"The historical geography of Erie Canal reshaped a nation."
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
"The historical geography of Erie Canal reshaped a nation."
Back in the early 1800s, New York was one of the three biggest cities in the United States, but what led to it's surge past Philadelphia and Boston? Geography and new technological innovations that favored New York City's relative location. NYC was the only city on the East coast that could access the Great Lakes via canal, and after the construction of the Erie Canal, NYC has always been the preeminent city in the USA.
The world’s biggest container ships, longer than the Eiffel Tower is high, are a symbol of an increasingly global marketplace. But they also face strong economic headwinds.
This article and video from the NY Times is a great way to show the magnitude of the largest vessels that drive the global economy. These containers are symbols of global commerce that enable economies of scale to be profitable and the outsourcing of so many manufacturing jobs to developing countries. The invention of these containers have changed the geography of global shipping and today the vast majority of the world's largest ports are now in East Asia. Today though, the biggest container ships are too big to go through the Panama Canal, encouraging China to build a larger canal through Nicaragua.
"A former gang member from Long Beach, California, teaches break dancing to at-risk youths in Cambodia."
"The world is becoming more and more interconnected. Globalization changes how people consume, work and live almost everywhere on the world. Today, many economic, political, cultural or ecological relationships are not explainable from a national perspective. At the same time, a controversial debate about the consequences of globalization has begun."
This is a good video to explain globalization (although this is my personal favorite), to see that it not just an economic force, but one that touches just about every facet of modern life.
Questions to ponder: What are the driving forces behind globalization? What areas are most impacted by globalization? How does globalization benefit some, and adversely impact others? Why?
"Berlin Bureau Chief Michael Slackman looks into the obsession with currywurst, a popular street dish that combines sausage, ketchup and curry powder, and brings different Berliners together."
This short video has been added to the the interactive map, Place-Based Geography Videos. This depiction of street foods in German cities is a rich, tangible example to show cultural patterns and processes. Currywurst is a unifying force across socioeconomic classes in Germany, but it is also a product of globalization and cultural interactions across regions. Culture is not static and this New York Times video can be used to teach the various concepts of culture; per the updated APHG outline, the initial concepts of culture are:
Question to Ponder: How are these 5 major elements of culture seen in this video?
Commerce knits the modern world together in a way that nothing else quite does. Almost anything you own these days is the result of a complicated web of global interactions. And there's no better way to depict those interactions than some maps.
Occasionally these lists that say something like "40 maps that..." end up being an odd assortment of trivia that is interesting but not very instructive; but I am of a fan of these list produced by Vox. Not because they exhaustively explain the topic, but they give a strong visual introduction to a topic, such as this one on on the global economy.
Pharmaceutical companies would need to compensate indigenous people for using their knowhow in creating new medicines
I'd never hear the term biopiracy before this month, but this idea is this: companies from wealthy countries commercially develop the genetic resources of developing countries with local assistance but don't fairly compensate the local population. I never had the vocabulary to describe such a thing, but that is biopiracy in a nutshell and the EU is working to end that. It doesn't only impact the pharmaceutical companies but heavily impact the agricultural industries as well. Anyone in the developed world eating quinoa and kale 20 years ago? Being marketed as 'superfoods' has changed the global production systems but also impacted local indigenous food supplies (some are referring to this as food gentrification).
"To be honest I do not know what they make of my beans," says farmer N'Da Alphonse. "I've heard they're used as flavoring in cooking, but I've never seen it. I do not even know if it's true." Watch how the Dutch respond to a cocoa bean in return or you can watch our entire episode on chocolate here.
What is the geography of chocolate like? This video was produced in the Netherlands, the global center of the cocoa trade, but the world's leading producer of cocoa is Côte d'Ivoire. There is a dark side to chocolate production; the dirty secret is that slavery is commonplace on cocoa plantations in West Africa. Although the worst of the situation is glossed over in this video, it still hints at the vast economic inequalities that are part and parcel of the global chocolate trade and the plantation roots of the production. What are some of your reactions to this video?
"The Nicaraguan government and the company behind plans to build a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean have settled on a route."
A Chinese firm (HKND) is planning to construct a canal to rival Panama's. I've been following this issue as I prepared to co-author an article for Maps 101 with Julie Dixon and it is clearly a major environmental issue. However, this issue is much more geographic than just the angle; China and Nicaragua are vying for greater control and access to the shipping lanes that dominate the global economy and international trade. This shows that they are each attempting to bolster their regional and international impact compared to their rivals (the United States for China and Panama for Nicaragua).
China has long depended on the U.S. breadbasket, importing up to $26 billion in U.S. agricultural products yearly. But increasingly, Chinese investors aren’t just buying from farms abroad. They’re buying the farms.
