Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Geography & Environmental Science Seminar  Seminar

11 March 2021
Via Teams

Event details

Geography & Environmental Science Seminar


Professor David Sear – Landscape dynamics and Ecology, School of Geography and Environmental Science

Title: Changing climate and the settlement of the Tropical Pacific

The Tropical South Pacific contains the Southern Hemispheres largest convective rainfall system the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ), that provides potable freshwater to over 11 million people on over 5000 small islands. The strength and position of the SPCZ is influenced by a range of modes of variability including ENSO, however there is increasing evidence for longer term changes that may have influenced the decision by humans to undertake the last great migration east into the island archipelagos of Polynesia. Drawing on evidence from lake sediment archives located within the SPCZ and aligned along the axis of human migration we derive evidence that the arrival of the first people in East Polynesia c. 1050-850 cal. BP, coincided with a period of reduced rainfall across the region. We speculate that this period provided both the impetus to attempt longer canoe voyaging and the wind conditions to enable successful eastward migration.

Dr Nick Clarke – Economy, Society and Governance, School of Geography and Environmental Science

Title: Popular responses to Covid-19: Compliance and beyond

The paper introduces my current project, focused on how the UK Government has tried to shape the behaviour of citizens and residents during the pandemic – so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions – and how people have responded to regulations, incentives, and messaging, particularly those emphasising individual management of risks and responsibilities. One of the key datasets is introduced: Mass Observation’s Covid-19 collections, made up of diaries and ‘directive responses’ collected by the Mass Observation Archive since March 2020. I proceed by trying out two fledgling arguments, both related to current debates about compliance. Positions in these debates have included that people wouldn’t comply, or aren’t complying, with Government demands (because of ‘fatigue’), and that people generally are complying, demonstrated by most survey and observational evidence. My first argument is that one factor driving compliance, deserving more attention than it has received to date, is fear. The Mass Observation diaries are particularly good at showing up the gathering fear experienced by many people during 2020. My second argument is that a narrow focus on compliance misses much of importance in this field. Government is doing more than setting rules and ordinary people are doing more than just following or breaking rules. There have been periods of rule-relaxation. Even during periods of rule-tightening, the rules have rarely been comprehensive or clear. Therefore, being a good citizen during the pandemic has involved more than compliance. It has involved calculation of risks and responsibilities, and wrestling with ethical dilemmas.

Speaker Information

Professor David Sear - Professor in Physical Geography within Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton.

Dr Nick Clarke – Associate Professor in Human Geography within Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton.

Privacy Settings