Most people living in large towns and cities probably give little thought to soil. Why should they? At a first glance, much of the ground in towns and cities is sealed with concrete, asphalt and bricks, and most city-dwellers have little reason to have contact with soil. To most, soil in cities is simply dirt. But soil is actually in abundance in cities: it lays beneath the many small gardens, flower beds, road and railway verges, parks, sports grounds, school playing fields, and allotments of the city, where it plays many under appreciated roles.
On 23 April 2014, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, a production of Hamlet set off from the Globe Theatre in London. In a span of two years, the 16-person acting group is touring every country in the world, visiting seven continents in 732 days.
Whether in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond — or in various unknown, lost, or mythological places — Early Modern actors tread stage boards that could be familiar or unfamiliar ground. Shakespeare made some creative choices in the settings of his plays, often reaching across vast distances, time, and history.
The recent flooding in the north of England has prompted calls for better flood defences and river dredging. But these measures are unlikely to work by themselves, especially with the increased likelihood of extreme weather events in the coming years. A new approach is needed that considers whole catchment management – starting with the source of rivers in upland areas.
Imagine how the world appeared to the ancient Greeks and Romans: there were no aerial photographs (or photographs of any sort), maps were limited and inaccurate, and travel was only by foot, beast of burden, or ship. Traveling more than a few miles from home meant entering an unfamiliar and perhaps dangerous world.
The soils surrounding the village where I live in the north west of England have abundant fertility. They mostly formed in well-drained, clay-rich debris left behind by glaciers that retreated from the area some ten thousand years ago, and they now support lush, productive pasture, semi-natural grassland and woodland. Although the pastures are managed more intensively than they were in the past, most of them are well drained, and receive regular dressings of manure along with moderate fertiliser, and are regularly limed, which keeps the land productive and the soil in good health.
This July, a NASA space probe completed our set of images of the planets, at least as I knew them growing up. New Horizons, a probe that launched back in 2006, arrived at Pluto and its moons, and over a very brief encounter, started to send back thousands of images of this hitherto barely known place.
Do mountains matter? Today, 11 December, is International Mountain Day, celebrated worldwide since 2003. The fact that the UN General Assembly has designated such a day would suggest a simple answer. Yes – and particularly for the 915 million people who live in the mountain areas that cover 22 percent of the land area of our planet.
With the ballots cast and the year winding down, we recognize Nepal as Oxford’s Place of the Year 2015. The country came into the global spotlight back in April, when a devastating earthquake took over 9,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Months later, critics point at the slow-moving recovery process that has still a far way to go before Nepal can resume normal operations.
As representatives from 146 countries gather in Paris for the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, we’ve turned to our Very Short Introduction series for insight into the process, politics and topics of discussion of the conference. Is the UNFCCC process flawed?
You don’t need to follow the news too closely to know that 2015 has been a roller coaster of a year. Last week we announced our longlist for Place of the Year 2015, but since then some of you have been asking, “why is x included?”, or “why is y worth our attention?”
Today we officially launch our efforts to discover what should be the Place of the Year 2015, coinciding with the publication of the Atlas of the World, 22nd edition–the only atlas that’s updated annually to reflect current events and politics.
The relationship between wine and the vineyard earth has long been held as very special, especially in Europe. Tradition has it that back in the Middle Ages the Burgundian monks tasted the soils in order to gauge which ones would give the best tasting wine, and over the centuries this kind of thinking was to become entrenched. The vines were manifestly taking up water from the soil.
The recent brutal heat waves on the Indian subcontinent, in western North America, and in western Europe are instructive reminders of an often forgotten challenge for an urbanizing human population in a warming world: alleviating urban heat stress. Cities are durable and costly to change, so what we do now to reduce risk in a future with more numerous and more dangerous heat waves that will directly affect future generations.
Effective wildlife conservation is a challenge worldwide. Only a small percentage of the earth’s surface is park, reserve, or related areas designated for the protection of wild animals, marine life, and plants. Virtually all protected areas are smaller than what conservationists believe is needed to ensure species’ survival, and many of these areas suffer from a shortage of
If you like your prophecies pin sharp then look away now. The 16th century celebrity seer Nostradamus excelled at the exact opposite, couching his predictions in terms so vague as to be largely meaningless. This has not, however, prevented his soothsayings attracting enormous and unending interest, and his book – Les Propheties – has rarely been out of print since it was first published 460 years ago. Uniquely, for a renaissance augur, the writings of Nostradamus are perhaps as popular today as they were four and a half centuries ago.