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Whither GeoCurrents?

Submitted by on January 6, 2014 – 1:31 pm 36 Comments |  
UnknownDear Readers,

GeoCurrents has just completed its fourth year of publication and its second year as a joint production of myself and Asya Pereltsvaig. During that time it has undergone a number of changes, as we have sought various ways to increase our visibility and readership, relying on the technical expertise of Kevin Morton. Running this site has been an extremely rewarding experience for both of us. It has allowed us to explore a wide range of topics that we find interesting and significant and to get informed feedback from our readers. We have also been pleased that several of our posts, have been picked up by other websites, and that a number of our maps have been used by other researchers. But despite such gratification, the problems associated with running such a website are considerable. GeoCurrents still runs at a financial loss, as advertising revenue is meager. A deeper problem is the fact that this kind of writing receives little if any credit in academia, where we both find our primary employment. In the academic world, what matters is specialized articles and books aimed at—and vetted by—fellow experts in narrow fields, not general accounts for a public audience.

As a result of such considerations, we have devoted much of our attention over the past year to writing an academic book on the Indo-European controversy, which forced us to reduce our output of GeoCurrents posts. We are now almost ready to send our manuscript to the press, and will therefore soon have additional time on our hands. My own initial inclination was to refocus my attention on this website, which allows me to pursue whatever topics I find interesting and worthy of attention. But in December an unexpected offer crossed my desk: that of serving for a year as a senior scholar at the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental think-tank located in Oakland California. I have decided to accept the offer, which means that my contributions to GeoCurrents will again be limited through 2014.

Our current plans for 2014 call for us to maintain the thrice-weekly posting schedule that we have been trying to follow over the past several months. In general, Asya Pereltsvaig will post twice a week and I will do so once a week.  Neither one of us, however, will be contributing very much in January, as we will be traveling to Rome to participate in the ninth annual Science Festival, a major international event. (I will, however, put up a post or two later this week on the continuing movement to divide U.S. states, particularly California.) In February, our regular posting schedule will resume. At the end of the year, we will reconsider the future of this website, making plans for 2015 and beyond. In the meantime, we will also be reconsidering our policy on guest posts.

My work for the Breakthrough Institute will be quite different from what we have been doing at GeoCurrents. Here we have tried to be as nonpartisan as possible when it comes to most political and politicized issues. (Such a strategy is not always easy or pleasant; writing in a neutral manner on such issues as language and nationalism in the former Yugoslavia, for example, is sure to earn us the spite of both Serbian and Croatian ultranationalists.) The Breakthrough Institute, on the other hand, is a partisan organization, devoted to a political philosophy best described as “environmental modernism.” Eco-modernists are deeply devoted to environmental protection, but think that conventional Green philosophy and activism, rooted in anti-modern Arcadian sentiments, are paradoxically undermining the preservation of nature. I have been periodically working on such issues for several decades, having written Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism in 1992. I will now take the opportunity to delve deeper, focusing to some extent on supposedly green NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) activism in the San Francisco Bay Area, a movement that thwarts the environmentally beneficial process of urban intensification, places major constraints on economic growth, and subjects the young and the poor to outrageous housing costs.

As such issues are far from the core concerns of GeoCurrents, my weekly posts for this website will remained focused on issues pertaining to political, cultural, and linguistic geography. But I would like to know if readers would be interested in seeing some of my environmental writings on this website as well. We would also like to ask our reader to provide feedback and suggestions about specific features of GeoCurrents, and about possible directions that it might take in the future.

Martin Lewis

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Commenting Guidelines: GeoCurrents is a forum for the respectful exchange of ideas, and loaded political commentary can detract from that. We ask that you as a reader keep this in mind when sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Verpadoro

    Environmental geography can be interesting. Even if it’s for a little number of topics, I will read it.

    Thank you for the update, Martin Lewis.

  • Glad that geocurrents is not dissapearing entirely!

  • TexaCali

    I would like to read your environmental writings and I’d also like to learn more about environmental modernism. Please keep putting out geocurrents. Is there anyway for your readers to help. Btw, are you planning on attending the American Society for Environmental History meeting in SF this March?

    • Thank you, TexaCali! Tell your friends about GeoCurrents—word of mouth is a great help!

  • SirBedevere

    Whatever you can give us I am sure we will all accept with gratitude. It sounds like you will be fighting the good fight and I would love to hear anything you might want to tell us about your work at the Breakthrough Institute as well.

