"The Nicaraguan government and the company behind plans to build a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean have settled on a route."
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
"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).
China has long depended on the U.S. breadbasket, importing up to $26 billion in U.S. agricultural products yearly. But increasingly, Chinese investors aren’t just buying from farms abroad. They’re buying the farms.
Globalization is often described as a homogenizing force, but is also pairs together odd bed fellows. A small Utah town near the Colorado border, Jensen is now home to the largest Chinese-owned hay farm in the United States. Utah's climate is right for growing alfalfa, and China's growing cattle industry make this a natural global partnership. Large container ships come to the United States from China, and return fairly empty, making the transportation price relatively affordable. While this might make economic sense on a global scale, local water concerns in the west show that this isn't without it's problems. Water resources are scarce and many see this as a depletion of local water exported to China. Some states see this as a threat and are considering banning foreign ownership of farmland. This article shows the merging of various geographic themes: the global and local, the industrial and the agricultural, the human and the physical.
In China's Second Continent, Howard French explores the Chinese presence in 15 African countries. The relationship goes beyond economics: more than a million Chinese citizens have migrated to Africa.
He says there's a debate about the long-term consequences of China's push into the African continent: Will it create development and prosperity, or will it lead to exploitation reminiscent of 19th-century European colonialism?
This is an excellent podcast with many geographic strands running through it.
"When the agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada went into effect in 1994, it removed nearly all trade barriers between the countries. Among the industries affected was agriculture, forcing small Mexican farmers into direct competition with big American agribusiness. Cheap American corn – heavily subsidized, mechanized and genetically modified – soon flooded the Mexican market to the detriment of local farmers. As U.S. farmers exported their subsidized corn to Mexico, local producer prices plummeted and small farmers could no longer earn enough to live on."
International trade agreements are usually discussed at the national level. "NAFTA benefits Mexico" is a commonly heard saying because trade with the United States and Canada strengthens the manufacturing sector in Mexico. Even if there is an overall benefit to a country, there are always winners and losers for different regions, economic sectors and many other demographic groups. Farmers in southern Mexico were certainly a sector that struggled mightily under NAFTA.
In Bangladesh men desperate for work perform one of the world’s most dangerous jobs.
What happens to massive cargo vessels after they are outdated? There are tons of scrap metal, but they aren't
designed to be taken apart. The ship-breakers of South Asia (Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are 3 of the 4 global leaders in recycling ships) risk much to mine this resource. This is an economic function that is a part of a globalized economy, but one than was never intended. There are major health risks to the workers and pollutants to the local community that are endemic in this industry that manages to survive on the scraps of the global economy.
"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.
"McDowell County, situated in the coalfields of West Virginia, has experienced a great boom-and-bust since 1950. But despite the economic decline and population loss, many still call it home and feel a great sense of purpose among the mountains. Residents speak about their connection to this place and the meaning of 'home.' Hear more stories at hollowdocumentary.com "
This video perfectly exemplifies some key geographic ideas; sense of place, regional economic decline, migration and resource extraction. This video would be great to shows students and then get them to analyze the geographic context that creates a place like McDowell County, West Virginia. This will be a great addition to my Place-Based Geography Videos StoryMap.
"On the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, little has changed in the global sweatshop economy. Workers are again trapped and burned to death behind locked exit gates."
One of the first industries to be impacted by what is today called globalization was the textile industry and the successive waves of globalization continue to alter the geography of the textile industry. This video shows how historical problems in the U.S. textile industry are seen today in countries such as Bangladesh, as does this interactive feature. The following paragraph is from a Geography News Network podcast / article that Julie Dixon and I co-authored for Maps101 about the Bangladeshi garment industry:
Many developing countries with the majority of their laborers working in agriculture welcome outsourced labor from the West. This is seen as a way to nurture industrialization, even if it is on the terms of trans-national corporations. Countless workers seek employment in textile factories simply because low pay is still an entry into the cash economy and it is one of the few jobs rural migrants can find when they first enter the big city. In such locations, Western labor, construction, and environmental standards are not priorities because the population’s basic needs haven’t been met, so the responsibility falls to the global companies—but their aim is to cut costs as much as possible to remain competitive. From its emergence in textiles back in the late 1970’s, Bangladesh in 2013 made $19 billion in the export-oriented, ready-made garment industry, employing 4 million workers, most of whom are women.
