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Using ‘Geography Education’

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This story map will introduce you to ways to get the most out of my Geography Education websites.  Updates are available on social media via Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.  You can also find articles specifically about regional geography (GEOG 200)  or for an introduction to geography (GEOG 101).

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Queen Elizabeth and Barbados relationship change symbolizes a generational shift

Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, new President Sandra Mason, singer Rihanna, former cricketer Garfield Sobers and Britain’s Prince Charles stand during the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony to mark the birth of a new republic in Barbados.

Perhaps against the wishes of an older West Indian generation, the new republic made a move that leaves an open question about what comes next. Barbados breaking with the Queen shows how younger leaders of color will continue to push their countries out of the shadows of colonial rule.” SOURCE: NBC News

Barbados has been an independent country since 1966, so what does this push against the remaining vestiges of the old British Empire mean? It means that the Queen will no longer be the nominal head of state with a local Prime Minister in Barbados; the new position of President will be fully acknowledged as the head of state without any deference to the Queen of England or the United Kingdom. Barbados is NOT, however, leaving the British Commonwealth, a trade association among former members of the British colonial empire. The great thing about the article linked above is the that while skeptics might say this is window dressing, but this symbolic shift is has some powerful cultural reverberations as a new generation is reconsidering the legacy of slavery and colonialism as they frame their future. Jamaica is another country in the Commonwealth now reconsidering their relationship with the British crown.

TAGS: Middle America, political, sovereignty.

Oddities in the Cultural Landscape

I’d like to share three resources I’ve used in FYS 100 class (Cultural Landscapes)

1. This 6-minute video that I’ve share earlier shows how landscapes change over time.  In this example, a rural West Virginia county is hit with stark economic and demographic decline after the resource extraction-based economy gave out.  The societal factors that created these hills and towns no longer are present and change doesn’t always feel like progress.  How do these landscape changes impact a place like McDowell County, WV?

2. There are some truly odd things in the cultural landscape; some on the surface are complete head-scratchers.  This article from the Smithsonian Magazine highlights the bizarre history that led to an Alabama monument to the Deep South’s most destructive 20th century pest: the boll weevil.  The article is more historical than landscape, but it helps to answer why some unexpected items might be memorialized. What is the strangest thing you’ve seen in the landscape?        

3. There are relics of the past that bring up difficult historical conversations with competing perspectives.  In this UK article, a classics professor argues for the preservation of monuments with the idea that they were products of their time that are insights into past societies, not just things to be celebrated today.  Do you agree with this perspective?  Why or why not?    

Maps that show who we are (not just where we are)

What does the world look like when you map it using data? Social geographer Danny Dorling invites us to see the world anew, with his captivating and insightful maps that show Earth as it truly is — a connected, ever-changing and fascinating place in which we all belong. You’ll never look at a map the same way again.”

This was a great TED talk that is firmly in my wheelhouse and hits many of the key big ideas that I want my undergraduates to learn (importance of human geography, using statistics to update people’s world views, fun and intelligent cartography…the list goes on).  I wish I had seen this a few years ago when I was preparing my TEDx talk in 2019, which was just one of many talks that day about geography education.

Site and Situation: New Orleans

I’d like to interject two geographic terms/concepts not mentioned in the video below about New Orleans: site and situation.  I would argue that in New Orleans has a horrible site (the features of a given location) but a very attractive situation (the connection and relationship to other places and resources).  The first 4.5 minutes of this video nicely highlights the contrast of an incredible situation on a horrible site; this would be a great clip for a general audience (human geography or regional geography).  The remaining portion of the video is still good, but more narrowly focused on the increasingly negative environmental context of New Orleans’ urban ecology.   

Geographers make a distinction between site and situation as they consider the underlying foundation of a place. Few cities represent such a wide chasm between these two aspects as does New Orleans. The situation, or the answer to why does a place exist, was imperative. The Mississippi River was a major artery for the North American continent. As first the Europeans and then the Americans assumed control of the area, a port was essential at the mouth of this river. But the site, the response to where a city is placed, continues to confound. Few environments were or are more inhospitable to human habitation. Poor soil, disease, floods, and hurricanes are constant threats that have plagued the city for over three centuries. But the why trumped the where and hence the paradox of New Orleans persists.

TAGS: Urban ecology, human and environmental modifications.

How Did Europe Become the Richest Region of the World?

“In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?” SOURCE: Aeon

As a global region, Europe has the great amount of wealth and sustained growth over the last 500 years.  Geographically and historically, are there reasons for this or is this just an accident historical geography?  This essay by an economics and history professor delves into the political, economic, intellectual, geographic, and technological setting within which European economic ascendance took place.  Some key geographic concepts played a huge role in explaining why Europe today was able to grow so drastically during the Great Enrichment (the diffusion of ideas across borders, vibrant competition within intellectual marketplaces, applied technological innovations built upon previous scientific scholarship, etc.)     

