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The best Geographical features of 2021

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The best Geographical features of 2021
02 Jan
As the year draws to a close, we take a look back at some of the most popular Geographical features of 2021

The twelve issues of Geographical published in 2021 covered a huge range of topics, from the global pandemic to climate change and developments during COP26. We've picked ten of our favourite features from the year, availbale to read online now. 

The features below were all originally published in our monthly print magazine. To stay connected to the world and the stories that matter subscribe and join the Geographical community

Can Covid-19’s legacy help to eliminate neglected diseases, Mark Rowe, January

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We've never seen anything like the speed at which researchers rushed to find a solution to Covid-19, coming up with two highly effective vaccines since the virus first emerged back in December 2019. More than eight billion doses have now been administered globally. The response to the pandemic just goes to show how quickly medical breakthroughs can be made with the right funding and resources. But many hideous tropical illnesses, collectively known as 'neglected diseases', never receive the same level of attention. Will the legacy of Covid-19 bring about change?

A new life in Iceland farming nature's warmest material, Felicity Aston, March

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When the remote island of Vigur is put up for sale, and the local community fails to convince the Icelandic authorities to claim the island, proposed plans for exclusive holiday accommodation pitched by private enterprises start to emerge in the news. Instead, polar explorer Felicity Aston and her Icelandic husband stepped in as custodians of the island, and of the 10,000 wild eider ducks that arrive every May to breed. 

UK gold: The hunt has returned, Laura Cole, March

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Like all good stories, this one starts as a tale told over a few drinks in the pub, where amateur gold panners flash rings made from their findings sieved out of the nearby rivers. But hunting for gold is a growing business in the UK, and it's not just hobbyists out searching the hills. ‘This is the most significant discovery in decades,’ says the chairman of one mining company to Laura Cole, who investigates three ambitious gold mining projects across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as the campaigns to stop them. 

Sexuality and the city: the changing geography of LGBTQ spaces, Katie Burton, May

Chante HerriesImage:  Lee-Ann Olwage

 In cities around the world, the geography of homosexuality is shifting. As historic bars and clubs close down, or where they never existed, queer people are finding other ways to gather.

As the desert encroaches, the Republic of Kalmykia sits at the forefront of climate change, Pietro Romeo & Rocco Volante, July

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 'Miles and miles of dusty steppe alternate with isolated villages, dunes of sand and grazing herds that apathetically invade the road.' This is the landscape that lies ahead of Pietro Romeo and Rocco Volante as they set off through the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Kalmykia, where the ever encroaching desert threatens to swallow local ways of life. 

In just eight years, the temperature here has risen by 1.5°C. Once-fertile soils have been depleted and the water beneath is saline, yet most of the population rely on farming for subsistence. Despite this, Romeo and Volante discover a community that is determined to stay, showing a remarkable, and much needed, adaptability in the face of climate change. 

Restoring the oyster reefs of old to protect English waters, Jacob Dykes, August

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'The arm of a JCB thrusts into a pile of shells, scooping up tonnes of oysters, scallops and mussels. Tossed overboard, this material plunges downward, coarse shells scuffing together as they descend.'

Reading through the spidery, handwritten notes of historic fishing logs, Jacob Dykes reveals that an abundance of oyster reefs once stretched tens of kilometres off the coast of the UK – now an almost unimaginable size. In an attempt to protect what is now the world's most severely threatened marine habitat, an ambitious project has now dropped tens of thousands of mature oysters, along with hundreds of tonnes of empty shells, into Essex waters. 

Australia won't pull its weight on climate change, despite a population embracing solar power, Matthew Brace, September

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Australia has the highest per-capita use of rooftop solar power in the world and some of its states and territories are striding ahead with clean-energy initiatives, yet the federal government still keenly supports fossil fuels. So what’s up Down Under?

A research expedition to uncharted waters in the Indian Ocean, Tommy Trenchard, October

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 Mapping the dark depths of the Saya de Malha Bank, a vast underwater plateau that holds the promise of the world's largest seagrass meadow still waiting to be discovered, the team aboard the Arctic Sunrise listen out for the clicks and whines of one of the ocean's greatest predators: the sperm whale. And where there are sperm whales there's squid and plankton and a whole host of other species that reveal important clues about the unknown, uncharted waters that extend beneath the boat. Photojournalist Tommy Trenchard joins the team to document their discoveries at a time when exploitative ocean industries pose a growing threat to life in our least explored ecosystem.  

Climate leaders of the Global South, Matt Maynard, November

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‘There once was a goose with two necks. One short and one long. The head with the long neck easily picked at the fresh and the best food while the head with the short neck could only scrape around for rotten food left by the long neck. Eventually, the goose was poisoned and died.’

Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, Minister of Environment for East Timor, explains that he sees this Hindu fable as a metaphor for the current inequality between rich and poor countries. Alongside De Carvalho, Matt Maynard spoke to climate leaders based in seven nations in the Global South that are already seeing the damaging impacts of climate change. Between them they are responsible for less than 5 per cent of the world's emissions. 

The fading days of Morocco's Grand Taxis, John Silcox, December

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In Morocco, people don’t Uber. Instead, they pile into so-called grand taxis – battered but colourful old diesel Mercedes cars. These ancient vehicles, which the government is trying to force off the streets, tell a wider story about the suffocating legacy of the West’s new car market and the rapid expansion of the North African automotive industry.

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