New PC Geographies (Post Coronavirus) - version 7.0
New Geographies : New Curriculum
PC (Post Coronavirus) School Geographies
A provocation & some curriculum making
‘Geography, like all dynamic areas of disciplinary thought, is
in a constant state of becoming’.
(Lambert & Morgan, 2010)
Late June 2020
Cover image source and copyright: Brian Stau er
All Alan Parkinson’s text shared under CC license - other material copyrighted.
Moments of crisis, such as the one we are living, are deeply painful in ways that
cannot be underestimated. The social and emotional impacts of Covid-19 will
be felt even after we return to normal global health conditions. We will emerge,
albeit more slowly, from the unprecedented economic paralysis. The question
is how we emerge: whether we return to the ways of the past or whether we
derive valuable lessons, to emerge wiser and better equipped to continue to
deal with our longstanding emergency of climate change.
The coronavirus tragedy has shown that we are only as safe as the most
vulnerable among us and that cross-border threats require global, systemic
solutions, as well as individual behaviour changes. Over the past few weeks,
governments and businesses have acted swiftly to mandate drastic, but
necessary measures to stem the coronavirus, keeping people indoors,
grounding air travel, cancelling events and closing borders. Citizens, equally,
are uniting to shift their behaviour en masse, by working and teaching their
children from home, washing their hands more frequently, protecting the
elderly, and helping neighbours shop for food.
The Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed humanity’s instinct to transform itself in
the face of a universal threat and it can help us do the same to create a livable
planet for future generations.
Christiana Figueres, former chair of UNFCCC
Source of the quote:
Pestilence is so common, there have been as many plagues in the world
as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always ﬁnd people
Albert Camus ‘La Peste’ (1947)
“The lesson for people to understand is this is the year of living differently. Not,
‘OK, it’s over’. You haven’t just been let out of school. You have done well. You have really
brought down your numbers. So, now is the moment to celebrate that by being super
Dr Margaret Harris, WHO, June 23rd 2020
The powerful front cover of the New York Times for 24th May 2020
Contents p. 4
Introduction p. 7
Thinking through the changes p. 14
Geographical themes and possible changes p. 17
Physical Geography topics
1. Landscape processes and change p. 17
2. Land use p. 18
3. Weather and climate / air quality / weather hazards p. 19
4. Tectonics p. 20
5. Our relationship with nature / Ocean Plastics p. 21
6. Plate Tectonics p. 25
7. Biodiversity p. 26
8. Water Cycle and Hydrological Processes p. 26
At the interface between physical and human
9. Climate Change p. 27
Human Geography topics
10.Urbanisation p. 28
a) Urban spaces and hierarchies (and the return of communities)
b) LIC urban areas
c) Sounds of the city
d) Future city centres and urban design
e) The role of neighbourhoods
f) Urban resilience
g) Desire lines
h) Recovery from the Coronavirus
11. Employment: primary, secondary and tertiary p. 42
a) Retail & the changing High Street
b) Gig Economy
d) Service sector
e) Garment workers
f) Supply chains
h) Corporate social responsibility
i) The death of the Office as a workplace
j) The social contract
k) Games Industry booming
l) Droning on
m) After the furlough ends...
12.Development and Inequality p.62
including #BLM p.70
13.Changing leisure time and working hours p.71
a) Natural increase - a baby boom or bust?
c) Non Covid-19 mortality
d) Twentysomething issues
e) Population pyramids
15.Globalisation & Geopolitics p.74
16.Carbon footprints p.77
17.Tourism - a changed industry p.79
a) Tourism closing down
b) Tourism reopening again
20.Geographies of Convenience p.91
21.Sustainable Development Goals p.92
22.Food Security, Food Banks & the importance of diet p.93
23.Superpowers: Hard and Soft Power p.97
24.Sense of Place p.99
26.New communities p.100
27.Surveillance (link to D3 Erasmus project) p.100
28.Geography of Disease p.102
30.Van lifers - modern nomads p.106
31.The ultimate ‘postcode lottery’ p.107
32.The island mindset p.108
33.Geographies of the Anthropocene p.109
34.GDP - time for another measure of the economy? p.109
36.The Earth Project p.111
38.Overseas Aid p.112
Geographical Skills and Tools
40.Geographical Information Systems (GIS) p.115
41.Statistical Literacy p.116
Pedagogical Approaches and thinking incl. DPSIR p.117
★ Erasmus Projects - D3 and GI-Pedagogy
★ Geographical Enquiry
★ Image stimulus
★ Critical Thinking
★ Group Work in Teams - new ways of working
PC Curriculum Making - some early thoughts p.122
★ A curriculum for learning outside the classroom
★ Do we need a curriculum of recovery?
★ Teaching about Covid-19 - GeographyalltheWay
★ International perspectives
An early update for the Specifications? p.132
A better world ahead? p.134
Profiting from the pandemic? p.141
Reading list and References incl. ‘Slowdown’ p.143
- Lockdown Dérive by Claire Kyndt
Welcome to V7.0 of this document, which has been re-edited and had substantial additional
content blended in during the middle part of June 2020, as home learning continued for
many and we headed towards an unusual summer break. Some colleagues returned to their
classrooms for the first time in months, and planning went ahead for the return. Meanwhile,
some borders reopened, shops reopened, beaches were rammed, 2m became 1m+ and we
waited for the 2nd spike.
I’ll continue to embolden what I think is particularly valuable content, which may then
feed into a final ‘resource’ outcome from this project. Some key trends and areas are
starting to emerge now.
I’ve been in touch with several people during the last couple of weeks, including an
Awarding Body, and have been asked to start to put some ideas down in a form which
can be used to ‘update’ teaching for GCSE Geographers. I’ve also been thinking about
where I can factor some of these ideas into my KS3 curriculum.
I’ll mark these in the document from now on, so that you can see where my writing is
going to be focussed. To mark them I’m going to make use of one of the new
UNOCHA icons for the Covid-19 response.
When you see this icon, it is marking an area of the document which I’m
starting to write up as a new resource:
The full set of icons can be downloaded from here:
If you have seen earlier versions of the document, you will notice perhaps there are several
new sections added to this version in response to particularly insightful pieces I’ve come
across, very often from academic geographers. It’s good to see in the long tradition of
academic geographers informing the school subject that this may be a feature of the next
phase of curriculum development. There’s also a continued shift towards possible
contexts for some curriculum making and outputs from academic geographers.
Steve Brace led me to an article written by George Monbiot, which was published in ‘The
Guardian’ on May 12th, where he refers to some elements of the Geography curriculum that
many geography students current and recent will be very familiar with:
“No one is embarrassed when a “well-educated” person cannot provide even a rough
explanation of the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle or the water cycle, or of how soils
Of course, anyone currently learning GCSE geography is familiar with those things and
George is in danger of joining others at this time who are providing unwanted advice to
teachers on how to do our jobs - something that we are the experts at. George was doing
some ecology teaching with his daughter, and his ideas are here:
The title of the article suggests that we need to rethink everything, starting with education:
This document makes a start on thinking about what that might look like for geography
education at least.
Pandemics may well end up being the mother of invention as with previous global crises:
As those who’ve read previous versions of the document will know, the idea to produce it
came about from some thinking through the weeks of lockdown about the eventual return to
school and teaching back in the classroom at some future point. I created a post on
LivingGeography on March 13th, with the title ‘The Eve of the War’ connecting to a section in
HG Wells ‘War of the Worlds’ where ordinary life carries on as normal although the Martians
were already here. This was a strange week, and lockdown happened at the end of it.
