Extended Project: A change in climate was the main reason for the unsustainability of Permanent human settlement on Dartmoor at the end of the Bronze Age

(Click here) A change in climate was the main reason for the unsustainability of Permanent human settlement on Dartmoor at the end of the Bronze Age

The area that we now call Dartmoor is a site of huge historical importance, with over 500 sites referenced by Jeremy Butler and over 3000 stone and 6000 wooden round houses estimated by Petitt. The general consensus is that there are many more sites to be discovered, with extensive ancient field boundaries or Reaves dividing up the land, hinting at the type of existence that these people lead. However, radiocarbon dating has shown that most of the Reaves were built within a 200 year period; and only in use for between 200 and 400 years. The abandonment of the Reaves and the upland moor has been put down to Geographical issues such as a change in climate at the time, a drop in temperature and an increase in dampness, however there are other more minor factors that also contribute to the departure of man from the moor, and the current lack of extensive settlement in the area today.

Contributed by Chris Cockerill

New Capital Cities; a good idea?

Every nation needs a capital city. They act as focal points for business, culture, government and international relations, becoming symbols of their nation and famous all around the world. They evolve and change with the time in which they currently exist; endlessly adaptable and dependable. Well, most of them are.

During the American Revolution, Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania was the capital of the colony, and this situation persisted for a few decades after independence was achieved. However, as every geographer knows, Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States, so why was the capital city changed? In the early years the US experienced much turmoil in deciding how this new country should be run; and one of the primary issues was whether a Federal (such as in the US now) or Parliamentary (such as in the UK) governing system should be employed. During this, the state of Virginia complained about the location of the capital. This movement grew in momentum and it was decided that the location of the Capital city would be changed. Over the next few years the Americans moved their Capital from city to city, with a swarm of complaints being created by competing states when a new location was settled on. So it was decided in 1790 after the Civil War that a new city would be created on land that was not part of any existing state that would be under the direct control of Congress. The States of Maryland and Virginia both ceded land to the Federal Government to form the shape of a diamond around the Potomac River and create the District of Colombia. Construction started the same year, and Washington D.C. officially became the Capital city in 1801.

Washington D.C. can be considered a successful capital; a centre of Government and international relations, a huge boost to the US economy through the businesses that reside their and through tourism, and a name known throughout the world. Ottowa is another successful ‘new’ capital; but this model of creating a new capital away from the established centres of nations doesn’t always work. This is true in the USA on a minor scale; if you ask someone to name a US city, more often than not they will name New York first; which is the centre of the US economy; however, Washington D.C. will normally be in the top five. The city is only the 25th most populous area in the USA, and the 7th largest metropolitan area by population. But look at other countries who have tried to create a new capital and the results have not been quite as successful. Canberra was built as the new capital of Australia in 1913, but it is outshone internationally by Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. The Capital of Brazil? Not Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo but Brasilia, founded in 1960 (and is now the largest city in the world that did not exist in 1900). Islamabad is the ‘new’ capital of Pakistan, and Nigeria moved their capital from Lagos to the newly constructed Abuja in 1991.

These newly constructed, purpose built capital cities have not always been a success; outshone by neighbouring cities they have failed to become the centres of their nations’ economies and have not reached the same levels of international fame as pre-existing cities. Brasilia has become isolated in the geographical centre of Brazil, people and businesses refusing to move to its concrete streets, leaving it somewhat devoid of culture and activity in comparison to Rio and Sao Paulo. Abuja lives in the shadow of the ever growing Lagos, people not wanting to take a chance in the new city; immigrants choosing to head to where everyone else has already gone. These cities were not necessarily a bad idea; they were created usually as a sign of a fresh start after conflict, independence or political changes of heart; however they have just not lived up to what their creator hoped they would be.

Recently, according to the UN, South Sudan became the world’s 194th nation after a referendum in the nation resulted in its split from the rest of Sudan. People crowded the streets of Juba celebrating this, and the government announced plans that included a new capital to celebrate this new nation. Juba is claimed as not being suitable for becoming the capital of this landlocked nation; its dusty and ramshackle buildings not being suitable for the future influx of embassies and businesses ready to exploit new-found oil. The city is unable to expand due to neighbouring tribal lands, and there are no suitable buildings to house the new government. Some people in the country and abroad say that they can cope with substantial redevelopment, but to others it seems that South Sudan does have a good case for needing a new city.

However, South Sudan does not only have to contend with international precedent along with internal disagreements and tribal disputes on this issue, but money. Over 90% of South Sudan’s people live below the poverty line, and the nation which is the size of France has only 60km of paved roads. The project would cost over $10billion, money that many say could be better spent elsewhere. The government remains defiant, but they are also looking into much cheaper and less risky plans to redevelop Juba, and not move to the area that has been highlighted as a potential location, Ramciel, a sparsely populated area 200km north of the current capital. Will this new city be a success like Washington D.C., or will it fade into obscurity as people and business fail to adopt it? Only in a few decades time will we be able to tell.

