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?
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.
|Suggested by Benjamin McGowan|
Almost 35,000 people have reached the shores of Italy and Malta in 2013 and two-thirds have filed for asylum.
Which countries consume the most electricity per person? You might guess the United States would top the World Bank’s list, but the Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden are actually at or near the top. Icelanders consume an average of 52,374 kilowatt hours per person per year, Norwegians 23,174 kilowatt hours, Finns 15,738 kilowatt hours, and Swedes 14,030 kilowatt hours. Americans are not far behind, with an average consumption of 13,246 kilowatt hours per person. The Japanese consume 7,848 kilowatt hours.
This image is part of a global composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite in 2012. The nighttime view of Earth was made possible by the “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. VIIRS detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, wildfires, and gas flares. The city lights of several major Nordic cities are visible in the imagery, including Stockholm, Sweden (population 905,184); Oslo, Norway (634,463); Helsinki, Finland (614,074), and Reykjavik, Iceland (121,490).
"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.
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?
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.
"Nothing unites different nations quite like mutual enemies. But the 'Auld Alliance' between Scotland and France - both historic rivals of England - doesn't mean that the French government favours Scottish independence. Far from it."
Historically, France has supported greater autonomy or independence as a way to limit English political power and influence. However in the era of the E.U. and greater regional integration, modern geopolitics makes this old alliance untenable as some in Scotland are seeking independence from the United Kingdom.
"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.
Brought to Europe from the New World by Spanish explorers, the lowly potato gave rise to modern industrial agriculture
The Colombian Exchange is a term that describes the most dramatic biologic transfer in history. European explorers brought animals and agricultural items from the Old World to the New and subsequently brought back items from the New World back to the Old. This exchange profoundly reshaped many societies as agricultural diffusion of the potato lead to the changes across northern Europe.
|Suggested by Kara Charboneau|
VENICE, Italy – Venice, renowned for incomparable Gothic architecture and placid canals plied by gondolas that make it one of the most recognizable cities in the world, may have had enough of Italy.
Some of the wealthiest regions of the poorest countries of the European Union are seeking for greater regional autonomy and even independence. As one resident said, "I have always felt as a Venetian first, and Italian second." The scale at which people construct their primary identities and political loyalties play a key role to the political geographic concept of devolution, where power shifts from a central authority to more local control. So independence moves are to start negotiating. As another Venetian said, "I think we'll end up with a little more autonomy and a little more pride in our city" and not actual independence.
"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?
"The United Kingdom's relationship with the EU - or, in political parlance, 'Europe' - has long been one of the most divisive, emotive issues in British politics."
The beginnings of the European Union are rooted in the aftermath of WW II, with Europe exhausted from war many politicians wanted to unite European countries in a way that would make war with each other impossible. The United Kingdom, though has had a complicated with the EU, sometimes (and for certain issues) wanting greater European integration to strengthen their regional position and at other times have resisted regional collaboration for fear of losing national autonomy. This is very over-generalized, but this BBC article gives a nice historical perspective on the rocky relationship of between the two.
LONDON – Escalating the fight against secession, the British government warned Thursday that Scotland would lose the right to continue using the pound as its currency if voters there say yes to a historic referendum on independence this fall.
Osborne’s stark warning, delivered in a speech in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, represented a new willingness by unionists to take a hard line in persuading Scottish voters to shun independence in a September plebiscite. A thumbs-up would end Scotland’s 307-year-old marriage to England and Wales and cause the biggest political shakeup in the British Isles since Ireland split from the British crown nearly a century ago.
Sturgeon predicted that “what the Treasury says now in the heat of the campaign would be very different to what they say after a democratic vote for independence, when common sense would trump the campaign rhetoric.”
This is an intriguing strategic move by the UK as Scotland considers independence. Some have argued that this move will backfire and push more Scottish voters into the "yes" camp. In related news, the BBC reports that EU officials say that an independent Scotland would have a hard time joining the European Union.
Understanding mistakes of the past can help guide U.S. transportation policy in the future.
In 2010, Americans drove for 85 percent of their daily trips, compared to car trip shares of 50 to 65 percent in Europe. Longer trip distances only partially explain the difference. Roughly 30 percent of daily trips are shorter than a mile on either side of the Atlantic. But of those under one-mile trips, Americans drove almost 70 percent of the time, while Europeans made 70 percent of their short trips by bicycle, foot, or public transportation. The statistics don't reveal the sources of this disparity, but there are nine main reasons American metro areas have ended up so much more car-dependent than cities in Western Europe.
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.
More than 1 million flag-draped and face-painted Catalans held hands and formed a 250-mile human chain across the northeastern Spanish region Wednesday in a demonstration of their desires for independence.
September 11th means different things is different places. While many Americans were remembering the terrorist attacks of 2001, it was Catalonian National Day. In addition to the festivities, they organized a massive public demonstration to support independence and to garner international attention. They created a 'human border' that sretched across the region to apply pressure on the Spanish government to allow a vote that would let Catalonia break away and form their own country. While this energy and enthusiasm swept Barcelona, the Spanish government stopped the protest from spreading into neighboring Valencia (many Valencians speak Catalan).
