All seeing cameras

Our infographic this month looks at who is looking at whom (Page 20). Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous. Peering down from rooftops and lamposts, they seem to have spread as fast as a pandemic. China, of course, is in a sinister class of its own. With one camera for every three of its 1.4 billion people and ever more sophisticated and controlling ways to monitor the data collected, it outstrips the most paranoid of our fears about Big Brother. India is not that far behind, with four of its cities ranking in the Top Ten surveillance stakes. London comes in tenth with 13.35 cameras per 1,000 population. Our Worldwatch report on Page 8 reveals another facet of India’s digital nous. It is using AI to establish whether irritating border skirmishes with China are more than just random accidents. Not surprisingly, the data suggests that they are more strategic than previously thought. Thankfully, not everything the camera does is in the service of the state. Our powerful photo story on the problems facing the Colorado River (Page 22) reveals many of the failings of governments – from over estimating the amount of water that flows down the USA’s sixth longest river to allowing gross over-exploitation of this precious resource, plus, and this applies to all countries, the failure to curb global warming. On a more celebratory note, the Nature Conservancy photo competition winners starting on Page 60 are a joy to behold. And, of course, a Happy New Year to one and all.

Graeme Gourlay



‘Seeing the Colorado run dry, just a few kilometres after the US-Mexican Border, was shocking. How can a river flow for thousands of miles and then suddenly disappear?’ asks Jonas Kako after travelling the length of the river documenting the impacts he witnessed (Page 22). ‘Seeing people’s daily struggle to survive in such a changing environment made me understand the importance of the river.’

‘Iberá is such an inspirational place to visit. It really demonstrates nature’s powers of recovery, if we give it a little assistance,’ says Daniel Allen, an editorial consultant for Rewilding Europe, after returning from a trip to Argentina’s largest wetland. Read his inspiring report on the successful project to transform what was once an over-exploited, threatened environment on Page 48.

‘Sri Lanka’s recent turmoil set government travel advice sites jangling,’ say Nick Redmayne. It also got him packing his bags. Read his report on a country recovering from a difficult year on Page 41. ‘Stories of riots, food shortages and fuel queues filled the headlines. For a time, chaos reigned. However, despite depleted foreign exchange and a serious cost-of-living crisis, the country functions.’

Geographical July 2020GEOGRAPHICAL

Volume 92 Issue 07

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Cover image Jonas Kako