Heuristic: if a place has sidewalks, it votes Democratic. Otherwise, it votes Republican.— Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) September 3, 2012
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
One reason why geography has languished in the curricula of many American schools is that so few people understand the nature of the discipline or its relevance to our everyday lives. What is geography? What is its unique perspective? What do geographers do? Why is geography important? Why should we teach (and learn) geography in the schools? These are questions that have gone largely unanswered in American education. This brief essay presents an easily taught, understood, and remembered definition of geography.
China has been feverishly piling sand onto reefs in the South China Sea for the past year, creating seven new islets in the region. It is straining geopolitical tensions that were already taut.
Last year this was an intriguing story but now the geopolitical drama is growing as more countries are literally building islands out of reef outcroppings to strengthen their claims to the South China Sea. This is the most comprehensive article that I've seen on the escalating situation.
VIDEO: 5,000 years of religious history in two minutes.
Short, sweet and to the point--this video is a great way to show the historical geographies of major world religions. What are the cultural barriers to the diffusion of one of these particular religions? What geographic factors helped to facilitate the expansion of one of these world religions?
"Like many cities in Central Europe, Warsaw is made up largely of grey, ugly, communist block-style architecture. Except for one part: The Old Town. Walking through the historic district, it’s just like any other quaint European city. There are tourist shops, horse-drawn carriage rides, church spires. The buildings are beautiful—but they are not original."
This is a compelling podcast linking architecture, heritage, political ideology and the built environment. How we preserve and create place is put on trial as to when something is benign, fabricated, authentic, or simply a complicated balance between opposing forces.
At the heart of the debate over whether Britain will field any soccer teams at the Olympics are questions about British identity, and which of Britons’ multiple identities gets priority.
The four constituent nations of the United Kingdom compete as individual teams in soccer tournaments such as the World Cup and the European Championship. But in the Olympics, the athletes must compete under the single banner of “Team GB.”
FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, said that Britain would need to submit a bid for the Olympics with the support of all four of the national soccer associations, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are against the idea. They think it would damage their prospects of retaining nation status within FIFA and their ability to compete as individual nations in other international tournaments.
Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat.
Food waste is a tragedy that we all know happens, but the economic system does not work efficiently to maximize the global food production (Disclaimer: it is HBO's John Oliver, so there is some language and references that might not be appropriate for all audiences).
The Olympics are bad for cities. So why do we keep asking new places to invest billions of dollars in state-of-the-art stadiums they’ll never use again?
The game of the Games is rigged, with the IOC bearing no cost but reaping great profits. The competition is designed to force cities to bid ever upward, proposing state-of-the-art projects that they might not even need. Because of the mounting price tag, the vast majority of countries could never afford to host the Games. We need a new model, and I think the solution is obvious. We should build the Summer Olympics a permanent home.
Urban Geographer John Rennie Short writes an intriguing Olympic proposal, with the idea of fixing the broken economic model (for hosts) as well as the Greek economy. He is author of the fabulous new textbook Human Geography: A Short Introduction; you can hear how he wanted to bring a new voice to geography students that would excitement an intellectual vitality to their studies. You can preview the supplemental resources and digital exercises for this engaging new textbook here.
Some of the most beautiful things in the world can be the most susceptible to sweeping environmental transformations.
When the giant fault line along the Pacific Northwest ruptures, it could be our worst natural disaster ever.
The Cascadia subduction zone remained hidden from us for so long because we could not see deep enough into the past. It poses a danger to us today because we have not thought deeply enough about the future. The Cascadia situation, a calamity in its own right, is also a parable for this age of ecological reckoning, and the questions it raises are ones that we all now face. How should a society respond to a looming crisis of uncertain timing but of catastrophic proportions? How can it begin to right itself when its entire infrastructure and culture developed in a way that leaves it profoundly vulnerable to natural disaster?
