In September 2022, I co-led a week-long international fieldtrip to the Wadden Sea coast at the border of northern Germany and southern Denmark. The fieldtrip was one part of a wider TriWadWalk partnership including universities in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In May 2022, a first field trip took place, with a group of staff and students exploring the Wadden Sea coast and islands at the Dutch-German border. Both excursions were unusual for including a balance of staff and students (approximately 10 and 10) with emphasis placed on international exchange, interdisciplinary and intergenerational learning and the experience of being in and moving through ‘the field’. The staff came from the disciplines of geography, planning, tourism studies, anthropology, landscape architecture and environmental economics and are engaged to varying degrees in social science research at the Wadden Sea. The students brought a wider range of perspectives from their studies in both the environmental and social sciences. The fieldtrip developed from a longstanding collaboration between Wadden Sea researchers and educators at the universities of Bremen, Groningen, Hamburg, Lüneburg, Oldenburg and Southern Denmark and was generously supported by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, Wadden Academy, the Danish Wadden Sea National Park, and the University of Southern Denmark.
In the following, I provide a brief account of the week, informed by my own personal reflections. Where relevant, links to secondary sources for further information are provided.
In accordance with the EU MSP directive all EU coastal member states were required to produce marine spatial plans by 2021. Not all have met this deadline but many are now published and adopted by national governments. A key requirement of the MSP directive is that marine spatial plans follow an ecosystem-based approach and contribute to the achievement of Good Environmental Status for marine ecosystems, as set out in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Over the last nine months or so, I have been engaged in the evaluation of selected national-level marine spatial plans, with a view to assessing their degree of alignment with EU environmental legislation and policy objectives. This work has been commissioned by environmental NGOs: Birdlife International and the Irish umbrella NGO Sustainable Water Network (SWAN). In the following, I provide an overview of this work with links to the published reports.
In a scientific report commissioned by NUI Galway, Department of Geography (Dr. Marie Mahon) under the EU Horizon 2020 project IMAJINE: Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe, I was tasked with exploring the relational qualities of spatial justice, together with Dr. Brendan O’ Keeffe. The report was written against the background of increased awareness of the fragility and vulnerability, but also, in some respects, the resilience of European solidarity in the face of external shocks such as the Greek Euro-crisis, the 2015 refugee crisis and the exit of the UK from the EU. Spatial justice is recognised as a fundamentally contested concept related to normative EU concepts of a Social Europe and the discourses of economic, social and territorial cohesion. More recently it is reflected, if partially, in the concept of a Just Transition in the context of the EU Green Deal.
On Wednesday, May 18th, I will chair a webinar, together with Heather Ritchie of Ulster University focused on MSP challenges and opportunities for local authorities on the island of Ireland. The webinar is hosted by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) and supported by the Maynooth University Social Science Institute (MUSSI).
Following a successful tender application, I have been commissioned by BirdLife International to conduct an evaluation of national level Marine Spatial Plans (MSPs). Over the next few months, I will develop a methodology for the assessment of MSPs based on a screening of relevant EU environmental directives. This methodology will initially be applied to four countries located within the Baltic and North Sea Regions: Belgium, Germany, Lithuania and Sweden and subsequently made available to practitioners and stakeholders for the evaluation of MSPs across Europe.