Topography and elevation matters. We can dry to make water dry ground (and vice versa), but not without future consequences.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Finding Materials: This site is designed for geography students and teachers to find interesting, current supplemental materials. To search for place-specific posts, browse this interactive map. To search for thematic posts, see http://geographyeducation.org/thematic/ (organized by the APHG curriculum). Also you can search for a keyword by clicking on the filter tab above.
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Email: Click 'follow' button at top right of this page.
I hope that you enjoy the content and materials that you find on this website. This represents the best news, materials and resources that I have found that can be used in geography (and other) classrooms. Use the 'funnel' as a way to filter and search for resources of specific topics or places.
"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."
In many countries, eggs aren't refrigerated and they're still considered safe to eat. But in the U.S., we have to chill them, because we've washed away the cuticle that protects them from bacteria.
For many Americans that are traveling abroad for the first time, realizing that eggs aren't in the refrigerator is a bit of a culture shock (not to mention the moment they find milk in a box that also isn't being refrigerated). Agricultural practices dictate storage requirements and some things we might have imagined were universal are actually place-specific or peculiar to our cultural setting. What we are taught to think of as gross, appropriate, attractive or even sanitary is often steeped in a cultural context. So is it strange the we refrigerate our eggs in the United States, or that they don't in other places?
"Seldom has it been more important for Americans to form a realistic assessment of the world scene. But our current governing, college-educated class suffers one glaring blind spot.
Modern American culture produces highly individualistic career and identity paths for upper- and middle-class males and females. Power couples abound, often sporting different last names. But deeply held religious identities and military loyalties are less common. Few educated Americans have any direct experience with large groups of men gathered in intense prayer or battle. Like other citizens of the globalized corporate/consumer culture, educated Americans are often widely traveled but not deeply rooted in obligation to a particular physical place, a faith or a kinship."
This is a truly intriguing op-ed that argues that many Americans have a 'blind spot' by failing to recognize the power of religion and tribal bonds in global affairs. While many in the west assume that a new world order has emerged, these old communal forces still rule much of the world and they have some profound geopolitical implications (the author explores Russia, Asia and the Middle East in particular).
Commerce knits the modern world together in a way that nothing else quite does. Almost anything you own these days is the result of a complicated web of global interactions. And there's no better way to depict those interactions than some maps.
Occasionally these lists that say something like "40 maps that..." end up being an odd assortment of trivia that is interesting but not very instructive; but I am of a fan of these list produced by Vox. Not because they exhaustively explain the topic, but they give a strong visual introduction to a topic, such as this one on on the global economy.
"A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on the equivalent scale to major geological processes."
Many geologists and other scientists now recognize that we are in a new geologic era. This new era, called the Anthropocene, is distinguished by the fact that one species (homo sapiens), is dramatically modifying the environment. These modifications are impacting geologic processes to such a degree that this time period is geologically distinct (see this remote sensing interactive for examples of environmental change). Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize–winning scientist who champions the term Anthropocene declared, “It’s no longer us against ‘Nature.’ Instead, it’s we who decide what nature is and what it will be.” This video is a great primer for discussing the nature and extent of human and environmental interactions as related to industrialization, globalization and climate change. This is definitely one of my favorite resources.
"Burning Man takes place at the end of August every year in the barren and remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The weeklong festival is described by its organization as “an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.” Earth-bound photographers have chronicled the legacy of art, technology, design, and fashion at the event over the years, but we at Skybox wanted to know if we could capture the transformation of the city from space, with our constellation of SkySats. This is the result:
A full-fledged city of population 70,000, “Black Rock City” is built up in a matter of days, experienced for a single week, and disassembled just as quickly, leaving no trace."
Last week I posted about Burning Man, noting that the landscapes in this experimental culture are inherently ephemeral and fleeting. High resolution satellite imagery has captured the quick rise and fall of the Black Rock City. Perhaps the term 'rise and fall' might not aptly describe the formation and dismantling of a city of 70,000 people; it is more like the ebb and flow of the tide, certain to return again.