In recent decades the state allowed logging — with restrictions — on the plateau above the Snohomish County hillside that collapsed in last weekend’s deadly mudslide.
There are several reasons for mudslides--some are purely a result of physical geography and others are related to land use patterns. This last week's mudslide in Washington state was a combination of the two and although this impacts one place (see on map), it is a good teaching moment to discuss the environmental impacts of land use patterns and resource extraction projects. As seen in this interactive, the river was cutting at the base of the hill, while loggers were clear-cutting at the top of the mountain. Trees help prevent erosion as the roots hold the soil in place--a critical piece to the puzzle in a very rainy climate. With $1 million worth of timber on the slope, logging companies persisted despite objections from the Department of Natural Resources and some restrictions (but in hindsight, those restrictions clearly were not enough).
Questions to Consider: Other than economic worth, what other ways are there to value and evaluate the environment? How could this landscape have been protected and managed better or was this mudslide inevitable?
Who has the oil? http://pic.twitter.com/7Njc7OD8rw
"Ben Schmidt, assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, has visualized the routes of 19th Century ships using publicly available data set from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). The resulting image is a hauntingly beautiful image that outlines the continents and highlights the trade winds. It shows major ports, and even makes a strong visual case for the need for the Panama and Suez Canals."
"By the end of this year, digging could begin on a waterway that would stretch roughly 180 miles across Nicaragua to unite the Atlantic and Pacific oceans."
Today, the largest of the massive cargo ships are simply too big to get through the Panama Canal and have to travel down around the tip of South America; China is strategically working on strengthening their geopolitical position in the South China Sea and all international waters. This is one reason why a Chinese firms are planning to construct a canal to rival Panama's. This article highlights the reasons for concern (Maps 101 readers can read more about the geographic implications of Nicaragua's plans in this article co-authored by myself and Julie Dixon or you can sign up for a free trial subscription to see what else Maps 101 has to offer).
What is blue, a quarter of a mile long, and taller than London's Olympic stadium? The answer - this year's new class of container ship, the Triple E. When it goes into service this June, it will be the largest vessel ploughing the sea. Each will contain as much steel as eight Eiffel Towers and have a capacity equivalent to 18,000 20-foot containers (TEU).
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 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.
|Suggested by Sylvain Rotillon|
"It can be difficult to conceive of the long process that's led the world to having its nine hottest years on record all after 2000. That's why it's nice that NASA has generated this nifty animation, which shows temperature abnormalities for every month of the past 13 decades. Watch reddish warm zones spread over the globe as time rolls past, like a virulent fever covering the body of a sick host."
|Suggested by Kara Charboneau|
"A 50-year-old export industry that provides millions of jobs has to reinvent itself quickly to stay competitive."
A maquiladora is a term that often used to describe a factory in Northern Mexico that enjoys special tax breaks for eport-driven production. Northern Mexico is an ideal location for this type of industry because 1) access to American markets is high and 2) labor costs are relatively low. The Mexican Maquiladoras can no longer compete in a ‘race to the bottom’ for the lowest skill jobs, but they can produce higher-end goods and compete with China to supply more innovative consumer goods. Labor costs in China are on the rise, making Mexico able to compete more effectively with them on the open market. The total value of Mexican maquiladoras exports has grown by more than 50% in the last 5 years; more foreign corporations are investing money into Mexico. Some of the more innovative and aggressive maquiladoras are attempting to become more involved in the research and development end of production; essentially they want to start competing with European and American companies on the lucrative high-end of the commodity chain instead of fighting for the scraps at the bottom.
The unsung hero of the global economy: the shipping container.
NPR's Planet Money has produced an 8-part series following the commodity chain of the T-Shirt. This series explores cotton production, textile mills, sweatshops, outsourcing and in this podcast, the transportation infrastructure that moves goods globally. This podcast touches on the same topic as one of my favorite TED talks, how containerization enabled globalization.
Facing religious discrimination in the Hindu-dominated job market, many are forced to assume fake identities.
This is not that uncommon in India unfortunately. As the articles states, a government commission was appointed in 2005 to investigate the degree to which Muslims were disadvantaged in social, economic and educational terms. The commission concluded the socio-economic condition of most Muslims was as bad as that of the Dalits, who are at the bottom rung of the Hindu-caste hierarchy, also referred to as the "untouchables."
