Welcome to a BRAND NEW LOOK for Geography with Dan as I celebrate the completion of my first year at the Royal Holloway, University of London. Whilst the blog has been inactive over the last 6 months, it has been an extremely busy and exciting year in my life. Enveloped within a university environment and working alongside some of the leading geographical researchers in the world, university life has been revitalising, engaging and I am, as ever, deeply enthused about the planet we all live on. Over the next couple of months, I continue my lecturing programme, film for a brand new documentary series, and finish writing my first book. Since its launch, Geography with Dan has received over 70,000 views. Please do return and see what I'm getting up to.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Earth: Our Home. Our Future.

Daniel recently gave a speech at a TEDx Conference. Here's a transcript from the event; an essay entitled: 'Earth: Our Home. Our Future'.


‘There is nothing permanent except change’.

The words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus from 500BC. Six words, articulated from the dusty tracks of ancient Ephesus in Turkey, but speak volumes about an entire planet over 2000 years later.
 
We live in a world of such unprecedented dynamism. As we sit still, Planet Earth is spinning 67,000 miles an hour in the cosmos. This maybe some speed, but no speedometer could compute neither the pace of human development nor the velocity of our technological progress. The texture of our lives is continuously being dissolved and recomposed around us. We may view life in three dimensions, but a fourth element is always present. The element of change, exponentially catalysed around us, is fundamentally part of what it means to be human.
 
As a geographer, I am continuously asked what the nature of my discipline is. What does Geography mean? What does Earth mean? How inextricably complex the question remains, and yet, could it be that the planet changes so much that we cannot accurately assert a definition to its study? After all, Geography is one such discipline where the force of change is a central facet in the way we understand how the world operates.
 
This is not a world in stasis. From the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, from the Iron Age to the Medieval Period, perhaps what gives this world meaning is that of its capacity for change. The last century has witnessed an inexorable rate of change. Our digital revolution has bred, and continues to breed, a world of interconnection; a world where the Euclidian dimensions of distance seems to matter less and less. We have profoundly transformed the nature of the human experience, bringing distant others closer together, in a community of virtual connection. No doubt the world has become transfigured beyond the point of return; perhaps it is this that now re-defines what it means to be in existence on Earth.
 
Whilst Human Geographers seek to comprehend the nature of our globalisation, down the other end of the department corridor is a congregation of Physical Geographers who are studying another change. A critical issue; a demanding contemporary crisis; a quandary for us all. That of Climate Change. Shadowing the positivity of our digitalisation and technological innovation, the tentacles of Global Warming are encroaching part of what it means to be living on Planet Earth in the 21st century. In short, after so many thousands of years of changing- after centuries of fine-tuning our traditions and methods- we have still not reached utopia.
 
Global Interconnection and Global Warming. There is a great dichotomy here; the former reflects on man’s faculty over the world, our ceaseless endeavour for human betterment, whilst the latter reminds us that we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. We have the means by which to travel the world, and although we might fly, a footprint mutilates the globe- a Carbon Footprint. Similarly, the mobile phone has almost become part of our own anatomy-shamefully, there always seems to be one in my hand- but it is a device which depletes our non-renewable resources.
 
Despite the clear associations between our simultaneity and the pressing matter of climate change, however, the academic establishment continues to atomise these discourses. Although it could be argued that Global Warming seeps into all of the aspects of what is a fractured discipline; global interconnection is clearly a criterion for a Human Geographer’s agenda. I think that this, most significantly of all, is where the error lies. The most effective catalyst for changing the course of Global Warming would be to solder these two discourses. To retard the development of climate change, we should be searching for a more profound resolution.  I propose a unique perspective; a unique resolution to Climate Change.
 
 
After all, the conventional approaches do not seem to be effective catalysts for change. Using public transport, car sharing, recycling, purchasing eco-friendly light-bulbs; these are small scale adjustments we make in our daily lives to hinder the warming of our world. But as Paul Stern, from the National Research Council once wrote, “the environmental impact of any individual’s personal behaviour is small.  Such individual behaviours have environmentally significant impact only in the aggregate, when many people independently do the same things.”
 
But why, if these grass-root approaches are so small in scale, aren’t they adopted by enough people in which to make them, as Stern put, “environmentally significant”? Stern goes on to hypothesise possible reasons; that “environmental impact has largely been a by-product of human desires” – such as comfort, enjoyment, power, status, and mobility. I would go further.
 
 
The split with nature is at the heart of an environmental crisis. My most cardinal point would be to state that I think a wave of technological innovation, interconnection and the rise of the internet culture, has disconnected humans from the world. By inhabiting a cyber-fuelled, virtual reality, we have lost the values we once upheld for nature. In short, the human race has disconnected with the landscape, and connected with the Wi-Fi instead.  
 
The green and pleasant land seems to be no longer a place which provokes awe and wonder, but instead, exasperation due to their poor network signals. The landscape, once encapsulated in paintings and poems, is relegated to the background of a ‘selfie’. As the public domain get access to satellite maps, the conception of true wilderness is a questionable notion; the ability to set out and enjoy pure exploration is less likely in the age of navigation systems.
 
Influential ecologist Aldo Leopold believes we abuse the land because we regard it as a “commodity belonging to us” not one “to which we belong”. If we are to effectively catalyse a hindrance to Global Warming, approaching those profound questions of our connectedness to nature is paramount.
 
