Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
"There’s no denying that the Amish are fascinating to the rest of us ("the English," in Amish terms). We buy their furniture and jam, and may occasionally spot their buggies when driving on country roads through America’s heartland. Many may not realize, however, that though the Amish make up only a tiny percentage of Americans (less than 0.1 percent), the Amish population has grown enormously since the early 1960s, with much of the increase occurring in the last two decades."
Gathered around the Thanksgiving table, Americans tell stories about colonists and Native Americans coming together. But do Native Americans even celebrate Thanksgiving? And what would Native American heritage food look like? This November, With Good Reason takes a look at the indigenous side of a Thanksgiving table.
"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.
"The Mexican tradition celebrates the dead and welcomes their return to the land of the living once a year. Enticing them to make the trip is where the food, drink and musical offerings come in."
Like many things in Mexico, the celebrations around the Day of the Dead are a combination of indigenous and Spanish traditions that collide to make something that is uniquely Mexican. This podcast goes through the symbolism in the cultural artifacts that are such a vibrant part of the festivities as does this Smithsonian interactive.
|Suggested by Mike Busarello's Digital Storybooks|
"Jan Crawford explores a unique folk art tradition going back 100 years - once seen on nearly every row house in the working class neighborhoods of Baltimore, as artists today once again embrace the tradition of painted window screens, an authentic connection to the city's past."
This is tremendous example of an urban cultural landscape that is distinctive to a certain place (Baltimore) and a particular time period. The practice of painting landscape scene on window screens began over 100 years ago, as a way to beat the heat, but still afford some form of privacy. This aesthetic emerged out of particular set of cultural, technological, and economic factors. What was once common is now perceived as a folk art that is a worth preserving because it is a marker of the local heritage. This is an excellent example to demonstrate a sense of place that can develop within a community. This video has been added to my ESRI StoryMap that spatially organizes place-based videos for the geography classroom (68 and counting).
"The transition from childhood to adulthood -- the 'coming of age' of boys who become young men and girls who become young women -- is a significant stepping stone in everyone’s life. But the age at which this happens, and how a child celebrates their rite of passage into adolescence, depends entirely on where they live and what culture they grow up in. Looking back, we'll never forget the majesty that was prom, or the excitement of hitting the dance floor at our friends' co-ed Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties, and why should we? Embarassing or amazing, they were pivotal moments in our lives that deserve remembering. On that note, here are thirteen of it the world’s most diverse coming of age traditions."
Pharmaceutical companies would need to compensate indigenous people for using their knowhow in creating new medicines
I'd never hear the term biopiracy before this month, but this idea is this: companies from wealthy countries commercially develop the genetic resources of developing countries with local assistance but don't fairly compensate the local population. I never had the vocabulary to describe such a thing, but that is biopiracy in a nutshell and the EU is working to end that. It doesn't only impact the pharmaceutical companies but heavily impact the agricultural industries as well. Anyone in the developed world eating quinoa and kale 20 years ago? Being marketed as 'superfoods' has changed the global production systems but also impacted local indigenous food supplies (some are referring to this as food gentrification).
INDIA’S general election will take place before May. The front-runner to be the next prime minister is Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, currently chief minister of Gujarat. A former tea-seller, he has previously attacked leaders of the ruling Congress party as elitist, corrupt and out of touch. Now he is emphasising his humble caste origins. In a speech in January he said 'high caste' Congress leaders were scared of taking on a rival from 'a backward caste'. If Mr Modi does win, he would be the first prime minister drawn from the 'other backward classes', or OBC, group. He is not the only politician to see electoral advantage in bringing up the subject: caste still matters enormously to most Indians."
This article from the Economist is dated since Mr. Modi is now the prime minister of India, but this analysis of how caste was used as a political asset in the election is a timely reminder that while the caste system has been officially abolished, the cultural ripples are still being felt today in a myriad of ways that impact social interactions (marriage, jobs, etc.).
"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."
