Ebola easier to stop now than later

Help must come within weeks, or Ebola will require unimaginable resources. Data sources: http://nej.md/1wS4zeN & http://reliefweb.int/disaster/ep-2014-000041...

Source: www.youtube.com

The Ebola outbreak has been a horrific event and its spread has demonstrated many of the principles of viral diffusion.  Hans Rosling, the face of Gapminder, shows that immediate action now can prevent this from becoming a much worse crisis.  

Tags: medical, development, diffusion, Africa.

Cultural commodities and the idea of beauty

“In Venezuela, women are confronted with a culture of increasingly enhanced physiques fueled by beauty pageants and plastic surgery.”

Source: www.youtube.com

Unrealistic mannequins are nothing new…but this happens for some important cultural and economic reasons.  Society produces mannequins and the mannequins are a part of the cultural landscape that has some normative ideals of beauty and gender.  How does the media and society’s images of the ‘ideal body’ influence and shape cultural values and aspirations?  How has this changed over time and space?  

This New York Times article shows some of the connections between cultural norms, mannequin production and plastic surgery.  On the opposite side of the spectrum watch this video about the production of mannequins modeled on people with disabilities.  The tag line for the project was “because who is perfect anyway?”

Tags: Venezuela, South America, gender, popular culture, media, culture.

Protesters defiant amid Hong Kong stand-off

“Tensions escalated on Sunday when the broader Occupy Central protest movement threw its weight behind student-led protests, bringing forward a mass civil disobedience campaign due to start on Wednesday.  China’s leaders must be sitting uncomfortably in Beijing.  As long as the protests continue, there is a chance they will spread to the mainland, where many are unhappy with one-party rule.  But if the protesters hold their ground, how far will Beijing allow events to spiral before getting directly involved?”

Source: www.bbc.com

Hong Kong is probably the only place under the control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) where protests of this type against the government could have started.  Hong Kong, once administered by the UK, was turned over to the PRC, but with special conditions that grant Hong Kong residents greater freedoms than those available the rest of the citizens of mainland China (One China, two systems).  Hong Kong students are protesting for full universal suffrage and for the right to choose their own candidates–something that Beijing is not willing to concede; some autonomy yes, power to make further breaks with Beijing?  No.  In addition to political control, some students feel economically marginalized by Beijing’s policies.  In 1997, when Hong Kong became a part of the PRC, it represented 18% of the GDP of the country; today it is only 3% of the PRC’s economic output. The Chinese govt. is currently blocking Instagram, trying to prevent the spread of viral images that show discontent. Still have questions?  You are not the only one as the world turns it’s gaze to China wondering about the strength of the Communist Party and the collective will of the protestors.

Tags: political, conflictgovernance, China, East Asia.

Thoughts on Geographic Integration

“This 18-stanza poem by Kit Salter, beautifully captures the importance of geographic thinking in any history/social studies curriculum.  This was shared by Dr. Vernon Domingo and the slides of his keynote address titled, Integrating Geography and History are available here.”  

Source: rigea.org

It was my privilege to hear my good friend and fellow geo-evangelist, Dr. Vernon Domingo share ideas on the importance of integrating geographic analysis in historical inquiry.  He shared a fabulous poem by Kit Salter, one of the pioneers in the Network of Geographic Alliances.  I’ll only share the first stanza here:

    How can there be a separate scene,
    For history without place
    How can there be events in time,
    For which there is no space?

Tags: geo-inspiration, geography educationspatial, historical.

Natural gas leaking from faulty wells, not fracked shale

“A new study adds to growing evidence that the risk of fracking contaminating drinking water wells is to due to problems with the lining of the gas wells, not the high-pressure fracturing of deep shale to release natural gas. In a new study, scientists examined isotopes of helium and two other noble gases to identify the source of methane found in drinking water wells in the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale of Texas, areas where a lot of fracking has taken place. The pattern of isotopes suggested that the stray gas had leaked out of the well casing near the surface, rather than escaping from the fracked deep shale, according to a story in The Dallas Morning News. The findings will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Tagsenergypollution, resources, environment, environment modify, ecology.

Source: news.sciencemag.org

The myth of religious violence

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.

Tags: religion, culture, conflict, political, geopolitics.

Source: www.theguardian.com

Which States Are in the Midwest?

Here’s a somewhat regular argument I get in: Which states make up which regions of the United States? Some of these regions — the West Coast, Mountain States, Southwest and Northeast are pretty cl…

Source: fivethirtyeight.com

Vernacular regions aren’t defined by a one particular trait, but are how we think about places.  These ‘regions of the mind’ are how we organize information about places, which is why these regions aren’t sharp or precise.  In a similar article, they investigate what we consider to be a part of the South using similar crowdsourcing data. 


Tags: USA. regionsmapping.

How Breastfeeding Is Viewed Around the World

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.

Source: blogs.wsj.com

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?   

Tags: perspective, culture, gender.

The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious

For at least 70 years, the Red Delicious has dominated apple production in the United States. But since the turn of the 21st century, as the market has filled with competitors—the Gala, the Fuji, the Honeycrisp—its lead has been narrowing. Annual output has plunged.”

Source: www.theatlantic.com

The story of the Red Delicious is almost a perfect analogy for the food industry.  It was genetically selected for its marketable skin, an aesthetically sumptuous red.  The skin of the Red Delicious better covers bruises than other varieties and tastes more bitter.  Consumers were buying what the industry promoted and “eating with their eyes and not their mouths.”  But recently there has been a backlash in the United States and more American consumer are seeking out other varieties; meanwhile the apple producers are working on exporting this variety to around the world, but especially into Chinese markets.  

Tags: agriculture, food production, food distribution, agribusiness, USA

Cultural Patterns and Food

“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.”

Source: www.youtube.com

This short video has been added to the the interactive map, Place-Based Geography VideosThis 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:  

  • Culture traits
  • Diffusion patterns
  • Acculturation, assimilation and multiculturalism
  • Culture region, vernacular region, cultural hearth
  • Globalization and the effects of technology on culture.

Question to Ponder: How are these 5 major elements of culture seen in this video?

Tags: food, migration, culturediffusion, globalization, consumption, APHG.