Geography challenges Thinking about a discipline Peter Wilde 9

Friday Forum,
School of Geography and Environmental Studies
‘Journey towards knowledge’
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of ideas and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness.
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Geography challenges
Thinking about a discipline
Peter Wilde
9 August 2013
Today we stand in footsteps
millennia old.
May we acknowledge the
traditional owners
whose cultures and customs
have nurtured,
and continue to nurture, this
since men and women awoke
from the great dream.
We honour the presence of
these ancestors who reside in
the imagination of this land
and whose irrepressible
spirituality flows through all
Jonathon Hill
My journey towards an
understanding of geography
Where my journey has led – so far
The 1960s
Classical regional geography
Integrated teaching about human
and physical features in space
Layered English landscapes:
Midlands fields
Transport in Birmingham
Canal 1770
Brewing 1754-1900
West Midlands iron industry around 1850
Iron works – note proximity to canals
My home town - Oldham
The early 1970s
Positivist quantitative
physical and human geography
Christaller’s concept of regions
More recent physical geography
Ever more quantitative
Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA):
A (basic) primer
• A simple view as
– Earth rotational feedbacks
– Gravitational feedbacks
– -> Global feedbacks
• Modelling critically requires
– Time-steps of spatial distribution of
ice mass
– Knowledge of how Earth responds
to loading: (3d) Earth structure
(notably, lithospheric thickness,
lower & upper mantle viscosity)
Spatial aspects of physical processes
Gravity and rebound
- - - - - - Before ice melt
_____ After ice melt
Courtesy of Matt King
Geography matters!
(Courtesy of Matt King)
Greenland mass loss equiv to
1mm/yr global sea level rise
West Antarctic mass loss equiv to
1mm/yr global sea level rise
• Pacific islands feel the brunt, regardless
• Northern Europe feels less than average due to Greenland melt!
More recent human geography
Post-positive approaches
Ever more sub-disciplines
Peet’s view of the growth of sub-disciplines in human geography
Malpas quoting Jessop on the churning
Contemporary discourse in relation to space,
both within geography and more generally, has been
characterized by ``an unreflexive `churning' of spatial
turns, leading to short intellectual product cycles for key
socio-spatial concepts, limiting opportunities for learning
through theoretical debate, empirical analysis, and critical
evaluation of such concepts''
(Jessop et al, 2008, p 389-401, quoted in Malpas 2012 p 229).
Geography challenges!
The course of the good ship UTAS
Why keep this discipline?
• Geography is confused at the centre and
open at the boundaries
• Geography opens a world to other
• Geography is atomised among subdisciplines
• Specialisation is more productive than
• Other disciplines study place and space
I know we’re in there somewhere!
Centre for Environment
Provide solutions for real-world environmental problems.
Be guided by end-users in setting priorities.
Support interdisciplinary research, including science, humanities,
government and law
Australian Environmental History (HTA271)
Explores the interaction between human beings and the
natural environment in Australian history.
The unit first examines the Aboriginal relationship to the flora
and fauna of the continent and then reviews the impact of
European settlement on the land and native animals until the
It assesses the effects of agriculture, pastoralism, mining,
forestry and introduced animals, and of pollution arising from
urbanisation and industry.
It traces the rise of an environmental consciousness with the
establishment of national parks and nature reserves, the
development of ideas about wilderness, conservation, and
preservation, and the emergence of the green movement.
The new national school curriculum
• Geography builds a broad and holistic understanding of
the world by integrating knowledge from the natural
sciences, social sciences and humanities.
• Geography develops students’ curiosity and wonder about
the world.
• Geography explores the places that make up our world,
and investigates the effects of location and distance on the
characteristics of places, the interconnections between
places, and the management of place and space.
• Geographical skills include fieldwork in human and physical
studies, and interpreting and mapping spatial distributions
• Field and computer-based technologies are fundamental
to geographical study.
• This knowledge and skills can be applied in everyday life
and to a variety of careers.
Re-forming and re-presenting geography
Saying goodbye!
We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
…the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple tree
Not known because not looked for…
T.S.Eliot ‘Little Gidding’

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