Understanding mistakes of the past can help guide U.S. transportation policy in the future.
In 2010, Americans drove for 85 percent of their daily trips, compared to car trip shares of 50 to 65 percent in Europe. Longer trip distances only partially explain the difference. Roughly 30 percent of daily trips are shorter than a mile on either side of the Atlantic. But of those under one-mile trips, Americans drove almost 70 percent of the time, while Europeans made 70 percent of their short trips by bicycle, foot, or public transportation. The statistics don't reveal the sources of this disparity, but there are nine main reasons American metro areas have ended up so much more car-dependent than cities in Western Europe.
This is an interesting analyzation of how the U.S. and Europe became so different in terms of transportation methods. In my personal experience, the U.S. is now so dependent on cars that there is a stigma in riding public transportation and bikers are seen as a nuisance. In this article, the "Technological Focus" and its points is relevant to many things outside of transportation and the U.S. strictly; the world needs to start thinking about behavior in order to make things better instead of developing new or better tools.
The Muslim world is very misunderstood, especially in the United States. When someone hears "Muslim" they might immediately think of Arabs in the Middle East. However, Muslims are spread throughout the world and Islam is practiced by many types of ethnic groups (not all Arabs are Muslim either!)
In any society, survival trumps economy. In this case water and oil are the respective area of focus in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been tapping into aquifers under the Arabian desert in order to grow food. This is a move of independence; as the NAFTA agreement may allow the Americas to be energy-independent, Saudi Arabia needs a backup plan to become a little more independent itself as their oil money decreases. However, this water source is limited and is ecologically very unsound since the desert climate is not good for water and plants.
Decades of war, migration and chaotic sprawl have turned the Afghan c
apital into a barely functioning dust bowl. The city's tired infrastructure is crumbling; water, sewers and electricity are in short supply.
Keeping an urban system running smoothly is a difficult proposition in developed countries that are stable--what is in like a place like Afghanistan? This podcast is a excellent glimpse into the cultural, economic, environmental and political struggles of a city like Kabul. This is urban geography in about a problematic a situation as possible.
Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul has seen a population influx due to war refugees and people trying to find more opportunity. However, this desert region cannot support all these people, especially now that many of the resources have been used up. There isn't much food, electricity, and water. Many resources have to be shipped in from private vendors, making it even more expensive. The government does not help and people cannot afford to leave (those that can leave typically perpetuate "brain-drain" in the area). However, overlooking the cityscape are "Poppy Houses" and other developments, which are gated, developed communities build on money from the opium trade and which have access to water. This illustrates the global pattern of the rich benefiting at the poor's expense.
"Afghan youth have very limited options for sports and recreation. An Australian man is trying to change that." This video really resonates with my students. Issues of ethnicity, class and gender are right on the surface. Globalization, cultural values and shifting norms make this a good discussion piece.
The Skateistan organization has provided Afghan boys and girls with the opportunity for recreation. Recreation is important for children to make friends, but more importantly in a tense country with many different ethnic backgrounds, it fosters community building and exposure to other people. This organization has given kids freedom and job opportunities that are actually rewarding. The blending of cultural interests illustrates how very similar people are; the Afghan kids are just as willing to participate in the unknown sport of skateboarding as any kid would be from a society where it is a popular sport.
Everyone is awaiting Russia's next move in Ukraine. Because of this, whatever Russia does next will be very important in shaping both local and foreign perceptions of the situation. Although the first option seems theoretically unlikely, the current situation is spiraling downhill and is resembling full-out war on the surface, even though Russia believes they are completely in the right.
"Every so often, if you ride Moscow's crowded subways, you may notice that the commuters around you include a dog - a stray dog, on its own, just using the handy underground Metro to beat the traffic and get from A to B. Yes, some of Moscow's stray dogs have figured out how to use the city's immense and complex subway system, getting on and off at their regular stops."
