The Geographer: Transformation (Spring 2018)

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Geographer SPRING 2018

The newsletter of

the Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Paths to a Positive Future

The How and Why of Transformational Change • The Tiger Man of Seoul • Life, Plastic and Swimming in the Ocean • Fossil-Free Futures • The Gig Economy and Financing Change • Universal Basic Income and Just Transitions • The Value of Specialist Teaching • African Narratives and Swedish Healthcare • Reader Offer: There’s Always the Hills

“One ought to engage with the future and grapple with it.” Sir Alan Cobham, RSGS Livingstone Medallist 1928

plus news, books, and more…





t is easy to become despondent amidst a seemingly relentless series of disheartening news stories, and there is certainly much in the news with which to be concerned. But there are also many things going on which don’t get reported because they are still in development, which can give more hope. These are the topics of much local and national policy attention and debate, and whilst they are not yet fully determined, they have the potential to shape future news and transform the way we live. What is more, they are almost all geographical in nature. City deals, design and development. Industrial strategies which touch on data usage, green growth, mobility and ageing populations. Global challenges touching on equity, sustainable society, sustainable economies, and justice. Food strategies from farm to fork, and taking account of food poverty and obesity. Energy and heat. Co-operation with international partners. The Sustainable Development Goals and climate solutions. There are no end of current, critical, interesting geographical challenges seeking input, science and solutions. And every one of them will require a radical shift from our current behaviours – a transformation of thinking and action. This is daunting. But it is also a huge opportunity to prove the relevance and vitality of geographical thinking across all sectors of society. We do need to do more to respond to these challenges. We need to do more to understand and explore them, and to present well-thought-out solutions. The RSGS plays a vital role in ensuring the voice of geography is heard in a wide range of policy fora, and has done much to inject solutions into national and local debate, but as a community we can do an awful lot more. And if we want to have more to cheer about, we need to embrace these challenges and use them to manage this inevitable change for the good. My thanks to Professor Ioan Fazey of CECHR at the University of Dundee and to Steve Waddell of Networking Action for their help in compiling an international range of experts and practitioners to write articles for this edition of The Geographer, which I hope you will find enlightening, inspiring and hopeful. Mike Robinson, Chief Executive RSGS, Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU tel: 01738 455050 email:

Another map restored We’re much indebted to an RSGS Member – who prefers to remain anonymous – for funding the repair and special boxing of an important geological map of Scotland (1865) which is accompanied by a 23-page explanatory text (1862). It was the work of two distinguished Scottish geologists, Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871) and Professor Sir Archibald Geikie (18351924). Murchison, when this map was published, was DirectorGeneral of the Geological Survey, and Geikie, from 1867 the Director of the Geological Survey of Scotland, was later creator and first holder of the Murchison Chair of Geology and Mineralogy in the University of Edinburgh. He was awarded the RSGS Livingstone Medal in 1905 and was older brother to Professor James Geikie, another distinguished geologist and one of RSGS’s co-founders in 1884.

help us care for our collections

If you would like to help us care for our collections, please get in touch with HQ and ask about our ‘Adopt an Atlas’ scheme.

A grand gesture We were pleased recently to be reunited with a Life Member who had joined the RSGS in 1988, but had then moved house several times within a few years, and had fallen off our membership list. He visited our office and visitor centre in Perth to say hello, and we were delighted to see him, not only because we don’t like to lose touch with our friends and supporters, but also because he made a generous donation of £1,000 in lieu of the annual membership payments and donations that he had not been making for several years. Thank you!

Caribbean calling Erin Fowler is a second-year geography student at the University of Glasgow who has, in recent years, been an exceptional volunteer for the Society, most notably as sub-editor for our acclaimed Young Geographer magazine. In acknowledgement of her contribution, we are delighted to be supporting Erin on an upcoming environmental research expedition to the Caribbean organised by the University of Glasgow’s Exploration Society. For ten weeks during the summer, a team of 13 students will be travelling to Trinidad to conduct research into a wide range of animals such as sea turtles, bats and frogs, as well as specific geographic topics such as climate change, hazard perception and deforestation. As part of the trip, Erin has agreed to produce blog articles for the Society detailing her experiences and findings which we will, of course, be sharing with you in the coming months. Best of luck, Erin!

Follow us on social media Charity registered in Scotland no SC015599 The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the RSGS. Cover image: Bloody Mary. © Sooyong Park Masthead: Swimming the Corryvreckan. © Chris Reeve

RSGS: a better way to see the world

Office maintenance Unfortunately the cold weather spell over the winter proved too much for the RSGS office in Perth, with the boiler packing up completely, and the exterior woodwork and paintwork beginning to show signs of deterioration. There are still a number of internal paint jobs needing attention, all of which will stretch budgets for the current financial year. One member has kindly offered to cover the cost of the some of the window repairs, but please be aware that the office is likely to be covered in scaffolding and will smell of fresh paint, if you are planning to visit in the spring.

news Geographer The



RCGS Bernier Medal

Fair Maid’s House 2018 The RSGS visitor centre in Perth will reopen for the 2018 season on Saturday 7th April. The first exhibition of the new season will be Crossing the Empty Quarter, a stunning display of images of Oman and the work of Outward Bound Oman.

visit or volunteer

In an attempt to free up some time and increase our capacity to work on other essential activities, including fundraising, we have decided to reduce the number of days the visitor centre is open to the public this year to three days – Thursday to Saturday. The opening times will remain the same, at 1.00pm to 4.30pm, and we will still consider requests to open for special group visits on other days and at other times. As ever, we rely on volunteers to welcome visitors when we are open, so if you would like to help us by offering an occasional afternoon of your time, please contact Katrina at RSGS HQ. Fair Maid’s House Opening Times 2018 • 1.00pm to 4.30pm Thursday to Saturday • 7th April to 20th October

Dr Brian Sissons (1926-2018) Colin Ballantyne, Emeritus Professor, University of St Andrews The death of Brian Sissons in January marked the passing of an era. For 30 years following his appointment at Edinburgh University in 1954 he dominated research on Scotland’s geomorphology, acquiring a reputation for integrity, vision and formidable intellect. His work formed the basis of current understanding of sea-level change and glacial landscapes in Scotland, and was recognised by the award of the RSGS Research Medal (1969) and the Clough Medal of the Edinburgh Geological Society. He supervised over 25 PhD students, many of whom progressed to university careers, and almost all of whom reunited to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2016. In addition to over 80 scientific papers (12 of them for the SGJ), his classic book The Evolution of Scotland’s Scenery (1967) lucidly synthesized the development of Scotland’s landscape. He almost singlehandedly laid the foundations of our present understanding of Scottish geomorphology. It is a privilege to have known him.

Chris Tiso FRSGS Chris Tiso was made an Honorary Fellow of the Society in December. Best known for his role as CEO of outdoor retailer Tiso, he was awarded this accolade for his work in promoting the great outdoors, particularly in Scotland, and for the support he has given to a range of geographically-oriented expeditions, causes and charities. RSGS Chief Executive Mike Robinson said, “Chris is not only an inspirational business leader, but also a passionate advocate for the natural world and an individual who has quietly backed some of Scotland’s most inspirational adventurers. In addition, he’s dedicated considerable amounts of time to promoting young people through his work with Scouts Scotland, Countryside Learning Scotland, and The Polar Academy, and worked hard to raise awareness about contemporary geographic issues such as homelessness.”

In November, RSGS Chair Professor Roger Crofts and Chief Executive Mike Robinson travelled to Ottawa in a visit designed to strengthen ties with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), a sister charity that seeks to inspire and broaden geographical understanding of Canada. Roger and Mike were made Honorary Fellows of the RCGS, and Mike was presented with the Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Medal for his leadership role in promoting geography on the international stage, most notably through his dynamic modernisation, restructuring and re-invigoration of the RSGS, and for his pioneering contribution to climate change action in Scotland. Commenting on the trip, Mike said, “It was a great honour to visit the RCGS in person and receive both the prestigious Bernier Medal and an Honorary Fellowship. I hope this occasion signals the beginning of a robust relationship between our two Societies that we can utilise to tackle global environmental problems and promote our mutual interests in geographical research, education and exploration. There are so many links between Scotland and Canada and a great willingness to forge greater friendships still.”

Mungo Park Medal

André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard after landing at Abu Dhabi on 26th July 2016. © Solar Impulse | Chammartin

The RSGS has a very distinguished suite of medals, 2nd May one of the oldest of which is named in honour of 19th-century explorer, Mungo Park. This year, we plan to award this prestigious medal jointly to Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg at an event on Wednesday 2nd May (venue to be confirmed, please see RSGS social media or contact RSGS HQ for details). Bertrand Piccard, the initiator and Chairman, and André Borschberg, CEO and Co-Founder, are the pilots and driving force behind Solar Impulse, the first aeroplane capable of flying day and night without a drop of fuel, propelled solely by the sun’s energy. In 2016 they successfully completed the first flight around the world with Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) – flying over 40,000 kilometres and demonstrating that clean technologies can achieve the ‘impossible’.

2 SPRING 2018

news Year of Young People

Around the world in 4,680 days In January, we were delighted to install Jason Lewis as an Honorary Fellow of the Society following his Inspiring People talk in Dunfermline. The honour was bestowed for his ground-breaking geographical exploration and for his continued efforts to raise awareness around issues of sustainability. In 2007, Jason became the first person to circumnavigate the globe using only human-powered transport. Over the course of 13 years, he travelled 46,505 miles, crossing mountain ranges, deserts and five different continents. On land, Jason skated, ran, hiked and cycled; over water, he rowed, kayaked and even pedal-boated, using the latter to cross the vast expanses of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!

Karen Darke: a shining example In November, we were thrilled to host an evening talk with Inverness-based adventurer, athlete, author and motivational speaker Karen Darke MBE, and to present her with the Mungo Park Medal. At the age of 21, Karen was paralysed from the chest down following a climbing accident in Scotland. Since then, however, she has exhibited an almost unprecedented ability to overcome the adversity in her life. In the world of outdoor exploration, Karen has completed an awe-inspiring range of endurance challenges in kayaking, hand-cycling, climbing and skiing, taking her to landscapes as diverse as the ice sheets of Greenland, the mountains of the Himalaya and the cliffs of Yosemite National Park. As an athlete, her feats are similarly remarkable, most notably having won Gold in hand-cycling at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Displaying extraordinary inner strength, gritty determination and steadfast commitment, Karen is an inspiration and role model to us all, demonstrating the power of perseverance, positive thinking and self-belief in achieving our potential and overcoming whatever personal obstacles we may face.

Mapping the future



April As a Geographical Society, we are obviously quite fond 5.30pm of maps – and, of course, the journeys they so often facilitate. But in recent years, the world of cartography has been on a rather significant journey of its own, developing markedly to incorporate the astonishing advances recently made in geospatial information.

come along

As part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, we’re delighted to be co-hosting an event with the Association for Geographic Information and supported by Ordnance Survey, at 5.30pm on Tuesday 3rd April at Summerhall, all about these cartographic changes, their social, ethical and privacy implications, and the future of this fascinating discipline. With a panel including our President, Professor Iain Stewart, it’s sure to be an intriguing and thoughtprovoking evening – so make sure you save the date and navigate your way there!

Here at the RSGS, we are delighted to be supporting this endeavour as we understand the significance of empowering and inspiring the next generation in helping secure a more sustainable future. We have committed to promoting a series of blogs from young people engaged in geographical exploration, research or thinking. The first of these articles, published in January, was written by Bryony Dillon, a student from UHI Perth who recently completed the prestigious Connecting Cultures course in the Omani Desert. Entitled Bryony of Arabia, the article can still be read on our website at

European cities’ weather change Europe’s cities face more extreme flooding, droughts and heatwaves by 2050-2100 than previously predicted. New research by Newcastle University has identified a clear need for transformative change. Published in Environmental Research Letters, the study shows: • a worsening of heatwaves for all 571 cities studied across Europe; • increasing drought conditions, particularly in southern Europe; • an increase in river flooding, especially in north-western European cities; • the UK has some of the worst overall flood projections, with Wrexham, Carlisle, Glasgow, Chester and Aberdeen possibly worst hit for river flooding; • even in the lowest case scenario, 85% of UK cities with a river are predicted to face up to 80% increased peak river flows.


During this mammoth adventure, Jason visited many schools to promote a greater understanding of climate change, sustainable development and world citizenship, topics that are perhaps more relevant today than ever before. He also used his profile to raise considerable sums for humanitarian causes, helping fund an orphanage in East Timor and hospices for people living with HIV and AIDS in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

This year, the Scottish Government is leading a themed campaign to put Scotland’s young people (8-16) in the spotlight, hoping to help drive improvements in education and open up further opportunities and platforms for young people to showcase their talents, voice their concerns, and create a more positive perception of their age group in society.

Professor Richard Dawson, co-author and lead investigator of the study, said, “The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions. We are already seeing at first hand the implications of extreme weather events in our capital cities. In Paris, the Seine rose more than four metres above its normal water level. And as Cape Town prepares for its taps to run dry, this analysis highlights that such climate events are feasible in European cities too.”

eCommunications We continue to work hard to develop and refine our online and social media presence, with a particular focus on refreshing the tone of our monthly e-newsletter, regularly updating our blog, and re-invigorating our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn feeds. To maximise our following, we are focusing all efforts on developing only one RSGS account for each of these platforms. The accounts are administered by the team in Perth, and we would like to encourage members and Local Groups to send us contributions of content that you would like us to share. In February, we passed 3,000 followers on Facebook (an increase of over 30% in a year). Whilst heartened by this progress, we are keenly aware that our online reach and electronic engagement could be significantly improved. But fortunately, this is where you can help! For those of you with personal accounts, the simple act of liking, sharing, re-tweeting or commenting on our posts is one of the most useful things you could do to aid our short-term growth. This will inspire others to interact with our content, and will quickly introduce new audiences to the RSGS. Who knows, they may even join as a member! For those who are yet to embrace social media, you can still subscribe to our monthly email newsletter, read our blog, and tell your friends to do the same.

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Nature of Scotland Awards

The Great Horizon is launched After three years spent digging in the RSGS archives, the debut book from our Writerin-Residence Jo Woolf was published in November. The Great Horizon details some of the most remarkable adventure stories of the last 150 years, from the likes of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Sir Edmund Hilary and Isobel Wylie Hutchison, all of whom have a connection to the Society. Fittingly, to celebrate this momentous occasion, our Perth HQ was transformed into a venue fit for an official book launch. Speeches were delivered, and a cake worthy of the ‘Bake Off’ was devoured before a formal book signing. The Great Horizon has sold widely throughout Scotland and further afield, and has recently entered Sandstone Press’s top ten bestsellers list.

A Fair Christmas Over a weekend in early December, we ran our first ever Christmas Fair, with a range of items available to purchase. These included limited-edition prints and an associated jigsaw of Perth City by artist Rob Hain, a rare 3D topographic chess board, signed copies of The Great Horizon, and vinyl cuts of Nick Hayes’ Explorer as featured on the cover of the book. As part of the weekend, the Society invited school pupils from Perth Academy to run stalls to raise funds for a World Challenge trip planned for 2019. This adventure will see 20 students complete a challenging trek through wild jungle and engage in philanthropic projects to help local communities. Many thanks to everyone who came along to support this event, and for the volunteers who gave up their time to make it such a convivial and fruitful occasion. The RSGS raised over £1,000 across the two days via sales, donations and memberships. All of the items listed above can still be bought from RSGS HQ: please contact or pop in for further details.

A new race is being added to this year’s three-day Perth Festival at Perth Racecourse: The Fair Maid of Perth Steeplechase. Aimed at top staying steeplechase mares throughout the UK, Ireland and France, this will be the richest ever race at Perth, with a prize pot of £35,000. See for details.

27th April

Glaciologist POPs to Greenland In 1888, Fridtjof Nansen led the first team to successfully cross the Greenland ice sheet, a feat which won him the RSGS Gold Medal. In spring 2018, a small all-female team will endeavour to do the same, this time with a new scientific purpose.

One of the team during training in Norway.

The team, including Dr Lindsey Nicholson, an RSGS member who is working as a glaciologist at Universität Innsbruck, will collect samples of snow which will be analysed to find out the concentration of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) they contain. POPs are man-made compounds like pesticides, herbicides and fire retardants that are not easily broken down in nature. Unfortunately these POPs are generally toxic, and have been found in elevated concentrations in the fatty tissue of Arctic fish, seabird, whale, polar bear and human populations. POPs may be responsible for long-term health issues, including hormone disruption, infertility and cancer. By finding out current levels of modern POPs in the snow, and using atmospheric models to trace their transport pathways back to the location of the source emission, the team can develop a better idea of the present and historical deposition and storage of POPs in the Greenland ice sheet. This is important because, during the middle of the last century, much higher levels of more toxic, now banned, pesticides were used. Counterintuitively, meltwater from the seemingly ‘pristine’ Greenland ice sheet may in fact present a source of toxic pollution to the environment in the coming years. See for further details.

