Building a personal research and teaching library…

Progressive Geographies

Building a personal research and teaching library – a few thoughts inspired by Dave Beer, The case of bookcases. Thank you to Dave both for this post and encouraging me to say something about my books.

At home, I’m fortunate to have a large room as a study. This is the main writing collection, with all the books by Foucault, Heidegger, Lefebvre and other thinkers whose work I want to have easily accessible. I have most in original language and translation. I also have a lot of secondary literature on each of them, and, especially with Foucault, a lot of related texts – documents, bibliographies, pamphlets, etc. I also have nearly all my history of political thought and philosophy books, pre-20th century, at home – loads of books by Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and many others. I also have books by Kostas Axelos, the complete…

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Understanding Public Perceptions of a New Pit Lake in As Pontes, Spain

The introduction of coal mining in the 1940’s transformed the landscape and economy of As Pontes, Spain. Industrialisation created successive waves of economic and population booms, but when the mining slowed in the 1990s, the region experienced economic depression. Real and perceived social divisions and environmental abuses on the part of the mining company remained entrenched in people’s memories. This paper provides an overview of the factors that likely affected community acceptance of the new pit lake in As Pontes, Spain. Pit lakes are often attractive closure options for companies, and community opinion of pit lakes can influence pit end use. Community perceptions of the pit lake before, during, and after filling were assessed using case studies, interviews, and focus groups, and by tracking news events and analysing internet forums. The results broadly indicated high community acceptance of the pit lake by people residing in the town. However, interviews revealed that acceptance of the pit lake was influenced by previous experiences with the mining company; company employees and local politicians were more likely to be positive about the benefits of the lake, whereas those not directly affiliated with the lake (long-term residents, remote villagers, school teachers) were more likely to have a negative view of it. Thus, technical success is not the only factor that influences community acceptance of pit lakes and company closure plans. Unresolved social issues can also influence the way certain people perceive the new landscape, regardless of ecological and aesthetic impacts.

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Is This a Dress Rehearsal?

In the Moment

Bruno Latour

The unforeseen coincidence between a general confinement and the period of Lent is still quite welcome for those who have been asked, out of solidarity, to do nothing and to remain at a distance from the battle front. This obligatory fast, this secular and republican Ramadan can be a good opportunity for them to reflect on what is important and what is derisory. . . . It is as though the intervention of the virus could serve as a dress rehearsal for the next crisis, the one in which the reorientation of living conditions is going to be posed as a challenge to all of us, as will all the details of daily existence that we will have to learn to sort out carefully. I am advancing the hypothesis, as have many others, that the health crisis prepares, induces, incites us to prepare for climate change. This hypothesis…

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Landscape value

Landscape value corresponds to an attachment or emotional bond that people develop with places. There are strong cultural ties to landscapes and feelings for the visual beauty of mountains, lakes, coasts, forests, etc., which are a common bond among people or social groups of a given region. Arguments related to landscape values are commonly heard in Europe from opponents to the construction of wind farms for example. Landscape values may also be important for the tourism industry and landscapes can therefore be managed as a key component of tourism infrastructure.

Landscape value often has an association with environmental and natural resource values. The values that people appreciate in a landscape may often also be important ecologically. Landscape values can be divided into use and non-value, the former of which provides tangible benefits (such as economic value through, for instance, tourism, or recreation value) and the latter of which provides spiritual, identity or ecological value.

For further reading

Penning-Rowsell, E. C. (1981) Fluctuating fortunes in gauging landscape value. Progress in human geography, 5(1), 25-41.

Zografos, C., & Mart, J. (2009). The politics of landscape value: a case study of wind farm conflict in rural Catalonia. Environment and Planning A, 41(7), 1726-1744.

This glossary entry is based on contributions by Julien Francois Gerber

EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

Debate participacion (Habermas) vs technocracy (Niklas Luhmann)

O problema de partida: apatia política nas democracias contemporâneas Nos últimos anos formou-se um consenso surpreendente entre muitos autores sobre a crise do sistema democrático. A surpresa deriva do fato de que, depois da Queda do Muro de Berlim, a democracia ocidental parecia triunfar definitiva e incontrastavelmente. De fato, havia tempo que alguns teóricos já tinham alertado para problemas irresolvidos e dilemas que caracterizam nossas sociedades democráticas. Já na década de 1970, Jürgen Habermas e Claus Offe tinham chamado atenção para os desafios que o Estado democrático de bem-estar social tinha que enfrentar na Europa (Habermas, [1973] 1980; Offe, [1972] 1984). Com o desenvolvimento da economia capitalista e o multiplicar-se das crises econômicas e financeiras, provocadas – na leitura marxista desses autores – pela própria lógica do sistema capitalista, o Estado se viu na obrigação de encontrar remédios para os efeitos negativos de tais crises e para obviar às correspondentes crises de legitimação que ameaçavam o sistema econômico e político. Um dos instrumentos utilizados para esse fim foi a adoção de políticas de segurança social, que foram aprofundando-se e transformando-se em políticas de bem-estar social. Ora, apesar de considerar esse processo em geral de maneira positiva, Habermas em várias obras alerta para um efeito negativo: o cidadão tende a transformar-se em cliente, renunciando à participação ativa e assumindo a atitude passiva de quem se limita a aguardar serviços do Estado (Habermas, 1973, pp. 9 e ss., 2012, pp. 626 e ss.).

