Mr Andrew Doddridge
BSc (UCL), PGCE
Head of Geography
As a student, sometime in early 1989, I remember idly chatting with a friend and naively stated how, as fully paid up members of Generation X, that we had missed the great events of history. Literally that weekend, a series of protests and revolutions swept the planet; this culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Two commonly-used sayings spring to mind; be careful what you wish for, and may you live in interesting times!
In the spring our U4 geographers were studying globalisation, and evaluating the positive and negative aspects of this process. As the Coronavirus pandemic unfolded, we started thinking about how the progression of diseases were linked to globalisation. We could not imagine how this particular Coronavirus would affect all of our lives, and in turn, have massive implications for global trade and the movement of people. The lockdown has given many people time to think, and reflect about our lives. Individuals and governments are at the stage where they are thinking about necessary changes that are required, and how there are opportunities to create a more sustainable future.
It is of course impossible to assess all of the possible changes that will occur organically or which will be needed to be enacted by governments and businesses. However, I can suggest one way that our city could change. In addition, to home working and cycling and walking to work and school, we need to think about where we live and work. It seems likely that there will be surplus retail and office space in central London. Some of this could be converted into housing. Office units and hubs to support home working could be built in suburban areas. Instead of two defined rush hours, there would be a counter-flow of workers who need to travel from homes to their places of work or study. This would avoid packed commuter trains, with near-empty carriages returning to the fringes of London.
In London, this would effectively double our public transport capacity (and enable social distancing) and support our city-centre shopping areas. As it would allow everyone to use public transport, it would solve London’s traffic problems, thereby reducing air pollution and our collective carbon foot-print.
As geographers we look forward and try to plan for better futures. Sustainability can be achieved only if it is underpinned by a triad of mutually linked pillars; namely, economic feasibility, social justice and environmental preservation. Remove one of these supporting legs and the “stool” will collapse, and we will live in a world of rising inequality, conflict and environmental crisis.
We do indeed live in interesting times, and will all need to work together to help create a new normal that is one that actively promotes opportunities for all people, and at the same time maintains a healthy planet.