These maps are crucial for understanding the region's history, its present, and some of the most important stories there today.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
These maps are crucial for understanding the region's history, its present, and some of the most important stories there today.
Titles like the one for this article, 40 maps that explain the Middle East, are becoming increasingly common for internet articles. They helps us feel that we can explain all of the world's complexities and make sense of highly dynamic situations. While we can all agree that maps are great analytical tools that can be very persuasive, sometimes we can pretend that they are the end all, be all for any situation. Maps can also be used to show how something that we thought was simple can be much complex and nuanced than we had previously imagined, as demonstrated by this article, 15 Maps that Don't Explain the Middle East at All. Both perspectives have their place (and both articles are quite insightful). Not connected to the Middle East, but East Asia, this article entitled Lies, Damned Lies and Maps continues the discussion of maps, truth and perception.
While identifying most of the territory that is a part of the United States is fairly straightforward, the interesting political geography is in discussing the places that aren't straightforward, such as American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Palmyra Atoll.
The daily tally of rocket attacks, airstrikes and deaths in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
As the violent nature of the Israeli Palestinian conflict has escalated, this NY Times article monitors the major points of the last few weeks. The possibility of 'Peace in the Middle East' feels so remote, and this Onion article parodies the difficulties of actually achieving this. On a personal note, Chad Emmett taught the "Geography of the Middle East" course while I was at BYU and I've always appreciated his perspective; here are his thoughts on recent events.
There are major hurdles in drawing borders between Israel and a future Palestine.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed peace talks in Washington in July for the first time in three years. While the talks are initially expected to focus on procedural issues, they are already beginning to take on a last-ditch quality. Explore some of the contentious issues that negotiators have faced in drawing borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
This five-part video report from the New York Times is from 2011, but still has some pertinent information, even if the situation has changed in some of the particulars. These videos brings important voices from a variety of perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; together they all show how a complex cultural and political geography leads to many of the difficulties in creating a long-lasting peace. The discipline of geography doesn't simple study the peace process--it is a part of it. The creation of borders and the cartographic process play a critical role in solving territorial issues. Geography can be both the problem and the solution.
"Ethiopia is three years from completing a dam to control its headwaters, and while Egypt points to colonial-era treaties to claim the water and to stop the project, the question remains as to who own the Blue Nile."
This 7-minute Geography News Network podcast (written by Julie and Seth Dixon) touches on some key geographic concepts. 85% of the Nile's water comes from the Blue Nile that originates in the Ethiopian highlands--it is the Blue Nile that Ethiopia has been working on damming since 2011. The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) will be located near the border with Sudan. Egypt is adamantly opposed to Ethiopia's plan and is actively lobbying the international community to stop construction on the dam, fearing their water supply with be threatened.
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
What parts of the world should rethink their maps? Why and how?
Maps are always changing as a new nation gets added and old lines cease to make sense. Territory is claimed and reclaimed. This series of seven articles in the New York Times explores regional examples of how borders impacts places from a variety of scholarly perspectives. Together, these article challenge student to reconsider the world map and to conceptualize conflicts within a spatial context.
China has published a new map of the entire country including the islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) in order to "better show" its territorial claim over the region.
China is attempting to bolster its geopolitical claims through cartographic validation. It as if to say, 'it's on a map, who can question that it is legitimately our territory?' Why is a map such a powerful and convincing document? Why is the Philippines upset by this map? I think that explains this rival Filipino map as the Philippines and China engage in the cartographic version of dueling banjos. (note the uage of the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea to refer to the same body of water) . But this is more than just a map; it's production has the potential to destabilize regional security.
For more resources, the Choices Program has put together supplemental materials to investigate China on the world stage.
As the likelihood of an independent Kurdish state on Turkey’s eastern border grows, Ankara is losing its historical resistance to the idea.
Developments in Iraq have left Turkey facing the prospect of an independent Kurdish state on its eastern border. Such an idea would have been abhorrent for Turkey a mere decade ago for fear that its existence would incite separation among its own restive Kurds. The standard Turkish narrative at the time was that an independent Kurdistan was a Western project aimed at destroying Turkey, an age-old ambition. Even the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was viewed in this context by many. The picture is no longer so black and white.
One of the geography videos embedded in this interactive map: http://bit.ly/KDY6C2
Suspicions between the People's Republic of China and its neighbors bedevil its boundaries to the east, south and west as shown in this videographic from the Economist. This is one of the videos that I've put into my interactive map with over 65 geography videos to share in the classroom
"Unfortunately, most world political maps aren't telling you the whole story. The idea that the earth's land is cleanly divvied up into nation-states - one country for each of the world's peoples - is more an imaginative ideal than a reality. Read on to learn about five ways your map is lying to you about borders, territories, and even the roster of the world's countries."