Humans commonly think of themselves as separate from nature. However, we very much are a part of it and animals, like these stray dogs, know it. When dealing with something more powerful than yourself, you have to learn how to navigate the system in order to survive. That is exactly what these dogs have done, literally and figuratively, by learning the complex subway systems in Moscow. It is an example of how animals can adapt to their man-made surroundings and how persistent (the rest of) nature can be.
Musahar community in Bihar's Darbhanga district still live in extreme poverty and face social stigma.
Paige Therien's insight:
This is an example of how pervasive the now outlawed caste system in India is. These people are socially marginalized through stigmas and lack of basic infrastructure from the government. Stigmatic marginalization discourages these people from participating in the wider community and the lack of infrastructure fosters poor health.
Thousands of Muslims in the Central African Republic have fled as UN chief warns of 'ethno-religious cleansing'.
Leave or die. It's come down to this for the Muslims of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Muslims here once lived freely among the Christian majority, running businesses and praying in mosques. Now, many of the city's Muslims have fled, and on Sunday about 1,300 Muslims from Bangui's PK12 neighbourhood were evacuated to safety by peacekeeping forces.
Already one of the world's poorest countries, CAR has seen a wave of upheaval and violence in the past 15 months. The 10-month reign of the Muslim-dominated Seleka rebel group inflamed intercommunal tensions in the country, and spurred the rise of Christian militias called the anti-Balaka. Once the Seleka was forced out of power in January, the anti-Balaka rampaged, targeting Muslims across the country for their perceived support of the Seleka and its bloody excesses.
This is an example of how citizens are sometimes held accountable for the governments actions. Central African Republic has already been facing hardships and its recent governance by a Muslim majority group known as the Seleka has only made things worse. Anti-Muslim Christian groups have sprung up in the aftermath of the government. They have been brutally killing and forcing Muslims to flee; they have no easy feelings towards Muslims.
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".
Following the Arab Spring, Karim Jabbari is hoping to help rebuild and recreate Tunisia through his own form of cultural expression which he calls "calligraffiti". Calligraffiti is a blend of Western Street art and North African Arabic calligraphy. This artistic expression works to spread messages pertaining to the recreating of the social and political environment of the country and by attracting and empowering Tunisia's youth in this endeavor.
Jakarta's traffic is legendary and locals have now become experts at finding ways to get around the jams, with some even making money out of them.
The population of Indonesia is heavily concentrated on the island of Java, and the capital city of Jakarta faces a tremendous strain on it's transportation network. This video show that resourceful people will find inventive ways to make an unworkable situation manageable.
Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta, is located on the country's most heavily populated island of Java. The city has seen an intense population explosion, and with is came more and more vehicles. The roads are overcrowded and there is not enough public transportation. People in Jakarta have had to adapt to the social environment that has been created. Jockeys charge drivers for giving them rides into the center of the city (you need to have three of more people in your car to do so). Even if they did not need to go into the city, it is a way to make many, albeit illegal. Cities, like Jakarta, are places where infrastructure and public transportation is needed most heavily, but it is the most difficult and expensive place to do so.
While this story is terrifying, especially because the author of the letter will probably be killed for writing it, the subject matter is not particularly surprising. Just because consumers do not find letters such as this one in their shopping bags and purchases everyday, does not mean that people have not been subjected to terrible working conditions and rights for very little money for many years now. The commodity chain of our globalized world has created huge gaps between the harvesters of raw materials, manufacturers, and consumers. These gaps are so big that not only do corporations loose track of some of their production information due to the huge amounts of people and goods they are working with, like in this story, but the consumers become very far removed, geographically and socially, from the people and places that provide and create the goods they consume.
