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Is a nation’s geography crucial in establishing its history, as explored by Marshall in his book Prisoners of Geography? What can be learnt from individual hazards if they involve a unique combination of geophysical and social circumstances? Underlying questions have stemmed my interest in studying Geography as it illuminates past and contemporary challenges. Such challenges have been seen to encompass factors that influence my surroundings, particularly regeneration projects in East London. The Docklands, for example, is perceived as a successful project to many but the fact that it has created spatial divisions between Poplar and Canary Wharf, defined by red line boundaries reinforced by the DLR was a personal realisation on how physicality is an influence, after reading Marshall’s book. Wider scale issues such as the UK’s commitment to climate deals post-Brexit are also an interest due to the impact on the natural environment, exacerbated by attending the British Ecological Society summer school.
One issue explored was the impacts of the anthropocene on the Amazonian rainforest. Recognising changes from the 8,500 year old sediment record from Lake Carana proved the pre-Columbian transformation of the environment via human induced activity such as fire and polyculture. It is important to consider the rapid changes Earth Systems face from such actions, hence leading to my research into planetary boundaries. Discovering that the framework is currently set at the “safe” zone of uncertainty and that any transgression would lead to an erosion of resilience led me to partake in the Global Challenges Project. The issue I explored intertwined with sustainable development goals, looking at how everyone can have sufficient clean water without conflict. Biomimicry was one way that our research group took interest in; it shows that water harvesting structures are possible by designing them like the systems of biological entities. Water harvesting architecture could store collected water by looking at how drought-tolerant plants, such as crystalline ice, retain it to survive in arid environments. Placing these structures in areas unaccessible can give hope, being equitable and sustainable. This goes against Marshall’s rule that society is affected solely by its geography, and how technology is a bending rule that can overpower it. Working towards these development goals through the multifaceted concepts of geography can allow landlocked countries isolated by physical barriers to be transformed and integrated into the global economy.
Having academic sessions on what originally seemed like two different topics at the Sutton Trust Summer School taught me skills on how to link the interdisciplinary concepts of geography together. I realised how industrialisation could be linked to both of my other A Levels. The link to biology was shown through the impact the Industrial Revolution had on London, particularly the River Wandle. I had a firsthand experience of going to the river and testing its phosphate and nitrate content and the different types of species present. The high chemical levels showed conditions difficult for aquatic organisms to survive and the sample of species from the river gave a calculated average value of 4.1, less than the required 6.1, showing there were less high rated organisms in the river that are more tolerant. This shows the reduction in biodiversity and how industrialisation has caused the urban stream syndrome. Not only could I link this to Biology, but I also learnt practical skills of the importance of repeating samples at the right time and places as high nitrate and phosphate content could have been due to the heatwave at the time, leading to less water and higher concentration of chemicals. The second session on cultural geography linked to psychology. The industrial revolution changed landscapes to present the desires of the 19th century and psycho- geography looks at how environment affected behaviour. Walking around London, it was interesting to see how the Strand area was rebuilt in the 19th century, to create landscapes of power and gendered memory. The Royal Courts of Justice was built to look older than it actually is, to make it seem like it has always been there and so law has been there and will remain. This was to maintain behaviour. Seeing how the industrial revolution affected both the biology and culture of London taught me that subject can be linked in abstract ways.
In my spare time, I like to be involved with youth projects such as Peer Coaching for Change and NCY. Through this, I have developed communication skills by considering the views of others and implementing this to make a positive change in my area, such as by delivering hampers to locals to break down any negative stereotypes that the older generation had towards the young. By balancing regular sessions with studies, I believe that I am a hardworking and conscientious student that can bring enthusiasm to this subject.