Addressing Global Warming very rarely goes as far as to consider these rather abstract points, but I would argue that encouraging the public to seek a more ecologically friendly way of life will yield little impact unless the public feel a moral obligation to protect their own planet. To use the words of Mayer and Frantz: “unless they feel a sense of kinship with it; unless they view themselves as belonging to the natural world and view their welfare as related to the welfare of the Earth.”
 
 
Our connectedness to nature is something that has been studied in other disciplines. According to health experts, spending leisure time in natural environments is beneficial for human health and well-being. I would go on to suggest that an individual’s well-being is just one of the many factors which influences them to protect the world in which they inhabit.
 
This is not a call to demolish the platforms of communication we have set up. Indeed, the internet is a valuable asset in delivering a message about the global problems we share. What I would assert is that we re-ignite our zest for exploration; that we re-ignite our zeal for discovery; that we make Planet Earth a compelling environment for young people to discover, rather than let them become entangled within the addictive web of the social network, for in that web, their connection with true nature can never be fostered.
 
Can this work? Can such a profound shift in our emotional affinity toward nature truly be an effective catalyst? It’s a fresh, new angle, and requires much more research. But I would agree with Mayer and Frantz that feeling connected to nature and eco-friendly acts have a bi-directional relationship. Feeling connected to the landscape will encourage a certain act of stewardship for it, and in turn, proliferate their connection with nature.
 
This bi-directional relationship has been studied, in some senses, only this year. In a paper published this summer, a group of interviewed farmers felt that if they are more capable of conserving nature on their farm, the more they see themselves as connected to nature. In turn, the more they feel connected to nature, the more likely they are to commit to conservation. 
 
I conclude with the wisdom of Henry Thoreau and in some ways it encapsulates what I believe to be my own philosophy on the world. “This curious world we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.”
 
Perhaps, more than ever, we need to stop living on the planet, and start living with it.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

THE TRAIL CONTINUES... 



Dan's BRAND NEW SERIES 'On the Trail' is taking him through the wonderful landscapes of Norfolk.
 
Having reached the Norfolk-Suffolk border in the previous programme, join Dan as he weaves himself back up through the Norfolk countryside along the Boudicca Way, finally reaching the city of Norwich.
 
WATCH PROGRAMME 9 BELOW
Released: 19th October 2014
 


                           WATCH THE REST OF THE SERIES BY CLICKING HERE
 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

DANIEL TO SPEAK AT TEDx CONFERENCE

On the 18th October, the Royal Holloway (University of London) will host a TEDx conference, supporting innovation, critical thinking and leadership for meaningful change.

TEDx CONFERENCE- LIVE FROM THE ROYAL HOLLOWAY






SOLD OUT BUY YOUR TICKET HERE SOLD OUT

All tickets have been sold. However, the event will be streaming live throughout the day and you can watch Dan and the other speakers right here on Geography with Dan.
 
 
 
 

Daniel has been selected to speak at this very prestigious event. With the theme of the conference being 'Catalysts', Daniel will speak on behalf of the Geographical Sciences in suggesting a unique perspective on the way we tackle contemporary issues such as Global Warming.




Alongside Daniel is a line-up of very high profile speakers. Already confirmed are:

Leon McCarron- a Northern Irish film-maker and writer, who has appeared on TV in over 60 countries worldwide.

Maja Szymczyk- a multilingual singer, actress and presenter who has performed with some of the best musicians around the world, even singing for Princes.

Edward Heywood- Co-founder of 'Urban Cloud', he has raised over £150k in seed capital, orchestrated 10 strategic partnerships, and took part in Founders Space accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Kate Russell- Reporter and Author, appearing on BBC technology programme 'Click' and involved in UK and Global Policy meetings to shape the way the internet is governed.

Marco Poletto- Leads the BIO Urban Design Research Cluster and is the Unit Master at the Architectural Association in London with projects exhibited throughout the world.

Marko Pajevic- Senior Lecturer at the School for Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the Royal Holloway, currently developing an international research network on poetics and thinking language.

Tracey Brown- Director of Sense about Science, reviews policy both in the UK and worldwide. Led the award winning campaigns, and has been named as one of the 10 leading scientists in policy making by the Science Council.

Paul Smith- Appeared on stage over 1000 times around the world as a recording artist, writer and arranger. Performed at Mariinksy Theatre in Russia, National Centre of Performing Arts in Beijing, and Opera City in Tokyo.

Jeffrey DeMarco- Forensic psychologist , criminological and legal researcher who works nationally and internationally with governments. Currently working with the European Commission in preventing computer mediated crimes against children.

Salman Al Najem- Painter with a BA in Interior Design from the University of the Arts' London College of Communication.

Katy Kann- Russian Artist. Featured in the World's Greatest Erotic Art of Today, selected as 'Best of Show' by the Colors of Humanities Art Gallery and is currently studying Architecture at the University of Manchester.

Manos Tsakiris- Professor of Psychology at Royal Holloway, with research funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and the European Research Council.

Daniela de Rosa- Produced and conducted radio programmes about travel ad lifestyle for Italy, and writes travelling guides for women.

