Theses - Geography

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  • ItemControlled Access
    The emergence of landscape urbanism in London: a critical landscape analysis of urban nature under the Anthropocene
    Platt, Ben
    This thesis explores the complexities and tensions between the contemporary profusion of ecological design rhetoric and the contested histories of material urban landscapes. A specific set of ecological ideas underpin the field of ‘landscape urbanism’: an approach to urban design associated with a group of designers emerging from the University of Philadelphia in the 1990’s, and more recently the Harvard Graduate Design School (GSD). Making claims towards self- emergent systems, processes, networks, grids, and matrices, landscape urbanism tries to dissolve any ontological distinction between landscape, urban ecology, and infrastructure. This thesis looks to unsettle this claim by developing a ‘critical landscape perspective,’ and four subsequent typologies of landscape––topology, topography, wilderness, and playfulness––to foreground the inherent and often playful duplicity, tension, and complexity of urban landscapes. It employs an investigative aesthetics method–– ncluding walking urban transects, interviews with ecologists, designers, and artists, aesthetic analysis, and archival work––along the River Lea, London, focusing on sites such as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Royal Docks. I engage closely with material urban landscapes to foreground how landscape urbanism mobilizes managerialist and technical renderings of ecology which exists in tension with site- specific, material landscape histories and imaginations. I suggest that this designerly imposition is inseparable from a broader ecological constructivism under the so-called Anthropocene which demands to be situated under the political remit of human intentionality. Highlighting the tensions that exist between and within the curation of atmospheres and processual forms, my thesis will show that landscape remains a mode of ordering and staging space via the use of perspective and affective atmospheres. By re-engaging with the intricate intellectual history of landscape within cultural geography, and contemporary explorations of aesthetic and affective tension and complexity, I conclude by suggesting that landscape must be reasserted as a mode of critical urban analysis; a heuristic lens uniquely capable of capturing tensions between scale, temporality, and power so pressing in the contemporary moment
  • ItemEmbargo
    Narrating Cetacean Conservation: Gray Whale Migration, Histories, and Justice on the North American Pacific Coast
    Guasco, Anna; Guasco, Anna [0000-0003-1659-9057]
    This dissertation analyses histories, memories, stories, and issues of environmental justice circulating around the migration and conservation of Eastern North Pacific gray whales (*Eschrichtius robustus*). Following the pathway of the whales’ migration along the North American Pacific Coast, each chapter of the dissertation focuses on a significant site of gray whale narration. The first substantive chapter examines gray whales’ heritage as ‘Mexican by birth’ in relation to broader topics of tourism, touch, affect, and entanglement in the lagoons of Baja California Sur, Mexico. The next chapter moves to the California coast to examine critically historical encounters with gray whales as ‘devil-fish’ and ‘friendly whales’ (circa 1840 to 1970). The third substantive chapter focuses on scientific and management controversies around a sub-group of gray whales in the Pacific Northwest in relation to Indigenous whale hunting and the politics of ecological residency. The final substantive chapter takes place within and beyond the Arctic, examining how gray whale-human futures are anticipated and narrated in the context of climate change and the Anthropocene(s). Each chapter draws on a wide range of literatures, including: more-than-human geography, historical and cultural geography, environmental history, blue humanities, affect studies, mobility studies, memory studies, history of science, political ecology, conservation social science, anticolonial theory, environmental justice, ecocriticism, and narratology. Through these multimethod interdisciplinary analyses, the dissertation assesses how gray whale histories and contemporary encounters are narrated in different places throughout the whales’ migration and in different historical moments. The dissertation argues that these narrative processes have both discursive and material ramifications for broader issues of knowledge production, cetacean conservation and management, coastal environmental justice, and more-than-human relationships.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Reforming the state from within: public servants and knowledge transfer in post-2008 Ecuador
    Gordon, Ellen
    This thesis examines how public servants have experienced rapid state reform in Ecuador since the country’s 2008 Constitution which signalled unprecedented, radical change for the state. It traces how plans for transforming by educating public servants were delivered through the Institute of Higher National Studies (IAEN), a state university offering postgraduate courses for bureaucrats. Its students are state workers in diverse roles across the country. This entry point serves to characterise the state reform from an everyday perspective with a broad geographical reach, but also from the particular historical positioning of the IAEN within the Ecuadorian state. This research moves beyond government narratives of transformation to excavate what public servants perceive has changed since 2008. The thesis makes contributions to the field(s) of political geography and anthropology of the state, as well as intervening in debate on state reform in Latin America and beyond. It foregrounds the everyday experience of working in the state, rather than measuring public servants’ accounts and interpretations of the reform against the transformation promised by the government post-2008. It sheds light on the potential challenges to state reform, highlighting how institutions defy state rationality, even when deeply implicated in national development projects. It argues that public servants are co-constructors of state knowledge. However, although they create the state, they also submit to the hierarchies they are implicated in as employees and citizens. This thesis demonstrates that reform lands unevenly in ways which bring long-standing spatial hierarchies and forms of structural violence, which were directly addressed in the 2008 Constitution, to the surface. It highlights that whilst attempts to change the state-civil society dynamic have penetrated the common sense about working in the state, legacies of colonialism, specific historical geographies of the state, and cynicism regarding the post-2008 reforms present serious challenges. It does this drawing on interviews, observation, and documentary research to outline the major themes that characterise public servants’ experiences of work in the state. This approach pieces together local-level, national, and disaggregated understandings of the state, and the overlapping roles played by public servants. This thesis is organised in a way that branches out from the institutional entry point to the broader experiences of the state across the five substantive chapters. Chapter 1 provides