Contributed by Chris Cockerill

In the path of the volcano: a warning from history

On the 24th August AD 79, the day after the festival of Vulcanalia honouring Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, Mount Vesuvius erupted. The ash column rose well over a mile into the air, debris raining down on Pompeii and other local cities. Just before nightfall, pyroclastic flows cascaded down the side of the volcano and swept over the 5 miles to Pompeii in seconds, burying the city in between 4 and 6 metres of ash. All of the residents that had not already choked to death on the sulphur and ash were incinerated, leaving only shadows burned into walls and cavities in the rubble. After two days of throwing material out in all directions, the eruption finally finished. Once the ash had cleared, it revealed an alien and desolate landscape, with the buried ruins of a city lost for over 1700 years…

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius is one of the most famous natural disasters in history, with the remains of the most famous city to be affected, Pompeii, attracting over 2.6 million visitors a year. As I walked around those ruins, seeing evidence of the lives of the people who lived there, I found it difficult to imagine what the terrifying final moments of those people who had owned those pots, lived in those houses, and left those shadows must have been like. I reflected on how this sort of catastrophe could and would never happen again; how with modern education and prediction methods the people in danger would be warned, given those vital few moments in order to escape. However, it appears that I was wrong.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is around 20,000 men strong, working tirelessly to put an end to the war that has raged non-stop for the last 20 years in the country. Neighbouring Rwanda has also seen more than its fair share of conflict, with the 1994 genocide still affecting the politics of the region today. The people that have been misplaced by these conflicts and political oppression, moving east away from the more unstable parts of the DRC, and west from Rwanda and drought ridden Burundi and Uganda to try to rebuild their lives, often seeing the city as the prime place to do just that. Goma is one such city, with a booming local economy and shelter from the difficult political atmosphere of surrounding areas. On the banks of Lake Kivu in the Great Rift Valley, it is the perfect place for fisherman to prosper, as well as having good farmland and forest areas for crops and wood. The sprawling city has nearly 1 million people living there, and covers an area of nearly 30 square miles, and has been affected by the local volcano less than 10 miles away, Nyiragongo, twice in the last 40 years. It lies on the East African Rift, a line of tectonic activity where the African Plate meets the Indian Plate, and is threatening to tare Africa apart. This whole region is studded with highly active volcanoes; Nyiragongo at two miles high is tiny in comparison to some of its neighbours. However, it is one of the most dangerous. It is fuelled by a rare Mantle plume, magma from 50 to 80 miles below the crust rising to the surface, creating a huge reservoir just under the crust. The volcano cradles one of the world’s largest lava lakes, over 700 feet across and miles deep; it spits lava 100 feet into the air, with temperatures over 980°C and gasses rising off the surface creating a dense smog, with scientists requiring gas masks to peer over the edge of the rim to the orange sea below.

Two lava flows have occurred recently, in 1977 and 2002, the claiming the lives of hundreds of people, despite the flow solidifying before it reached the main city. 13 million cubic meters of lava, burying two story houses in molten rock, causing 350,000 people to flee. This is however just a fraction of the damage that scientists estimate that this volcano could inflict on the huge human population of the area, with no warning system and lava that has flowed at over 60 miles per hour, the fastest ever observed, and Lake Kivu trapping much of the population in the city. However, the lake also hides a dangerous and sinister secret. It has a very large level of dissolved carbon dioxide in its murky waters, ready to be shaken out of the lake, and blanket the area in a suffocating cloud of gas. Lake Nyos held similar levels of CO2 before an earthquake released the toxic cloud, which silently cascaded down the sides of the lake, covering local villages, resulting in the deaths of 1700 people in the night. This has not yet happened in Goma, but every day that passes sees more CO2 bubble through the cracks beneath the lake, dissolve and add to that threat. Any decent sized eruption from the volcano to the east of the city will with the associated earthquakes release the gas from the west, trapping the people between the gas and the lava, killing thousands of unsuspecting citizens. The people who arrive at the edge of the city every day, hoping to restart their shattered lives do not realise the danger. People who were around at the time of the last lava flow, a mere warning of what is possible, say that they cannot move away. “Many have died” says Ignace Madingo, a secretary who lives in the path of the lava, and was forced to flee with his family on the previous two occasions. “The lava turned them into stones… We know the mountain will erupt again. Lava will come. Our houses will burn”. Despite this, he is unable to move. His livelihood is too important, with many of the other people in the city and the country living on the streets in poverty. His land is just jagged rock, his home a shack in the direct path of boiling rock, as is true of many of the city’s residents. There is no hope for these people’s survival without adequate warning; like at Pompeii nearly 2000 years ago, thousands will perish at the hands of a volcanic eruption.