I started thinking in particular about what I/we (as a subject community) will be teaching
in Geography when we return (in the Autumn term?).
While writing my biography of every Geographical President on my GA Presidents Blog at
http://gapresidents.blogspot.com I’ve encountered numerous occasions where the subject
has changed in response to particular global events or new ways of thinking. This pandemic
will have an impact on many geographical topics, and places that are studied at all key
stages, and may result in another ‘turn’ in the subject. For the GCSE and ‘A level (and
equivalent) exam specifications, they will remain as they are - there have been no plans to
change them, no consultations on those changes, and probably no desire to either. The
assessment plans for 2021 will also have to change in some way and this may lead to other
longer-term changes to the nature of assessment generally, and not just in geography.
One issue is that some elements of the geography in these specifications will have
changed out of all recognition by the time we return, as will many of the topics taught
lower down the school. Our own motivation for continuing to select those same
subjects to devote curriculum time to will also change.
In my final week at school before I self-isolated in mid-March, I was teaching what had
previously seemed to be ‘important’ topics but was constantly thinking as each day passed
“this doesn’t really matter anymore…” or rather that the context had changed and meant
they were not as significant. This is significant as a choice to teach a particular topic at KS3
means a decision not to teach something else. It also has a bearing on the powerful
knowledge students are introduced to, and then encouraged to explore further.
To give one example, jobs which we previously thought of as being important to protect in
the garment industry may well be swept away by the cancellation of contracts, and the
contraction of the industry. The close confinement of sweatshop workers would also increase
their vulnerability to the virus, and stories soon started of desperate workers travelling to find
work and having to face impossible decisions: to continue working, or to starve.
It was also a reminder that some people in the UK, who may have voted for political
decisions which tried to stop migrants from making the effort to escape war zones, were now
struggling to cope with the fact that the pubs were shut and they might have to stay at home
and read a book, or were fighting over toilet roll and preventing those who had worked all
day to save lives from buying the basics for themselves.
Here then is a chance to challenge the status quo. It may also be a time to explore a
stronger connection with the idea of the Anthropocene. This virus emerged as a result
of human lifestyles and was transmitted rapidly by our globe-trotting lives and access to
cheap air travel. The document also shows the impact of human decisions, political and
otherwise on the extent to which certain human-defined areas of the planet (we’ll call them
countries) were impacted.
What we are likely to be teaching when we return will need to be adjusted. I’m already
thinking that I want to ‘firm up’ the geography in what I teach, and reflect the changes that
will have happened during school closure/lockdown and remove some of what could be
called the more ‘trivial’ geographies that are in the National Curriculum and other school
based curricula which (I and others) have developed over recent years. John Morgan has
previously referred to these as ‘zombie geographies’ - they refuse to die and are still found in
A few themes have emerged over the last few weeks in the growing number of items I've
been reading for what may also become some ‘new geographies’ or even new theories of
the way that things work in future economies and society.
I started to pull together some thoughts and ideas in the first phase of this work (versions 1-6
ish and now with version 7 onwards will move towards the creation of some new
curriculum materials for the return to school in some format for a new PC Geography
These ideas are also feeding into a book that I am currently writing on why geography
I am not an academic geographer, and I know that geography academics in their different
geographical specialist areas are also currently thinking about their own area of expertise
and how it may change their teaching too. I’ve come across some of those ideas, but I would
love to hear from you if you have started developing your own ideas in this area and have
made a start on your own thinking, or have identified some of these stories emerging in the
media, or via your own social media contacts.
There is a free editorial in the RGS’ ‘Transactions’ which has some of these emergent ideas:
https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/tran.12389 - PDF
The climate emergency will require even more concerted global action, and this must
be a major element of the new curriculum. With the cancellation of COP26 which the
UK was due to host, this has built in further delays into the world getting together to
solve this crisis which is far more ‘visible’ and urgent to many.
Also, will we actually want to teach about Coronavirus (preferring to try to forget it about
it, particularly if our family or friends have been touched by tragedy, and inevitably those of
our students and colleagues). Is it too raw for a while to be an object of study, or is it
something that we just should be teaching? Just as earthquake drills are taught and
practised in earthquake-prone areas, perhaps we will need to cover pandemics and their
spread so that we are ready to act more promptly if there are further similar events in the
future. Lessons are being learned currently, so should these lessons also be learned (and
I do not intend teaching about Covid-19 as a topic, at least in the short term.
What about some of the other topics we’ve traditionally taught which are also potentially
problematic for some students and colleagues. Should we be more empathetic, and focus
on more positives? I’ll explore that idea too. It’s worth remembering that the risk of
Pandemic influenza has always been there. Do we use this to explore topics like resilience,
and disaster management - the Sendai Framework perhaps.
Another thing to consider is the student voice as well.
Will there be students who are happy with the way that they have been learning and want to
avoid a return to what they had before? Or will the majority crave a return to teacher-led
instruction and someone telling them what to do - even the rest that comes from listening to
the teacher talking, which means you can sit there and do nothing for a few minutes, and the
move away from screens.
John Morgan has talked about the NZ situation and the rise of ‘disruptive education’.
He quotes Andreas Schleicher:
‘You’re going to have a lot of young people who have experienced different forms of learning
in the crisis, learning that was more fun, more empowering. They will go back to their
teachers and say: can we do things differently?’
A genuinely ‘disruptive’ approach to schooling, I conclude, would pay much more attention to
what students’ learn, rather than where and how they learn.
He talks about the changing nature of the public’s view of teachers and the curriculum and
Now, more than ever, we require ‘disciplined understanding of disciplines’: making sense of
Covid 19 – a triple crisis of public health, economy, and social continuity –requires
frameworks for understanding the ‘ways of the world’
These can come from Geography of course.
Well worth reading.
I was reminded by someone who posted a section of Hans Rosling’s essential ‘Factfulness’
book - what a huge pity it is that Hans is not here to guide our response and work with WHO
as he did during the Ebola outbreak that he helped with in 2015. However his son Ola came
out with some useful thoughts in the last week or so, and they are included in this 4th
version of the document and later. Hear Hans talking so clearly about the work here:
In it, he describes a number of things that we should be concerned about and Pandemic is
in there alongside Global Warming, as those who have read ‘Factfulness’ may remember.
There’s also an understanding of the risk of
Pandemics in the Government’s own Risk Register -
something I referred to previously in a unit we taught
called ‘Risky World’, which I guess will be one we
reevaluate next time round.
Here’s an image taken from the 2017 version of the
document, which Brendan Conway reminded me of
recently, which has pandemics illustrated at the top of
the intensity scale.
And yet knowing this, few preparations were made,
and vital equipment wasn’t stockpiled when it should
Image copyright: Gov.uk
Lives were lost needlessly as a result:
There has been a lot talked about the climate crisis, and the actions of Greta Thunberg and
others to popularise and publicise the desperate need for change have started to galvanise
young people, and geography is the appropriate place for this to happen in the school
I’d like to see more personal action being part of the Geography curriculum: practising
what we are preaching perhaps. Our lockdown means an end to many of the practices that
we have become used to: easy consumption, take-away coffees, pub lunches, air travel,
clothes shopping etc.
Geography is firmly back on the agenda, as outlined in this essential Wired piece by
https://www.wired.com/story/amid-pandemic-geography-returns-with-a-vengeance/ - not that
it ever went away, or had vengeance in mind of course..
Pandemic throws the importance of space back into sharp relief. We’re thinking
about it at the smallest scale, navigating supermarket aisles or converting
closets into serviceable home o ces.
