Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 75th Anniversary Rededication

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 75th Anniversary Rededication

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Geography Awareness Week

Geography Awareness Week is November 16 - 22, 2008.

My Wonderful World - Geography Awareness Week website

The Geography Awareness Week website describes this program in the following way: "Launched in 1987 by presidential proclamation, Geography Awareness Week is held the third week of each November, promoting the importance of geography education in the United States."

Also of note this week is National Geographic's Geography Action!:

National Geographic - Geography Action

The website describes Geography Action in the following way: "For more than a century, the National Geographic Society has fostered awareness of the world’s diverse cultures and environments. The tradition continues with Geography Action! , an annual awareness program that helps educators promote geographic fluency in schools and communities across the United States and Canada."

The week spotlights the importance of a foundational geographic knowledge in this increasingly globalized world in which we live.

The following survey shows how Americans in general need a more thorough grounding in geographic literacy:
National Geographic-Roper Survey 2006

If you want to know many fun ways in which you can celebrate Geography Awareness Week, have a look at the following article I wrote on eHow.com:
How to Celebrate Geography Awareness Week

And here is a link to an article I wrote in 2006 about the poor state of global geographic knowledge among young people in the U.S.A.:
Geographic Knowledge in America is Severely Lacking

Therefore, after reading that op-ed, if you are now looking for a fun way to build your geographic literacy and knowledge, have a look at my Geo Mania World website where you can access a wide variety of free online geography and geographic knowledge games:
Geo Mania World - Free Geography Games and Map Quizzes

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Geography of Iraq

Here is an article about the Geography of Iraq that I recently wrote for another website. I realized I should probably post it here as well as it is, of course, about geography! So, here you go:

"Iraq is a country in Southwest Asia ("Middle East") that is bordered by Iran, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and the Persian Gulf. Iraq has obviously been featured heavily in the world's news media for many years now for a variety of reasons, mainly the United States' involvement in the country. However, despite all this attention and involvement by the U.S., very few people seem to actually know about Iraq's Geography. Geography, after all, sets the stage and foundation for everything else that occurs on the landscape. Therefore, this article is here to help you learn a little bit about the geography of Iraq.

Major Geographic Facts About Iraq: 
-Official Name = Republic of Iraq, Jumhūriyat Al-ʿIrāq (Arabic), Komarê Iraq (Kurdish) 
-Population (2007 estimate) = 29,267,0004 (39th) 
-Capital (and largest city) = Baghdad (with 2006 population of around 7 million and metro population of around 9 million). 
-Official Languages = Arabic, Kurdish 
-Government = Developing Parliamentary Republic 
-Independence from the Ottoman Empire on October 1, 1919; from the United Kingdom on October 3, 1932. 
-GDP (PPP 2007 estimate) = Total $102.3 billion (61st); Per capita $3,600 (129th) 
-Currency = Iraqi Dinar -Time Zone = GMT+3

Physical Geography and Major Geographic Features of Iraq: In general, Iraq is comprised of four main geographical regions. (1) The desert in the west and southwest area of the country (part of the larger Syrian Desert) is sparsely populated by nomads. Wadis, which carry floodwaters during winter rains but remain dry during much of the year, run from the border to the Euphrates River through this region. (2) The rolling upland between the upper Tigris and Euphrates rivers (known as "Al Jazira", "The Island") is part of a larger geographic area that extends north into Turkey and west into Syria. Parts of this region may also be classified as desert due to low amounts of rainfall. (3) The highlands in the north and northeast region of the country extend from an area between Kirkuk and Mosul across to the mountainous borders with Iran and Turkey. In this region, broad steppes submit to mountain ranges towering from 3,300 ft. to 13,100 ft. This region supports some cultivation as well as grazing, but is also home to the majority of Iraq's Kurdish population and several of the great oil fields. (4) The alluvial plain through which the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flow, begins north of Baghdad and extends southward all the way into the Persian Gulf. The two rivers carry large quantities of silt, which they deposit at a significant rate each year helping to continually build up the delta area, which is characterized by widespread marshland. Although the area in the alluvial plain between the two rivers is highly irrigated, the salinity of the soil (due to high than average salt contents of the two rivers) significantly decreases the amount of cultivation possible in this region.

Tigris River, Iraq

Climate: The Climate of Iraq is overwhelmingly characterized by desert or desert-like, arid conditions. The average temperatures in Iraq range from greater than 120 °F in July and August to well below freezing in January. Most rainfall and precipitation occurs from December through April and averages between 4 to 7 inches annually (A desert is an area characterized as having less than 10 inches of precipitation each year). The mountains in the northern area of Iraq are where above average rates of rainfall occur each year relative to the rest of the country. Around 90 percent of the annual rainfall occurs mostly in the winter months between December and March. Much of the remainder of the year is quite dry with little to no rainfall.

