Cahokia settlement's decline began in 1200, around time of major Mississippi River surge.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Cahokia settlement's decline began in 1200, around time of major Mississippi River surge.
The entire population of Heimdal, North Dakota has been evacuated Wednesday morning after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded. A BNSF Railway oil train derailed around 7:30 am, setting at least 10 oil tanker cars on fire. The Bismarck Tribune spoke with emergency responders who "said the the sky was black with smoke near the derailment site."
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.
In Indonesia, efforts are underway to grow palms in a sustainable way. But that's putting a squeeze on small farmers.
Palm oil is in everything, from pizza dough and chocolate to laundry detergent and lipstick. Nongovernmental organizations blame it for contributing to assorted evils, from global warming to human rights abuses. But in the past year, this complex global industry has changed, as consumers put pressure on producers to show that they're not destroying forests, killing rare animals, grabbing land or exploiting workers.
You might not be feeling the effects of climate change, but Kiribati, a small country in the Pacific, is actually drowning because of rising sea levels. Check out how the government there is trying to run a country that might not exist in a few years.
The impacts of climate change might feel far off or something that will affect other places...not so for the citizens of Kiribati. This video is the 1 minute version of the political/environmental situation, and this is the 15 minute version.
California has enough water—that's not the problem, says Terry Tamminen. So here's how you solve the drought crisis.
There is no easy fix to a complex problem such as the water shortage in California. Some coastal cities are considering desalinization projects while others want to reduce environmental regulations that protect wetland ecosystems to harness all of the freshwater available. One of the issues is that most of California's precipitation occurs during a very short time frame. Before the water crisis, these potential flood waters were diverted into concrete management canals but this article advocates to build more underground cisterns to capture excess rainfall before it flows to the ocean.
"When the well's dry, we know the worth of water." ~Benjamin Franklin
"The Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 is the largest accidental marine spill in U.S. history: these are the pivotal discoveries scientists and environmentalists have learned from researching it. While researching the spill, scientists tracked deep-sea sharks, found new mud dragons, and discovered a new type of ocean current."
We've dammed mighty rivers, built hundreds of artificial islands, and made the world's fourth-largest lake disappear.
A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state’s engine has run against the limits of nature.
Major urban areas in California have limited local water resources so they draw water from large area to bring in sufficient water for these burgeoning metropolitan regions. With this current drought getting worse, California has ordered emergency water restrictions on residents while companies and large farms have been granted exemptions even though they account for 82% of the state's annual water consumption (residential accounts for 12%). Almond farms alone consume 10% of the state's water, and many agricultural crops are incredibly water intensive land uses. A better way to think of it isn't just about raw water usage though. A better question to ask would be this--how does one gallon of water translate into calories that most efficiently feed people?
Questions to Ponder: How does the concept of carrying capacity relate to California urban growth/drought issues? California passed its carrying capacity? How are demographics, economics, politics and the environment intertwined in California? What are the environmental limits on urban growth and development?
|Suggested by Ariel Juarez|
"How do you raise awareness about population explosion? One group thought that the simplest way would be to show people in pictures the impact of population, pollution and consumption."
This gallery is filled with excellent "teaching images" on human and environmental interactions and all aspects of geography--the one picture above shows how Mexico City has enveloped even the rolling hills as a part of its urban expansion.
Three African leaders sign an initial deal to end a long-running dispute over the sharing of Nile waters and the building of Africa's biggest hydroelectric dam.
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 (see in Google Maps). Prior to this trilateral agreement, Egypt and Sudan received the majority of the Nile's waters because of outdated colonial-era treaties that ignored upstream riparian states. This explains why in the past, Egypt was so adamantly opposed to Ethiopia's plan fearing that their water supply with be threatened. Today though, the Egyptian President said, "We have chosen cooperation, and to trust one another for the sake of development."
"Pristine Seas is an exploration, research, and media project to find, survey, and help protect the last wild places in the ocean. These pristine places are unknown by all but long-distance fishing fleets, which have started to encroach on them. It is essential that we let the world know that these places exist, that they are threatened, and that they deserve to be protected. Learn more about Pristine Seas here: http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/explore/pristine-seas/ "
I was enchanted hearing Enriq Sala discuss his passion for ocean biodiversity and purity. This passion, combined with scientific exploration and political advocacy is the backbone of a National Geographic's Pristine Seas project. Here is one news story about the Seychelles, and how they are trying to manage their fishing industries to promote sustainability and hopefully the Pristine Seas project will lead to greater awareness of the need for ocean conservation.
We are living in an era of receding glaciers, accelerating loss of species habitat, unprecedented population migration, growing inequalities within and between nations, rising concerns over resource depletion, and shifting patterns of interaction and identity. This website provides 11 geographic investigations aligned to the geographic questions in the NRC Understanding Our Changing Planet report. The report focuses on the future directions in the geographical sciences and how these key questions will guide research to help us understand the planet on which we live.
1. Relationships between people and the environment
2. Importance of spatial variability
3. Processes operating an multiple and interlocking geographic scales
4. The integration of spatial and temporal analysis
To ensure that this advantage is harnessed, the AAG prepared 11 modules within these 4 categories of key issue facing the world:
--Rapid Spatial Reorganization
"Various ecological, political and economic perspectives on habitat fragmentation from the West Wing: season 1, episode 5."