  • Alfia

    Auguri, Asya and Martin! Have a wonderful time in Roma!

  • Thanks Martin and Asya for your ongoing efforts, I think we’re all aware of your time and money constraints and appreciate your candour. You may be interested that I ran across where I’ll repost my map from a discussion that Asya started

  • As someone who since the early 80s has referred to himself as an extreme right-wing, conservative environmentalist, and who is old enough to remember when environmentalists were right-wing kooks rather than left-wing ones (i.e. long before the first Earth Day) I would love to read your articles on environmentalism. It would make geocurrents an even more fascinating place than before to spend time, which is not something I would have thought possible. Thank you for your efforts. When I come across a web site which has such high-quality articles as geocurrents, my main worry is that the contributors will not be able to keep it up along with all the other things they need to do to make a living. The fact that it even exists is a heartening sign for the future of the internet.

    BTW, I tried to click on your link to eco-modernists so I could learn more, but it seems to be broken. I had never before heard of that term.

    • Thanks, Reticulator, for your kind words! And for letting us know about the broken link—all fixed now.

    • Many thanks for the comments. You are absolutely correct that “environmentalists were [once] right-wing kooks” — Madison Grant, an extreme racist of the early 1900s, was also a leading conservationist. Sorry about the broken link. Perhaps this one will work:

      • Thanks for that reference. After reading more about Grant’s role in the eugenics movement, I got to wondering whether it would be useful to say that the progressive movement as well as the environmental movement has somehow morphed from right to left.

        Back when Rachel Carson’s book came out in the early 60s, it was highly praised in a right-wing periodical that was so far out of line (having taken a nasty anti-Semitic turn) that William F Buckley went to great pains to exclude it from his new conservative movement. I’ve taken this bit of environmentalism to be part of a general anti-establishment sentiment on the part of a group that thought it was being marginalized by the dominant culture. In other words, these environmental sympathies (and I’m not sure how deep they ran) were at the time part of a general anti-progressivism.

        But my knowledge of this is rather superficial. I wonder if anyone has researched these connections more thoroughly.

  • Gil Reeser

    Please continue. I think everyone will read all posts with interest.

  • Dr. TCSmith

    Thanks so much for all the hard work on this site. If it is any consolation, I have listed your site on my Political Geography syllabus, and as other people do so in publications and online as well, you should at least start to show up on the citations indices for social and linguistic databases, so you can use those numbers to show your impact on the field…
    In the meantime please keep up the intriguing and revealing maps! I use them in my classes. I am sure your readers would also welcome environmental issue maps in the coming year(s).

    • Thank you for using our site in classes—that’s great news!

  • Simon G

    I would also read and appreciate the Environmental writings -thanks for the update.

  • meryl selig

    Please submit your environmental writing, as well. Thank you for the update.
    Martin & Asya: if you a pressed for financial support, would it be possible for devoted readers to voluntarily support Geo Currents? I am sure this is not an official IRS 501(c) (3) organization !!! but maybe readers and fans can help keep it going. Please advise.

    • Thank you for the idea, Meryl. We’ll have to run it by our tax consultant first, but this is definitely something we need to consider. Maybe putting some content “for pay”, while still having most of it available for free?

  • tetri_tolia

    Count me as another who would be highly interested in seeing your meticulous approach to chronicling all sides of linguistic and political controversy applied to environmental issues as well!

  • D. Schwartz

    Please continue the good work and I will continue to read it even if I’m not the most interested in the linguistic articles. My interests lie along the lines of Politicall/Policy/GIS/Cultural Geogaphy with a heavy Arctic and Emergency Management focus. So if there is anything along those lines coming up I will be even more interested.

  • Franco

    I really appreciate the Indo European study articles on this site. They might not be so popular, but this underrated part of history its very important for the understanding of our culture.

  • bobnelsonfr

    I have just discovered GeoCurrents (15 Jan 2014), and have spent the last three hours browsing…
    It’s a fine site, entertaining and scholarly at the same time.
    I’ll be seeding your articles to Newsvine, so you should be getting a few visitors from there..

    • Oh we are so glad you’ve discovered GeoCurrents, Bob! We hope you will continue to find interesting articles on our site. And thank you for reposting on Newsvine—that certainly helps!

      • bobnelsonfr

        You have that backwards. It is we, the readers who profit (intellectually) from your work, who thank you!