Yesterday I was honored to give the annual Linton Award lecture to the British Society for Geomorphology at the University of Manchester. Many thanks to the BSG for making my attendance possible, and to the U. Manchester geography department for putting on a good meeting. This is the abstract of my talk, entitled Badass Geomorphology:
The archetypical badass is individualistic, non-conformist, and able to produce disproportionate results. The badass concept is applied here to geomorphology. The individualistic concept of landscape evolution (ICLE) is introduced, based on three propositions: excess evolution space, capacity of all landforms to change, and variable selection pressure from environmental factors within and encompassing landscapes. ICLE indicates that geomorphic systems are idiosyncratic to some extent, and that even where two systems are similar, this is a happenstance of similar environmental selection, not an attractor state. As geomorphic systems are all individualistic, those that are also non-conformist with respect to conventional wisdoms and have amplifier effects are considered badass. Development of meander bends on a section of the Kentucky River illustrates these ideas. The divergence of karst and fluvial forms on the inner and outer bends represents unstable amplifying effects. The divergence is also individualistic, as it can be explained only by combining general laws governing surface and subsurface flow partitioning with a specific geographical and environmental setting and the history of Quaternary downcutting of the Kentucky River. Landscape evolution there does not conform to any conventional theories or conceptual frameworks of geomorphology. The badass traits of many geomorphic systems have implications for ontology, epistemology, and aesthetics. Badass geomorphology and the ICLE reflect ontology (and an associated epistemology) based on landforms as the outcome of the interplay of general laws, place-specific controls, and history. Badass geomorphology also implies a research style receptive to contraventional wisdoms. Aesthetically, amplifier effects and individualism guarantee an essentially infinite variety of landforms and landscapes that geoscientists can appreciate both artistically and scientifically. Non-conformity makes the interpretation and understanding of this variety more challenging—and while that increases the degree of difficulty, it also makes for more interesting and compelling professional challenges.