TED is a non-profit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world's leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson, and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

 

Friday, 19 September 2014

TRAVEL WRITING FINDS ITS WAY TO 'FOLIO'

Some of Dan's recent travel writing has been published by the 'up and coming' magazine Folio. It's a brand new magazine that exhibits the work of students from the Royal Holloway, University of London.

Read Dan's entry by clicking here!

 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

EXCLUSIVE NEW SERIES RELEASED

ON THE TRAIL

Brand New Series for 2014

PROGRAMME 9- 19th October 2014

Having reached the Norfolk-Suffolk border in the previous programme, join Dan as he weaves himself back up through the Norfolk countryside along the Boudicca Way, finally reaching the city of Norwich.
 
 
 

Previous Episodes in the Series

PROGRAMME 1- 24th August 2014

In the launch of his biggest series yet, join Daniel Evans in the first of a 10-part series that takes him the length and breadth of Norfolk. In this programme, he walks the Norfolk Coast Path.
 
 

PROGRAMME 2- 31st August 2014

In the second part of his biggest series yet, join Daniel Evans as he continues exploring his home county of Norfolk. This week he is walking the Paston Way, passing through some idyllic villages, unspoilt countryside and dramatic coastlines.

 

PROGRAMME 3- 7th September 2014

In this, the third part of the series, join Daniel Evans as he continues his walk through his home county of Norfolk, exploring the landscape, towns and villages along the way.

 

PROGRAMME 4- 14th September 2014

Daniel continues his epic walk through Norfolk, stopping at the unique selection of villages and towns and ambling through a diversity of landscapes.

 

PROGRAMME 5- 21st September 2014

Dan is halfway through his 230 mile walk through Norfolk. In this programme, join him a he explores more of what the county has to offer. From spellbinding landscapes, to picturesque villages, Daniel shows that there is always something to see, on any trail.

 

 PROGRAMME 6- 28th September 2014

Daniel continues his mammoth walk around the county of Norfolk, exploring some of its popular sights and hidden secrets. From a diverse range of flora and fauna to picturesque architecture and scenery, he shows that the 'Nar Valley' Way offers something for everyone who walks it.
 
 

PROGRAMME 7- 5th October 2014

Daniel continues his epic walk around Norfolk. This week he is on the Peddars Way, soaking up the tranquillity of the countryside and exploring its diverse range of flora and fauna.
 

PROGRAMME 8- 12th October 2014

 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

BRAND NEW SERIES: On the Trail- MINI TRAILERS

This week, Dan releases FIVE mini-trailers for his new series!


 
 
 

A Brand New Series for Geography with Dan launches on Sunday 24th August. Do check out Dan's online TV Channel TvGeog on YouTube for more trailers and information.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

EXCLUSIVE- BRAND NEW SERIES TRAILER

Dan's Brand New Series 'On the Trail' is out on 24th August- check out the very latest trailer!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

EXCLUSIVE- Dan's Interview on Mustard TV

Dan appeared on Mustard TV on the 24th July. He talked about his love for Geography, his Royal Geographical Society scholarship, and his brand new series coming out in August. Listen to the interview below...

 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Sunday, 22 June 2014

'Colouring in-between the lines'- Part 5: 'Brown' Earth

'All Geographers do is colour in'....'Geographer's love Crayola'...'It's all about the colouring pencils'....
 
In a five part series, exclusively for Geography with Dan, Daniel discusses how colour should be treated seriously within the subject. Each week, he selects a colour that helps to shape the planet we live on today, and studies that colour from a distinctively geographical perspective.
 
In this the final part of the series, he focuses on all things Brown and argues that this colour is instrumental for a subject such as Geography.
 
***

I hope, if anything, this series has enlightened those who have for so many years considered the subject of Geography to merely bobble up and down on the surface of philosophical thought and instead realise that it is an active study immersed with deep meanings and complex ideas. For those who regard Geography to be nothing more than simply being able to locate the nearest tube station or a study where flags are learned by rote, it is because we live in a world of stereotypes. We sketch and fix our expectations upon everything. Geography has always had a stereotyped reputation of being slightly inferior to others, but perhaps this requirement to stereotype- our compulsion to label and to categorise- is how we make meaning of the planet we live on. In other words, perhaps Geography is stereotyping the planet.

Preferably, one might replace 'stereotyping' with 'constructing meaning'. After all, we do not live in a world of colour; colour is just one of the tools that we use to construct meaning about the planet. If we consider, for example, the colour of brown and items associated with that colour, we may list a few commonalities between them. 'Rustic', 'natural', 'earthy' to name but a few, and yet it is clear from other editions in this series, that other colours also represent a certain naturalness. The greenness of the rainforests, the yellowness of a field of rapeseed, the apparent blueness of our oceans; they all radiate a certain degree of organic natural beauty, and yet how odd it would be if soil were to be yellow, or blue or green. Here we stumble upon the complexities of the human mind.

I'm currently staring at all of the brown-coloured objects in my office. The desk I am sitting at, my little wooden keepsake box, the cupboard doors; everything that is brown seems to share a common life history. That is, these items have been constructed from entities that had previously lived, entities that we sacrificed for our own human comfort. Living trees, now unrecognisable, after hard labour and craftsmanship. It is peculiar, therefore, that we associate brown with life and naturalness when in reality, many of the brown objects in our households and workplaces are indeed dead wood.

