Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
This is a clip from the TV show West Wing (Season 2-Episode 16) is a classic--how often does cartography plays a key role in the plot of a TV show? In this episode the fictitious (but still on Facebook) group named "the Organization of Cartographers for Social Justice" is campaigning to have the President officially endorse the Gall-Peters Projection in schools and denounce the Mercator projection. The argument being that children will grow up thinking some places are not as important because they are minimized by the map projection. While a bit comical, the cartographic debate is quite informative even if it was designed to appear as though the issue was trivial.
Questions to Ponder: Why do map projections matter? Is one global map projection inherently better than the rest?
"The position [that belief in God is essential to morality] is highly prevalent, if not universal, in Africa and the Middle East. At least three-quarters in all six countries surveyed in Africa say that faith in God is essential to morality. People in richer nations tend to place less emphasis on the need to believe in God to have good values than people in poorer countries do."
An important part of the geography of religion is how the non-religious are treated and perceived around the world. More secular countries tend to be more developed, affluent and wealthy; generally speaking these are the countries that do not believe that morality and a belief in God have to be linked together. What do you think? What cultural perspectives shape your thinking?
Is the American obsession with individual freedom really such a great idea? What other cultures know about how to make good choices.
This article show three distinct cultural approaches to the concept of choice, showing how they shape people and communities and cultural systems. The three models discussed are:
This TED talk from Malcolm Gladwell is also an interesting exploration into the world of choice and options.
What do you do when presented with a new satellite image? Here's what the Earth Observatory team does to understand the view.
Aerial photography can be quite beautiful, as can satellite imagery. These are more than just pretty pictures; interpreting aerial photography and satellite imagery is not easy; here is a great article that gives an introduction on how to interpret satellite imagery. With a little training, satellite images become rich data sources (instead of some visually meaningless data). Using Stratocam, you can explore and tag some of the amazing place on Earth.
"If ever there was a demonstration of the power of science, it is the course of the fight billed 'Mankind v AIDS'. Until 1981 the disease (though already established in parts of Africa) was unknown to science. Within a decade it passed from being seen as primarily a threat to gay men, and then to promiscuous heterosexuals, to being a plague that might do to some parts of Africa what the Black Death did to medieval Europe. But now, though 1.6m people a year still die of it, that number is on a downward trajectory, and AIDS rarely makes the headlines any more. How was this achieved? The answer has two parts: sound science and international co-operation."
The Ebola epidemic has dominated headlines recently. In their haste, it has been lost on that media the scary medical story of the 20th century (AIDS) that was going to doom Africa is now a success story. Some of the stories about Ebola have treated Africa as one monolithic place--Africa is not a single story.
How alarmist, racist coverage of Ebola makes things worse. A dressing down of the latest #NewsweekFail.
The recent Newsweek Cover showing a Chimpanzee for the article, Smuggled Bushmeat Is Ebola's Back Door to America, has received a lot of criticism for being factually inaccurate, but also for it's portrayal of Africa that taps into deep-rooted cultural anxieties about Africa in United States. Western writers have use many cultural conventions to talk about "the Dark Continent" stemming from a long colonial tradition. Africa had been developing rapidly in the last decade and how Ebola fares seems to be a referendum on the continent for many cultural commentators. This great Washington Post article is less about Ebola, but uses the outbreak to analyze how we think about Africa, and sometimes it isn't a pretty reflection. The Ebola outbreak is teaching us how we perceive Africa as much as it is about Africa itself.
This simple WebApp allows the user to compare areas that are hard to compare on a map or globe because of distance or the map projection. Competitive students love to hypothesize and then verify. This helps strengthen student's mental maps and their ability to make regional comparisons.
Why knowing where countries are in Africa matters for how the rest of the world thinks about Ebola.
Cultural and media norms that often refer to Africa as one entity rather than an 11.7 million-square-mile land mass comprised of 54 countries and over 1.1 billion people who speak over 2,000 different languages. This cultural confusion means that, when a dangerous virus like Ebola breaks out, Americans who are used to referring to “Africa” as one entity may make mistakes in understanding just how big of a threat Ebola actually is, who might have been exposed to it, and what the likelihood of an individual contracting it might be. This Ebola outbreak is wreaking havoc on African economies beyond the three most heavily affected by Ebola, and that damage is completely avoidable. The East and Southern African safari industry provides a good example. Bookings for safaris there — including for the famed Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania — have plummeted due to the Ebola outbreak. These actions are based in fear, not reality.
Geo-literacy is so critical; our level of geo-literacy shapes our framework for organizing global information. Currently, two or three countries face the very real risk of becoming failed states as Ebola ravages them; but painting with such a broad brush that Africa as all one region leads someone to think that all 54 African countries are equally at risk as if they all have the same geographic context.
"Religious scholar Reza Aslan took some serious issue on CNN Monday night with Bill Maher‘s commentary about Islamic violence and oppression. Maher ended his show last Friday by going after liberals for being silent about the violence and oppression that goes on in Muslim nations. Aslan said on CNN that Maher’s arguments are just very unsophisticated. He said these 'facile arguments' might sound good, but not all Muslim nations are the same. Aslan explained that female mutilation is an African problem, not a Muslim one, and there are Muslim-majority nations where women are treated better and there are even female leaders."
There are far too many oversimplifications when people throw around the terms "Muslim-majority countries" and this video shows that a more nuanced understanding is needed. That being said, it would be naive to pretend as though Islam today were without some structural problems. As stated in the linked article, "In 2013, of the top 10 groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks, seven were Muslim. Of the top 10 countries where terrorist attacks took place, seven were Muslim-majority. Of the 24 most restrictive countries (according to Pew Research), 19 are Muslim-majority. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities."
