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Letting the cat out of the bag

May 5, 2010

Sheep [image]We are The Geography Collective and this is our new and shiny blog. By way of introduction our first post is by Kye. Back in March 2010 Kye wrote this post for the epic map and travel shop Stanfords in London. In it Kye shows the place we are coming from and gives a glimpse of the one we are going to…

Shhh … can you keep a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Geography is everywhere… and geography is nowhere.

That is, geography is central, critical, inherent to all that happens in the world: from the big debates and events (climate change, Haiti earthquake, migration and immigration issues, energy consumption/needs, socio-economic inequalities across the world); to the mundane stuff that we all do daily (food shopping, walking the dog, commuting to work, checking Facebook); to those things in between, especially travelling (where to go, how to get there, sustainability and cost issues, impact on local communities).

But geography is usually silenced within discussion of all of the above – and geographers largely sidelined, hidden or dismissed. Beard sporting, tweed jacket wearing, compass using, white, middle-aged and middle-class men. Or shadowy strategists plugged into computer-generated maps, complicit with territorial claims and campaigns. Or bumbling amateurs collecting their holiday snaps to compile tedious slide shows for anyone unfortunate to be cornered…

The sublime paradox of geography, we could say, is its beauty and banality.

But be warned: geography’s secret status is under threat. There has been a growing movement for some time. Among those of us who are passionate about geography and its importance, not only to understanding our world and lives, but, more importantly, using geographical knowledge to work towards a better future for the planet and the people inhabiting it.

Recently, the Royal Geographical Society cunningly recruited Michael Palin, the nation’s beloved explorer who had hitherto rarely mentioned the word ‘geography’, to its cause: as president of the organisation he’s recently written a letter to the nation’s parents, exhorting them to encourage their offspring to take geography at A’ level. A master stroke by Kensington Gore.

And then, The Geography Collective devised a shrewd plan to get the nation’s young people ‘doing geography’ outside of school too. To achieve this mission, they wrote Mission:Explore, a children’s book published by Can Of Worms. Children are challenged to get out in their neighbourhoods and complete a wide variety of fun-filled tasks, each of which get them to think about space, place and local frontiers – about what people do and where they go, and how we can look at and think about geography differently.

So watch out. First, for young folk in your neck of the woods (or village, town or city), re-emerging from their bedrooms and pixilated screens, re-engaging with the outdoors, undertaking mini fieldwork-type activities and generally becoming more present in your locality. Second, for the recognition of geography as a valued lens through which to understand, appreciate and improve our world.

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