 

There's yet another complexity regarding brown, or the sense of brownness in our lives and that is the reinforced idea that brown is a boring colour, and associated brown entities are similarly quite dull. Take soil, for an example. A Pedologist's dream, but for many of us, it inspires fatigue. But in consideration, how can soil be boring? It may not boast exhilaration nor does it provoke thrill, but it is perhaps the most important ingredient on Earth. Let us consider the endless array of activities and articles that require soil for their function or origin. The World Cup is greatly reliant on grass, but even grass is dependent on that fundamental unit of soil. Our furniture may be wooden, but it is wood carved up from trees which were once extensively entrenched within the soil. In fact, trees themselves are paramount for the oxygen we inhale, and are similarly essential in extracting the Carbon Dioxide waste product we exhale, but so often forgotten is the elemental necessity of the soil. Suddenly, brown earthy soil doesn't sound so dull and substandard. Or perhaps it still does.

 

Perhaps soil will never capture our imagination, despite the fact it is necessary for our own existence. Quite possibly it is down to our capitalist attitudes towards life; if it produces an income, if it has material qualities, then it can arouse our curiosity and feed some interest into our lives. Soil has never sold records, it has never played football, it has never looked good on the front cover of any magazine (bar, Gardener's World, perhaps) and as a consequence, it has never been of substantial interest to us.

That maybe a small but subtle clue as to why Geography receives such poor publicity; the fact that, on the surface, it doesn't seem to do anything for us. It doesn't appear to have impact upon our daily lives; the kind of influences that Physics, Chemistry and Biology seem to boast. However, I would argue that the fault is entirely our own. We have exchanged our capacity for deep thought with the internet, ironically the very medium I am presenting this to you now. We have traded self contemplation with technological innovation. Associating the colours of our world with deep meanings is something, perhaps, that doesn't instinctively emerge in our conscience primarily because it isn't something that we as a generation, slaves to our cars and iPods, are not programmed to immediately consider.

 
So the next time you take the dog for the walk, or drive to work, take a minute to contemplate just how wonderfully colourful the world really is. It may not add any speed to your journey, but it may uplift you to know that you're part of it; you're in it. This is our home.   

Sunday, 15 June 2014

'Colouring in-between the lines'- Part 4: 'Yellow' Earth

'All Geographers do is colour in'....'Geographer's love Crayola'...'It's all about the colouring pencils'....
 
In a five part series, exclusively for Geography with Dan, Daniel discusses how colour should be treated seriously within the subject. Each week, he selects a colour that helps to shape the planet we live on today, and studies that colour from a distinctively geographical perspective.
 
This week, he focuses on all things Yellow and argues that this colour is instrumental for a subject such as Geography.

***
 
 
This series over the last few weeks has sought to convince those who consider Geography to be 'that subject where you learn about cities and places', that it is instead, deeply multifaceted. For too long, Geography has been seen as a subject that takes place within the confines of the classroom; that its content is constructed around the building blocks of the national curriculum. I have argued in the past, and will persist here that Geography should not be treated as an academic discipline, but a subconscious approach to the planet in which we inhabit; the way in which humans engage with the world in their everyday lives. Our identities are composed in and as a result of different places; the subtle choices we make in terms of the way we perform ourselves all have distinct relationships back to our position in the world. Geography, therefore, is that fluid matrix in between other subjects; the relations between History and Chemistry, or between Psychology and Art can be explained through a geographical methodology.
It's a subject that at the very least stretches beyond cartography: the construction of maps. We study the world everyday; when we travel to work, when we gaze out of the office window, on our way back home. Parked in a rush hour can excite the imagination; we begin to think about a forthcoming holiday or one just past. We are edging a few inches a minute along a seemingly incessant motorway, but in our imagination, we are someplace else. Sometimes, and perhaps the gift of the human mind, is the fact that we can imagine a place in the finest of detail, even if we have never physically been there. Our emotions, thoughts and feelings- our human imagination- form a substantial element in our understanding of our planet.
An appreciation of colour within our world is, similarly, one that you'll never find within a geography textbook, but at the same time, so emphatically important in the way we shape meanings about the planet on which we live. Certain colours, such as those already discussed in this series, are more obviously geographical; green and blue, perhaps, fall into this category. Other colours such as red are less palpable, but still uphold symbology within the world; we still apply meanings to them. Most of us would admit to having a favourite colour; a tint we would select, if ever one had to be saved. For me, it's yellow. There's nothing distinctly geographical about my love for the colour yellow; it's a vibrant colour, almost electric in its luminosity and has the amazing capacity to transform my mood from a morose despondency to one of bliss and contentment. In some ways, however, it's entirely geographical. The fact that a certain place, landscape or landmark, can transform someone's emotions around is testament to the effect that the planet can have on us.
Perhaps why I prefer yellow so much is the scarcity of the colour in our landscape. It isn't one that you naturally pass everyday; it isn't as universally widespread as, perhaps, green is. (Another name for a village green is a common after all). The infrequency of yellow in our lives keeps it a refreshing shade and continues to provoke a bout of delight within me, whenever I catch sight of it.