The theme was also picked up by Forbes
The curriculum needs to be considered as a process, and a continual work in
progress. My curriculum is always changing from year to year in an iterative fashion.
Rosalind Walker reminds us of this in this well written piece:
Dylan Wiliam spoke at an event organised by ResearchED about the current overloading in
the curriculum. He said, quoted in the TES:
"There is no doubt that there’s far too much stuff in our curriculum – I’ve wondered about
why this is, and my conclusion is that curriculum developers cannot bear the thought that
any children might have spare time on their hands. So they actually make sure there’s
enough stuff in the curriculum for the fastest-learning students to be occupied all year. And
so there’s far too much for most students - some teachers just teach the curriculum, they
metre it out and they go from beginning to end and 20 percent of the kids get it and the rest
don’t – I think that’s logically consistent but immoral.”
"When the curriculum’s too full, you have to make a professional decision about what
stuff you’re going to leave out, and the important point here is that not all content is
So perhaps now is the time to drop some of that ‘trivial’ stuff I mentioned earlier to make
space for greater thinking about futures and a changed world.
At the same time, we are waiting for a vaccine, which may well be the most rapidly
produced in medical history - a good thing. Bill Gates, writing in ‘The Economist’ set out
some important things to consider including the fact that we have a long way to go.
“When historians write the book on the covid-19 pandemic, what we’ve lived
through so far will probably take up only the ﬁrst third or so.
The bulk of the story will be what happens next.”
There have been 2 editorials in RGS journals on the Pandemic:
Progress in Human Geography
by Noel Castree, Louise Amoore, Alex Hughes, Nina Laurie, David Manley, and
There are several questions asked in this document. This one is particularly relevant:
How might attempts to make sense of COVID-19’s geographies affect the way we do
Geography and define ‘progress’ in the discipline? As part of this, are there older
approaches, ideas or methods that might usefully be revisited? Conversely, what
might we need to invent in order to address absences in our cognitive and normative
The journal Transactions of the IBG had a different approach.
They have a virtual edition from May 2020 which is worth exploring by those who want a
higher level analysis of the geographical connections.
Impressively, the Summer 2020 issue of ‘Geography’ - the
GA’s journal - also included an introductory piece on the
impacts of Covid-19, written by Steve Puttick, which was very
well written and ties in perfectly with the spirit of this
document’s creation, talking about the link with the
geographical concept of scale:
The movement between scales is dizzying, from
measurements in micrometers, through hyper-connected
international travel infrastructure to millions of
infections, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and trillions
of dollars. And from the global dashboards through
which we view the charting of infections, deaths,
recoveries, and forecasts, back into the space-times of
our homes, where – at the time of writing, at least – most of must stay. COVID-19 has
brought the deeply unequal nature of our world into sharp relief as these experiences
of ‘staying home’ continue to mean wildly di erent things across all-too-common
gendered, racialised, and classed fault lines
Image copyright: Geographical Association
Download a digital copy here - join the GA:
This has also been described in the Conversation piece here as a ‘sliding doors’ moment:
we can go one way or the other
With that in mind, it’s time to get on with the geographical thinking and curriculum making
for Post-Corona Geographies.
Thinking through the changes
One of the prompts that initially got me started on the production of this document was a
tweet from Helen Young: the original GeographyGeek.
I wondered whether there were indeed studies going on, although fieldwork is going to be
difficult - data collection via Google Form etc. could be possible, and I’ve used some myself.
There was also a Guardian article by Adam Tooze on the link with the economy which was
one of the first I added into v1.0 of this document.
This piece by Neal Lawson provided further ideas at this early stage of v1.0:
I was also really interested in this piece by Stuart Dunn on the Digital Humanities - he
works in the field of GIS which also connects with the GI Pedagogy ERASMUS project that
will be mentioned later in the document.
Stuart’s post led me to an existing roundup of posts in the same field as this document, but
at a higher level of education:
And some thoughts on separating the signal from the noise from Futures
Further thoughts came from Paul Ganderton on the Facebook group set up to support
Geography Teachers during Covid-19 by Matt Podbury:
Follow Paul Ganderton here: https://twitter.com/ecogeog for a lot more on this topic.
It’s worth saying that thanks to my employment and the excellent librarian Dr. Jones at my
school I have subscriber access to The Times and Sunday Times, New Scientist, The
Economist and the Wall Street Journal. This means I have included reference to some
articles which you may not have full access to.
GA eConference 2020 Teachmeet
I used the production of this booklet as my theme for the Teachmeet which formed part of
the GA’s eConference 2020 which replaced the face-to-face event due to take place in
Surrey from 16th-18th of April 2020.
I put together a quick 2 minute LOOM video for use in the event.
You can see the link to the video here and watch if you like:
Here’s another LOOM video - this time for the Discover the World Education Teachmeet
which was held in early June - a variation on the GA one as a different audience.
Ben Hennig and Tina Gotthardt at
WorldMapper have been tracking the cases
and producing regularly updated maps and
animations. Check in for the latest maps and
animations. They are all shared under CC
license. You are also able to support their work if
you feel able to.
The latest update was added on the 8th of June 2020
Images copyright: Worldmapper - shared under CC license
Also check out some aerial images:
Geographical Themes and possible changes
These ideas are currently presented separately, but in reality, a piece of work in a classroom
would need to connect several of these together, and bring in appropriate questions,
analysis of text and images and some sort of final presentation format and review. There
would be options to create separate elements for GCSE units.
A: Physical Geography themes
1. Landscape processes
These will largely be unchanged of course, and may be our refuge with memories of the
landscapes we can visit when we are allowed out, of mountains we want to climb and places
we want to return to after an absence. Several of us may well be making a list of the places
we intend visiting as soon as we are able.
Rivers have continued to behave as always for the last few weeks, and waves have reached
the shore as usual.
Rivers will still flow downhill, and waves will still hit the coat every few seconds.
The landscape can be one permanence in our lives, and in the curriculum… I’m working on
a unit on the development of The Fens as a consequence, to encourage people to get out
into this landscape explained so well by Francis Pryor in his recent book.
Watch this space for links to that new unit.
Landscapes being reclaimed by the wild.
Goats are reclaiming the streets of a Welsh village - coming down from the Great Orme into
Ghost town to goats town - the new kids on the block etc. were the headlines.
Spanish officials sprayed a beach with bleach. Not sure if that would speed up chemical
weathering in the area
Many sand dune ecosystems need management including fencing to avoid trampling of the
marram that holds them together. The Maspalomas Dunes on Gran Canaria are apparently
recovering their natural look after years of damage from tourist visitors:
Isolation caused by relief
The mountains of Wales may have helped Ceridigion have the lowest rates of infection in
"Ceredigion has at least in part been protected by its geography," agreed Prof Michael Woods of
Aberystwyth University. "We know the coronavirus spreads primarily through close contact between
people and the lower population density in rural areas makes it more difficult. The relative remoteness
also means fewer people here were travelling back and forth to places with high numbers of cases
like south Wales, the West Midlands and Merseyside."
2. Land Use
I would be interested to see how the landscape is changed as a
result of decisions made now and in the period when we are able
to move around again.
e.g Agricultural use of land.
This Tim Lang book - this came out March 2020 - has it already
been overtaken by events?
● Forestry land left unmanaged.
● Reduction in construction projects.
● Floodplain development reduced.
● Housing densities questioned.
Will the UK’s land-use as recorded by Daniel Raven Ellison in his wonderful ‘The UK in 100
seconds’ be different if he was to remake it in a few years’ time?
A debate started about opening access to golf courses for open space, which connects with
ideas of public and private land ownership, and rights of way.
