership of the land will transfer automatically to the tenant. At the heart of such issues is a long-standing neglect of common property regimes in Scotland and how they are governed. Partly this is due to the demise of Parish Councils in 1929 and Town Councils in 1975, which has led to an erosion of local democracy and oversight. Partly this is due to Scotland’s policy makers completely ignoring community land rights when framing land reform legislation. But it is also rooted in the decline in academic enquiry which has led to the current void in knowledge and awareness. Legal geography is a fascinating field of endeavour. Let us give it the attention it deserves.
Andy Wightman is an independent researcher and writer, and one of Scotland’s leading authorities on landownership and land reform. He has a particular interest in community land rights and local democracy, and runs the www. whoownsscotland. org.uk website. His latest book, The Poor Had No Lawyers, is published by Birlinn, and is our Reader Offer this quarter (see back page).
“This common good land has been so poorly administered that most councils in Scotland still do not even know where it is. “
One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World Eric Weiner Part foreign affairs discourse, part humour, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author’s case, moments of ‘un-unhappiness’. The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humour to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy? With engaging wit and surprising insights, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travellers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.
The Poor Had No Lawyers Who Owns Scotland and How They Got It Andy Wightman Who owns Scotland? How did they get it? What happened to all the common land in Scotland? Has the Scottish Parliament made any difference? Can we get our common good land back? In The Poor Had No Lawyers, Andy Wightman, author of Who Owns Scotland, updates the statistics of landownership in Scotland, taking the reader on a voyage of discovery into Scottish history to find out how and why landowners got their hands on the millions of acres that were once held in common, and how Scotland’s legal establishment and politicians managed to appropriate land through legal fixes. For all those with an interest in urban and rural land in Scotland, The Poor Had No Lawyers provides a fascinating and illuminating analysis of one of the most important political topics in Scotland.
Fair Trade For All - How Trade Can Promote Development Joseph E Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton How can the poorer countries of the world be helped to help themselves through freer, fairer trade? In this challenging and controversial book, Nobel prizewinning economist Joseph E Stiglitz and his co-author Andrew Charlton address one of the key issues facing world leaders today. They put forward a radical and realistic new model for managing trading relationships between the richest and the poorest countries. Their approach is designed to open up markets in the interests of all, and not just the most powerful economies, to ensure that trade promotes development, and to minimise the costs of adjustments. Beginning with a brief history
A Winter on the Nile Anthony Sattin In the winter of 1849, Florence Nightingale was 29, beautiful, wellborn and deeply unhappy. After clashing with her parents over her refusal to marry, she had been offered a lifeline by family friends who suggested a trip to Egypt. This book follows her journey along the Nile, a romantic and spiritual adventure, during which she found emotional recovery, the inspiration to resist parental pressure, and the resolve to pursue her dream of a career in nursing. On the same boat from Alexandria was an unpublished French writer, Gustave Flaubert. He too was at a crossroads in his life, and Egypt
of the World Trade Organisation and its agreements, the authors explore the issues and events which led to the failure of Cancún and the obstacles that face the successful completion of the Doha Round of negotiations. Finally they spell out the reforms and principles upon which a successful agreement must be based. Accessibly written and packed full of empirical evidence and analysis, this book is a must read for anyone interested in world trade and development. represented escape, freedom and inspiration. But as a wealthy young man travelling with male friends, he had access to an altogether different Egpyt: where Nightingale sought out temples and dispensaries, Flaubert visited brothels and harems. Both were entranced, moved and liberated by the wonders of the Nile. As privileged early travellers, they saw an ancient landscape unchanged for centuries, visited monuments still familiar to tourists today, and wrote magnificently about the sights they saw. This book provides a fascinating insight into the early days of travel to one of the greatest tourist destinations on the planet.
Anthony is speaking to RSGS audiences in Dumfries, Galashiels, Giffnock and Bearsden at the end of March.
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The Geography of Bliss