“Spongebob Squarepants has been painted on the entire side of one caravan, and an Arabic phrase has been gracefully painted on another. This kind of incongruity I see throughout the camp. Two women are dressed in traditional full-length hijabs, for example, but the man behind them is wearing a Golden State Warriors t-shirt. A man in a robe encourages a donkey to pull a cart, yet right past him are young boys with smartphones huddled near a fence looking for better cell reception. A little further down the road and on my right I see a shoeless kid laughing and rolling a tire, but on my left, I spot a vast number of solar-powered panels. This constant juxtaposition is jarring and yet beautiful, and I am taken back by the energy of the place.”
This is from the other Professor Dixon, my brother Shane, an ESL professor at Arizona State who travels abroad frequently to train ESL teachers around the world (he’s taught MOOCs and is a rock star in the ESL world–trust me–he’s awesome). I was thrilled to hear that he would not only be going to Jordan, but working within the Za’atari refugee camp. He’s a keen observer of the cultural and urban landscapes.
Cities are removing benches in an effort to counter vagrancy and crime—at the same time that they’re adding them to make the public realm more age-friendly.
Geography explores more than just what countries control a certain territory and what landforms are there. Geography explores the spatial manifestations of power and how place is crafted to fit a particular vision. Homeless people are essentially always ‘out of place.’ These articles from the Society Pages, Atlas Obscura, the Atlantic and this one from the Guardian share similar things: that urban planners actively design places that will discourage loitering, skate boarding, and homelessness, which are all undesirable to local businesses. This gallery shows various defensive architectural tactics to make certain people feel ‘out of place.’ Just to show that not all urban designs are anti-homeless, this bench is one that is designed to help the homeless (and here is an ingenious plan to curb public urination).
“[A new paper], published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, calculates that rivers contribute between 410,000 and 4 million tonnes a year to oceanic plastic debris, with 88 to 95% [of that total] coming from only 10. Those rivers are the Yangtze, Yellow, Hai He, Pearl, Amur and Mekong in east Asia, the Indus and Ganges Delta in south Asia, and the Niger and Nile in Africa.”
Of river-based plastic pollution, these 10 rivers are responsible for 88%-95% of all the plastic gyrating in the world’s oceans. Improvement in these key places could make a world of difference in improving marine ecosystems (NOTE: the map came from this alternative article on the same subject).
Admittedly, this is not a neutral perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth sharing if you properly contextualize the statements. UN Watch is “a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter.” UN Watch works to oppose what they see as chronic anti-Israeli bias in the UN.
“Because Israel refused to recognize the U.N. plan for an internationalized Jerusalem and because of its annexation of occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, no country in the world has offered legal and diplomatic recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Most states, however, have unofficially acknowledged Israel’s sovereignty and actual possession, without recognition of lawful title.”
That is, until now. The United States is planning to move it’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a move that will have far more reaching implications than the relocation of just about any other embassy on Earth could have, given the geopolitical significance of Jerusalem to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the broader international ties. Below are some resources to contextualize this shift:
- NY Times on the history of Jerusalem as a capital.
- Washington Post on the policy implications.
- Conversation with Israelis and Palestinians on their thoughts.
- The Guardian’s perspective on international relations.
- Political geographer Chad Emmett’s thoughts.
Questions to Ponder: How does this change the status quo at the local, national and international scales? What might be some of the consequences of this move? What would you recommend and why?
Can geography save your life in case of, say, a zombie apocalypse? Understanding the push and pull factors that create geographic movement — or how people, resources, and even ideas travel — might help you determine the location that’s best for survival. David Hunter playfully analyzes the geography skills that you’d need to escape the zombies.
This tongue -in-cheek TED-ED lesson shows how the concepts of movement are spatial, and of course, critical in an zombie apocalypse. Good vocabulary (push factors, pull factors, migration, infrastructure, etc.) is used in this clip.
The unofficial greeting in the bilingual Canadian city of Montreal has long been a friendly ‘Bonjour, Hi!’ But that standard is no more since a motion mandating store clerks to greet customers only in French was passed in Quebec’s provincial legislature. The move reaffirms French as the primary language in the province, where use of English can be controversial. The motion – which is not a law – was passed unanimously, but the province’s premier called the debate ‘ridiculous’. Introduced by the fiercely Francophile Parti Quebecois, the motion ‘invites all businesses and workers who enter into contact with local and international clients to welcome them warmly with the word bonjour‘.”
This is a great example of how culture isn’t just passively received, but it’s actively constructed. The call to defend cultural traits of a region to maintain it’s local distinctiveness is oftentimes why a region has a strong sense of place.
“Gibraltar Bay, located near the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula, is the central feature of this astronaut photograph. The famous Rock of Gibraltar that forms the northeastern border of the bay is formed of Jurassic-era seafloor sediments that solidified into limestone, a rock formed mostly of the mineral calcite, which is found in the shells of sea creatures. The limestone was subsequently lifted above the ocean surface when the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided.”
Gibraltar is an exclave of the UK on a peninsula connected to the Spanish mainland that controls access to the Mediterranean Sea; there is naturally going to be friction over this unusual political configuration. “La Linea” marked on the image is the international border
Questions to Ponder: Why are both Spain and the UK invested in this piece of territory? What challenges are there for a small exclave when neighbors aren’t friendly? How does Spanish and British supranational connections impact this issue?