Questions to Ponder: How do events such as this in public places impact the political process? Is it significant that the link about the Spanish government stopping Valencia comes from a Scottish newspaper? Why? How can social media and technology (such as the hastags
#CatalanWay #ViaCatalana) impact social movements?
"Prime Minister David Cameron is 'seriously concerned' about the escalation of tensions on the border between Spain and the British territory of Gibraltar."
This video and article briefly show the reasons behind the current tension between Spain, NATO allies and fellow EU members. The deeper, underlying issues though are all fundamentally rooted in the complex local political geography. As an exclave of the UK on a peninsula connected to the Spanish mainland that controls access to the Mediterranean Sea, there is naturally going to be friction over this unusual political configuration. Spain, in what the chief Minister of Gibraltar calls "sabre-rattling," is flexing its muscles and considering using their border and airspace as a political leverage. Spain is upset that Gibraltar has created an artificial reef in waters that their fishermen use. Spanish fisherman have recently condemned the escalating political rhetoic.
Questions to Ponder: Why are both parties politically and culturally invested in this piece of territory? What challenges are there for a small exclave when neighbors aren't friendly? How does Spanish and British suprantional connections impact this issue?
"Europe and Asia, while often considered two separate continents, both lie on the same landmass or tectonic plate, the Eurasian supercontinent. The historic and geographic story of the Eurasian boundary is intriguing."
While most continental borders follow some physical geographic definition, the border between Europe and Asia is purely cultural and a remant of classical regional differentiation. Some argue that Europe isn't a separate continent from Asia, and while they are not wrong, the concept of Europe is deep and pervasive in how many of us think about the world. You can find more Geography in the News articles on Maps101.com.
Stratfor Europe Analyst Adriano Bosoni discusses the political implications of the increasing number of migrants from the European Union's periphery to its c...
The economic crisis has contributed to rising anti-immigration sentiment and policies in Europe. Immigrants from Eastern Europe continue to enter the core, but now more from the struggling southern periphery of Europe are also on the move.
One of the free response questions in the 2012 AP Human Geography test focused on increasing Muslim population in many European countries. This video some background context for that particular Free Response Question (as would this article from Al Jazeera titled Europe's failure to integrate Muslims).
|Suggested by Deanna Metz|
"Germany and France spent decades at each others' throats. Now, bound by a common currency, they're working together to save the euro zone. It's a story that's begging for a musical number — which, as it happens, we have right here."
Europe’s divisions are indeed grave. But counting the ex-communist countries as a single category is outdated and damaging
What places belong in a region together? What are the boundaries of that region? How has this region changed over time? Regional classification is inherently an exercise that relies on our geographic knowledge and requires some spatial thinking. Each semester I have students divide the United States into the regions that explain how they conceptualize the different parts of the country. This 2 minute video is a great example that argues that the regional category of Eastern Europe is less meaningful today mainly because of the changing political and economic geography that is blurring the regional borders of Europe.
|Suggested by Allison Anthony|
"Mr Füzes had voiced support for the Székler people, a group of ethnic Hungarians who live in Transylvania, after two Romanian counties banned the display of the Székler flag (pictured above with men in hussar uniform) on public buildings. Zsolt Nemeth, Hungary’s state secretary for foreign affairs, described the ban as an act of “symbolic aggression” and called for local councils in Hungary to show solidarity by flying the Székler flag from town halls. The Hungarian government then raised the Székler flag above Parliament, further enraging Bucharest..."
Flags are important symbols of cultural identity and displaying them can be a strong political statement. For Hungarians, displaying symbols of a "Greater Hungary" shows some desire for irredentism--to redeem Hungarians of the 'wrong' side of the border. For those Hungarians in Romania this is an act of defiance that show that they want greater autonomy.
For sports fans, ESPN did a "30 for 30" documentary on the early 90's Yugoslavian basketball team that was a major talent (1990 World Champions) but was torn apart as devolutionary forces fractured the countries and the once-teammates were estranged after what some perceived as disrespectful acts to the Croatian national flag. Vlade Divac (a Serbian) was pitted against some of his best friends from Croatia as the civil war was playing itself out on the court as well. This is a great way to get a sports fan to learn about ethnic conflict and about the importance of cultural symbols ("Once Brothers"--$1.99, free for Amazon Prime users).
Of all the changes announced by the 2011 census, one of the most startling is the rapid change in the ethnic composition of London's population.
The fact the immigrants moving to the UK have flocked to London is not surprising (View a map of the census data). Immigration isn't the only component to this situation. White Britons are also leaving London in large number, prompting some to refer to this as "White Flight." Today, white Britons are no longer the majority population within London (but still the largest ethnic group). Some feel that this story has gone underreported and deserves more analysis. What elements of human geography should an observer of this situation use in their analysis?