Food Waste

Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat.


Food waste is a tragedy that we all know happens, but the economic system does not work efficiently to maximize the global food production (Disclaimer: it is HBO’s John Oliver, so there is some languages and references that might not be appropriate for all audiences). 

Tags: food, agriculture, consumption, sustainability, video, unit 5 agriculture.

We should host the Olympics in the same place every time

The Olympics are bad for cities. So why do we keep asking new places to invest billions of dollars in state-of-the-art stadiums they’ll never use again?

The game of the Games is rigged, with the IOC bearing no cost but reaping great profits. The competition is designed to force cities to bid ever upward, proposing state-of-the-art projects that they might not even need. Because of the mounting price tag, the vast majority of countries could never afford to host the Games. We need a new model, and I think the solution is obvious. We should build the Summer Olympics a permanent home.


Urban Geographer John Rennie Short writes an intriguing Olympic proposal, with the idea of fixing the broken economic model (for hosts) as well as the Greek economy.  He is author of the fabulous new textbook Human Geography: A Short Introduction;  you can hear how he wanted to bring a new voice to geography students that would excitement an intellectual vitality to their studies.  You can preview the supplemental resources and digital exercises for this engaging new textbook here. 

The Great Barrier Reef

“Australia urged the UN’s World Heritage Committee to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the ‘in danger’ list to protect their tourism industry. But that doesn’t mean the ecological treasure is not in danger.”

Tags: biogeography, environmentecology, Australia, Oceania.


Some of the most beautiful things in the world can be the most susceptible to sweeping environmental transformations.

The Earthquake That Will Devastate Seattle

When the giant fault line along the Pacific Northwest ruptures, it could be our worst natural disaster ever.

The Cascadia subduction zone remained hidden from us for so long because we could not see deep enough into the past. It poses a danger to us today because we have not thought deeply enough about the future. The Cascadia situation, a calamity in its own right, is also a parable for this age of ecological reckoning, and the questions it raises are ones that we all now face. How should a society respond to a looming crisis of uncertain timing but of catastrophic proportions? How can it begin to right itself when its entire infrastructure and culture developed in a way that leaves it profoundly vulnerable to natural disaster?


This is a long read but well worth the time. “The really big one,” an earthquake in the Pacific Northwest over 8.0, last happened in 1700, but seismologists know that the geological pressure on the fault lines have been building since then.  This in not a panic-inducing article, but one reminding people that the most potent natural disasters operate on cycles much longer than our lifetimes.    

Tags: disasters, physical, tectonics.

Florida, before Disney

Watch Mike Wallace’s 60 Minutes report from 1972 to see the Florida that existed before Mickey and millions of tourists descended on Orlando.


This 11 minute video from the archives is a great profile of a community in flux.  Orange County, Florida was transitioning from an agricultural region off the grid to a largest tourist destination in the United States.  Obviously, the community’s economic geography completely transformed, but the cultural shift to the region was equally drastic.  Since Disney today is such a well-known brand and so many students have been to Disney World, they will enjoy seeing what the community was like before it became an entertainment mecca. 

Tags: place, tourism, economichistorical.

OPINION: The cure for Puerto Rico is independence

The financially troubled island now says it is unable to pay an estimated $72 billion debt, casting a pall on bond markets and pension funds. On the surface, Puerto Rico’s debt crisis is one of run-away spending on public welfare, with a diminishing small tax and economic base to support it. However, the island’s troubles are also tied to its commonwealth status: Puerto Rico is part of the United States but it lacks the local autonomy afforded to other U.S. states and electoral representation in Congress.

It is finally time for Puerto Rico to break free. Independence would allow Puerto Ricans to directly address their economic woes, but, perhaps more important, it will grant the island’s 3.5 million inhabitants the right to determine their own destiny. On July 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that Puerto Rico couldn’t restructure its own debt. Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory bars the island from requesting bailout funds from other development banks. Independence, nationalists argue, would allow the commonwealth to make these and other autonomous choices.


Nothing like an op-ed to get people thinking…this touches on economic, political and population geography. 

Tags: Puerto Rico, political, migration, autonomyeconomic.

World Literacy Map: Literacy Rate Adult Total of People Ages 15 and Above

Percentage of a country’s population that can read and write. Country’s define literacy age between 7 and 20 years old. The standard age for literacy most countries is 15 years of age.

TagseducationK12, developmentmap, worldwide.


My 10 year-old daughter was looking in our atlas a while back (yes, she is my daughter) and in the encyclopedic entry of each country she started noticing that literacy rates were included.  She started asking about which regions had higher and lower literacy rates. This became a teaching moment about the power of the map–I explained that all this data can be more easily accessed and seen on a map and this interactive map is what we discovered.  We need to help student find the maps and data to answer their questions (and we need to make sure that they are curious enough to ask questions about the way the world works).  

My daughter can’t read a map. And your kid probably can’t either

Ask any teenager for directions and he can pull up Google Maps quicker than you can recite an address. Pretty awesome, right? And I’ll be the first to admit that having a map in my phone that not only tells me where to turn but how long it will take me to get there is pretty amazing. I use it all the time, honestly. But even when I’m zoning out and listening to that soothing voice telling me where to turn, I have a mental picture in my head of her directions. And I never realized that my teenage daughter doesn’t have a map in her head, because she’s never really had to use one. Ever.

Tagseducation, K12geography educationspatial, mapping.


Many of the more fortunate students (access to portable electronic devices, multi-car families with parents who drive them around, etc.) are actually worse off in map reading skills in part because they have never needed to develop a mental map and are not adept at navigating their neighborhoods (in the last few generations most and the range that part).  When these children become drivers, they are unable to navigate without GPS devices, but they still need to learn map reading skills. They are convinced that their apps can do all the work and that an old fashioned paper map is outdated technology, but their spatial thinking skills become atrophied. Spatial skills are crucial for understanding the world as a global citizen, to understand your local environs and for making scientific discoveries.  So teach a kid how to read a map…the sooner the better. 

Why are we so reliant on air conditioning? (It’s not just climate change, it’s bad design)

Air conditioners have made architects lazy, and we’ve forgotten how to design houses that might work without it.

A hundred years ago, a house in Florida looked different than a house in New England. The northern house might be boxy, have relatively small windows, almost always two stories with low ceilings, and a big fireplace in the middle. 

In Florida, the house might have high ceilings, tall double-hung windows, and deep porches. Trees would be planted around the house to block the sun. 

Today, houses pretty much look the same wherever you go in North America, and one thing made this possible: central air conditioning. Now, the United States uses more energy for air conditioning than 1 billion people in Africa use for everything.

Tags: planning, architecture, housingurban, place, environment adaptenergyconsumption.


The recent demographic shift to the “Sun Belt” in the U.S.  coincides with the mass availability of air conditioning (among other factors).  Our homes are less regionally distinct and in terms of the human/environmental interactions, our answer is greater modifications as opposed to regional adaptations…this article is a call for more architectural improvements instead of more energy consumption to beat the heat.

The science of slums – Geographical

In an edited extract from his new book, Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, argues that the idea of the population bomb is a fallacy and that the human population is checking its rise without the need for a grand plan


This essay is written by a critic of Thomas Malthus and could serve as a bridge to discuss issues in a population unit and an urban unit.  In a nutshell, Dorling feels that that Malthusian-like fears and assumptions about the proliferation of slums are unfounded; this is a good reading that can spark some conversation in a college seminar. 

Tags: declining populations, population, demographic transition model, urban, megacities, squatter.