From where I grew up- the Norfolk countryside- patches of the landscape are annually knitted with a strong yellow, when farmers grow rapeseed. Every so often, the monotonous green that flourishes so much through our county's farmland, is punctuated by an arresting glow of yellow; it's flamboyancy almost yelling out at you. (No wonder, because after all: half of the word 'yellow' is 'yell').  However pulsating a field of yellow is to the passer-by, there's a simultaneous serenity enwrapped within. If you take a deckchair and park yourself beside a field of Rapeseed, you'll discover that although the colour is arresting, the field symbolises one of the last areas of tranquillity; a site not yet conquered by the hand of man. An area yet to be vanquished by the property developer. Compared to any urban jungle, this is one of the final segments of our country's jigsaw where one can still find equanimity; one of the few spots to soak up stillness.
If you have ever been lucky enough to grow Daffodils in your garden, you will equally know about how the arrival of those delicate yellow petals in Spring gives off a sense of anticipation for the year ahead. The blossoming of Daffs' mark a conclusion in what always seems an endless winter. In this way, yellow inspires a slightly different dish of emotions inside us;  yellow breathes prospect and optimism into us, especially when the mornings are still damp and ominous. Note with me how a colour such as yellow within our landscape can even oppress the seasons; the early stages of Spring maybe relatively dull, but combating such a mood is the vivid zing of yellowness.
 
For many of us, however (and particularly at present), yellowness manifests itself in something more alluring than a bed of Daffs' or a field of Rapeseed. Indeed, for millions of us, the promise of yellow sands and warm transparent waters is something that draws us to places far away.  As attractive and botanically interesting pebble-based beaches can sometimes prove to be, there's just that element missing from them; that critical yellowness which denotes a sandy beach and grants families with an infinite array of possibles when it comes to beach activities. From the classic sandcastle modelling, to Frisbee and other sport-related pursuits exercised across the bounty of beaches around the globe, our coastline environment is extremely important for the economy. Perhaps, the elemental placing of golden/yellow sands and turquoise/blue waters together is the secret to the beach's popularity. Here, however, yellow isn't about the anticipation necessarily which transpires from the Daffodils, neither is it a source of surprise like the Rapeseed. The yellowness, alternatively, that positively oozes from our sandy beaches brings together a whole cauldron of sentiments. For me, the beach reminds me of holidays from yesteryear, but also of summers yet to come. It also indicates a place of unreserved relaxation; a space of contemplation. A paradise, I suppose. There's little in the way of questions, therefore, why yellow seems to be my number one colour.
 
 
 

 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

'Colouring In-Between the Lines'- Part 3: 'Blue' Earth

'All Geographers do is colour in'....'Geographer's love Crayola'...'It's all about the colouring pencils'....
 
In a five part series, exclusively for Geography with Dan, Daniel discusses how colour should be treated seriously within the subject. Each week, he selects a colour that helps to shape the planet we live on today, and studies that colour from a distinctively geographical perspective.
 
This week, he focuses on all things Blue and argues that this colour is instrumental for a subject such as Geography.
 
***
It is increasingly becoming apparent that we are living in a state of almighty flux. Aside from the clear technological innovation, and an augmentation in our viral and virtual communication, there is a notion that we as a species are becoming busier. If the political project of the late 20th century was one of ephermeralisation- the goal of achieving more with less- then the century in which we live is almost certainly about interconnecting ourselves with distanciated others, around the world. It's about launching ourselves into a virtual cyberspace; our tweets and status updates entangled within the manageable chaos we choose to call the 'internet'. Nearly all of us everyday depart the structure and security of this Earth to lose ourselves within the dizzy heights (and breadths) of the 'world wide web'; indeed, what I am noticing is that our devotion towards Facebook and Twitter symbolises an escape; a chance to flee this world of ours to attend one more extraordinary.
 
Children from a troublingly early age these days are becoming vacuumed from Earth to take their place in this apparently more attractive virtual world, so it's no wonder why we are simultaneously becoming disengaged from Earth's natural beauty; no surprise why we have unleashed our grasp on our planet. A magpie's tweets, compared to those from our idol celebrities, are not worth the time of day. We succumb to the entrancing powers of social media, allured by its diversity, enticed by its ability, captivated by its design. As a nation, perhaps we have forgotten this wonderful planet that we all share.
 
The unsettling truth of it all is the fact that social media is about the largest exhibit of artificiality we have; a world (or perhaps a universe) apart from the natural beauty, the natural splendour and the untamed bounty of our rural nation. Quite possibly, the most beguiling verity is the fact that man has not got the answer to some of the most intriguing questions about this Earth and its process, so why therefore do we choose to ignore them and shift the core of our focus towards our message box; our 'profile page'; our 'notifications'?
However, it could be argued that this clear disregard for the planet in which we live- our burning desire to go someplace else- is not a recent item on our agenda as human beings. Consider, for example, the Apollo missions of the 1960s; our urgency in sending man to the Moon, and yet it could be argued that one of the greatest successes of any space mission is the way in which such forced distancing from the Earth can make us appreciate it more; can make us rekindle our love of it. When we are diverged from something it can, to some extent, renew our vows and revive our passion for it. In short, home sickness.

