Thursday, August 28, 2014

Things to ponder

 Image above: The Aging World - oldies taking over in parts of the world!

An assortment to discuss and stimulate

The following sites are an interesting assortment of commentary, information and maps to explore issues as diverse as resource use, population, globalisation, inequality and climate change ... plus some which are just interesting for the geographer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The many and varied purposes of maps

Image: Maps used to explain or not explain the Middle East.

Related links to Spatialworlds  
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website    

Where am I??  

Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

The purpose of maps

This posting on maps of the Middle East and religion around the world and in the United States (US). They contain some interesting facts/information about the Middle East, global religious tolerance and the religious affiliations in the US to explain why they are the way they are. The posting also showcases some maps of the Middle East which simply provide facts/information about the region just out of interest without any higher purpose of providing explanations. Maps can be used for many and varied things, not just for analyse and solutions.  What is important is that we are using maps and spatial literacy as such to engage students in thinking about regions of the world, in a variety of ways - in an effort to uncover the complexity and uniqueness of the spaces and places of the world.

Maps that explain the Middle East

Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.

Maps that don't explain the Middle East  

Violent upheaval in the Middle East has recently spawned all manner of maps purporting to explain how the region got this way. Here, instead, are 15 maps that don’t claim as much. Or rather, they do not seek, like many other maps, to capture some fixed set of core facts about the region. Instead, these maps provide a more fluid perspective on the Middle East, often by showing what didn’t happen as opposed to what did. But for all these maps don’t show, they do illustrate one thing: the sobering fact that no one map—or even set of maps—can ever explain the region’s complex history and politics.

Another example of the power of maps to explain, this time religious diversity

A pattern of religious diversity and maybe religious tolerance around the world, but not as expected.

The world's most and least religiously diverse countries may not be quite what we would think. The source of the data for this maps is from an extensive report by Pew that scored and ranked countries on religious diversity by indexing survey data with a mathematical model. 

The maps shows the most religiously diverse countries are in blue and the least diverse in yellow. Surprisingly, the map indicates that the three most religiously diverse countries are in East Asia: Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In fact, almost all of the world's most religiously diverse countries are clustered in two regions: East Asia and West Africa. The least religiously diverse countries are easier to see, and are typically dominated by a large Muslim majority: that band of yellow from Morocco, across North Africa and Middle East, all the way to Pakistan. The very least religiously diverse country in the world is the Vatican City.
In regards to methodology, while every religion has internal sects and divisions, and while those can be very important, for the sake of workability comparing across countries and religions, Pew's data simply divides people into one of eight groups: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, folk religion, other religion, and unaffiliated. That last category means that non-religious people count toward a country's religious diversity score.

Here is another way of showing the diversity between a few countries, this time using graphs.

An interactive map of the topography of religion in the United States

A very useful map to get a picture of religious affiliations across the US. We see amazing differences from place to place. Why do these differences occur in their extremes and what impact does it have on the politics of the US? Here are a few more questions such a map stimulates:
* What patterns do you notice? 
* Are there religious regions that could be drawn based on this data? 
* What geographic factors have created the differences in the religious geographies of the United States?
* How do such difference impact on the nature of the places across the US.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Like a bird! The world from above

 Image above: Using geotags to map various cities In Europe

The world from above
One of the incredible changes resulting from the georevolution is that the community is now seeing the world from above through all-pervasive satellite imagery, aerial photography and website based GIS platforms. Here are just some amazing sites that enable us to see the world from above vertically and obliquely.
A selection of photos from the world's premier aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
* Earth from above exhibition
In 2000, Yann Arthus-Bertrand's "Earth from Above" free exhibition was set up on numerous big posters on the gates of Jardins du Luxembourg in Paris. It then travelled worldwide from Lyon to Montreal, to 150 cities and was visited by 120 million people. "Earth From Above" is the result of the aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand's five-year airborne odyssey across six continents. It's a spectacular presentation of large scale photographs of astonishing natural landscapes. Every stunning aerial photograph tells a story about our changing planet. Here is a collection of Yann Arthus-Bertrand amazing images.

