27 Oct 2011

According to the United Nations, it really isn't such a small world after all as the population is expected to reach 7 billion people on the 31st of October 2011. This is quite a change from 1927 when the world population was a mere 2 billion. But the pace of growth is not going to end anytime soon, with global predictions of 9.3 billion people by 2050 and 15 billion by the year 2100.

With the date fast approaching news organisations have been running a variety of stories about what the big number 7 means for the world. Here are some web highlights that utilise interactive online tools:

24 Oct 2011

The Regional Studies Association is a successful, growing - and global - organisation. It has hundreds of members in different parts of the world, yet it wouldn't be able to function without a dedicated team of permanent staff. Thankfully, we have such a team at the RSA office in Seaford and they are a wonderful group of people. The problem is that when we might have a chance to get to know them better (e.g. at conferences), they are often extremely busy. So, in the interests of getting to know everyone a bit better, the blog squad have asked some questions and the office team have responded with good grace and good humour!

First up is the RSA's very own Development Manager, Auréliane Beauclair...

What is your role at the RSA?
Officially and according to what is written on my business card, I am the Development Manager but my role here at the RSA expands far beyond this.

How long have you worked for the RSA?
It is going to be 4 years pretty soon.

Where do you come from?
I am French, born in Antananarivo, Madagascar where I lived for nearly ten years before moving to France where I stayed until my Baccalauréat. I left for England before the results came through and have been living in England for fifteen years now.

What did you do before you worked for the RSA?
If I remember correctly, I was a researcher at the University of Sussex but then, let’s be honest, nothing exists prior to the RSA!

What is the best thing about your job at the RSA?
When it’s fun, it’s real fun! I am part of a really great team who knows when to work extremely hard but who also knows how to laugh. I think I am very lucky to be part of it.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Keeping up with the growth! Oh, and technology at times…

Tell us something about you that we don't know...
My contract does not allow me to divulge such information!

What do you do for fun when you're not working?
Spending as much time as possible with my very happy baby son. That includes walking an awful lot pushing a pram usually through mud, gravel or angry crowds of people in tiny shops, being creative with big Lego, being theatrical with puppets, cooking all sorts of dishes for him to then throw on the floor, singing (lullabies) and reading books that are made of soft fabric and are usually about rabbits, cats or dogs.

Is there such a thing as a 'typical' day in your job?
Yes and no. At times, my days can be very similar if I work on something specific such as publications, conferences or membership but otherwise, it is varied enough not to be a  typical ‘office job’.

If you could have an RSA conference anywhere, where would it be?
1) At the Plaza in New York. That would be for my pure indulgence and to tell people I was there.
2) In Papua New Guinea. A conference on Authenticity and the Regions. For my thirst for adventure.

If you could invite up to four famous individuals (from the past or present, e.g. Elvis, Marx, Gandhi) to a dinner party, who would you choose (you'd have to make them join the RSA first of course)?
I am afraid we do not offer ‘Deceased’ as one of our categories of memberships! I am not sure I would know what to say to famous people (either dead or alive) so, with the risk of sounding really boring, my four best friends, just to have a really  good time, be myself and talk about Gandhi, Elvis Presley, Karl Marx and Bill Clinton! My friends would join the RSA if I asked them to. But I don’t want them to. Because I work here.

Finally, since the RSA is an international organisation, would you mind telling us which languages you speak?
Well, mother tongue is French, I am fluent in English (well, sometimes), I can hold a conversation and an interview in Spanish and I have a diploma for professional purposes in German (whatever that means). Would very much like to learn Russian if anyone offers lessons?

Look out for more in the 'All About' series in future blog posts.

Thanks again to Auréliane for taking part!

18 Oct 2011

The Brookings Institution in the U.S. recently reported on data from the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey which highlighted changing immigrant demographics in metropolitan American city regions over the past ten years. The report highlights the continued strong growth in foreign born populations in the U.S. (an increase of 8.8 million between 2000 and 2010), although this is a drop from the 1990 to 2000 period.