This project is not just a photo competition; it is part of an IBM initiative that will create and develop opportunities in Africa. Therefore, these pictures taken by Africans themselves serve as a "suggestion outlet" that offers insight into what needs to be changed or addressed in Africa by those who have to deal with the issues everyday. From the photography styles to the opinions they illustrate, Africans have been empowered and given back their voices, for once free from Western influence. Africa is a geographically and socially HUGE and incredibly diverse place, which unfortunately is forgotten by most outsiders; these pictures show the extreme diversity of people and place. They also show that African peoples are already quite innovative and IBM's initiative may give them a much-needed boost in improving their society.
Potatoes were very important in the Colombian Exchange, which was the exchange of plants and animals to and from different lands where they are not native to. Today, the potato is the fifth most important crop in the world. Food is deeply routed in culture and this massive exchange changed societies.
Maps such as this one are very valuable when trying to understand conflict. In Syria and the greater Levant area, unbalanced power and representation in politics is the result of many different religious and ethnic groups living in such close proximity each other, allowing conflict to become very invasive.
Eurovision is supposed to be fun, family entertainment, though politics occasionally intrudes. This year, Russia and Ukraine may be fighting over who controls Crimea's vote. And then there's the issue of Austria's drag queen performer.
Paige Therien's insight:
Reminiscent of the Olympics, transnational competitions like Eurovision Song Contest illustrates the deeper workings of regional and global political and cultural issues.
The collapse of the Aral Sea ecosystem is (arguably) the worst man-made environmental disaster of the 20th century. Soviet mismanagement, water-intensive cotton production and population growth have all contributed the overtaxing of water resources in the Aral Sea basin, which has resulted in a the shrinking of the Aral Sea--it has lost more of the sea to an expanding desert than the territories of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. The health problems arising from this issues are large for the entire Aral Sea basin, which encompasses 5 Central Asian countries and it has profoundly changed (for the worse) the local climates.
The Aral Sea, located in Central Asia is a very important water source for the entire region. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union designated this water sources as one which would provide water to rice and cotton crops, which are both very water-intensive crops. This has resulted in desertification of the area due to the cyclical shrinking volume of the lake. Sands and chemicals are now free to blow around, affecting people's health. This is one of the best examples on earth of environmental exploitation due to a lack of environmental planning. When the lake dries up, the inhabitants of the surrounding countries will be in huge trouble.
Workers at an ailing paper mill in Siberia are clinging to their jobs in the face of financial pressure and criticism from environmentalists.
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.
The Soviet Union scattered "monotowns" around their territory; these monotowns consist of a job-creating industrial institutions like factories which then allow the formation of towns around them. They are located all around the former Soviet Union and are very isolated. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these towns continued to run due to the privatization of the industrial center. Today, Russia's Lake Baikal, which is the deepest lake in the world and contains 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water, is home to one of these monotowns. This particular town's economy is based on their paper mill which uses and deposits tons of chemicals. Environmentalists are very concerned for the future of the lake while the citizens are only concerned with feeding their families and this is creating social unrest. Due to the isolation and distance from Moscow, people cannot just pick up and leave. Also, working with "cleaner" alternatives is way out of this town's budget. Today, many citizens in these monotowns miss the support that the Soviet Union offered and people are literally stuck in a place where their only income is dirty.
Besides the very intense cultural and political split that exists in Ukraine and the conflict as a whole, one of the key factors in this situation is gas. This infographic shows that both Ukraine and the EU gets their gas from Russia, and Ukraine is the area which the gas lines flow through. As soon as many people in Ukraine showed interest in joining the EU, Russia reminded Ukrainians and the world of this fact
In the recent light of the Crimea annexation and following conflict, many are questioning what Russia's next move will be and how this region may change in the future. The former USSR encomassed a huge amount of land, and therefore many different ethnic groups. Of course this has always been a problem, and this article illustrates how it probably always will be a problem. As politics and cultures in different countries change, people will favor either secession or affiliation due to these centripetal or centrifugal forces . While some may be far-fetched (Siberia and Brooklyn), it is important to remember that as long as there are some people who are in favor, there may be conflict at same scale.
