Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Where do you live? Health specialists think that simple question could make a difference in how doctors prevent and treat diseases for individuals. That's expanding its storied role in public health.
This article highlights how spatial thinking and geospatial technologies can solve real world problems--in this case, tracking the spread of diseases is a spatial situation and not all places close to each other are equally connected to the same networks.
Think the McDonald's Menu is the same everywhere? Think again. A fantastic geography teacher compiled these images and descriptions of the McDonald's menu from around the world and put them into an ESRI storymap. This interactive feature shows how a successful global brand like McDonald's should be keenly aware of local tastes and customs. Some call that "glocalization."
"New York has long been a city of immigrants, but linguists now consider it a laboratory for studying and preserving languages in rapid decline elsewhere in the world."
This is an excellent video for showing the diffusion of languages in the era of migration to major urban centers. It also shows the factors that lead to the decline of indigenous languages that are on the fringe of the global economy and the importance of language to cultural traditions. Here is the article related to the video as well as a BBC article that calls NYC a 'graveyard of languages.' In a curious twist on the topic of endangered languages, there is a group of Native Americans in Northern California that wouldn't mind seeing their language die out with this generation.
"If ever there was a demonstration of the power of science, it is the course of the fight billed 'Mankind v AIDS'. Until 1981 the disease (though already established in parts of Africa) was unknown to science. Within a decade it passed from being seen as primarily a threat to gay men, and then to promiscuous heterosexuals, to being a plague that might do to some parts of Africa what the Black Death did to medieval Europe. But now, though 1.6m people a year still die of it, that number is on a downward trajectory, and AIDS rarely makes the headlines any more. How was this achieved? The answer has two parts: sound science and international co-operation."
The Ebola epidemic has dominated headlines recently. In their haste, it has been lost on that media the scary medical story of the 20th century (AIDS) that was going to doom Africa is now a success story. Some of the stories about Ebola have treated Africa as one monolithic place--Africa is not a single story.
The world’s biggest container ships, longer than the Eiffel Tower is high, are a symbol of an increasingly global marketplace. But they also face strong economic headwinds.
This article and video from the NY Times is a great way to show the magnitude of the largest vessels that drive the global economy. These containers are symbols of global commerce that enable economies of scale to be profitable and the outsourcing of so many manufacturing jobs to developing countries. The invention of these containers have changed the geography of global shipping and today the vast majority of the world's largest ports are now in East Asia. Today though, the biggest container ships are too big to go through the Panama Canal, encouraging China to build a larger canal through Nicaragua.
"A former gang member from Long Beach, California, teaches break dancing to at-risk youths in Cambodia."
Why knowing where countries are in Africa matters for how the rest of the world thinks about Ebola.
Cultural and media norms that often refer to Africa as one entity rather than an 11.7 million-square-mile land mass comprised of 54 countries and over 1.1 billion people who speak over 2,000 different languages. This cultural confusion means that, when a dangerous virus like Ebola breaks out, Americans who are used to referring to “Africa” as one entity may make mistakes in understanding just how big of a threat Ebola actually is, who might have been exposed to it, and what the likelihood of an individual contracting it might be. This Ebola outbreak is wreaking havoc on African economies beyond the three most heavily affected by Ebola, and that damage is completely avoidable. The East and Southern African safari industry provides a good example. Bookings for safaris there — including for the famed Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania — have plummeted due to the Ebola outbreak. These actions are based in fear, not reality.
Geo-literacy is so critical; our level of geo-literacy shapes our framework for organizing global information. Currently, two or three countries face the very real risk of becoming failed states as Ebola ravages them; but painting with such a broad brush that Africa as all one region leads someone to think that all 54 African countries are equally at risk as if they all have the same geographic context.
"Dogtown and Z-Boys: A documentary about the pioneering 1970s Zephyr skating team."