"Although we seldom think about them this way, most American communities as they exist today were built for the spry and mobile. We've constructed millions of multi-story, single-family homes where the master bedroom is on the second floor, where the lawn outside requires weekly upkeep, where the mailbox is a stroll away. We've designed neighborhoods where everyday errands require a driver's license. We've planned whole cities where, if you don't have a car, it's not particularly easy to walk anywhere — especially not if you move gingerly.
This reality has been a fine one for a younger country. Those multi-story, single-family homes with broad lawns were great for Baby Boomers when they had young families. And car-dependent suburbs have been fine for residents with the means and mobility to drive everywhere. But as the Baby Boomers whose preferences drove a lot of these trends continue to age, it's becoming increasingly clear that the housing and communities we've built won't work very well for the old."
Population change is frequently a concern of city planners at the local level. This article shows that major demographic shifts are going to mean major changes in our patterns in our cities as we become a 'greying' society.
"Argentina should be careful in considering the implications of the idea of moving the capital [from Buenos Aires] to Santiago del Estero. While a dramatic move might be appealing as a fresh start, it could end up aggravating the challenges of governing the country. Capitals, like flags, are symbols, but their choice has very real consequences."
Countries occasionally choose to move their capital cities to a region of the country where they want to promote growth. A new capital such as the one being considered in Argentina, would be called by geographers a forward capital. Although that term is not used in the article, it is one of the few examples of a forward capital being discussed a news article and it nicely discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of forward capitals and the impacts they can have of regional growth, regime stability and the political organization of space.
Jeremiah Heaton wants a no-man’s-land in east Africa, but international officials say his claim is insufficient.
This particular issue isn't especially newsworthy, but it exemplifies some important principles of political geography with a tangible example to test the limits of political sovereignty and what it take to be called a country. If discussing the elements necessary to create a state, this article would help fuel a discussion, especially when some people attempt to create their own micronation.
"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 boot-shaped state isn’t shaped like that anymore. So, we revised its iconic outline to reflect the truth about a sin…
Maps shape how we think about places. In mapping, we can reveal or conceal important pieces of information but sometimes the phenomena don't fit the easy binaries. In most places there is land, a coastline and then water (simple enough), but Louisiana's coastline is much more complicated with large regions being more of a coastal zone than a neat line. That accounts for some of the inaccuracies mapping Louisiana, but some lies are so convenient, that many people want the fiction to continue. It is comforting to think about places as permanent, and admitting that it isn't is acknowledging that there might be a problem. As stated in this article, "the boot is at best an inaccurate approximation of Louisiana’s true shape and, at worst, an irresponsible lie." To explore the issue yourself, this gorgeous interactive map pulls together some high quality source materials on a wide range of issues to look at this environmental issues of this region in a holistic manner.
"Scotland is about to vote on whether to secede from the UK. There are solid arguments on both sides."
Admittedly, this video is filled with stereotypes, bad words and a strong political bias all delivered in John Oliver's trademark style--it's also filled with incorrect statements which I hope most people can recognize as humor, but it captures college students' attention. If, however, you are looking for a more insightful piece, I recommend Jeffrey Sach's article titled "The Price of Scottish Independence," or this summary of the 9 issues that would confront an independent Scotland. Independence in Europe today doesn't mean what it used to, and this vote will be fascinating regardless of the outcome.
"There are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world today — and that means that many countries have populations younger than ever before. Some believe that this 'youth bulge' helps fuel social unrest — particularly when combined with high levels of youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is a 'global time bomb,' as long as today’s millennials remain 'hampered by weak economies, discrimination, and inequality of opportunity.' The world’s 15 youngest countries are all in Africa. Of the continent’s 200 million young people, about 75 million are unemployed.
