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GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION

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poverty

Drought and Famine

In which John Green teaches you a little bit about drought, which is a natural weather phenomenon, and famine, which is almost always the result of human activity. Throughout human history, when food shortages strike humanity, there was food around. There was just a failure to connect those people with the food that would keep them alive. There are a lot of reasons that food distribution breaks down, and John is going to teach you about them in the context of the late-19th century famines that struck British India.

Source: www.youtube.com

Famine is exacerbated by natural factors such as drought, but those only stress the system, they rarely cause the actual starvation.  The real failure is that the political/economic systems created by governments and how they handle stains in the food production/distribution systems.  Widespread famines are very rare in democracies and are much more prevalent in authoritarian regimes.  Many of the recent examples have come from collectivation strategies that governments have implemented (currently Venezuela, but historically the Soviet Union and China).  The Choices program has some good resources about teaching current events with the famines today.

 

Tags: food, povertyhistoricalcolonialism, economic, political, governance, agriculture, crash course

 

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Venezuela Is Starving

Once Latin America’s richest country, Venezuela can no longer feed its people, hobbled by the nationalization of farms as well as price and currency controls. The resulting hunger and malnutrition are an unfolding tragedy.

Source: www.wsj.com

Widespread famines are very rare in democracies and are much more prevalent in authoritarian regimes.  This is because food production is but a small part of a larger picture; the system of food production and distribution in Venezuela has been decimated by the nationalization of private farms.  Individual farmers can’t make a profit in the new political economy and consequently are going to stop producing for the market.  This vicious cycle is political in nature more so than in is agricultural. 

 

Tags: food, poverty, Venezuela, South America, economic, political, governance, agriculture, food production.

Battle Cry for the Bodega

Why the chainification of the corner store is a bigger deal than losing book stores and record stores combined.

 

The term Bodega originally referred to a neighborhood grocery in a mostly Spanish-speaking part of town, it has come to be used (in my experience) to cover just about any independently owned small grocer in the city. The fear is that the corporate behemoth (7-Eleven) will destroy the neighborhood bodega, a New York institution of long standing. The quintessential bodega is a beloved part of the fabric of the city.  The outcry has been loudest in the East Village, a neighborhood that despite gentrification still prides itself on its countercultural attitude and grimy authenticity.

Source: www.citylab.com

When we discuss food deserts, we typically think about places that lack supermarkets.  In an urban context, the places that often fill this void are the bodegas.  In some major cities, these are going away as chains like 7-Eleven want to expand their reach and squeeze out these independent grocers. However you view this issue, “There’s no denying that the texture of the city would be flattened if the idiosyncratic bodega became an endangered species.”

 

Tags: food, urban, povertyplace, socioeconomic, food desert.

Death toll doubles in Ethiopia garbage dump collapse

“The death toll from a collapse at a landfill outside Ethiopia’s capital has risen sharply to 113, an Addis Ababa city official said Wednesday, as the country began three days of mourning for victims who were mostly women and children. Saturday’s collapse of a mountain of garbage buried makeshift mud-and-stick homes inside the Koshe landfill on the outskirts of the capital.”

Source: www.cbsnews.com

Some geographies are uncomfortable to discuss because they expose some of the social and spatial inequalities that we wish weren’t part of economic geographies.

 

Questions to Ponder: Why did this happen?  Why were so many people in the landfill?  

 

Tags: Ethiopia, Africa, development, urbanpoverty, squatter.

‘Crimetown’ podcasts on Providence No. 1 on iTunes charts

“Providence, once the heart of the New England mafia, was chosen for the first season. The approximately 17 to 20 episodes will follow the patterns of corruption in Rhode Island up through the banking crisis of RISDIC, the impeachment of a Supreme Court justice, and City Hall corruption in Operation Plunder Dome.”

Source: www.providencejournal.com

This is not just a fascinating local story of my new hometown; this is a riveting portrayal of the urban social geographies of organized crime, corruption, and the cosa nostra.  With only three episode to date, they with entertain and inform listeners with delving into the inner working of the mob (and just a heads up–the language will be crass and actual crimes will be discussed–don’t say I didn’t warn you).  To be honest, of course season one of Crimetown dad to been about Providence, and it is all the more compelling knowing the neighborhoods that are being shaped in this historical portrayal of Rhode Island.    

 

Tagsurban, crime, Rhode Island, neighborhood, socioeconomic, poverty, podcast.

 

11 Facts About Food Deserts

“Food insecurity has a high correlation with increased diabetes rates. In Chicago, the death rate from diabetes in a food desert is twice that of areas with access to grocery stores.”

Source: www.dosomething.org

Food deserts are places where residents have limited access to healthy food.  Here is a great map from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture that shows low-income census tract that are more than one mile from supermarkets and rural areas that are more than 10 miles from the nearest supermarket.  Esri has also produced a food desert map that shows where unserved people (farther than 1 mile in urban/10 miles in rural) live in poverty.  For a household with a private automobile, distance to a supermarket isn’t that crucial an issue, but without an automobile, this lack of healthy food available becomes a significant challenge for residents that live in this neighborhood.  

 

Tags: food, urban, povertyplace, socioeconomic, food desert.

India’s campaign to change cultural practices

“Television commercials and billboards now carry a message that strike at the heart of the Indian contradiction of being the world’s fastest-growing major economy and also where relieving oneself in the open is the norm in most villages. Research shows that one of the reasons for the stubborn social practice is the centuries-old caste system, in which cleaning human waste was a job reserved only for the lowest caste. Having a toilet at home is still considered unclean by many villagers. They regard it cleaner to go to the open farms, which can cause water-borne diseases, the second leading cause of death of Indian children younger than 5.”

Source: www.washingtonpost.com

An aggressive new campaign is ridiculing those who are no longer poor but continue to defecate in the open–even this UNICEF campaign (some language and low-brow humor, so use your own discretion) is working hard to change the cultural patterns and practices surrounding defecation and sanitation.  There are more cellphones than toilets in India and the lack of adequate sanitation and toilets is serious enough that that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made building toilets a national priority.  Comics are using their platform to bring this issue of uneven development to light. 54% of people in India do not have regular access to toilets and these comedians are using their platform to not only get some laughs, but to advocate for social change. 

 

Tagsdevelopment, poverty, India.

The Best News You Don’t Know

I’ve covered massacres in South Sudan, concentration camps in Myanmar and widespread stunting in India, but it’s also important to acknowledge the backdrop of global progress. Otherwise, the public may perceive poverty as hopeless and see no point in carrying on the fight — at just the point when we’re making the most rapid gains ever recorded.

Source: www.nytimes.com

The world is winning the war on extreme poverty, but most Americans think that poverty is getting worse. Doom and gloom can dominate media coverage because a horrific tragedy gets better rating than slow incremental improvements.  The general public is often ignorant of the measurable improvements going on in the world today.  No, the world isn’t perfect, but it is getting better. 

 

Tags: mediapoverty, development, economic, perspective.

Africa’s Charcoal Economy Is Cooking. The Trees Are Paying.

In Madagascar, the booming charcoal business is contributing to deforestation and may exacerbate the effects of global warming.

Source: www.nytimes.com

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.  

 

Tags: biogeography, environmentecology, poverty, development, economic, labor, Madagascar, erosionAfrica, resourcespolitical ecology.

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