Our modern society depends on greater connectivity between places. Regionalized economies, politics and transportation networks are increasingly integrated with far-flung places now more than ever before. Our biosphere and natural environments are exceptions to this pattern. Wilderness areas are 'islands' in an ocean of human controlled environments. We create transportation linkages that unite people economies and cities, but separate herds from their extended habitat.
We've all seen road kill on major highways. Species like deer, elk, and grizzly bears and other large-bodied animals need a wide range for numerous ecological reasons. These bridges are an attempt to ameliorate some of the problems that our roads pose for the non-human species that still call Earth home. From a purely economic standpoint, many argue that these bridges save society money given the accidents and property damage that can be avoided.
Just for fun: This is a hilarious/painful video of a woman who clearly doesn't understand these principles.
"When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable 'trophic cascade' occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers?"
When a complex system gets one aspect of it changed, there are many other changes that occur, some of which are nearly impossible to envision beforehand. Here is some Oregon State research on the changes in Yellowstone's ecosystems and physical environments since the introduction of wolves.
The blizzard of 2015 blasted the region with wind-whipped snow that piled nearly 3-feet high in some places.
As of 1 p.m. Monday, Boston set a new record for snowiest seven-day period in the city's history with 34.2 inches.
Weather is one of the most tangible ways in which the physical environment impacts society. We depend on sunlight and rainfall, we adapt our behaviors to harsh conditions and we are constantly modifying the our environments by heating and cooling our buildings. This Henry David Thoreau quote reminds us to acknowledge the powerful influence of the environment and to recognize that technological fixes have their limitations. “Live in each season as it passes...and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” --Henry David Thoreau
Question to Ponder: In what ways does the weather shape and influence culture and spatial patterns in your region? How can we make our communities more handicap accessible during winter storms and other extreme conditions?
"The large landslide that occurred in March near Oso, Washington was unusually mobile and destructive."
There are several reasons for landslides--some are purely a result of physical geography and others are related to land use patterns. The landslide in Washington state last year was a combination of the two (see on map) and 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). Watch a simulation of the landslide here.
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 landslide inevitable?
"Prior to the 1960’s, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake and approximately the size of Ireland. Fed by both the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers carrying snowmelt from the mountains to the southeast, the Aral Sea moderated the climate and provided a robust fishing industry that straddled the present-day border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. For the map savvy, that Aral Sea would be almost unrecognizable—it has long appeared as two basins known as the North and the South Aral Sea since the rivers were diverted for crops, leading to the Aral Sea’s alarming shrinkage. Recent NASA satellite imagery shows the decline that the Aral Sea has undergone since 2000, leaving the South Aral Sea completely dried up in 2014. "
"Though uninhabited and full of melting ice caps, the Arctic is surprisingly an appealing piece of real estate. Many countries have already claimed parts of the region. So who technically owns the North Pole? And why do these nations want it so bad?"
Denmark is now being more assertive in their claims. Why is this happening now? As climate change threatens polar ice caps, some see the receding ice as an economic and political opportunity. Canada, Russia, Denmark (Greenland) and the U.S. are all seeking to expand their maritime claims in the Arctic. When trapped under ice, extracting resources is cost prohibitive, but the melting sea ice will make the Arctic's resources all the more valuable (including the expanded shipping lanes). Even a global disaster like climate change can make countries behave like jackals, ready to feast on a dead carcass. For more, read this National Geographic blogpost.
A sign urging environmental action during a United Nations summit meeting on climate change was placed near a 1,000-year-old geoglyph that is a cultural treasure in Peru. Officials are outraged over the trespassing and the disturbance of the ancient grounds.
Greenpeace is falling for some of the same social media fails as the selfie generation. Peruvian authorities are angry that Greenpeace activists damaged a forbidden archeological site that is both a national symbol and sacred site. UN climate talks are taking place in Peru right now, so this Greenpeace publicity stunt becomes all the more ironic. The Peruvian government is accusing them of irrevocably damaging the environment at this site. Here is an article about how the environmental community was impacted by this Greenpeace stunt.
A new study links climatic instability and a lack of natural resources to belief in moralizing gods in cultures around the world.
I’m not posting this in spite of its controversial nature—I am sharing this precisely because it has raised eyebrows. Many have read this and seen elements of environmental determinism in the cultural analysis of religions (despite the researcher’s insistence that their findings should not be taken as a form of geographical determinism).
While there appears to be a correlation between a belief in moral god(s) and a harsh environment, others could also look at this map and see the mapping of poverty, colonialism or historical evangelism. Environmental determinism was used to justify colonialism and racist ideologies, geography fully rejected anything with even a hint of environmental determinism. Geographers are hypersensitive to the critique of environmental determinism; that is why it is difficult to find modern geographic research that knocks on the door of determinism.
Questions to Ponder: How much environmental determinism is in this research? What alternatives exist to environmental determinism? How much of a factor is the environment in shaping cultural patterns?
"The Sahel’s ability to produce food is not keeping pace with its growing population, and global warming will only exacerbate the imbalance, according to a new study. Among the 22 countries making up the arid region in northern Africa, the population grew to 471 million in 2010 from 367 million in 2000, a jump of nearly 30%. As the population grew rapidly, the production of crops remained essentially unchanged. Using satellite images to calculate annual crop production in the conflict-ridden Sahel belt, south of the Sahara desert, the researchers then compared output with population growth and food and fuel consumption."
What would Earth be like if all humans suddenly disappeared? This question posed on the YouTube series Earth Unplugged, has many intriguing ecological and biogeographic ramifications that are worth considering to explore how systems are interconnected.