The railroad industry is eager to be the go-to oil shipper, but some worry it's moving too fast.
Many hoping to stop environmental degradation of Canada's Tar Sands and the Dakotas "Kuwait on the Prairie" have opposed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. It's been decades since crude oil has been shipped by rail in the United States but fracking technologies have opened up areas without oil pipelines to become major producers. As demonstrated in this NPR podcast, the railroad industry has seized on this vacuum and since 2009 has been supplying the oil industry the means to get their product to the market. Trains, however, are not the safest way to transport oil, even if they are efficient in the short run.
"A floating vessel that is longer than the Empire State Building is high has taken to the water for the first time. Despite appearances, Prelude cannot strictly be described as a ship as it needs to be towed to its destination rather than travelling under its own power."
This is a floating testament that economies of scale will continue to push the limits. Today, the largest of the massive cargo ships are simply too big to get through the Panama Canal and have to travel down around the tip of South America. This is one reason why Nicaragua is planning to construct a canal to rival Panama's (Maps 101 readers can read more about the geographic implications of Nicaragua's plans in this article co-authored by myself and Julie Dixon or you can sign up for a free trial subscription to see what Maps 101 has to offer).
If you've never been to Detroit and only know what you see in the news, a story about the city's future could seem confusing. Detroit is bankrupt.
Yes, the news about Detroit has been grim, as de-industrialization has negatively impacted this region more than any other in the United States. Still, many consider Detroit's economic problems akin to flesh wounds and organ failure. Extending the analogy, they see Detroit as having 'good bones,' something to build on for a new future. This article represents some visions of that new future.
|Suggested by Mike Busarello's Digital Storybooks|
Bob Simon reports on the decline of America's former industrial capital and the people determined to bring it back
Detroit is the largest city to declare bankruptcy and more importantly the first major American city to essentially fail as a major metropolitan area. Sections of the city are reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic bestselling novel: 80,000 buildings stand empty, 40% of the streetlights don’t work, and it routinely takes police one hour to respond to a 911 call.
"This is a ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships." http://geographyeducation.org/2013/10/14/ship-shipping-ships/
The two industries that are the real backbone of globalization are transportation and communication. What has accelerated the pace of global interconnectedness is the scale of these devices and their ubiquity in facilitating massive global commerce. Economies of scale infuse our transportation and communicating technologies, boosting the diffusion of countless other technologies. China's transportation infrastructure, for example has undergone some amazing physical transformations that have made their economic growth possible. If, however, you only want to laugh at the tongue-twister of ship-shipping ships shipping shipping ships, this is the internet meme for you.
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
Think everyone should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps? Try this one on for size.
This video shows the place matters; a Washington D.C. educator shows how food deserts and other spatial problems of poverty impact his students on a daily basis. We usually look at life expectancy data at the national scale and that obscures some of the real issues of poverty in developed countries. Above is a map that shows the Gini index which measures the degree of economic inequality (the Gini coefficient was recently added to the APHG course content for the Industrialization and Economic Development unit). Here are some maps and data from the World Bank that utilizes the Gini Index as well as an interactive Gapminder graph.
|Suggested by Alex Northrup|
"With Europe sputtering and China costly, the 'stars are aligning' for Mexico as broad changes in the global economy create new dynamics of migration."
I’ve posted earlier about the end of cheap China; the rising cost of doing business in China coupled with the higher transportation costs to get goods to North American and European markets have made manufacturing in Mexican much more competitive on the global market. Many investors are turning to Mexico as an emerging land of opportunity and Mexico is now a destination for migrants. This is still a new pattern: only 1 percent of the country is foreign-born compared to the 13 percent that you would see in the United States. Mexican migration to the United States has stabilized; about as many Mexicans have moved to the U.S. (2005-2010) as those that have moved south of the border.
Where did your T-Shirt come from? Where did the food your parents bought at the grocery store come from? What's the origin of the components in your cell phone? These questions all allude to what geographers call a commodity chain analysis. Analyzing where the consumer goods that we use every day came from can make global issues hit a little closer to home and reinforce concepts such as globalization. The website Follow the Things is a great resource for teaching students about commodity chains and mapping out your own personal geographies.