Members of the Flag Institute have created designs for what the Union Flag could look like in the event of independence
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
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.
|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.
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.
Residents of rural areas feel shut out of their states' politics, so why not create their own?
One county commission discribed these political movements thus: "It's grounded in the legitimate feeling that if you're marginalized by geography, it's easy to feel neglected by the central government." The political division between urban and rural citizens can lead to pockets of the population feeling as though the state government ignores your and the surrounding communities. It took the Civil War to separate West Virginia from Virginia, and while many may want to be in a different state, it's not happening simply because there is grassroots support for greater local autonomy. Hypothetically, let's say that many new states are generated; what consequences might come of this? Would it leading to further gerrymandering?
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?
|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).
The independence-minded region of Catalonia asks the Spanish central government for an extra 9bn euros (£7.7bn) in bailout money.
|Suggested by C. Kevin Turner|
The riots linked to flag protests in Northern Ireland are causing "significant damage" to the economy, the secretary of state warns.
Flags are tangible symbols of communal identity and political power. If the meaning behind these identities are unresolved, the symbols of these identities in public spaces becomes all the more there is contentious. Currently, the Union Jack is a lightning rod for controversy in Northern Ireland and the riots stemming from this are harming the local economy.
As Kurds Fight for Freedom in Syria, Fears Rise in Turkey of Following Suit
Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds have been caught in other people's plans for what the states of the Middle East should look like and are the largest 'stateless nation' in the world. Divided between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, the Kurds have not been able to politically mobilize support for Kurdistan as they have been violently oppressed in these countries. The Kurds in Iraq have been able to gain political autonomy with the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, and the Syrian Kurds are hoping to do the same if and when the Assad regime crumbles at the end of the civil war. This make Turkey concerned that the Kurds in the southeastern part of Turkey will make renewed efforts to push for sovereignty.
UPDATE: This PBS feature explains the historic timeline of the important political events for the Kurds in Iraq.This article from the Economist focuses on the key reason that outside forces won't leave the Kurds alone: oil.
It is Italy's richest province, and has been part of the country for almost 100 years - but some in South Tyrol just do not feel fully Italian.
While the idea of everyone of the same nationality belonging to the same country might be considered an ideal situation, the world's ethnic geography is too jumbled to create perfect nation-states. South Tyrol is a part of Italy that is one of those places with mixed a ethnic, linguistic and political heritage. By different criteria, many of the residents could be considered German, Austrian or Italian or a combination of the them. Since the Euro Zone fiscal crisis, the push for political autonomy in South Tyrol has intensified, in part because this region has avoided the crisis and is economically fairing better than the rest of Italy.
Questions to Ponder: How do political borders reveal and conceal "the truth" about places on either side of the line? What elements are a part of a regions heritage? Can regions have multiple, overlapping heritages? How does devolution impact the whole country?
The BBC's John Simpson reports from Hong Kong, where the former colony's increasing independent-mindedness is worrying Beijing.
When the rule of Hong Kong transferred from the UK to China in 1997, the Chinese government was careful to ease the fears of those in Hong Kong that they would not have their political and economic systems turned upside down. "One country, two systems" was the famous slogan to sum up the policy that some felt would simply delay the inevitable. Today, many of the youth in Hong Kong are demonstrating against what they feel are pressures to do away with their unique status and are bringing back the old colonial flag. This is not asking for a return to British rule, but a symbolic reference to their distinct history from the rest of mainland China. Today only 16.6% of Hong Kong residents identify themselves as Chinese, which is the lowest it's ever been since 1997.
Millions of American citizens on the island have spoken. Now, Washington must act.
After the Nov. 6th referendum, the question of Puerto Rico's political status vis-a-vis the United States for the future is actually murkier than it was before. The Puerto Rican voters have spoken, but the meanings of the plebiscite results are still being debated.
|Suggested by SG|
"As Catalonia goes to the polls, Sid Lowe looks at one of the region's great cultural sporting icons and its role in Catalan identity..."
Sports and cultural identity of a region are often intertwined. As Catalonia is poised to break from Spain, this video shows how the local teams (especially FC Barcelona) are at the center of political identity and part of the very fabric of the political movement that is pushing for independence. For more, see this recent Geography in the News article.
"Why would they want to pull down these walls?” asks William Boyd mildly as he offers me a cup of tea in his home at Cluan Place, a predominantly Loyalist area of east Belfast.