"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 offers an interesting piece of insight, which is that China has become the biggest trader in the world, and has even surpassed colonial Britain was at the time. During colonial times, and throughout history, China kept to themselves. Britain, on the other hand was becoming a world superpower because of their demands for goods. The article offers four reasons why this trend will continue for China including a firm control of its position in the market, increasing global demand for China's services, a shift towards a more balanced trade (i.e. more imports), and its established infrastructure. However, they do not touch upon the negative aspects of environmental and humanitarian issues that have been brought along with global trade, and which may be the demise of China's trade market.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting South Sudan and has warned that more peacekeepers must be rapidly deployed to end the conflict.
Paige Therien's insight:
South Sudan has been engaged in a civil war for a few months now. It was sparked by political means, but the real roots of this conflict are ethnic. The only "safe" place for civilians are flooded, disease-ridden towns while the other towns are uninhabited due to battling. Especially because this year marks 20 years for the Rwandan genocide,this issue raises some important questions such as when does civil war become genocide? Also, although Secretary of State John Kerry has recently threatened sanctions if the South Sudanese cannot maintain a ceasefire, it will be interesting to see where the U.S. and other countries will stand if this situation continues to escalate.
A former gang member from Long Beach, California, teaches break dancing to at-risk youth in Cambodia.
This video is a great example of cross-cultural interactions in the era of globalization. Urban youth culture of the United States is spread to Cambodia through a former refugee (with a personally complex political geography). What geographic themes are evident in this video? How is geography being reshaped and by what forces?
Urban United States culture has been introduced to Cambodia's youth by K.K. K.K., who lived in California his whole life as the child of Cambodian refugees, was deported to Cambodia, a place he had never even visited before, due to a felony charge. K.K created an organization which taught Cambodia's youth about HIV protection, computers, and drugs. He made his organization attractive to Cambodian youth by introducing them break-dancing and rapping. In the U.S. these activities are often viewed in a negative light, but K.K. used them positively by introducing them to a population with no prior knowledge of them. He also recreated his own identity by mixing his new, vastly unknown Cambodian experience with his life experiences from the U.S. He is an example of the many people who struggle with forming a more global identity in our global world. This organization targets at-risk kids and K.K. is probably trying to direct their lives the way he may wish someone had done for him.
Native languages, in South Asia and the rest of the world, illustrate the histories and worldviews of their speakers; language and culture are nearly synonymous. This synonymity carries over when dealing with the extinction an re-creation of languages (through creole languages). Today, our globalized world is introducing more global languages, especially English, to many societies. Speaking English, whether partially or fully, means that English-speaking society values and norms will also be introduced and adopted into these new-to English cultures. This can create societal issues as new, forgein ideals may clash with traditional ideals. Also, the United States is a country that primarily speaks English and which lives very unsustainably; if other societies are adopting our values and way of life through language, what will happen to our world?
Similar to many other industries that exploit those on the lowest rungs of the supply chain, the local inhabitants of the Khumbu Valley, Sherpas and Nepalis, face huge risks just to make a decent paycheck while trying to fill the demands of Westerners- including trying to fit Westerners preconceived notions of their own identity. These people are not producing goods, but instead they are providing services; they are the "tour guides" aka mountaineers that guide people to the summits of Earth's tallest mountains. Over the past few decades, Sherpa deaths have accounted for 40 percent of all deaths on Mount Everest. Westerners would assume that since Sherpas are the "experts", nothing can really happen to them, or, if something does happen, it isn't an overly common occurrence. Sometimes, this mindset, along with lack of oxygen at higher elevations, fosters abuse from tourists towards the guides. Tourism creates new realities and identities; Westerners have come to believe that today's mountaineering which they experience has always been a part of Sherpa culture, when in fact their expeditions have drastically changed it. Westerners have also brought things like schools and medical clinics but this is still at the cost of brave Sherpa men. Unfortunately, it took the most recent avalanche which killed 16, for Sherpas to demand more rights and benefits.
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