historical and political context on the state in Ecuador to introduce this research. Chapter 2 discusses the contributions this thesis makes to political geography and anthropology, whilst also linking the context closely to its main concerns. Chapter 3 discusses the methodological approach of the research. Chapter 4 examines the IAEN as an institution, using interviews with staff and analysing government discourse about the central role of the institution in transforming the state from within. Chapter 5 focuses on teaching at the IAEN, comparing syllabi and observations of classroom interactions to chart how the state is characterised at the institute. Chapter 6 draws on interviews with students (who are public servants) to understand how they interpret their engagement with the IAEN, highlighting the importance of their mobility across the state for knowledge transfer. Chapter 7 examines the civil servants accounts of everyday work, and draws on an observation at a public office, to understand the local experiences of working during reform and how this helps us to characterise the state from the ground up. Chapter 8 examines how the context of crisis represents change and continuities to the state since 2008, focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and a national strike. A concluding chapter summarises the findings of this thesis, outlining its key arguments and contributions.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Young People at Europe's Margins: An Intimate Geopolitics of the Future
    Kadich, Dino
    This thesis examines how young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina imagine, contest, and enact different futures amidst the country’s political impasse, ongoing mass emigration, and growing global pessimism about the future. Writing against narratives about the region that understand its politics exclusively through the terms of the violent conflict waged in the 1990s, I argue that the emigration phenomenon is part of a profound geopolitical shift led by young people. This shift emerges as a response to the radical disjuncture between the promises they grew up with, of a country that would become ‘modern’, ‘European’, and ‘normal’, and the realities of social, political, and economic stagnation nearly three decades following the beginning of capitalist transition and the end of the war. In order to take account of the ways that young people are engaging the future today, I take a digital-first approach, weaving across different forms of digital media that my interlocutors use to make sense of their lives. By taking the ordinary lives of young people as a starting point for understanding the making of geopolitics, this thesis develops an “intimate geopolitics of the future” to make sense of how the intimate sphere, replete with acts and moments that may appear small or not particularly meaningful through conventional geopolitical imaginaries are, in fact, constitutive in the making of geopolitics. Using both traditional qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews, as well as a participatory video art workshop, I show how young people wrestle with the difficult choices they must make as they attempt to make a life. Beyond the grand narrative of generational warfare, one that has a firm hold in describing ongoing tensions and resentments between today’s youth and their elders, these moves shift the focus to the intimate moments that shape the future, as a political terrain of the possible.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Examining the Influence of Aerosols from Air Pollution on Current and Projected Temperatures in the Urban Area of Chongqing, China
    Gao, Xingran
    This research aims to enhance the understanding of aerosol influences in urban areas, focusing on the case region of Chongqing, China. By investigating scenarios for current and future climate, this study seeks to provide insights into the interactions and impacts of aerosols on urban climate. The research questions are: How do aerosols impact the urban climate in Chongqing under the current climatic conditions? How do aerosols modify the urban climate in Chongqing under climate change conditions by the end of the 21st century? What are the uncertainties in input datasets, model configurations, and simulations of urban climate? The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is used to evaluate the importance of aerosol effects in urban climate simulations, employing a simplified and computationally efficient approach. Two optimised WRF configurations are utilised to assess the sensitivity of the simulations. One configuration accounts for the aerosol-radiation effects, while the other incorporates the aerosol-cloud-radiation effect. A combination of in-situ observations, remote sensing data, regional climate model and global climate model outputs were used to study past, current, and future urban climate as a function of changes in aerosol concentrations. The results demonstrate that decreasing aerosol concentrations generally result in elevated near-surface temperatures within the urban region of Chongqing, with a more pronounced impact observed when higher amounts of aerosols are reduced. Moreover, simulations that account for the influence of aerosol-cloud-radiation effects exhibit more substantial temperature changes than those that do not consider the aerosol-cloud-radiation effects. The presence of extensive and deep cloud cover amplifies the significance of aerosol-cloud-radiation effects. Partially compensating factors, including atmospheric stability, precipitation, and cloud fraction, contribute to the observed temperature changes in these simulations. Findings indicate that climate change, rather than aerosols, is the primary driver of summer temperature increases in Chongqing's urban area. Contrary to expectations, the long-term aerosol reduction does not lead to additional regional warming and shows no statistically significant temperature change. This lack of temperature response can be attributed to the interplay between aerosols and various meteorological parameters, such as precipitation and the variation of high-level ice clouds. Both climate warming and aerosol variations lead to projected changes in surface relative humidity, liquid water content, planetary boundary layer height, surface heat fluxes, downward shortwave radiation, and net downward longwave radiation, suggesting a drier and more unstable environment. Furthermore, this research addresses uncertainties associated with input datasets for the model, the model configurations, and the model outputs. While the optimal WRF configuration exhibits high accuracy and performance, deviations from actual local conditions highlight inherent uncertainties in the simulated results. This study provides valuable insights into the complex interactions between aerosol concentrations, climate changes, and urban surface weather patterns. The findings enhance the understanding of aerosol effects in urban climate. In addition, the findings address uncertainties in trying to simulate these effects. An accurate representation of aerosol properties and their interactions with radiation is crucial for realistic climate simulations and for developing effective strategies for climate mitigation and adaptation.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Radioactive Resurgence? Understanding Nuclear Natures in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone
    Turnbull, Jonathon; Turnbull, Jonathon [0000-0002-2430-9884]
    At 1.23am in the morning of 26th April 1986, a combination of human error, political mismanagement, and faulty reactor design led to an explosion at the fourth power unit of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the heart of Polissya in northern Ukraine. This event marked the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe. Vast quantities of radiation were released into the atmosphere, and many of these radioisotopes will persist in the environment for thousands of years. In response, 350,000 residents were evacuated from the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone which was set up around the destroyed nuclear reactor. Parts of the Zone will be uninhabitable into the distant future. At the time of the catastrophe, it was predicted the region would be a “dead zone,” incapable of supporting life. Since the evacuation, however, stories of nature’s resurgence have proliferated. Chornobyl’s “nuclear natures” are represented and imagined in diverse ways. Indeed, a spectacle has formed around Chornobyl with images and imaginaries of a postapocalyptic landscape, mutant ecologies, and resurgent nature becoming common refrains in public discourse. This thesis is interested in how such diverse interpretations of nature at Chornobyl have come to co-exist. It aims to produce situated reflections on the Zone’s nuclear natures – in other words, to offer a “counterspectacle” to the aforementioned images and imaginaries – that resist the temptation of singular narratives of recovery, return, monstrousness, and toxicity. To do so, mixed methods fieldwork was conducted in the Zone between 2019 and 2022. The thesis begins by contextualising itself within the emerging field of the Ukrainian Environmental Humanities and discussing the politics and ethics of conducting research in Ukraine in light of Russia’s full-scale invasion which begun on February 24th 2022. The following chapter then lays out a framework for conceptualising nuclear natures as spectacular, weird, and demanding of pragmatic and situated ethical reflection. This framework is then deployed through four empirical chapters. First, I outline Chornobyl’s diverse “representational fallout” across cinema, literature and poetry, art, and more, examining the cultural impact Chornobyl has had in the formation of Ukrainian ecological identity. Second, I examine the scientific field of “radioecology” to elucidate how Chornobyl’s nuclear natures are configured multiply, and how the impacts of radiation on ecology are contested. I unpack the scientific controversy that exists among radioecologists at Chornobyl, outlining a “radioecology of practices” through which radioecological knowledge is produced in the Zone. Third, I follow one particular study of Chornobyl’s wolves in detail to understand how scientific knowledge is translated into spectacular imaginaries. This chapter ties the weirdness of Chornobyl’s wilderness to the containment of nuclear natures within the Zone. When wildlife transgresses the Zone’s borders, it becomes a biosecurity threat; moving discursively from a sign of “radioactive resurgence” to be celebrated, to a contaminated, mutation-inducing threat to so-called uncontaminated wildlife outside the Zone. This chapter also examines the role of technologies in radioecological knowledge production. Fourth, deploying visual and ethnographic methods, I turn to examine the Zone’s vernacular ecologies, focusing on free-roaming dogs and those who live with and care for them in the Zone. “Contaminated care” is developed to account for the messy ethical relations inaugurated by nuclear natures. Progressing from spectacular to situated understandings of radioactive resurgence at Chornobyl, this thesis elucidates the multiplicity of nuclear natures, the politicised pathways through which they become known, and the situated ways in which people respond to contamination. In conclusion, I note the difficulty of determining either nature’s resurgence or nature’s demise at Chornobyl, as if nature is a monolithic thing affected by radiation in only one way. Nature is multiple, ecologies are complex, and species, bodies, and metabolic flows are understood differently according to diverse radioecological practices.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Overseas Aid as a Diplomatic Tool: UK Aid in India
    Billett, Simon
    Why would one nation-state give precious resources to another in the form of overseas aid? Decades of public policy and a rich body of research provides answers to Morgenthau’s (1962) seminal question, ranging from poverty alleviation to neo-liberal market expansion to geopolitics. I argue that contemporary UK aid is positioned as a ‘retro-realist’ tool to advance UK geopolitical and diplomatic interests. Taking the case of UK aid to India, I use an ethnographic methodology and my own co-presence in the research site to explore whether and how UK aid delivers diplomatic benefits for the UK Government and with what implications. When such aims are rooted in explicit mutual benefit for both sides, combined with a high degree of tangibility, particularity, performance and symbolism, UK aid does deliver such benefits—both specific and at a strategic scale. Conversely, where these conditions are absent – or where symbolism is imbued with historical tones of extraction, transaction, and unitary power – aid generates a negative reaction that damages the relationship. The UK Government’s focus on dividends sets up a dependency on Indian government reciprocity in which UK officials feel compelled to ‘give’ to maintain their status, empowering Indian officials and reversing traditional post-colonial hierarchies. However, in this contemporary retro-realist paradigm poverty alleviation is largely subjugated and obscured from view. Ontologically, the thesis argues that examining and measuring aid transfers as a set of geographically arranged reciprocal relationships rather than a material transfer may be a fruitful scholarly route of further study as aid itself takes on a more overtly political role. Finally, it provides a real-life case study in foreign policy ethnography.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Urban Green Assemblage: A Machinic-MLG Approach to Green Cities
    Pey, Peili
    As the climate crisis escalates, increasing emphasis is placed upon urban solutions, through urban futures and sociotechnical imaginaries such as the green city agenda. The thesis critically examines the green city agenda in its presumptive context of a multi-level governance often characterised by humans enacting upon the city infrastructure. Through the case study of Singapore, a city that is allegedly ‘green’, the research seeks to go beyond human-centric, static, and dichotomous approaches, and instead approach the green city as one of vital machineries and urban rhythms. By drawing upon the assemblage theory, the thesis conceives of the green city as self-governing, continually arranging, reinforcing and dismantling. The green city is not just a result of social, political and economic influences wrought by human governance, but it is also intrinsically tied to past, existing and future networks of infrastructure, creating an entanglement that is more-than-human. Using qualitative interviews and observational studies in the field, the thesis approaches the organising of the green city from the ground up. Environmental-economic-social-political dimensions of the green city agenda are examined through interconnected human and nonhuman infrastructural networks. The thesis draws upon insights in urban greening, waste management and smart initiatives to make visible the hidden infrastructures and peoples. The tensions and struggles of inequality found at the nexus of hidden sociotechnical networks give rise to further spaces for political and social examination and reveals the dynamics of unsustainability where capitalist modes are reinforced in urban assemblages. Where these tensions occur is conceptualised as the areas of possibilities and rupture, facilitating change for a more environmentally sustainable urban future.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Wild Foods for Sustainable Food Security and Nutrition
