Jonathan Darling : population & migration
I wasn’t always the keenest on ‘human geography’ but there are so many interesting topics that are relevant for our students. We teach migration in KS3 as well as for GCSE and it can lead to great discussions and debates on politics, population control, democracy, human rights, geopolitical boundaries, quality of life – and to challenging misconceptions and potential racism / discrimination.
Darling commented on the rising number of international migrants – approx 3.1% of world population is migrant – but that the dispersal is uneven throughout the globe. Immigration accounts for 40% of population growth in OECD countries during 2001-2011, but the impact on their GDP was negligible therefore going against those who argue migrants can have negative impact on economy. Migrants are disproportionately affected by financial crisis / recession so there is a geography here. He stated most refugees remain within their region of origin, that only 17% of refugees will make asylum requests outside of origin (due to lack of resources etc,) so those who do make it further are likely to be better educated / better resource. In fact refugees to the UK tend to be disproportionately better skilled relative to the wider UK population (23% skilled vs 12% of pre-existing residents).
He stated that migration is likely to continue to rise due to continued global inequalities, political disturbances, unpredictable conflict, resource depletion and climate change, and that as the global south develops it provides resources to enable those populations to then be more mobile and migrate – therefore relocating.
Interestingly there are future climate refugees in Alaska. Many settlements in Alaska are built near rivers and coastlines to enable access to resources, but these areas are at risk of climate change and therefore future is uncertain. So while migration units often focus on LEDCs as examples, why not focus on modern day and alternative refugee situations? Decision making scenarios?
There is apparently an increasing death toll annually for Mexican to USA migrants as the routes have become increasingly more dangerous ; the natural geography of the area has been exploited as a geopolitical tool, ie. officials can police key areas which then forces migrants to attempt other routes which are geographically more difficult (mountainous, rivers, etc,.) What I found fascinating is that there is an emergence of resistance groups, e.g. Humane Borders, No More Deaths, Brinco trainers, etc,. The Brinco trainers is a great potential resource for migration decision making exercises / debates / the role of social enterprise action as they can be bought as ‘charity’ to be given out to migrants and they include a map of the area, compass, etc,.! Love it. See here for details.
Klaus Dodds : polar scrambles
A great topic for looking at resource management, environmental responsibility, conflict, etc,. contesting the sovereignty and governance of Arctic and Antarctic regions and all the geopolitical issues involved with this.
Dodds noted how the Arctic had been seen as a ‘last frontier’ but it is increasingly accessible and is also a resource treasure chest. This has therefore led to geopolitical scrambles to claim territory / rights to resources and governance. With rapid environmental change in Arctic regions, particularly the decline of Greenland ice sheet and Northern Europe glaciers, and the impact of increasing freshwater, this is a cross-theme topic. There are concerns about resource exploitation & tourism: potential for becoming the ‘Polar Mediterranean’ with all the potential knock-on consequences. There are also implications that other nations (eg. UK, China, etc.) will be able to stake a claim to these Arctic areas if it becomes a thoroughfare; with increasing accessibility and increasing awareness of this ‘global commons’ there is a debate about whether the area ‘belongs’ to the Arctic states or who owns the ocean (and its resources) etc,. So this leads to an interesting sociopolitical discourse on the rights of indigenous populations. There is also the issue of contesting sovereignty in coastal states : that sovereignty doesn’t end at the beach, there are claims for resources and access to oceans off-coast which go beyond the traditional political boundaries. There are also disputes over access to transport routes such as North West Passage and Northern Trade Route; with Russia becoming increasingly concerned about security if increasing shipping through these routes.
Dodds commented on the considerable potential resources still to be realised in these areas (e.g. Gas and oil deposits off shore in Greenland, etc). These resources are essential to Greenland’s aim to become independent. Again a political-environmental topic. Furthermore there is conflict between Greenpeace and Arctic communities. To many, the Arctic is a global space because of its intrinsic links to global issues (such as freshwater, sea level change, climate change, resource potential, etc,.) but Arctic communities such as in Greenland do not like outside agencies / NGOs coming in and saying what should or should not happen in their backyard.
The issues are similar for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions managed by the Antarctic Treaty, i.e. concerns about environmental change, particularly uncertainty on scale and rate of ice melt, and resource exploitation, the regulation of Antarctic tourism in response to increasing accessibility & mobility, resource use and rights, etc,.
There is potential for activities regarding Greenpeace involvement on whaling, protecting the ‘park’ status of the wilderness, illegal fishing, arguments over fishing rights, e.g. ‘Illegal’ whaling by Japan vs Australia , and over mineral rights.
– Polar regions remain an ironic hotbed of geopolitical scrambles for knowledge, access, governance, and resources
– the contesting and confusing issue of sovereignty, security and stewardship is likely to increase