Tags: Europe, borders, political, economic.

Canadian Geography

My family loved watching the full Jim Gaffigan special “The Pale Tourist.” This is an except from that, and while some of it is obvious not correct (often the punchlines), there is a great deal more Canadian geography in this sketch than I ever expected to see in by a bona fide comedian. Like with all things, but especially comedy, know your audience(s) and know that I don’t 100% endorse all statements, but boy, I wish there were more geographically-themed humor.

TAG: Canada.

Making Olive Oil Soap in the West Bank

Value-added agricultural products are all around us, but many students aren’t accustomed to thinking about commodity chains and recognizing the agricultural component of a product if it is not directly consumed.  This video about the production of soap in the Palestinian West Bank is an excellent example of an older way of using olive oil and creating what hipsters might refer to as artisanal, craft soap (after watching this one about West Bank soap, you can watch a very similar video about traditional Syrian soap production).  I really like this video for a S.P.E.E.D. (Social, Political, Economic, Environmental, Demographic) / E.S.P.N. (Economic, Social, Political, eNvironmental) type of an activity were you provide/show the resource to the students, and have them identify and then discuss the geographic themes from the given resource.  

I really went down a Youtube rabbit hole with this one, because once you learn about olive oil soap production, you might need to know more about how olive oil is produced.  I’ve really enjoyed TrueFoodTV over the years, and below, I’ve embedded an excellent clip from them that nicely shows the the geographic context of the Mediterranean agricultural region (and if you want some culinary tips on olive oil, I’m officially now out of my depth, but here is a clip from TrueFoodTV).  

GeoEd Tags: culture, place, video, food, food production, Palestine, agriculture.

Picture in Aleppo of traditional olive oil soapmaking.

2020 Census Means Congressional Shake-up

Texas, Florida and North Carolina are among the states that will gain congressional seats based on new population data from the U.S. census, a shift that could boost Republican chances of recapturing the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats in next year’s midterm elections. The overall U.S. population stood at 331,449,281, the Census Bureau said on Monday, a 7.4% increase over 2010 representing the second-slowest growth of any decade in history. The release of the data, delayed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, sets the stage for a battle over redistricting that could reshape political power in Washington during the next decade. States use the numbers and other census data to redraw electoral maps based on where people have moved.” SOURCE: Reuters

It is constitutionally mandated that the U.S. government conduct a census every ten years.  There are many benefits for all that data, but the original purpose was to allot congressional seats in the House of Representatives.  Today the number is locked in at 435, so as states’ populations grow or (relative to others) shrink, a given state many gain or lose seats in the House.  This ends up being very consequential, especially in a two-party country that is pretty evenly divided.  

New York and California (two of the largest states with the most seats) are the most upset since they are seeing their relative political power in the House of Representatives wane for the first time in decades while Texas is smiling big with 2 added seats.  Little Rhode Island is letting out a huge sigh of relief, since it was projected that Rhode Island would be losing 1 of their 2 congressional seats along with federal funding that is attached to that seat.  However, Rhode Island managed to retain their two seats. The census only says how many seats a given state will have, but it is up to the state government to reapportion the districts.  Redistricting can be very contentious and when it gets overtly and unfairly partisan, that’s when regular old redistricting can become gerrymandering.

Things to Consider: What demographic shifts have led to these new political patterns on the map?  Will these shifts lead to gerrymandering?  How will this impact the states gaining (or losing) seats? 

Tags: electoral, gerrymandering, USA, mapping.

More Americans Are Leaving Cities, But Don’t Call It an Urban Exodus

A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, after much speculation about emptied downtowns and the prospect of remote work, the clearest picture yet is emerging about how people moved. There is no urban exodus; perhaps it’s more of an urban shuffle. Despite talk of mass moves to Florida and Texas, data shows most people who did move stayed close to where they came from—although Sun Belt regions that were popular even before the pandemic did see gains.” SOURCE: Bloomberg’s CityLab

A year ago, some of the most dire warnings about COVID-19 related migration pointed to the collapse of major metropolitan centers and an existential threat to urbanization as we know it.  True, high density settlements have been heavily impacted but the fears that New York City would cease to be “The City” were a bit overstated.  

Outside of NYC and the Bay Area, most of the migration inside the United States has been WITHIN metropolitan statistical areas, and usually from the more dense core to the outer fringe.  So edge cities, suburbs, exurbs, and micropolitan areas have seen an increase, but many of these moves were simply accelerated by the pandemic. The interactive charts and maps are what make this article an exceptional teaching resource.    

Questions to Ponder: How has your area’s demographic profile changed during the pandemic?  What are the areas of your state that have been most heavily impacted?  When people move from your county, where do they go?  Where do migrants into your county come from?  What patterns do you see and what explains these patterns?  What push and pull factors influence these choices?  

Tags: migration, USA, population.

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