Dan mentioned this on his Twitter feed as well, showing how much land was being taken up
by golf courses which were closed at the time.
Public space is going to prove valuable as town centres reopen:
There was a similar theme to many stories regarding people travelling to rural areas. Rights
of Way which run close to farms have been chained off, and some politicians have been
forced to resign for breaking lockdown (whereas some people kept their job).
https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-holidays-stoke-rural-fury-135779 - this also relates
to the use of second homes in rural areas and the impact on rural communities, but gives
the story a different dynamic. Thanks to Claire Kyndt for this story. This I think will become
more significant when the lockdown lifts, as people will head to places like Devon and
Norfolk, for example, bringing the virus with them into areas with relatively low population
density. There were signs that locals weren’t happy about this in many locations with hand
made signs going up.
3. Weather and Climate / Air Quality / Weather Hazards
We could consider the short term impact in carbon reduction and whether it might help any
country towards meeting carbon emission and air quality targets. Europe’s air is certainly
getting clearer: https://twitter.com/i/status/1248669136676425735 (video on this link)
Skies have emptied of planes - will we (be able to) go back to flying when this is all
Will there still be the same number of airlines / competition for flights / cheap flights?
Car pollution also briefly halved according to this study:
In India, there were visual signs that the air was clearing as well:
In early June however, as the lockdown eased and ‘normal’ life resumed, air quality levels
rose back to pre-Covid levels in China very quickly, and Europe will soon follow suit:
This was perhaps because people were avoiding public transport so congestion increased.
Can cities keep their air clean? Some blue-sky thinking is needed perhaps:
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) is concerned about the impact of
Covid-19 on the observation system. It also describes some of the effects of reduced air
traffic which they have already observed, for example in flight observations of temperature
and wind speed are an important part of the observation network.
Also check satellite data here: https://www.lobelia.earth/covid-19
Imagine the issues of trying to deal with a disaster (I’ll avoid involving the word ‘natural’
there) with all the additional complications of the coronavirus.
Typhoon Vongfong hit the Philippines in mid-May
There may be some short term changes to our carbon emissions, but not the long term ones
required to change the climate - by which I mean decade long reductions towards net zero.
Cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh and India, forcing the evacuation of 1 million people:
clone-amphan-nears and June saw the start of the Hurricane season.
Sylvia Knight recorded a podcast for the RGS-IBG, which included a section on links
between the weather and Covid-19 - listen here:
4. Tectonics and disasters
The lack of human activity has reduced a lot of the background noise which seismometers
have to be calibrated to ignore / account for
There are also fears that other hazards such as earthquakes may happen, and people will
be unable to help each other for risk of infection. This is a real fear as we move into
Hurricane season as mentioned previously, and Cyclone Amphan has battered Kolkata.
Ilan Kelman seminar on his book: Disaster by Choice
“A situation requiring outside support for coping”
5. Our relationship with Nature...
The closure of so-called ‘wet-markets’, which are found all over the world and not just in
China, for the sale of ‘bush meat’ and other animals needs to be stopped to avoid another
pandemic emerging in the future. We have seen another outbreak at a market in China in
mid-June as a reminder of this possibility.
At the root of the problem is a social phenomenon called “human-wildlife conflict”. This is
when the interests of humans and the needs of wildlife overlap in a negative way.
In terms of food sourcing, cultural norms over bush meat and wildlife markets may now have
to face more legislation if this does turn out to be the source of the outbreak
iversity-chief-age-of-extinction - biodiversity
A food related connection is discussed here:
There is also a suggestion we may see more wild flowers. Council services are being cut,
and focussing on the vital services, so verge cutting etc. may be stopped.
The people with the closest link with nature perhaps are the indigenous peoples such as
those who live in the rainforest areas such as the Amazon Basin, who live in harmony with
the forest - they are its guardians in many respects - and who practice their faming
techniques which many students will have learned about.
This article suggests the virus may lead to the extinction of some of these groups:
Worth remembering that tackling some issues with landscapes may also reduce risk of
future pandemics - image from UN
Image copyright: UN
This relationship is explored in this piece from the 7th of May on our ‘promiscuous treatment
There has also been an increase in fly-tipping as council recycling centres are closed.
Many people are also looking for jobs to do, and clearing out their houses and wanting to do
DIY which has created extra waste. Some councils are also burning recycling as there are
fears over virus contamination of card etc.
Costing the Earth on BBC Radio 4 had some thoughts in an episode hosted by Tom Heap
Tom Heap talks through the environmental issues emerging during the coronavirus pandemic and
asks what the legacy might be. He's joined by climate change expert Dr Tamsin Edwards from King's
College, London to examine the effect of the lockdown.
With millions of people now working from home, planes being grounded and fewer cars on the roads,
what level of environmental improvement has there been, and will that be reversed once our lives
return to normal?
With the help of experts from the fields of climate change, remote working, ecology and environmental
standards, we track the changes in air pollution and global temperature.
What will the return to ‘normal' look like? With the UK aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050, Tom asks
whether the pandemic can be seen as a trial run for a zero-carbon world. And, with the international
climate meeting COP26 postponed, Tamsin considers how international climate targets might be
With contributions from Christiana Figueres - architect of the Paris climate agreement, environmental
psychologist Lorraine Whitmarsh, air quality expert David Carslaw, Gina McCarthy of the Natural
Resources Defense Council, business communications specialist Jon Sidwick and Julian Newman
from the Environmental Investigation Agency.
This is likely to be a useful resource and you can download the programme. I like how
Tamsin is introduced as a geographer and Tom also declares himself as a geographer.
It mentions removal of EPA environmental protections in the USA which may lead to further
The world’s oceans are now much quieter places because of the reduction in the
movements of shipping with fewer passenger vehicles e.g. cross channel ferries.
Andy Owen shared this link to some satellite imagery showing areas which were paused -
changing human behaviour in certain environments.
I was interested in the collapse in price of legal abalones: an unusual ‘crop’:
On the plus side, oceans are getting quieter due to fewer vessel movements: good for
cetaceans, and the cleaner water is helping animals such as seahorses in Studland Bay:
Any thoughts that we might have come to love and appreciate nature more during lockdown
were immediately dispelled when guidance meant we could travel as far as we wanted,
following the Dominic Cummings scandal.
People flocked to Bournemouth beach several days running, and left human waste in burger
boxes or in RNLI stations. People crowded into Liverpool when their football team won the
Premiership football league.
And signs like this needed to go up in London’s parks:
...and Ocean Plastics
There has also been a dramatic rise in Ocean Plastics with the use of PPE / disposable
gloves / endless tape and 2m distancing stickers on the floor outside premises which will
degrade in the rain and sun:
s-waste-ends-up-in-ocean - “more masks than jellyfish”
Image from LA Times article here:
Image taken on the Soko Islands near Hong Kong.
Sea of troubles and plastic as the “asbestos of the sea” in this article:
Single use protective equipment has been sold in hundreds of millions and people won’t
want to keep it around as it is potentially infected (at least in the short term)
Just imagine the plastic and glass to produce test equipment.
What about those swabs… I guess they have plastic in them.
A vaccine if developed would use all the world’s glass and more to store it. Are we starting to
make those vials now? I doubt it…
Professor Stephen Scoffham wrote a piece on the changing relationship with nature for the
Canterbury Christchurch University’s Expert Comment blog in early June 2020:
Andrew Mitchell wrote a piece for ‘Geographical’ magazine in mid June
Economists estimate the economic fallout from the Covid-19 virus pandemic could
approach $10 trillion dollars, or around one eighth of global GDP. To prevent a
recurrence of this crisis, we need to look less into human health, than into the
collective blindness among regulators and within the ﬁnancial sector of the huge
dependencies the global economy has on biodiversity, and the devastating impacts
on us all when our e ect on these dependencies, becomes increasingly unsustainable.