On the flip side, an aging population presents a different set of problems: Japan and Germany are tied for the world’s oldest countries, with median ages of 46.1. Germany’s declining birth rate might mean that its population will decrease by 19 percent, shrinking to 66 million by 2060. An aging population has a huge economic impact: in Germany, it has meant a labor shortage, leaving jobs unfilled."
The median age of a population call be a quite telling statistic--almost a surrogate for a population pyramid. I post this with a special attention to Sub-Saharan Africa; the youngest 15 countries in the world are all in Africa, one of the major demographic realities confronting African economies and politics. Here is a map with the median age of U.S. counties.
"Every summer solstice, tens of thousands of people throng to Stonehenge, creating a festival-like atmosphere at the 4,400-year-old stone monument. For the 2015 solstice, they will have a bit more room to spread out. A just-completed four-year project to map the vicinity of Stonehenge reveals a sprawling complex that includes 17 newly discovered monuments and signs of a 1.5-kilometre-around ‘super henge’.
The digital map — made from high-resolution radar and magnetic and laser scans that accumulated several terabytes of data — shatters the picture of Stonehenge as a desolate and exclusive site that was visited by few, says Vincent Gaffney, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, UK, who co-led the effort."
"Facing a mounting housing shortage, squatters have transformed an abandoned skyscraper in downtown Caracas into a makeshift home for more than 2,500 people."
This video is one of my favorites in my placed-based geography videos collection. This skyscraper was once a symbol of wealth, and in an incredible paradigm shift, it has now become is occupied by squatters. The lack of a vibrant formal economy and more formal housing leads to a lack of suitable options for many urban residents--especially with problems in the rural countryside. A complex web of geographic factors needs to be explained to understand this most fascinating situation. This NY Times article from 2011 still shows some great concepts on why informal housing develops and this PRI podcast gives us a 2014 update--that the Venezuelan government plans to clear the Tower of its residents.
GE Teach is a powerful mapping platform that harnesses the power of Google Earth into a user-friendly format. I've you've ever wanted multiple maps on the screen to compare and contrast, this is great tool. Designed by an APHG teacher, this is a great way to bring geospatial technologies into the classroom. With multiple data layers of physical and human geography variables, this becomes an interactive globe. Click here for the video tutorial.
Some are contemplating migration, severing ties to their holy land. Others want to stay and protect their shrines.
When we discuss the geography of religion, frequently we are discussing the distribution of particular religions. However, some religions are deeply embedded in particular places and their spiritual rites, customs and traditions are intrinsically linked with sacred spaces and particular geographies. The Yazidi are are religious group that is deeply connected to the mountains of northern Iraq--areas that are now being evacuated because of ISIS. Some are contemplating migrating to safety, but severing their ties to their holy land. Others want to stay and protect their sacred spaces.
Members of the Flag Institute have created designs for what the Union Flag could look like in the event of independence
I've already posted various links this week on Scottish independence and what it might mean, but I think these two are also worth considering. Flags are the great icons of state identity, and a UK without Scotland might reconsider it iconography. This links to an article from the Telegraph and a photogallery with 12 'candidate flags' for a UK that does not include Scotland. Why might some resist the idea of creating a new national symbol?
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.
From Catalonia to Kurdistan, nationalist and separatist movements in Europe and beyond are watching the Scottish independence referendum closely.
This issue reverberates on many different scales. As the video embedded in this article demonstrates, Scotland's choice on September 18th would obviously impact the local region as some seek to use Scottish history as a rationale to reshape the current political and cultural identity of the region. Some of the votes are already in and Scottish independence would not only have the potential to reshape the UK and EU, but it could also add some fervor to the various other separatist movements around the world, such as Catalonia.
