Geology for Global Development

Geology for Global Development

Top Travel Tips (6) – Daniel Sharpe

Over the summer we published a very popular series of posts outlining some Top Travel Tips to help those undertaking mapping projects, fieldwork or research visits overseas. We’ve had helpful posts from those who have spent time in various parts of Africa, Bangladesh, and Chile. Good preparation is essential to get the most out of overseas work. It helps our work be more effective, more efficient and ultimately more sustainable.

Today, Daniel Sharpe shares his insights from time he spent in Vancouver, Canada.

1) Explore on Foot – Vancouver is a stunning city full of open paths, chic buildings and beautiful marinas. During summertime many of the locals prefer roller-skates as their mode of transport, but a slow walk along the quay down to Stanley Park is as good an option for those not savvy with this classic 70s throwback. Cheeky black squirrels will impose themselves on you for food and you will soon forget you are in one of the largest cities in Canada.

2) Eat Out – Vancouver is a very cosmopolitan city with a particularly large asian population. This fusion of cultures has made eating here a complete experience, from North-American steak houses to delicate little patisseries and Asian corner shops. You’ll find everything from high end elite restaurants to greasy spoon cafes so get out looking for whatever takes your fancy.

3) Breakfast is the most important meal – The breakfasts in Vancouver are incredible and they certainly do not do things by halves. Pancakes, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and as many as 8 different styles of egg to choose from served on a chest sized plate was certainly a nice wake up, and if you find one of the little corner cafes this mountain of food won’t even cost that much!

4) Get out and about – With Whistler only a 50 minute drive away you’d be silly not to hire a car for a day and get our into British Columbia’s wilderness. Sea planes litter the harbour with an incandescent hum ferrying tourists up to small mountain lakes to the north-west. Rural B.C. is an amazing place so get out and experience a true lasting wilderness of pine forests and bears.

Vancouver is regularly voted as one of the best places in the world to live and it is not hard to see why. Modern skyscrapers mingle with old colonial buildings and a culture confused city with a backdrop of mountains and sea. Explore on foot, get out and about and be prepared to add a belt buckle or two when sampling the food in one of the worlds great cities.

In The News – October 2012

A few things have caught my eye in the news recently, a mix of good and tragic:

Toilets in India: The BBC reported last week that the Indian Supreme Court have ordered that every school have clean water and suitable sanitation facilities within six months. If this is obeyed, and goes hand in hand with appropriate hygiene training it could lead to many positive results, as outlined on the Tearfund Just Policy Blog.

Saving Lives From Space: The BBC have an interesting audio slide-show in which they discuss the importance of remote sensing images in disaster relief and recovery. Dr Alice Bunn from the UK Space Agency talks about the way in which the Disaster Charter is applied, and can result in images taken by a Nigerian satellite helping the US post-disaster. A great, and informative piece by the BBC that communicates well how both the tool and the political willpower can make a real difference.

Landslide in China: Finally, a very sad story from China. Nineteen people have been killed in a landslide in the south-west of China. This includes 18 children who were buried in a school. They were attending an extra lesson on a National Holiday when the landslide occurred. The lesson had been scheduled due to classes that were missed during a recent earthquake event. Dave Petley comments on The Landslide Blog about the high possibility of more landslides in the area affected by the September earthquakes.

Friday Photo (51) – Loess Collapse/Subsidence

Heifangtai, Gansu Province, China: Collapse in Loess Deposits

Ground collapse/subsidence in China, most likely caused by movement of water through the loess deposits from the high relief in the right of this picture, to the low relief in the left of the picture. The scale of the collapse can be seen in relation to the man at the forefront.

(c) Geology for Global Development, 2012

For other images in our ‘Friday Photo’ series – please see the full archive here

Lessons from China (3) – Geotourism, A Case Study

In September 2012 I travelled to the Gansu Province of China to take part in the First International Symposium for New Techniques for Geohazards Research and Management. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been highlighting a number of issues, lessons and experiences from this trip. You can read the short archive of this series here. Future posts will examine areas relating to geohazards, disaster risk reduction and science communication – however today we touch on the important issue of geotourism.

The area of China that I visited last month had some of the most remarkable landscapes and scenery that I have personally witnessed. The combination of staggering mountains, vast desert and unusual rock formations leads to multiple opportunities to develop geotourism.

The Danxi-type rock formation is one such unusual formation. It’s vivid colouring and striped nature (a result of differing dominant minerals), dipping beds (caused by tectonic movement in the broader Himalyan regime) and striking erosional features (a result of both water and wind erosion) have resulted in a unique and truly beautiful sight. The Zhangye exposure of this formation is ranked one of the best in China. It is the only exposure of the formation that I have visited, but I was genuinely mesmerised by it and would love to see any better exposure.

Geotourism offers many important opportunities for communities, including: (1) Opportunities to promote and practice conservation, and protect important landscapes for future generations to enjoy. (2) Opportunities to develop geoscience education and communication, helping local communities and both national and international tourists understand the processes that shape our Earth, and finally. (3) An opportunity to develop local economies and provide employment. I was curious to see how the Chinese authorities organised their geotourism, in particular the level of conservation and education that was taking place.

In terms of conservation, I’d definitely rate the Zhangye Danxi as a good example. From small eco-buses taking people around a network of roads and good stopping places, to a well designed network of paths – the implemented measures prevented significant human erosion of the landscapes and multiple cars, coaches and motorbikes travelling around the area. There was little sign of any human activity on the main landscape and very little rubbish or waste spoiling the landscape. People visit these areas to get the best views, the best photographs and enjoy the landscape. Building strategic pathways on the landscape that offer you the chance to stand in places to get these ultimate views and photographs is a very clever way to prevent people wandering off the paths and onto the landscape. The paths had all been treated with appropriate colours so as to blend in to the natural environment and be fairly camouflaged.

In terms of education, unfortunately my Mandarin is not good enough to assess what was being told to those visiting the site. During each short leg of the minibus journey, the guide outlined some information about the site – but this was entirely, and in many ways understandable, aimed at Chinese national tourists. There was a definite absence of printed information (leaflets, guides and information boards) – which are commonly found in many western tourist areas, which was disappointing.

Finally, economic development – Geotourism offers significant opportunity to develop a sustainable, environmentally friendly way of creating jobs for the local population. From guides, office managers, shop-keepers and catering and transport – there are multiple opportunities for employment. The chinese seemed to have latched on to this, and there certainly seemed to be many people earning a living in one way or another from the Zhangye Danxi. Perhaps one area of concern would be the sustainability of some of the souvenirs – notably things such as corals – that were on sale not at this site, but at others and local markets.

Geotourism offers developing communities an exciting and dynamic way to promote education, conservation and sustainable development. As observed at the Zhangye Danxi formation, this can be done well (if not perfectly), protecting some valuable and unique landscapes.