“What happened to us? The question haunts us in the Arab and Muslim world. We repeat it like a mantra. You will hear it from Iran to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, and in my own country, Lebanon. For us, the past is a different country, one not mired in the horrors of sectarian killings. It is a more vibrant place, without the crushing intolerance of religious zealots and seemingly endless, amorphous wars. Though the past had coups and wars too, they were contained in time and space, and the future still held much promise. What happened to us? The question may not occur to those too young to remember a different world, whose parents did not tell them of a youth spent reciting poetry in Peshawar, debating Marxism in the bars of Beirut, or riding bicycles on the banks of the Tigris in Baghdad. The question may surprise those in the West who assume that the extremism and bloodletting of today have always been the norm.” SOURCE: The Atlantic
This opinion piece is a somewhat controversial, but that is part of its value. The core of the author’s thesis is that to understand the modern Middle East, especially if one is searching for a way to create a more democratic Middle East, we must look to the past to see how we got there. 1979 is seen here as the pivotal year that changed the trajectory of the Middle East, in large part because of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, but for many other region-wide changes.
Questions to Ponder: What were the big shifts that occurred in 1979? What are things that you think that the author gets correct about their historical analysis of the Middle East? What are some positions where you disagree with the author?
“As all of us are hunkering down, universities and high schools are adopting some online teaching strategies. Many people are streaming entertainment content to pass the time with family or roommates as our lifeline to the outside world. While these might not be top on your streaming list of videos, podcasts, or online content, all of these are solid content that teach us plenty about the cultural landscape or about the world around us. This list will continue to be updated as I haven’t watched/listened to everything here as of yet (I’ll be glad to take your suggestions @ProfessorDixon).” SOURCE: Geography Education
I’ll try to organize these by platform accessibility: NETFLIX, AMAZON PRIME, PBS, PODCASTS, SHORT VIDEOS, Teacher-produced videos, explorable websites, and other movies. Check out the full list.
“This image of GPS tracking of multiple wolves in six different packs around Voyageurs National Park was created in the framework of the Voyageurs Wolf Project. It is an excellent illustration of how much wolf packs in general avoid each other’s range.” SOURCE: Earthly Mission
Maps are powerful tools to demonstrate spatial ideas and concepts. Wolves are territorial, and using GPS trackers to understand this really drives home the point. Here is a similarly fantastic map of an eagle’s flight paths shows the patterns amid noise.
With these tools at my disposal I stumbled on the decision to learn about my city by running every single street, exploring the cultural landscape, and make the training miles a part of a bigger goal. With this newfound understanding of my city, I’ve mapped over 100 changes on OpenStreetMap (OSM) to give my newfound knowledge a bit of public utility. The light blue line in the image below is the Cranston (RI) city boundary; As of March 12, I’ve officially run #EverySingleStreet, 100% of Cranston roads. It was a quixotic goal, but an absolutely thrilling way to comibne my love of running, cartography, Cranston, and exploring the cultural landscape.
TOOLS: Using GPS data in mapping tools such as ArcGIS.com or Google Earth doesn’t require a lot of expertise, but gathering the data out in the field can usually be done with an app that can create a .GPX file (search your app store for GPX). You can use GPS Visualizer to convert files, create GPX files or convert files to other formats. Look at the screengrab below to see some of the options, especially the ‘sandbox’ tool which lets you create a GPX file.
“For thousands of years, when farmers in mountainous regions have expanded their farms to grow crops on the steep slopes, they have carved massive steps into the terrain, forming terraces of many small platforms. Following the contours of the mountains, the edges of the terraces create sinuous patterns in the landscape, presenting picturesque images. Gathered here are photos from China, Switzerland, Vietnam, Peru, the Philippines, and Japan.” SOURCE: The Atlantic
This gallery of 27 terraced rice fields is absolutely fabulous. I find these to be some of the more beautiful cultural landscapes; I’m drawn to the great extent of agricultural modifications of the environment, coupled with the rugged physical landscape.
In many geography classes, teachers will assign students a country to help them gain some depth about one particular country as a way to explore economic, demographic, cultural, political, and environmental issues. These are some data visualization tools that deals with big data; the listed tools are some of my favorite in part because they can easily to incorporated to an ArcGIS StoryMap (especially in the Map Journal template).
- Economic (introductory data): Dollar Street from Gapminder
The best comparison and the most relatable thing for students to see in other countries is real people, leading regular lives. Dollar Street brings the economic realities of other places without some of the of the negative stereotypes or romanticizing far-away places.
- Economic (advanced data): Observation of Economic Complexity
Understanding global trade and economic data can feel overwhelming, but fortunately there are online tools that help us to visualize complex economic data. The “VISUALIZATIONS” are my favorite things to see on this site. The Observation of Economic Complexity is MIT’s companion website to the Atlas of Economic Complexity (Harvard’s version of the same data visualization–here is my tutorial on how to use the Atlas of Economic Complexity).