    Milbank, Charlotte
    With global population set to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, there is urgent need to re-evaluate how we produce quality food if we are to meet goals to reduce all forms of malnutrition and environmental and climate commitments. Whilst dominant paradigms around agriculture and environmental conservation have tended to view food production and sustainability goals as insurmountable and mutually exclusive, recent scholarship and policy discussion has highlighted the opportunities that exist in deriving integrated agenda for food security, nutrition, agriculture, and environmental conservation. Within this, retaining and promoting landscape diversity, particularly the maintenance of forests and trees within agricultural landscapes, has become a particular point of interest. This thesis focuses on a particular aspect of such debates, offering novel empirical insights on the potential contributions of “wild foods”, sourced from across diverse landscapes, to safe, sustainable, and nutritious diets in Indigenous Peoples communities in northeast India. Bringing together primary and secondary quantitative data, this thesis demonstrates at multiple scales the ways in which wild foods can be an important addition to diets otherwise oriented around staple grains. At the macro-scale, secondary analyses based on national-level demographic data and remotely sensed data on forest cover indicate the contributions of proximate forest to dietary diversity and improved anthropometric status in infants and young children, particularly in areas of thick forest cover. At the micro-level, analysis of primary data from Meghalaya, northeast India, demonstrates the ways that wild foods contribute to adult dietary diversity and self-reported health. This work demonstrates the huge variety of wild foods consumed across the seasonal calendar and sourced from a diversity of land use categories. Building on these findings, in-depth qualitative work offers insight into the drivers of wild food consumption and use and influencing harvesting behaviours. Whilst motivation to consume wild foods remains strong in the areas under study (due to reasons of taste, health, and culture), factors such as time and labour serve as critical constraints on consumption. Finally, with this PhD completed during and in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the topic of wildmeat is given its own chapter, with consumption practices, drivers of use, and perceptions of health and risk characterised. Building evidence on the ways in which wild foods, sourced from across the landscape mosaic, can contribute to diets whilst ensuring the sustainable management of food biodiversity has significant potential to contribute to sustainable food systems debates, and the achievement of global commitments around food and environment.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Geological, historical and present-day erosion and colluviation in Lesotho, southern Africa
    Singh, Meena Vasi
    Thick colluvial deposits, sometimes reaching a thickness of 10 metres, cover the lowlands of Lesotho. Gully erosion whilst removing the colluvial storages, and resulting in the degradation of the landscape, provides an opportunity to examine colluvial profiles. A genesis for the colluvium is sought in an attempt to understand the conditions of formation, and hence a reconstruction of past environments. The link between colluviation and gullying is examined. The research aims at reaching an understanding of erosion processes over varying timescales and spatial boundaries. Contradictory and often sparse data exists about environmental change in southern Africa. An hypothesis proposed, is that processes of erosion have changed, as the location of erodible sediment has been transferred from the steep slopes (where sheet wash removed soils) and deposited as colluvium on the footslopes and valley bottoms (where gully erosion is incising the colluvium). Hence erosion, is believed to have occurred throughout the geological and historical period. This study has shown that gully erosion which is frequently attributed to land management, is a continuation of a geological process. The effects of climatic factors and intrinsic thresholds controlling the rate and nature of removal processes are assessed. Historical soil erosion has been documented using a wide range of sources ranging from colonial and administrative reports, memoirs and diaries of missionaries, sketches and drawings, to oral history. An examination of traditional Basuto agricultural practices suggests sensitivity to the fragile, semi-arid environment. Recent erosion has been monitored in the field and valuable information gained through interviews with rural women in the field. The change from traditional, subsistence agriculture to a market-oriented agricultural economy led to the disappearance of indigenous conservation practices, as increased output became a priority. Gully expansion in turn, documented since the end of last century, has been destructive to agriculture and poses a threat to fields of cultivated food, and therefore to the livelihood of thousands of people.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Debt as Infrastructure: Contract Farming, Labour, and Oil Palm in Montes de María
    Martinez Salinas, Joseph
    This thesis interrogates the operation of credit for contracted palm oil production and its impacts on the lives of peasant communities in the Colombian Caribbean. My work presents a detailed account of how credit shapes the operation of contract farming schemes as well as the labouring experiences of peasant palm fruit producers. In this account, I approach debt as an infrastructure of agrarian capitalism that underpins and transforms agrarian lives. In the contract farming scheme I study, the devices through which debt becomes an infrastructure are materialised in the institutional arrangements of contract farming which were created to comply with credit access conditions. This institutional architecture encompasses the peasant palm cooperatives, the price-setting procedures, the exclusivity agreement that tied fruit output to the local palm mill, and the technical package that made peasants dependent on external inputs and expert knowledge provided by the local palm plantation. These contract farming conditions are infrastructures of debt that enable the provision of capital for production, and the circulation and appropriation of surplus value. However, in their operation, these infrastructures facilitate the alienation of landed and landless peasant labour and exploit the unwaged reproductive labour that sustains the life of communities in the oil palm plantation. This thesis begins by placing the debt infrastructures I study in context and subsequently analyses the operation of these infrastructures from the standpoint of labour. On one hand, I analyse how debt infrastructures shape the exploitation of peasants, landed palm fruit producers and plantation workers alike. On the other hand, I show the moral and social reproductive labour required to operate such infrastructures. In my argument, I show how debt infrastructures are based on local land, labour, and capital relations and how these infrastructures transformed each to enable palm fruit production. Debt is an infrastructure that transforms the productive and reproductive labour necessary to produce palm oil.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Biophysical interactions and stability at salt marsh margins