New RGS-IBG Director On 1st May 2018, Professor Joe Smith will take over as Director of the Royal Geographical Society based in London. Currently Head of Geography and Professor of Environment & Society at the Open University, Joe has worked with a broad range of stakeholders from academia, business, policy and the media on numerous interdisciplinary research and public engagement projects. He will replace Dr Rita Gardner, a former recipient of our prestigious Scottish Geographical Medal, who has decided to step down after 22 years. Speaking about his new position, Joe said, “I am thrilled to be the incoming Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) – the breadth and scale of the Society’s reach is extraordinary and makes this a rare and compelling role.”

University News

In the world of environmental conservation, the Nature of Scotland Awards are the answer to the BAFTAs. Each year, the RSPB hosts this glittering event in Edinburgh to celebrate the inspirational people, projects and organisations that work so hard to protect Scotland’s precious natural heritage. In November 2017, our Chief Executive Mike Robinson was nominated for the Political Advocate of the Year award for his pioneering work on climate change and sustainable transport. Unfortunately for Mike, it wasn’t to be this time, losing out to the very creditable Logan Steele and Andrea Hudspeth for their campaign to regulate gamebird hunting in Scotland.

Fair Maid of Perth

4 SPRING 2018


University Medal In November, Stephen Bewsher was presented with a coveted RSGS University Medal. The presentation followed the completion of Stephen’s BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science degree at the University of Stirling. Throughout his fouryear course, he was noted for consistently producing academic work of the highest quality, whilst also acting as a leading light in the University Geography Society, helping to organise The Great Geography Bake Off and to raise funds for Toilet Twinning, a water and sanitation initiative which aims to flush away poverty one toilet at a time. Well done, Stephen!

Climbing for life

Record-breaking talks The 2017-18 Inspiring People talks series is drawing to a close, so it’s time to reflect on what has been another fantastic season of events. From film-making in Burma to marathon running in New Zealand to map-making in the 16th century, we have once again been motivated and enlightened by a diverse range of brilliant speakers working across an eclectic mix of geographical topics. And, because of your generous support, our auditoriums have been as full as ever. In fact, two Local Groups have managed to break attendance records, with audiences of 150 for Professor Colin Ballantyne in Inverness and 130 for Hamish Brown in Kirkcaldy. There are still a few speakers waiting in the wings for talks scheduled in March, including RCGS’s John Geiger who will be speaking about the mysterious Third Man Factor, and Barbara Bond, an expert on MI9’s wartime mapping programme. Looking ahead, our team at HQ are busy preparing for the 2018-19 season, and we would keenly welcome any suggestions for potential speakers. If an idea blossoms, please feel free to contact us at

For many, climbing Ben Nevis once a year would be considered more than enough. But for Andy Cole, it was a daily routine as he vowed to reach the summit of Scotland’s loftiest mountain every day for a month. The purpose of this exercise, which began in October 2017, was to tackle his spiralling depression. He was encouraged to head out into the great outdoors and reconnect with the mountains he had always loved, as he was told the exercise would release powerful endorphins that would allow his prescribed medication to be reduced. Spurred on by the healing power of the mountains, Andy devised a Ben Nevis climbing challenge, sharing his story on social media. Buoyed on by a wave of encouraging messages, he completed his 31 climbs, raising over £2,000 for the local Mountain Rescue in the process. His walks have helped him travel a significant way down the path to recovery and a more robust mental health. As he said, “the great outdoors is the best form of anti-depressant.”

Ken McGoogan has had an interesting career. Amongst 17th other things, he’s travelled the world as a journalist, May survived a shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, and chased the ghost of Lady Franklin from England to Tasmania. He’s also completed extensive research into the history of Arctic exploration, consulted on a BBC documentary, and written more than a dozen books, among them Celtic Lightning, 50 Canadians Who Changed the World and How the Scots Invented Canada. Fortunately, this spring, Ken has found time in his busy schedule to stop off in Perth, where he will be presenting a fascinating lecture on John Rae, having written a biography and championed his legacy across a range of different media. An Evening with Ken McGoogan will be held at RSGS HQ on 17th May 2018, and will include a Q&A session, a book signing, and the chance to meet Ken in person. Further details will be made available on our website, email newsletter, and social media platforms in due course.

book your place

Geography Day 2018


June On Saturday 16th June, we will throw open the Society’s doors to visitors for the 2018 Geography Day. We will be presenting several short talks from an exciting array of geographers and explorers and, with the help of our experienced Collections Team, showing off an intriguing selection of maps and ephemera not usually on display. Attendance is free, though donations are requested for a sandwich lunch. Due to limited space, booking is essential; just contact us at HQ.

book your place

Electric vehicles: transforming transport A recent geoscience and civil engineering report led by Oliver Heidrich from the Tyndall Centre at Newcastle states that there is an urgent need to concentrate on cities and their sustainable transport strategies for dealing with the challenges (and opportunities) climate change may bring. Analysing electric vehicle (EV) registrations and infrastructures provided by cities, it found that there is no statistical difference in the number of charging points for EVs between the cities that have EVs as part of their mitigation strategy and those that do not. Although noting that the UK purchased more EVs in 2014 than in the previous five years added together, it states that EV ownership needs to grow year-on-year by 45% between 2015 and 2030. The report demonstrates that local strategies are failing in achieving the much-needed step change.


An Evening with Ken McGoogan

Professor Colin Ballantyne speaking in Inverness.

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Professor Roger Crofts, Chair, RSGS Arctic Circle is an informal body of governments, businesses, community, environmental and other interests, with a common purpose of sharing dialogue about the future of the Arctic region. Periodically, Arctic Circle hosts Forums, and it did so jointly with the Scottish Government in Edinburgh last November on the topic of Scotland and the New North. I was fortunate, as RSGS Chair, to be invited to attend. The focus throughout was on the opportunities for co-operation across all spheres of activity between organisations with an interest in the Arctic. The chairman, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the former President of Iceland, made it clear that whatever its constitutional status Scotland was part of the geopolitical forum for the Arctic. He particularly emphasised the importance of greater understanding of the Arctic Ocean as it emerges from under the pack ice amid demands for greater use. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon emphasized the importance of climate change obligations in reducing carbon emissions and the employment opportunities this engendered, and spoke of collaboration opportunities in tourism and commerce. Key debating points were the opportunities for resource use without damaging the fragile environment, the re-orientation of governments and other interests northwards instead of southwards, geopolitical co-operation opportunities for partnerships irrespective of constitutional status, and scientific collaboration in data gathering and analysis. Scotland is now firmly on the map of the Arctic region through the initiative and leadership of the Scottish Government.

Honoured volunteers

Climate sensitivity Scientists from the University of Exeter and the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology have pioneered a new process to reduce uncertainty around climate sensitivity – the expected long-term global warming if atmospheric carbon dioxide is stabilised at double pre-industrial levels. While the standard ‘likely’ range of climate sensitivity has remained at 1.5 – 4.5°C for the last 25 years, the new study has reduced this range by around 60%, to 2.2 – 3.4°C. The research team believe that by dramatically reducing the range of climate sensitivity, scientists will be able to have a much more accurate picture of long-term changes to the Earth’s climate. Explaining the significance of the results, lead author Professor Peter Cox said, “Our study all but rules out very low or very high climate sensitivities, so we now know much better what we need to. Climate sensitivity is high enough to demand action, but not so high that it is too late to avoid dangerous global climate change.”

Aberdeen Group Chair We were sad to learn of the death of Iain Rankin in January. A former head teacher, Iain was a great advocate for the importance of geography in school and public education. He joined the RSGS in 1959 and was active throughout his nearly 60 years of membership, initially in Glasgow, on the RSGS Council, and later chairing the RSGS Aberdeen Group, volunteering regularly in the Fair Maid’s House visitor centre in Perth, and assisting in any way he could. An enthusiastic and warm person, his energy was remarkable; he was incredibly well travelled, and never stopped having adventures. He was granted RSGS Honorary Fellowship in 2010, for which he was both delighted and typically modest, as he shares this honour with many of his boyhood heroes, like Ernest Shackleton, WH Murray and Edmund Hillary. His charm and humour always shone through and his interest in people won him many friends.

Legacy gifts We are grateful to the late Owen Mather of Lochmaben for so kindly remembering the RSGS in his Will with a legacy gift of £3,000. Mr Mather had been a loyal member for some 12 years, and we are glad to know that he valued the work that we do.

L-R: Jo Woolf, John Lewington, Freda Ross.

It was our pleasure to present Honorary Fellowships to three of our committed volunteers – John Lewington, Freda Ross, and Jo Woolf – at an event in February, before Jo gave an Inspiring People talk in Perth on her new book, The Great Horizon. Since the RSGS moved to Perth in 2008, both John and Freda have been unswerving in their support, regularly welcoming visitors to the Fair Maid’s House, looking after school groups and young people, giving talks to external organisations, and generally promoting the RSGS wherever they could. Moreover, they have always been quick and enthusiastic to respond to our calls for extra assistance, often at the last minute. Likewise, Jo has gone above and beyond anything that we could have asked since her appointment as Writer-in-Residence in 2014. Working almost full-time, she has skilfully captured, crafted and communicated many of the stories hidden in our archive. Her engaging style has done wonders for the promotion of the RSGS’s history, and The Great Horizon will help to inspire the next generation of geographers, educators, explorers and visionaries.


Arctic Circle Forum: Scotland and the New North

We have also received a fourth and final instalment of a very generous legacy from Miss Elizabeth Scott of Dunfermline. The total value of the legacy is now £41,692, the second-highest we have received since at least the late 1980s, and a tremendous boost for our work in straitened times. We are always sorry to lose members, but we do appreciate it when they remember us and give us a particular opportunity to honour their memory. Thank you.

please consider leaving a legacy to RSGS

Fundraising Dinner Please note that we will not be going ahead with the Fundraising Dinner originally planned for 2nd June. We still need money and donations of course, but the time to pull it all together, and the cost without sponsorship, were deemed too high-risk. We will reconsider it for 2019 if circumstances allow.

6 SPRING 2018

Transformations for flourishing futures Steve Waddell, Principal, NetworkingAction; Professor Ioan Fazey, Director, Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience, University of Dundee We cannot avoid transformation. We are experiencing, and will experience with increasing pace and depth, transformative disruption in our ordered way of living. Environmental change, wars, migrations, technologies, imploding governance systems, and changing values are beginning to drastically alter much of what we currently consider sacred. The question is whether humanity will shape the inevitable societal transformations in ways that will bring flourishing and equitable futures. Transformations will be painful. As much as we struggle to prevent them, there will be climate change disasters and catastrophic losses of biodiversity that will make our environments very different. But different does not mean worse; indeed, we can take advantage of tumultuous destruction to shape a very desirable future if we get over our intimidation of the scale of the challenge, learn to address loss with élan, and take on transformation with vision and vigour. That is the essence of the stories associated with this special edition of The Geographer on transformation. Some of the transformation towards a flourishing future will be supported by physical technologies. But the articles also highlight that transformation has more to do with change in the human experience and human ‘project’, than with physical technologies. The articles deal with the joyous processes of discovery: discovering new ways to map landscapes that integrate communal knowledge to address damaging transformations; discovery of engaging with people and learning with them, in contrast to acting on them for better health care; discovery of new ways of knowing and science; discovery of ways to develop measures that support broad change rather than islands of success continually pressured by the status quo; discovery of how to attend to, pay attention to, our world in much broader and richer ways than our traditional narrow outcome-focused approach provides; discovery with exploring new (bio)diversity corridors; discovery about how to live with unpredictability and with humility; and discovery about vehicles of support such as with guaranteed incomes. However, because of space constraints, the articles do not describe the pitched battles that are associated with transformation. The status quo does not simply fold; enlightened elements willingly transform, but most resist change. And it’s not simply the well-off who resist; even those who are abused in the current system can oppose change. Perhaps resisting change is an even more common human trait than one of engaging in discovery.

of a few dozen, many of whom have contributed articles to this edition of The Geographer, have formed the SDG Transformations Forum to support the development of systems, structures and capacities to support transformations. It is currently working on finding ways to address five impediments to transformation: 1) T ransforming Assessment and Evaluation. Current ways of assessing projects, programmes and initiatives can constrain change, learning and possibilities for transformation; new methods and approaches are needed. 2) M eta-narratives. The current economic-focused stories about success associated with growth and GNP must be displaced with sustainable ones focused on human and environmental well-being. 3) I nnovation. Rather than designing innovation based on some physical technology propelled by financiers, we need to categorically design with integration of socioenvironmental concerns. 4) T ransforming Finance. The current finance system is highly fragmented between ‘pots’ of money (eg, commercial finance, government finance, philanthropy, science funding, sovereign wealth funds) with very inadequate ways of smooth connections for funding the quality and quantity associated with purposive transformation. 5) C apacity. Efforts to support development of capacity for major change are highly fragmented and need developing in ways that encompass different levels of transformation, such as individual, organizational and societal. This is not a comprehensive list of impediments, and certainly it will change as we advance efforts to address them. But we invite you to join our blog and newsletter (both available at as we find ways for you to become active in our community.

“We can take advantage of tumultuous destruction to shape a very desirable future.”

Nevertheless, transform we will. So let’s create the collective spirit, tools, processes, structures, technologies, and competencies to improve our human condition on this planet and support the planet’s own richness. This requires new capacities and systems. Just as food systems are needed to ensure sufficient food in the face of potential famine, we need transformations systems to support purposive transformation that can overcome inertia and resistance to change and help navigate our ways through the modern challenges the world is now facing. Over the last few months, a community




Knowledge in a transforming and warming world Professor Ioan Fazey, Director, Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience, and Professor of Environmental Change and Human Resilience, University of Dundee Stabilizing global temperatures well below 2°C relative to preindustrial levels, as set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, will require not only very rapid and significant practical and technological advances but also transformative changes in the economic, social and political systems, worldviews, assumptions and cultures underpinning climate change. If the Paris targets are not met, transformative change will still occur as the impacts of climate change continue to accrue. Major societal change is therefore inevitable, leaving humanity with little choice other than to try to find ways to rapidly and deliberately facilitate wider societal transformations towards more sustainable and low-carbon ways of living. Science and research have a major role to play in such transformations. There are clearly many benefits of science, which emerged over the last 300 years in response to past challenges and during the Enlightenment. These benefits include major advances in collecting, analysing, monitoring and interpreting data, and well-established research infrastructures and industries that have enabled identification and understanding of many environmental and social problems like climate change.

For science to contribute more effectively to addressing contemporary problems, there are three key aspects that are needed. First, as described by Phil Hanlon from the University of Glasgow, knowledge needs to be integrated much more closely with what is considered good (ethics) and beautiful (aesthetics). This involves not just acting on what we know we can do, but also considering whether it is the right thing to do with the knowledge that we have. Second, while important, much of science has focused on understanding problems, and much less on solutions or how to implement them. Despite three decades of research on climate change, it was only recently that the first comprehensive analysis of climate solutions was conducted through a project called Drawdown, led by Paul Hawken. This is rather surprising given that there are literally tens of thousands of scientific publications on climate change. Even less attention has been given to researching how solutions can be implemented, which is often viewed as the job of policy professionals rather than as an important area of learning and research.

“For new solutions to emerge, a much greater diversity of voices needs to be heard and incorporated into science.�

Yet, despite bringing about phenomenal benefits, science and technological advances have also contributed to emergence of many of the contemporary problems to which transformative responses are now needed, such as climate change, obesity, smoking, mental health, plastics in the oceans, and premature deaths from air pollution. Current scientific practices are also not sufficiently geared to informing practical action at the scales and speed needed to address major global challenges. Thus, while science is finely tuned and extremely effective at producing specialised knowledge with ever larger datasets to speed up computers, build bombs, develop new medicines, enhance climate models, and produce scientific papers, it currently lacks a clear means of coherently linking and solving the problems it has also helped to produce.

The limited focus on solutions and their implementation largely emerges because science tends to focus on what Aristotle called epistemic knowledge, which is teachable and abstract. This is different from techne (practical know-how) and phronesis (practical wisdom), which relate to the knowledge needed to do something (eg, install a solar panel) and about what makes a good and morally defensible end. Developing solutions and know-how about implementing them naturally requires engaging with practical knowledge, such as through trying things in the real world and learning from getting your hands dirty. Placing greater emphasis on epistemic knowledge has meant that practical knowledge, and associated emphasis on solutions and implementation, has been devalued or received less attention. A narrow focus of science on particular forms of knowledge has thus limited possibilities for creativity and learning about how transformative kinds of change might come about. Finally, while major advances in open access to scientific knowledge and bringing different voices (eg, women) have been made, it is still largely an elitist and exclusive endeavour and driven mostly by middle- or late-aged white men from more affluent backgrounds. This is perhaps one of the most important points: for new solutions to emerge, a much greater diversity of voices needs to be heard and incorporated into science, and for the production and use of knowledge to be democratised. It is through such diversity that new ideas and innovations will emerge, and how ownership of those ideas and responsibility for their implementation will emerge. In conclusion, current forms of science are dominated by rather limited perspectives of what counts as knowledge and knowing. They are therefore as much a part of the problem as they are the solution. For wider societal transformations in society to occur in response to the many new challenges that contemporary societies now face, transformations will therefore also be required in the way knowledge is produced and used.