This is a long read but well worth the time. "The really big one," an earthquake in the Pacific Northwest over 8.0, last happened in 1700, but seismologists know that the geological pressure on the fault lines have been building since then. This in not a panic-inducing article, but one reminding people that the most potent natural disasters operate on cycles much longer than our lifetimes.
Watch Mike Wallace's 60 Minutes report from 1972 to see the Florida that existed before Mickey and millions of tourists descended on Orlando.
This 11 minute video from the archives is a great profile of a community in flux. Orange County, Florida was transitioning from an agricultural region off the grid to a largest tourist destination in the United States. Obviously, the community's economic geography completely transformed, but the cultural shift to the region was equally drastic. Since Disney today is such a well-known brand and so many students have been to Disney World, they will enjoy seeing what the community was like before it became an entertainment mecca.
The financially troubled island now says it is unable to pay an estimated $72 billion debt, casting a pall on bond markets and pension funds. On the surface, Puerto Rico’s debt crisis is one of run-away spending on public welfare, with a diminishing small tax and economic base to support it. However, the island’s troubles are also tied to its commonwealth status: Puerto Rico is part of the United States but it lacks the local autonomy afforded to other U.S. states and electoral representation in Congress.
It is finally time for Puerto Rico to break free. Independence would allow Puerto Ricans to directly address their economic woes, but, perhaps more important, it will grant the island’s 3.5 million inhabitants the right to determine their own destiny. On July 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that Puerto Rico couldn’t restructure its own debt. Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory bars the island from requesting bailout funds from other development banks. Independence, nationalists argue, would allow the commonwealth to make these and other autonomous choices.
My 10 year-old daughter was looking in our atlas a while back (yes, she is my daughter) and in the encyclopedic entry of each country she started noticing that literacy rates were included. She started asking about which regions had higher and lower literacy rates. This became a teaching moment about the power of the map--I explained that all this data can be more easily accessed and seen on a map and this interactive map is what we discovered. We need to help student find the maps and data to answer their questions (and we need to make sure that they are curious enough to ask questions about the way the world works).
Ask any teenager for directions and he can pull up Google Maps quicker than you can recite an address. Pretty awesome, right? And I’ll be the first to admit that having a map in my phone that not only tells me where to turn but how long it will take me to get there is pretty amazing. I use it all the time, honestly. But even when I’m zoning out and listening to that soothing voice telling me where to turn, I have a mental picture in my head of her directions. And I never realized that my teenage daughter doesn’t have a map in her head, because she’s never really had to use one. Ever.
Many of the more fortunate students (access to portable electronic devices, multi-car families with parents who drive them around, etc.) are actually worse off in map reading skills in part because they have never needed to develop a mental map and are not adept at navigating their neighborhoods (in the last few generations most and the range that part). When these children become drivers, they are unable to navigate without GPS devices, but they still need to learn map reading skills. They are convinced that their apps can do all the work and that an old fashioned paper map is outdated technology, but their spatial thinking skills become atrophied. Spatial skills are crucial for understanding the world as a global citizen, to understand your local environs and for making scientific discoveries. So teach a kid how to read a map...the sooner the better.
Air conditioners have made architects lazy, and we've forgotten how to design houses that might work without it.
A hundred years ago, a house in Florida looked different than a house in New England. The northern house might be boxy, have relatively small windows, almost always two stories with low ceilings, and a big fireplace in the middle.
In Florida, the house might have high ceilings, tall double-hung windows, and deep porches. Trees would be planted around the house to block the sun.
Today, houses pretty much look the same wherever you go in North America, and one thing made this possible: central air conditioning. Now, the United States uses more energy for air conditioning than 1 billion people in Africa use for everything.
The recent demographic shift to the "Sun Belt" in the U.S. coincides with the mass availability of air conditioning (among other factors). Our homes are less regionally distinct and in terms of the human/environmental interactions, our answer is greater modifications as opposed to regional adaptations...this article is a call for more architectural improvements instead of more energy consumption to beat the heat. In Europe however, they see the United States as "over air-conditioned" in the summer.
