Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
"Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the killings of more than a million Armenians during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. Despite considerable opposition from the Turkish government, the anniversary is bringing renewed attention to an often overlooked historical issue, with President Obama in particular facing criticism for not using the word 'genocide' to describe the killings. The 20th century was bloody and violent, and while some horrors are at least relatively well-known – the Holocaust or the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia, for example – others have become mere footnotes in history."
“For most of the world, the Armenian Genocide is the slaughter you know next to nothing about. But every year on April 24, Genocide Remembrance Day, we Armenians remember the injustice of a crime that is rarely acknowledged and often flatly denied. It was April 24, 1915, when the Armenian intellectuals, professionals, editors and religious leaders in Constantinople were rounded up by the Ottoman authorities — and almost all of them executed. During World War I, the Ottoman Empire killed three of every four of its Armenian citizens. The majority of Armenians alive today are descendants of the few survivors.”
2.5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire--1.5 million were killed. Not just killed, but horrifically slaughtered--beheaded, crucified, burned alive in their churches, loaded like cattle onto freight trains and sent to concentration camps, raped, assaulted, sold as slaves, herded into the DerAzor desert and left to die.
The United Nations recognizes the massacres and the systematic destruction of two-thirds of the Armenian population as the first genocide of the 20th century, and has stated that the mishandling of its aftermath set the stage for future genocides, from the Holocaust to Rwanda and Sudan and everything in between. Hitler studied what happened and borrowed many of the Ottoman Empire’s techniques to use against the Jews.
And even though some countries in the world recognize and agree with the UN assessment of the fact, Turkey denies it, and the US still stands silent and refuses to officially state that what happened was genocide...because to do so would offend Turkey, and Turkey is a US political ally. Many are calling on Israel, a country founded in large part because of a genocide, to acknowledge the first genocide of the 20th century.
Learn about genocide and teach genocide--what causes it, what perpetuates it, what the cost of denial can be. Don’t remain silent. Be a peaceful person in your own life, and in all your relations with others--and speak up about any wrong or injustice.
*Most of this post is courtesy of Janet Rith-Najarian, professional geographer and member of the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education.
Put yourself in the shoes of a Syrian migrant and see whether you could make the right choices on the journey to Europe.
This BBC interactive tries to get the user to empathize with the plight and the geographic circumstances of Syrian refugees that are fleeing a land a strife. The choices are not easy and there is no certain path. This is an interesting interactive that is designed to build geographic empathy.
Amid the celebrations this St Patrick's Day, there are also more somber commemorations taking place. In Mexico and in a small town in Galway, Ireland, they are remembering the hundreds of Irishmen who died fighting for Mexico against the United States: the San Patricio Battalion.
On St. Patrick's Day and afterward, many people shared happy pictures of Ireland, and that's lovely but I wanted this story. This is not a well-known story in the United States because it reveals the cultural prejudice against the Irish that was prevalent in the United States in the 1840s. I first learned about them in Mexico City, walking by a monument, that memorialized St. Patrick's Battalion. They were a group of soldiers that deserted from the U.S. army and chose to fight with their Catholic brethren on the Mexican side.
Questions to Ponder: Why are these historical events not usually mentioned in the U.S. national narrative? Why is this seen as very significant for Mexican national identity? What were the 'axes of identity' that mattered most to the those in St. Patrick's Battalion?
A school that lays in ruins, hospitals and refugee camps under attack, and a city center with the size of Manhattan destroyed by shelling — these are some of the shocking details of a new United Nations report on the conflict in Syria, four years after in began.
Stratfor conducted extensive scenario planning when considering Russia's offensive military options toward Ukraine. In this video some of the broader themes and deduction will be examined.
One year after Russia seized Crimea, many eyes are on Russia's intent in Eastern Ukraine. The first 5:30 of the video above is an introduction to computerized scenario modeling in geopolitics. The second half of the video shows the actual analysis of the military options available to Russia as well as as the risks that each option presents. This isn't forecasting what Russia will do, but highlights its geopolitical options if it does gamble more of its military forces in war with Ukraine. Here is a transcript of the last half of the video.