8 SPRING 2018

Three keys to transforming business Nigel Topping, CEO, We Mean Business Coalition

In the run-up to COP21 in Paris, the voice of forward-looking business taking bold climate action needed to be heard loud and clear by world leaders. Rising to this challenge, a group of organisations working with hundreds of the world’s largest companies came together to form the We Mean Business Coalition, delivering the collective voice of progressive business. This helped give policymakers the confidence and political cover to raise ambition and deliver the Paris Agreement. Since the Agreement was made, the Coalition has gone on to help drive transformational change towards a low-carbon economy, applying three principles of systems change in particular. Radical collaboration

technology is pushing costs down, allowing EVs to become more cost-competitive, which is driving up demand from customers. This is creating a tipping point where the EV market share could continue its current trend and roughly double every two years or less. Such exponential growth would deliver 100% EV market share before the close of the 2020s, and rewrite the script around EVs. The We Mean Business Coalition helps with this by amplifying the signals of change from both business and government, to create political cover for bold government decisions and give business the confidence to invest in the lowcarbon future.

“The way we think about the future influences how we act today.”

The Coalition seeks to engage all the major stakeholders of a system to help drive progress that doesn’t leave anyone behind. A great example of this is the Science Based Targets initiative, which set a framework for use by other partners and investor groups to drive Paris-compliant pathways for business. This collaboration is helping bring science-based targets to scale, with Mahindra Group CEO Anand Mahindra now calling on all businesses around the world to join the growing number committed to setting them. Mahindra’s aim is to have 500 companies signed up by the Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018. Reciprocity By raising their climate ambitions, businesses can send a clear signal to governments that they see the low-carbon economy as a driver of innovation, competitiveness, risk management and growth. Similarly, bold long-term climate policies set by governments encourage businesses to invest and innovate to create the solutions needed. This reciprocal relationship between leading businesses and ambitious government can create an upward spiral of ambition and action. For example in the energy system, over 120 of the world’s most influential companies have now committed to source 100% renewable electricity. Such powerful demand signals are allowing utilities to invest with greater confidence and help transform the sector. This in turn gives governments greater confidence to push ahead with ambitious national climate plans. India is now ahead of schedule with its commitment to increase the share of non-fossil energy and expects to reach 57% renewable energy capacity by 2027. While the UK and Canadian governments are leading the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Business can take confidence from these strong policy signals, allowing them to invest for the low-carbon future and step up as the key implementation partner for government. Reflexivity As George Soros describes in his General Theory of Reflexivity, firmly held beliefs around future trends can create positive feedback loops that go on to reinforce and ultimately create that future through a process of self-referral. Put simply, the way we think about the future influences how we act today. For example, the current market share of electric vehicles (EVs) in the overall light car market is only around 2%, which seems too low to have any impact. However, countries like the UK, Norway and India have set an end date for the sale of new non-electric cars, and many of the largest auto-makers have committed to rapidly electrify their fleets. Mayors of many of the world’s great cities are committing to cut pollution from their streets, and leading companies are committing to accelerate the transition to EVs. Meanwhile, increased investment in battery

Finishing the job

As we make progress in some areas of action on climate change, we see the need for more attention in two areas. Firstly, some parts of the climate-economy nexus do not yet have sufficient momentum or an emerging solutions pathway. More systemic focus on the built environment and the food-land systems will be needed if we are to achieve the Paris goals. Secondly, we have learnt that collaboration across multiple actors requires more attention to nurturing ‘communities of practice’ – those groups of change-agents who should naturally be working together because they share transformational objectives but who often work in isolation. The lack of convening of these communities around more granular goals leads to duplication, missed opportunities for synergy, and sub-scale impact. Having prototyped radical collaboration at the macro-level, we are now focused on how to convene and support radical collaboration at this more granular level. Based on some early successes and many lessons, we see these two frontiers as being key to delivering on our ambition – a prosperous world, with a thriving economy, safe from the worst impacts of runaway climate change.




Building business leadership Heather Grady, Vice President, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Transformational leadership is crucial to address today’s challenges, but our societies don’t share an understanding of what it means, nor lay the groundwork to nurture and encourage transformational leaders. Where should we look, and what kind of attributes should we seek out, if we want to support such leaders? One can start by thinking about the transformational levers that will help countries individually and collectively achieve the future we want to create as embodied in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have been committed to by all governments and a growing number of civil society organizations, businesses and foundations. Four critically important levers are influencing public policy, shifting market and investor behaviour, designing new technologies for good, and supporting positive social movements. Transformational leadership would span these levers, and leaders across sectors will need to work in tandem to utilize them to best effect. What would this look like if applied to, say, the field of environment, and SDGs that relate directly to it: • SDG2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture; • SDG13: take urgent action to fight climate change and its impacts; • SDG14: conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources; and • SDG15: sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss. What will be expected of business leaders? Today we think of successful business leaders as rainmakers who have the power and influence to make deals so that their companies thrive and grow. Transformational business leaders will be those who bring environmental and social costs now externalized into their core business profit-and-loss statements. They will look for product and process innovations that protect the environment in the long term even if they require extra investment in the short term. They will ensure their teams across the world don’t cut corners in supply chain sourcing or following environmental regulations. And they will defend these practices in the face of opposition by shareholders or investors.

“Transformational business leaders will be those who bring environmental and social costs now externalized into their core business profit-and-loss statements.”

What will be expected of government leaders? They may need to sacrifice campaign contributions or votes in favour of taking a tough line on environmental protection laws. They will need to search outside their jurisdiction for public policies and government practices that incorporate a far higher bar on environmental concerns. They, too, will need to be open to innovations that could shed an unfavourable light on their usual practices, which are often driven by inertia or entrenched bureaucracy. What about civil society leadership? Creating the ‘world we want’ will require far more facilitative, humble leadership, backed up by a more diverse and inclusive approach to community building. Equally important, we will need individuals who practise what they preach, and lead with their values in day-to-day interactions, in how they carry out their work, and in how they communicate their beliefs. To create large, fundamental, and radical transitions to a more positive desired state, we need to discern roadmaps for leadership built around collective, community-led, and collaborative action. Finally, across all sectors, we will need leaders who acknowledge and redress unequal power dynamics, and who can build fellowship and be unerringly attentive to those who most face discrimination and disempowerment. Leaders will need to have the mettle to press on, guided by their beliefs, even when their shareholders, or political parties, or funders, try to dissuade them – leaders who focus on the long game, despite so many pressures to accomplish more tangible short-term wins. How can funders support this work? In addition to funding the individual leaders and their organizations, departments, and programmes, more support is needed for network building. Organic networks like Tendrel and Harambeans are examples of how transformational leaders have designed networks to help them keep the momentum going. Moral support from peers helps nurture leadership, particularly in times of conflict and tension. Financial support from funders helps ease the resource burden, and builds in the basis for more sustained positive change.

10 SPRING 2018

Just transitions to drive economic transformation Matthew Crighton, Friends of the Earth Scotland

In Scotland and throughout the world, the concept of a ‘just transition’ is helping to drive progress towards a zero-carbon future. It is also enabling transformations of thinking about how market economies are managed. The imperative of limiting climate change requires a much greater role for government in the direction of economic development, shifting from reliance on market-based economic management and leading towards a greater role for public ownership and community enterprise.

whom have to be answered for the proposition to be credible. Such mission-oriented economic development implies a strong role for public policy (and often for public investment and ownership) which in turn enables the incorporation of broader objectives of economic justice – for example, opening up employment opportunities to marginalised groups, so integrating with the emphasis on inclusive growth in the Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy.

Since the Paris Agreement the necessity of determined action to limit greenhouse gas emissions is almost universally accepted. The need for moving rapidly to elimination of use of fossil fuels is a logical consequence which is slowly being integrated into longterm thinking. What is contested is how this will come about and whether the mechanisms in the Paris Agreement are adequate. It is certain, however, that the pace of change needed for its objectives (1.5/2°C) is extremely rapid.

Credibility and social justice are essential requirements for popular support for the radical and rapid changes needed, so just transition is an essential part of ensuring that the transition actually happens. Conversely, the emphasis on justice means attention is paid to the distributional consequences of climate change policies and how they will be paid for.

How can this radical transformation be made to happen? In Scotland the concept of a just transition is framing the issues in a positive way and focusing attention on what needs to be done, how it will be done, and the wider consequences of those choices. Scotland shares with other rich nations all the challenges of decarbonisation of energy use and consumption. In addition, Scotland is a producer of fossil fuels and has to face up to the consequences of decarbonisation for its oil and gas industry, which still provides work for over 100,000 people, directly and indirectly. Having abundant sources of renewable energy as well as oil, the idea of transition from the production and consumption of fossil fuels to renewables is easily grasped.

Just a year after the establishment of the Just Transition Partnership, in September 2017 the Scottish Government announced that it would set up a Just Transition Commission. At the same time it confirmed that it would go ahead with the establishment of a Scottish National Investment Bank, which is potentially a crucial tool for driving forward a just transition; and it is considering plans for a government-owned energy company. To make a real difference, a lot of work is needed to develop sectoral and place-based plans for conversion of national and local economies. Participation in these processes by workers, enterprises and communities can create shared acceptance, hopefully even enthusiasm. Provided plans for a Just Transition Commission are linked into economic, energy and climate change plans, this concept and the ideas grouped around it could be a catalyst for economic and even social transformation in Scotland.

“Workers in the fossil fuel sectors should not pay the price of our collective intention to stop using fossil fuels.”

The loss of approximately 65,000 jobs as the oil price fell in 2015-16 was the immediate spur for the establishment of a partnership for just transition by Friends of the Earth Scotland (FOES) and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), combined with the signals given by the Paris Agreement about the future of fossil fuels. The danger of economic disaster for oil and gas workers, and the communities depending on their income, were clear in the minds of trades unionists with memories of the closure of the coalmining industry, a classically un-just transition, even if the geographical areas concerned were different.

The focus of the Just Transition Partnership, set up by STUC and FOES, is on industrial policy, as the urgent need to respond to climate change and mitigation targets are taken as given. The key reason for this is awareness that Scotland had not reaped the full economic benefits of the significant shift to electricity generation from renewables over the previous 20 years. Under the UK’s model of energy policy and economic development, manufacturing jobs grew in other countries where the turbines were made and operating profits accrued to multinational energy companies who dominate the electricity markets. Further, it is clear that existing policies are not sufficient to create change fast enough to meet climate change targets and to generate alternative employment as the oil and gas sector shrinks further. A central expectation of a just transition in Scotland is that workers in the fossil fuel sectors, and the communities dependent on them, geographically concentrated around Aberdeen and Shetland, should not pay the price of our collective intention to stop using fossil fuels. Making a just transition requires that climate change plans, energy strategy and economic strategy all show how new jobs will be created in, for example, off-shore wind, decommissioning, and new energy infrastructure. The questions of what investments will be made when and by


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Decarbonising Scotland Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

Scotland can claim to have led the world in driving forward industrial and economic change at key moments in history. From the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution to key discoveries and inventions, our intellectual and scientific accomplishments have had impacts far beyond our shores. And we are at the forefront of global transformational change again, as we seek to become a world-leading low-carbon economy to address one of the defining issues of our age – climate change. Our first Climate Change Act set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020, from a 1990 baseline, and reducing them by 80% by 2050. We’re well on track to meet that 2020 target, having achieved two successive annual targets, and, to the best of our knowledge, we remain the only country in the world with statutory annual targets. In January, we published our Climate Change Plan setting out how different sectors of the economy will contribute to delivery of the emissions reduction targets in the Act. Our legislation already commits us to a 66% reduction in emissions by 2032, and the Plan sets out the domestic policies and measures which will ensure Scotland continues to lead the global effort to deliver a transformational low-carbon society. Our energy system is key to this transformation. Our Energy Strategy, The future of energy in Scotland, published late last year, sets out a long-term vision for our future energy system. Scotland is an ambitious country of outstanding natural beauty, and the Scottish Government is determined to build on our reputation as a renewable powerhouse. The Strategy sets a new commitment to deliver 50% of our energy needs, across electricity, heat and transport, from renewables by 2030. Together, the Energy Strategy and the Climate Change

Plan provide the strategic basis for Scotland’s low-carbon transformation over the coming decades, and I encourage anyone interested in how to plan for, and maximise the benefits of, transformational change to read them both. Through the Climate Change Plan and other associated Government strategies and policies, we aim to provide clarity, certainty and credibility to the businesses, industries and investors that are vital partners in our transition to a low-carbon economy. Low-carbon and renewable energy already supports almost 50,000 jobs across Scotland, generating an annual turnover of over £10 billion. Today, workers in Scottish yards are manufacturing the components that will power the future. Our supply chains are growing. Our world-class universities and research communities are thriving. The opportunities for innovation are immense. And as well as economic benefits, decarbonising Scotland will bring health benefits for our population through cleaner air and more active travel, as well as positive impacts for the environment and natural assets on which so much of our economy depends. The Scottish Government is supporting a range of actions which will help Scottish companies and businesses to manage change, realise new opportunities and improve productivity. These include a £60 million Low Carbon Innovation Fund which will provide dedicated support for renewable and low-carbon infrastructure over and above wider interventions to support innovation across the economy. It is clear that decarbonising the Scottish economy offers opportunities but it also brings challenges. To help prepare for these, we will establish a Just Transition Commission to advise Ministers on how to continue adjusting to a more resource-efficient and sustainable economic model in a fair way that will also help to tackle inequality and poverty and promote a fair and inclusive jobs market. Our approach will be informed by the international principles of just transition – to plan for change, to leave no-one behind, and to actively consider employment issues when developing climate policies.

“The Scottish Government has a clear vision for a low-carbon Scotland, and the transformation is well underway.”

The Scottish Government has a clear vision for a low-carbon Scotland, and the transformation is well underway. We want to build a country which trains, attracts, enthuses and retains the researchers, the designers, and the innovators who will shape the low-carbon transition. Through our current action, which demonstrates a move to a dynamic, sustainable and inclusive economy, we are sending a clear, long-term signal that Scotland, and the expertise and innovation of our people, can lead the global transformation to a low-carbon economy.

12 SPRING 2018

Swimming the Corryvreckan Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, RSGS

I’m not sure when my fascination with the Corryvreckan began exactly, but it stemmed from my discovery of the beauty of Jura. I have spent time on most of Scotland’s islands, but Jura holds a particular charm for me. Its inaccessibility, for starters. Its only road, which simply peters out to a track and then a footpath. The beautiful bay at Craighouse – the pub, the distillery, the views. Unfortunately, I ignorantly camped in the well-named ‘midge bay’ during my first visit, but I left both bitten and smitten. There is a magic, a raw beauty to Jura that is hard to pin down. And there, beyond the villages, beyond the Paps and the end of the road, a gentle but ominous roar in the far distance acts as both a warning and a beacon. The Corryvreckan calls like a siren.

“The closer we drew to Scarba the more I stopped to pause and breathe it all in.”

Its fearsome reputation is the stuff of legend and it has an infamous role in Scottish marine folklore. It is surely the most feared passage of water in the British Isles, and has been discouraging seafarers for centuries. The world’s third-largest whirlpool, the Corryvreckan is well described in early geographical guides. In 1695, Martin Martin conveyed something of its drama: “The sea begins to boil and ferment with the tide of flood, and resembles the boiling of a pot; and then increases gradually, until it appears in many whirlpools, which form themselves in sort of pyramids, and immediately after spout up as high as the mast of a little vessel.” The underlying reason for this maelstrom is in the geomorphology of the islands and the seabed. Atlantic waters race along a deep ocean channel (a glacial trough excavated under successive ice sheets) into the strait between Jura and Scarba, but are forced upwards to mix with shallower waters to the east of Jura. And a pinnacle, a stubborn remnant of the lava from volcanoes that used to dominate what is now Scotland’s west coast, sits 30m below the surface. It stirs the boiling waters into a tumult complete with whirlpools at certain times. It is ferocious, like a giant sea monster thrashing about under the surface. Something so ominous, so legendary and dangerous has of course drawn people to it. George Orwell could not resist the lure of the Corryvreckan in 1947, when living at Barnhill on Jura. Taking a day off from writing Nineteen EightyFour, Orwell took family and friends on a boat through it, but the boat was destroyed in the currents and the party were lucky to survive. Although it is treacherous, at some times of the year it calms down enough for an hour or so to make it possible – wind, weather, tides, currents and cold water allowing – to swim across the strait from Jura to Scarba. If you’re quick. The distance is barely two kilometres,

although it may be necessary to swim double that if currents pull you too far off course. In August 2017, I went with two friends and four other swimmers to attempt the crossing on a trip organised by Swimtrek. After an anxious night, eased only with a visit to the pub in Ardfern, we set off from Craobh Haven for a warm-up swim amongst seals and jellyfish in the crystal-clear waters near Barnhill, before the short boat journey northwards. Nervous hilarity gave way to contemplative silence, as we rounded the end of Jura and the Corryvreckan opened up before us. A sailing boat was bobbing about hesitantly to our right, waiting, as we were, for the tide and currents to allow a crossing in relative safety.