Covid-19 is nature’s $10 trillion dollar bite back, and this is just the beginning.
Based on this earlier report:
Based on the Global Risk Report
Risk is also increasing as a result of contaminated waste.
BBC in late June had this piece and introduced the term “anthropause” which is quite neat.
The UK-led team's aim is to study what they have called the "anthropause" - the
global-scale, temporary slowdown in human activity, which is likely to have a profound
impact on other species.
Biologgers have still been working, collecting information through this phase. Wildlife has
been responding to this.
People have paused:
Some don’t want to go back to their previous lives.
6. Plate Tectonics
One would expect little change to the layout of countries, although Twitter user Karl Sharro
https://twitter.com/KarlreMarks suggested how the world map would change in this tweeted
image with socially distanced countries:
Given the fact tourists aren’t travelling to Thailand, there are benefits to some of the rare
turtles such as the Olive Ridley who aren’t being affected quite as bad as in previous years:.
Connection to work done previously for TUI with the Better World Detectives. That has all
been placed in perspective now.
2020 is also the landmark year for biodiversity. That effort has been hampered by the arrival
of the virus.
8. Water Cycle and hydrological processes
In many cities, workers are out early spraying disinfectant.
Benches, cash points and shop fronts are among touchable surfaces being sprayed with
disinfectant. Councils want to reassure workers and shoppers that things are clean, but
where does this disinfectant go but into drains and thus into rivers. What impact will it be
having on riparian ecosystems in the long term?
There was also a worrying report regarding potential mass graves in South Africa which
would have an impact on groundwater supply - I suspect this would be an issue for other
There are also burial plot shortages in many cities
At the interface between physical and human, we have several
other major issues:
9. Climate Change - the big one!
Climate Change will still need to be at the heart of the curriculum when we
return, perhaps even more so.
The Greenhouse: What We're Learning
I’ve avoided too much on this theme as it’s a whole extra booklet by itself. The reduction in
carbon emissions through industrial closedown and far fewer journeys is obvious.
We’re also likely to see changes to school and hospital meals as a result of supply chains,
but also the drive for less meat - one campaign here is the #20percentlessmeat campaign
which has had some significant success.
About a quarter of the UK’s population eats the food from these caterers
https://www.publicsectorcatering.co.uk/psc100 in a typical working week
Check out the free Harvard Online courses.
This one explores the health impacts of climate change.
Perhaps we at least will see an end to ‘big oil’
There was a useful podcast for Earth Day 2020 discussing parallels between Coronavirus
and Climate Change:
Don’t forget to take Paul Turner’s Climate Change Ignorance Test
Mark Maslin’s piece too on the reports of warming climates in the future.
Also check out the RGS Policy paper on Net Carbon Zero published in early May
For more on this, Paul Turner and Phil Bell have organised the Big Climate Teach In for
the 4th of July. Videos of the event will remain online after the event has finished.
B: Human Geography themes
10. Urbanisation and Urban Spaces
“This was the week our cities died” is the title of this provocative piece which got me
going on some thinking in this regard, and the nature of our teaching on urban models and
Melbourne is also featured here.
Daniel Whittall suggested we are seeing new iterations of ‘the city’ or ‘urban spaces’ and
we will see another iteration ‘post-covid’. I guess this document is suggesting we will have
another iteration of the geography specifications and agreed powerful knowledge.
a) Urban Spaces and Hierarchies (and the return of communities)
Thanks to Claire Kyndt for this link, which started some thinking about the way we use
urban spaces and how we live within them.
Those people who live in rural areas have greater options when it comes to social distancing
and finding a safe space to exercise. I am fortunate, in this respect, to live in a small rural
village, 8 miles from the nearest town but equally that means longer ambulance response
Where we live is influenced by what we can afford.
Lynsey Hanley has produced an essential piece of writing on the class divide here as a
In it she references another great thinker Joe Moran, in a piece from 2004. She also talks
about the value of public parks and open spaces.
Space – how it’s apportioned, how it’s governed, how it’s made available to some and
denied to others – is always political. The middle classes, accustomed to constant mobility
while valorising the home as a place of comfort and safety, balk at the thought of being
unable to up sticks at will.
It seems that the Bartlett Centre of UCL is also definitely ‘on it’ with some thinking in the sort
of areas that Helen wondered about earlier.
“people survive difficulty by coming together as communities of care, not pulling apart in a
retreat into individualism” OluTimehin Adegbeye, 2020
“Housing is a condition to the right to life” Laia Bonet, 2020
The quotes above are an entry into this piece by Catalina Ortiz and Camillo Boano on
housing as the key infrastructure of care, and the difficulty for many of social distancing in
some housing designs.
The piece is part of a series on Post Covid 19 Urban Futures put together by UCL - a useful
blog and webinar series which will grow over time.
The Alexandra Panman blog is also excellent:
Inequalities are explored here:
This gives me hope that more work like this is happening in other universities.
Let me know if you spot it and we can add it in.
This piece by Gaby Hinsliff suggests social pods of people as a future model.
One particular urban space which may become at a premium is a space for a burial. Some
cities have limited cemetery space, and that space is running out - I won’t make my usual
joke here about cemeteries being ‘the dead centre of town’:
I think we may also see a move to the suburbs for space rather than small expensive flats in
city centres: https://news.trust.org/item/20200602091720-utel6/ - for those who can afford to
of course. This will also connect with greater take up of home working - if you don’t need to
commute into the city centre you don’t need to live in the expensive commuter belt.
An exodus from London - counterurbanisation example for UK cities:
b) LIC Urban areas
Will the virus lead to a growing exodus from cities or will people still want to live close to
services (and each other)?
Here’s a South African waste-picker on life under lockdown and the impossibility of
continuing to work without risk.
Diana Mitlin also picked up some of the issues facing cities in the ‘global South’ in this
For those in Kibera, no work means no food, and quarantine is not an option:
Follow Faith Taylor’s work as she maps Covid-19 interventions in the slums of Kibera:
However, could the climate which has caused issues for countries for decades have been a
factor in low numbers of cases?
The Financial Times piece here is definitely worth reading. It is free to read and not
behind the paywall.
The article describes the potential impacts of warmer climate, a lifestyle where people are
outdoors more, measures taken by governments and also the fact that African countries
have the most youthful populations - something we explore with Year 9.
In this pandemic, the mask reveals far more than it hides. It exposes the world’s political
and economic relations for what they are: vectors of self-interest that ordinarily lie
obscured under glib talk of globalisation and openness. For the demagogues who govern so
much of the world, the pandemic has provided an unimpeachable excuse to fulfil their
dearest wishes: to nail national borders shut, to tar every outsider as suspicious, and to act
as if their own countries must be preserved above all others.
Further reports have picked up on that same theme - the youthful nature of Africa’s
population means that it has been affected much less than many were fearing. An important
demographic theme to explore perhaps when looking at population pyramids. Perhaps
another benefit of a wide-based population pyramid.
c) Sounds of the city
The virus is changing the aural map of cities. Bird song is louder. The skies are quieter.
The Cities and Memory website has been collecting sounds of cities and now has a new
lockdown sounds map to capture cities in these very different circumstances.
https://citiesandmemory.com/covid19-sounds/ - check out some of the sounds in a growing
archive of entries as we moved into June.
This article from Places Journal talks about the experience of the city through sound, a
process called Auscultation.
