Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
"Stratfor Eurasia Analyst Eugene Chausovsky examines the Caspian Sea's large energy reserves and its conflicting maritime boundaries."
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world's largest lake went from having just two countries on its shores to five. Dividing the maritime borders has been especially difficult since the Caspian Sea has rich energy reserves and this lake will remain a place of strategic interest for many regional powers. This video has been added to my ESRI StoryMap that spatially organizes place-based videos for the geography classroom.
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).
"It has taken between 50-300 million years to form, and yet we have managed to burn roughly half of all global oil reserves in merely 125 years or so."
Many who research natural resources and their production believe in peak oil. Peak oil is defined as the maximum rate of the production of oil in any area under consideration, recognizing that it is a finite natural resource, subject to depletion. In essence, oil will run out some day because it is a non-renewable resources; so oil production will peak, and then permanently decline. Some are skeptical of these claims and feel that the oil industry is in a much stronger position than peak oil proponents suggest.
"United Nations, June 2008 - The bio-fuel, ethanol, is generating a revolution in renewable energy that could help reduce the world's thirst for oil. In Brazil, the production of ethanol from sugarcane is booming, but what is not clear is the impact it is having on the industry's sugarcane cutters." Transcript of video available here.
Although ethanol is working well for Brazil, there is a growing literature supporting the idea that wide-scale ethanol production is not sustainable or environmentally beneficial. This is a great example to demonstrate that economic and environmental policies are locally dependent on geographic factors and are not universally transferable. Click here for a simple explanation of the differences in the economic and environmental differences in the production of sugar and corn-based ethanol.
"A new study adds to growing evidence that the risk of fracking contaminating drinking water wells is to due to problems with the lining of the gas wells, not the high-pressure fracturing of deep shale to release natural gas. In a new study, scientists examined isotopes of helium and two other noble gases to identify the source of methane found in drinking water wells in the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale of Texas, areas where a lot of fracking has taken place. The pattern of isotopes suggested that the stray gas had leaked out of the well casing near the surface, rather than escaping from the fracked deep shale, according to a story in The Dallas Morning News. The findings will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
"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.
"Since 2006, when the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline prompted a surge in crude oil exports -- up to a million barrels a day travel through neighboring Georgia and on to Turkey and the West -- there’s been no shortage of cash in Baku. Now, the city is eager for the prestige that goes with it."
Baku is described in this article as an East-West, socialist-capitalist, Muslim-secular, ancient-modern mishmash due to the numerous cultural and political interactions that it has had. This makes for a fascinating cultural landscape emerging in a city that has been dubbed "the Dubai of the Caucasus" but still has a rich Silk Road history. Caspian Sea oil lies at the heart of Azerbaijan's geopolitical importance and cultural aspirations.
I'm sure a few of you have already seen this viral video and it should be intriguing to geographers for a variety of reasons (and not just because we love hexagons). Solar Roadways is a project in its infancy, but they have broad ambitions that would be revolutionary. Roads that would produce energy? The idea would have staggering results, but there are some practical reasons why this hasn't already been implemented. A geographic perspective is critical as we plan for the future.
Questions to Ponder: How would the full implementation of this idea restructure the cultural landscape, urban environments and our cultural ecology? What would some advantages be? This video is a promotional video that emphasizes the positive; what drawbacks, limitations and obstacles are there to solar roadways in the future?
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.
"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.
Gas and oil prices have risen amid fears the Ukraine crisis could have a damaging effect on one of Europe's main energy supply routes. But analysts say high European gas stocks will limit the turbulence.
Russia is Europe's biggest supplier of natural gas, but Ukraine is the key to their distribution network. Here is a great analysis of the energy implications.
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
Twenty kilometers (12 miles) from England’s Kent and Essex coasts, the world’s largest offshore wind farm has started harvesting the breezes over the sea. Located in the Thames Estuary, where the River Thames meets the North Sea, the London Array has a maximum generating power of 630 megawatts (MW), enough to supply as many as 500,000 homes.
The wind farm became fully operational on April 8, 2013. Twenty days later, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of the area. The second image is a closeup of the area marked by the white box in the top image. White points in the second image are the wind turbines; a few boat wakes are also visible. The sea is discolored by light tan sediment—spring runoff washed out by the Thames.
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
Strategically, Ukraine matters much more to Russia than it doesn't the EU, which is why Russia is flexing there muscles. Russia's major market for their natural gas are linked through these key pipelines.
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.
Where in the United States is fracking unlocking natural gas from shale rock?
New to the APHG course content is term political ecology. Briefly, the Political Ecology Society defines it as the study of the political and economic principles controlling the relations of human beings to one another and to the environment. Anytime people are managing the environment in a way that is politically contentious (such as fracking in the USA), that topic can be analyzed using political ecology.
"Hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking', is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside."
This website, Dangers of Fracking, is clearly not produced by the oil industry. What I enjoy about this resource is that as you scroll down, it adds more context to the environmental issues and geographic factors. This type of website promotes holistic thinking and an interdisciplinary approach to complex problems. Why am I leery of the fracking companies and what they say? This is why.
|Suggested by Michael Miller|
Want to know where the poor live? Look at where the light isn’t.
"Satellite photos of Earth’s artificial lights at night form a luminescent landscape. But researcher Chris Elvidge of NOAA and colleagues from the University of Colorado and the University of Denver realized that they could also illuminate something much darker: the magnitude of human poverty. By comparing the amount of light in a particular area and its known population, they realized that they could infer the percentage of people who are able to afford electricity and the level of government spending on infrastructure development. This allowed them to extrapolate levels of human development—a measure of well-being that includes such factors as income, life expectancy and literacy."
A TV program about firewood, mostly showing a fireplace in use, has aroused passions in Norway.
In so many countries this would be one of the worst rated TV shows of all time, and yet in Norway, where a rustic, outdoorsman connection to the forest is ingrained in the culture, it's a hit and one that sparks debates and discussion. Isn't it good, Norwegian Wood?
CFR experts examine the science and foreign policy surrounding climate change, energy, and nuclear security.
Most everyone knows about the importance of Middle Eastern oil to the global economy and how that impacts geopolitics. What isn't well-known is that the Middle East's own demand for oil has been increasing as their wealth and standard of living has been rising. This chart does not show the amount of oil consumption, but the "energy intensity." This is the amount of energy (often oil) used to produce a unit of GDP for a country's economy.
Questions to Ponder: How will this change oil-producing countries economic development in the future? How does this make us re-assess these economies? Does this impact how we think about climate change issues?
|Suggested by Aaron Johnsson|
Energy conservation starts at home....
This interesting National Geographic article emphasizes how consumption patterns in the home are connected to some of the serious global issues that we currently face. This article becomes an exploration into how to go about creating a more environmentally sustainable home.
In a world where photoshop has made the unreal seem ordinary, these unearthly seemingly landscapes might seem likely fakes. The world can be that extraordinary. Pictured above is the "Door to Hell" in Turkmenistan. Rich with natural gas, Soviets were drilling in 1971 when the drilling rig collapsed and left a huge (230 feet wide) hole. In an attempt to stop gas leaks they hoped a fire would burn off any discharge, but it is still burning today. Enjoy this gallery of 25 'unnatural' images.
|Suggested by Tara Cohen|
After making an infographic depicting how much space would be needed to house the entire world’s population based on the densities of various global cities, Tim De Chant of Per Square Mile got to thinking about the land resources it takes to support those same cities.