"As the demand for its products escalated early in World War II, the Army Map Service, a heritage organization of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, was losing much of its largely male workforce to the armed forces. A solution to the urgent need for replacements emerged when the University of Chicago’s Geography Department developed a course in military map making and began offering it to women’s colleges in the East and Midwest."
Stunning images taken from space put the world's crises into context.
U.N. satellite imagery has tracked the evolution of the camp since its creation. The exponential growth is remarkable. The refugee camp is rapidly taking the shape of a real city — structured, planned and even separated into neighborhoods and subject to gentrification.
"People who love to complain about how horrible everything is also love to point out that the world is always changing — and change is of course always horrible, because it destroys the way things used to be. It's easy to get depressed by all the 'everything is horrible' talk. So it's nice to sometimes remind ourselves that some things — many things, in fact — are getting better all the time."
While it might be easy to concentrate on the negative aspects of globalization, the positives are worth remembering. Even hunger problems in the developing world is getting better (but hardly eradicated).
Be a part of the Tower of London’s major centenary commemoration for the outbreak of the First World War.
The news of this art installation this summer captivated the media. Art transforms the place, and the place breaths additional layers of meaning into the work of art. The result was an highly evocative and poignant landscape created to be a living reminder of multiple historical events and the wounds that war can inflict on a national consciousness.
The popular belief that religion is the cause of the world’s bloodiest conflicts is central to our modern conviction that faith and politics should never mix. But, Karen Armstrong writes, the messy history of their separation suggests it was never so simple
After a bumpy beginning, secularism has undoubtedly been valuable to the west, but we would be wrong to regard it as a universal law. It emerged as a particular and unique feature of the historical process in Europe; it was an evolutionary adaptation to a very specific set of circumstances. In a different environment, modernity may well take other forms. Many secular thinkers now regard “religion” as inherently belligerent and intolerant, and an irrational, backward and violent “other” to the peaceable and humane liberal state – an attitude with an unfortunate echo of the colonialist view of indigenous peoples as hopelessly “primitive”, mired in their benighted religious beliefs. There are consequences to our failure to understand that our secularism, and its understanding of the role of religion, is exceptional. When secularisation has been applied by force, it has provoked a fundamentalist reaction – and history shows that fundamentalist movements which come under attack invariably grow even more extreme. The fruits of this error are on display across the Middle East: when we look with horror upon the travesty of Isis, we would be wise to acknowledge that its barbaric violence may be, at least in part, the offspring of policies guided by our disdain.
"Weak and failing states pose a challenge to the international community. In today’s world, with its highly globalized economy, information systems and interlaced security, pressures on one fragile state can have serious repercussions not only for that state and its people, but also for its neighbors and other states halfway across the globe. The Fragile States Index (FSI), produced by The Fund for Peace, is a critical tool in highlighting not only the normal pressures that all states experience, but also in identifying when those pressures are pushing a state towards the brink of failure."
How can political stability and security be measured? What constitutes effective governance? The Fragile States Index (formerly known as the Failed States Index) is a statistical ranking designed to measure the effective political institutions across the globe. There are 12 social, economic, and political/military categories that are a part of the overall rankings and various indicators are parts of the metrics that are a part of this index are:
•Human Flight and Brain Drain
•Uneven Economic Development
•Poverty and Economic Decline
•Human Rights and Rule of Law
The daily tally of rocket attacks, airstrikes and deaths in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
As the violent nature of the Israeli Palestinian conflict has escalated, this NY Times article monitors the major points of the last few weeks. The possibility of 'Peace in the Middle East' feels so remote, and this Onion article parodies the difficulties of actually achieving this. On a personal note, Chad Emmett taught the "Geography of the Middle East" course while I was at BYU and I've always appreciated his perspective; here are his thoughts on recent events.
