Geomorphology and Society: An Introduction

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The interdependent relationship between humans and landscapes is an important but still under-developed concept in geomorphology. It is clear, from case studies introduced in this chapter that a detailed understanding of how people impact on geomorphic processes and how, in turn, these processes impact on society, is an essential contribution towards the goal of a sustainable future.

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Social scientists must be allowed a full, collaborative role if researchers are to understand and engage with issues that concern the public, says Ana Viseu.
Geomorphology and society Humans evolved in the context of geomorphic processes, and their survival and prosperity depended in no small measure on their understanding of these processes, the threats posed to their survival and implications for food production. Human settlements are often vulnerable to geomorphic hazards by virtue of their location in the path of geomorphic processes such as flooding, landslides or debris flows. In the next level of interaction, human settlement alters geomorphic processes, such as exacerbating the severity of flooding by reducing infiltration and increasing stormwater runoff (for a given unit of precipitation), increasing erosion and sediment yields through land clearance, triggering mass movements by altering drainage patterns or undercutting the toes of slopes and inducing seismic activity through crustal loading under large reservoirs (Gupta, 1985, 2002; Chao, 1995). Moreover by managing or regulating geomorphic processes, humans have altered their environments, often simplifying natural systems to improve conditions ...
This commentary uses Google Books N-grams to briefly explore the changing use of the word geomorphology in books published in British English and American English. Both show a decline in the use of the term geomorphology in recent years. A singular feature of the British data is a very sharp rise and fall in the use of term geomorphology in books published since 1980. The steep falling limb (post 1993) of this curve is of particular concern and several possible explanations are put forward including, since 1986, the influence exerted by Research Assessment Exercises on publication practice in UK universities. The N-gram trends pose important questions for all geomorphologists and we should monitor them to gain a better understanding of where we need to be most visible to ensure the long-term health of our discipline. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The archetypal badass is individualistic, non-conformist, and able to produce disproportionate results. The badass concept is applied here to geomorphology. The individualistic concept of landscape evolution (ICLE) is introduced, based on three propositions: excess evolution space, capacity of all landforms to change, and variable selection pressure from environmental factors within and encompassing landscapes. ICLE indicates that geomorphic systems are idiosyncratic to some extent, and that even where two systems are similar, this is a happenstance of similar environmental selection, not an attractor state. As geomorphic systems are all individualistic, those that are also non-conformist with respect to conventional wisdoms and have amplifier effects are considered badass. Development of meander bends on a section of the Kentucky River illustrates these ideas. The divergence of karst and fluvial forms on the inner and outer bends represents unstable amplifying effects. The divergence is also individualistic, as it can be explained only by combining general laws governing surface and subsurface flow partitioning with a specific geographical and environmental setting and the history of Quaternary downcutting of the Kentucky River. Landscape evolution there does not conform to any conventional theories or conceptual frameworks of geomorphology. The badass traits of many geomorphic systems have implications for the systems themselves, attitudes toward geomorphic practice, and appreciation of landforms. Badass geomorphology and the ICLE reflect a view, and approach to the study of, landforms as the outcome of the interplay of general laws, place-specific controls, and history. Badass geomorphology also implies a research style receptive to contraventional wisdoms. Aesthetically, amplifier effects and individualism guarantee an essentially infinite variety of landforms and landscapes that geoscientists can appreciate both artistically and scientifically. Non-conformity makes the interpretation and understanding of this variety more challenging—and while that increases the degree of difficulty, it also makes for more interesting and compelling professional challenges. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
This book is a concise and imaginative discussion of the general basis behind the scientific approach to problems within the earth sciences. It is intended for students, young researchers and consultants and attempts to inform them about the difficulties in interpreting and explaining the complex and dynamic systems that comprise the earth. The author considers the methods used in the earth sciences and argues that there is no single scientific method but that there is a scientific approach that is mandatory if one wishes to increase the probability of being right. Ten specific problems that can lead to incorrect conclusions are discussed. They are illustrated with examples primarily of surficial processes, and general solutions to the problems are given.