Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat.
Food waste is a tragedy that we all know happens, but the economic system does not work efficiently to maximize the global food production (Disclaimer: it is HBO's John Oliver, so there is some language and references that might not be appropriate for all audiences).
"It’s not just a sausage in a bun; it’s a beautiful blank canvas. It’s a hot dog, which is a foodstuff eaten worldwide. Here are 40 distinctive varieties from around the globe — from iconic NYC 'dirty water dogs' to fully loaded South American street-cart dogs to Japanese octo-dogs. There is a tubesteak out there for every craving that ever was."
The 4th of July is the day of Coney Island's Hot Dog eating contest and the quintessential day to have a barbeque in the United States. Some see the hot dog as a mere symbol of the uniformity of globalized culture in the 21st century that diffused out from the United States. There is much more to be seen in the globalization of food. Yes, the global goes to the whole world, but distinct places make this global cultural trait intensely local. For example the hot dogs in Cincinnati are famous for being topped with chili and an obscene quantity of cheese, but in Costa Rica, I learned to love eating hot dogs deep fried, topped with cabbage, mayo and ketchup, just like the Ticos. Food is but one example of this phenomena known as glocalization, where diffusion and divergence keep the world both global and local.
"Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran was once one of the largest saltwater lakes in the Middle East, but it has diminished dramatically. Diversion of water from local rivers for agricultural use is one likely cause. Since 1996, drought has further contributed to the decline. The lake now covers about 10 percent of the area it covered in the 1970s. In the 2014 image, the entire southern portion of the salty lakebed is exposed. Also see this set of images."
The world's population is projected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century. Feeding that many people will be a challenge, and it is further complicated by the impact of climate change on agriculture. That is why some people advocate an unusual way to boost the food supply and feed people sustainably: by eating less meat, and more insects.
While it might make economic, nutritional, and environmental sense, I'm sure that many are squeamish at the idea of insects primarily because in violates many deeply engrained cultural taboos. The main reasons listed in the video for promoting the production and consumption of more insects:
Questions to Ponder: Would you be willing to try eating insects? How do you think this idea would go over with your family and friends? What cultural barriers might slow the diffusion of this practice?
|Suggested by Kara Charboneau|
"More than 60 percent of Utah’s residents are Mormons, who typically abstain from alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. With those vices frowned upon, candy is an acceptable treat. Hispanics like Hershey’s Cookies ’n Creme bars in disproportionate numbers, and Minnesotan buy six-packs of Hershey bars at higher rates than any other Americans, particularly in the summer (think s’mores)."
This report brings up three interesting tidbits about candy consumption in the United States, but this is also a good article to discuss how businesses should take geography and demographic statistics seriously when crafting their marketing strategies.
The dark squares that make up the checkerboard pattern in this image are fields of a sort—fields of seaweed. Along the south coast of South Korea, seaweed is often grown on ropes, which are held near the surface with buoys. This technique ensures that the seaweed stays close enough to the surface to get enough light during high tide but doesn’t scrape against the bottom during low tide.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of seaweed cultivation in the shallow waters around Sisan Island on January 31, 2014. Today, about 90 percent of all the seaweed that humans consume globally is farmed. That may be good for the environment. In comparison to other types of food production, seaweed farming has a light environmental footprint because it does not require fresh water or fertilizer.
What can I say? Horrible puns, crafty maps and gorgeous food presentations...how could I not share this? You can follow the progress of this on-going project as they add more beautifully silly food map puns to their series under the hashtag #foodnitedstates on Foodiggity's Instagram account.
"Food. It’s something we all think about, talk about, and need. Food has been one major topic of interest at National Geographic because it connects all of us to our environment. The recent global population projections for the year 2100 just went up from 9 billion to 11 billion, making the issues of food production and distribution all the more important. For the last 3 years I’ve stored podcasts, articles, videos, and other resources on my personal site on a wide range of geographic issues, including food resources. I thought that sharing 10 of my personal favorite resources on the geography of food would be helpful to understand our changing global food systems."
This 12 question quiz is a great way to introduce students to spatial patterns of agricultural products in the United States. Sometimes just knowing regional stereotypes can be helpful, but being able to make an educated guess about where an agricultural product is comes from requires a basic understanding of economic and climate patterns. This quiz is a good way to test that knowledge and introduce them to these spatial patterns.
There really are two different Americas: the heartland, and the coasts....
