In 2015, American geomorphologist Jonathan D. Phillips published a peer-reviewed journal article entitled Badass Geomorphology, a manifesto for geoscientists to engage in a research style receptive to contraventional wisdom, and an approach to studying landforms and landscapes that can be appreciated both artistically and scientifically.
Central to Phillips’ thesis is that landforms and landscapes result from interplay between universal physical laws, place-specific controls, and history – and as such landscapes are individualistic (the archetypal badass is individualistic, non-conformist and able to produce disproportionate results). This is not necessarily new to geoscientists, but often research focus is on general laws – scientists seek uniform models to explain the formation of particular landforms. However, this can sometimes be restrictive. Reading Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks one is struck by the incredible diversity of words used to explain specific landscape spaces or temporal change in environment. Language had been used to embrace diversity in landscapes long before scientific classification.
Much of my recent research has been in Patagonia – in an archetypal badass landscape. Badass Geomorphology resonated with me because contraventional wisdom was needed to interpret a complex landscape. And time spent walking in, thinking about, meditating on Patagonian landscapes has led to a deeper, artistic appreciation of the landforms. The photographs at the top of this post are from our work, and in forthcoming blogs I will explore these landscape stories as and when our research papers are published.