On the third attempt to get near the shore safely, and once the boat’s captain Duncan was happy, it was time to jump in. At first the cold, the salt water and the gentle swell took a little getting used to, but once I warmed up with the exertion it began to feel more natural and normal. I was genuinely starting to enjoy myself – small and exposed in the middle of a wide ocean, but a part of it all, literally immersed in the landscape. As we left Jura further behind, two porpoises began to track us from a discrete distance. The closer we drew to Scarba the more I stopped to pause and breathe it all in. A fellow swimmer happily zipped around taking photos as we powered through the last few hundred metres to reach the rocky coast of Scarba, and our end point for the swim. The crossing had taken almost exactly half an hour and we’d been very fortunate with the sea conditions. As it started to rain again, we pushed through the heavy kelp for a quick photo with the RSGS explorers flag which I had stuffed up one leg of my wetsuit, then we all reluctantly swam back into deeper water to clamber back aboard the boat. All seven swimmers had made it and there was a palpable camaraderie on the half-hour boat journey back to Craobh Haven. After a quick shower and chat it was time for us to head back to normal life, with the Corryvreckan a shared and precious memory to carry home. Images © Chris Reeve


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Stop the plastic tide! Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer, Marine Conservation Society

Since David Attenborough and the Blue Planet II team took the issue of ocean plastics into our living rooms recently, everyone from government to business to consumer is talking about plastic and the devastating impacts it is having on our seas. The Marine Conservation Society believes opinions on plastics have started to turn and is calling on everyone to do their bit to put a stop to this plastic tide. This year marks the 25th anniversary of our Beachwatch Project, with the Great British Beach Clean (the flagship event) happening in the third weekend of September. Beachwatch is our national beach cleaning and litter survey citizen science project which has seen thousands of volunteers collect important beach litter data to help advocate for litter prevention policy.

support the case for the ban. Now we are turning our attention to other ‘on the go’ litter items such as plastic cutlery, cups and straws. Our data showed that the litter from eating and drinking out and about makes up 20% of all the rubbish found on our beaches. We therefore launched our Stop The Plastic Tide appeal on the back of the Great British Beach Clean results launch last November. We are calling on the governments of the UK to put in place a levy on these single-use plastic items to reduce the amount of single-use plastic being offered to us in the first place. We are also asking businesses and supermarkets to replace the millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery with plastic-free alternatives or to stop handing them out altogether.

“The litter from eating and drinking out and about makes up 20% of all the rubbish found on our beaches.”

Last September, during the four days of the Great British Beach Clean, over 1,500 volunteers across Scotland headed to 111 beaches to clean and survey their 100m stretches. Together they found 57,961 items, which averages at 490 pieces of litter from every 100m cleaned. This represented a 7% increase in litter from 2016, highlighting the need for more action to prevent this litter from reaching the marine environment in the first place. This information is crucial to our marine litter campaign and policy work, as we use it to identify trends in litter over the years and present it as evidence to government for policy changes to stop these items getting into our seas and onto our beaches in the first place. Such evidence helped secure the 5p carrier bag charges across the UK which saw a 40% decrease in the amount of carrier bags our volunteers were picking up on beaches in 2016. More recently in Scotland we used our data to support the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, asking the Scottish Government to put in place a deposit return system for drinks bottles and cans as our volunteers had recorded a rise in these items on the beach. We were therefore delighted when the Scottish Government committed to implementing a deposit return system in September last year, which we hope will include plastic, glass and metal drinks containers. This year the Scottish Government also announced the proposal to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds, thanks to the work of our friends at Fidra who used our Beachwatch data on cotton buds to

Just this year we have seen a huge shift in public, industry and government awareness on these items, especially single-use plastic straws. Sunnyside Primary School in Glasgow launched their #NaeStrawAtAw campaign last year which has seen businesses and now councils going plastic straw-free; Kate Forbes MSP has launched her Final Straw Scotland campaign to take the issue to Parliament; and the Sunday Mail has joined the fight to take the message to the whole of Scotland. So whether you can join a beach clean to collect vital data, reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use, or ask your politicians or businesses to act, together we can stop the plastic tide.

14 SPRING 2018

The (Bio)Diversity Corridor Dr Ulli Vilsmaier, Researcher, Leuphana University Lüneburg; Insa Winkler, Artist, artecology_network

A (Bio)Diversity Corridor is currently being discovered and established in the district of Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. A group of artists, academic researchers, and representatives from administration, civil society, education and economy have taken the concept as a starting point to explore the region with regard to its current status and its potential to foster diversity and connectedness. The collective aim is to transform, and to learn how to transform, this rural region characterized by long-term intensive, dominantly conventional and industrial agriculture. It currently typically relies on wind and biogas energy production, has a network of small-scale villages, and a growing number of commuters living in family houses and working in the surrounding cities. This region is facing challenges with regard to a loss of biodiversity, pesticide exposure, an alienation between communities and the physical environment, conflicts between human and non-human natives and neophytes, as well as agriculture, tourism, and nature conservation.

“Its purpose is to change basic ways of thinking about issues and increase understanding about the way things work.”

In this transformational endeavour, a transdisciplinary research space has been created that helps outline differences whilst sharing a common objective. Everyone involved has a different relationship with the region. They hold different societal roles, pursue different practices in their own professional and daily lives, and have different perspectives and ways of thinking. Through an initial phase of collaboration using meetings, excursions and workshops, a transdisciplinary team was developed, and agreement reached on the overall objective and the shared research focus. The next stages are composed of a multitude of different activities, ranging from artistic interventions, public debates and workshops, to empirical research. All activities have a common purpose: to explore diversity, create visibility, expose oneself and others to what is unfamiliar or even alien, induce dialogue and reflection, and contribute to building alliances and connectivity, in order to discover what exists and to establish possible pathways towards sustainability. This has led to the concept of a (Bio)Diversity Corridor which will serve as an anchor in this exploration of the loss and values of diversity for the area’s sustainable future. The concept of the corridor comprises several dimensions. Firstly, the corridor has a tangible spatial dimension, describing an elongated, connecting space. The (Bio)Diversity Corridor should connect municipalities, as well as areas and places of outstanding ecological, historical, social, cultural and aesthetic value. However, it is not an entirely new space, but stems from what is already familiar – streets, villages, fields, pubs, trees, tourist sites, to name just a few – while discovering and establishing new pathways. The formation of such a corridor creates visibility and opportunities to experience and perceive diversity, providing a focus around which to consider diverse approaches to future viability. In this sense, the corridor also has a metaphorical meaning. It symbolizes a

membrane, a transitional space, a sluice without a clear boundary. It opens up into various adjoining landscapes and cultural spheres connecting diverse ways of living, knowing and behaving.

The (Bio)Diversity Corridor as a vision for a sustainable future represents a living space with a large variety of possibilities that can be discovered and created in ways we have not yet experienced nor thought about. Focusing on the (Bio)Diversity Corridor concept provides useful hooks for reflecting each participant’s practices, prejudices and beliefs, and provides leverage for sustainability transformations. Often the way these investigations are performed seeks to concentrate on the areas of least comfort. What breaks the familiar, challenges us more. This gives a starting point to reflect on how we do things (eg, empirical research, agriculture, administration, ecological activism, artistic interventions) and how we think that certain tasks should be done (eg, following specific quality criteria, utilize fertilizer, administer inhabitants, fight for the protection of the biosphere, initiate participatory processes with artistic methods). However, this transformational endeavour does not aim at establishing a biosphere reserve nor a planning guide for future regional development. All this might happen in the future. Its purpose is to change basic ways of thinking about issues and increase understanding about the way things work, and, above all, to recognise ourselves as powerful beings in a historical situation that is not per se given, but contingent, and thus empowers us to change towards more sustainable futures.

Base camp for the (Bio)Diversity Corridor activities: ‘Perch for innovation potential’ (Peer Holthuizen, artist).


Leverage Points ( Vilsmaier U, Brandner V, Engbers M (2017) Research in-between. The constitutive role of cultural differences in transdisciplinarity (Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science)

Concept work exploring dimensions of the (Bio)Diversity Corridor.


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Life below water Lerato Mpofu, Reos Partners; David Obura, CORDIO East Africa

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have provided a globally recognized platform for bringing diverse stakeholders together around common challenges. SDG14, ‘Life Below Water’ (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development), has been a focus of activity in 2017. The Global Ocean Conference, hosted by Fiji and Sweden at the UN headquarters in New York in June, was an unprecedented opportunity to bring together all stakeholders in ocean use to rally around challenges such as pollution, ocean acidification, marine protection, knowledge transfer, and international law. For the Northern Mozambique Channel initiative (NMCi), this conference provided an opportunity to bring a transformative multi-stakeholder approach to our region.

participants adopted the Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action. Concurrently, the NMCi partners worked with Reos Partners to build a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ concerns in relation to the future of the WIO region, and to construct plausible scenarios ( for the future of the region and its marine ecosystems.

The 220 million residents of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) countries, 60 million of whom live in the coastal zone, derive more than US$20.8 billion in economic benefits from the ocean each year, equivalent to the size of a national economy. But this value is under threat. The challenge for WIO countries is “to achieve successful economic growth, build social welfare and equity and maintain the health of ocean ecosystems,” all at the same time. With expanding climate change impacts, rapidly growing populations, escalating investment and infrastructure projects, and rapid technology changes, the risk is that poorly planned development will undermine and destroy the environment that supports so many subsistence-level and low-income people in the coastal zones.

What next? In parallel to finalizing the scenarios in early 2018, national discussions on the SDG14 voluntary commitment actions will be underway. We hope that the two will come together at the Nairobi Convention Conference of Parties in mid-2018, where ministers from the represented countries may become champions for the scenarios. The hope is that these political representatives will play a role in national decision making to improve sustainability and achievement of not just the SDG14 targets but also other related SDGs, such as equitable and fair employment in fisheries, the relief of hunger, and the sustainable management and use of coral reef resources. Jointly produced by a group of ‘unlike-minded’ people, the scenarios are an important product. At the same time, longerterm outcomes include stronger collaboration and shared understanding between influential role-players who have historically worked in parallel or at cross-purposes.

“Exploitation that is done unsustainably will destroy the very asset base that is so sought after.”

The process started with national cross-sectoral consultations in Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania in March and April 2017, where national leaders identified their priorities for linking national policies and master plans to SDG14 targets. A regional workshop in May in the Seychelles helped participants to prepare a set of regional ‘voluntary commitments’ prior to the Global Ocean Conference. At the conference, statements of commitment from different countries and the NMCi voluntary commitments set the tone for the next steps; at the same time, countries and

Two main drivers were identified as crucial determinants of the scenario outcomes: the level of governance in the NMC area, and the level of investment. Other major uncertainties, such as the extent and impact of climate change, growing population and changing demographics, and risk of pollution from oil and gas and coastal development, were considered important, but participants decided that the first two were ‘make or break’ uncertainties that are also under the direct influence of regional actors.

The scenario method has built on a rich history of regional projects and planning in the Nairobi Convention, including several regional programmes funded by the Global Environment Facility on marine pollution and marine ecosystem and fisheries management. The imperative now is to use that body of knowledge on ocean health and its vulnerability, and the mandate given by the SDGs for transformative governance, to embed the SDGs and sustainability in the new drives toward blue economic development across African maritime states and globally. The countries of the NMC and WIO justifiably want to base a new spurt of economic growth on exploitation of ocean resources. But there is a risk in perceiving those resources as being limitless, when they are actually highly vulnerable to damage. Exploitation that is done unsustainably will destroy the very asset base that is so sought after, and the long-term outcome will not serve the interests of national stakeholders. So we hope that by highlighting risks and potential outcomes, including outcomes other than ones that are compatible with achieving the SDGs, the scenarios process will help national leaders, economic sector leaders, and international and multi-sectoral actors lead the way to success on the SDGs – the true pathway for a sustainable blue economy.

16 SPRING 2018

The tiger man of Seoul Brian James

Perhaps the most successful film-maker for bringing the life and plight of the Siberian tiger to global awareness is an unassuming and very modest Korean, Sooyong Park. As a film-maker he has brought the tragic life of the tigress he called ‘Bloody Mary’ to the attention of millions, and his book on the tigers of that region, The Great Soul of Siberia: In Search of the Elusive Siberian Tiger, has become a natural history classic. Sooyong Park was born in South Korea, and when I “I waited in the cramped underground met him in the sprawling, bunker for the tiger that never comes.” bustling mega-city of Seoul in September, in a neon-lit street filled with the aromas of Korean restaurants, it was hard to imagine him tracking tigers in the snowy wilderness of Siberia, working alone or with just a few good friends sharing the work. His book has a great deal of information about the tigers and their way of life, but it also describes the loneliness of the dedicated film-maker stuck in a tiny, hopefully tiger-proof, rocks-andtimbers bunker, often with just his camera for company. He writes movingly about the beauty of the Ussuri Forest and the changes of the seasons there. There is also a very wellwritten section in his book which makes most dramatic fiction thrillers seem dull by comparison. Only a very remarkable person could have done the things described in the book, and return for more. So I was not expecting to meet such an easy-going personality, happy to have a drink or dinner, maybe take in a karaoke night too, and evidently popular with his local friends. As we ate dinner, Sooyong explained with a smile that he is slim in the summer, but has recently been putting on weight – “I am like the bear,” he says – getting ready for his winter vigil in the frozen forest, waiting for tigers along the trails he has

followed and identified as likely places to build a photo hide. There he waits and hopes for good encounters. The Siberian tiger once roamed across extensive areas of Siberia, northern China and Korea, before a devastating combination of hunting, persecution and habitat fragmentation reduced the range and numbers. Isolated populations seem likely to lead to in-breeding and ultimate tragedy for the future of the species, unless effective actions can be taken. More recently another hazard has blasted the prospects of survival. I asked about the fate of the tigers in the Korean Peninsula; apparently there was a local population of about 30-40 tigers still living in North Korea (Sooyong worked there for two periods studying the tigers). It will be interesting to know if the Korean tigers were affected by the H-bomb test in the region in 2017. We also talked about the prospects for large carnivores and other wildlife in South Korea. Much has been made of the wildlife value of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which runs across the Korean Peninsula. Whilst keeping North and South Korea separate, press reports have suggested that the zone provides a haven for wildlife. The reality is different however; apparently both sides open up with small arms fire regularly for practice, and they also burn the landscape to give a clear view of any possible infiltrators. A one-year survey three years ago set up more than one thousand camera traps; “Tigers display affection between mothers and they did cubs, fathers and cubs, and mated couples.” find some wildlife, but not much. The best area for a wildlife refuge for large predators in central Korea now was found to be the Civilian Restricted Access Area which adjoins the DMZ in the mountains to the east of Seoul. Sooyong Park had a contract a few years ago to survey the area and used an extensive network of camera traps which recorded roe deer, Chinese water deer, musk deer, goral, many wild boar, a few black bears, badgers, yellowthroated marten, and large specimens of wild cats (no lynx or leopard, so perhaps the cats have no feline competitors), as well as raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides). The latter also occur in Siberia in the Ussuri Forest; Sooyong’s “I saw calm control in every move Bloody Mary made to protect herself and her family in the brutal fight for survival.”


17 Geographer14-





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Sooyong is scathing about some capture and release projects which have attempted to address in-breeding and track dispersing or released individuals. One such project led by researchers from USA involved using snares to capture wild tigers for translocation and attaching transmitters for tracking them subsequently. Unsurprisingly the tigers react badly to being caught in a snare; they fight it and damage themselves trying to break free. Dr Galina Salkina, a cofounder with Sooyong Park and Vladimir Kalesnikok of the Siberian Tiger Protection Society in 1995, reported that of the ten tigers caught using snares, one died from its injuries. Another was shot after it was too injured to hunt and attacked

an elderly person instead. Sooyong’s alternative to cruel capture and release work is painstaking careful fieldwork, tracking the surviving tigers and developing detailed knowledge of individuals.