"An aerial perspective on Burning Man 2013, in Black Rock Playa, NV"
This annual arts festival with a strong counter-cultural ethos literally is an experiment in producing alternative urban and cultural geographies that reject normative regulations embedded within societies. These geographies created last only about a week, as an escape from the regular strictures of society. Burning Man celebrates alternative spiritualities and creates monuments to impermanence while allowing people to wear zany costumes. Many feel that in leaving behind ‘the real world’ they find their true home at Burning Man. The ephemeral alternative geographies then fade back into the desert but not without creating a visually remarkable place. Some feel that the festival has become too popular and famous to be what it truly was intended to be as the rich and famous descend on the playa as well.
Questions to Ponder: Part of Burning Man’s success is due to its impermanence; if this community were created to exist year-round, would it still work? Why or why not? Why do festivals like this attract so many? What does it culturally say about the participants and the societies that they leave behind?
"Have you heard of Alexander von Humboldt? Not likely. The geologist turned geographer and South American explorer was a bit of an 18th century super scientist, traveling over 24,000 miles to understand the relationship between nature and habitat. George Mehler details Humboldt’s major accomplishments and why we should care about them today. See this TED ED lesson plan that accompanies the video."
Alexander von Humboldt has been described as the last great ancient geographer concerned with understanding an eclectic cosmography as well as the first modern geographer. He is honored far and wide throughout Latin America and Europe, but given that intellectually people are confused as how to categorize him and classify his contributions, today he is under-appreciated. Geographers need to reclaim his memory and call his extensive, globetrotting work on a wide range of subjects 'geography.'
"Violence has a geography and for this reason, geography lies at the center of discussions of violence. Within the United States a myriad of taken for granted assumptions about identity, place, power, and memory undergird the nation’s psyche. These normative interpretations intersect with a particular kind of geographic formulation that places persons of color in general, but black men most specifically, at the center of the violent structures of the nation."
This isn't merely commentary about social upheaval or some musing about the social inequities (I think we've all read a ton of those articles). This is a geographic analysis that discusses the interactions, interconnections and implications of a social and spatial conflict between citizens and the institutions of the state. Ferguson, MO is undoubtedly a lightning rod today and some might prefer to avoid discussing it in a classroom setting; I find that as long as we put analysis before ideology, issues such as these show students the relevance and importance of geographic principles to their lives.
"In the years after the attacks of September 11, debates about how the United States should respond to the threat of terrorism remain of central importance. The death of Osama bin Laden, the rise of 'homegrown' terrorists, and the use of drones to kill suspected terrorists pose new questions and challenges for policy makers and citizens. Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy helps students consider the issues surrounding the 9.11.01 attacks and the U.S. response to terrorism in a constructive context that promotes dialogue about future policy directions."
This video paired with this lesson plan from the Choices Program will help students explore the human dimension of the September 11 attacks as will this lesson from Teaching History. For a geospatial perspective on 9-11, this page from the Library of Congress, hosted by the Geography and Map Division is a visually rich resources (aerial photography, thermal imagery, LiDAR, etc.) that show the extent of the damage and the physical change to the region that the terrorist attacks brought. The images from that day are a part of American memory and change how the event is remembered and memorialized in public spaces. Also on global terrorism, the Choices Program has also produced some materials on how to teach about ISIS as a new emerging geopolitical threat.
"Superclusters – regions of space that are densely packed with galaxies – are the biggest structures in the Universe. But scientists have struggled to define exactly where one supercluster ends and another begins. Now, a team based in Hawaii has come up with a new technique that maps the Universe according to the flow of galaxies across space. Redrawing the boundaries of the cosmic map, they redefine our home supercluster and name it Laniakea, which means ‘immeasurable heaven’ in Hawaiian. Read the research paper here."
Spatial thinking and geographic exploration is constantly seeking to understand place in context to other places. More often than not, that is done without every venturing beyond this planet, but in many respects, space is the greatest of contexts on the grandest of scales for us to understand ourselves. I first saw this video embedded in an NPR article and it filled me with wonder to think about the immensities of space and that the Earth is such a small little corner of the universe.