It was during that space mission, that we not only achieved images of the Moon, but some of Earth too; indeed, one very iconic photo that has manifest itself across the globe since. Labelled the 'Blue Marble', it's a photograph that stirs the emotions, particularly because of its seemingly static nature. There it is. There is our home afloat in the cosmos, drifting on its voyage through space. Since then- since the production of the 'Blue Marble'- I think we have witnessed a dramatic transformation in the way that we represent the planet. If social media takes advantage of anything, it is the way that countries across the world are becoming more concomitant. In a world that is forever changing, there is an air of constancy; the tentacles of our simultaneity are physically binding and keeping the Earth 'marble-like'.
I think it's no surprise, therefore, that we used the label 'marble'; a representation of Earth's impenetrable nature, even in times of planetary-scale changes. Perhaps, it's even more interesting to see that colour is also incorporated into it. In an age of industrialisation, we have selflessly chosen to describe it by something natural; the pure and unprocessed hue of blue which, after all, covers three-quarters of Earth in the form of our seas and oceans.
Having said this, there is a major inaccuracy with calling this the 'Blue Planet'. After all, if you take a cup, walk to your nearest ocean (some of you might need to drive) and fill it with water, you will clearly observe that the ocean is not blue at all. And yet, 75% of Earth we consider being blue. As a nation of sunbathers, beach fanatics and tan-wannabes, we seek out and travel hundreds of miles for blue sky, and yet never consider the fact that the sky is a void, unable to be tinted.

 
Just like the name 'Blue Marble', we see blueness in our seas and skies, or perhaps more accurately put, we see the lack of any other colour from these entities. But so accentuated the idea of blue sky is in our society, that I think some of us sometimes forget that there is nothing blue at all about our atmosphere. It is, like so many things, one of those representations of the planet, excessively used and now drilled into the very core of our understanding. If you don't believe me, consider for a minute what the world would look like if our oceans could be seen in their actual translucent property. How eerie a sight would be; how unnatural?

 
And still our misperceptions- tragic misunderstandings about our own home- are forever exposed. Those who consider the sky to be blue would quite likely describe a glacial environment 'white'. A monotonous whiteness that sweeps across in panoramic fashion, and yet glaciers rarely appear white, but blue. As snow is compressed into the glacial ice, so air bubbles are trapped and squeezed out. Just like the ocean, the presence of blueness is down to the Oxygen-Hydrogen bond in the water that absorbs light; in other words, glaciers appear blue, but are in reality clear. After all, how many times have you seen blue ice cubes served in drinks at your local pub? Having de-mystified the blueness, it would be equally inaccurate to say glaciers were white. Water is not white, so ice can't be either.

 
If the world is essentially not blue, then why the 'Blue Marble’? Why submit to such an inaccuracy? Perhaps it comes down to our detachment away from the Earth. So distanced we are in a world of virtual reality, that we only see the Earth, instead of understanding it. Interestingly enough, social media is often formatted upon a blue background, as scientists have concluded that we are likely to retain attention to something that is blue. If only we had more time for the Blue Marble too? Perhaps if we called it ‘hashtag Marble’ instead?

Sunday, 1 June 2014

'Colouring in between the lines'- Part 2: 'Red' Earth

'All Geographers do is colour in'....'Geographer's love Crayola'...'It's all about the colouring pencils'....
 
In a five part series, exclusively for Geography with Dan, Daniel discusses how colour should be treated seriously within the subject. Each week, he selects a colour that helps to shape the planet we live on today, and studies that colour from a distinctively geographical perspective.
 
This week, he focuses on all things Red and argues that this colour is instrumental for a subject such as Geography.

***

There's a bright, yet dispiriting light intermittently flashing on my computer mouse beside me, reminding me that its days of service for me are limited. A similar warning symbol is displayed on my digital camera screen too; a testament, if nothing else, at how appalling I am at monitoring battery life. At least I can rely on the warning lights to alert me as to when I should find my chargers. Those red warning lights.

"Red light spells danger..." as Billy Ocean famously sang, although I'm unsure if I agree. After all, let us consider the red lights that confront us on Planet Earth. The red lights which forewarn battery death do not necessarily cause danger; quite the opposite in fact. They alert us that some action is required of us to replace the said batteries or, in my case, re-charge them. The top bulb on a set of traffic lights or a car's rear breaking lights are there for reasons of safety and security rather than to implant a sense of inevitable doom into our lives. The speckles of red lights that cluster on the tops of buildings are of great use to pilots and the like; they don't spell insurmountable peril, but rather prevent it.

 
There is, however, a case to be made that red and redness infuses a sense of completion, expiration and extremity. The end to a battery's life; the cessation to a stretch of driving; the very tip of a building; maximum speed on a speedometer; a red card in a football match. It's fascinating to consider that these principals- the fundamental idea of red denoting termination and extremity- is almost instinctive to us. After all, which lesson at school was devoted to colour symbology? (Perhaps that's on the curriculum now?)

So how do we know that red light spells expiration? I would argue that the answer, or at least the clues, can be found in Earth's natural phenomena. When our long summer days are completed, our woodlands undergo a spectacular metamorphosis; lush and leafy green foliage transforms into crisp autumnally red articles that depart their aerial position and float gracefully down to a welcoming blanket of further redness below. It's a sight to warm the heart, and I often enjoy ambling through my local woodlands during October, listening to the crunch and crisp that nature's red carpet provides.

