11 ways in which London’s boroughs are a bunch of really stupid shapes

What a bloody mess. Image: Wikipedia.

So here’s a spurious thing someone sent me a link to the other day: a poster from Place in Print, which shows all of London’s boroughs, to scale, in alphabetical order. I never knew I wanted such a thing, and yet:

What it reminds me of is one of those diagrams of what human chromosomes actually look like: suddenly you can see that they’re all funny shapes and some are radically different sizes to others.

Anyway, I am incapable of looking at such a thing without writing a silly listicle of my thoughts on the topic in the hope of viral traffic – you clicked, didn’t you? You’re in no position to judge here – and so, here goes.

Seriously, the size differential is crazy

The largest borough is Bromley, at 150km2. The smallest is Kensington & Chelsea, at 12km2. In other words, the largest borough is 12.5 times the size of the smallest.

That’s a big gap. By way of contrast, in New York, the ratio between the smallest borough (Manhattan) and the largest (Queens) is a relatively sensible five. In Paris the ratio between the largest (15th) and smallest (2nd) arondissements is about 8.5 (so long as you exclude the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne, but let’s not get into that here).

Anyway: the point is you could fit 12 Kensington & Chelseas into Bromley and still have land to spare. Incidentally, there are 325,000 people in Bromley, and about half that, 158,000, in Kensington & Chelsea. That means that the latter is six times more densely populated than the former.

We should really be talking about building more houses in Bromley, is what I’m getting at.

And that’s without even thinking about the City

Aw, look at the dinky little thing:

Southwark is basically the same shape as Lambeth, only upside down and melting

Weird.

Some of the boroughs are sensibly square

Or at least, polygonal:

But Kingston looks like a wooden leg

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Some of them have really stupid boundaries...

Look at Hounslow:

It’s 16km long but, at its narrowest point, less than 1km wide. Like I said: stupid.

...for which you can sometimes blame the river

FFS, Richmond.

Barking can’t even blame that

What the hell is this pointy bit up the top for? Couldn’t they put Chadwell Heath in Redbridge or Havering instead?

Talking of which:

Redbridge is clearly a saddle

Look:

Havering looks like Hackney’s dad

“Don’t you ever come near me or my son again.”

Hillingdon is really, really long

I think probably the longest you can walk in a straight line without leaving the same borough is to go from the Springwell Lake, in the northwest corner of Hillingdon, down to its southern tip beyond Heathrow.

That’s around 20km: walk that far from Trafalgar Square, and you can be out of Greater London altogether:

 

(It also works with Chigwell and Borehamwood, by the way.)


Anyway, that’s me done. You can buy the poster here.

And if I’ve forgotten to mock your borough, please do feel free to write in.

Update: Ed Povey from Place in Print - clearly a man who recognises an untapped market when he sees one - has been in touch. He's offered a 20 per cent discount to anyone who buys this print, or others on his site, when they use the code "CITYMETRIC".

So: there you go.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

All diagrams courtesy of Place in Print, and maps courtesy of Google.

 
 
 
 

Which nations control the materials required for renewables? Meet the new energy superpowers

Solar and wind power facilities in Bitterfeld, Germany. Image: Getty.

Imagine a world where every country has not only complied with the Paris climate agreement but has moved away from fossil fuels entirely. How would such a change affect global politics?

The 20th century was dominated by coal, oil and natural gas, but a shift to zero-emission energy generation and transport means a new set of elements will become key. Solar energy, for instance, still primarily uses silicon technology, for which the major raw material is the rock quartzite. Lithium represents the key limiting resource for most batteries – while rare earth metals, in particular “lanthanides” such as neodymium, are required for the magnets in wind turbine generators. Copper is the conductor of choice for wind power, being used in the generator windings, power cables, transformers and inverters.

In considering this future it is necessary to understand who wins and loses by a switch from carbon to silicon, copper, lithium, and rare earth metals.

The countries which dominate the production of fossil fuels will mostly be familiar:

The list of countries that would become the new “renewables superpowers” contains some familiar names, but also a few wild cards. The largest reserves of quartzite (for silicon production) are found in China, the US, and Russia – but also Brazil and Norway. The US and China are also major sources of copper, although their reserves are decreasing, which has pushed Chile, Peru, Congo and Indonesia to the fore.

Chile also has, by far, the largest reserves of lithium, ahead of China, Argentina and Australia. Factoring in lower-grade “resources” – which can’t yet be extracted – bumps Bolivia and the US onto the list. Finally, rare earth resources are greatest in China, Russia, Brazil – and Vietnam.

Of all the fossil fuel producing countries, it is the US, China, Russia and Canada that could most easily transition to green energy resources. In fact it is ironic that the US, perhaps the country most politically resistant to change, might be the least affected as far as raw materials are concerned. But it is important to note that a completely new set of countries will also find their natural resources are in high demand.

An OPEC for renewables?

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a group of 14 nations that together contain almost half the world’s oil production and most of its reserves. It is possible that a related group could be created for the major producers of renewable energy raw materials, shifting power away from the Middle East and towards central Africa and, especially, South America.

This is unlikely to happen peacefully. Control of oilfields was a driver behind many 20th-century conflicts and, going back further, European colonisation was driven by a desire for new sources of food, raw materials, minerals and – later – oil. The switch to renewable energy may cause something similar. As a new group of elements become valuable for turbines, solar panels or batteries, rich countries may ensure they have secure supplies through a new era of colonisation.

China has already started what may be termed “economic colonisation”, setting up major trade agreements to ensure raw material supply. In the past decade it has made a massive investment in African mining, while more recent agreements with countries such as Peru and Chile have spread Beijing’s economic influence in South America.

Or a new era of colonisation?

Given this background, two versions of the future can be envisaged. The first possibility is the evolution of a new OPEC-style organisation with the power to control vital resources including silicon, copper, lithium, and lanthanides. The second possibility involves 21st-century colonisation of developing countries, creating super-economies. In both futures there is the possibility that rival nations could cut off access to vital renewable energy resources, just as major oil and gas producers have done in the past.


On the positive side there is a significant difference between fossil fuels and the chemical elements needed for green energy. Oil and gas are consumable commodities. Once a natural gas power station is built, it must have a continuous supply of gas or it stops generating. Similarly, petrol-powered cars require a continued supply of crude oil to keep running.

In contrast, once a wind farm is built, electricity generation is only dependent on the wind (which won’t stop blowing any time soon) and there is no continuous need for neodymium for the magnets or copper for the generator windings. In other words solar, wind, and wave power require a one-off purchase in order to ensure long-term secure energy generation.

The shorter lifetime of cars and electronic devices means that there is an ongoing demand for lithium. Improved recycling processes would potentially overcome this continued need. Thus, once the infrastructure is in place access to coal, oil or gas can be denied, but you can’t shut off the sun or wind. It is on this basis that the US Department of Defense sees green energy as key to national security.

The ConversationA country that creates green energy infrastructure, before political and economic control shifts to a new group of “world powers”, will ensure it is less susceptible to future influence or to being held hostage by a lithium or copper giant. But late adopters will find their strategy comes at a high price. Finally, it will be important for countries with resources not to sell themselves cheaply to the first bidder in the hope of making quick money – because, as the major oil producers will find out over the next decades, nothing lasts forever.

Andrew Barron, Sêr Cymru Chair of Low Carbon Energy and Environment, Swansea University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.