Lake Volta, the largest reservoir in the world, covers over 3% of the Ghana’s land. This video does a great job explaining the economic and political rationale that led the newly independent country of Ghana to sacrifice such a large portion of their territory (Super quick answer—to get electricity to fuel their economy and become the world’s leading aluminum producer). This hits on a variety of geographic themes: human and environmental interactions, modifications to the landscape, economic development, neocolonialism, migration through displacement, globalization, etc.
I’ve been teaching about the lack of toilets, open defecation, and adequate sanitation in India for years now, but over the pandemic, some of those articles I referenced became outdated (2016). So today I wanted to refresh my teaching materials. While the statistics have improved, it is still a serious health issue that remains a major impediment to economic and social development. The government proudly states that 100% of Indians have access to toilets, but a national survey found that 10% of the rural areas still defecate in the open (with other estimates much worse). Below are some good articles to get a sense of the current situation.
–BBC: Is India’s lack of toilets a cultural problem? (old article)
"Maybe it’s something in the gazpacho or paella, as Spain just surpassed Italy to become the world’s healthiest country."
This data offers excellent insight into regional developmental patterns around the world–it is very much worth exploring. However I’m sharing this also for it’s mapping project potential; the data behind this map is available in the article and students can make their own maps with it.
"China has huge ambitions for the 21st century. But it’s demographic problems will be a significant challenge on the way there."
I know that YOU know that China ended the One-Child Policy, but many incoming college freshman have a world view about population that is a generation behind on many of the current population trends. This video discusses most of the APHG population topics using China as the world’s most important population case study–that makes this video excellent to show in a regional or human geography course.
“For the last 12 months, the global media has been focused on a lot of bad news. But there were other things happening out there too: conservation successes, huge wins for global health, more peace and tolerance, less war and violence, rising living standards, some big clean energy milestones, and a quiet turning of the tide in the fight against plastic. Stories of human progress, that didn’t make it into the evening broadcasts, or onto your social media feeds.”
The world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but far too often the news will give us an overly pessimistic viewpoint about the world (as mentioned in Hans Rosling’s Book, FACTFULNESS). Slow, incremental progress isn’t dramatic enough to make the headlines, and consequently we often miss the evidence that will demonstrate the ways in which the world is improving. This article wrapping up some positive news from 2018 then, is a welcome bit of news that might change how we perceive some aspects of world.
Sky-high food prices in the North have led many residents of Iqaluit to turn to Amazon Prime to save on necessities. But is that a sustainable solution?
Nunavut is remote…far more remote than most of our students can imagine. They live over 1,000 miles from any city with half a million people. The entire territory is enormous, but sparsely populated with only 36,000 people. Try to image getting commercial goods to such a remote location. The Canadian government has invested heavily to subsidize systems to get food products and other necessities to Nunavut. Still, the transportation costs are so high, and the numbers are so few that economies of scale can’t help this situation.
Enter Amazon Prime in 2005, and the online retail giant began offering free shipping for “Prime” customers for a flat yearly subscription fee (today $99 in the U.S.). This was simply too good to be true for many customers in far-flung settlements in Nunavut. Amazon, probably not anticipating the overwhelming transportation costs associated with a place like Nunavut, in 2015 stopped offering Prime membership for Nunavut customers that do not live in the capital city of Iqaluit. Still, the capital city looks to Amazon Prime more so than the Canadian or territorial government as their lifeline to the global economy. Some even argue that Amazon Prime has done more to improve the standard of living and providing food security for Nunavut residents than the government.
"Don’t listen to the gloom-sayers. The world has improved by every measure of human flourishing over the past two centuries, and the progress continues, writes Steven Pinker."
This is a great article that only reiterates what was said in Hans Rosling’s Book, FACTFULNESS, that the world is getting better.
"The three authors of Factfulness explain why they decided to write the book that is now available in 24 languages."
I just finished Hans Rosling’s book, Factfulness. It was an absolutely delightful read (who wouldn’t want to imagine hearing Hans Rosling’s voice while relaxing on the beach?). So much of the populace have outdated paradigms about the world and too many have an overly pessimistic worldview that everything is getting worse. This is why FACTFULNESS is so needed day. This term is used to describe a fact-based, data-driven worldview that is not overly dramatic, or fear-based. In so many ways, the world has been consistently getting quantifiable better; this derived from an optimistic perspective, but a factful understanding of the world today. This book is his clarion call to understand the world as it actually is and is the culmination of his professional achievements. Now that he has passed away, it feels like a major part of his lasting legacy. If you’ve ever used his TED talks, Gapminder, the Ignorance Project, or Dollar Street resources, this is a must read.
“In the garment industry, stories about workers who barely eke out an existence on ‘starvation wages’ are legion: Factory workers in New Delhi often describe living in makeshift hovels ‘barely fit for animals.’ A young woman from Myanmar might wrestle with the decision to feed her children or send them to school. In Bangladesh, sewing-machine operators frequently toil for 100 hours or more a week, only to run out of money before the end of the month. Workers have demanded higher pay in all those countries, of course, sometimes precipitating violence between protesters and police. Companies in general, however, have preferred to sidestep the issue altogether. In fact, no multinational brand or retailer currently claims to pay its garment workers a wage they can subsist on.”
In some ways this isn’t the right question to be asking. While clothing brands don’t want the bad PR from low wages, like all businesses, they are incentivized to minimize their inputs and maximize their profits. If capitalistic logic were completely unrestrained, this situation would never change as long as there are low-skill workers.
Questions to Ponder: What institutions have the ability to change this situation and what are effective ways to bring about change? Where are textile industries located in the international division of labor? How do sweatshops impact the places where they locate in the international division of labor?