 
Anyone that has marvelled at a sunrise or witnessed a sunset will note about the palette of dark reds and light reds which are interspersed within the tints of gold and the tones of orange, and once again, they collectively celebrate the end of a day cycle or a night cycle. The sunset marks the end of the day shift for some; the end of guiltless back garden sunbathing for others. For plants, the end of photosynthesis; for nocturnal fauna, the end (hopefully) of a good sleep. There is, then, a symbolic colour that manifests through nature's body clock; an unmistakable redness in our landscape.



Perhaps, it doesn't just exemplify completion or termination. How many times have you been sitting in your car waiting for the lights to change from red to green and silently contemplated over your day; your week; your life? How many times has a walk through your red autumnal forests sparked memories of a summer spent? How many times has a sunset triggered a moment of deep reflection? I may argue therefore that Earth's 'redness' elicits a sense of profound meditation in all of us. If contemplation had to be coloured, perhaps it would be red; we express our emotions through redness. A rose on Valentine's Day. A poppy when we remember the fallen. Red faces upon embarrassment or anger.
For those within the UK, red has become embraced and incorporated into the very texture of our nationalism. The red London bus, the red letterbox, the red telephone box; if any colour was to exhibit British culture and British nationalism, I would argue that red would be the successful applicant. From the BBC logo to the English flag and Red Nose Day, a trail of redness swarms around our villages, towns and cities in immeasurable volumes; our national pride, although diminishing in the face of globalisation, is sustained within the very redness of our urban environment.



But that very association- the intangible links between nationalism and redness- is one that is imagined; indeed, the very idea of a nation is imagined. Benedict Anderson famously wrote in 1973 that individuals construct the concept of a society; an 'imagined community' composed of a group who share common heritage, common views; common identity and affiliation to a particular nation. Likewise, our association between redness and nationalism is one deeply set in the core of our own imagination. It's so deeply embedded into our culture, that it appears permanent and irreversible. The truth is, all it comes down to is a whirring mix of chemicals and hormones inside our minds.

So if it isn't fixed- if these geographical discourses on colour are mere emotion, thought and feeling- why study them so intensively? Well, Geography's pivotal agenda according to Bonnett (2008) is to "find and impose meaning into a seemingly chaotic world" and most of those meanings are ones that reside inside our mind. Man's greatest theories stem from mere ideas; our greatest landmarks inspire emotions; our finest landscapes stir and excite our imaginations. Places remind us of memories; sometimes of our darkest hours, sometimes of our highest achievements. Places spark curiosity, they initiate fears; they propagate hope. Colours such as red, when they do appear either on the leaves of our trees, or behind the clouds of our dusk-lit skies, remind us of the sheer presence and vitality of the world in which we live. A planet that through intricate connections with our emotions, thoughts and feelings, is one that we have settled to call 'home'.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

'Colouring in between the lines'- Part 1: 'Green' Earth

'All Geographers do is colour in'....'Geographer's love Crayola'...'It's all about the colouring pencils'....
 
In a five part series, exclusively for Geography with Dan, Daniel discusses how colour should be treated seriously within the subject. Each week, he selects a colour that helps to shape the planet we live on today, and studies that colour from a distinctively geographical perspective.
 
This week, he focuses on all things Green and argues that this colour is instrumental for a subject such as Geography.
 
 
'And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!'
[William Blake 'Jerusalem' 1808]
It's fair to say that we've all done it; cruised along England's multitudinous array of urban highways and country tracks, rested our temple against the sunlit pane of the wind-up window, and gazed out to England's 'green and pleasant land'. The landscapes of Britain make up a patchwork quilt of utter diversity. Vista after vista, we as humans are enchanted about this nation's rich variety of eye-appealing panoramas, but seldom do we appreciate just how wonderfully simple they really are. I use 'simple' cautiously; of course, the tapestry of the English landscape is one composed of a range of complex interactions and processes. Just viewing one of Constable's works for half an hour will reveal the density of life occupying our rural landscapes, but I would strongly argue here that there must be something so clear-cut and frank in our countryside which makes us find it so appealing from the start.
 
After all, just take note of how we fall in love with things; entities, people, environments. To love a film, for instance, we have to travel to our local cinema, queue for a ticket, endure a generation of trailers and adverts before we can claim to fall in love with the actual film. We take time out of our own lives to read, and it may take several chapters to 'get into' it, so to speak. Falling in love with people may take an hour or two worth of coffee-fuelled, lively and engaging chat in the local café.
 
But when it comes to our rural landscape, our instantaneous love seeps from our hearts; we cruise around a corner and are immediately immersed with an entirely different set of surroundings which, for some reason, we instantly stare at. ‘Love at first sight’, one may say, and arguably less awkward than that 'first date'. (In addition, it’s free of charge and does not consume time).
 
So what draws us? What aspect of the landscape is that intangible force that revolves our head from our iPad to our car window? What essence of 'England's pleasant pastures' stir the human imagination in such a way that we are emphatically encapsulated within the blessed panorama? Perhaps, the clue is in Blake's poem: quite possibly it is the greenness of our hills and dales, the greenness of our moors and heaths, the greenness of our meadows and pastures that sparks our passion with the landscape.
 
