King’s Water at RGS

The 2016 Annual International Conference will be held at the Royal Geographical Society in London from Tuesday 30 August to Friday 2 September 2016. The theme for AC2016 is nexus thinking, an approach that has attracted a surge of interest in the last five years among academics, policy-makers and third sector organizations. The aim of nexus thinking is to address the interdependencies, tensions and trade-offs between different environmental and social domains – an approach to which geographers might feel an inherent attraction. Rather than seeing energy, food and water resources as separate systems, for example, nexus thinking focuses on their interconnections, favouring an integrated approach that moves beyond national, sectoral, policy and disciplinary silos to identify more efficient, equitable and sustainable use of scarce resources.

Given how strongly rooted the idea of ‘nexus’ is in water management and scholarship, it isn’t suprising that a number of King’s Water members will be taking part. Join King’s Water to consider transboundary water governance, gendered hydro-violence, hydro-social interactions, environmental education, hydro-diplomacy, and other issues.


Seeking and contesting environmental security in a complex world: Knowledge, agency and governance implications

Naho Mirumachi, King’s Water Lead, is convening a session on Wednesday exploring environmental security. Environmental security remains a key feature of global concerns to stability and development, as demonstrated in the 2016 Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum highlighting effects of climate change, water and energy crises. While the concept of environmental security is not new, nowadays it concerns a wide range of climate, energy, food, water, biodiversity and migration issues, in addition to the interlinked impacts between and across them. At the same time, the referent object of security is multiple and less evident in contrast to statist interpretations of environmental security. Recent scholarship on environmental security calls for a better examination of global economic structures and human-biophysical processes of the anthropocene that mediate causes and implications of insecurities (Dalby 2013). Understanding environmental security thus encompasses a critical examination of the politics determining complex and multiple threats. What kinds of thresholds and trigger points are identified to establish risks and threats? What kinds of knowledge are used to explain causes of threats? How are inter-connected risks across sectors such as climate and migration, water-food-energy understood? The politics of environmental security sheds light on the normative assumptions and framing of threats. Actors strategize and challenge logics of security, which may not necessarily distribute the benefits and burdens of dealing with threats equally across society. Drawing on a range of environmental contexts, the panel will discuss the language and knowledge of securitising the environment; actors and referent objects of security; implications of governing for environmental security on socio-economic and ecological processes. Presenters include King’s Water’s own Amiera Sawas.


The Water-Gender-Violence Nexus in Disasters and Daily Lives

King’s Water is sponsoring a session examining the complexity of the links between water, gender, and violence is growing in research. Tragic cases in India of young women raped and murdered while searching for a spot to defecate drew the eyes of the world to the strong – and often horrific – ties between water for sanitation and hygiene and gender-based violence. Poor infrastructure creates opportunities for violence. Both temporary and permanent circumstances of limited resources and poor infrastructure can affect the way people interact with each other, both positively and negatively. The potential of water – in its abundance, scarcity, use, misuse, or related infrastructure – to be a driver of conflict and violence can only be understood via credible, extensive, and ground level research in a multiplicity of circumstances. In this session, cases from around the world will be used to question whether and how water is a gendered resource, how gendered dimensions plays out in water access and distribution, how discourses of water help shape gender-based violence, and how water might be leveraged as a tool against gender-based violence.

The session will be chaired by PhD researcher Becca Farnum. King’s Water member Amiera Sawas will share her work on the gendered dimensions of water for sanitation and hygiene in urban settings. Becca’s research partner Dar Si Hmad will speak about a fog-harvesting project in Southwest Morocco tackling the symbolic violence of gendered water roles.