These walls, orginally installed in the late 60s to protect Belfast residents during "the Troubles." Today, some argue that these walls are now barriers to the peace process as they continue defacto segregation. Walls, as barriers to diffusion, stifle communication, cooperation and interaction. Still, these walls are symbols of communal identity and icons in the cultural landscape. For more academic work on this, see Peter Shirlow's Belfast: Segregation, Violence and the City.
Questions to Consider: How would a wall through an already culturally and politically divided city impact both sides of the wall? Today, are the walls beneficial to peace in Northern Ireland?
"Freedom House has been at the forefront in monitoring threats to media independence since 1980. A free press plays a key role in sustaining and monitoring a healthy democracy, as well as in contributing to greater accountability, good government, and economic development. Most importantly, restrictions on media are often an early indicator that governments intend to assault other democratic institutions."
This interactive map shows some intriguing spatial patterns about the freedom of press internationally. What other patterns to you see in matching up with the most free presses in the world (in green)? How does a free (or not free press) influence the cultural and political values of a country?
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Ricans faced a fundamental question on Election Day: Should they change their ties with the United States?
Lost in the election day enthusiasm throught much of the United Statees was coverage about Puerto Rico. A 'non-binding referendum' was on the ballot to reconsider the 114-relationship with the United States as a territory. 54% voted for a change, while 46% favored the status quo. The second question was asking how to change that relationship: 61% voted for statehood, 33% endorsed a sovereign free association, and 5% for independence. President Obama has gone on record stating that he'll support the will of a clear majority. We'll see what this means, but we are a lot closer to 51 states than we've ever been before. For more information, see Matt Rosenberg's assessment.
Brown University's Choices Program has many excellent resources for social studies teachers including "Teaching with the News." Many teachers are seeing the importance of Syria, but might lack the regional expertise to put it in context or to the time to link it with the curriculum. If that is the case (and even if it is not), this is the perfect place to find lesson plans on the ongoing Syrian conflict.
What is more likely to happen first: Greece will leave the eurozone, or Scotland will leave the UK?
Although there is currently only about 30% of Scotland that would support independence, this is something that will be gaining importance. The United Kingdom is a complex political entity, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland connected with England. The "divorce referendum" will be help on October 2014 to see if Scotland wishes to dissolve this union and many of the political and economic events throughout Europe will be seen through this prism, especially the Euro Zone crisis in southern European countries (e.g.-Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal). The possibility that this might happen are small, but as the article stated, "not zero."
Spain's dismal economy has residents of the country's richest region, Catalonia, wondering if they'd be better off going it alone. With their own language and distinct culture, Catalans have long pushed for independence from Spain.
This podcast merges several geographic strands together as economic turmoil in the southern portion of the Euro Zone has fanned the flames of cultural resentment and put discussions for Catalonian independence on the agenda for local politicians.
Questions to ponder: Will this internal devolution cause greater disintegration in the European Union or Spain? Would an independent Catalan be a wise move for the Catalonians? How would their independence impact Spain?
An interactive series of maps show possible new additions to the world’s list of independent nations.
This is great way to show examples of devolution and political instability. Included are 11 potential scenarios where further fragmentation/disintegration might occur or even greater regional integration that would redraw the map. These case studies include: Somalia, Korea, Azerbaijan, Belgium and the Arabian Gulf Union.
Competing territorial claims have led to maritime disputes off the coast of Asia. See a map of the islands at issue.
This is an nice interactive map that allows the reader to explore current geopolitical conflicts that are about controlling islands. This is an good source to use when introducing Exclusive Economic Zones, which is often the key strategic importance of small, lightly populated islands.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the knottiest border problem of all.
The historical events of 1948 and 1967 loom large in the formation of the borders in the region of Israel/Palestine. This is the most contentious border in the world with competing political/cultural factions with distinct territorial visions for the place. To complicate matters, other countries (most notably the United States and European countries siding with Israel and Arab states with other Muslim-majority countries supporting Palestine) are involved in the region, making this the most contentious border in the world. As Frank Jacobs said, “considering how deep those divisions are, it’s remarkable how relatively new the current set of borders is.” This is an intriguing analysis of an incredibly important set of borders that have larger geographic repercussions despite the short distances and relatively small populations involved.