An excellent read, with thanks to Stephen Schwab.
Coughs and sneezes turn paranoid heads; ventilators whoosh in hospital rooms; streets go
suddenly quiet, as people shelter inside. Kids home from school create a new daytime
soundtrack, and neighbors gather on balconies in the evening, to sing together or applaud
health workers. As physicians monitor the rattle of afflicted lungs, the rest of us listen for
acoustic cues that our city is convalescing, that we’ve turned inward to prevent transmission.
Urban areas may also be noisier from construction which may be allowed to continue later:
It also featured on Radio 3’s ‘Late Junction’ programme:
d) Future city centres and urban design
ppens-when-the-thing-that-makes-cities-great-also-makes-them-dangerous/ - mentions
Edward Glaeser and the importance of density, and the comments thread is also
Some cities are giving over space to transport other than the car:
Rachael Unsworth mused on the potential for improving things as regards transport:
It included a quote from this Carbon Brief collection of views:
Also efforts to reduce light pollution in future cities:
Paris is planning to give less space to cars to help with the 15 minute city idea, which was
introduced by city Mayor Anne Hidalgo in February, influenced by Carlos Moreno.
“ville du quart d’heure”
Melbourne has a similar 20 minute model.
I’m investigating the work of Carlos Moreno in this area.
Hidalgo’s manifesto promises:
A Paris to live in, a Paris that innovates, a Paris that breathes,
A Paris in common.
The World Economic Forum has published a very useful piece on how future cities will
change, including its architecture and organisation.
● With city dwellers forced to stay home during lockdowns, some architects are rethinking urban
infrastructure to promote a more local lifestyle and help people adapt to a post-pandemic
● "The benefits of a well-planned compact city include shorter commute times, cleaner air, and
reduced noise and the consumption of fossil fuels and energy."
● From making city cycling safer to promoting social distancing green spaces, these are the
changes we could see in the coming years.
Connections are key to transmission:
Image source: The Economist
A reminder of Tobler’s First Law of Geography - “near things are more related than distant
things” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobler%27s_first_law_of_geography
Rowan Moore on how to design better cities:
Geographers started to be consulted at the end of May, with a BBC piece exploring how
working from home might change the city. Paul Cheshire from the LSE and other experts are
quoted in this piece: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52767773 which connects with the idea
of building on Green-belt land.
Paul Chatterton from the University of Leeds has written a very useful blog on how Leeds
could become a more sustainable post-Covid-19 city.
res-how/ - ideal for OCR B Geographers.
dont-know-how-yet?CMP=share_btn_tw - an excellent piece here with some good links to
explore on urban futures.
“It’s going to be terrible for a while,” says Sanjoy Chakravorty, a professor of
geography and urban studies at Temple University. “People have to get used to
the idea of sitting closely again. Then they have to have enough job security
and money to blow 100 quid on an evening of interpretative dance.”
But he is among those who are bullish on the prospects of a resurgence of city
life. “The modern city is indestructible,” he says. “Fires, earthquakes, bombings,
the blitz of London or the siege of Stalingrad: these cities lost population, but
then they came back.”
The high number of cases in New York have also not got unnoticed, and the impact of
density is something which may be worth exploring. I can think of various tools which can be
used to uncover population density in urban areas in the UK and elsewhere. Would make a
good enquiry topic I think. Steve Brace shared a Directions blog post (reposted from the
Conversation website) by Colin McFarlane from Durham University on this very theme on
the 4th of June, on how the urban poor have been particularly badly hit:
e) The role of neighbourhoods
Social distancing is producing more of an engagement with our personal space and
place currently, and also a recognition of some simple everyday pleasures such as a
walk and meeting friends or going out for a pint:
● Queueing for long periods - a chance to talk, or isolating on mobile phones
● How is this playing out in other countries?
● Spacing in supermarkets changing these everyday interactions and negotiations
in aisles and pausing - speeding up our shopping and buying fewer things
perhaps in the future, except the huge queues outside IKEA and McDonalds as
they reopened in June 2020 suggested otherwise
A useful piece from Richard Florida on CityLab in April 2020 on the ‘Geography of
CityLab also started sharing the first submissions of lockdown maps from readers:
Negotiations will also happen (they already are) when meeting walkers and cyclists:
Another new CityLab piece was released on June 11th, which connected with the idea of the
‘local’ and the changing neighbourhoods as lockdown began to be lifted, and anti-racist
protestors filled the streets of many cities - an extra dynamic to the existing one:
Source: Daniel Pardo, Maryland
Bob Lang talked about this in a Discover the World Education Teachmeet.
You can watch a repeat here:
Bob Lang is on from 28 minutes in talking about his work with Survey123 to explore similar
ideas with students.
I’m on from 2 hours and 4 minutes in talking about this very document and the
background to its formation.
Channel 4 put together a series of scenes showing cities before and after - and I guess there
will also need to be an ‘after after’:
In some countries, houses vary in design. In Japan for example, houses are much smaller
than many other countries. This Reuters piece with excellent graphics explores the issues in
Tokyo for social distancing due to house design: a very pretty piece of work - thanks to
Richard Allaway for this link.
Image copyright: Reuters
Our health may well rely on our homes. We need a Healthy Homes Act this Geography
Directions piece suggests:
In other urban areas, there are concerns that the closure of public parks is disproportionately
affecting the poorer residents who may not have large gardens to access for exercise,
compared to the more affluent. A report in the Times explored this with regards to
Middlesborough. https://twitter.com/ryanleewatts/status/1253727753419046916 althouth the
opening of public spaces in late May led to a spate of littering and fires started by BBQs as
people seemed to lose all sense of what was appropriate behaviour.
Thanks to Nik Griffith for the tip-off to this report.
Image copyright: The Times / Ordnance Survey
Another aspect of urban spaces which has not been obvious to many for some time is the
availability of public toilets. Many people who are able bodied and also able to pay to eat in a
cafe or drink in a pub haven’t had to worry about finding a toilet even as public conveniences
have been closed down in recent years. Now that pubs have been closed, the gaps are
becoming obvious and public urination etc. have grown in recent weeks - again, this is one
of those public/private conflict examples:
Community also comes from sport:
Check out how Google and Apple’s social-distancing maps work:
Compare Apple and Google’s maps. (You can see more of them later in this document)
Also check out the Manchester Urban Institute Blog for a
range of useful blog-posts including one on social
distancing and parks, and one on the data which shows
how our cities have changed over the last few months.
f) Urban Resilience
Seaside and ex-industrial towns have already had a tough time economically, and they are
now potentially being affected more by the virus. This Sky News piece suggests they may
also be worst hit by these:
A BBC piece from early June on how coastal resorts were faring - badly it seems:
Even the city of LA, bastion of the car is apparently turning into a city of walkers
Tim Marshall took a cycle ride around London in mid-May and sent this tweet which could
be useful for a ‘changing places’ topic. I’m collating images like this on a Pinterest board.
We are seeing lots more of these ad-hoc adjustments to the situation:
There will definitely be some changes in urban areas.
For this I recommend following the work of Paul Chatterton, who is Professor of Urban
Futures at the University of Leeds. Twitter: @PaulChatterton9
Events such as this Webinar show the groundswell for change in urban areas, with respect
to housing (people in one-bedroom flats while houses remain empty, wealthy politicians in
houses with extensive grounds preventing others from accessing parks etc.
Professor Paul Chatterton will present a talk titled ‘How to build sustainable cities after
The coronavirus crisis is creating a real-time laboratory of what a more sustainable
urban future might be. Professor Chatterton will discuss innovations including breaking car
dependency, creating socially useful production and mass urban greening. The key issue is
how these temporary innovations can be locked in and scaled up after lockdown to create a
‘just recovery’ that tackles the triple social, climate and nature crises.