Hydrosocial or socio-hydro? Cross-disciplinary discussions on Deltas as nexus of social, technical and physical systems

UNESCO-IHE, one of King’s Water’s institutional partners, will be leading a session investigating the physical and social elements of water systems. The last decade has seen the exploration across disciplines, but especially by physical and human geographers, of water as simultaneously social and natural. In the age of the Anthropocene, natural scientists refer to socio-hydrology, while social scientists refer to the hydrosocial. They both agree – but with important differences – on needing to understand the interplay between human and natural systems. This session aims to understand the differences, similarities, and implications of the hydro-social-technical paradigms in use. Waterscapes where this issue is particularly pertinent are deltas. Deltas are special places, where the relationships between humans and nature is often strongly, and increasingly, mediated by technology. Traditions of ‘living with water’, with modest interventions, are in many places superseded by modernity’s aim to control: dikes prevent flooding, groins and embankments fix the river channels’ position, polders enable micro-water level management for the benefit of agriculture. The conceptualisation of delta systems should therefore give due recognition to the constituting role of technology. This session aims to explore this relationship of technology with social and natural processes within the context of delta, theoretically and/or empirically. We want to compare the reasons for, and implications of, the choice of paradigm for research and policy on deltas. Our purpose is not to judge competing claims but to start a meaningful conversation. We want to assess possibilities and constraints in the light of pragmatic questions: what can we learn when we employ these different approaches, what different rationales for action do they suggest, what scope exists for collaboration? We also ask to what extent paradigms are incommensurable, and under what circumstances they may not be. Our tentative proposal is that ‘narrative’ is the common ground that can be a shared endeavour amongst disparate paradigms. We therefore also look for speculative papers that propose how such engagement around narratives may be implemented in research.

King’s Water members David Demeritt and Maria Paula Escobar Tello will be presenting their work on “Forecasting in the nexus: looping effects and the impacts of ‘impact-based’ warnings”. King’s Water Lead Naho Mirumachi will reflect on “Hydrosocial or socio-hydro? Cross-disciplinary discussions”.


Environmental Peacebuilding: The Peace-Environment-Conflict Nexus

“Environmental peacebuilding” is an emerging concept recognising the potential of the natural environment to play a role in post-conflict rebuilding and peaceful relations between communities in conflict. This session will examine the logic of the environmental peacebuilding rationale and the links between peace, the natural environment, and conflict. The focus will be on critically considering when and where peacebuilding does and should happen, the unique position occupied by nature in these processes, and the need to examine both the negative and positive consequences of environmental concerns. Examining theoretical debates and including practitioner and activist voices, the session will consider whether environmental scarcity inevitably leads to conflict; what the goal of environmental peacebuilding is and should be; how the natural environment might be understood as a tool, actor, and/or stakeholder in peacebuilding processes; and how various actors at multiple scales might learn from successful examples of environmental peacebuilding?

King’s Water PhD researcher Becca Farnum will be profiling her research partners in a unique session bringing together activists from three Middle Eastern countries to discuss the ways in which they use water for local peacebuilding and international diplomacy. Part 1 will review the theoretical basis of environmental peacebuilding, with contributions from a range of disciplines. Part 2 will be Becca’s first public presentation of the data she has collected from six months of fieldwork in Morocco, Kuwait, and Lebanon and will include a variety of local voices.


The Environment-Education-Empowerment Nexus

PhD student Becca Farnum is convening a session on The Environment-Education-Empowerment Nexus. Part I will explore the premise that student engagement as researchers in Education-Practitioner Partnerships can enable students to be a key nexus in the practical application of geography both at the time, through their activity in partnership, and in the future, through the pedagogic development and networking skills they gain through partnership. We will share perspectives on opportunities and challenges offered by a range of stakeholders including students, professional practitioners and academic researchers across the breadth of the discipline. Part II will take a closer look at the concept and pedagogy of “environmental learning”. Environmental learning may refer to education about the environment and natural ecosystems, education taking place outdoors surrounded by nature, or ecologically focused instruction with sustainability as an aim. This session seeks to understand the interplays between the natural environment, teaching and learning, and empowerment – for teachers, students, economies, communities, and nature itself. The session will make use of both local case study and pedagogical theory to consider these relationships. The two sessions will focus primarily on practical case studies, with the chair facilitating discussion between and across the case studies to highlight emerging themes. A discussion with the audience will help to raise further questions and issues in order to inform conclusions about the efficacy and potential of environmental learning for education, empowerment, and sustainability.

The session will include a paper from King’s Water PhD researcher Anna Lavell about her work with Intrepid Explorers. Two of Becca Farnum’s research partners will also be presenting. The Kuwait Dive Team will share their work with youth in an extensive Mobile Beach Clean-Up project. Dar Si Hmad, a local NGO from Morocco, will present their Water School, a model of rural sustainability education.


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