- Demographic (introductory data): Population Pyramid
Populationpyramid.net creates interactive, population pyramids that can be downloaded as image with the raw data also available for download. Simple, powerful, easy.
- Demographic (advanced data): Gapminder Tools
Gapminder is a tremendous resource that I’ve shared in the past and total fertility rates is an ideal metric to see in this data visualization tool. This is one of the best ways to visualize global statistics. The world is changing–see how.
“The UK has finally officially left the European Union (EU), almost four years after its famous ‘Brexit’ vote, and taken the British territory of Gibraltar out with it. Here’s our updated map and list of which countries are in the EU, which ones are trying to join, and which European countries are in neither group.” SOURCE: POLGEONOW
Today I’m teaching the my first class on “the Geography of Europe” since the UK has officially withdrawn from the European Union. As I went looking for any updated map of the EU, I found this excellent article along with the map and thought it was worth sharing. Since Brexit has finally been formalized, these snarky tweets were fun:
My Irish passport is so technologically advanced it allows me to live, work and study in 27 other countries 🤭 https://t.co/1y81wDIx3o
— Neil (@BurpleMan) February 22, 2020
Absolutely disgusting service at Schiphol airport. 55 minutes we have been stood in the immigration queue. This isn’t the Brexit I voted for. pic.twitter.com/QcSne9d4qW
— Colin Browning (@ColinBrowning14) February 13, 2020
“The deadliest violence in India’s capital for decades leaves 23 people dead and scores injured.” SOURCE: BBC
It is so disheartening to see the news that India is undergoing a wave of religious unrest. As citizen and immigration laws have been enacted that have a religious component to it, many feel that this is unfairly targeting Muslim migrants and refugees. Some see this as the beginning of a delegitimization of Muslim citizenship within India. As people are protesting these laws, there are groups that are also a violently clashing with protesters in the streets. Some are targeting Mosques, and the police have been unable to keep the peace. This is some nasty business that I hate to see anywhere, but if you need an example of how religion can be a centrifugal force in a country, this is a perfect example Here is an NPR podcast (and article) that also nicely covers the topic.
“We are tracking the COVID-19 spread in real-time on our interactive dashboard with data available for download. We are also modeling the spread of the virus.” SOURCE: GIS and DATA at Johns Hopkins University
UPDATE: ESRI has also created a GIS dashboard for the COVID-19 virus that complies an amazing amount of spatial data in a user-friendly format that is definitely worth your time. Also, this article titled “Why Geography is a Key Part of Fighting the COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak” is another example of that shows the importance of spatial thinking in interdisciplinary contexts.
After several inaccurate maps spread misinformation (dare I say, in a viral fashion?), I felt it would be important to not only share some good maps, but the most data-rich maps as well. Some U.S. west coast cities, such as San Francisco, are declaring emergencies in anticipation of an outbreak. The Tokyo Marathon has been cancelled (except for the elite runners), and some are worrying out loud about whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics games might face a similar fate. This article nicely explains just how contagious the COVID-19 virus actually is…(short answer, it’s pretty contagious).
The video below covers 3 major economic impacts that the virus will have on the global economy. In short, 1-Tourism and Travel, 2-Supply Chains, and 3-Flight to Quality Goods.
My favorite source is a GIS dashboard from John Hopkins that is incredibly detailed. This is a great way to show how big data, mapping, and geography become very relevant. Here is a link to the Center of Disease Control’s (CDC) page about the Coronavirus and a copy of their map (accurate as of Feb 24) in the image below.
“Emil is a social media-obsessed entrepreneur in one of the most remote places on earth: An abandoned Soviet mining village in Kyrgyzstan. Emil has returned to put his village on the map as an international tourist destination.” SOURCE: MailChimp
This delightful video shows the former Soviet mining town of Jyrgalan and a local entrepreneur that wants to revitalize the village economy, bring in the outside world, and make is home a tourist destination. It serves several purposes for a geography teacher. One, it’s a great portal into a Central Asian country where most of my students don’t have any real reference points. Two, the video highlights important geographic concepts such as tourism’s impact on indigenous cultures and globalization’s impact on previously isolated locations. Three, this is a great case study for a cultural landscape analysis. The video has some incredible juxtapositions; nomads wearing traditional clothes encountering adventure tourists outfitted in Patagonia gear, people in town cutting grass with scythes as well as gas lawn mowers, and traditional architectural styles intermixed with signs of modernity such as satellite antennas. The physical and cultural landscapes in this are absolutely stunning and worth the twelve minutes of your time.