 
Anyone that owns a pack of crayons (a useful item for geographers apparently) should ensure that the green crayon is forever sharpened, as there is no doubt that this is a green planet.  A blue hue is evident from space and that is noteworthy, albeit misleading; our life, particularly our flora, however, simply radiates greenness. Take a peek through the catalogue of Google Images at Clipart illustrations of Earth, and then agree with me that land is more often than not coloured in green. Naturally, our bounty of satellite images may tell a different story, especially in an age of hyper-globalisation and intense industrialisation, and in some ways, this makes the fact that 'green' is used to portray terrestrial land all the more interesting. By colouring our land in green, perhaps we are trying to cling on to our heritage; an age prior to human occupation when a squirrel could venture hundreds of miles without making contact with terra firma. Or quite possibly, we are hopeful that in the future, Planet Earth will return once again to inescapable foliage and impenetrable shrubbery. Either way, we as humans- a species that deforests, builds, creatively destructs our landscape, a species that gnaws away at greenness - continue to portray our terrestrial land as monotonously green.
 
Our compassion and sympathy with nature may re-emerge in the future as we embrace the 'garden city'.  That's not to say we close our high-street shops, stick a pair of gardening gloves on, and unite in an afternoon of weeding and pruning, but that we incorporate greenness into our urban environment. It was an idea championed at the start of the 20th century, and indeed remains a method of urban planning adopted across the world, from New York to São Paulo, from Adelaide to New Delhi. However, it all started in the UK, in a town called Letchworth that finds itself nested within the confines of Hertfordshire. Why do we still create them? Perhaps, there's something about the colour green that softens the marks of our industrial project; something to mask the brick and mortar; something that more profoundly makes us feel that little bit less guilty when we are reminded about the pace of our urbanisation.
 
What the 'garden city' movement more interestingly highlights is the nature of flux and impermanence in our world today. In less than two centuries, our entire position on nature and its potential has changed in Herculean fashion. Our Industrial Revolution was an era of senseless violence to our rural landscape; a capitalism-fired destruction of all that was green and pleasant in our land. In the aftermath, we now pause and consider our wrongdoings; our uncharitable selfishness with regards to conservation and protection, and in desperation we make space in our towns and cities to reincorporate greenness. Our markets are not the only things growing in the 21st century, and ironically in some cities, the plants are actually prospering more. Maybe we should inject some chlorophyll into our stock exchange?
 
But of course, this has always been a world of impermanence. I was laying in a meadow not so long ago, on the outskirts of my university campus. It's a place that positively screams tranquillity, and yet I seemed to be the only one here on this particular afternoon. There I found myself examining the meadow's carpet . How elemental it is, but how simply wonderful the clouds are in influencing the tints of green of the meadow. As cloud after cloud passed under our Sun's beam, so that electric bright green seamlessly converts to a darker, more earthy shade and back to its dazzling tint.
 
I closed my eyes and remembered another time when I found contentment in lounging on the ground; Alaska in the fall of 2012. There I would lay, surveying the magical twilit heavens, and the celestial dance of the Aurora Borealis. A nocturnal spectacle; a display far greater than any staged or theatrical production. And very green.  I would argue, purely on my own experience, that the best representation of greenness- apart from our illustrious countryside- are the Northern Lights. But, once again, a tale of impermanence and unpredictability, for the lights cannot be forecasted. Their ornate shapes or their sumptuous dance cannot be foretold. It's one of life's greatest pleasures; the knowledge that we as humans don't (and never will) control everything.
 
 
How multifaceted 'greenness' is for our planet; how diverse its meaning. For many, it symbolises nature and hope. For others, it symbolises death and sickness- anyone who has experienced the tragedy of mouldy bread will know what I mean here. It's a colour of freedom that performs a duty in our everyday lives, whether it's the bottom bulb on a set of traffic lights, or the 'green card'. In some respects recently, green has lost its colour, as the word has become caught up in an environmental and conservation appeals: "go green", "think green", "live green" and so on.
 
For me, however, it's the impermanence and instability of greenness on our planet that makes it such a substantial issue, and upon consideration, maybe it's the fact that it’s becoming more difficult to find that makes me fall more in love with it when I see it. They say ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’; indeed, as we are forever distanciated from our 'green and pleasant land', maybe there's renewed hope that we will, at some point, rekindle our love for all things green.
 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

NEW FIVE-PART SERIES!

COLOURING IN-BETWEEN THE LINES

STARTS SUNDAY 25TH MAY 2014

 
There is a contested argument swarming around British Geography departments these days, that geographers simply 'colour in' maps of the world, or draw 'pretty pictures' of rivers and mountains. For many years, geographers have retaliated back and argued strongly that the discipline is more than just maps and diagrams; it's about complex inter-relationships between different locales.

Well, that maybe true, but it doesn't necessarily prevent the derogatory claims about the 'softness' of the subject; it doesn't stop Jim the physicist or Martha the chemist from likening geography to an afternoon of colouring.

Over the next five weeks, starting tomorrow (25th May), I will be launching a new series of articles for Geography with Dan. Five articles which highlight the importance of 'colour' in a subject like Geography; after all, this is one of the most colourful planets in our solar system.

I will be taking one colour each week and exploring just how that colour plays a vital part in our everyday lives. Now I'm not saying that every geographer should now go out and purchase a set of Crayola crayons, but I want to express an unprecedented argument that those who associate 'Geography' with 'Colour' may have a point.