Mais ou menos na mesma época, Niklas Luhmann, ao discutir a noção de “democratização da política”, afirmava que as sociedades contemporâneas são tão complexas que as “teorias clássicas da democracia” parecem ultrapassadas e incapazes de entender adequadamente a realidade política (Luhmann, [1965] 1983, p. 153). A ideia de uma vontade popular é inspirada por uma analogia com
os indivíduos, mas não se deixa aplicar a sistemas altamente complexos. Essa complexidade faz com que “o nível de informação do público” seja “extremamente baixo”. Até em casos que dizem respeito ao interesse pessoal dos cidadãos, como no “do direito tributário, ou daqueles relativos aos seguros e às pensões”, é improvável que o indivíduo conheça as leis em questão. Longe de considerar isso lamentável, Luhmann pensa que “ignorância e apatia são
as condições mais importantes para uma mudança das leis, que segue passando despercebida, e para a variabilidade do direito e, portanto, são funcionais para o sistema” (Luhmann, [1965] 1983, p. 191).


“Large-scale mining developments’ 7 capital sins” Documentary (in Spanish)

Federico Guzman documentary on megamining in Zacatecas, Mexico. See also his thesis book.

American English vs. European English

This video by Michael McIntyre on American Language reminds me Alexis de Tocquevile text when he describes the simplicity of English language in America. He suggests that the fact America was made of unkonwn people coming from many parts of the words made people to use language in a more intuitive way for better communication. For instance, sidewalk instead of pavement. Sidewalk provide a more detail explanation of the action a person is suppose to perform in that specific place.

‘Swarm Electrification’ in Bangladesh Lets Neighbours Swap Solar Electricity

For decades, families had little choice but to use kerosene. Now they’re swapping solar electricity.

Ten households in Shakimali Matborkandi, a village in the Shariatpur district of Bangladesh, have seen a dramatic change over the past year in the way they light their homes and charge their mobile phones.

For decades, these families had little choice but to use kerosene, the most popular fuel in tens of millions of homes in the developing world. But in September 2015, a Bangladeshi company, ME SOLshare, introduced them to what it calls “swarm electrification”.

In a fresh twist on the sharing economy popularized by Uber and Airbnb, ME SOLshare’s pilot project enables the residents of Shakimali Matborkandi to trade electricity among themselves, free of any contact with a local utility.

Bangladesh is the world leader in the number of installed solar home systems, which makes them a natural testing ground for rural peer-to-peer electricity trading. Image: ME SOLshare 

More than four million homes in Bangladesh are already equipped with solar panels. But, starting with the Shakimali Matborkandi pilot project, ME SOLshare aims to go a step further. With the help of a black box called a SOLbox and a mobile phone connected to the largest mobile banking network in the country called bKash, each family can buy solar electricity from their neighbours when they need it, and sell when they have a surplus.

If anyone on the grid needs electricity, they add credit to their mobile wallet, switch their SOLbox to ‘buy’ mode, and trade the credit for power. Similarly, those who have excess power, or simply want to make some extra money, set the box to ‘sell’ mode. They can then use the credit on their mobile wallet to buy products at any local store.

Electrical engineer from UBOMUS installs a solar home system. Image: ME SOLshare

This system, known as peer-to-peer electricity trading on a nanogrid, is already making inroads in some industrial countries, such as the Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany and the US. But its introduction to Bangladesh could revolutionize the use of electricity in impoverished and remote communities that up to now have never known any source of power apart from kerosene and batteries.

Read More: An Indie, Off-the-Grid, Blockchain-Traded Solar Power Market Comes to Brooklyn

What’s more, in countries prone to armed conflict and natural disasters, such as Bangladesh, where floods affected 3.2 million people and damaged over 250,000 homes this past summer, swarm electrification can keep the lights on even if there is extensive damage to the utility power grid.

Sebastian Groh, ME SOLshare’s managing director, said in an interview that the technology inspires a new way of thinking. “It inspires entrepreneurship. You are not just focused on your needs.” He added that “people are encouraged to use energy efficient appliances and the latest LED lights to reduce consumption” so that they can sell surplus power to their neighbors.