The report goes on to note the changing immigrant settlement patterns in metropolitan America. There has been a gradual shift from immigrants settling in city centres towards new and growing metropolitan areas as well as more suburban locations on the outskirts of cities. According to the report, "in 2010, 51 percent of immigrants nationwide lived in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, up from 48 percent in 2000.  Immigrants within the largest metro areas remain somewhat less likely to live in the suburbs (61 percent) than overall population (69 percent)."

The data suggests that immigrant settlement patterns became less concentrated as the five U.S. metro areas with the largest number of immigrants saw a decrease in foreign born population, from 43 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2010. 

This coincided with a gain of at least 100,000 immigrants in twenty-one metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2010. Many doubled their immigrant population in the 2000s as populations became more spatially dispersed.

The report concludes with both optimism and pessimism by noting "the outcome is increased racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity in the suburbs. Some places are embracing this phenomenon; others are resisting it and deflecting immigrants through punitive legislation." For more information on the report (from which the above map and tables are taken) and an interactive map that explores change in immigrant population in the largest 100 U.S. metropolitan areas click here.

11 Oct 2011

The RSA recently hosted it's annual President's Luncheon. This year the venue was Forman's Fish Island, directly opposite the Olympic Stadium. Below is the brilliant view from our lunch table. Looking out across the Games site made us realise just how huge of a regeneration project this is. 

The costs of the Games are massive, while no final numbers are in estimates peg it around £9 billion, a sharp rise from the original budget of £4 billion when the Games were first awarded. This is nothing new however, as a 2007 study by Bergen demonstrated, virtually all Summer Olympic Games after Los Angeles in 1984 have exceeded their original budget. 

More importantly however, is whether the money spent is worthwhile. Undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of the Olympics is not an easy task, however a few studies have suggested that host cities derive an average net economic impact in the range of US$4-5 billion. Concerns, however, are raised about the long-term legacy of such massive investments in such an often concentrated space and their on-going maintenance. Many point to the 1976 Montreal Games as the ultimate white elephant, with the city taking 30 years to pay off the debt owed on the stadium (leading locals to refer to the stadium as the Big-Owe).

The hope is that things are different for London and regeneration efforts bring long lasting results. The borough of Newham where the Olympic Park is located has the city’s lowest employment rate and significant problems of urban blight. Apart from the physical regeneration, social issues are also being prioritised with local residents being trained and hired to work on the Olympic Games. Regeneration is already underway in the form of the 87-acre Westfield Stratford City mall. The mall alone is estimated to employ 8,500 people, eventually increasing to as many as 18,000 when all the phases are complete.

The hope is that the benefit of the Games extends far beyond two weeks in the summer of 2012, but only time will tell if regeneration efforts have been successful. 

For a good academic article about the Summer Olympics check out Short, John R. (2008) 'Globalization, cities and the Summer Olympics', City, 12:3, 321 - 340.

5 Oct 2011

An interesting story from Bloomberg's Business and Finance pages caught our eyes recently here at RSA blog HQ. The title of the article? It was 'The Real US Map, a Country of Regions' and the story comes in different parts. I should also say, for the benefit of our Canadian and Mexican followers, that the boundaries do extend beyond US territory in Colin Woodward's conceptualisation. What on earth are we talking about? We're talking about a way of understanding the US in terms of its cultural regions (image below). The regions are as follows: Yankeedom, Tidewater, New Netherland, New France, Deep South, Greater Appalachia, the Midlands, First Nation, the Far West, the Left Coast, El Norte (there are 11 in total).

What should you make of all this? Well, it follows in a tradition of this kind of work, including Garreau's 'The Nine Nations of North America' and it is in some ways a cultural regionalisation approach to understanding 'regions' in a vast nation (and beyond). Amongst all this are some serious ideas and things of interest to those of us with an interest in 'regions' - whatever they might be. For example, Woodward states that 'the U.S. is really divided among nations, and I point out that the country isn’t really a nation-state. I don’t mean that derisively: it’s just a fact'. The cover image from Woodward's text is shown below. Well, I think that's all there is to say right now but the recent Bloomberg articles are definitely worth looking at.