    Shears, Olivia
    There is considerable alongshore and regional variability in rates of erosion at salt marsh margins, and, with widespread loss of tidal wetlands, there is a need to better understand the factors which make salt marshes more or less likely to persist over time. The resistance of salt marsh sediments to erosion is influenced by physicochemical and biological properties. So far, research on salt marsh margin erosion has largely focused on external forcing and margin response at scales much larger than those on which these marsh properties vary, resulting in an underestimation of the potentially important role of internal substrate characteristics. In order to investigate the possible internal controls on substrate stability at this sub-metre scale, resistive properties and erosion response of sediments were compared between two contrasting UK salt marshes: coarse-grain dominated Hesketh Out Marsh West (northwest England) and clay-silt dominated Northey Island (southeast England). Both sites have adjacent ‘natural’ and restored salt marsh areas, and were selected to allow additional comparisons between these two wetland types. The thesis begins by establishing the context for understanding marsh margin erosion and the growing policy ambitions for salt marsh protection and creation. Current understanding of salt marsh erosion and the balance between external forcing and internal resistance is then reviewed, specifically linking this to the properties of sediment from restored salt marsh habitat and identifying a series of research opportunities. This study investigates the grain-to-bulk scale erosion response and physicochemical and biological sediment properties of vertical salt marsh sections from the two locations. A field experiment was designed to monitor the millimetre-to-centimetre scale response of exposed sediment sections to tidal flat conditions, with morphological change being measured using a Structure-from-Motion methodology. Morphological change is shown to be linked to both the grain-scale physicochemical properties of sediments and the bulk scale three-dimensional internal structural properties of the sediment section. There are site-specific and depth-specific (i.e. within-site) internal characteristics, resulting from longer-term processes of accumulation and colonisation (i.e. sediment supply, vegetation type), which can influence salt marsh morphological response to hydrodynamic forcing. The properties and erosion responses of restored marshes are distinct from their natural analogues. The onset of centimetre-scale erosion is shown to impact core-scale morphology in tight cumulative feedbacks over an experiment monitoring period of eight months. These results are compared to in-situ field measurements of sediment resistance (vane-measured shear strength), to assess whether such point-scale observations can be related to centimetre-scale erosion mechanisms. Results show that shear strength surveys measure different aspects of internal resistance to those observed in the field experiment. The value of such approaches is considered with reference to better predictions of salt marsh evolution, and management of restored sites. The vertical and three-dimensional internal resistive properties of sediment significantly influence erosion at exposed marsh margins. The research highlights ‘weaknesses’ at the centimetre-scale as possible drivers of larger-scale (e.g. metres-scale) mass failure and phases of lateral retreat, but suggests that this cascading effect is strongly affected by biophysical feedbacks. Thus, the identification of locations of structural ‘weakness’ at the between-site and within-site scales could provide a conceptual framework for better understanding and prediction of erosion at near-vertical salt marsh margins.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Environmental Values Reconsidered: Articulating Conservation and Other More-than-human Relations
    Luque Lora, Rogelio
    Talk of values has become ubiquitous in conservation and, more broadly, in conceptualisations of and discourses about human relations with the living world. The recently released Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Values Assessment makes the overarching point that the global biodiversity crisis is underlain by narrowly market-based valuations of the natural world (IPBES Secretariat 2022). Its authors call for a broader assessment and inclusion of intrinsic, instrumental and relational values in policymaking (ibid.). Within the conservation community, there has also been a surge in interest in values, as reflected in the growing number of publications that attempt to capture conservationists’ values as well as exploring the role of values in conservation thought and practice (e.g. Manfredo et al. 2017; Vucetich et al. 2021). These studies and policy recommendations fit within the longer-standing field of environmental values – a field which has produced large volumes of scholarship in disciplines as varied as Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and Economics. For all its recent success, this growth in academic and policy discourse on values has often suffered from significant conceptual limitations. In many cases, the meaning of the word ‘values’ is contradictory or confused, a point already made (in the context of common speech) by American Pragmatist John Dewey nearly one hundred years ago (Dewey 1939). Recent studies in environmental and conservation values could benefit substantially from a deeper engagement with decades of philosophical work that articulates, clarifies and delineates the various concepts that these studies deploy. Another conspicuous absence in this recent literature is unstructured or semi-structured ethnographic analysis; most studies have used either large-sample quantitative methods, semiquantitative ones such as Q methodology, or ‘snapshot’ qualitative methods like one-off interviews. Yet, as geographers and anthropologists have long known, it is only by paying careful and sustained attention to the cultural, political and ecological realities that shape people’s lives that we can attain a more meaningful understanding of what those people think and feel. The present thesis is an effort to begin to address these problems and limitations. Its mode of inquiry is threefold: philosophical, quantitative and ethnographic. At times, these methodologies are used in isolation. In other cases, I jointly use philosophy