What is Nature?

As Geographers we all have somewhat different working definitions of nature. One of our first year lectures introduces students to the idea there are different ideas depending on what your starting point is. And it introduces students to our staff in the process!

Here are some of the responses to the question, ‘What is nature?’

“Wildlife, organisms and vegetation.”
Dave Nash

“Nature is the ecosystems (biological communities and their physico-chemical environments) that develop on their own accord in the absence of localised human activities.”
Dr G. S. Bilotta

“Nature is something that we create, and often the term ‘natural’ is used to make some people, identities, behaviours seem better than others.”
Dr. Kath Browne

“Nature is a ‘gift’, it provides us with goods and services, and we have a duty to reciprocate and replenish these gifts.”
Dr Paul Gilchrist

“The basic or inherent features, character, or qualities of something.”
Dr Matthew Brolly

“Nature is a cultural concept that opposes culture; its evocation legitimises oppression, secures the human against the non-human and provides purchase for struggles over land, labour and life, as well as countless other political acts that are carried out in its name. It is one of the most contested and contentious terms of our time.”
Dr Leila Dawney

Employability November: CV workshop

Students gathered in SILS for our CV workshop.

Students gathered in SILS for our CV workshop.

I’m Stuart Bullen, a Student Support and Guidance Tutor (SSGT). We’ve been running sessions to support those all-important employability skills and had a good turnout today for our CV workshop in Cockcroft, as part of ‘Employability November’.

Our  enjoyed seeing students and working alongside Robert Prosser, the S.E.T. careers advisor. We saw a dozen students, who said they found the session really useful. Robert and I would be happy to see CVs and give feedback to anyone else who was unable to attend.

Here’s a link to the UoB’s Careers Service CV advice. I’m in Watts 418 for the first half of each week and am contactable at this email address: set-StudentSupport@brighton.ac.uk

Rewilding Sussex

rewilding sussex_v2Using species as the tools for conservation, not as the targets, was the take-home message delivered by Dr Chris Sandom of Rewilding Sussex in a recent talk given at the University of Brighton as part of a lunchtime seminar series. Rewilding is a new wildlife conservation paradigm that looks to revolutionise the way we live within the environment. Based on the idea of reintroducing former native species, such as beavers, wild boar, wolves and lynx (in the UK context), to restore ecosystems to their former glory, it offers a message of hope to a conservation movement otherwise besieged by doom and gloom. It’s time to get excited by the nature once more!

Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities seminar

I’m Kath Browne and I lecture in human geography at Brighton, particularly looking at issues of social justice. I teach about how place matters to social exclusion and my research examines gender and sexual difference. In particular, in my research I look at how women and sexual/gender minorities are marginalized from everyday spaces and how these groups create new and empowering alternative spaces in which to be themselves.

conference official photoI was invited to speak at the Second Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities (II Seminário Latino-americano de Geografia, Gênero e Sexualidades ) seminar in Brazil.

Attended by delegates from around the world the conference focused on increasing the theoretical and methodological field of the Latin American Geography from gender, sexualities and interseccionality approach in its spacial dimensions.

Key subject covered at the conference included: Promoting discussion between researchers from different countries and institutions on gender and sexualities issues Strengthening the scientific production relations between national and international research groups Deepening the knowledge of scientific production that co-relates gender and sexualities with the foundational concepts of geography

You can read more about it in my conference diary

Employability November: insights from one of our graduates

Sam Argyll consultingAs part of the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment’s ‘Employability November’ there was an excellent session last night from Sam Hackett, a University of Brighton BSc/MSc graduate, who is a consultant at Argyll Environmental.

Sam spoke about his time at Brighton and his career since. Some top tips about CVs were part of the presentation… Using the structure of ‘Feature’ (what you did), ‘Analysis’ (how you did it) and ‘Benefit’ (how it helped you/ the organisation, etc), he gave students some great insights into boosting their CV to help get interviews, thus improving their employability.

Sam also recommended getting IEMA certified.

Day eight: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Fieldtrip

Today we took a boat along the Madeira river which is a tributary of the Amazon river. We arrived at a remote village, only accessible by boat. We were greeted with a local shop and some buildings that appeared relatively new. Then we discovered the history and current context of this place. This small village was flooded, during January last year. These floods destroyed housing, health services and businesses and the people took refuge in the Amazon. They came back to rebuild their village, but there is a further threat. The government wants to build a hydro-electric power station, permanently flooding the area. They are trying to relocate all of the villages some miles into the Amazon, destroying their community and making their fishing livelihoods impossible.

What became clear was that women took a lead role, both in rebuilding the village, regaining services and in resisting the government’s push to remove them permanently from their homes. The OWmne’s association was a powerful force in this community. Not only this, but these women were also looking for new forms of income and we were shown the crafts that they are making to be sold. It was a fantastic experience and illustrated how women are given positions of leadership and control, in ways that men would be expected to take in the UK.

Day seven: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day four

Alex Ratts opened the day by talking about gender, race and space and Black women’s movements in Brazil. She focused on two authors: Beatriz Nascimento who studied Black (Afro-Brazilian) histories which is now part of Brazilian schooling because of her and Leila Gonzale one of the founders of the Unified Black movement, which is a key Black movement in Brazil. She started a collective of Black women inside of this movement.  These authors’ writing, linked with other women and men, and Brazil, focusing on the ways Black women live with racism and sexism. They emphasized the importance of writing of the self as a form of creating resistance and making new knowledges from our own experiences. These authors are becoming more and more importance and are starting to be part of the canon of feminist and black research.

