Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Logistics Project - proudly geographic

When stood in Gunung Sitoli (Indonesia) 2004, Rawlakot (Kashmir) 2005 or Port au Prince (Haiti) 2010 the predominant thought of collision is of tectonic plates.  The subduction of one plate by another creating violent tremors at least that is how I remember it from pre GSCE geography.  I have been musing on another collision that occurs on these occasions, a collision of the many streams of Geography.

Henry Morton Stanley
"Dr Livingstone I presume"

Before 2007 I would never have thought of myself as a geographer, in fact I thought of geography as Barney Bett my secondary school geography/sports teacher (tweed jacket, leather elbow patches, and too much corduroy to be a good thing……hmm must reduce tweed content of my own wardrobe).  I hate to admit I thought geography was the penance sports teachers had to pay for having the best job in the world.   In 2008 I was amazed to be accepted as a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). I certainly have no academic qualifications to back any claim although should a lottery win come in I would definitely consider going back to some undergrad study.  Whilst going about my business as an aid world logistician I had inadvertently indulged in many areas of geography from mapping aquifers in Sudan, to the cartographic efforts in Kashmir, tracking migration in Port au Prince or looking at cultural norms in Zinder (Niger).  In fact many of the heroes of British Geography weren’t geographers – Henry Morton Stanley was a Journalist, Dr David Livingstone a medical missionary, Robert Scott (of the Antarctic) a Royal Naval Officer.  So perhaps I can feel a little less that the “F” in my FRGS may stand for fake or fraud of The Royal Geographical Society. 

IOM - The lead agency in Haiti's recovery.

It has however got me to thinking that disaster zones seem to produce the highest concentrations of geographers (outside of the RGS lecture theatre) that I have known.  All disasters attract “ologistis” of some geographical bent.  Seismologist, climatologist, meteorologists, geologists all descended on Port au Prince.  Whilst working with JPHRO a meteorologist called Eric Holthaus was on my speed dial for hurricane season, I engaged Japanese military land engineers to stabilise a collapsing slope at the Petionville IDP camp. I took advice from landscape ecologists. As cholera broke out we all looked to the GIS specialist to create, recreate and update epidemiological maps; all this without even looking at the human geographers who would crop up in the reconstruction of Haiti’s social fabric after one of the Caribbean’s most dramatic seismic occurrences.  IOM (international organisation on Migration) tracked population’s moves whilst guiding the crisis response from their HQ at Toussaint Louveture airport.  Teams of development geographers, geopolitical geographers, economic geographers and social geographers packed out meetings aimed at defining the way forward in disaster recovery. Of an evening and a glass of wine on the inside I think all aid workers become geosophists.
It lead me to thinking that logistics is actually a geographical subject and in fact if we look at Wikipedia as a source of infallible information they site transport geography as a viable sub-stream of human geography, that is logistics if ever I heard it.  We are official!! We are intrigued by maps, movements, trends and when we choose aid and development as our arena of practice all of a sudden the physical geography comes in: seasons, water tables, the weight that mountains side tracks can carry safely.  It is all geography. So here at The Logistics Project we are proudly geographers!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I've never thought about geography playing a role at all in the logistical field of aid work, but it completely makes sense! Now I realize that my obsession (and I mean obsession) over maps and migration movements all have to do with none other than - geography! *starts flipping through course offerings looking for geography classes* Thanks for enlightening me!