and ethnography to approach a single question; thereby, I hope to go some way toward satisfying recent calls for environmental philosophy to become field-based or at least field-informed (James 2015, 155-156; Norton and Sanbeg 2020). This thesis thereby brings methods and motivations familiar to human and more-than-human geographers – the empirically informed study of social, political and biophysical processes, as they unfold in particular places and at various scales – to bear on the ethical questions that have of late preoccupied biologists, social scientists and policymakers. In the first research chapter (Chapter 3), I embark on the inevitably bold task of articulating what conservation is. In proposing my own definition, I show that conservation is unintelligible without due consideration of questions of value. I also argue that whether a movement, project or motivation can be considered conservation hinges on the timescale on which value is apprehended. Having proposed an understanding of what conservation is, the next chapter (Chapter 4) draws on responses to a global survey of conservationists to map statistical correlations between conservationists’ values and their personal and professional characteristics. Results demonstrate that factors including where conservationists have worked and their childhood experiences are linked to their values regarding the right roles of people, science, capitalism and nonhuman entities in conservation. My research then takes a turn from these relatively abstract (Chapter 3) and large-sample (Chapter 4) inquiries toward field-based, contextualised approaches, drawing on several months of ethnographic observation in Chile/Wallmapu as well as forty-one semi-structured interviews (described in Chapters 5 and 6). Combining philosophical reasoning with these empirical sources, in Chapter 7 I show that the recently proposed – and widely used – category of relational values lacks conceptual and practical worth. My argument is that it is not possible to distinguish relational values from more familiar types of values, namely held, instrumental and intrinsic ones. To make matters worse, in attempting to delineate their new category, proponents of relational values have been compelled to silence or downplay the relational qualities in these more familiar types. The final research chapter (Chapter 8) takes an on-the-ground approach to the question of what values do in society: I explore how diverse anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric values have shaped Chile’s recent social uprising and ongoing Constitutional reform (henceforth ‘constituent process’). By disentangling questions of value from notions and practices of rights, I question the conceptual validity and ethical desirability of the constitutional proposal to protect the putative rights of nature – and suggest an alternative based on humans’ rights to conserve their environments. This alternative, despite being based on humans’ rights, can be motivated by non-anthropocentric beliefs as well as anthropocentric ones. Taken as a whole, this thesis showcases what philosophical and geographical methods can contribute to current attempts to conceptualise more-than-human relations and environmental values. The first two research chapters are fairly constructive: I propose a new articulation of what conservation is and (together with my collaborators) I map statistical correlations between conservationists’ values and their characteristics. It will be interesting to see whether and how new research contextualises my definition in the broader matrix of articulations of what conservation is, as well as what the statistical associations we identify consist of (in other words, what shapes conservationists’ values, and what is shaped by them). The second half of the thesis, generally being more deconstructive, aims to redirect our thinking away from two recently widespread ideas: relational values and the rights of nature. And yet, the need to promote relational and non-anthropocentric thinking is real enough. I therefore encourage philosophers, geographers and others interested in understanding more-than-human relations to consider what new or existing notions might satisfy that need while avoiding the problems I identify with relational values and the rights of nature.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Reviving Dams: A Relational Technopolitics of Hydropower in the Himalaya
    Saklani, Udisha; Saklani, Udisha [0000-0003-1318-5553]
    By the end of the 20th century, mega dams were no longer popular with donors, due to growing socio-environmental opposition; a poor record in terms of outcomes and profitability; and the turn to governance and the ‘soft wiring’ of development amongst donors. However, interest in mega dams has revived, and they are now firmly back on the agenda of international donor agencies and governments in the Global South. The Himalayan region is one of the most iconic sites for contemporary mega-dam infrastructure development, despite ecological precarity, concerns around the increasing intensity and frequency of infrastructure hazards, and dam costs and debt. This thesis contributes to the understanding of the return of ‘faith’ in large hydraulic infrastructure, particularly in relation to projects that were previously halted or suspended due to social and environmental contestation. Starting with the construction of the Arun-3 hydropower project in Nepal, which has been revived after more than a decade-long suspension, I show that the resurgence of mega dams in the region is reflective of a new technopolitical regime. This new regime comprises an expanding base of ‘new’ actors, visions, discursive rationalities, and practices, which operate across multiple spatialities. It is shaped by historic events and changing (geo)political-economic conditions and reflects new levels of complexity and interdependencies in the governance of energy systems, which have made it more difficult for affected persons and activists to contest dams in the new century. The dissertation seeks to advance debates in contemporary development geography concerning new forms of partnerships and practices, and reflects on the significance of sociotechnical imaginaries, discourses, geopolitical and historical conditions, and tensions in explaining the processes and consequences of mega dams as ‘development solutions’. As well as exploring the transnational circuits of planning and finance that are facilitating the making of new hydropower hotspots in the Himalayas, the thesis also assesses how host countries/administrative regions (such as Nepal) deal with the burgeoning interests, strong advocacy, and funding support for hydropower development in their territories. Unravelling the entanglements of this new energy infrastructure wave, I suggest that mega projects like dams are not a singular apolitical, technical entity that are fixed by spatial, temporal, and historical boundaries. Instead, dams are constantly in a state of becoming, as new hegemonies and development logics are established and re-established. Studying the technopolitics of such interventions can alert us to the voices, actors, techniques, practices, and discourses that are prioritized or marginalized in particular historic moments. It can also offer a nuanced perspective on the emergence or re-emergence of certain development priorities and projects at different points in time.