Continue reading

Day six: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day three

Today was focused on when who experienced multiple forms of exclusion.

Sonia Beatrix Dos Santos explored health issues for Black women and the fight for the right to health in women’s issues in Brazil. The paper showed how Black feminists have been key in developing not health care for impoverished Black women who didn’t have formal jobs.  By fighting for healthcare as part of the constitution, these feminists massively improved the situation for Afro-Brailian women. However, these women are subject to both racism and sexism and there is still a lot to be done. This includes recognising the specifics of afro-Brazilian health needs and empowering Black women in communities to think about health issues. Even with healthcare in the constitution, some 30% of Black women in labour needed to go to more than one hospital to receive maternity care. There are regional differences, and Dos Santos noted that the North-east of Brazil is the worst.

Angela Sacchi’s paper then explored gender in Indigenous communities, explaining that in Brazil’s Indigenous communities, women occupy a range of roles, not only raising children, but also around health and other practices. Nonetheless, men and women have different roles, use space differently and have differential access to public participation. There are a lot of of struggles, and there are differences with women’s movements, that do not recognize their own ethnocentricism.

Xose Manuel Solla focused on empirically examining geographies of sexualities in the Spanish context. Looking at journal articles published in Spain, he argued that the dictatorship in Spain created an important difference between Anglo-geographies and Spanish geographies.  Geography in Spain was very closed and difficult. Exploring over 5,000 journal articles from 19 journals between 1990-2013, there were 9 articles in 23 years on sexualities in geography journals and 6 of these were published between 2007-2012.  Gender fared slightly better with 172 articles- 3.5% of articles published but these are irregular over time and generally averaged around 5 per year. Most of those published were in one specific journal from a progressive Barcelona University,

Day five: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day two

A day packed full of exciting papers, some highlights were:

  • The opening paper by Benhur Pinos Da Costa, which explored the history of sexualities internationally, but adding in Brazilian experiences. Finishing with a discussion of small towns in Brazil, Da Costa explored how gay men find space to gather, meet and create relationships and kinship networks even in places that are not accepting of their identities.
  • Jan Simon Hutta’s exploration of how sexualities and gender are policed and controlled in a peripheral area Baixada Fluminense (Fluminense Lowlands), a region in the state of Rio de Janeiro, sought to challenge the idea that safety and security lies in the state and the all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people will be protected by the police. Instead he argues that the state and police cannot be relied on for some who challenge sexual and gender norms and live in peripheral areas. For those who are more marginal relationships, friendships and gaining respect in local communities are key.
  • Maria Rodo-De-Zarate used maps of feelings to understand the similarities and differences of young lesbians experiences of space in Brazil (a place called Ponte Grosse) and Spain (Barcelona). She showed how these girls do not have the same feelings about space as straight girls, public spaces Spanish girls felt uncomfortable, in Brazil those spoken to could not show their feelings, walk hand in hand in public space, despite legal protections. She argued that not being able to experience love, care and solidarity and deprives people of their humanity. It is necessary to identify these injustices spatially to create more just and fair societies.
  • Cesare Di Feliciantonio discussed the importance of thinking about queer migration and social welfare together.  Too often migrants are presumed to be straight and gay men especially seen to be wealthy and white. Thinking about young gay men who moved from Italy to Berlin and from big cities in Italy to small towns showed that for young people the material conditions in which they exist are really important. For Italian family connections are really important socially, economically and culturally, but they can also be constraining.  Interestingly gay men can experience more freedom in small towns where their families are not present.

Overall the day illustrated the diverse experiences people have of sexualities, and how sexualities are lived differently in differently places, and at different times.

Day four: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

This is my diary of a recent trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference opening

IMG_9764 Porto VehloThis was a very different conference opening for a number of reasons. Firstly it started with the national anthem sung by a local choir, who reappeared later to sing other songs from various Brazilian composers.

The opening was done by people from the University, but also the hundred or so people at the conference from all over Latin-America, Portugal and Spain, were welcomed by the Secretary of State, for the State of Rondinia for Education. He spoke of the importance of education for society, University is free in Brazil. More than this he recognized the importance of studying gender and sexuality to address social inclusion and improve society.  Then he went on to say how important geography is to this endeavour, as we need to know how where we are influences exclusions/inclusions and power relations between men and women, as well as around sexuality.

It is refreshing to hear a politician understand the importance of not only education to improve society but also the place of geographies of genders and sexualities to achieve this.  The place of gender and sexuality in geographies in Latin America is very different to that of the UK. The conference organizer talked about gender and sexuality are not recognized as ‘appropriate’ or relevant topics and people struggle to get published in Geography. This seminar offers a chance for people from across Latin America and Iberia to come together, where they are usually isolated into small pockets away from each other. Indeed it is in working together that they were able to start a journal and also to include sexualities for this first time into the title of the conference.

Maria Dolores Garcia Ramon gave the opening talk, speaking about two women travellers Gertude Bell and Isabel Erhenardt. These women traveller had more freedom because they didn’t travel in professional roles, and often challenged colonial rule, but they also helped it. Gertude Bell, for example helped Lawrence of Arabia. I also learned about Porto Velho’s colonial history, which included the British shipping 3 huge water containers to the town, that only served the British half of the town. There is also a British train by the waterfront, also brought by the British during the colonial era. This ‘old town’ area is now popular for evening entertainment both the water towers and the train act as symbols for Port Velho.