Hundreds of churches around Europe have closed or are threatened by plunging membership, posing a question for communities: What to do with the once-holy, now-empty buildings?
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Hundreds of churches around Europe have closed or are threatened by plunging membership, posing a question for communities: What to do with the once-holy, now-empty buildings?
Europe, the most developed region in the world, is also the most secular region today. During colonial times, Europeans were spreading Christianity across the globe, but now Christianity is becoming more a part of Europe's historical landscape. Secularization can be seen as either the cause or the effect of several other European trends such as declining fertility rates. Today Europe is filled with historic cathedrals, but there is no one to fill them.
Questions to Ponder: What are other signs of secularization on the cultural landscape? What would you do with a former sacred site (and an architectural treasure) that is can't be maintained?
“The Midwest is this big nebulous part of the country and it's kind of what's left over after all the other regions of the country are defined. Those regions have much stronger identities if you think of the East Coast or maybe New England or the Pacific Northwest or certainly the South. The Midwest is kind of the catchall for what's left. We [Minnesota] should be called the North.”
Whether I agree or not with the ideas being discussed, I simply love that this discussion is taking place and how intensely geographical the ideas and evidences being brought forward are.
Questions to Ponder: So what region do you live in? What defines that region? Are there other regions that you can claim to be a part of also? How would you divide the United States into various regions? How come?
"This program, Boundaries and Borderlands, introduces the case study approach of the course. Here we examine the borderland region between the regions of North America and Latin America. The first case study, Twin Cities, Divided Lives, follows the story of Concha Martinez as she crosses between the U.S. and Mexico in order to make a life for herself and her children. The second case study, Operation Hold the Line, follows up the question of cross-border migration raised in the first program. It takes a look at how U.S. border policy is shaping the lives of not only the people living in this borderland region, but in more distant U.S. and Mexican locations as well."
This is a not a new resource and I know that many of you are familiar with it, but this is worth repeating for those not familiar with the Annenberg Media's "Power of Place" video series. With 26 videos (roughly 30 minutes each) that are regionally organized, this be a great resource for geography teachers that need either a regional of thematic case-study video clip.
Toporopa is compilation of different games and app for secondary students to review their geographic knowledge of geography, and learn new concepts in a fun and entertaining way. It does reinforce the 'encyclopedic' view of geography education, but the games are well-crafted and available in most of the major languages of the European Union. See a Spanish-language review of the site here.
"Most state borders were drawn centuries ago, long before the country was fully settled, and often the lines were drawn somewhat arbitrarily, to coincide with topography or latitude and longitude lines that today have little to do with population numbers. Most state borders were drawn centuries ago, long before the country was fully settled, and often the lines were drawn somewhat arbitrarily, to coincide with topography or latitude and longitude lines that today have little to do with population numbers."
"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.
How alarmist, racist coverage of Ebola makes things worse. A dressing down of the latest #NewsweekFail.
The recent Newsweek Cover showing a Chimpanzee for the article, Smuggled Bushmeat Is Ebola's Back Door to America, has received a lot of criticism for being factually inaccurate, but also for it's portrayal of Africa that taps into deep-rooted cultural anxieties about Africa in United States. Western writers have use many cultural conventions to talk about "the Dark Continent" stemming from a long colonial tradition. Africa had been developing rapidly in the last decade and how Ebola fares seems to be a referendum on the continent for many cultural commentators. This great Washington Post article is less about Ebola, but uses the outbreak to analyze how we think about Africa, and sometimes it isn't a pretty reflection. The Ebola outbreak is teaching us how we perceive Africa as much as it is about Africa itself.
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.
"More than 168 million Americans now live in states where marriage for same-sex couples is legal following the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to not hear five states’ appeals. That number represents about 53.17 percent of the U.S. population, according to data from the Census Bureau and visualized on the map above."
UPDATE: As of November 20, 2014 this is now the new map of same-sex marriage in the United States. Notice that all the states that oppose same-sex marriage are part of one single, territorially contiguous block of states. How come that is the spatial pattern for this issue?