To try to prevent this, in early 2012, a small team of scientists entered the volcano to monitor the gasses and lava levels within. The type and levels of gas released by the volcano can tell the scientists of rising plumes of high pressure magma far below the surface, warning of an impending eruption. Seismographs are being flown into the area to monitor any shift in the crust that may be caused by growing pressure in the magma;and different chemical compositions of lava are being analysed, compared with older samples from the slopes of the volcano can tell of changes deep below the crust, and so warn of an impending volcanic event. These steps are crucial if the lives of the local people are to be saved, but more needs to be done. A warning system for the locals must be set up, as well as evacuation plans and education of the local people. However, this all costs money that the DRC does not have. The UN is also reluctant to pledge funds due to the tumultuous economic times, leaving the people of this region of Africa vulnerable. These people are being left in a dangerous situation due to the local political differences that have resulted in war and their migration, and the economic context in which they live. We need to try and overcome these barriers to help these people. The Romans in the bay of Naples had no hope of escape due to a lack of prediction and protection; we need to prevent the same happening to the people of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Steps must be taken to prevent Goma being buried; so that it stays a bright, vibrant and thriving city, rather than a historic tourist attraction, a new Pompeii, a shadow of the past.

Contributed by Chris Cockerill

Quirimbas: A rising star of Africa

Facing the island nation of Madagascar, in the Channel of Mozambique, just a few miles off the coast of mainland Africa, the Quirimbas Archipelago suffered from the sudden departure of the Portuguese colonists in 1975. The country descended into civil war, and whilst this periphery managed to avoid the same fate, the local economy took collapsed. It had relied heavily on the Portuguese trade in spices, ivory and slaves; and when this dried up overnight, and with the civil war of the mainland (the only access point to the islands), the tourist industry was destroyed. The population of the pristine coral island of Ibo, the largest in the chain that stretches for over 320 km, plummeted from 37,000 in the late 1990s, to just 3,500 in 2006.

Despite these statistics, the Archipelago’s fortunes are changing. A UNESCO world heritage site, and with the southernmost 11 islands declared as a national park, this stunningly beautiful area was always going to be the catalyst in Mozambique’s recovery. The melting pot of African, Portuguese and Arabic influences (due to middle-eastern traders sailing down the coast) produce a rich and diverse culture, and coupled with sandy beaches, coral reefs and warm seas, it is a perfect place to situate an idyllic resort. Kevin Record saw this potential when he first visited the island of Ibo in 1994; and five years later, he bought an old Portuguese villa near the sea, and turned it into the luxury ‘Ibo island lodge’, opening in 2006. It very quickly became a very important economic resource to the island, keeping 40 people in full time employment, whilst buying fresh seafood from local fisherman and encouraging more foreign investment to the area, as well as the all-important tourists. Kevin believes that “day-to-day operations benefit up to half of the population”, which is crucial as many residents were living a poverty stricken subsistence lifestyle just a decade ago.There was very little work for the locals before the lodge opened, just a small amount of maritime harvesting from the coral, and a very small number of public sector jobs, but now, the tourist industry is thriving. Ex-fisherman, Chande, demonstrated how he pulled himself out of the poverty he previously experienced by embracing the new industry. He has become the captain of an island safari put on for guests, and is directly employed by the lodge. His dhow, or boat, called Vagabunduis, which is ideal for the hotel, as the traditional Arabic design has “changed little from the days when (it) first arrived with Arabian traders centuries ago”, adding to the idyllic charms of the islands with its single triangular sail. This little exercise has been so popular that the lodge has ordered another two boats to be made from the local mangrove wood, spreading the newfound wealth of the island further into the local economy. The lodge also helps fund community projects, such as schools and doctors, which are all important in the development of Mozambique as a whole.

The locals in many of the industries on the island of Ibo have benefited massively from the wealth of the tourists; with direct employment in the luxury resorts, people selling services and souvenirs to the foreigners, as well as people involved in the fishing industry (still the largest employer on the island) being able to sell to the hotel kitchens and diversify into setting up snorkelling schools. A plethora of people are benefiting, but is this sustainable? This is very important to the local people, as they will want to continue reaping the benefits of the industry, without destroying the very things which are attracting them. The local community project manager Anne Brookes says that “sustainability is of primary importance”, focusing on both the ecology and the community.The local education projects funded by tourism provides people with skills to be able to have better prospects, adding to the local economy as they can set up trading companies and further exploit tourism by learning foreign languages. To keep parts of the coral pristine for the tourists, 10 ‘no take zones’ have been set up, where no fishing is allowed to occur; and illegal fishing is kept in check, and the only boats used by the Ibo island lodge are the sail powered dhow’s, which are environmentally friendly and what the tourists want to see. Other protected areas include the beaches on the island of Vamisi that provides space for approximately 100 nests of endangered Green Turtles, funding for which has only come about since the recent tourist boom. “We can’t support mass-market holidaymaking here, nor do we want to” says Anne. “What we want is to bring in visitors who spend a lot but have a limited environmental footprint”.

“Sustainable tourism is one way to achieve development in the Quirimbas, but everyone has different problems to contend with” says a local government official; “For us, food security remains a big issue- were really concentrating on child malnutrition”. Clearly, the economic development has not yet reached everyone and there is always a “balancing act” between the needs of the industry and that of the local people; but these new lodges that are being developed on the islands are sure to help lift the population out of subsistence-level poverty in years to come.

Contributed by Chris Cockerill