Thursday, May 15, 2008

Independent Study Module (ISM)

The concept of an ISM is to have flexible coursework / studies / research usually culminating in an essay.

My ISM was the most unstructured module ever but in the end, I produced a paper. It wasn't too bad but prof wanted a comparison with the Von Thunen theory as well as other criticism of the space-bound theory while I am introducing similar case study under transnational conditions. Amongst other things. Hope I at least passed.

City-States and Transnational Agricultural Hinterlands:

A case study of the Singapore-Cameron Highlands Fresh Vegetable Trade


"Cities are unnatural…[they require a] concentration of food, water, energy, and materials that nature cannot provide"
- Lester Brown (2001: 188)

If cities are unnatural, then city-states are the oddities amongst the odd. Even as cities require food, water, and other resources from imported beyond its own metropolitan boundary, city-states likewise require these resources but from across transnational boundaries. There are only 3 modern city-states in the world now – Singapore being one of them. However, there is a growing movement to view metropolitan regions as “citistates” which are characterized by social, economic and environmental interdependence (Peirce et al, 1993). With globalization and an increased ecological footprint of metropolitan urban cities (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996), urban consumption and environmental degradation are quoted as some of the “most pressing global issues” today (Jorgenson, 2003: 374). Thus, there is much that can be learnt from city-states, such as Singapore, that juggle the urban issues of food dependency and inter-state resource politics across transnational boundaries and hinterlands. Most literature contends with case studies of intra-national rural-urban issues (Tacoli, 1998) or inferred global impacts through agricultural expansion (Southgate et al, 2007). The different scale and definition of hinterland have since expanded with increased connectivity across the globe.

This essay will examine these different definitions of the hinterland concept in relation to agrarian landscapes with specific case study to the city-state of Singapore and its transnational agricultural hinterland in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. The question that this essay hopes to answer is if the existence of transnational hinterlands is the unavoidable precondition of a city-state or is it the result of an encroaching ecological footprint from the growth of an urban area and its growing consumption.

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