In an edited extract from his new book, Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, argues that the idea of the population bomb is a fallacy and that the human population is checking its rise without the need for a grand plan
This essay is written by a critic of Thomas Malthus and could serve as a bridge to discuss issues in a population unit and an urban unit. In a nutshell, Dorling feels that that Malthusian-like fears and assumptions about the proliferation of slums are unfounded; this is a good reading that can spark some conversation in a college seminar.
The Chinese government claims that this project is ecological in nature and that pastoralism will degrade the grasslands; however, this is stamping out cultural groups that have been resistant to assimilation.
"Explore ten 'big ideas' that encapsulate the technological and social trends that have pushed geographic information systems (GIS) onto the Internet in a significant way. See how to apply these ideas to your own world. Open your eyes to what is now possible with Web GIS, and put the technology and deep data resources in your hands via the Quickstarts and Learn ArcGIS lessons that are included in each chapter."
I haven't fully previewed this online textbook yet but I am VERY optimistic about this one from the ESRI library. You can also download the textbook as a PDF here. There are several other online textbooks that would interest geography teachers
"Here’s a winning question for your next trivia night: Where is the world’s largest island-in-a-lake-on-an-island-in-a-lake-on-an-island? According to stories published here and here, the distinction currently goes to a nameless isle within Victoria Island in Canada’s Nunavut Territory.
On August 21, 2014, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this natural-color view of the “sub-sub-sub-island.” The top image shows a close-up view of the unnamed island, while the bottom image shows a wider view of Victoria Island’s lake-littered landscape (download large image here)."
"It’s a good time to reflect on what truly inspires us. What gives us, as individuals, our own sense of independence? And how can we apply that sense of joyful independence to help us engage more actively and participate more readily in the world—to make it a better place, even? Cultivating a better geographical and cultural appreciation for the world, in the next generation as well as in our own, is a pretty good place to start."
If you don't want to hear potty talk, this is not the set of maps on linguistic geography for you...I'm just sayin', you've been forewarned. An isogloss is a line that separates regions that use different words for the same object/concept. Thing of isoglosses as linguistic contour lines...are there any swearing isoglosses? Swearing regions?
A big portion of China's economic boom the last few decades has been linked to the transformation of what used to be a predominantly agrarian civilization to an economic engine fueled by rapid urbanization. This 2011 video from the Economist is still highly relevant today.
I’ve recently wrote about the 99 Percent Invisible podcast and while it is not explicitly (or even always) geographic, it is loaded with excellent materials about design and the details of the world around us that often go unnoticed, but deserve greater scrutiny.
How did design lead to the the rise and fall of the mall? (see the oddly fascinating DeadMalls.com for photo galleries in your local area). How did the expansion of billiards end the horrors of the ivory trade and lead to the age of plastics? These are some of the questions that the podcast explores.
A hundred years ago, a Polish physician created a language that anyone could learn easily. The hope was to bring the world closer together. Today Esperanto speakers say it's helpful during travel.
Saudi Arabia produces much of its electricity by burning oil, a practice that most countries abandoned long ago, reasoning that they could use coal and natural gas instead and save oil for transportation, an application for which there is no mainstream alternative. Most of Saudi Arabia’s power plants are colossally inefficient, as are its air conditioners, which consumed 70 percent of the kingdom’s electricity in 2013. Although the kingdom has just 30 million people, it is the world’s sixth-largest consumer of oil.Now, Saudi rulers say, things must change. Their motivation isn’t concern about global warming; the last thing they want is an end to the fossil-fuel era. Quite the contrary: they see investing in solar energy as a way to remain a global oil power. The Saudis burn about a quarter of the oil they produce—and their domestic consumption has been rising at an alarming 7 percent a year, nearly three times the rate of population growth.
"A nice flood rolled down Johnson Canyon (southern Utah) on July 6th, 2015."