This is a nice article to get students to look past the officialness of a world map to explore some of the complexities that make contemporary political geography so compelling. In a nutshell, this article discusses 5 major themes:
"About the history of the creation of Africa borders and debates about African borders."
Disregard the rough English grammar; this is a nice article to show some of the historical, ethnic, linguistic and political complexities behind African borders. This would be a great supplemental article to help AP Human Geography students to prepare for Question 2 of the 2014 AP Human Geography Exam that focused on superimposed boundaries within an African context.
Argentina and England are unlikely to meet at the World Cup finals, however their rivalry was reignited at the weekend when the Argentine national side posed behind a banner claiming the Falkland Islands belong to the South American country. Ahead of their warm-up match with Slovenia in Buenos Aires, the team displayed the message in support of the country's claims over the sovereignty of the islands in the South Atlantic, which are a British Overseas Territory.
The World Cup can make things interesting when nationalistic fervor becomes politicized and moves to issues off the pitch. Are they the Falklands or Las Malvinas? It's not just a simple linguistic translation but also a statement of territoriality and geopolitical recognition. Like Gibraltar, the Falklands are British Oversees Territories, ones that Margaret Thatcher was willing to fight Agrentina to maintain; Argentina still claims Las Malvinas as their territory. For a great teaching resource on this issue, see the second slideshow in this series of AP Human Geography talks that was given at NCGE 2013 (sign up to attend NCGE 2014 here).
China has recently increased its pursuit of territorial claims in nearby seas, leading to tense exchanges with neighboring countries. A map of some of the most notable disputes.
Many of the geopolitical conflicts in the East Pacific have their roots in the territorial disputes over islands that at first glance seem as if they wouldn't be worth the trouble. However, since the the UNCLOS agreement gives countries 200 nautical miles off their coasts to be an Exclusive Economic Zone, that greatly enhanced the strategic value of controlling these islands. This interactive map briefly highlights some of the details behind the conflicts with links for further readings.
Questions to Ponder: Why do countries care so much about some minor islands? Why would other countries not want to accept China's territorial assertions? Experts are saying that Chinese-Japanese relations are as bad as they've been since the end of World War II--Why all the commotion?
"America and its allies have refused to accept the region's separatist move to join Russia. A look at the maps available on two Google Maps Web addresses — one ending in .com and another in .ru — shows the disparity. In Russia, Web visitors see a solid line dividing Crimea from neighboring Ukraine. In the U.S., a dotted line separates the two, implying a disputed status within the country."
In this podcast we learn that this isn't the only international border dispute that is displayed differently in Google Maps. Google uses over 30 distinct versions of international borders because their is an underlying geopolitical dimension to cartography. This brings up more questions than it answers--How is the Kashmir displayed in India? Pakistan? The West Bank in Israel or Egypt? If you haven't explored Google Maps in other languages, consider this your invitation to read maps as you would a text and to think about the political implications of making a map.
"Fans may not list which team they favor on the census, but millions of them do make their preferences public on Facebook. Using aggregated data provided by the company, we were able to create an unprecedented look at the geography of baseball fandom, going down not only to the county level, as Facebook did in a nationwide map it released a few weeks ago, but also to ZIP codes."
This isn't just a fun sports map--there are some good geographic concepts that can be used here. When discussing cultural regions, many use the core-domain-sphere model. This map uses the brightest color intensities to represent the core regions and the lightest hues to show waning strength, but to still signify that the area is a part of a team's sphere of influence. Essentially, this map is begging you to explore the borderlands, the liminal "in-between" spaces that aren't as easy to explain. What other phenomena can be used to demonstrate the core-domain-sphere model of cultural regions? What other geographic concepts can you teach using this map?
While construction of Africa's largest hydroelectric dam continues apace, downstream neighbour Egypt is crying foul. Egypt's main concern is water security, as the country faces a future of increasing scarcity. Nearly all of Egypt's water comes from the Nile, and its population of 83 million is growing at nearly two percent annually."
85% of the Nile's water comes from the Blue Nile that originates in the Ethiopian highlands--it is the Blue Nile that Ethiopia has been working on damming since 2011. The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) will be located ocated near the border with Sudan (see in Google Maps). As stated in this BBC article (with a nice 1-minute video clip), Egypt and Sudan currently get the majority of the Nile's waters because of outdated colonial-era treaties that ignored upstream riparian states. This explains why Egypt is adamantly opposed to Ethiopia's plan and is actively lobbying the international community to stop construction on the dam, fearing their water supply with be threatened. Oil might be the most economically valuable liquid resource in North Africa, but water is the most critical for human habitation.
How to ease tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over an uninhabited string of islands.