Groh came up with the term “swarm electrification” because, he said, “in a swarm of fish, there is no central intelligence and the fish work together to create unity.” He added that, “if a shark attacks a swarm, it may take out one or two fish, but the rest keep on swimming.”

SOLshare SOLbox Video. Video: Me SOLshare/YouTube

Another advantage of the technology is the low cost and reduced environmental impact. In rural Bangladesh, the average household spends $2 USD a month on kerosene for lighting but, as Nasir Uddin, executive director of Bangladesh-based nonprofit UBOMUS, one of the leading installers of solar home systems in the country, put it: “You can’t charge your mobile phone with kerosene.”

The SOLbox itself costs $30, which consumers pay in installments over 24-36 months. After that, they own the box. Mr. Uddin said: “There are thousands of places in remote Bangladesh where this kind of project may be implemented.”

He added that for the same cost as kerosene, the SOLbox enables consumers to have access to bright, clean lighting, and they can also charge their mobile devices.

In Bangladesh, about 20,000 new solar systems are installed each month. According to Groh, ME SOLshare plans to install another 200 SOLboxes by February 2017.

Beneficiary from Shakimali Matborkandi village stands next to her new SOLbox. Image: ME SOLshare

The potential of swarm electricity extends far beyond Bangladesh. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), more than 6 million solar home systems are in operation worldwide, and their cost has dropped by over 80 percent since 2010. As prices continue to drop, the number of solar home systems will continue to rise, with the Climate Change Group estimating that five million solar homesystems will be sold in India alone between 2014 and 2018.

The challenge that the technology faces in reaching this wider market will be in finding the right sites. For efficiency reasons, the nanogrid uses direct current as opposed to alternating current, which means the lines carrying the electricity cannot extend far without significant energy loss. Only areas with high population density are candidates for this technology. Bangladesh makes a perfect guinea pig with a population of over 160 million people squeezed into an area roughly the size of New York state.

ME SOLshare’s technology won the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Momentum for Change award this year. According to Nawal Al Hosany, an expert on energy innovation and a member of the UNFCCC award advisory panel, ME SOLshare’s technology “could make secure, sustainable and healthy energy access a reality to many millions of people across the globe who currently live day-to-day without it.”

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Crime in Spain, brief overview

Several studies showed that crime in western societies fell from the mid-nineteenth century to World War II, and it increased from that date (Gurr et al., 1976; Killias & Riva, 1984). Later, while crime remains invariables for some years, it considerably increases in the mid-sixties. For instance, In France, criminal offences soared from 13 per thousand inhabitants in 1950 to 61 in 1998, being most of this growth concentrated between 1965 and 1982 (Geri, 2000) Equally, studies show an overall increasing trend up to date in France and other countries.

In the case of Spain, after the end of the civil war in 1939, the country experiences a process of criminalization and persecution of those defeated during the conflict, as well as their equalization of the status of common criminals (Gómez, 2009). Additionally, in the first post-war years there is a growth of property crimes due to scarcity and rationing and it slightly increases year after year until 1971, when the number of infractions comes close to hundred thousand (Hernando, 2016). The most common crimes during this stage are thefts, small scams (swindles) and robberies with force. Most common criminals make use of cunning and techniques based on deceit and ability, being infrequent crimes of a violent nature.

In the early 1970, Spain was in the last stage of the Franco Regime. The last years of the dictatorship were characterized, on the one hand, by the grating of greater degree of freedom to the people, and on the other, by greater political and economic instability: clamour for freedom and political tensions raised and 1973 marks the beginning of an economic downturn due to the oil crisis. It is precisely these years when crime in Spain experiences relevant changes: criminal offences alarmingly skyrocket and provoke an overall state of alert across the country, particularly in the most urbanized regions and between 1983 and 1987, one of the most problematic periods of the recent country. Potential for conflict arises in the streets and the number of offenses soared from 426,528 in 1982 to 762,113 in 1984. There is not an entire rupture with the previous period as long as the most common offense are still thefts and robbery (property crime represents approximately 87% of total offenses). Yet, there is an increase in personal crime, homicide and rapes and robberies with violence become the most relevant crime during these years. The factors of this quantitative evolution are, according to several autors, the greater incidence of narcotic consumption and traffic (Hernando, 2002). Indeed, the drug consumption infected many cities in Spain and the number of deaths from drug overdoses particularly increase during the eighties. Juvenile crime also arises and in 1982, the country registered double arrests of young boys than in 1979.

From the end of eighties up to 2008, the country experiences a gradual increase in the number of criminal infractions, coming close to 2.5 million or more than 50 per thousand inhabitants. In recent years, the country registers an overall decrease in crime, also coinciding with the economic crisis suffered by many western economies since 2008.