Extract from Geographic Thought: A Critical Introduction – Chapter Seven

Another taster of the forthcoming and long awaited book… Some of the details here show how long this has taken to write – substitute Spain for Ireland!

Chapter Seven. Marxist Geography.

Consider where you live. Or where your family lives. It is likely that somewhere nearby there is a place where wealthy people live. People more wealthy than you or your family. The houses will be bigger, the cars will be newer. People will dress differently, go to different places to eat. They may buy things in shops you do not even visit. They will take more regular holidays and stay in places beyond your budget. It is also likely that there is a place where people who are poorer than you live. There may be homeless people on the streets or in hostels. Houses may look run down. Street crime rates may be higher. Shops may be boarded up. It may be a place that lacks provision of services such as public transport. Somewhere near you there is likely to a place associated with environmental problems. Perhaps a company is releasing poisons into a river. Perhaps pollutants are leaching into the groundwater from illegal landfill. Perhaps the presence of a nearby busy road leads to higher rates of asthma. It is likely that these places are not surrounded by the homes of the wealthy.

Take a look at the newspaper over your breakfast. As I am writing, the papers are full of stories of financial panic and collapse. Ireland is asking for billions of Euros to save its banks. Here in the UK students are being asked to pay up to three times more for their university education. To the residents of the mansions on the hill this may not matter much. To those who live in what remains of government housing – the ones who live by the busy roads with the high rates of asthma – this is an unbelievable amount of money. Some of these people will decide not to go to university. For the first time in many years students are protesting in large numbers. They are being surrounded and holed up in so-called ‘kettles’ by the police.        Turning the page of my newspaper I see images of people trying to enter Australia illegally. Their boat sank off the coast in high winds and waves. Some died, other are pictured making their way to shore desperate for a life which is better than the one they left. The geography of the area around your home is played out on a global scale. The likelihood is, if you are reading this book, that you are in a ‘developed’ country – one with universities where they teach geographic thought and where you can buy or have access to textbooks. If so, in global terms, you are inhabiting the neighbourhood of the wealthy. The global poor live elsewhere. They may be picking over your trash in enormous piles shipped out from our high consumption economies. They may be taking apart electronic components from mobile phones that we replace every other year for a new model. They may be making your shoes or t-shirts for a fraction of even the minimum wage where you live. They might be dreaming of a life in Australia.

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