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    Rewilding in the Oder Delta, Germany-Poland: Ecological, social and economic drivers of landscape change
    Overton, Michael
    Restored wetlands, overgrown industrial sites, re-natured rivers, protected exclusion zones, abandoned farmland, and a host of new and returning animals including wolves, lynx, European elk, konik ponies and Highland cattle now feature in the rewilding landscape of the Oder Delta. Rewilding is a function of deliberate efforts by conservationists to facilitate natural processes, alongside myriad other social, economic, ecological and geomorphic factors. The relative insignificance of rewilding actions designing and managing nature in the Oder Delta prompts closer inspection of why rewilding happens here and what rewilding might entail more generally. Key drivers are identified through a critical biogeography of wildlife in the Oder Delta: How their distributions and movements are affected by a rich history; how individuals and species experience and shape rewilding futures; and how biopolitics governs animals’ lives whilst occasionally offering them greater autonomy to rewild. An exploration of rewilding-positive forces is augmented by analysis of ‘the business of rewilding’. Organisations operate in a competitive bioeconomy in which their aims and strategies must adapt to make rewilding pay and so the concepts of rewilding they proffer change. The Oder Delta offers an example of European rewilding in process where the effects of top-down nature conservation are largely absent on the ground and wildlife returns are somewhat serendipitous, challenging us to think beyond popular notions of rewilding as ecological restoration. On the other hand, rewilding cannot be explained away as nature 'filling the gaps’. Through developing a critical biogeography, distinct but interconnected political, ecological, social and economic processes emerge which begin to offer some explanations for why specific natures are appearing in specific places, in only some cases with associated conservation agendas.
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    Innovative development finance: A critical analysis
    Hughes, Sarah; Hughes, Sarah [0000-0002-8147-6793]
    This PhD investigates innovative development finance, a celebrated trend in development, arguing that, while there is potential, there are also important economic and political costs. Innovative development finance, which has emerged since the millennium, is situated at the intersection of the turn to private finance in development and the financialisation of development. This PhD develops and adopts a follow the money methodology, using critical financial analysis, to analyse three emblematic case studies of innovative development finance: the International Finance Facility for Immunisation, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, and The Currency Exchange. This PhD argues that innovative development finance initiatives make three core development claims: to leverage private finance, manage risk, and create markets. Conceptually, these interventions represent financial solutions to genuine development challenges. Following the money contributes a detailed empirical understanding of the economic and political consequences of the financialisation of development. In contrast to its core claims, innovative development finance fundamentally relies on public finance with no aid additionality, manages risk in a limited way and creates additional financial risks, supports existing financial markets, and is expensive with significant private profit opportunities. Politically, innovative development finance interventions represent technical financial solutions, which I suggest can be understood through the concept of ‘rendering financial?’, and are ruled by financial experts. The consequences are to de-politicise, financialise, and limit political control and accountability in development. The implications of these findings are significant. In the light of the economic and political costs of the financialisation of development, this PhD also touches on alternatives which deliver many of the same benefits with fewer costs.
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    Botanical Biopolitics: The Sociopolitical Lives of Flowers in Victorian Britain
    Lawrence, Anna; Lawrence, Anna [0000-0003-4998-8761]
    This thesis is an archivally grounded investigation of plant-human relations in Victorian Britain which considers how people engaged with and thought about the plants which surrounded them in everyday life. Seeking to position Victorian plant-thinking as a significant antecedent of contemporary critical plant studies, I turn to flowers as the part of vegetal life most readily philosophised during the nineteenth century. Flowers during this period took on an absurd weight of meaning-making, used to symbolise emotion, store memories, speak of God, and teach lessons of moral goodness. Scientific re evaluations of plant intelligence – in the nineteenth century as today – prompted a philosophical re evaluation of plant liveliness as flowering plants were granted agency, used to civilise, domesticate and discipline, their beauty often working to obscure the more complicated reasons behind the promotion of floriculture and floral appreciation. Each of the four chapters presented here provides a window onto a different realm of flower-human engagement, each mediated by a particular force – capitalism, religion, urbanisation, colonialism. The first chapter considers the commodification of cut-flowers in the industrial economy; the second examines religious languages of flowers and theological negotiations of scientific thought; the third turns to domestic working-class floriculture within Britain’s polluted urbanising centres; the fourth travels to Aotearoa New Zealand to look at the floricultural practices of settler women and Māori. The four chapters are organised around the four seasons, each introducing a seasonally appropriate floral ‘guide’ through which the archival material is drawn: the winter narcissus, the spring primrose, summer fuchsia, and autumn dahlia. The histories presented here aim to centre the plants themselves as biopolitical subjects whose lives simultaneously governed and were governed by the humans who grew around them.
