“Andrea Wulf’s new book The Invention of Nature reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. Wulf traces Humboldt’s influences through the great minds he inspired in revolution, evolution, ecology, conservation, art and literature. In The Invention of Nature Wulf brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.”
I was glad to find this biography of Alexander von Humboldt. He has been described as the last great ancient geographer concerned with understanding an eclectic cosmography as well as the first modern geographer. He is honored far and wide throughout Europe and especially Latin America for his explorations, but given that people are confused as how to categorize him and classify his contributions, today he is under-appreciated. Geographers need to reclaim his memory and call his extensive, globetrotting work on a wide range of subjects ‘geography.’ Here are more articles and videos on the man that I feel geographers should publicly champion as their intellectual ancestor the way that biologists point to Darwin.
In Madagascar, the booming charcoal business is contributing to deforestation and may exacerbate the effects of global warming.
Deforestation does not happen in a vacuum–it occurs in an economic, political, and historical context. Rural Africans have less access to high value commodities and converting forests into charcoal is one of the few options (similar to the issue in Haiti). The short-term economic gain for a few individuals leads to long-term environmental problems such as soil erosion, flooding, and habitat destruction for many species.
“President Barack Obama designated tens of thousands of acres of Maine forest as a national monument on Wednesday, one day before the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The area, known as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, spans 87,500 acres of the state’s stunning northern woods. The area is named for Mount Katahdin, which is Maine’s highest mountain and is located within the adjacent Baxter State Park.”
The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is all around us. Yet he is invisible. “Alexander von Humboldt has been largely forgotten in the English-speaking world,” writes Andrea Wulf in her thrilling new biography. “It is almost as though his ideas have become so manifest that the man behind them has disappeared.” Wulf’s book is as much a history of those ideas as it is of the man. The man may be lost but his ideas have never been more alive.
Alexander von Humboldt has been described as the last great ancient geographer concerned with understanding an eclectic cosmography as well as the first modern geographer. He is honored far and wide throughout Europe and especially Latin America for his explorations, but given that people are confused as how to categorize him and classify his contributions, today he is under-appreciated. Geographers need to reclaim his memory and call his extensive, globetrotting work on a wide range of subjects ‘geography.’ Here are more articles and videos on the man that I feel geographers should publicly champion as their intellectual ancestor the way that biologists point to Darwin.
“Ecotourism strives to protect the native cultures and environments of destinations while entertaining and informing tourists of all ages. For many years people within the tourism industry have debated what destinations and practices truly qualify as ecotourism without reaching a definitive consensus.”
Ecotourism is an important aspect of Australia’s success. The Australian Government produced a website, that is dedicated to the tourism and ecotourism industry. There is a debate of land claims between the Australian Government and indigenous people. The cultural difference plays a significant role in the success of ecotourism because tourists enjoy the cultural heritage. The separation has created social, political, and economic reasons to be involved or not in ecotourism. The Australian Government has developed certificates and policies to allow aborigines rights of their land.
“The BirdReturns program is an effort to provide ‘pop-up habitats’ for some of the millions of shorebirds, such as sandpipers and plovers that migrate along the Pacific Flyway, a route that spans from Alaska to South America. Birds flying on this journey seek out the increasingly rare wetlands teeming with tasty insects to fuel their long-distance flights. Over the last century, California’s Central Valley has lost 95% of the wetlands habitat to development, agriculture, and other land use changes. As a solution, scientists use big data, binoculars, and rice paddies.”
This project combines data from satellite imagery to map surface water in California’s Central Valley, and individual bird observations to select locations that can be temporarily converted into wetlands to aid the migratory birds (for more information than the video provides about this project, read this article).
This is a great example of using both ‘big’ geospatial data as represented by the satellite imagery and combining it with field data and actual observations to make the world a better place. We need more decision makers that can think spatially and use geographic skills.
“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.
The major environmental problem facing Haiti’s biodiversity is explained, including video of tree-cutting within a national park.
Deforestation does not happen in a vacuum–it occurs in an economic, political, and historical context. Having successfully staged a slave revolution against France in 1806, they were ostracized from the global community (since the powers that be did not want to see slave rebellions or colonial uprising elsewhere) and were forced to look within for their own energy resources. The nation’s forests were (and still are) converted into charcoal, leading to long-term environmental problems such as soil erosion, flooding, and habitat destruction for many species. All of this increased increased Haiti’s disaster vulnerability in the earthquake of 2010.