Popular culture is shaped by taste-makers, counter-cultural movements, and the blending of cultural practices in new ways creating a distinct aesthetic. Often, the physical geography of a region plays a crucial role in shaping the cultural practices particular to their environment. All of that can be seen quite vividly in the colorful skating revolution of the 1970s that took shape in the Southern California. Kids who grew up idolizing surfers branched out their recreational habits into the modern form of skating that we see today at the X Games. Made legendary through a series of Skateboarder magazine articles, these kids shaped the cultural ethos of skateboarding for over a generation. With the coastal influence of surfing, the socioeconomics of a seaside slum, it’s abandoned piers, the ubiquity of cement and asphalt in the urban landscape, the run-down neighborhood of “Dogtown” was home to cultural movement. The fierce droughts of the 1970 meant abandoned swimming pools; that drought led surfers to the technological infrastructure for modern skating ramps and half pipes as they skated in emptied swimming pools. As stated in those Skaterboarder articles, “two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11 year olds that could see that potential.” The documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” (trailer) and the fictionalized “Lords of Dogtown,” (trailer) both produced by skater turned filmmaker Stacy Peralta, chronicle the age (“Lords of Dogtown” is not appropriate for the K-12 classroom viewing).
The story behind the failure of the world's health organizations to stop the Ebola disaster.
We have witnessed the terrifying dispersal of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Cultural practices have facilitated the spread of Ebola in West Africa, and a distinct set of cultural practices is one reason why many experts do not expect it to spread in the United States. The videos in this TIME article answer some basic questions about how the disease is spread while this data interactive has a useful timeline, map and charts to show the data behind the outbreak.
"Berlin Bureau Chief Michael Slackman looks into the obsession with currywurst, a popular street dish that combines sausage, ketchup and curry powder, and brings different Berliners together."
This short video has been added to the the interactive map, Place-Based Geography Videos. This depiction of street foods in German cities is a rich, tangible example to show cultural patterns and processes. Currywurst is a unifying force across socioeconomic classes in Germany, but it is also a product of globalization and cultural interactions across regions. Culture is not static and this New York Times video can be used to teach the various concepts of culture; per the updated APHG outline, the initial concepts of culture are:
Question to Ponder: How are these 5 major elements of culture seen in this video?
"The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more people than sum total of all the previous outbreaks since the virus was first identified in 1976. This video explains how it got so bad."
In a word, geography. The geographic factors facilitated the diffusion of Ebola and have slowed down the preventative measure and limited their success. This shows how porous borders, cultural patterns of health care, limited facilities a low literacy rates all contribute to to creating this nightmare.
"The Pew survey sorts people into major groupings--Christians; other religions, including Jewish and Muslim; and 'unaffiliated,' which includes atheist, agnostic and 'nothing in particular.' Roll your cursor over the map to see how faiths and traditions break down by state."
This is a particularly useful interactive map with a lot of teaching applications. It is a nice visual aid to process the religious data in the United States.
Questions to Ponder: What patterns do you notice? Are there religious regions that could be drawn based on this data? What geographic factors have created the differences in the religious geographies of the United States?
Questions and answers on the scale of the outbreak and the science of the Ebola virus.
This Ebola outbreak began in Guinea, near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia, where a network of roads makes the movement of people, goods ideas possible. Unfortunately though, those same roads make spread of diseases easier. In the past African Ebola cases in isolated villages could be contained but increased transportation has accelerated the diffusion process. If this spreads to Lagos, watch out.
"This animation distils hundreds of years of culture into just five minutes. A team of historians and scientists wanted to map cultural mobility, so they tracked the births and deaths of notable individuals like David, King of Israel, and Leonardo da Vinci, from 600 BC to the present day. Using them as a proxy for skills and ideas, their map reveals intellectual hotspots and tracks how empires rise and crumble. The information comes from Freebase, a Google-owned database of well-known people and places, and other catalogues of notable individuals. The team is based at the University of Texas at Dallas."
This video has garnered a lot of academic and mainstream attention--while I wouldn't describe in as the Entire History of Human Culture in 5 minutes as the Huffington Post did, it is a stellar visualization that uses big data and was created with some solid academic research. Hierarchical diffusion patterns are powerfully depicted in this video created by Nature as are other geographic concepts such as urban settlement patterns (e.g.-primate cities and rank-size rule in Europe).
"The Nicaraguan government and the company behind plans to build a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean have settled on a route."
A Chinese firm (HKND) is planning to construct a canal to rival Panama's. I've been following this issue as I prepared to co-author an article for Maps 101 with Julie Dixon and it is clearly a major environmental issue. However, this issue is much more geographic than just the angle; China and Nicaragua are vying for greater control and access to the shipping lanes that dominate the global economy and international trade. This shows that they are each attempting to bolster their regional and international impact compared to their rivals (the United States for China and Panama for Nicaragua).
Is limiting the use of the Arabic word for God a sign of growing intolerance towards minorities?