Question to Ponder: How does the media play a role in shaping the conversations we have in society about different cultures and places? How can 'painting with a broad brush' lead to stereotypes and inaccurate conclusions?
Breastfeeding can be a polarizing topic. Views vary not only from person to person, but also country to country, according to a new survey examining women's opinions on breastfeeding.
This is just one example of how our opinions, cultural values and sensibilities are shaped by the cultures and places in which we are immersed. How do normative attitudes shape how people use public space? How is the body (especially the female body) regulated in public space?
In many countries, eggs aren't refrigerated and they're still considered safe to eat. But in the U.S., we have to chill them, because we've washed away the cuticle that protects them from bacteria.
For many Americans that are traveling abroad for the first time, realizing that eggs aren't in the refrigerator is a bit of a culture shock (not to mention the moment they find milk in a box that also isn't being refrigerated). Agricultural practices dictate storage requirements and some things we might have imagined were universal are actually place-specific or peculiar to our cultural setting. What we are taught to think of as gross, appropriate, attractive or even sanitary is often steeped in a cultural context. So is it strange the we refrigerate our eggs in the United States, or that they don't in other places?
"Superclusters – regions of space that are densely packed with galaxies – are the biggest structures in the Universe. But scientists have struggled to define exactly where one supercluster ends and another begins. Now, a team based in Hawaii has come up with a new technique that maps the Universe according to the flow of galaxies across space. Redrawing the boundaries of the cosmic map, they redefine our home supercluster and name it Laniakea, which means ‘immeasurable heaven’ in Hawaiian. Read the research paper here."
Spatial thinking and geographic exploration is constantly seeking to understand place in context to other places. More often than not, that is done without every venturing beyond this planet, but in many respects, space is the greatest of contexts on the grandest of scales for us to understand ourselves. I first saw this video embedded in an NPR article and it filled me with wonder to think about the immensities of space and that the Earth is such a small little corner of the universe.
Take a look at the first day of school celebrations around the world!
Access to education is one of the great indicators of development and political stability--educators wish nothing but the best education possible for the next generation, but the experience is quite variable across the globe. As many places have recently started school again, this article is a reminder that this practice is experienced differently around the world.
This video covers various topics important to mapping and satellite imagery (and a lesson from an APHG teacher on how to use this video with other resources). There is so much more to the world and space than what we can see see. Chromoscope, referenced in the video, simulates other forms of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum besides just visible light. This type of information is at the core of the science behind all of our satellite imagery. This video also covers many map projection issues and highlights online resources to understand map distortion including:
Elizabeth Borneman explores how cartography and cartographic projections help and hinder our perception of the world.
"How do you think the world (starting with our perceptions) could change if the map looked differently? What if Australia was on top and the hemispheres switched? By changing how we look at a map we truly can begin to explore and change our assumptions about the world we live in."
Geography doesn’t just teach us about the Earth; it provides ways for thinking about the Earth that shapes how we see the world. Maps do the same; they represent a version of reality and that influences how we think about places.
Using aerial photographs that render imperiled landscapes almost abstract, Edward Burtynsky explores the consequences of human activity bearing down on the earth’s resources.
"NASA goes to the World Cup! Satellite imagery from each country playing."
Not that we need any extra incentive to view NASA's gorgeous satellite imagery, but now that the World Cup has entered the knockout rounds, it is the perfect opportunity to view selected images from the participating countries. This gallery of a dozen World Cup StoryMaps are but a few of the thousands of Esri StoryMaps that can serve as motivation to get your K-12 U.S. school an organizational account for ArcGIS online (then your students can make cool maps like these).
This daily dose of satellite photos helps you appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things humans have constructed--as well as the devastating...
Have you ever seen the website, The Daily Overview? The purpose of the site is to share a compelling/ informative/artistic satellite image every day to get readers to view the world from a different perspective. This article about the site is nice summary of the project. Click here for another gallery of 30 perspective-changing images.
"More than a billion people around the world subsist on a dollar a day, or less. The reasons differ but the day-to-day hardship of their lives are very similar. A book by Thomas A Nazario, founder of the International Organisation, documents the circumstances of those living in extreme poverty across the globe, accompanied by photographs from Pulitzer prizewinner Renée C Byer. Living On A Dollar a Day is published by Quantuck Lane."
Extreme poverty is defined by the World Bank living on under $1.25 per day. The geography of of extreme poverty highly uneven--two thirds of the extremely poor live in just 5 countries (India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and DR Congo). This photogallery seeks to to show the daily life and realities of those living in extreme poverty. This article from the Guardian argues that development should measured in human rights gains more than economic advancements.
Thirteen years after the Bamian Buddhas were blasted into rubble, opinion is split on whether to leave them as is, rebuild them, or make copies of them.
This video and article work together to show a 'behind-the-scenes' glimpse of this heritage site, or the remnants of the old memorial which is an iconic part of the cultural landscape in their own right but for very different reasons. This is a great example of sequent occupance and some of the difficulties in preserving heritage. Some argue that by restoring the Buddha it will undo some of the damage done by the Taliban and create a tourist destination; others think that the damaged Buddha is a poignant reminder of problems with 'topocide' and religious intolerance.
Questions to Ponder: What do you think should become of this place? How come?
Wow. I guess it's true when they say not everything is as it appears...
A new perspective can change our perception of reality, as demonstrated by this delightful photo gallery.
In an interview with CNET, T-Mobile's Neville Ray talks about the carrier's plan to fill out its coverage and why it's picking a fight with Verizon. Read this article by Roger Cheng on CNET News.
Maps are not innocent reflections of the truth; and if you do think that they are read some JB Harley. Maps can be used to cleverly conceal the truth or to accentuate a particular perspective.