Supporting geography educators everywhere with current digital resources.



Factory farming practices are under scrutiny again in N.C. after disastrous hurricane floods

As fecal waste and bacteria flow from hog lagoons into the water supply, North Carolina is revisiting a contentious battle between the pork industry, health experts and environmentalists.


In regions where hog farm density is high, there is an overall poor sanitary quality of surface waters. The presence of mass-scale swine and poultry lots and processing plants in a sandy floodplain – a region once dotted by small tobacco farms – has long posed a difficult dilemma for a state where swine and poultry represent billions of dollars a year for the economy. [Past] hurricane’s environmental impact in North Carolina were so severe in part because of the large number of hog lagoon breaches. Following Hurricane Matthew, the department has counted 10 to 12 lagoons that were inundated, with floodwaters topping the berms and spreading diluted waste.


Tags: food, agriculture, agribusiness, unit 5 agriculture, agricultural environment, environment, environment modify, pollution


The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

“Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny. Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it.”


Jared Diamond wrote this highly controversial essay back in the 80’s and it still can elicit strong reactions from anthropologists, geographers, historians, and other scholars.  This is a good reading to give students during an agricultural unit.  This can get students to question many of the assumptions about humanity that they probably never knew they had (Diamond challenged the mainstream progressivist position).


Questions to Ponder: What is the progressivist view?  What were the negative impacts that early agriculture had on human health?  What social problems does Diamond attribute to agriculture?  What evidence would you present to argue against Diamond’s position?


Tagsagriculturefolk culturestechnologyindigenous.

Mekong Delta fights losing battle against salt water

Vietnam’s rice region is facing the worst drought to date. Over half a million people have been affected, and the country could lose one million tons of its staple food.Leaders of six countries along the Mekong River met in China to discuss the relief measures.


Economic progress for some often entails job loss and environmental degradation for others.  As dams upstream are slowing the flow of the Mekong River, the low-lying delta that is a rich agricultural region is facing the ocean water that is moving further inland.  The once isolated and remote Mekong is experiencing some impacts of globalization. 


Tags: fluvial, waterVietnamagriculture, SouthEastAsia.

Cotton Candy Grapes?!?


After years of seeing fruit-flavored candy, we are now seeing candy-flavored fruit. The company Grapery is very careful to highlight that these patented fruit varieties are not GMOs, but the cotton candy flavored grapes are cross pollinated by hand (by fruit geneticists). You can watch this 4 minute CBS video about the agricultural production and marketing of this new product. Yes, I’ve experimented with these at a friend’s house, and they really do taste like cotton candy (and no, I’m not planning on purchasing any).     


Questions to Ponder: Does this make you leery about eating this or totally excited to try it? How come?  Why is the company so adamant to state that these grapes are non-GMO? According to the video, what are the primary concerns of most grape producers and how does that contrast with this company?  


Tagsfood, food production, agribusiness, agriculture, GMOstechnology.

Why the US government wants Americans to eat more cheese

The USDA said today that it will buy $20 million worth of cheese to donate to food banks and pantries in an effort to help America’s struggling dairy producers.


Do politics, economics, and government policies help to shape agriculture patterns?  Absolutely.  This is an interesting, current example that shows how Chinese and Russian policies are impacting American dairy producers, and how the U.S. government is stepping in. 


Questions to Ponder:  Should the U.S. government protect businesses that are in dire straits?  What would happen if the government did not offer agricultural subsidies/bailouts?  What will happen (or not happen) because of these subsidies/bailouts?  Any way you slice it, 11 million tons is a lot of cheddar.     


Tags: agriculture, food production, economicfood, agribusiness,

Making Ethanol from Sugarcane

This segment highlights how sugarcane is processed into ethanol for fuel and other uses.


Sugarcane ethanol has proven to be one of the most environmentally safe alternative fuel sources. In addition to its green energy properties, sugarcane ethanol has fueled the Brazilian economy for over a decade. The Brazilian automotive industry have developed a complex, “Flex Fuel” engine that allows vehicles to run off of both gasoline and ethanol. Also, sugarcane ethanol has been one of their leading exports in the global economy. Due to recently discovered fuel deposits in Brazil and around the globe, there has been a decline in the need for sugarcane ethanol. This has negatively impacted the economy in addition to the Brazilian job market. But thanks to the engineering of cellulosic ethanol, Brazil is striving to become the green energy superpower yet again.


Questions to Ponder: Since cellulosic ethanol production is so expensive, do you think that will deter production and customers from purchasing it? Do you think that Brazil will ever become independent of fossil fuels as a result of their successful sugarcane ethanol production?


Tagsenergy, resourcespolitical ecologyagriculture, food production, land use, Brazil, South America.

Stop opposing GMOs, Nobel laureates say

It’s the latest sign of a rift between the scientific establishment and anti-GMO activists.


Environmental activists are often frustrated when climate change skeptics do not listen to the scientific consensus that the Earth’s climate has changed because of humanity’s collective actions.  On the flip side, some environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus that GMOs are safe for human consumption.  Both have been highly politicized and tap into larger narratives that confirm particular world views.  Most of the opposition to GMOs is not because of the information that is out there, but the fear of the unknown that GMOs illicit.  


Tags: GMOs, technology, agriculture, agribusiness.


Pros and Cons of Cotton Production in Uzbekistan

“This case study considers the pros and cons of cotton production in Uzbekistan. Since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, revenues from cotton taxation have contributed substantially to developing the industrial sector, boosting the current account, achieving energy and food-grain self-sufficiency, and buffering domestic shocks in food and energy prices. Nonetheless, some argue that the state procurement system hampers the development of the agricultural sector. Often the payments for cotton hardly cover farmers’ production costs, and the quasi mono-culture of cotton production has adversely affected environmental sustainability.”


Uzbekistan is a top world producer and exporter of cotton. There are many sectors involved in managing the cotton commodity chain to partake in the production. Not only is it a source of income, but provides labor jobs and food consumption. However, the land where the cotton production takes place is suffering. This land faces many types of land degradation that has an impact on the cotton. In order to secure the land, there are possible solutions and policies to improve the agriculture and the cotton benefits. Once the world’s fourth largest lake, the Aral Sea, is located in Uzbekistan, and has had a major impact on the cotton industry. This production has given Uzbekistan a world-wide reputation in cotton production, but is also known for destroying one of the world’s largest lakes.  Just because it is your greatest economic competitive advantage, doesn’t mean that it is environmentally sustainable.


Questions to Ponder: How much does the cotton production contribute to Uzbekistan economically? What are the solutions to address the demising Aral Sea? Who is impacted the most because of the land issues?


Tags:  agriculture, labor, Uzbekistan, physical, weather and climateland use, environmentAral Sea.

Where our food came from

“Explore the geographic origins of our food crops – where they were initially domesticated and evolved over time – and discover how important these ‘primary regions of diversity’ are to our current diets and agricultural production areas.”


This is an incredibly rich website with great interactive maps, dynamic charts, and text with rich citations.  This is one of those resources that an entire class could use as a starting point to create 30+ distinct project.  This is definitely one of the most important and best resources that I’ve shared recently, one that I’m going to use in my class.  Where did a particular crop originally come from?  Where is it produced today?   How do these historic and current agricultural geographies change local diets and economies around the world?  All these issues can be explored with this interactive that includes, but goes beyond the Columbian Exchange


Tags: foodeconomicfood production, agribusiness, agriculture, APHG, unit 5 agriculture, globalizationbiogeography, ecology, diffusion.

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