"Brash, baroque and steeped in native Andean symbols, the mini-mansions are a striking sight on the caked-dirt streets of El Alto, the inexorably expanding sister city of Bolivia's capital."
The pre-Columbian symbols of the condor, serpent and Tree of Life adorn the architecture of these brightly colored ballrooms that also have European-imported chandeliers, arches and other baroque elements. The spread of globalization is often assumed to be a homogenizing cultural force, but local cultures typically take elements of the global, and make it their own. The global becomes local and deeply rooted in place and reshapes place.
"There have been calls for clearer labelling of halal products in shops, restaurants and takeaways. But what is halal food? And why are campaigners so concerned?"
I know just enough Arabic to read the word Halal (حلال) and know that it means permissible, the opposite of Haram (حَرَام) which means forbidden or illegal. In the context of meat, it means meat that has been prepared in accordance with Islamic traditions and is therefore permissible for an observant Muslim to eat (very similar to Kosher for Jewish people). Today, Halal is becoming an important issue within the European Union for two main reasons: 1) more Muslims are migrating to Europe and 2) Europeans are searching for less artificial food products. Some Europeans, however, feel that the Halal labeling and marketing is a change to the cultural landscape that they are not comfortable with, and don't want to see it become more mainstream. Other meat companies try to present their products as Halal, but don't adhere to all of the customs according to some more strict Muslims. Halal, then is a lightning rod, in either direction right now in Europe. If you want to see the inner workings of a Halal slaughterhouse in New York, this video will show you what it is like.
|Suggested by Mike Busarello's Digital Storybooks|
Surprising alternatives to "so what do you do?"—from New Orleans to New York.
The types of questions that you ask when you are meeting someone new for the first time has some regional variations but there is much more to the geography of small talk than that as see in this 4 minute video. People want to understand your cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic context by asking spatial questions about where you are from. Identity and place are tightly woven and these neighborhood questions are almost invitations to share much more personal information, as if to ask, "how do you fit in this world?" When you are being introduced to someone, what are the questions that you ask, and what type of information are you hoping to get? Each person has their own little geography that has profoundly shaped who they are---so what’s your story?
Thanksgiving has some fascinating spatial components to it. My wife and I prepared an article for the Geography News Network on Maps101.com that shows the historical and geographic context of the first Thanksgiving and in the memorialization of Thanksgiving as a national holiday (if you don’t subscribe to Maps 101, it is also freely available as a podcast on Stitcher Radio or iTunes).
One of my favorite combinations of maps for Thanksgiving involves the geography of food production and food consumption. When we start looking at the regional dishes on Thanksgiving plates we can see some great patterns. This ESRI storymap asks the simple question, where did your Thanksgiving Dinner come From?
This StoryMap is a great resource to combine with this New York Times article that shows the regional preferences for the most popular Thanksgiving recipes. Where are sweet potatoes grown? Where do people make sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving?
Plymouth County, MA is heart of only 3 cranberry producing regions and is was also home to the first Thanksgiving. How has this New England local ecology and traditional food patterns influenced national traditions?
For these and more Thanksgiving resources on scoop.it, click here.
"The popularity of Quinoa has grown exponentially among the health-conscious food consumers in the developed economies of the world. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is rich in protein and is a better grain for those seeking to lose weight. Quinoa has historically be rather limited but this diffusion is restructuring the geographic patterns of many places."
This map from a Geography in the News article shows that Quinoa has historically been grown almost exclusively in the highlands of the Andes Mountains. This was a localized food source for generations but this new global demand has increased the economic possibilities for Quinoa growers. At the same time, local consumers that have traditionally depended on cheap Quinoa to supplement their diet are now effectively priced out, as stated in this Al-Jazeera article.
Questions to Ponder: What modern and traditional agricultural patterns can we see in the production of Quinoa? How have global and local forces reshaped the system?
"Counties where at least 10 percent of people speak a language other than English at home."
