We have just inaugurated a new field trip to Morocco with grand success for our masters program*. The idea is to give our masters students experience in “the field” before they head off for their independent fieldwork for their masters thesis. We sought to expose them to the pleasures and challenges of fieldwork that involves linguistic, cultural, and logistical barriers, and build their “soft skills”. To do so, we brought them to a cluster of villages perched on a mountain side in the High Atlas, and – during 4 days of intensive field surveys, interviews, muddy boots, and mint tea – learn what we could about how the villages manage their water, their waste, their cropfields, their pastures, and the touristic potential of the region.
Parents learn can learn a lot about an education system from the vocabulary their children bring home. Since our arrival in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, the results are telling. The words bouncing around the living room are “test, oublie, revision, bavardage, arrivée tardive, heure de retenue, heure d’arrêt, redoubler…” These are all words about discipline or performance. Previously, in very different school systems, the words were more along the lines of “my project, the school concert, assembly, homework“. What does this show? Read the rest of this entry »
All good things must come to an end, and so it is with my time at the School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Melbourne.
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The last two years have been unpleasant for geography and environmental science at Monash. What was once a thriving School of Geography and Environmental Science has been wilfully destroyed, reduced to a “Centre” soon to have only four permanent staff. Excellent and committed as these colleagues are, they have been marginalised and will struggle to return GES to its glory days unless the university reinvests in genuine interdisciplinary teaching and research at the nature-society interface. Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, several geography programs I am familiar with – notably my own at Monash – have been in the throes of administrative reshuffling and identity crises. In written submissions, hallway chats, and meeting room polemics we have all declared, at one point or another, that the strength of Geography is its interdisciplinarity, its crossing of bridges between the natural and the social, between science and arts. We have also declared that the integrity of the discipline depends on it staying together as one, even though a climate modeller will have different needs than an analyst of urban indigenous social movements. Read the rest of this entry »
As the international development community gears up to renew a global plan for improved ‘disaster risk reduction’ from 2015 (the ‘post-Hyogo’ framework), it is striking to reflect on how central the idea of disaster risk reduction has become in the development industry. Boosted in no small measure by attention to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and in tandem with efforts at climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction has been a dominant theme over the past decade. In my own world, it appears everywhere I look