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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

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Edited by Ada Scupola and Lars Fuglsang

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Andreas Faludi

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Joe Williams and Erik Swyngedouw

The opening chapter of this book makes the intellectual and political argument for a more critical understanding of seawater desalination as an emerging phenomenon of water governance. Its purpose, in this sense, is to politicise seawater. The chapter provides an overview of the historic and contemporary development of desalting technologies and the global desalination industry. We argue that, rather than seeing desalination as a water management ‘solution’, it should instead be understood as a socio-technical and political ecological ‘fix’, which allows cities, regions and countries to overcome some of the hydrological barriers to growth and accumulation, while creating or intensifying other social and ecological contradictions. These contradictions, we demonstrate, revolve around the governance of water, privatisation and commercialisation, the water-energy nexus, and marine ecology. Finally, we summarise the substantive chapters included in the book.

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Robert C. Kloosterman, Virginie Mamadouh and Pieter Terhorst

This chapter starts with a brief history of the concept ‘globalization’. It highlights the rather surprising rapid emergence of the concept in the 1990s when it acquired a very prominent status in both academic and public debates. After that, some of the many meanings of globalization are explored. More in particular, the focus is on the plurality of geographical expressions as well as of current geographical approaches to the manifold processes of globalization. The chapter argues that the spatial dimension – in marked contrast to the temporal dimension – has long been neglected in social sciences in general. Current processes of globalization require an a priori acknowledgment of the fundamental role of space as these processes may be articulated in very different ways in different places. Geographical approaches, characterized by a sensitivity to space, place and spatial scales, are highly relevant to understand processes of globalization.

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Kris Bezdecny and Kevin Archer

The past half-century has seen a fragmentation of urban theory, one that is also evidenced in city-spaces. Cities have been labeled post-modern, post-industrial, post-colonial, mega, global, sustainable, creative, neoliberal, gentrified, themed, among a multitude of theoretical framings. All of these framings are descriptive of key dynamics witnessed in some (but not all) cities, but none describe well all those dynamics in any city. This is a problem showcased by current debates in urban theory today, particularly the recent debate between Scott and Storper (2015) in their discussion of the nature of cities, contested by such researchers as Mould (2016) and Roy (2016b), which calls into question whether a shared theoretical understanding of the ‘city’ is even possible. Indeed, this kind of debate has only intensified as urbanization continues its hyper-acceleration on a planetary scale (Brenner, 2014). As of 2009, over half the world’s population lives in a city (UNDESA, 2014). This means that roughly twice as many people are (re)producing their lived spaces in cities than the entire global population in 1900. An estimated one in eight people live in a megacity, or in cities with a population greater than 10 million; nearly half live in cities with a population below 0.5 million (UNDESA, 2016). By 2050, it is anticipated that as many as two-thirds of all people will be living in cities – with modest gains in already urbanized North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe and exploding growth in Asia and Africa – ultimately resulting in as many city-people at mid-century as live on the Earth today (UNDESA, 2009). Not all cities are created equal. Cities are often ranked competitively, based on a variety of criteria: population size, areal size (land consumed), and economic value. There are currently 214 cities ranked as global cities, those deemed most important to facilitating the global economy (Friedmann, 1986; Beaverstock, Smith and Taylor, 1999; GaWC, 2016). These are further ranked as alpha (49), beta (81), and gamma (84) cities – further demarcating the disparities between the command-andcontrol centers of global capital (while erasing those cities that are not considered competitive enough to be ranked) (GaWC, 2016). The megacity, by contrast, ranks cities by absolute population size, with 47 cities meeting the megacity definition of a population of 10 million or greater, and roughly 600 more cities having a population of 1 million or greater (UNDESA, 2016). Interestingly, there is overlap between urban definitions, in that cities defined by one definition become more likely (or less likely) to also meet an alternative definition (shown by the 40 out of 47 megacities that are also ranked as global cities).

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

This chapter introduces the problem that this book addresses: how do societies come to be constructed in such a way that residents cannot drink the water that is supplied to them? The example of the supply of water to Shanghai is taken as a case through which to examine this question. Shanghai, it is argued, is an assemblage of interacting actors. This book examines the properties and characteristics of four principal actors: the hydro-geological conditions and rivers that provide water; the people, corporations and institutions within Shanghai who use and pollute the water; the institutions of central and other governments that regulate the use of the rivers and the discharges into them; and the infrastructures that governments and corporations have built to manage the river. The chapter concludes by outlining the organisation of the chapters through which the book addresses the question.

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Edited by Ross Dowling and David Newsome

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Edited by Ross Dowling and David Newsome