While this is ostensibly a map that would be great for a cultural geography unit, I'm also thinking about the spatial patterns that created this map. What current or historical migrations account for some of the patterns visible here? What would a map like this look like it it were produced 50 years ago? Why are Vermont and West Virginia the only states without a county with over 10% of the population that speak another language at home?
By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner, Geography in the NewsTM DECLINE IN OCEAN FISHERIES The world may be running out of places to catch wild fish.
I recently posted a New York Times video about the rapid rise in industrial fishing and the production of Talapia. Even with the rise of aquaculture as a major source of seafood, the world's oceans are still depleted. As the world's population rises, many folk cultures with their roots in small fishing villages have transformed into primarily urban societies, but these urban societies still have a strong cultural preference for seafood and consume at levels that are not sustainable.
The Esri Thematic Atlas is a configurable web application that uses a collection of intelligent web maps with text, graphics, and images to talk about our world.
ESRI is moving towards creating a dynamic, authorative, living digital atlas and empowering users to create their own. See this great political map of 2008 U.S. presidential election that is a part of the altas; it goes far beyond simple blue and red states. StoryMaps are also democratizing the mapping process. Explore these excellent examples of storymaps (Endangered Languages and top 10 physical landforms).
What America can learn from one of the most sustainable food nations on Earth.
Many feel that corporate expansion within the food industries is inevitable because that's what we are currently experiencing in highly globalized countries such as the United States. Bolivia proves an example of a country that that has rejected corporate hegemony in the marketplace because they support traditional food choices and local vendors. Keep in mind that we shouldn't overly romanticize Bolivia, but they are a compelling example showing that consumers can impact food options.
"We came to Sri Lanka with every intention of filming a video about an organic, fair trade tea farmer. That is exactly what we were planning when we set foot on the small tea farm of Piyasena and his wife Ariyawatha. What we didnt expect was to be so taken with the relationship between the two of them. What started as a farm story quickly turned into a story about love and dedication amongst the Ceylon tea fields."
The beginning of their love story is rooted in cultural traditions that many would find oppressive (arranged marriage), and yet there is much about their sweet relationship that is near-universally admired.
"China's one-child only policy and historic preference for boys has led to a surplus of marriageable Chinese men. Young women are holding out for better apartments, cars and the like from potential spouses...30 to 48 percent of the real estate appreciation in 35 major Chinese cities is directly linked to a man's need to acquire wealth — in the form of property — to attract a wife."
"Every year, as a result of prenatal sex selection, 1.5 million girls around the world are missing at birth. How do we know these girls are missing if they were never born? Under normal circumstances, about 102 to 107 male babies are born for every 100 female babies born. This is called the sex ratio at birth, or SRB."
MOUNT GERIZIM, West Bank (AP) — The Samaritans, a rapidly dwindling sect dating to biblical times, have opened their insular community to brides imported from eastern Europe in a desperate quest to preserve their ancient culture.
Some folk cultures, such as the Samaritans, have historically intermarried and have been plagued by genetic diseases. Recently, they have turned to global solutions to their local demographic woes. "Five young women from Russia and Ukraine have moved to this hilltop village in recent years to marry local men, breathing new life into the community."
(3rd UPDATE) The new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics is expected to deliver a speech in an hour
The juxtaposition of the hypermodern coverage of the election of a new pope (telecasts, social media, instantaneous global network coverage, etc.) with the archaic medieval rituals of the conclave (locked doors, smoke signals, etc.) is endlessly fascinating to me. Even in the 21st century, there is a place for the traditional. So who is Pope Francis? As the first South American pope, some feel this reflects the southern demographic shift within the Catholic Church. Also, click here for the science behind the white vs. black smoke.
I've seen other "Where the Hell is Matt" videos and this recent one is building on that tradition. These videos show some fantastic international icons and people around the world. Simultaneously, this video show the unique cultural elements seen around the world while showing the essential beauty of our common humanity. Who wouldn't want to go to all the places that Matt has been?