The power of place.
I referred to this in an IB Webinar I spoke in:
Here’s the presentation (v6.0 and later editions)
A chance to Build Back Better - here are the principles from:
Thoughts on working from home
Image copyright: Weall Alliance
g) Desire Lines
A new addition for mid-June was an article in ‘The Guardian’ on desire lines. Once again
there was a lovely illustration:
Image copyright: Rose Blake / The Guardian
People are now finding new routes to avoid others - “elective easements” as Robert
MacFarlane calls them.
“In a near future, some of the Covid-19 e ects on the urbanscapes will be part
of this narrative, reminding us of the importance of human behaviour in
shaping the city space.”
Finding these routes might form part of a fieldwork activity as well. Explore local parks to see
how they have been changed. Several people got in touch to share some local examples
they had seen on their lockdown exercise routes.
h) Recovery from the Coronavirus
On the 15th of June many non-essential shops were able to reopen and the queues started
to form. Picture of Primark prompted many comments, Bicester village was rammed with no
social distancing evident.
Andy Beckett suggested that cities would recover because history suggests that they always
Living in a city is often about sharing, proximity to strangers, and not worrying
too much about hygiene – about who previously sat in your bus seat.
Some areas are going to struggle more than others.
Coastal cities data:
The Centre for Towns published a report on the future for the towns, from which this chart
above is taken. Small coastal towns are not as resilient as other places perhaps if tourist
income dries up this summer:
I’m also conscious that most of the links in the document are either UK or US specific so I
am keen to have some other perspectives.
Thanks to Rafael De Miguel González, President of EuroGeo for the link to this Spanish
piece on how cities are likely to recover (translated from Spanish) through their rebirth.
According to a Deloitte survey, in London half of the construction companies
are planning to reduce their projects in the face of an expected 20-30% drop in
o ce occupancy rates.
Bloomberg shared an excellent piece on our urban futures, with a nice moving image
11. Employment: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary
The Economy has changed… which jobs will disappear forever?
What will the UK / global unemployment rate be like after this?
It is clear that it may be higher than any point since the 1980s, possibly earlier - the
1970s and the ‘3 day week’ has reared its head.
For example, ask students to analyse this cartoon and explain what its meaning is - this has
become more relevant actually as the weeks have passed - particularly for those who have
fallen through the cracks of the furlough scheme:
Source: Matt Kenyon/The Guardian
I had an email update in early April from Kate Raworth, author of ‘Doughnut Economics’ (a
speaker at the GA Conference in 2019) giving some suggestions for what they were doing
around this area.
Follow @KateRaworth to see what they are doing with regards to their economic thinking.
They are currently working in Amsterdam to apply their doughnut model to the city.
This alone would be enough for a whole unit of work based on some of the starting
questions which Kate outlines here:
They also recorded a chat on pandemic-resistant economics here which may be of
Check out recent work by Matt Podbury on the circular economy as well.
Is this time for a transition to a green economy - perhaps the final chance and warning:
People will also perhaps remember those companies that looked after staff by protecting
them once the lockdown started, and those that didn’t. Furloughing is not going to benefit
people evenly either. The BBC had a piece on which areas had the most people furloughed:
This Australian piece shows how GIS can be used to see which areas of Melbourne have
been worst hit financially - perhaps a model to use for an activity
Oxfam’s campaign also reminds us how many people globally are in danger of being
pushed into poverty.
This piece also points out the gender imbalance in impact as well.
Women are on the front line of the coronavirus response and are likely to be hardest hit
financially. Women make up 70 percent of health workers globally and provide 75 percent of
unpaid care, looking after children, the sick and the elderly. Women are also more likely to
be employed in poorly paid precarious jobs that are most at risk. More than one million
Bangladeshi garment workers –80 percent of whom are women– have already been laid off
or sent home without pay after orders from western clothing brands were cancelled or
The ILO (International Labour Organisation) is the organisation that is particularly interested
in the impact on labour markets and collects statistics in that area. It’s thoughts on the
potential impacts are here, and would be useful going forward to explore the impacts in a
number of industrial areas.
In mid-June we also had some indicators on the jobs situation, with over 600 000 people
going off the pay-roll. This has a knock-on for tax revenue of course. Perhaps if very rich
people paid more tax, or large companies operating in the UK? Just a thought.
What follows are some examples of particular industries which may see
a. Retail and the changing High Street
Will the High Street survive the virus?
An excellent article to start off the retail section. This is a key area for many discussions:
Changing retail patterns, with Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy.
“Supermarkets actually account for only about 60 percent of the food we
[normally] consume,” says Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City
University, London. The rest comes from your Friday fish and chips, your
Saturday brunch, and all those al desko Pret lunches (oh, falafel flatbread,
how we miss thee). “If 40 per cent [of the food supply] is cut off, and 60 per
cent has to deal with 100 per cent, well, you’ve got stress and strains. It’s
“We need to be thinking very carefully about renationalising supply chains, out of resilience
preparedness,” says Lang, the food policy expert. “We’ve developed, over 60 years, a
culture that says, 'I can eat what I like, when I like, and it’ll be cheap forever, and I’ll overeat
as well.' That culture has got to change.” Tropical fruits will disappear from shelves and
seasonal fruits will become so again, thanks to hold-ups at borders due to decreased freight
flights. That means no more strawberries in winter. “Coronavirus is going to take a scythe
through the normality of food."
This Economist Article outlines how Coronavirus rewrote our shopping lists, and also
introduced the German word for hoarding: hamsterkauf.
Amazon meanwhile is benefitting (although in France, they are not allowed to deliver
anything other than essential items)
The High Street may not recover from this setback and we may end up with Amazon and
similar online retailers growing their monopoly. They are taking on many more staff.
Delivery drivers are bringing our purchases to the door.
An excellent NYT piece suggested that we are going to see the end of the department
store, as many were already struggling before this crisis, and we are not shopping in the
There are limited reads of articles on the New York Times, but I recommend a cheap
subscription to access the pieces (charge it to your departmental budget)
This had an excellent graphic referencing the classic store Macy’s. This was later broken
into during the events following the death of George Floyd, which has caused other large
scale change and reevaluation since early June.
Image copyright: Andrew Sondern/New York Times.
There were also mentions of Hudson Yards, an exclusive shopping mall which I visited while
in New York last year, which is likely to be suffering quite a lot.
“The genre is toast, and looking at the other side of this, there are very few who are likely to
Mark A Cohen
The High St of towns and cities across the UK will also be reshaped without some changes
to retail trade / rents:
Lewis Cotter has shared a resource which shows how High St. names treated their
workforce and suppliers during the lockdown, and it may be that people will decide to
support the companies who treated their workforce the best.
It’s also worth remembering that in the UK we have a choice of stores, from Aldi and Lidl up
to Waitrose and M&S for food. In most of India, people shop at stores called kirana shops.
These have little stock, precarious supply chains and crowded interiors which are difficult to
social distance inside. There are apparently millions of these stores, and 90% of food is
bought in them. This means there are few alternatives for food supplies. People in India
have never seen their cities so quiet, as they are always teeming with people:
WIthin a few weeks, in early May they were able to launch an online store offering deliveries
and orders. Remarkable ingenuity.