Globalization is often described as a homogenizing force, but is also pairs together odd bed fellows. A small Utah town near the Colorado border, Jensen is now home to the largest Chinese-owned hay farm in the United States. Utah's climate is right for growing alfalfa, and China's growing cattle industry make this a natural global partnership. Large container ships come to the United States from China, and return fairly empty, making the transportation price relatively affordable. While this might make economic sense on a global scale, local water concerns in the west show that this isn't without it's problems. Water resources are scarce and many see this as a depletion of local water exported to China. Some states see this as a threat and are considering banning foreign ownership of farmland. This article shows the merging of various geographic themes: the global and local, the industrial and the agricultural, the human and the physical.
"With modern technology, a global exchange of goods and ideas can happen at the click of a button. But what about 2,000 years ago? Shannon Harris Castelo unfolds the history of the 5,000-mile Silk Road, a network of multiple routes that used the common language of commerce to connect the world's major settlements, thread by thread."
This TED-ED lesson was produced in part by an AP Human Geography teacher and the strands of geographic thought in this video are evident. More geographers should make their own TED ED lessons; thanks for blazing the trail Shannon!
"Brash, baroque and steeped in native Andean symbols, the mini-mansions are a striking sight on the caked-dirt streets of El Alto, the inexorably expanding sister city of Bolivia's capital."
The pre-Columbian symbols of the condor, serpent and Tree of Life adorn the architecture of these brightly colored ballrooms that also have European-imported chandeliers, arches and other baroque elements. The spread of globalization is often assumed to be a homogenizing cultural force, but local cultures typically take elements of the global, and make it their own. The global becomes local and deeply rooted in place and reshapes place.
In Bangladesh men desperate for work perform one of the world’s most dangerous jobs.
What happens to massive cargo vessels after they are outdated? There are tons of scrap metal, but they aren't
designed to be taken apart. The ship-breakers of South Asia (Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are 3 of the 4 global leaders in recycling ships) risk much to mine this resource. This is an economic function that is a part of a globalized economy, but one than was never intended. There are major health risks to the workers and pollutants to the local community that are endemic in this industry that manages to survive on the scraps of the global economy.
Report details deaths of 964 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh from cardiac arrests, falls and suicide
Qatar's population pyramid has a very distinct shape that you will only find in places with high migrant worker populations. This type of demographic influx is now common in oil-rich gulf states as the forces of globalization draw in pools of labor so countries like Qatar can now 'import' the low-wage workers needed to keep their economy rolling. The economic, cultural and political power imbalance between the classes leads to many migrant workers being exploited, leading to the social problems listed in this article.
|Suggested by Mike Busarello's Digital Textbooks|
Hamm said he was drawn to the true story of an agent looking for India's first pro-baseball player
This 6 minute clip is a preview of the movie "Million Dollar Arm." It looks to be a fun movie, but what I find academically interesting about the movie is that it is a portrayal of one of the countless fascinating cultural and economic interactions that was created by globalization. The story is about the economic forces motivating baseball scouts to seek out untapped labor pools in areas such as India that were previously not a part of baseball's cultural reach (and the really cool global lives of these individuals).
The World Bank has produced a report entitled "Prosperity for All." In this, the extremely poor are defined as making less than $1.25 a day. Two thirds of the extremely poor live in just 5 countries (India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and DR Congo). This article from the Guardian argues that development should measured in human rights gains more than economic advancements.
Following the uprising that toppled the government in 2011, he has become a well known graffiti artist hoping to revive and modernise the ancient art of Arabic calligraphy in Tunisia. He calls his style "calligraffiti".
This short BBC video demonstrated how cultures are dynamic and are built on past traditions to confront modern circumstances. Cultures are performed both as resistance to and wider social influences and as a mechanism to adapt to those forces. The street art of Karim Jabbari is an excellent example of the cultural patterns and processes by blending ancient North African calligraphy with modern Western street art to create an entirely new form of cultural expression. This cultural production is still deeply rooted in place, but in not locked away in the past either. After the Arab Spring, Tunisians were searching for new political identities and the street festivals sponsored in part by this artist are forging new political, cultural and urban expressions. Watch this video to see him in action, shaping a cultural landscape and strengthening a community.
"China is a true mega-trader — a position last held by colonial Britain, with trade significant not only as a share of world trade (11.5%) but also of its own GDP (47%). The U.S. is China's top export destination. China's trade with Latin America has risen more than 200 times since 1990 and is the fastest-growing corridor. China's trade is beginning to slow, however. Exports accounted for about 25% of GDP in 2012, down from 35% in 2007."
This article is highlights what we already know; China is a dominant force in global trade (although the map should be centered on the Pacific to show China's real shipping lanes and interregional connections). Containers are symbols of global commerce that enable economies of scale to be profitable and the outsourcing of so many manufacturing jobs to developing countries (almost 90% of everything we buy arrives via ship). The invention of these containers have changed the geography of global shipping and the vast majority of the world's largest ports are now in East Asia.
