Supporting geography educators everywhere with current digital resources.



I am a geography professor at Rhode Island College.

The Role of Geography in Distributing a COVID-19 Vaccine

The head of the multibillion-dollar COVID-19 response operation tells 60 Minutes how his team hopes to distribute 600 million vaccine doses.

This video from 60 Minutes (Nov 8th, 2020) is about many things related to the United States government’s plan to distribution a vaccine. The “oh so American” name of this is Operation Warp Speed, because clearly time is of the essence. I’m not a medical doctor or a chemist so I don’t want to focus on the creation of a vaccine, let’s just imagine that a workable vaccine is in place. What I want you to consider is this: how would you get this vaccine to the American people? This is a logistics problem and it requires a geographic solution. In the video (right around the 1:55 mark), you will see Geographic Information Systems (GIS) being used as key tools to make more informed decisions (notice the variety of data layers being used to jointly to understand the process better). As the great geography educator Joseph Manzo said, “Geography cannot solve all of the world’s problems; but no problem can be solved without Geography.”

Conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan

Armenia’s defence ministry said Azeri forces had launched an attack five minutes after the truce had been due to come into effect, with ethnic Armenian forces responding. Azeri forces were also bombarding a town, the defence ministry said.” SOURCE: BBC

There are many simmering conflicts around the world that are not fully resolved but that can intensify very quickly because the underlying issues remain tense even in periods of relative calm. The Armenia/Azerbaijan conflict centers around the ethnic Armenian enclave (Nargorno Karabakh) inside Azerbaijan. To make things more complicated, there is an exclave of Azerbaijan (Nakhchivan) to the west of Armenia.

There have been ethnic/political tensions is this region for generations, but the collapse of the Soviet Union changed the status quo, and there was a cease-fire called in 1994, but that has dissolved in the last few weeks. Now, Turkey and Russia are both seeking to resolve the dispute (or carry out their regional ambitions if you like to approach this more cynically). This shows how a border conflict between two countries can quickly become a broader that can polarize the international community as countries “pick sides” in the conflict. While this is a distressing bit of news for global security and peace, this is a excellent case study to explore many political geographic topics; enclaves, exclaves, borders, sovereignty, devolution, international conflict, etc..

Al Jazeera (10/14)-Updates: Turkey denies accusations, Russia calls for truce

*BBC-Reports of fresh shelling dent ceasefire hopes

*VOX-The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, explained

*The Sunday Times-Azerbaijan and Armenia accuse each other of breaking ceasefire

*The Jacobin Magazine-What’s Really Driving the Azerbaijan-Armenia Conflict

GeoEd Tags: Armenia, Azerbaijan, war, borders, political.

Refugees in a New Home

An Eritrean family reunited in Providence, RI.

Usually when we are talking about refugee topics, we think about it the immediate problems in refugee camps and the conclusion of all these problems will be resettlement of the refugees to a safer place…or so we think.  I love this video for so many reasons, but especially because it concentrates on the many obstacles confronting refugees AFTER they are resettled in a new country.  This documentary, Home Across Lands (FULL 1-hour version available here. The 8-minute version is available on Vimeo) was produced a little over 10 years ago by a Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based film company. This film is an intensely local portrayal of the many difficulties for refugees in a new country. Many haven’t heard about Eritreans refugee camps in Ethiopia, but this article from the Irish Times will give some context on the issue.

Questions to Ponder:

1-Why did so many of the Kumana need to leave Eritrea?    

2-What were the economic difficulties of living in the Shimelba refugee camp?

3-What are some some of the political/legal challenges for refugees in a refugee camp?

3-What are some of the cultural struggles for refugees upon arriving to the United States?

4-What are some of the economic difficulties for refugees upon arriving to the United States?

5-How does the fact of refugees leaving impact their original homeland and it’s culture? How does the fact of refugees arriving to a new place impact their new home?

GeoEd Tags: RhodeIsland, refugees, population, migration.

The water tap at the Shimelba refugee camp

Do we really live longer than our ancestors?

The wonders of modern medicine and nutrition make it easy to believe we enjoy longer lives than at any time in human history, but we may not be that special after all.” SOURCE: BBC

This BBC article explores many of our assumptions about demographic issues before statistics were recorded.  This article especially looks at the notion that our life span has been increasing throughout history.  This would be a good article to get some background information about stage 1 of the demographic transition.  In a nutshell, the article’s premise is that just because life expectancy is increasing, it does not mean that our lifespan is the main reason.  The main reason life expectancy has improved is that more children are surviving their early years not because we have extended the lifespan of elderly so much.