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The Korean wild boar population is apparently expanding everywhere, and they are becoming a problem in the cities now, “in the absence of apex predators.” So what about the scope for tigers or maybe leopards in Korea? There are a lot of national parks in the mountains and hills of South Korea, but they are all very popular as places for unrestricted access for hiking and adventure activities of the noisy human, social kind. The tiger and the bear are fundamental characters in the Korean origins myth, so those animals are important for Korean culture. Asian black bears survive in Korea and the national park symbol is a cartoon bear, although the image owes more to Yogi Bear or cute fluffy denizens of toy shops than to the real thing. The rewilding idea has appeal, and the lynx is the subject of a current project. But the prospects for the return of the largest carnivores to South Korea are almost zero. That probably includes wolves and Asian wild dog, Cuon alpinus, which also once occurred there. A key problem is lost continuity of co-existence between the large carnivores and human populations in their range. Mother tigers apparently teach their offspring not only the vital skills of hunting wild prey, but the equally essential ways of avoiding contact with humans. And local people learned to live with the presence of tigers. Those skills once lost are not easily renewed.

“The Siberian tiger once roamed across extensive areas of Siberia, northern China and Korea.”


text unmistakeably describes them as Canids, trotting along the edge of streams and through the snow, but their English name and black and white faces have led to them being mistranslated in the book as ‘raccoons’, a totally different kind of animal, from North America.


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au Bay What does Sooyong Sh Kievka • believe is the future for the Siberian tiger? East Sea Petrova Island The main surviving •Mayak populations of these tigers are in Ussuri in Russian eastern 10 km Siberia, Manchuria Map of Ussuri Forest region, the principal remaining area in northern China, and supporting the largest population of Siberian tigers. North Korea. There are perhaps only 450 free-living Siberian tigers in the wild, the majority in Ussuri. Sooyong believes, however, that all three regions are relatively easily connected and a stable adequate gene pool could be established. Some tigers try and disperse across these areas now and others make regular seasonal movements between areas. The challenge is to try and facilitate those movements and stop fatalities due to humantiger conflicts. My own view as an eternal optimist is to hope for a more peaceful political situation, with a regional transboundary nature conservation network of the type created in southern Africa in recent years. It is important to reflect that the successful co-operation between Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique would have been just a naïve silly dream 30 years ago, when a clandestine war was destroying people and wildlife across their frontiers. The same might be said about the Berlin Wall and the DMZ in Germany in the Cold War years. Progress can happen, and it can bring economic benefits for people too. Let’s not give up.

Acknowledgements Thanks to Sooyong Park for help with this article, and for his dedication to saving the Siberian tiger, and to William Collins for permission to use the map and the photographs. All images and captions are © Sooyong Park, as published in The Great Soul of Siberia: In Search of the Elusive Siberian Tiger, published by William Collins.

18 SPRING 2018

Scotland’s climate transformation Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, RSGS

When the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was passed unanimously by all the parties in the Scottish Parliament on 24th June of that year, it felt like a transformational moment – a wholehearted commitment to move towards a low-carbon economy. It was the culmination of several years of effort by what was the largest civil society movement ever created in this country. The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, which I helped establish and chaired until 2010, included around 65 member organisations who collectively had over two million members in Scotland. It included humanitarian organisations like SCIAF and Oxfam; environmental bodies like RSPB and Friends of the Earth; unions and student bodies like Unison and NUS; churches, especially the Church of Scotland, Catholic and Islamic churches; community groups, health bodies, and many more. It had been a gargantuan task, pulling together such a broadbased coalition, and providing the necessary momentum to create progress. After the vote in the Parliament, as I was sitting on the train home, emotionally raw and exhausted, a friend phoned me to say that the Bill and the targets were a useless distraction and would make no difference. Basically we had all wasted our time. Talk about being brought back down to Earth with a bump. Of course having legislation is not an end point, but this was a critical step.

organisations to achieve them. A Climate Challenge Fund was established to support communities taking action locally. A 2020 Climate Group of business leaders was established to build a fraternity of senior figures who were willing to show leadership and to ensure industry buy-in. Public bodies and local authorities were given carbon accounting responsibilities. Government itself had a carbon reporting requirement on its budgets. There were sectoral proposals for agriculture, energy production, waste, industry, cities, heat, housing, and transport. And all the while, the targets needed to be monitored, assessed and reviewed, the science needed to be refined, and the politicians and public needed to be persuaded this was the right thing to do. Scotland can rightly claim to have shown genuine leadership on this issue, especially having achieved many of its targets early. But has it been transformational yet? It is difficult to say. During 2018 we will see a revised Act with new, more stringent targets as the Scottish Government takes account of the Paris Climate Agreement. We will see a new Climate Change Delivery Plan – a list of actions we need to take to achieve a low-carbon economy. However, there is still a need for popular and political momentum and support, as well as a need for better financing and buy-in, or little will happen. And for the science, the legislation, and the delivery, every step forwards requires another step, and another, so the process is relentless.

“Whilst the Act was a welcome signal and clear ‘direction of travel’, it represented more of a start line than a finish line.”

Scotland had just unanimously passed a Bill and we now had the most stringent and thorough climate legislation in the world, in a year when the world needed leadership on arguably the most important issue of our age. However, even those of us very closely involved in this process knew that all we had done was set a really good target. Legislation was meaningless unless it was acted upon and the targets were achieved. So whilst the temptation might have been to relax and feel we had achieved something, in reality we all knew we had simply set something in motion. The science around climate change is long-standing and since 1977 has been solid, but the scientific community was increasingly alarmed and frustrated that more was not being done to respond. It led to ever more reiterations of the science, increasing scaremongering, and more worrying predictions as the world didn’t just ignore the science but actively undermined it and accelerated its use of fossil fuels. It confounded scientists that nobody seemed to be listening. Unfortunately, just because you can state the science with confidence, doesn’t mean anyone will act. Politicians rarely lead, and in this arena it took civil society to pick up the mantle and help turn the increasingly alarming science into some actual political commitment. The science was a critical first step in providing the evidence. The coalition helped engender public and political will based on this science. And this led to the adoption of the Act, which provided the legislative targets. But whilst the Act was a welcome signal and clear ‘direction of travel’, in transformational terms it represented more of a start line than a finish line. How was society to reach these targets? Next steps included setting interim annual targets, for which I chaired the Parliament’s short-life working group. We needed to agree a detailed sector-by-sector plan of how to achieve these targets. We needed to ensure the policies were achievable. And we needed to help encourage people and

The legislation has been transformative, inasmuch as it has charted a clear direction of travel. But perhaps its greater impact is how it has empowered and emboldened those throughout our public and private sectors to begin to implement the necessary transformational change.


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The energy for change Claire Mack, Chief Executive, Scottish Renewables

“Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Be it for jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes, access to energy for all is essential. Sustainable energy is an opportunity – it transforms lives, economies and the planet.” These aren’t my words, but those of the United Nations, whose Sustainable Development Goal for Energy aims “to ensure universal access to modern energy services, improve efficiency and increase use of renewable sources.” From Scotland, readers could be forgiven for thinking that these noble aims are far removed from everyday reality. When we flick the switch, the light comes on. Turn on the tap, and within moments the water is warm. But to accept these everyday miracles is to ignore the obvious. A transformational change has taken place in Scotland’s energy system over the last two decades – and we’re not finished yet. Twenty years ago, Scotland’s renewable electricity came from our legacy hydropower plants. Installed in the post-war Power from the Glens programme, these machines reliably turn our rainfall into clean electricity. Today, those plants still provide almost a fifth of the clean power we use. But behind the scenes, an enormous shift has taken place. Where once the rest of our power came from polluting fossil fuel power stations, today the majority is provided by renewables. In fact, the equivalent of more than half of the electricity we use every year in Scotland is renewably produced. Wind turbines now provide the lion’s share of our green power, but rooftop solar (unheard of 20 years ago) and biomass from our plentiful forests also play their part. The adoption of these technologies, which are cleaning up our air and delivering economic and social benefits from the Borders to Shetland, didn’t happen by accident. Our natural resources – rainfall, forests, wind, waves and more – as well as government policy and industry determination have placed Scotland at the forefront of the global shift to renewable energy. But what is there for us to share with the world? How can our

“The equivalent of more than half of the electricity we use every year in Scotland is renewably produced.”

experience as a small country on the fringes of Europe help deliver on the UN’s noble Sustainable Development Goals? In fact, there’s more of a role for Scotland than at first glance might appear to be the case. Our geography – remote islands, high mountain passes and dispersed rural population – means we’re already showing the world how it’s done on energy innovation. The Isle of Eigg, for example, became the first place on Earth to integrate solar, hydro, wind power and battery storage to power locals’ homes when it did so successfully some years ago. That’s an integrated system which is already enriching people’s lives with 24-7 access to electricity. And it’s replicable at scale in remote communities across the globe. Active Network Management systems, like those deployed in Orkney and the Borders, allow for nimble network controls which mean more renewable power can connect where previously constraints would have ruled out their use. That’s a clear reflection of the Sustainable Development Goals, and one that’s already happening in Scotland. Take also the country’s commitment to the development of wave energy. Nowhere on Earth is as far advanced in the pursuit of capturing the power from our seas in this way. Cracking this formidable challenge presents a global opportunity which would see green power delivered wherever there’s an ocean. But Scotland isn’t perfect. More than half of the energy we use is in the form of heat, and we’ve barely started to decarbonise the ways in which we produce it. In transport, too, we lag behind other countries, notably Norway, whose innovative use of government incentives means nearly a third of all cars sold there in 2017 were electric. What’s important though is that Scotland is looking to the future, and is already using its gifts – its weather, and its famous spirit of engineering innovation – to show the world how it’s done. After all, with a whole planet’s-worth of energy use to decarbonise, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are only the start of what we can achieve.

From left clockwise: Cruachan pumped storage hydro. © ScottishPower Deployment of AR1000 at the EMEC test site. © Atlantis Resources Corporation Offshore wind turbine. © Natural Power

20 SPRING 2018

The ‘gig economy’: short-term lets in Edinburgh Professor Alasdair Rae, Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield

Edinburgh artist Richard Demarco is quoted as saying, “the Scots think of it as their capital; they’re too possessive, Edinburgh belongs to the world.” Yet there is a potentially ugly underbelly here. The rise of the ‘gig economy’, and short-term lets in particular, can make locals feel like their neighbourhood belongs to the world. The rapid growth in recent years of short-term lets has meant that cities across the globe are now faced with a form of neighbourhood disruption that local authorities are often ill-equipped to deal with. The precise scale of the problem is hard to quantify, but it seems clear that there is a need for better regulation and, perhaps, new legislation. Short-term lets across the world By far the world’s most popular short-term lettings website is Airbnb. It’s a great example of a gig economy success story. Established in San Francisco in 2008, over the past decade it has expanded to over 60,000 cities and nearly 200 countries. It allows people to rent out a spare bed, room or property and, at the same time, it gives people from all over the world the opportunity to see cities as locals do. On the face of it, this is a great idea. Yet perhaps because of the simplicity of the idea, and the popularity of the most attractive cities, locals have begun to fight back.

level there is real cause for concern and this is reflected in what many locals have reported. Edinburgh: local voices Because of the level of disruption in some neighbourhoods, Andy Wightman MSP is leading a Homes First campaign which is attempting to combat the rapid growth in short-term lets in Edinburgh. As part of this campaign, the views of local residents have been solicited, and they make for interesting reading. One resident commented that “Living in the Old Town feels like being left out and considered lesser than other residents of Edinburgh. As though this place isn’t for me, it’s for the tourists.” Another resident complained, “I worry that eventually my tenement building will just become a place for people passing through, with no long-stay residents to give the place a sense of community.” The other side of the argument here, of course, is that shortterm lets also provide valuable income opportunities for people who need it, and this is true. Yet the rapid growth in the shortterm lettings industry, often unregulated, and the impact on local residents, means that the issue is now being discussed in the Scottish Parliament. Airbnb have also recently announced plans for a 90-day restriction in Edinburgh, though many critics have said this doesn’t go far enough and that it excludes peak Festival periods.

“As of 1st July 2017, there were 9,000 Airbnbs in Edinburgh.”

It’s difficult to get precise numbers on Airbnb, but data available through Inside Airbnb (an anti-Airbnb website) can help shed light on the scale of the phenomenon. In Amsterdam, a city of around 820,000 people, there were nearly 19,000 Airbnb listings in February 2018. Recent research led by David Wachsmuth of McGill University in Montreal has suggested there are now 67,000 Airbnbs in New York, with over 30,000 in Manhattan alone. Early in 2017, London was reported to have just under 50,000 Airbnb listings. Edinburgh: some basic numbers As of 1st July 2017, there were 9,000 Airbnbs in Edinburgh, a city of half a million residents. This figure represents a growth of 43% from the previous year. The Highlands had the next highest figure, at 3,100, and 81% growth between 2016 and 2017. Across Scotland as a whole, there were 21,900 active Airbnb listings in July 2017, so Edinburgh’s figure represents about 40% of Scotland’s total. This equates to an Airbnb visitor number of 496,000 in Edinburgh between July 2016 and July 2017. Overall, as of September 2017, Inside Airbnb identified 9,638 listings in Edinburgh, of which 57% were for entire homes or apartments, 43% were for private rooms, and just 38 listings were for shared rooms. Short-term lets have many benefits and, if properly regulated, can be mutually beneficial for cities and tourists. However, what we have seen in many cities is a disproportionate concentration of short-term lets in the most popular areas. As of September 2017 there were over 650 Airbnb listings in the Old Town area of the city, with more than three-quarters of these being for entire homes or apartments, and an average nightly price of £146. At a city level, the impact might not be earth-shattering, but at a local

Conclusions In their submission to the recent review of Scotland’s collaborative economy, Airbnb questioned the validity of data scraped from their website and said that “looking at the number of entire home listings in any given area is not necessarily an indication of impact on long-term housing.” This could be true, yet the opposite may also be true. The growth in short-term lets may very well be having a disruptive impact upon local housing markets, far beyond the nuisance of noisy weekend neighbours. There is a fine balance to be struck between welcoming people to our cities and preserving the integrity of longstanding communities – urban, rural or in-between. At present, raw numbers and local voices suggest things are out of kilter. Edinburgh may belong to the world, but it must also belong to the people who live there.


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Would basic income be transformative? Professor Guy Standing, Professorial Research Associate, SOAS University of London

In rich countries, the income distribution system has broken down irretrievably. Wages in real terms have stagnated for decades, and for the growing precariat have been falling and becoming more volatile and uncertain. Globally, the rentiers – those earning from property, financial, physical or intellectual – are gaining the lion’s share of income. State benefits have become meaner, more conditional and less oriented to the reduction of economic insecurity and risk of homelessness. In the UK, Universal Credit will make that worse. Meanwhile, in developing countries, even though some are growing fast, yawning inequality means vast numbers are in chronic insecurity and poverty, in which distress migration reflects structural failings that conventional welfare policies cannot address. In the face of these situations, suddenly a debate has started on the feasibility of quasi-universal basic income. Having worked on this for over 30 years, and having designed and helped implement pilots in Africa and India, as well as advise on pilots in Finland, Canada, California and, most recently, Scotland, I want to urge readers to consider the transformative qualities of a basic income, and how it could help attain the Sustainable Development Goals, the guiding principle of which is supposedly ‘leaving no-one behind’. The evidence and economic reasoning for this claim are presented in two recent books (see Further Reading). A basic income would be a monthly payment to every man, woman and child, paid individually, with the child’s being paid to the mother. It would be paid in cash, as a right, without behavioural conditions. It would be equal for men and for women, regardless of marital status, age or work status. If policymakers wished, it could be clawed back from the rich through a higher tax rate. This would be more effective than means-testing, and cheaper to administer. So-called targeted means-tested benefits do not reach most of the poor, as decades of research have shown. How could this be transformative? No single policy is a panacea. But our pilots show cumulative effects such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Before coming to that, I want to assure you that the standard objections can be answered quite emphatically. The transformative potential can be illustrated by summarising the results of our main Indian pilot, in which 6,000 men, women and children were provided with a modest basic income for 18 months, and their experience compared with a similar number of similar people in other areas. The first effects can be described as Welfare. There was a marked improvement in the nutrition of children, which was linked to an improvement in their health, which was linked to improvement in school attendance and performance. In some cases, the basic income led to parents buying shoes or clothes so that their children could go to school. In some cases, they used some of the money for bus fares so that girls would be safer. These were small changes in themselves, but already transformative. And there was no outside intervention. There were also improvements in the health of adults, particularly for women and those with disabilities, partly because they had their own cash, partly because they started taking their medicines more regularly and to completion. In some villages, groups of families put money

together to improve the sanitation, often building latrines. Again, no outside intervention was needed. The second effects could be described as Equity. Improvements in nutrition, health and schooling were distinctly greater for those who were relatively disadvantaged at the outset, such as those from lower castes, women and the disabled. So, social inequality was reduced. If inequality is not reduced, can one call any policy transformative? The third set of effects were Economic. Contrary to prejudices about giving people money, there was an increase in the amount of work and labour, resulting in an increase in economic output. Again, gains were greater for the low-income and disadvantaged. Thus, women gained more than men, by being able to undertake secondary work activities. The only group that showed a reduction in labour work were children. They were spending more time in school.