A growing part of the culture of the High St. was the presence of coffee shops - the
independents such as Ginger in Broomhill, Sheffield or the big chains including Starbucks,
Cafe Nero, Costa and others. The sudden closure of cafes has changed the way that people
consume coffee, but in what ways? Jennifer Ferreira has research coffee for some years,
and is now researching changing coffee consumption following the closure of cafes - one of
the few research projects I’ve seen surrounding the virus:
Please help Jennifer with her research here:
One suggestion is that cafes may move outside and use street stalls rather than the previous
layouts. This may be part of a changing retail offering:
A Hubbub piece on our changing shopping habits - localism and the “fifteen minute city”
The industry needs Govt. help, which is unlikely to be enough:
Apparently one fifth of all American retail workers have been furloughed:
One idea for an activity here: Centre for Cities recovery tracker for UK cities - a data
Monitor recover over the next few months
May save some data now for local cities such as Cambridge and Norwich.
Of course, there will always be somebody who will find a way to exploit a situation. One
expression of this is a store in Miami, which offers Covid-19 essentials in one place:
Thanks to Oli Mould for the lead to this story
b. Gig Economy
This sector of the economy, which has grown dramatically in recent years, has been
particularly affected by the virus.
Uber has been badly affected - sharing a car is not felt to be safe - black cabs with screens
are perhaps still relatively OK. Not sure if they have been running in London.
Food delivery - most take-aways closed for months, even McDonalds and Nandos - the
local fish and chip shop in the village was still open. A huge queue built up in Wakefield
when Costa reopened.
Uber - released an ad thanking people for staying at home:
Airbnb - this has the potential to return
some properties to longer term rentals
and may see a change to the dominance
of Airbnb in some city centres. We shall
see what the appetite is for short term
rents and going into a space that
somebody else occupied the day before
without deep cleaning between each
Apparently, Portuguese owners are
resisting the shift to lower rents for social
Critics say the rise of Airbnb-style properties has torn the soul out of the centre of
Europe's best-loved tourist cities, from Edinburgh to Barcelona. A 2018 study estimated one
in three properties in central Lisbon were holiday lets, pushing local people to the outskirts
as rent prices skyrocketed by 9.3% that year. The council programmes, due to launch in
Lisbon in coming weeks and in Porto in September, aim to capture some properties back for
renters at affordable prices. "This will increase housing stock in the city centre while also
providing holiday let owners with a stable income in an uncertain time," Lisbon mayor
Fernando Medina said.
Picked up in this CityLab article about the longer time impact on airbnb, which is cutting
staff and key staff salaries, and has continued to slim down as the weeks have gone by:
More of us will definitely be working from home in the future.
We see to like it according to this WEF article from early June:
Lives vs lives in the Spectator
Taxis returning in Belfast:
c) Agriculture and the Food System
This is a big one…
There is a need for more workers to pick food in the UK or it will rot in the fields as the
● Will farming be changed in terms of what is grown?
● Will this see a continued need for migrant workers and visas?
● Will we need a Pick for Britain campaign in the same vein as Dig for Victory?
The Fishing industry is suffering with a loss of overseas shellfish sales and closure of
supermarket fish counters:
Singapore is almost wholly reliant on food imports (around 90% of its food) as it is so small
and urbanised. It is now bringing forward plans to grow more of its own food on rooftop
Only 1% of Singapore is apparently used for growing food at the moment, but that is set to
Similarly, Australia has taken a fresh look at its own agricultural system to increase their self
sufficiency - Sydney Morning Herald piece here:
Consider this very useful model of the Food system from the Centre for Food Policy.
Identify the current stresses that are being placed on elements of this model.
Image source: Centre for Food Policy
The Plant based sector was making good strides before the crisis. This piece is not entirely
without bias but makes a few interesting points with respect to the cost of food..
The rural economy will need help to bounce back as well - will there be changes to the
typical English countryside?:
There is of course one very important food related link and that is the cultural issues behind
the consumption of animals. In some countries, including the USA, there are so called “wet
markets” where animals are sold live. The presence of these markets has been suggested
as one origin for pandemics due to hygiene and other aspects of the operation of these
markets.Some Chinese cities are now banning the sale of meat from dogs and cats it
seems, and there may well be other cultural changes in what meats are consumed. The
consumption of ‘bush meat’ such as bats was thought to be a source for the Ebola outbreaks
Food production has been connected with the emergence of new viruses, as well as other
issues. This is an area to develop in the curriculum I would say.
In the middle of April we also saw a series of flights bringing Romanian fruit and vegetable
pickers to the UK:
Remarkably the Daily Mail had this as its cover, after years of front covers denigrating
migrant workers. All those people who wanted to ‘support their country’ and ‘take back
control’ weren’t up to helping it seems when it really mattered.
Some other workers are interviewed here:
One of the areas linked to this was the demand for
food. Some people have been stockpiling for years
in anticipation of some issues of this kind. They are
called ‘Preppers’, and geographer Bradley
Garrett, who is writing a book on this, has
written a good piece in ‘The Atlantic’ - suggesting
that we will all be doing some prepping next. I think
we will be mindful of what we have in our homes,
and be more aware of being ready.
His book is out in August. It may be of interest to many. It also matches the other book on
the coming Apocalypse in the reading list.
He’s interviewed here:
He cites the French Marxist Paul Virilio, who worried that as space and
distance were compressed by speed and connectivity, we would become more
vulnerable to disaster. “In other words, progress and disaster go hand in hand.”
The Guardian piece ends with another useful quote from Bradley - this book is going to be
“disasters aren’t ends, but irreversible transitions … They’re always something
less than an extinction. Catastrophe, by its very nature, falls short of ﬁnality. It’s
the end of something but never the end.”
The Food System and how it has coped was also the topic of another excellent piece in
‘The Economist’ made freely available, and with another excellent illustration, this time by
Keeping it cornucopius...
Illustration: Cristina Spanò
The piece explains that there is plenty of potential for things to go wrong still. It also points
out that 80% of the world’s population relies, at least in part, on imported food, so the
movement of food needs to continue - it’s always something that amazes me in a way. I pick
up some beans from Kenya and think - why aren’t people in Kenya eating these?
Adam Vaughan in the New Scientist warns of a potential food crisis:
The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition:
Sandra Diaz is quoted here:
Wild animals are hunted or trapped and kept under crowded conditions in markets, often
many wild species, domestic species and people very close to each other, under appalling
conditions of hygiene.This gives the perfect conditions for the viruses to mutate and
jump from its original hosts to new hosts, including domestic animals and people.
The wildlife trade is an excellent vehicle for pathogens to spread around the world. Besides,
once a virus can infect domestic animals, factory farming with its crowded conditions
provide the perfect conditions for further spread and mutation. And, of course, once the
virus acquires the capacity to infect people, with our massive transport of goods and
travellers around the world it can go to one city to the other, from one continent to the other,
d) Service sector
https://www.ft.com/content/f8e58c8a-de5e-44ac-84c4-dac767e6cfca - service sector has
been badly affected by the lockdown, and also certain sectors placed at increased risk of job
This includes food services and entertainment of course, with pubs and music venues
The world’s largest service industry of course is Tourism, and this is unlikely to be back to
anything like normal for at least six months with many countries closing their borders to
international tourists. A recalculation of the P/S/T employment mix may be needed.
See Section 17 of this document for more on Tourism as a changed industry.
A particular part of the service sector is the sex worker industry. They have, of course, been
affected - and the German government is looking at how they might be helped to get to work
- though it will he hard:
e) Garment workers
Various campaign groups were quick off the mark to publicise the plight of garment workers.
Many garment workers feared for their lives with a lack of social
Fashion Revolution was an important account to follow in this
area as it kept track of stories relating to garment workers and
how they tried to cope.