GeoEd Tags: medical, population, statistics, mortality.

What Cheese Looks Like Around the World

“Cheese from all around the world comes in different forms, textures, and colors, from white to blue. It’s eaten in many different ways, and some cheeses have legends or myths behind their invention Let’s take a look at what cheese looks like around the world.”


Geographers are drawn to videos like this that give a quick tour around the world.  The Travel Insider video channel has a few great examples that show how distinct regional variations in food production create cultural distinct local customs.  Food production is inherently cultural, and these videos show how local flavor creates a series of regional variations. 

While I’m a fan of the “cheese around the world” video, I’ll include some other of my favorites below.  Linked here is a great article showing the amazing diversity of breads around the world. On the food them, there is desserts around the world, sandwiches from around the world, street foods around the world, breads around the world, and off the food topic, but still very cultural, wedding traditions around world as a sampler for the channel.   

GeoEd Tags: culture, place, video, food, food production, agriculture, worldwide

Considering Geographic Outcomes of the Pandemic


So many things about society have been reshaped by the emergence and spread of Coronavirus this last year.  I would encourage you to consider what some of the geographic factors that have shaped your world, but how the new wrinkle of a pandemic is either amplifying the effect of reversing some old patterns.  Distance, scale, density, diffusion, regions, interactions, and connectivity are some of the many factors you may wish to consider.   There are many articles to consider but I would like to share a few.

Economic:  Covid-19 has reshaped many industries; some for the better, but many more for the worse.  The garment industry has taken many early hits as clothing shopping (unlike grocery shopping) was not considered essential.  Some that retrofitted their operation to mask production were able to rally but many parts of the clothing commodity chain have been negatively impacted (Source: South China Post).

Cultural: Wearing masks have become a critical part of the global fight against the pandemic.  Some societies before the pandemic had strong mask-wearing cultures (like Japan), while other had cultural norms against wearing masks in public (like France).  The pandemic is changing France and many Niqab-wearing Muslims have thoughts on masking wearing and connected cultural issues (Source: NPR podcast).

Mapping: We’ve seen so many maps stemming from the spread of COVID-19, but these maps have us reconsider our neighborhoods and our places of interaction during pandemic were all the “normal” rules of interaction got upended.  How 2020 Remapped Our Worlds (Source: CityLab).

The Sounds of the Landscape


We often think of the only what we can see as a part of the landscape, but often forget that the cultural landscape can be a full sensory experience.  The architecture of the Hagia Sophia is recognized as a iconic landmark, but the acoustics of the building are a major part of the creating the experience of being in that place.  Once a cathedral, then a mosque, and now a museum, this building is one of the classic examples of sequent occupance. This NPR podcast shows how some have recreated the soundscapes of the Hagia Sophia, back when is was the preeminent medieval Christian place of worship.  This YouTube playlist has the Capella Romana’s album, The Lost Voices of the Hagia Sophia.

Tags: landscape, music, Christianity, architecture, Middle East, Turkey.


Remembering a Geography Education Legend

Last year, I was considering ways to get some of the “ancestors” of AP Human Geography to the reading.  Alec Murphy was the Professional Development Night speaker at the 2019 APHG reading.  I was hoping to have James Marran address the APHG reading community but he has passed away.  ETS has asked me to share this letter to remember him as a pioneer for the APHG community and geography education.



Amid a Pandemic, Geography Returns with a Vengeance

GeoPandemicAs I mentioned in my last Coronavirus post, there are geographic factors and implications everywhere when dealing with this truly global issue that has profoundly local ramifications. True, I am guilty as charged if I stand accused of seeing geography everywhere, but now even non-geographers are seeing geography, place, distance, regions, interactions, and connections as more important than ever. I would like to share three additional resources that point to the centrality of geographic thought to all that is happening these days:

These three resources show that geographic factors were more than just a part of the origin and diffusion of the Coronavirus; geographic tools and analysis are front and center in local, national, and global responses to the situation. A former student of mine put together the RI Dept. of Health dashboard and I was delighted to see her love of mapping spatial data help my state during this time of crisis. Our ‘personal space’ means much more during social distancing as our spatial settings are at the forefront of our thoughts as we move through our neighborhoods and navigate through space with greater concern. The forces that have made the world more interconnected are the same forces that are requiring that we stay apart. May we also think more geographically as we consider the problems at a bigger scale as we have seen how many things need to be restructured.

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