“A basic income would be a monthly payment to every man, woman and child.”

Finally, there were Emancipatory effects. This was surprising at first, but became obvious. The basic incomes gave people more control of their lives, increasing their resilience. When faced by a crisis, such as an illness or accident, they did not have to turn to a moneylender charging 50% interest rates. They could use their basic income or turn to relatives and neighbours on a reciprocal basis. And, as women told us, it strengthened the ability of the insecure to say ‘no’ to oppressive or exploitative practices. If you went to those villages today, you would see the transformative effects. The Indian government has come out saying it thinks moving in the direction of basic income for the country is feasible and affordable. The real challenge is political. The same would apply in any other country, rich or poor. Those who want to see an improvement in the human condition should support moving towards a basic income for all, for emancipatory, ecological and social justice reasons. It can happen.


Standing G (2017) Basic Income: And how we can make it happen (Pelican, London) Davala S, Jhabvala R, Mehta S, Standing G (2015) Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India (Bloomsbury, London)

22 SPRING 2018

Digital for Life: from oxymoron to co-creation Carlos Alvarez Pereira, Innaxis Foundation and Research Institute Humanity faces a self-inflicted existential threat. We have to move fast towards High Well-being @ Low Footprint, where ‘well-being’ encompasses how wealth is fairly distributed and the health of communities is restored and flourishes, and ‘footprint’ goes beyond carbon to include the multi-dimensional consumption of resources. Digital technologies are more and more influential in shaping our behaviours, and are attracting the enthusiasm of younger generations and the interest of investors. But is the digital sphere contributing to reverse climate change, environmental degradation and the many unsustainabilities of human evolution? Is it making humanity more compatible with life at large and creating the conditions for better preserving it?

“Digital technologies have an immense potential to help in the transformations we need.”

The digital industry itself consumes large amounts of energy and critical resources, and produces fast-growing greenhouse gas emissions as well as a lot of damaging waste. And while digital tech can be used by other industries to promote sustainability and emissions abatement (eg, through energy efficiency), there is no systematic exploitation of this potential, which seems to be surpassed by the sector´s consumerism (1.5 billion mobile phones produced yearly). Not to mention the increasingly debated implications of digitalization on unemployment, social inequalities, and the concentration of power in few hands. So, changes produced by digital tech in society do not seem to be going in the right direction, and concerns are growing about their worst consequences. Maybe we need a different kind of digitalization? The debate is now hooked on mitigation strategies, such as Universal Basic Income, or taxes on robots to prevent the social consequences of automation. But mitigation is not enough: we need to align the upstream processes of scientific inquiry and innovative design with our existential challenge, or they will continue to drift further towards unsustainability. Digital technologies have an immense potential to help in the transformations we need. Many individuals, researchers and practitioners are trying to make real the digital potential for sustainability. These are seeds of the ‘co-creation’ of desirable futures, a different kind of process recognizing the interdependencies in our relationship to the biosphere. Researchers and practitioners need to create a stronger community of Digital for Life; institutions and the general public need to change agendas and create the conditions for those seeds to live and grow. Awareness about our relationship with the biosphere has been raised enough to create the Sustainable Development Goals, but science and technology were used in the last decades to create a new world which looked very different from the old one but built on the same, not to say stronger, unsustainabilities. The time has come to claim that Digital for Life is also possible.

Evaluating transformation Michael Quinn Patton, Director, Utilization-Focused Evaluation “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Peter Drucker (1909-2005), management consultant The evaluation profession’s origins were in evaluating projects and programmes; from my perspective, we remain in the grip of a self-limiting project mentality. Such tools as logic models and SMART goals work well for project and programme evaluation. They do not work well for evaluating transformational systems change.

“Projects and programmes do not lead to transformation.”

What we evaluate determines the focus and methods of an evaluation. Projects and programmes are closed systems for which we have developed methods, designs, and measures that answer basic effectiveness questions validly, credibly, and usefully. In contrast, interventions introduced into complex dynamic systems unfold in open systems characterized by volatility, uncertainty, and unpredictability, all of which make control problematic. For those designing and implementing systems change interventions, they must be innovative, adaptive, responsive, nimble, and agile. Evaluations under such conditions must be emergent, developmental, adaptable, dynamic, responsive, and networked. Use an inappropriate evaluation approach, one not well-matched to the nature and complexity of the situation, and intervention not only fails to generate meaningful findings but can do real and lasting harm. The project mind-set has thrived for a half-century and is dominant in every sphere of change. The project approach is deeply embedded in institutional strategies. But if we have learned anything in 50 years of international development and corresponding evaluation, projects and programmes do not lead to transformation. I am not disputing that effective programmes of all kinds achieve important and desired outcomes for intended beneficiaries. What they don’t do is transform systems. Indeed, my conclusion after five decades of evaluation practice is that, when programmes are successful, it is often because they have succeeded in insulating themselves from the status-quo-serving systems that surround them. They do good – meritorious, significant, worthy good – but they don’t do transformative good. On the other hand, projects and programmes that are ineffective often fail because they’re not able to insulate themselves from the status-quo-serving systems. Hyperbole? Overgeneralization? Perhaps. I invite you to look around and make your own assessment. How much transformation do you see going on? You will have no difficulty locating programmes and projects of all kinds – effective, ineffective, a mixed bag to be sure. But what you won’t find much of, if any, are projects and programmes transforming systems. Which is why there is now a worldwide cry for transformative change. Evaluation must also be transformed to evaluate transformative change.


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Sustainable Development Goals Mille Bojer, Reos Partners “The SDGs are a disruptive agenda, whether or not you use that word. This isn’t business-as-usual and status quo. To the extent that it is, it’s a fiction. Let’s not discover in 2030 that we didn’t mean it.” Kate Gilmore, UN High Commission for Human Rights The mental model underlying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is different from the mind-set by which most development institutions are wired. These goals have been set to be so ambitious as to require us to reprogram our minds and rewire our institutions. First, while the Millennium Development Goal mind-set focused on the ‘problems’ of ‘developing countries’ and how the ‘developed world’ could ‘help’, the SDGs are a set of global challenges that are common to us all and are present everywhere to varying degrees. This is the universality principle, breaking with North-South thinking which is still very pervasive. How do we need to transform, and what do we need to let go of, to acknowledge the accelerating expertise and leadership in the Global South?

“These goals have been set to be so ambitious as to require us to reprogram our minds and rewire our institutions.”

Second, if you read through the 17 goals, you will notice the two most common words are “for all.” This ‘leave no-one behind’ principle is intentionally aspirational and is a break from the mind-set that progress that leaves a certain percentage of people behind is acceptable. Third, the idea with the SDGs is that they are indivisible. This is of course the reality of the world – everything is connected. We each experience this integration, as individual citizens in our communities and in our daily lives. It is as professionals that we split things into boxes. There’s something exciting about the possibility of drawing uncommon connections, and something liberating about the permission and stimulus this process is giving for governments to work across ministerial divides and for different sectors to get involved. It’s not about everyone working on everything, but about everyone working in an interconnected way. Finally, in relation to accountability, the SDGs represent an opportunity for a new social contract, where the focus is on accountability from leaders to their people, and from people to each other. This implies a shift in power structures, potentially enabled by the transparency of new technologies and the mounting pressure on corruption. It is also an invitation for all of society to engage and share responsibility for reaching the goals. Every day, I see small things that we would do differently if we were really thinking this way, if we really meant it. Many individuals working in the realm of the SDGs are buying in to the ideas but get stuck in habits or structures that aren’t designed along these principles. The good news is that there are processes that can help put this shift into practice.

A futures perspective Anthony Hodgson, H3Uni and University of Dundee One of the key challenges for transformations work is that it requires a fresh kind of futures thinking. Transformational change is distinguished from incremental change which usually props up the existing system, and from reform which may change the rules of the game but doesn’t seriously question the game itself. In contrast, transformation requires the serious questioning of underlying assumptions and the creation of new versions of the possible in relation to world-changing conditions. If, for example, we take the current global goals of Agenda 2030, then the gap between those aspirational conditions and where we are now cannot be achieved by either incremental change or reform, even though both are part of the mix. We need to think more comprehensively about the future, not as some fictional or utopian New World, but as a living presence in our current situation. The absence of effective futures thinking means that the chances of shifting to this third level of transformation are slim.

“This requires a change of mind-set from planning to navigation.”

This requires a change of mind-set from planning to navigation. Planning assumes we can forecast a future in which one thing predictably leading to another can be charted. Navigation is dynamic and has more to do with knowing which strategic direction we want to go in, having an effective compass, and having the adaptive resilience for flexible tactics. A new framework for this futures navigation is the ‘three horizons’ method (see diagram), a combination of systems thinking and futures thinking distilled down to three distinct ways of looking at the world and how they interrelate. Horizon 1 is the behaviour of the current dominant unsustainable socio-ecological system (the square grid). Horizon 3 is the conception and vision of a completely new system which would be viable in the actual circumstances of a finite planet (the flower symbol), including values such as social justice. The transition zone, Horizon 2, is inherently one of disruptions, dilemmas and competition between the two sets of values. A transformational shift will require formulation of goals that seem unreasonable from the point of view of Horizon 1, a new understanding of the way the world works, and the capacity to think and collaborate in large systems change over long- and short-term time cycles. The future consciousness generated by the three horizons method helps to put these transformations in perspective.

24 SPRING 2018

Creating transformative spaces Dr Laura M Pereira, Centre for Food Policy, City University of London, and Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University; Dr Hallie Eakin, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University In a world in which the scale and scope of the challenges to Earth’s sustainability often seem insurmountable and overwhelming, there is a need to rethink how to foster specific points of leverage that nudge our development trajectories onto paths of transformative, systemic change. We can imagine cities constructed of green infrastructure where healthy, nutritious food is grown in gastronomic gardens and free for all. A world of no poverty, no inequality, no discrimination, no exploitation of Earth’s resources. Realizing these ideals requires new forms of engagement, renewed agency and innovative action. It requires forming spaces for thriving: spaces of social interaction, personal reflection and political action. Transformation researchers, partnering with diverse community groups, are now exploring the possibility of intentionally designing social as well as geographic spaces primed to enable transformative thought, engagement and action. Whether these concerned citizens are dealing with the urbanization of a culturally and ecologically valued wetland in Xochimilco, Mexico, grappling with alternative food systems during the biggest drought in 200 years in Cape Town, South Africa, or facilitating spaces of dialogue concerning labour relations and politics in China, these efforts share a common vision of transformative change. In these spaces, the outcome and endpoint of change is unknown. The participants engage with an openness to challenge their own preconceptions of the problems they are confronting and to reflect on their own roles in system intransience and change. These spaces – whether

© Megan Lindow

constructed in someone’s kitchen, through participatory walks along a degraded coastline, or in collaboratively turning the soil in a wetland agricultural bed – are designed to be ‘safe enough’: collaborative environments where the phases of learning and social experimentation that are crucial for transformation can take place. See for more information.

“We’re still stuck in Enlightenmentinduced thinking.”

For those of us who come from and work in the Global South, and especially with marginalised and vulnerable groups, the stark ethical responsibility of talking about systemic transformations becomes clear. What kind of expectations might you meet when you know that the problem domain is so complex, that you have no idea what the potential outcomes are, and yet there is a responsibility to act in some way? There is no manual for how to do this; if we knew how to manage complex systems then we would probably be a lot closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. As it is, we’re still stuck in Enlightenment-induced thinking which leads us to believe that actions have linear and predictable outcomes. As the case of climate change induced by the increased use of fossil fuels for ‘development’ purposes shows, this is not necessarily the case. We are thus forced to engage in new ways of thinking and doing, emphasising value and belief systems as much as technical systems as leverage points to point the Earth’s future onto a more desirable, sustainable and equitable trajectory.


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Mapping for change in Ethiopia Dr Million Belay, Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Co-ordinator, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa; Dr Dylan McGarry, Environmental Research Centre, Rhodes University In this era of climate change, massive inequality and relentless consumerism, we need to use maps with local communities to help them navigate out of the hot mess they find themselves in. The ‘T-learning’ research network, stretching across nine countries, is using a mapping technique that fosters radical and disruptive forms of learning and action that we hope can contribute to profound social and cultural transformations towards a sustainable world. The ‘T’ in ‘T-learning’ stands for both ‘transformative’ and ‘transgressive’, referring to forms of learning that generate critical thinking, connect individual and collective agency, and change social and cultural practices. It is also a transdisciplinary process. Conventional, hegemonic approaches to mapping are usually top-down and privilege certain forms of knowledge while making other bodies and forms of knowledge invisible. A key principle of T-learning is to make space for multiple ways of knowing to be expressed, flourish and be shared, in the process of ‘co-producing’ new knowledge. In the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia where a counter-hegemonic approach was first tested for T-learning, the community was concerned with enriching and protecting biocultural knowledge and supporting natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, research, conflict resolution, land rights and intergenerational learning. A variety of mapping tools and methods were used, most notably sketch mapping, which allows participants to create maps from observation or memory. It does not rely on exact measurements, such as having a consistent scale, or geo-referencing. It usually involves drawing symbols on large pieces of paper to represent features in the landscape relative to each other. Early sketch maps then open up the social and imaginative space for developing the map legend. The co-creation of the legend was

a significant T-learning moment, as the tensions emergent in re-framing of what should or should not be on the map proved to be highly generative and transformative moments for learning and negotiating different worldviews and values among the map producers. The legend-making by participants was also the precursor to 3D mapping. Once consensus on the legend was established, the creation of a more permanent collective 3D map was possible. When the model is finished, a scaled and geo-referenced grid is applied to facilitate the synergy of local indigenous knowledge with scientific geographical forms of knowledge production.

“A variety of mapping tools and methods were used.”

Ultimately this work motivated collective action around seed saving, seed sovereignty, rehabilitation of degraded areas, and the creation of a new association for organising the community with a unified yet nuanced identity. It opened up A woman in the Majang Zone of Ethiopia spaces for intergenerational learning, participates in sketching maps from memory, in solidarity building, and holistic and preparation for an open public discussion leading to the co-development of the map legend. See vimeo. culturally sensitive perceptions of com/22123738 for a short film. the landscape. It also strengthened the social tissue between local government, civil society and other groups who came together under a single purpose, connected through the central image of the decolonised map.

Narratives of transformations in Africa Professor Coleen Vogel, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Rhodes University, Grahamstown; Alice McClure, Co-ordinator, FRACTAL Africa is undergoing rapid change, including rampant urbanization and resource extraction, and is one of the most at-risk continents to climate variability. We can choose to respond in an incremental, piecemeal manner, or we can choose to adapt and alter the very systems that produce the vulnerabilities to the many challenges and risks we face, so enabling more radical and transformative change. Transformation seeks to challenge the structural causes of risk that lie within a system, and therefore requires a very good understanding of the ‘system’ that creates or influences environmental change, and awareness of the personal, political, psycho-cultural and practical changes that may be needed. But how might this manifest itself in an African context? One of the important processes for enabling transformation in times of climate change is learning, a process that is poorly understood, and most often associated only with formal education and schooling. However, for societies to develop newly-formed and structured social capabilities and cultures for responding proactively and reflexively to climate change, there is a need for widespread social learning. Such learning must, however, be transformative, and even be transgressive of the status quo in all sectors of society. The Future Resilience for African CiTies and Lands (FRACTAL) project operates in nine southern African cities. Social learning processes are held regularly in Maputo, Lusaka and Windhoek, bringing together stakeholders to improve understanding of

“Transformation seeks to challenge the structural causes of risk that lie within a system.”

climate-related problems and to support discussions around possible solutions; an Embedded Researcher has been appointed in each of these cities, positioned inside organisations where city-regional decisions are made. In Blantyre, Gabarone and Harare, research is focused on transferability of relevant climate knowledge. Research in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg is being carried out into various aspects of these cities’ climate-related issues. There is significant cross-city engagement and exchanges enabling learning and sharing.

The FRACTAL project and the Leading Integrated Research in Africa (LIRA2030) programme (which supports the development of integrated, solutions-oriented research to address sustainability challenges in Africa) have both opened up space for asking questions about what development means in African cities, for whom this development should be, and what pathways might be available to achieving this development. Researchers involved in this work have also had to ask hard questions about the usability of research outputs and where these outputs fit into identified development pathways. The work that stems from these questions invites people from an array of backgrounds, including science, government and civil society, to begin dealing with the challenges in an integrated manner, and often aims to break away from northern worldviews and narratives, enabling wider practices for change both now and in the future.

