Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
The relatively recent decline of music industry, as well as the newspaper industry, are good examples to teach the concept of creative destruction. As jobs are created through new emerging technologies, older jobs will be rendered obsolete and be 'destroyed.' While many bemoan the loss of particular jobs as regrettable, it is a part of globalization of economic geography that as jobs are created with new technologies, other jobs disappear. Indoor plumbing meant the death of the water-carrying guilds (while I might be sad they lost their jobs, I'm keeping my plumbing). The trick is to make these transitions smooth and to prepare the labor force to have skills that the new economy will demand so that individual families and workers aren't casualties of this 'creative destruction' process.
Nkem Ifejika meets with Nigerian entrepreneurs who show how the nation's economy is finding lubricants other than oil.
The shadow economy, the black market or the side-hustle; these are all names for the informal sector of the economy. In many countries such as Nigeria, this is a way of making money outside their normal jobs to boost their income and try to rise above just getting by. "It was my grandmother who taught my mum that if you were lucky enough to have a salaried job, that was just pocket money. The real money came from your five to nine." If working 9-to-5 represents the formal economy, this BBC podcast (and accompanying article) are all about the 5-to-9 economy.
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.
"In this Feed the Future video, narrator Matt Damon discusses the importance of increasing food production around the world and notes the importance of equipping women with the right tools, training, and technology to see as much as a 30 percent increase in food production. To feed our growing population we need to increase food production by 70 percent before 2050. Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many areas of the world."
A colleague mine thought that the ideas in this video were so obvious and non-controversial, he said, "Why does this even need to be stated? Why would we exclude women from agriculture?" The simple answer is that it wouldn't need to be stated if women around the world did have equal access to resources. For many of the world's poor, this is where the rubber meets the road.
"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.
"Physicist Geoffrey West has found that simple, mathematical laws govern the properties of cities — that wealth, crime rate, walking speed and many other aspects of a city can be deduced from a single number: the city's population. In this mind-bending talk from TEDGlobal he shows how it works and how similar laws hold for organisms and corporations."
While corporations rise and fall, it is quite rare for a city to entirely fail as an economic system. Huge cities have some negative consequences, but the networks that operate in the city function more efficiently on economies of scale in a way that offsets the negatives. Increasing a city's population will continue to improve the economies of scale (larger cities have higher wages per capita, more creative employment per capita, etc.). However, this growth requires major technological innovations to sustain long-term growth.
|Suggested by Benjamin McGowan|
Almost 35,000 people have reached the shores of Italy and Malta in 2013 and two-thirds have filed for asylum.
Stunning satellite images and maps show how east and west differ from each other even today.
These two maps (unemployment on the left and disposable income on the right) are but two examples in this article that highlights the lingering distinctions between the two parts of Germany that were reunited 25 years ago. The social geographies imposed by the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall are still being felt from this relic border and will for years to come.
"Workers at an ailing paper mill in Siberia are clinging to their jobs in the face of financial pressure and criticism from environmentalists.
Related Article: http://nyti.ms/gSvOkM"
The environment, industry and politics play key roles in this story of an old style Soviet mono-town on Lake Baikal. Monotowns had planned economies that revolved around one industry and today many of these are struggling in the post-Soviet era. While the particulars of the political situation are a bit dated, the overall issue is still quite relevant to understanding Russia today.
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
In the most innovative incubators of urban research, the lessons of Jane Jacobs are more vital than ever.
In the past few years, a remarkable body of scientific research has begun to shed new light on the dynamic behavior of cities, carrying important implications for city-makers. Researchers at cutting-edge hubs of urban theory like the University College London and the Santa Fe Institute have been homing in on some key properties of urban systems—and contradicting much of today's orthodoxy. Their findings have begun to feed into recent and upcoming gatherings on the future of cities—including lead-in events for the U.N.'s big 2016 Habitat III conference on sustainable development—and arming leaders in the field with new ammunition in the global battle against sprawl.
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.
"Henry Monterroso is a foreigner in his own country. Raised in California from the age of 5, he was deported to Mexico in 2011 and found himself in a land he barely knew. But the 34-year-old now supervises five employees amid rows of small cubicles who spend eight hours a day dialing numbers across the United States. He is among thousands of deported Mexicans who are finding refuge in call centers in Tijuana and other border cities. In perfect English — some hardly speak Spanish — they converse with American consumers who buy gadgets, have questions about warrantees or complain about overdue deliveries."
I have family on both sides of the line; sometimes the border can feel like and artificial an inconsequential separation, at other times it feels like to biggest reality in the region. This article provides just one intriguing example of how the border both unites and divides economies, peoples, and places.
"Daily oil production in the Bakken is approaching one million barrels per day, placing it in an elite group of only ten super-giant oil fields in the world that have ever produced that much oil at peak production. In total, nearly one billion barrels of oil have now been produced in the Bakken oil fields, and all of that oil production and related activities have brought the unemployment rate in the Williston area down to below 1% in most months over the last three years. For the most recent month – April – the jobless rate here was 0.9%."
As an oil boom has transformed North Dakota, the influx of oil workers has changed all the sectors of the local economy. Agriculture has historically been the #1 economic contributor in the region, but huge piles of grain aren't be shipped to the market, as oil by rail is much more profitable.
Questions to Ponder: Why is WalMart offering such high wages in North Dakota? What local factors impact the prevailing wage rate? What does this tell us about places with low wages? How does the oil industry impact all the others in the region?
In 1990, the manufacturing industry was the leading employer in most U.S. states, followed by retail trade. In 2003, retail trade was the leading employer in a majority of states. By 2013, health care and social assistance was the dominant industry in 34 states. This animated map shows the top industry in each state and the District of Columbia from 1990 to 2013.
"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?
"Today, innovation is taking place where people can come together, not in isolated spaces. Innovation districts are this century's productive geography, they are both competitive places and 'cool spaces' and they will transform your city and metropolis."
As described by the Brookings Institution in their exploration regarding innovation districts, they are geographic areas where leading-edge companies, research institutions, start-ups, and business incubators are located in dense proximity. These districts are created to facilitate new connections and ideas, speed up the commercialization of those ideas, and support urban economies by growing jobs in ways that leverage their distinct economic position.
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 Storybooks|
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.
"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.
"Germany is Europe's dominant country. Its large and strong economy has allowed it to bankroll the bailouts that have kept some of its neighbours - and the euro - afloat. The graphics below help explain why it is so dominant, and powerful - and also some of the problems it faces."
Facing religious discrimination in the Hindu-dominated job market, many are forced to assume fake identities.
This is not that uncommon in India unfortunately. As the articles states, a government commission was appointed in 2005 to investigate the degree to which Muslims were disadvantaged in social, economic and educational terms. The commission concluded the socio-economic condition of most Muslims was as bad as that of the Dalits, who are at the bottom rung of the Hindu-caste hierarchy, also referred to as the "untouchables."