"Religious scholar Reza Aslan took some serious issue on CNN Monday night with Bill Maher‘s commentary about Islamic violence and oppression. Maher ended his show last Friday by going after liberals for being silent about the violence and oppression that goes on in Muslim nations. Aslan said on CNN that Maher’s arguments are just very unsophisticated. He said these 'facile arguments' might sound good, but not all Muslim nations are the same. Aslan explained that female mutilation is an African problem, not a Muslim one, and there are Muslim-majority nations where women are treated better and there are even female leaders."
There are far too many oversimplifications when people throw around the terms "Muslim-majority countries" and this video shows that a more nuanced understanding is needed. That being said, it would be naive to pretend as though Islam today were without some structural problems. As stated in the linked article, "In 2013, of the top 10 groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks, seven were Muslim. Of the top 10 countries where terrorist attacks took place, seven were Muslim-majority. Of the 24 most restrictive countries (according to Pew Research), 19 are Muslim-majority. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities."
Question to Ponder: How does the media play a role in shaping the conversations we have in society about different cultures and places? How can 'painting with a broad brush' lead to stereotypes and inaccurate conclusions?
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
Here's a somewhat regular argument I get in: Which states make up which regions of the United States? Some of these regions -- the West Coast, Mountain States, Southwest and Northeast are pretty cl...
Vernacular regions aren't defined by a one particular trait, but are how we think about places. These 'regions of the mind' are how we organize information about places, which is why these regions aren't sharp or precise. In a similar article, they investigate what we consider to be a part of the South using similar crowdsourcing data.
Thanks to demographics, the Republicans have a virtual stranglehold on the House of Representatives.
The first reaction might be to blame partisan redistricting (a.k.a. gerrymandering) for the the political gridlock between the presidential results and House of Representatives. Gerrymandering does play a role, but the spatial concentrations and distributions of voting constituencies explain why the Democrats have recently won the popular vote in 5 out of the last 6 presidential elections, but can't control the House of Representatives. Metro areas are highly left-leaning, currently creating a national majority for Democrats, but that high concentration is a drawback when trying to win a majority of the seats in the House. This is a good article as a primer for electoral geography.
"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?
Many of Africa’s leaders will be in town next week attending a White House summit. The continent’s land is shared among 49 countries — many of which rarely make U.S. headlines. How familiar are you with Africa’s geography?
This online quiz tests your ability to locate African countries on the map--a basic skill that isn't 'doing geography' (an age-old lament among geography educators). Still, it is hard to have an intelligent discussion about the continent if you can't name or locate any places other than Egypt and South Africa. For some of my favorite online map quiz resources, click here.
"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."
"The Southerners were considerably more certain of which states are their own. While the top few Midwest states barely pulled 80 percent of the vote, nearly 90 percent of respondents identified Georgia and Alabama as Southern, and more than 80 percent placed Mississippi and Louisiana in the South. South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina all garnered above 60 percent."
"Fans may not list which team they favor on the census, but millions of them do make their preferences public on Facebook. Using aggregated data provided by the company, we were able to create an unprecedented look at the geography of baseball fandom, going down not only to the county level, as Facebook did in a nationwide map it released a few weeks ago, but also to ZIP codes."
This isn't just a fun sports map--there are some good geographic concepts that can be used here. When discussing cultural regions, many use the core-domain-sphere model. This map uses the brightest color intensities to represent the core regions and the lightest hues to show waning strength, but to still signify that the area is a part of a team's sphere of influence. Essentially, this map is begging you to explore the borderlands, the liminal "in-between" spaces that aren't as easy to explain. What other phenomena can be used to demonstrate the core-domain-sphere model of cultural regions? What other geographic concepts can you teach using this map?
|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?
"A state commission working on a much-discussed report titled 'Foundations of State Cultural Politics' will release their findings in two weeks, presidential advisor Vladimir Tolstoi announced last week, adding that the basic formula of the report could be summarized as 'Russia is not Europe.'"