"On the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, little has changed in the global sweatshop economy. Workers are again trapped and burned to death behind locked exit gates."
One of the first industries to be impacted by what is today called globalization was the textile industry and the successive waves of globalization continue to alter the geography of the textile industry. This video shows how historical problems in the U.S. textile industry are seen today in countries such as Bangladesh, as does this interactive feature. The following paragraph is from a Geography News Network podcast / article that Julie Dixon and I co-authored for Maps101 about the Bangladeshi garment industry:
Many developing countries with the majority of their laborers working in agriculture welcome outsourced labor from the West. This is seen as a way to nurture industrialization, even if it is on the terms of trans-national corporations. Countless workers seek employment in textile factories simply because low pay is still an entry into the cash economy and it is one of the few jobs rural migrants can find when they first enter the big city. In such locations, Western labor, construction, and environmental standards are not priorities because the population’s basic needs haven’t been met, so the responsibility falls to the global companies—but their aim is to cut costs as much as possible to remain competitive. From its emergence in textiles back in the late 1970’s, Bangladesh in 2013 made $19 billion in the export-oriented, ready-made garment industry, employing 4 million workers, most of whom are women.
Reuters photographer Carlos Barria recently spent time in Shanghai, China, the fastest-growing city in the world. A week ago, he took this amazing shot, recreating the same framing and perspective as a photograph taken in 1987, showing what a difference 26 years can make. The setting is Shanghai's financial district of Pudong, dominated by the Oriental Pearl Tower at left, and the new 125-story Shanghai Tower, China's tallest building and the world's second tallest skyscraper, at 632 meters (2,073 ft) high, scheduled to finish by the end of 2014. Shanghai, the largest city by population in the world, has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year the past 20 years, and now is home to 23.5 million people -- nearly double what it was back in 1987. This entry is focused on this single photo pairing, with several ways to compare the two.
In the Atlantic, there was an article that highlighted some incredible comparisons of Shanghai’s Pudong district that shows the impact of globalization. This image is my rendering of the two images as a composite image. Globalization has hit…hard and fast. Today, we shouldn't think of Shanghai as a major city in China, but as as one of the major cities in the world.
"By the end of this year, digging could begin on a waterway that would stretch roughly 180 miles across Nicaragua to unite the Atlantic and Pacific oceans."
Today, the largest of the massive cargo ships are simply too big to get through the Panama Canal and have to travel down around the tip of South America; China is strategically working on strengthening their geopolitical position in the South China Sea and all international waters. This is one reason why a Chinese firms are planning to construct a canal to rival Panama's. This article highlights the reasons for concern (Maps 101 readers can read more about the geographic implications of Nicaragua's plans in this article co-authored by myself and Julie Dixon or you can sign up for a free trial subscription to see what else Maps 101 has to offer).
What is blue, a quarter of a mile long, and taller than London's Olympic stadium? The answer - this year's new class of container ship, the Triple E. When it goes into service this June, it will be the largest vessel ploughing the sea. Each will contain as much steel as eight Eiffel Towers and have a capacity equivalent to 18,000 20-foot containers (TEU).
These containers are symbols of global commerce that enable economies of scale to be profitable and the outsourcing of so many manufacturing jobs to developing countries. The invention of these containers have changed the geography of global shipping and the vast majority of the world's largest ports are now in East Asia. Today though, the biggest container ships are too big to go through the Panama Canal, encouraging China to build a larger canal through Nicaragua.
At a new restaurant, expats find a taste of home and locals try foreign treats like fortune cookies.
Imagine living in China and missing Chinese food. It happens. American expatriates who grew up with popular takeout dishes like General Tso's chicken can't find it in China because it essentially doesn't exist here. Much of the Chinese food we grew up with isn't really Chinese. It's an American version of Chinese food. Chinese immigrants created it over time, adapting recipes with U.S. ingredients to appeal to American palates. Now, Americans living in Shanghai can get a fix of their beloved Chinatown cuisine at a new restaurant.
"English language has 'borrowed' words for centuries. But is it now lending more than it's taking, asks Philip Durkin, deputy chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. "
Knowledge of what is being borrowed, and from where, provides an invaluable insight into the international relations of the English language. Today English borrows words from other languages with a truly global reach.
"Think of coffee and you will probably think of Brazil, Colombia, or maybe Ethiopia. But the world's second largest exporter today is Vietnam. How did its market share jump from 0.1% to 20% in just 30 years, and how has this rapid change affected the country?"
Vietnam is a historically tea-drinking country, and when the French colonized, they brought coffee. Culturally they still prefer tea, but in the 1980s, the government say this as a major export crop that they were climatically primed to produce. This rapid growth has bolstered the economy, but has had some adverse environmental impacts as well. The article is rich in geographic topics to bring into the classroom.