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    Trees Outside of the Forest: A Political Ecology of Tree Planting in Kenya
    Neilson, Alasdair
    Over the last two decades, tree planting has been viewed as a silver bullet to some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental issues, most notably climate change. This is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa, which has seen a proliferation of tree planting projects and targets. Yet, seeing tree planting as a solution to environmental and social issues has a long history. In this thesis, I analyse the political ecology of tree planting in Kenya. I build on the concept of the political forest, the notion that ‘forests’ are produced through political as much as biophysical processes. I focus on three key dynamics: (i) the changing priorities of the Kenyan state towards tree planting since independence; (ii) the construction and agency of Kenya’s national tree planting targets and forest metrics; and (iii) how a carbon forestry programme in central Kenya ‘hits the ground’ within the broader political, ecological and economic context of Kenya. My findings show that there is a long history of the Kenyan state reaching for tree planting to solve complex socio-environmental issues. I demonstrate, however, that the motives and narratives underpinning tree planting have changed over time, as well as where tree planting is expected to occur and who is expected to plant trees. The state’s emphasis has changed from the planting of commercial plantations within state forests for economic development to the idea that farmers outside state forests must be the principal agents of tree planting to combat a wide range of issues, such as climate change and wood fuel production. Next, I show the power of the 10 per cent tree cover target, which currently informs tree planting in Kenya. I show how the target is fundamentally arbitrary and partly based on a history of comparing Kenya’s forest cover to that of other nations. The 10 per cent target has been produced and reproduced by numerous actors in Kenya for decades. I show the complexities of how the target is defined and measured and the manner in which it interacts with other forest metrics. Finally, I analyse a specific on-farm tree planting for carbon credits project near Mount Kenya to understand what tree planting looks like ‘on the ground’ in Kenya. Although fast-growing trees are by far the most popular choice of tree for farmers to plant, this is not being driven solely by carbon. Indeed, the project must contend with the other values of trees that have been impacted by the broader politics of tree planting in Kenya. Here I show that the material landscape of tree planting around Mount Kenya is a result of a complex web of relations.
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    The Camouflaging of Austerity: Institutional geographies of mental health in contemporary England
    Kiely, Edward; Kiely, Edward [0000-0003-1459-587X]
    This thesis examines the landscapes of mental health service provision which have emerged under austerity, and the institutional geographies which work to reproduce these. While austerity is sometimes portrayed as a relatively uniform process of retrenchment, I begin by offering a forensic cultural geography of austerity, a granular survey of the uneven geographies of mental health services and spending which emerged between 2010 and 2020. I situate these in a conjunctural analysis of English politics, economics and culture. To conceptualise how these national patterns are rescaled into the everyday, I then turn to the question of austerity’s institutionalisation. How is the process of fiscal cutting made ethically and affectively tenable for those who must enact it? These empirical sections build on nine on participant observation with two groups of participants in a county in the south of England: clients and staff at a mental health day centre threatened with closure; and county council commissioners who allocate funding for services. While bureaucrats are typically depicted as meting out austerity with indifference, the commissioners I worked with were deeply invested in the notion that they provided care. Consequently, they reimagined austerity in optimistic terms, as a hopeful process of optimisation. I map the institutional geographies within the council which enabled this austerity optimism to be embodied and felt, and the discourses and knowledge-making practices which underpinned this interpretation. I argue that these practices inculcated an anaesthetic ignorance among the commissioners – a placatory unseeing of austerity’s harms which allowed them to continue with the work of cutting. I conclude by foregrounding the voices and experiences of clients at the mental day centre, offering a countertopography which challenges claims of austerity optimism. Here, I theorise austerity and care temporally arguing that budget shortfalls were undermining expansive temporalities of care, intensifying distress and destabilising hopes for the future. In turn, they deepened commodification, tying staff and clients ever more tightly into the logics and time-spaces of the market. This thesis makes four significant contributions to geographical literature. In response to approaches which occlude the complexity of state retrenchment, it develops a comprehensive account of mental health services and expenditure under austerity, relating these patterns to a political and economic conjuncture emergent in Britain since 2010. It furthers geographical research on ‘everyday austerity’ through a relational account of the institutional geographies which rescale austerity from fiscal policy to quotidian phenomenon, drawing on feminist theories of affective economies. It advances mental health geography by mapping landscapes of service provision under austerity and conceptualising the role of institutional actors in enacting these. And finally, it develops the concept of camouflaging, as a process integral to reproduction and legitimation of austerity. Rather than focussing on moments when austerity materialises and is felt, the thesis charts the practices through which austerity is made to disappear from everyday life.