26 SPRING 2018

A book to treasure: reflections of a member Andrew Rosen MPhil (Edinburgh), Lifetime Member of RSGS

As an antique book collector and geographer, I really have only one book in mind as my personal greatest treasure. When people look at some of my books I will show the ones that are ‘the rarest’, ‘the most expensive’, ‘the one with the most famous author’, etc. But after all this, I show them a massive book that needs to be read at a table – no sitting up in bed reading this tome. It is 12” high, 10” wide, 2.5” thick and 7.5 lbs. It’s an early biography of the explorer of Africa (and geographer), the Scotsman David Livingstone. The title is The Life & Explorations Of Dr Livingstone, The Great Missionary Traveller, and I thought fellow members of the RSGS would relate to the subject on a number of levels. For many years I have been fascinated with the subject of African exploration and explorers like Livingstone. I first got interested in this field around 1978 while living in Edinburgh and often spending days going to the used book shops that were all over town. In those days it was easy to find many Victorian books on Africa and its explorers, and vast amounts of them were affordable to a poor student. From the moment I saw this book on a bookstore shelf I knew I had to have it. The cover is black leather with gold inlay on the front, back, spine and even around all the edge of every page. There is wood, or some sort of super-strong Victorian cardstock, on the inside of the covers, making them very hard and sturdy. The chromolithographs are all fabulous and the colouring is amazing. What also helped in my purchase decision was that, after admiring this book, I noticed that it was only £4! Even for me that wasn’t a lot of money! When I saw the price I checked other parts of the book for the real price – I couldn’t believe it was this cheap. Well, it was the correct price so I took it immediately (I seem to remember that I even got a 40p discount for some reason). Now, I can’t say for sure that I double plastic-bagged the book, held it to my chest and protected it from the wind and rain as I brought it home, but I do remember that most of the books I bought had to be carried that way because of the typical Edinburgh weather. Or maybe I just carried it that way because it became ‘my precious’. Anyway, for almost 40 years now this has been the book I am most proud to show in my collection, even though it is by no means the rarest, the most valuable, nor by the most famous author. In fact, the author is not even listed in the book. I also have two other books that, while not exact copies, share hundreds of word-for-word passages: one by John S Roberts from 1875, and another by John S Robertson from 1882. These two authors could also be the same person, and my large book can be, and has been, attributed to John S Roberts at times. A veritable plethora of books were produced about Livingstone in the decade right after it was learned that he had died while deep in Africa in 1873. My book was done in about 1874-80 and was eventually reprinted a number of different

times with different covers. At that time all the biographies of Livingstone made him out to be a saint for going to Africa, exploring it, helping natives when he could and bringing religion to them (even though he never converted anyone). This book falls into that vein, lionizing him while basically telling his story. The writing is actually very good and it’s an interesting biography that only really tells of his exploits, never delving deep into the man himself. Maybe that’s why it’s fun to read. Many years later, Livingstone biographies changed and some were very negative towards him, looking at some of the things that happened as a result of his explorations, such as Arab ‘traders’ following him into the interior, to the places he ‘opened up’, and then taking slaves. Or revealing his closeness to some of the slavers and how he accepted their help and hospitality when needed. After this, more reasonable and modern biographies came out that looked at both the good and the bad of Livingstone, the man and the explorer. Personally, I often just like to read about his exploits and this early book is perfect for that. So when you combine the absolutely beautiful look of this book, inside and out, and the excitement of reading about the exploits of David Livingstone, maybe the most famous Scottish explorer, one can see why this is my favourite book.

“From the moment I saw this book on a bookstore shelf I knew I had to have it.”


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John Bell of Antermony: C18th traveller and writer David McVey

In 1758, John Bell was living a quiet life as laird of the Antermony estate near Kirkintilloch. Then a friend, Whig grandee the Earl of Granville, suggested that he should write a book about his adventures during his early life. For Bell had served as a physician at the court of Peter the Great in St Petersburg, and had travelled on Russian embassies and expeditions abroad, as well as on a British diplomatic mission to Constantinople. Travels from St Petersburg in Russia to Diverse Parts of Asia appeared in 1763 and became a travel writing sensation. Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson and Edward Gibbon all recommended it and Gibbon described Bell as “that honest and intelligent traveller.” He was the Michael Palin or Paul Theroux of his time, yet few today have heard of him.

In the Travels, Bell described his approach to travel-writing: “it is the business of a traveller to describe places and things without prejudice or partiality and exhibit them fairly, as they really appear.” Bell gives every appearance in the book of remaining true to this aim, recording his observations simply and non-judgementally. For example, he notes how “the Chinese handle the two ivory or wooden pins which they use instead of forks with such dexterity.” Bell the man does discreetly intrude onto the page here and there. When local people in Siberia organise a hunt in honour of the embassy to China, Bell coolly remarks, “if killing harmless animals can be called diversion, this may properly be reckoned one of the finest.” Odd, perhaps, for someone who would soon own a shooting estate in the Campsies.

John Bell was born in 1691, studied medicine at Glasgow University, and left Scotland for Russia in 1714. Bell’s father was a minister who had been removed from his parish for Jacobite sympathies, but this connection probably helped young Bell. A Scotsman, Robert Erskine, was then Peter the Great’s physician and was a known Jacobite; his cousin was John Erskine, Earl of Mar, who would lead the 1715 rising. Erskine welcomed Bell to the capital and gave him many introductions.

The only other record Bell left is a 40-page handwritten document (in the National Library of Scotland) known as Sundry Anecdotes of Peter the First. Here, Bell records his experiences and impressions of the great Czar, usually favourable: Bell was perhaps at his least objective on the subject of his benefactor. This document has never been published in full but is still regularly quoted, most recently by Jonathan Miles in his St Petersburg: Three Centuries of Murderous Desire.

In 1715, Bell was appointed as physician on a Russian embassy to Ispahan in Persia. The embassy lasted for three years. In 1719 Bell set out on another embassy, this time to the Chinese capital of Peking. Soon after his return in 1722 he accompanied Peter and his army on a sabre-rattling expedition to the Caspian city of Derbent.

If the Travels and Sundry Anecdotes are still known to scholars, Bell is little known to general readers. Yet the Travels was a great success, and in 1817 the Quarterly Review described it as “the best model perhaps for travel-writing in the English language.” For many years the book was out of print but Edinburgh University Press republished the Chinese section of Bell’s book in 1965, edited by JL Stevenson; this is widely available in libraries and second-hand bookshops and is perhaps the best available introduction to Bell.

“He was the Michael Palin or Paul Theroux of his time.”

Bell returned to Scotland for some years during which period, in 1725, Peter the Great died, but he was back in Russia by 1734, working for the splendidly-named Claudius Rondeau, British minister in St Petersburg. In 1737 Bell travelled to Constantinople on a mission related to Britain’s role as a neutral broker in attempts to end Russia’s war with Turkey. To be so trusted, Bell must have lost all taint of his Jacobite connections. When Rondeau died in 1739, Bell effectively took over his post until his replacement arrived. Bell later worked as a merchant in Constantinople where he married a Russian woman named Marie Peters. The couple returned to Antermony in 1746, by which time Bell was 55 and laird of Antermony.

Bell lived until the age of 89, dying in 1780. He is buried in the kirkyard at Clachan of Campsie alongside his wife, who died in 1802. Antermony House was demolished in 1926 and there is now a modern building on the site. Bell could have no more appropriate epitaph than this, from his own pen in the Travels: “I had from my early youth a strong inclination to visit the eastern parts of the world; and providence afforded me an opportunity, far beyond my expectations, of gratifying my curiosity in the most ample manner.”

28 SPRING 2018

Integrated social subjects Elaine Batty, Past President, Scottish Association of Geography Teachers (SAGT)

In recent years, with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, a number of changes have occurred in secondary schools, not only in senior years (now predominantly S4-S6) but in the early years, S1-S3, known as BGE (Broad General Education). One of the changes slowly creeping into many secondary schools, predominantly in local authority schools, has been the teaching of integrated social subjects in S1 and often S2 also. This can take many guises: teaching in ‘themes’ taught by specialised teachers with input from all social studies subjects (eg, Scotland, mining, trade, Europe, local studies, terrorism) or each subject taught by one teacher in the faculty with that teacher seeing only one or two classes and teaching two or three subjects. Some schools label the subjects Geography, History, Modern Studies, and other schools use their BGE titles: People, Place and Environment; People, Past Events and Societies; People in Society, Economy and Business. Other schools simply use the title Social Studies.

•L ower school topics have had to be changed to allow nonspecialist teachers to cope with the content, for example diluting the more scientific elements of the course, despite a societal desire for greater scientific literacy. Even then, many teachers deliberately skip sections in which they are not confident, such as latitude and grid references. •A vicious cycle has now started where uptake for Geography is lower, therefore fewer teachers are needed to teach Geography. With fewer teachers of Geography, more pupils are being taught by non-specialist teachers and are therefore losing out on important skills development and experiences. •N either pupils nor teachers have been adequately supported when changing to integrated social subjects. Because it has been in part driven by cost cutting, the change has not been resourced.

“The more that specialisms are overlooked or diminished, the fewer teachers schools need to employ.”

The premise of this began with sound educational arguments, particularly the fact that teachers see only one class per year, allowing them to get to know pupils well and build strong relationships. It means there is only one set of reports and parents’ night appointments, and cuts down on the number of teachers that younger pupils see each week. There is a lot of evidence to say that you can deepen learning with well-planned and welltaught integrated subject knowledge. But this is not always the case, and the pressure to move to integrated subjects is not wholly driven by educational outcomes, but is more often than not motivated by reduced staffing costs. If the teaching of integrated social subjects is to be successful it has to be delivered well, with knowledgeable enthusiastic teachers. Many Geography teachers, who are members of SAGT, have strong views against this blending of subjects. Arguments against include:

•T he quality of pupils’ education is suffering without having a subject specialist in S1 and S2. •P upils find it hard to recognise the difference between the social subjects. •P upils come into S3 with hugely inconsistent experiences of geography depending on their teacher and their level of expertise and confidence, and widely varying ability on things like map skills. •N on-specialist staff are not confident teaching other subjects and have not been given time or training to help with this. For example, in some faculties Religious and Moral Education, History, and Modern Studies teachers are expected to teach scientific and physical geography content without any training or assistance. •T he uptake for Geography has suffered as, like any subject, it benefits from passionate and knowledgeable teachers. •T he vast majority of pupils who pick Geography in S3 had a Geography teacher in S2. Pupils taught by non-geographers rarely pick the subject.

It is a huge amount to ask of any non-specialist teacher, to suitably teach and enthuse pupils about a complex specialist subject area. But the more that specialisms are overlooked or diminished, the fewer teachers schools need to employ. The risk is that this greatly reduces the pupils’ learning experience, by offering poorer quality teaching, avoiding some of the more complex but fulfilling and fun elements of a course, and can lead to an over-reliance on book-based learning.

It is important that changes in education are primarily focused on improving teaching and learning and such changes give pupils an enjoyable and positive experience, widening their horizons, rather than limiting them. Changes should be well planned and supported rather than being ‘budget driven’ or rushed through, and we need to see a wider appreciation for the talents of knowledgeable enthusiastic subject specialists.


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The Geographical Association: 125 years old Kenny Maclean FRSGS

The Geographical Association (GA) describes itself as “the leading association for all teachers of geography,” aiming to “further geographical knowledge and understanding through education” from its headquarters in Sheffield and through its extensive network of 44 branches. The Association began on 20th May 1893, in the Common Room of Christ Church, Oxford University. Present at the meeting were Halford John Mackinder, Reader in Geography at Oxford, and ten public schoolmasters, of whom a key figure was B Bentham Dickinson of Rugby School. At a time when geography teaching emphasised little more than ‘capes and bays’, and satisfactory textbooks were scarce, Dickinson was a keen advocate of modern methods, especially the use of lantern projectors. Well aware of the time-consuming work involved in producing lantern slides, he suggested a swapping scheme between like-minded teachers. His proposal was circulated between Mackinder and the Royal Geographical Society, whose members included protagonists of the ‘New Geography’ for schools, notably RGS Secretary Douglas Freshfield and Caithness-born RGS Librarian Dr Hugh Robert Mill. Seven months later, the GA was active, with a membership of 50, Mill as Chairman and Dickinson as Secretary. By 1900, the GA was well underway, especially with membership open to all schools regardless of age, sex or type. Links between the GA, the RSGS and Scotland were significant: as well as Mill, other eminent Scots contributed to the effective organisation of the Association during its formative years. Committee members included Francis G Ogilvie, George G Chisholm, and especially Andrew J Herbertson, who served as Honorary Secretary for 15 years from 1900, initiated in 1901 the Association’s periodical, The Geographical Teacher (renamed Geography in 1927), and acted as Honorary Editor until his death in 1915. For enthusiastic geography teachers, this journal was a must. Its pages offered articles on new teaching methods and fieldwork techniques; advertised summer schools, including those developed on lines initiated by Patrick Geddes; introduced new classroom technologies, such as the laboursaving ‘60 maps per minute mapograph’; and could spoil teachers for choice with a wide range of promotional material for slides, textbooks, wall maps and atlases. Judicious use of articles such as Sir John Russell’s 1924 piece on A ThreeThousand Mile Journey up the Nile, replete with colourful anthropological detail about Upper-Nile nomadic herders, such as the Dinka, doubtless enlivened lessons, reading passages such as: “The cow dung is carefully spread out to dry by the women, whilst the liquid as it is excreted is used for washing the head, thereby giving the hair a curious tawny colour.”

“Links between the GA, the RSGS and Scotland were significant.”

Also revealed in the journal was the growth of GA branches. Glasgow, in 1934, was the first Scottish branch, followed by Edinburgh, Dunfermline and St Andrews. Perhaps the tardy Scottish response reflected separate examination systems, and the specific educational role of the RSGS, especially with its promotion of the Association of Scottish Teachers

of Geography (ASTG). Established in 1912 to secure the examination status of geography, the work of the ASTG paralleled that of the GA, but was short on membership and short-lived, and disbanded in 1917, “obliged to suspend its activities owing to the war.” Joint membership was encouraged by the RSGS and the GA, offering teachers and students reduced subscription fees and access to each other’s libraries. Such co-operation characterised the relationship. Indeed, the creation in 1937 of the GA’s Edinburgh branch resulted from a partnership between the two organisations, doubtless encouraged by the noted geologist Sir Thomas Holland, Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh University and President of the GA in 1938. The opening address, Our ignorance of Scotland, with some suggestions, was by Professor Alan G Ogilvie, who that same year had delivered the annual Herbertson Memorial Lecture on The Relations of Geography and Geology to the GA conference at Newcastle. The RSGS collections include tangible reminders of the GA’s work: sample lantern slides and map extracts used at Marlborough College, one of the original founder schools, and illustrative of teaching practice discussed by teachers such as CC Carter; and slides by Patrick Bailey, senior lecturer in geographical education at Leicester University, that remind us of his long-held interest in Orkney and his skill at landscape sketching. Over the years, many Scottish geography teachers have been members not only of RSGS and SAGT, but also of the GA, taking full advantage of its wide range of publications, including Teaching Geography and Primary Geography, as well as Geography; not to mention entering their departments for the GA’s Worldwise Quiz. For those teachers, the GA serves as a valuable and innovative comparator; one that deserves full credit for its enduring role in advancing geographical education in the past 125 years.

Two slides from the early archives of the Geographical Association used to promote the use of lantern slides, from Balchin (1993). © Geographical Association


Balchin WGV (1993) The Geographical Association: The First Hundred Years 1893-1993 Ogilvie Professor Alan G (1938) Our ignorance of Scotland, with some suggestions (Scottish Geographical Magazine, 53) Ogilvie Professor Alan G (1938) The Relations of Geography and Geology (Geography, 22)

30 SPRING 2018

Action oriented transformation research Hilary Bradbury PhD, CEO, Action Research Plus

Have you ever considered that the conventional operating assumption about knowledge may be preventing us from producing the kinds of transformation we need? Knowledge, if we think about it at all, is often facts and figures that ‘objectively’ describe external reality. In action oriented transformation research, however, a key operating assumption is that knowledge creation produces the world we want. Fresh approaches to knowledge creation make for a world of difference. The times demand it.

transformation a social learning process in which stakeholders of an institution get to realize that they make up the system and therefore have the power to remake that system together. Trust dynamics built over time. Framed as transformative knowledge creation, these efforts continue to (1) improve patient experiences and health, (2) reduce healthcare costs, (3) improve the work life of those who deliver care, and (4) bring healthcare providers into circumstances that allow for continuous learning together with patients.

