The FT has a really nice piece on Hidden City Rivers

Eoin Purcell

Lovely corner in the Fleet Sewer. (Image with thanks to Flickr User: Mr. J Doe)
Lovely corner in the Fleet Sewer. (Image with thanks to Flickr User: Mr. J Doe)

What a week
I had intended to write more on hidden city rivers but then events interrupted and I got waylaid.

In any case, the FT has a wonderful article on another hidden river, The Fleet in London:

The Fleet became a noxious ditch and, in 1679, the build up of filth burst under the pressure of the water behind it and washed away several butchers around Smithfield meat market, cattle and all. The poet John Gay, perhaps employing his profession’s licence, thought the river delightful and observed: “Fleet Ditch with muddy current flows.” Gay also recommended the oysters for sale on the quayside. Such shellfish would struggle to pass health and safety muster now. Much better to stop at The Eagle, the bar that started Britain’s gastropub revolution, and which tempts me in with those ancient London scents: meat, beer and fish.

It really is a wonderfully evocative piece and well worth reading. If you are looking for something more, you could read the Wikipedia article linked above or you could check out Mr. J Doe’s Flickr stream (his image adorns this post) and read some the fascinating captions he has on the sequence of photographs of London’s Sewers.

Hidden City Rivers

Eoin Purcell

Image Copyright of Flickr user informatique (http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/)
Image Copyright of Flickr user informatique (http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/)

UPDATE: Kathy Foley has e-mailed me some links that I will incorporate into something later today or perhaps tomorrow. I also remembered this book, Hidden Cork, which we are publishing in November and I am planning on hitting the author up for some Cork details!

An appropriate topic for Uncovered History!
A great pointer from the NYT Blogs section (not to mention a wonderful historical photo) to an article on “Daylighting” historically covered rivers in cities and creating greenbanks along their banks:

I have a story running in The Times on one of the most remarkable such transformations — the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, South Korea. Through more than six centuries of settlement, the stream went from being a revered feature of the landscape to an open sewer to a buried, forgotten storm drain and now to a three-mile corridor of burbling waters, milling carp, strolling picnickers and relative quiet in one of the powerhouse metropolises of Asia. You can see a video report on that effort at the bottom of this post. The Seoul stream project was integrated with a parallel effort to take away highways and improve public transportation.

The story also discusses an ambitious effort to expose 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River, which runs under a stretch of shops and parking lots in downtown Yonkers, a city of 200,000 abutting the Bronx. The photograph above shows the giant flume built in the early the 1920’s to contain the river. From San Antonio to Singapore, there are other examples.

Of course it doesn’t take long to realise that Dublin has it’s own rivers that might make for interesting “Daylighting” projects. The video gets particularly interesting around the 5minute mark when they go underground and actually follow the tunnels that the Poddle river flows through

On the other hand, Dublin is lucky in that it has two extant canals that frame the city centre and create park-like walkways most of the northern and southern perimeters. When you take in the glorious seafront, the effect of the Liffey and the Dodder, then “daylighting” the Poddle seems a bit like we are getting greedy.

Kathy Foley suggests that Cork might benefit from some “daylighting” but when I did some digging on that front I didn’t get much. If anyone knows more, send me info to eoinpurcellsblogATgmail.com

Just going 9am, time to cut the hedges!
Eoin

The Revenege of Geography

Eoin Purcell

Robert Kaplan Strikes Again
Kaplan writes an elegant and persuasive article about how Geography affects the world! In many ways it is a plea for a realist view of the world:

Realism means recognizing that international relations are ruled by a sadder, more limited reality than the one governing domestic affairs. It means valuing order above freedom, for the latter becomes important only after the former has been established. It means focusing on what divides humanity rather than on what unites it, as the high priests of globalization would have it. In short, realism is about recognizing and embracing those forces beyond our control that constrain human action—culture, tradition, history, the bleaker tides of passion that lie just beneath the veneer of civilization. This poses what, for realists, is the central question in foreign affairs: Who can do what to whom? And of all the unsavory truths in which realism is rooted, the bluntest, most uncomfortable, and most deterministic of all is geography.

What I like about the piece is threefold
Firstly I enjoy his references to philosophers and historians. The philosophers are Isaiah Berlin and Thomas Hobbes, both with interesting and illuminating things to offer reader. And Google Books has plenty items in Full View for both though frustratingly in the case of Hobbes, not a Leviathan available for extract so instead you get a rather nice but non-downloadable Forgotten books edition! Which seems crazy when the base text is well out of copyright!

His historical references are numerous but Mahan and Braudel stand out! One eye opener was Nicholas Spykman (for more on his truly intriguing views here is a very nice overview) of whom I had never heard but of whom Kaplan say:

Similarly, the Dutch-American strategist Nicholas Spykman saw the seaboards of the Indian and Pacific oceans as the keys to dominance in Eurasia and the natural means to check the land power of Russia. Before he died in 1943, while the United States was fighting Japan, Spykman predicted the rise of China and the consequent need for the United States to defend Japan. And even as the United States was fighting to liberate Europe, Spykman warned that the postwar emergence of an integrated European power would eventually become inconvenient for the United States. Such is the foresight of geographical determinism.

For another thing
Secondly I like his concept of:

geography in the most old-fashioned sense. In the 18th and 19th centuries, before the arrival of political science as an academic specialty, geography was an honored, if not always formalized, discipline in which politics, culture, and economics were often conceived of in reference to the relief map. Thus, in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, mountains and the men who grow out of them were the first order of reality; ideas, however uplifting, were only the second.

And maybe I feel that way because I wish to justify my recent (and fabulously cheap) purchase of Keith Johnston’s A Sketch of Historical Geography which is a truly excellent text worth owning and you can read in the lovely Open Library edition here, but I think there is something to what Kaplan says. Something that informs the rest of the piece.

And finally
I like his closing exhorting for us all to:

learn to think like Victorians. That is what must guide and inform our newly rediscovered realism. Geographical determinists must be seated at the same honored table as liberal humanists, thereby merging the analogies of Vietnam and Munich. Embracing the dictates and limitations of geography will be especially hard for Americans, who like to think that no constraint, natural or otherwise, applies to them. But denying the facts of geography only invites disasters that, in turn, make us victims of geography.

I very much enjoy Kaplan but sometimes I’m left with as many questions as answers with him, not that that is a bad thing!
Eoin