These maps together show that most of the grain from the American breadbasket does not directly on the table but into the feed trough. I imagined before I saw this data that the percentage of animal feed in the Midwest would be higher than the rest of the United States, but I would not have guessed that it was that high.
Scallops pulled out of the waters off the western coast of France are taken on an incredible journey that sees them shipped off to China to be cleaned, before being sent all the way back to France to be cooked up. Producers say its worth the cost.
This type of nonsense only makes sense in a world where the bottom dollar is the only way to way to evaluate decisions. However, resource conservation (think of the food miles!), fair labor prices, and the preservation of local cultural economies are certainly issues that should be considered.
"Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.
American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers. But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship."
This is a hard read, but it is important to understand that there is a dark underbelly to many of the economic systems that are reshaping the world today. Sometimes we ask all the wrong questions, like "why is organic, local, or fair trade food so expensive?" We should really be asking why the other options are so cheap.
This, unfortunately is part of the answer. The video above is a snippet from a 4-part series (I-camps, II-labor, III-Company Stores , IV-Child Labor) from the LA Times that has excellent pictures, videos, and interviews highlighting the working conditions of farm workers in Mexico. For an audio version, here is an NPR podcast interviewing Richard Marosi, the investigator behind the story.
Conflict Kitchen is an art project based in the centre of Pittsburgh which serves food from countries with which the US is 'in conflict'. The founders get to define what conflict means - it can range from outright war to economic sanctions - and since opening in 2010 they have prepared food from Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. But the restaurant's latest choice of cuisine, Palestinian food, has caused controversy in the city and even led to a death threat which temporarily closed the venue. Critics pointed out that the US is not in conflict with the Palestinian people. They claimed that the pamphlets served with the dishes included 'anti-Israel' propaganda. But Conflict Kitchen's founders said the project was designed to encourage debate among Americans."
Questions to Ponder: What do you think the purpose of Conflict Kitchen is for the restaurant owners? Many people choose restaurants for a cultural experience; what type of cultural experiences are these patrons searching for by eating at Conflict Kitchen? What political overtones are there to these cultural encounters? Is this a form of 'gastro-diplomacy?'
Gathered around the Thanksgiving table, Americans tell stories about colonists and Native Americans coming together. But do Native Americans even celebrate Thanksgiving? And what would Native American heritage food look like? This November, With Good Reason takes a look at the indigenous side of a Thanksgiving table.
Corn, watermelon, and peaches were unrecognizable 8,000 years ago.
I think the term 'artificial' in the image might be misleading and it depends on your definition of the word. Humans have been selectively breed plants and animals for as long as we've been able to domestic them; that is a 'natural' part of our cultural ecology and has lead to great varieties of crops that are much more suitable for human consumption than what was naturally available. Long before climate change, humans have been actively shaping their environment and the ecological inputs in the systems with the technology that their disposal. This is a good resource to teach about the 1st agricultural revolution.
Just how much of the world's cropland can we really call urban? That's been a big mystery until now.
Now, a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters has an answer: Somewhere around 1.1 billion acres is being cultivated for food in or within about 12 miles (20 kilometers) of cities. Most of that land is on the periphery of cities, but 16.6 percent of these urban farms are in open spaces within the municipal core.
Think the McDonald's Menu is the same everywhere? Think again. A fantastic geography teacher compiled these images and descriptions of the McDonald's menu from around the world and put them into an ESRI storymap. This interactive feature shows how a successful global brand like McDonald's should be keenly aware of local tastes and customs. Some call that "glocalization."
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Tristram Stuart wants the world to stop throwing away so much good food.
No one should be surprised that more developed societies are more wasteful societies. It is not just personal wasting of food at the house and restaurants that are the problem. Perfectly edible food is thrown out due to size (smaller than standards but perfectly normal), cosmetics (Bananas that are shaped 'funny') and costumer preference (discarded bread crust). This is an intriguing perceptive on our consumptive culture, but it also is helpful in framing issues such as sustainability and human and environmental interactions in a technologically advanced societies that are often removed form the land where the food they eat originates. You can hear more about Tristram's work in this TED talk.
Many advocates of local foods favor a small-scale approach to farming and are opposed to large-scale agribusiness. It might be easy for those disconnected from the food production system (like me) to romanticize and mythologize the farmers of yesteryear and yearn to return to this past. This talk highlights how essential large-scale farming is absolutely critical to feeding the global population; this other TED talk discusses many of the hunger problems especially the uneven access to food. Here are some other pro-agribusiness resources.