Freeways in Los Angeles, USA
* 'From above' with Twitter tags
Photographer Eric Fischer turned a lot of heads last year with his Flickr set that used the site's geotags to map various cities. Recenlty he posted a new set on his Flickr stream, illustrating where in the United States, Europe, and the world people tend to use Twitter, and where they tend to use Flickr. 
* Ecology from above
A TED Talk fro Ed Asner, describing how spatial technology is used to study the ecology and geography of an area. Asner uses a spectrometer and high-powered lasers to map nature in meticulous kaleidoscopic 3D detail — what he calls “a very high-tech accounting system” of carbon. In this fascinating talk, Asner gives a clear message: "To save our ecosystems, we need more data, gathered in new ways".
* The Earth from above with Google
Google through their Google Earth platform believe that technology can help people across the world realise the impact of their actions towards the environment and contribute to making the world a better place.

* Earth Day images
In honor of Earth Day, The Atlantic magazine website gathered a collection of scenes of the Earth from above, from vantage points we don't see in everyday life. These scenes help show the Earth as a larger system and demonstrates the extent to which human activity has affected it. 

* Britain from the air
Although not modern 'from above' technology, the 'Britain from the air' project is a great example of using aerial photography to show landscape and urban change.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Who to believe? Another current contentious resource use issue for students to explore

Image above: The resource issue of dredging to develop a coal port at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Related links to Spatialworlds
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Background on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

ABC 4 Corners program on the issue

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is responsible for ensuring the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – one of the world's greatest natural treasures - is protected for the future.

An ecosystem based approach is used, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is widely recognised as one of the best managed marine protected areas in the world.
The Marine Park is a multiple-use area that supports a range of communities and industries that depend on the Reef for recreation or their livelihoods. Tourism, fishing, boating and shipping are all legitimate uses of the Marine Park.
The entire Marine Park is covered by a Zoning Plan that identifies where particular activities are permitted and where some are not permitted.
The Zoning Plan separates conflicting uses, with 33 per cent of the Marine Park afforded marine national park status where fishing and collecting is not permitted.
In high use areas near Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, special Plans of Management are in place in addition to the underlying Zoning Plan,
In addition, other Special Management Areas have been to created for particular types of protection, such as the Dugong Protection Areas.

The GBRMPA coordinates a range of activities to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef. They are focused on 12 broad management topics:

This all sounds great as a way to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is sustained as a valuable environmental and heritage resources for all Australians, and as a World Heritage listed area, for the world. However as is often the case, the Great Barrier Reef is also an area with competing and  conflicting demands in the areas of transport, mining and tourism, to name just a few. Over recent years there has been a decline in the health of the Great Barrier Reef and serious threats now face the ecology of the reef into the futureABC Four Corners on 18 August 2014 highlighted the latest controversy created by the plan to dredge a coal port at Abbot Point. 

Background on the dredging and dumping for a Coalport in Great Barrier Reef area

The nub of this issue is that in December 2013, Greg Hunt, the Australian environment minister, approved a plan for dredging to create three shipping terminals as part of the construction of a coalport at Abbot Point. According to corresponding approval documents, the process will create around 3 million cubic metres of dredged seabed that will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area. On 31 January 2014, the GBRMPA issued a dumping permit that will allow three million cubic metres of sea bed from Abbot Point, north of Bowen, to be transported and unloaded in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 

Potential significant harms have been identified in relation to dredge spoil and the process of churning up the sea floor in the area and exposing it to air. New research shows the finer particles of dredge spoil can cloud the water and block sunlight, thereby starving sea grass and coral up to distances of 80 km away from the point of origin due to the actions of wind and currents. Furthermore, dredge spoil can literally smother reef or sea grass to death, while storms can repeatedly re-suspend these particles so that the harm caused is ongoing.  It is also proposed that a disturbed sea floor can release toxic substances into the surrounding environment.

Commentators say that the decision by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has shocked and angered the scientific community. There seems to be deep divisions between the scientists and bureaucrats behind the decision. It seems that the dumping was approved despite previous recommendations from senior scientists that it be rejected.

"That decision has to be a political decision. It is not supported by science at all, and I was absolutely flabbergasted when I heard." - Dr Charlie Veron, marine scientist 

The Chairman of the Marine Park Authority denies the decision was political and the Federal Environment Minister insists it will take place under the strictest environmental conditions.

As you will see in the video, this certainly is an interesting and confusing debate re: the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and the development of infrastructure for resource development. The issue deconstruction template attached may be useful for students to clarify their thinking on the issue.

What will students think should happen?

Here are some great resources on the issue:

* ABC online  
* ABC News, June 2014 on Abbot Point
* ABC News, July 2014
* Mining Australia website 
* Sydney Morning Herald, March 2014
* Sydney Morning Herald, May 2014
* The conversation  
* Australian Marine Conservation Society
* Canberra times, August 2014
* The Australian, December 2013


... and many more