Experts are saying that Chinese-Japanese relations are as bad as they've been since the end of World War II. Why all the commotion? The tension has been heightened in the last few months when China claimed control over the airspace in the East China Sea. Then the Japanese Prime Minister also gave offering to a shrine to honor World War II soldiers (veterans and heroes to some Japanese, war criminals to most of the international community). China sees this as proof that Japan is becoming more militaristic and willing to exert more power in East Asia. However, at the root of this issue is that both Japan and China claim certain islands and that is increasingly becoming a sticking point in foreign relations. See this book review on "Asia' Cauldron" for more context on the East China Sea.
"As the world's cities undergo explosive growth, inequality is intensifying. Wealthy neighborhoods and impoverished slums grow side by side, the gap between them widening. In this eye-opening talk, architect Teddy Cruz asks us to rethink urban development from the bottom up. Sharing lessons from the slums of Tijuana, Cruz explores the creative intelligence of the city's residents and offers a fresh perspective on what we can learn from places of scarcity."
As a geographer native to the San Diego region with family on both sides of the border, I found this TED talk very compelling personally, but also rich in geographic themes (city planning, diffusion, governance of space, socioeconomic differences in land use patterns, etc.). Relations across the border are economic, cultural and political in nature, and the merger of those varied interests have led to an uneven history of both cooperation and separation. San Diego and Tijuana have more to offer each other than economic markets--the ideas born out of distinct socioeconomic and political contexts can be just what is needed on the other side of the border.
"Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (known as Gerd) is now about 30% complete. Once completed, in three years, it will be Africa's largest hydropower dam, standing some 170m (558ft) tall."
Located near the border with Sudan (see in Google Maps), Ethiopia plans to dam the Blue Nile before the water heads to Sudan and eventually into Egypt. As stated in this BBC article (with a nice 1-minute video clip), Egypt and Sudan currently get the majority of the Nile's waters because of colonial-era treaties and Egypt is opposed to Ethiopia's plan, fearing their water supply with be threatened.
If you haven't discovered CGP Grey yet, his YouTube channel is a veritable fountain of geographic tidbits. His distinctive style helps to contextualizes some of the more odd and complicated parts of the Earth (but some find the rush of facts disorienting). If you want another example, watch Bizarre Borders, part 2 which focuses on the complexities of the US/Canadian border.
Agreement aims to ease tension on their contested border, as the two countries try to break a decades-old stalemate
China and India signed a deal Wednesday aimed at easing tension on their contested border, as the two countries try to break a decades-old stalemate on overlapping claims to remote stretches of the Himalayas. Beijing lays claim to more than 55,000 square miles disputed by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas. In turn, India says China occupies about 24,000 square miles of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west. Under the provisions of the new deal, the two sides will give notice of patrols along the ill-defined border to reduce the chance of confrontation, and will exercise "maximum self-restraint" should the two sides come face to face in areas where the line of control is unclear.
We chart the routes of, and reasons for, the barriers which are once again dividing populations
This is an in-depth, multi-media interactive that explores the political, economic and cultural implications of borders that are heavily fortified or militarized (I found this too late to be included in the "best posts of 2013" list, but this will be the first to include for 2014). Not all of these borders are political; in Brazil it explores the walls that separate different socioeconomic groups and in Northern Ireland they look at walls dividing religious groups. The interactive examines various borders including U.S./Mexico, Morocco, Syria, India/Bangladesh, Brazil, Israel, Greece/Turkey, Northern Ireland, North/South Korea and Spain. The overarching questions are these: why are we building new walls to divide us? What are the impacts of these barriers?
"Landsat has seen a lot in its day. In one spot of desert, where the Rio Grande marks the border between the United States and Mexico, the satellite program captured hundreds of images of fields turning green with the season, new developments expanding from El Paso, Texas, and clouds moving over the neighboring mountains."
Since I have family on both sides of this line, I've always be fascinated by the U.S.-Mexico border as a cultural, political and economic phenomenon. Ciudad Juárez/El Paso are examples of 'twin cities' that form along the border and in many ways are one metropolitan area that has been brought together by the interactions available at the border; at the same time this regions is highly divided by spatial governance policies. Click here to download high resolution images El Paso/Ciudad Juárez.
In an era when the United States has been focused on new forms of conflict, the dangerous contest suddenly erupting in the East China Sea seems almost like a throwback to the Cold War.
China has been very aggressive in how they assert their territorial claims in both the South and East China Sea. China is claiming control over the airspace of the East China Sea and the Senkaku Islands. While the U.S. government rejects this claim, they are encouraging commercial airlines to comply with China's request that all flight is this zone submit their flight plans to the Chinese government. Japan, on the other hand, does not want the Chinese to have this as a symbolic victory that would further legitimize their political control over this space. Why does China care so much about some minor islands? Why would other countries not want to accept China's territorial assertions?