Svante Lifvergren MD first encountered this approach around 2000 and began to listen differently to his patients during their followup emergency room visits. At that time, as with most healthcare systems in industrialized nations today, Swedes were only familiar with a clinic-based system, designed around physicians. One day Lars, a patient who suffered the anxiety of shortness of breath associated with pulmonary disease (COPD), posed a question. It was so simple a question, but by 2018 it had provoked a transformation of Swedish healthcare: “Isn’t it remarkable,” said Lars, “although we have a hospital, and a local doctor and nurse, it is somehow very difficult! We still have to call the ambulance. Then we spend hour after hour in the emergency ward. Why don’t you help us more quickly? Before things get worse?”

Action oriented transformation research requires cycles of inquiry and practice. For action researchers, the practice/inquiry combination at the heart of the work aims at making a situation better with others by responding to a need for development or change. Often, this learning-for-change results in the creation of an entirely new inclusive and participatory system. More often though, smaller improvements build over time as they proliferate in the related social network. Thus we muddle through to a better world.

“A key operating assumption is that knowledge creation produces the world we want.”

For Svante, it was evident that meaningful transformation must mean improvements would be felt in the daily life of the patient. In a clinic- and physician-centric system this was quite the bracing insight. All stakeholders in the complex care system – patients, physicians, healthcare team co-workers, as well as managers in the communities, the primary care centres, and the hospitals – would have to collaborate. Taking this approach meant seeing the patients as the central ‘attractor’ in a system of stakeholders, and inviting all stakeholders to find opportunities for making the patients’ experience better. As trust in the process built, formal ‘learning platforms’ convened in which stakeholders could share experience, understand one another, and co-ordinate action in a project that cumulatively allowed for continuous improvement. This learning process led to having mobile healthcare teams visit patients in distress in their homes. Action oriented transformative research was found to be a powerful pathway to changes that made the development of integrated mobile (‘meeting the patients where they are’) care models first possible in the western region of Sweden from which they are now spreading to all of Sweden. Key indicators of success include an 80% reduction in emergency visits, a 90% reduction in office visits, as well as a reduction in hospital days by around 90%. These reductions pay for the mobile units. Other assessments have shown significantly improved quality of life, as well as relief of troublesome symptoms among the patients. Lars, the patient whose question instigated the proverbial butterfly effect, was able to experience this transformation before he died: “I went in and out of the hospital for three years – it was really dreadful. But now the mobile team comes to me and supports me at home – it is deluxe care.” Including the patients in the redesign itself made the

Action Research Plus (AR+) is a global virtual community for participatory action researchers ‘accomplishing more good together’. AR+ Associates’ recent book, Cooking with Action Research: Stories of Self and Community Transformation, shares the Swedish case by Svante Lifvergren and Danielle Zandee, along with other cases from the domains of participative education, international development and management. It is available from actionresearchplus. com/action-research-book by donation.


Fazey Ioan, et al (2017) Ten essentials for action-oriented and second order energy transitions, transformations and climate change research ( article/pii/S2214629617304413)


31 Geographer14-


Financing change Mark Halle

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 169 targets, the notion of transformation has come into its own. Everywhere, the talk is about how incremental change, business as usual, and ‘more of the same’ will not take us to our chosen destination – how instead we need transformative change, or change that leads at the end of the process to a situation that is different in its fundamentals to the situation at the starting point. It is a word born out of frustration – at decades of goals and targets that were not met and often not even approached, at promises that were left unfulfilled, at indicators leaving us red-faced with embarrassment. ‘Transformation’ sounds resolute, determined, dynamic. But do we really understand what it actually means? Take finance. We know that fully achieving the SDG targets by 2030 will require the investment of $3 to $7 trillion, annually. We know that public funding, through direct public investment, development finance and development assistance, will not, even in the most optimistic scenarios, muster more than a tiny fraction of that sum. It can only come from private capital. But the vast bulk of private capital is profit-seeking, and while a good conscience may divert a trickle, only the alignment of investor interest with the SDGs will ‘transform’ investment flows. The incremental approach would be to accelerate the existing trend towards responsible investment, to promote the uptake of environmental, social and governance standards

by corporations, and to push for greater transparency and disclosure on investment and its impacts. But here again, the results within the SDG timeframe are almost certainly going to be too little, too late. Even a doubling of the amount of money invested against sustainable criteria would leave the vast bulk of investment continuing to serve as a fatal drag on the momentum towards sustainable development that we need to build. So while the rapidly growing interest in sustainable finance is welcome and encouraging, we will only reach our 2030 targets if we focus on the funds currently being invested against classical guidelines and on how radically to shift the present reality. Happily, this is now happening in all parts of the world. A quiet revolution is underway that holds the potential to be genuinely transformative. Attention to green finance has now reached every level of the financial community, from central banks and other market regulators, through banking institutions, investors, stock exchanges, bond markets, insurances and pension funds, to emerging peer-to-peer funding platforms. It animates standard-setting and inspires designers of digital financial technology. The force of the innovative élan is remarkable. Why is it heading towards the transformational? Because it addresses not the fund flows in and of themselves, but instead the rules that govern financial and capital markets. It is having the effect of changing the rules of the game that determine how, and towards what, large bulks of capital flow. Four short examples will serve. • Markets for Green Bonds have increased by an order of magnitude in only five years, from $15 billion in 2013 to $155 billion in 2017, and there is no reason to believe this pace will flag. • A law in Brazil renders investors liable for any damage done by projects they finance. This has the effect of massively increasing the evaluation of environmental risk. It is the undervaluing of this risk that has allowed so much investment in destructive projects. • Eight of the world’s major insurance companies have declared that they would no longer cover fishing fleets that tolerate illegal or unreported fish catch, an initiative susceptible of very widespread applicability. • Pension funds are divesting from fossil fuel assets at a rate that could lead to the rapid ‘stranding’ of, at first, coal assets, but later those linked to oil and gas as well. Many, many more examples could be offered to illustrate this trend. Suffice it to say that there is encouraging movement on all fronts, and the movement is accelerating. And whereas it would be exaggerated to claim that it stems from a desire to meet the SDG commitments, it derives from the same source that generated the political will to adopt them: a sense that only transformative change can deliver.

“A quiet revolution is underway that holds the potential to be genuinely transformative.”

32 SPRING 2018

A collaboration to save ourselves from CO2 Russ Gaskin, CoCreative

In October 2017, my firm, CoCreative, in partnership with the Center for Sustainability Solutions, convened a global group of leaders from food brands, the farming community, NGOs and philanthropic organizations, in Denver, Colorado to map an ambitious plan to save the world from CO2. After just one hour of debate, the diverse group agreed on a shared goal of leveraging the power of agriculture to return atmospheric carbon to below 280ppm by 2050. Over the following day and a half the group, now operating as the Carbon Farming Network (CFN), quickly devised six strategic initiatives to quickly draw greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from the atmosphere at a large scale.

“The diverse group agreed on a shared goal of leveraging the power of agriculture to return atmospheric carbon to below 280ppm by 2050.”

The group worked with such intense urgency because recent findings have provided the most compelling case yet for driving rapid responses to the climate crises. Just one month prior to CFN’s convening, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, and Yangyang Xu of Texas A&M University, had published a brief summary of their newly-completed climate modelling scenarios in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Amidst the authors’ dense technical analysis are stark probabilities: a 5% chance of catastrophic change by 2050, and a smaller but statistically significant chance of human extinction within the same period.

In that same report, Ramanathan and Xu also outline three key levers that must be pulled to avoid entering a dangerous scenario: a carbon neutral lever to bring net emissions of CO2 to zero, a super pollutant lever to limit emissions of short-lived but high-impact climate pollutants, and a carbon extraction and sequestration lever to draw down atmospheric CO2. That third lever, the focus of CFN’s work, calls for the extraction of nearly one trillion tons of CO2 before 2100 to bend the curve on global warming and cool the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the sequestration aspect of the necessary response to climate change is poorly understood, even among leaders in climate change response planning. A majority of climate-related initiatives of governments, businesses, banks, and major NGOs focus almost exclusively on emissions reduction strategies. Yet energy or transportation solutions for CO2 emissions reduction can actually remove CO2 or other GHGs from the atmosphere. Only agriculture currently offers a viable sequestration solution. As Paul Hawken, lead author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, explains, “You can’t achieve drawdown unless you sequester carbon, but right now the only way we know how to do it in a reliable way is photosynthesis.” Indeed, of the 20 top strategies outlined by Project Drawdown to achieve reversal of global climate change, only five strategies are related to the production and use of energy, but eight are related to production and consumption of food. The Drawdown team

identifies seven action areas in the food production system that can draw down 125 gigatons of CO2 within 30 years, including Silvopasture, Regenerative Agriculture, Tropical Staple Tree Crops, Conservation Agriculture, Tree Intercropping, and Managed Grazing.

While agriculture’s role in reversing global climate change is critical to avoiding worst-case scenarios for our species, CFN’s work is daunting. How does a network of actors engage millions of farmers, food companies, and other key actors across diverse cultures, food categories, and geographies to put gigatons of CO2 back into the ground? To address those challenges, CFN is simultaneously advancing seven key initiatives, among which are: Rewarding Farmers for Ecosystem Services: assessing programmes from across the globe that compensate farmers for providing CO2 sequestration services, to create a menu of programmes optimized for various economic and cultural contexts. Expanding a Local-to-Scale Strategy: breaking ground on a local, climate-positive food production hub in Richmond, California in spring 2018 that will provide most San Francisco-area hospital patients with climate-positive organic food grown within 200 miles of the city’s downtown. Launching a Scale Project Accelerator: for over a dozen potential projects in areas where the most intensive carbon sequestration can occur on pasture, cropland, and multi-use farms across the US, Canada and Africa, providing the technical and financing expertise and the needed industry connections to accelerate the projects off the drawing board and into development within one year. The group’s mantra? “Speed and scale,” says Alisa Gravitz of the Center for Sustainability Solutions at Green America. “Every CFN initiative has to pass two simple litmus tests: will it sequester large amounts of carbon across millions of acres, and can it do that fast?” Given how quickly the group has moved in only four months of work, we’re optimistic that we’ll see gigatons of CO2 back in the ground in just the coming two years.


33 Geographer14-


Wangari Maathai: transforming Africa’s green belt Jo Woolf, RSGS Writer-in-Residence

“You cannot enslave a mind that knows itself, that values itself, that understands itself.” Wangari Maathai was born in 1940 in the village of Ihithe in the Nyeri District of Kenya. Growing up amid a loving family with a strong connection to the land, she belonged to the last generation of Kikuyu people who would remember their native country as it had always been. Every day she would fetch water from a clear-running stream, and beneath the branches of an ancient fig tree she would sit idly watching the rain. Deep in the forest she felt safe and blessed, a child in her own element. It was a time she would never forget, a precious memory which offered comfort and inspiration in the dark years to come.

Nairobi, and was an active member of the National Council of Women of Kenya. Most importantly, she was ready to fight for the rights of her people. “I found myself not just a woman wanting to plant trees to provide food and firewood. I found myself a woman fighting for justice, a woman fighting for equality. I started planting trees and found myself in the forefront of fighting for the restoration of democracy in my country.” During her political career, Wangari survived death threats and serious physical attacks; successive Kenyan governments had been built on the principles of suppression and aggression, and Wangari’s message of freedom lit a dangerous fuse. She held fast to her beliefs, while the Green Belt Movement continued to flourish. In Kenya’s parliament she served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, and in partnership with the University of Nairobi she founded the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

“Wangari’s most touching legacy is the transformation she has brought to the lives of Kenyan people.”

The desecration of Kenya’s landscape had started decades before Wangari was even born. The ‘Scramble for Africa’ had seen the arrival of European colonists whose focus was on clearing vegetation to make way for tea and coffee plantations. If they considered the African population at all, it was as a means to an end, a useful source of labour; Wangari’s family, like countless others, found themselves displaced and divided, their social structure deliberately fractured and their heritage disregarded. Wangari herself was one of the lucky ones. With her humble background she was fortunate to be educated at a nearby convent, and in 1960 she was one of around 600 African students who were offered an opportunity to study in American universities. Six years later, with a Master’s degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh, she returned to Kenya, brimming with pride and excitement; but the country that greeted her was vastly different from the homeland she remembered. Around Wangari’s village, entire forests had been cleared and the rivers were choked with eroded soil. Desperate for firewood, families were turning to processed foods that required less cooking over an open fire. Their health, both mental and physical, was deteriorating. Wangari was deeply shocked, but she believed she could see a solution.

She began by encouraging the women of her community to collect the seeds of native trees and plant them. In this way, she reasoned, the natural habitat of the Kenyan highlands could gradually be restored. She offered a small financial reward for each seedling that survived, and, thankful for something positive to do, the women responded wholeheartedly. Soon Wangari was travelling around the country to meet villagers who had set up tree nurseries; she would sing and laugh with them, offering advice and support. She was finding her own voice in a country that was governed by fear. Wangari’s idea, which she called the Green Belt Movement, gained so much impetus that it began to have wider implications. Its success catapulted Wangari into the corrupt world of Kenyan politics, but by that time she was ready for the challenge. She was, after all, uniquely prepared: during her wide-ranging education she had witnessed people, regardless of their skin colour, standing up for what they believed in. She held an influential post at the University of

Wangari’s most touching legacy, however, is the transformation she has brought to the lives of Kenyan people. Villagers now stand confident and smiling, proud of the wellbeing of their families, their health and livelihoods restored. Their kinship with the land is deeply felt. This is where Wangari’s spirit lives on. Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) was awarded the RSGS Livingstone Medal in 2007. FURTHER INFORMATION

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai (TV documentary, via YouTube watch?v=XazNhaKiPRk)


34 SPRING 2018

Doughnut Economics Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist Kate Raworth (Cornerstone, February 2018) Remorseless financial crises. Extreme inequalities in wealth. Relentless pressure on the environment. Anyone can see that our economic system is broken. But can it be fixed? Oxford academic Kate Raworth identifies the seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray – from selling us the myth of ‘rational economic man’ to obsessing over growth at all costs – and offers instead an alternative roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet. Ambitious, radical and thoughtful, she offers a new, cutting-edge economic model fit for the challenges of the 21st century.

Drawdown The Most Comprehensive Plan

Periglacial Geomorphology

Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Professor Colin K Ballantyne (Wiley-Blackwell, December 2017)

For the first time, an international coalition of leading researchers, scientists and policymakers has come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. All of the techniques described here – some well-known, some you may have never heard of – are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are already enacting them. From revolutionizing how we produce and consume food to educating girls in lower-income countries, these are all solutions which, if deployed collectively on a global scale over the next 30 years, could not just slow the Earth’s warming, but reach drawdown: the point when greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere peak and begin to decline.

This book presents a comprehensive introduction to the processes that operate in present periglacial environments and discusses the inferences that can be drawn about former periglacial environments from those processes. Organized into six parts, it opens with the historical and scientific context of periglacial geomorphology and the nature of periglacial environments. Following chapters provide systematic coverage of the full range of topics germane to a thorough understanding of periglacial geomorphology. An important resource, it will be of use to all scientists whose research involves an understanding of cold environments.

The Growth Delusion


The Wealth and Well-Being of Nations

A Brief History of Humankind

David Pilling (Bloomsbury Publishing, January 2018)

Dr Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage, April 2015)

Our policies are geared relentlessly towards increasing our standard measure of growth, Gross Domestic Product. By this yardstick we have never been wealthier or happier. Prize-winning journalist Pilling argues that we need to measure our successes and failures using different criteria. While for economic growth, heroin consumption and prostitution are worth more than volunteer work or public services, in a rational world we would learn how to value what makes economies better, not just what makes them bigger. So much of what is important to our well-being, from clean air to safe streets and from steady jobs to sound minds, lies outside the purview of our standard measure of success. We prioritise growth maximisation without stopping to think about the costs.

Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it. We are the most advanced and most destructive animals ever to have lived. What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us sapiens? Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where we’re going. It is a thrilling account of humankind’s extraordinary history – from the Stone Age to the Silicon Age – and our journey from insignificant apes to rulers of the world. This book has been popular with leaders the world over, and will challenge how you think about our species.

Reader Offer - 25% discount There’s Always the Hills

Offer ends 31st May 2018

Cameron McNeish (Sandstone Press, February 2018) From his home in the Cairngorms of Scotland, Cameron McNeish, Honorary Fellow of the RSGS, reflects on a life dedicated to the outdoors. Following an earlier career as an international long jump athlete, he has for over 40 years written and made television programmes about walking and climbing in Scotland. There’s Always the Hills is the story of one man’s love affair with the world’s wild places. McNeish candidly recalls the ups and downs of a full life, much of it in the public eye, much of it until now unseen.

Readers of The Geographer can purchase There’s Always the Hills for only £14.99 (RRP £19.99). To order, please visit and enter code ‘TATHGEO18’ at the checkout.

RSGS: a better way to see the world Phone 01738 455050 or visit to join the RSGS. Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU Charity SC015599

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edited by Paul Hawken (Penguin, February 2018)