2015 a year in review – a geographical perspective


2015 has been a busy year, with geography rarely out of the headlines. Whilst we will all have our own personal memories, emotions and attachments to the year that has been there are undoubtedly certain defining moments which will resonate with most of us.

Much of the news in 2015 has seemed to revolve around Paris. The year began with the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and concluded with the multiple terror attacks in various locations across the city, including the Bataclan Concert Hall. Yet, remarkably, despite the tragedy Paris 2015 may equally be remembered for one of the best pieces of news to emerge from 2015 – the Paris COP21 Climate Deal, which barely a fortnight after these terrorist attacks hosted 195 world governments and produced a significant ray of hope in the world’s ambition to tackle climate change. This wasn’t the only positive negotiation either – in September in New York the UN member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which again exhibit a real will to tackle the big global challenges we all face.

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of RSGS reflected on the year that has been. “Along with the many negatives, there have been some really positive news items to hit the headlines during the second part of the year, in climate news especially. However, surely the most defining image of this year was that of 3 year old Alan Kurdi – the young Syrian boy washed up on a beach in Turkey. This image seemed to wake Europe up to both the war in Syria, and the scale and urgency of the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. Migration remains a significant issue for us all over the next few months and years”.

Recognising migration as a defining topic of 2015, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society have dedicated the next issue of their magazine The Geographer to discussing migration.

Maya Hanano, now living safely in Germany, shared her story with RSGS about how she made the terrifying journey out of Syria to Italy, in an excerpt from her article for The Geographer, nineteen year-old Maya says: “By the fifth day, we were losing hope of ever arriving in Italy. We were so tired and hungry and the bathroom was not working. It was night. The smugglers asked if anyone knew English so they could call the Italian police to come and take us. I told the captain I could speak so he gave me a phone to speak to the Red Cross and the police… Our captain refused to drive the boat, so me and Abdullah drove the boat until we arrived at the point that the police told us to get to.”

The Winter 2015/2016 edition of The Geographer pulls together opinions from across society, from academics studying human migration to accomplished journalist Lindsey Hilsum to those on the front line and of course includes Maya’s story of her journey across the now infamous Mediterranean crossing. The Geographer is free to all RSGS members.