"More Americans came into contact with maps during World War II than in any previous moment in American history. From the elaborate and innovative inserts in the National Geographic to the schematic and tactical pictures in newspapers, maps were everywhere. On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland, and by the end of the day a map of Europe could not be bought anywhere in the United States. In fact, Rand McNally reported selling more maps and atlases of the European theaters in the first two weeks of September than in all the years since the armistice of 1918. Two years later, the attack on Pearl Harbor again sparked a demand for maps."
As the sprawling Zaatari camp evolves into an informal city — with an economy and even gentrification — aid workers say camps can be potential urban incubators that benefit host countries like Jordan.
This is an intriguing article that explores the difficulties of forced migrations that arise from civil war, but it also looks at city planning as refugee camps are established to make homes for the displaced. These camps have become into de-facto cities. The maps, videos and photographs embedded in the article show the rapid development of these insta-cities which organically have evolved to fit the needs of incoming refugees. Size not investing in permanent infrastructure has some serious social, sanitation and financial cost, there are some efforts to add structure to the chaos, to formalize the informal. Truly this is a fascinating case study of in urban geography as we are increasingly living on what Mike Davis refers to as a "Planet of Slums."
"There are more people displaced by violence and conflict on the planet right now than at any time since World War II. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says the number of people forcibly displaced, including refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons has now reached over 51 million."
Stratfor Founder and Chairman George Friedman and Chief Geopolitical Analyst Robert D. Kaplan discuss how Bashar al Assad has legitimized his authority over the course of the Syrian conflict.
Stratfor specializes in global intelligence in key geopolitical regions. Syria certainly fits that description and in this video, the two most public faces of Stratfor discuss the reasons for the Syrian Civil War from and internal perspective and also impacts from a broader outside lens.
There have been a number of warnings from Kiev and Washington about the possibility of a direct and open Russian military intervention in Ukraine. But what could that look like?
20 years after the genocide in Rwanda, these perpetrators and survivors are standing for forgiveness.
The idea behind these images is incredibly powerful and heartbreaking. The horrific genocide turned neighbor against neighbor and tore communities and a country apart. I can only imagine the pain for the individuals, but also the trauma inflicted on the national psyche. See also the White House's official statement on the 20th anniversary of the genocide.
84% of Americans are unable to locate Ukraine on a world map; those that can't are more likely to support military intervention.
As I've said before, a more informed, geo-literate citizenry helps to strengthen U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic efforts because they have a spatial framework within which to organize political, environmental, cultural and economic information. National Geographic recently also produced a video showing how geo-education is important for business professionals as a part of their geo-education community (if you haven't already, join!). This is one way to combat geographic ignorance.
A color-coded map of the country's religious and ethnic groups helps explain why the fighting is so bad.
This map of the various ethnic and religious groups in being shown on major media outlets as some Western countries (including the United States) are considering military action in Syria. This and other maps like it powerfully conveys while many may conceptualize Syrians as a single monolithic group, that idea is a fiction that was created in the absence of geographic content to fill the void.
Additionally this diagram has also been circulating lately for the same reasons; this flow chart lays out the Middle East's political rivalries and alliances. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is a well-quoted proverb to simplify Middle Eastern political alliances and rivalries. Seeing this web, you can only imagine that living by that dictum can certainly lead to complicated geopolitical conflicts among countries and culture groups.
UNHCR has been attempting to count the world's refugees since it was created. If you want to find out which years resulted in the worst displacement, which were the biggest countries of origin and which were the biggest countries of asylum, use the interactive map.
This interactive on refugees is especially timely, given that the Syrian civil war has created refugee situations in many of the neighboring countries. One of my favorite elements of the Guardian's interactive is that they provide the raw data, so students can create their own maps with the same high quality data. Equally important, this interactive shows the regional power bases of all the various factions of the Syrian rebellion that is seeking to overthrow the Assad regime. The political conflict has huge demographic implications.