At times Russia has sought to be perceived as a part of Europe only to be excluded in the minds (and institutions) of Western Europe. Now, in a discursive way to protect itself, it is reaffirming and building a cultural buffer zone between Europe and Russia. What are the borders of Europe as you think of it? Can world regions change over time? Any examples of regions having their borders redrawn?
"Here's how the United States looks when it is measured on the county level by the same standards used to rank countries by the UN, the Human Development Index. Five variables are taken into account: life expectancy, income per capita, school enrollment, percentage of high school graduates, and percentage of college graduates."
Often we treat countries as solid areas and miss many regional patterns; in part because we view global data sets that are at that scale.
Questions to ponder: what regional patterns do you see? What accounts for these patterns? What do you think other countries would look like with data at this scale?
In the 20 years since it entered into force, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been both lauded and attacked in the United States. But to properly assess NAFTA’s record, it is important to first be clear about what the agreement has actually done. Economically speaking, the answer is a lot.
NAFTA was the first comprehensive free-trade agreement to join developed and developing nations, and it achieved broader and deeper market openings than any trade agreement had before.
NAFTA did that by eliminating tariffs on all industrial goods, guaranteeing unrestricted agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico, opening up a broad range of service sectors, and instituting national treatment for cross-border service providers. It also set high standards of protection for patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
NAFTA ignited an explosion in cross-border economic activity. Today, Canada ranks as the United States’ largest single export market, and it sends 98 percent of its total energy exports to the United States, making Canada the United States’ largest supplier of energy products and services. Mexico is the United States’ second-largest single export market. Over the past two decades, a highly efficient and integrated supply chain has developed among the three North American economies. Intraregional trade flows have increased by roughly 400 percent.
North Americans not only sell more things to one another; they also make more things together. About half of U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico takes place between related companies, and the resulting specialization has boosted productivity in all three economies. NAFTA has also caused cross-border investment to soar.
In spite of this impressive economic record, NAFTA has its critics. Most of those who attack it on economic grounds focus on Mexico, not Canada, and claim that the partnership is one-sided: that NAFTA is Mexico’s gain and America’s pain. But the economic data prove otherwise.
"For Regional Geography, I ask that all my students take an online quizzes before coming to class because it is very difficult to intelligently discuss European issues if you don’t know the countries of Europe, where they are and what other countries are on their borders. Quizzes and knowing places doesn’t define geography, but if geography were English literature, knowing about places could be described as the alphabet–before you write a sonnet or critique an essay, you better know your ABC’s and basic grammar. Given that, I like the Lizard Point Geography quizzes, Sheppard Software quizzes and those from Click that ‘Hood; they are simple, straightforward and comprehensive."
"A fisherman's cottage is described by real estate agents as a 'property not to be missed' but it is also just yards away from two nuclear power stations."
A photograph (or landscape, map, etc.) is not an innocent reflection of reality. They can be carefully crafted to tell a story which might reflect the bigger picture and your ideological framework--but it just as easily might obscure some important contexts and truths. I use these images at the beginning of the semester to discuss the bias inherent in our own perspectives as I try to infuse my classroom with a variety of lenses with which to view different regions (images found here).
Recent developments in Croatia and Scotland highlight a stark divide between Eastern and Western Europe on the topic of same-sex marriage.
Regions are fluid constructs that we use to think about places. The region that we think of today as "Latin America" would not have been a discrete region 600 years ago since historical events have shaped the geographic evolution of the attributes of the region and the borders of world regions will continue to be redrawn. Some have recently argued that since the end of the Cold War, the monikers Eastern and Western Europe are less meaningful in an economic context. This map shows this old division can still be seen in this cultural/political context. Some have argued that Russia's recent move against gay rights is a geopolitical strategy to differentiate themselves from the West.
I had the shapefiles with the various neighborhoods of Providence and the good folks at "Click that 'Hood" were gracious enough to upload it and make a local quiz based on the the 25 neighborhoods of Providence (as defined by the city government officials). In addition to city neighborhood quizzes, they also have quizzes for regions such as Africa, South America and Europe. This is a crowd-sourced database, so if you have the right data, you can help them to create more online quizzes.