I was delighted to be asked to speak at TEDxEHL last month at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. I used my 15 minutes to argue that we are currently going through an Exploration Revolution, but that we’re not making the most of it… especially in schools. The talk takes place during the 125th anniversary of National Geographic, a year in which many people have been asking the society “what’s left to explore?“. This short video answers that question and more.
I’m very pleased to be working with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts to explore how globalisation is changing local places. It’s an innovative project to understand how the unique and complex interdependencies between people, countries and global brands are changing destination, including those that we call home.
This video introduces the project and is an invitation to join the TED conversation or share your opinion on Twitter through the hashtag #FutureOfLocal. I’m excited to be part of this investigation into the relationship between travel, sense of place, local needs and global brands. Please do contribute your thoughts, ideas and opinions as well as spread the word about this valuable and open conversation.
Next month I’m going to be making my way to Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland to give a talk at TEDxEHL 2013. Among others, I’m going to have the pleasure of sharing the stage with Caroline Duetsch Kubik, Mela Kocher and Doug Manuel. I’m excited to be taking part and can’t wait to work out what I’m going to say…
Last year I was lucky enough to be invited into National Geographic in Washington DC to give a Nat Geo Live! presentation. Part of National Geographic’s Geography Awareness Week this is my 50 minute presentation compressed into 20. I hope you like it.
Can you imagine living for a month entirely on things that can only be found within a day’s walk of your home? This is what Jess Allen did over the last month and I’ll be asking her why she did this on Twitter tomorrow night.
Jess describes herself as a “stereotypical dreadlocked-vegetarian-eco-feminist-environmentalist-caravan/yurt-dwelling aerial dancer, walking artist and academic hedgesprite with a horse” She’s currently doing a second PhD in performance, developing the practice of tracktivism with a President’s Doctoral Scholarship from the University of Manchester.
I’ll be asking Jess some questions about her work and experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #guerrillageography from 8pm (London time) tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
I’m always fascinated to discover the reasons why explorers and adventurers do what they do. In November Ben Saunders (@PolarBen) gave a TED Talk in which he described his amazing solo trek across the Arctic (from Siberia to Canada) and explained his main reason for the journey.
“One of the magical things about this journey however is that because I’m walking over the sea, over this floating, drifting, shifting crust of ice that’s floating on the surface of the arctic ocean is that it’s an environment in a constant state of flux. The ice is always moving, breaking-up, drifting around, re-freezing.. so the scenery that I saw for nearly 3 months was unique to me. No one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the vistas that I saw for 10 weeks and that, I guess, is the finest argument for leaving the house.”
Ben’s story is inspirational and his reason for leaving the house is certainly captivating, but I’m not convinced that the exclusivity of experience or sole ownership of it are the best reasons to explore. No doubt taking such an extreme trek is geographically (in location, distance, scale, environment and human isolation) beyond what most people would do, but surely no one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the same vistas for any period of time? Growing trees, moving cars, changing window displays, rotating kebabs and dogs running in the park are all always changing and so are our gazes and our opinions. If the finest argument for leaving the house is to have a unique experience, all we have to do is be semi-conscious of the fact our experience is unique. We don’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to have sole ownership of our experiences on it.
That said, I’m curious about the reasons why, as a tourist, traveller, explorer or simply someone bothering to leave the house, I enjoy a place or event because I’m the only one who has experienced it compared to experiences that are, to some degree, shared. When does sharing heighten, intensify or improve and when does it dilute, obstruct and corrupt? Clearly is depends entirely on the situation.
I enjoy the music festival scene in the UK and go to several major events each year. Something that’s often described is a tipping point where the festival organisers have sold too many tickets and the community feel of the event is lost. In the case of Glastonbury, the UK’s biggest festival, the organiser’s themselves have complained of there being an imbalance in the age of their audience… it’s ageing. Those who have been going to Glastonbury for sometime often complain that it’s become too big and too mainstream. That said, the feeling of being part of a massive drifting, shifting and moving crowd is often just as important as the band on stage. Everyone who is present creates the geography of the moment, the atmosphere that creates the place and so the destination that everyone has come for. Are these camping festival survivalists who brave the elements to enjoy this unique location any less an explorer because what they seek is music together rather than snow alone? I don’t think so.
We are all explorers, or as the poet Kate Tempest (@katetempest) would say, we are the Brand New Ancients.
I recently watched Step Up Revolution and was struck by what an awesome case study this film would make in geography classrooms. Some people may be fooled into thinking this is just a film about dance, but Step Up Revolution is a classic geographical (if fictional) study of people, place, power, planning and protest in cities. When a strip in Miami is threatened with topocide and gentrification “The Mob” fight back to protect their home. Guerrilla Geography is rife in this blockbuster, as the dancers move from ‘performance art’ to ‘ protest art’, intentionally occupying spaces to make their point and exert their power. It’s full of beautifully geography-based quotes too, as the characters debate identify, culture and more.
The love interest plot in the film revolves around Sean and Emily, two dancers who have fallen for each other but who are separated by their differences in wealth. To top that it’s Emily’s dad who is trying to redevelop the area and Sean is one of the leaders of the “Mob” that is uprising. Near the end of the film they dance together to the song “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra, a beautiful song that with its use in this film draw parallels between finding a sense of home in both place and people… in this case, with each other through dance.
The film ends with Emily’s dad (the property developer) saying “Maybe there is a way to build-up this neighbourhood without tearing it down”. What a classic problem for any classroom of students try and tackle.
Last week I had great fun helping to make this live Guerrilla Geography video with National Geographic Education for Geography Awareness Week. What do you think of it?
Geography is an important part of all our lives, yet the subject is often misunderstood, marginalised and even damaged. Geography Awareness Week is an important effort to raise awareness of how powerful and useful the subject is.
Geography Awareness Week is celebrated at different times of the year depending on where in the world you live. This week National Geographic Education is taking the lead in North America and is being supported many other organisations across the continent and world. The Geography Collective, which I help to lead, is very pleased to be one of them.
This is not just an opportunity for North America though. Wherever you are in the world you will find ideas and resources on the Geography Awareness Week website that you can use to promote geography and support your work.
Tweeting on #GAweek, this year focuses on the complex and important geographical idea of interdependence. This theme is a challenging one that mixes ‘human’ and ‘physical’ geographies that are so often divided. It also helps to avoid the ‘trivia geographies’ of naming capitals that prevent so many people from having a deeper understanding of the power of our field.
Here are some great resources things that are happening this week that you can get involved in:
> Measure and map your interdependence with the Global Closet Calculator. This is an awesome tool and if you spend some time with it you can get some exciting results and mapping. Made by our partners at The Workshop for National Geographic Education you can have a go here.
> We’ve made a whole bunch of free Mission:Explore resources. This includes a special version of Mission:Explore Food that’s full of Interdependence missions along with new challenges on the Mission:Explore website.
> Get the toolkit.
> On Tuesday evening at 7pm I’m going to be giving a special Nat Geo Live presentation on Guerrilla Geography from the National Geographic Society in Washington DC. You can get tickets here.
> On Thursday we’re going to be having a Guerrilla Geography Google+ Hangout. Join us at 1pm ET as we spend 30 minutes exploring, sharing and discussing guerrilla geography challenges. Explorers in the UK, India, New Zealand and the US will be joining in.
> This weekend I’ll be with National Geographic Education in Seattle for the 2012 National Council for Social Studies conference. I’m going to be presenting and the Nat Geo team will be getting everyone excited about geography.
I do hope that you can join one of these things. If not, why not find your own way to celebrate this important week or simply pass the message on?
I love this short film by the Light Surgeons.