In Arabic, the word Allah means God. Christian Arabs refer to God as Allah and Arabic versions of the Bible reference Allah. As Arabic and Islam have diffused in interwoven patterns, the linguistic root and the theological meanings have became intertwined to some. BBC World and Al-Jazeera have reported on this issue as the Malaysian government has attempted to ban the use of the word Allah to any non-Muslim religious group. Language and religion just got very political.
"With modern technology, a global exchange of goods and ideas can happen at the click of a button. But what about 2,000 years ago? Shannon Harris Castelo unfolds the history of the 5,000-mile Silk Road, a network of multiple routes that used the common language of commerce to connect the world's major settlements, thread by thread."
This TED-ED lesson was produced in part by an AP Human Geography teacher and the strands of geographic thought in this video are evident. More geographers should make their own TED ED lessons; thanks for blazing the trail Shannon!
"Over the course of human history, thousands of languages have developed from what was once a much smaller number. How did we end up with so many? And how do we keep track of them all? Alex Gendler explains how linguists group languages into language families, demonstrating how these linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past."
"China is a true mega-trader — a position last held by colonial Britain, with trade significant not only as a share of world trade (11.5%) but also of its own GDP (47%). The U.S. is China's top export destination. China's trade with Latin America has risen more than 200 times since 1990 and is the fastest-growing corridor. China's trade is beginning to slow, however. Exports accounted for about 25% of GDP in 2012, down from 35% in 2007."
This article is highlights what we already know; China is a dominant force in global trade (although the map should be centered on the Pacific to show China's real shipping lanes and interregional connections). Containers are symbols of global commerce that enable economies of scale to be profitable and the outsourcing of so many manufacturing jobs to developing countries (almost 90% of everything we buy arrives via ship). The invention of these containers have changed the geography of global shipping and the vast majority of the world's largest ports are now in East Asia.
Brought to Europe from the New World by Spanish explorers, the lowly potato gave rise to modern industrial agriculture
The Colombian Exchange is a term that describes the most dramatic biologic transfer in history. European explorers brought animals and agricultural items from the Old World to the New and subsequently brought back items from the New World back to the Old. This exchange profoundly reshaped many societies as agricultural diffusion of the potato lead to the changes across northern Europe.
Translate any word from English to more than 30 other European languages, on a map
This is an incredible resource to visualize the linguistic similarities between European languages all on one interactive map. Just type in a word or phrase as it will translate it for you and place the results on the map. I just found this, but I think it still belongs on my list of favorite resources.
Questions to Ponder: Do you see any regions forming? How does language impact the diffusion of people, ideas and goods? Hoe do you think these languages diffused?
The history of baseball reflects the story of expansion in the United States. New cities have emerged and modern stadiums have been built as a growing population fueled the popularity of our National Pastime. The result is an extensive network of baseball teams at every level - from the major leagues to the little leagues - that represent the communities and environments in which they play. Everything from jersey colors, names, and symbols to the foods served at ballparks reflects the local landscape and culture of baseball teams. A simple game that began with a bat and ball is now a comprehensive case study of how people and geography are interrelated.
All of the lessons and activities have been prepared to accompany "Geography: Baseball Coast to Coast." You will find that the curriculum is organized into three levels: Level 1 for elementary school students, Level 2 for middle school students, and Level 3 for high school students.
"The breakthrough came in 1996, when a new class of antiretroviral drug called protease inhibitors was launched. These were used in combination with two older drugs that worked in different ways. The combination meant that evolving resistance required the simultaneous appearance of several beneficial (from the virus’s point of view) mutations—which is improbable. With a viable treatment available, political action became more realistic. AIDS had been a “political” disease from the beginning, because a lot of the early victims were middle-class gay Americans, a group already politically active. Activists were split between those who favoured treating people already infected and those who wanted to stop new infections. The latter were more concerned to preach the message of safe sex and make condoms widely available, so that people could practise what was preached. Gradually, however, activists on both sides realised that the drugs, by almost abolishing the virus from a sufferer’s body, also render him unlikely to pass it on. They are, in other words, a dual-use technology."
The article in the Economist points to the successes the international scientific community has made to minimize the impact of AIDS, but some doctors have wondered, "but what if AIDS didn't impact the wealthy and politically active?" In this op-ed, a doctor says that medicine is just for those that can afford it because many pharmaceutical companies aren't interested in developing treatments for tropical diseases.