Baghdad, capital of Iraq, on the Tigris River

Human Geography and Settlement Patterns of Iraq: Obviously, the majority of human settlement in Iraq is clustered along the two major waterways of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, as well as other water sources. Since Iraq is dominated by an arid environment, these water sources are essential to sustaining life and agriculture. Because the Tigris/Euphrates valley is easily irrigated, it has been important to agriculture since times of early civilization. As Iraq is part of what was once known as the "Fertile Crescent" in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq was home to such civilizations as the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Parthian cultures. Today, in fact, the economy of Iraq is largely based on agriculture, in addition to petroleum. Except for Baghdad, Iraq's capital and primate city, most Iraqis live in small villages. Additionally, several hundred thousand Iraqis are nomadic. Regarding religion, greater than 90 percent of Iraqis are followers of Islam (with the majority of Muslims in Iraq adhering to the Shiite branch of Islam). Iraq's human geography has undergone significant impact since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003 by U.S. and coalition forces and the subsequent transitional government."

Original article by Paul McDaniel is located at:

Relevant Links:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Geography of U.S. Presidential Elections

Election day in the United States is only two weeks away (on November 4). On this particular election day, the United States will elect a new president. One thing that many people may not consider is how inherently geographic presidential elections are (or any election is for that matter). Geography works its way throughout a campaign and subsequent election, and the U.S. contains vast regional geographic differences that play an important role in the outcome of any election. The following video is a lecture by Professer Martin Lewis of the Department of History at Stanford University. He explains the geography of U.S. Presidential elections.


Lecture 1:

Additionally, you may find the following map interesting that details the geographic outcome of the 2004 U.S. Presidential election:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Adventures in the "Golden Land", Part 1 - Rangoon, Burma

“Then , a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon - a beautiful, winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple spire.  It stood upon a green knoll… ‘There's the old Shway Dagon,’ said my companion.  The golden dome said, ‘This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.’” 

- Rudyard Kipling, Letters from the East, 1889

 Schwedegon Pagoda, Rangoon, Burma

Arriving in the Golden Land and Rangoon 

As the Thai Airways Boeing 767 jet from Bangkok descended into Rangoon I could see the floodplain of the Irrawaddy River delta from my window seat, the mountains in the distance, many farms throughout the floodplain, and an assortment of golden and white temples dotting the landscape, their stupas protruding above the vegetation.  Rangoon’s airport is typical of the third world – no jetways, requiring a stroll out onto the tarmac, and an old dilapidated terminal building.  Surprisingly, most of us made it through customs and immigration without being searched or interrogated by the numerous military government representatives. 

Rangoon, although a city of five million and the largest city in Burma (Myanmar), remains very lush with tropical flora – coconut palms, bougainvillea of a variety of vivid reds, oranges, yellows, whites, and pinks, banana leaf trees, and more.  This lushness adds a pleasant atmosphere often lacking in cities of comparable size, confirming it’s title of “the garden city of the east”.  The city is located within the fertile Irrawaddy River delta.  The city’s feel probably has not changed in decades.  Old, decaying colonial buildings dominate the central city, interspersed with ramshackle structures.  Walking appears to be the most common form of transportation.  But, in the case of vehicular movement, traffic flows mostly on the right despite a century of British colonial rule – although most vehicles steering wheel remains on the right, as in Britain.  If a taste of the British colonial lifestyle is what you seek, then simply step into the Strand Hotel.  The Strand is one of the older hotels in Rangoon, and a lasting vestige of the former colonial opulence during the time of British colonial rule. 

There seems to be a pagoda around every corner, but the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda (which I visited later this afternoon) stands on a hill above everything else, dominating the skyline of the city.  The people of Rangoon are very hospitable.  Most men, women, and children wear a “longii” – a type of sarong wrap – instead of pants.  I tried one out a few days later and I must say it does suit the tropical climate, offering superb ventilation. 

Set high on Singuttara Hill, the famous Shwedagon Pagoda is quite a sight to behold!  Over 400 feet tall and sheathed in no less than nine tons of gold, the pagoda is crowned with over 5,000 diamonds, and 2,000 rubies, sapphires, and topaz, with a huge emerald on its topmost spire.  Regarded as one of the wonders of the world, it was first began over 2,500 years ago and completed in the 1800s.  To gain merit (an integral part of Theravada Buddhism), locals come here to wash the images of the Buddha and to sweep the floor.  Hundreds of smaller pagodas surround the large Shwedagon Pagoda.  I walked completely around the pagoda, interacted with some of the people and monks, and saw some older photographs of the area in an adjacent museum.  A visit to this site is a surreal experience not to be missed.  From its superb vantage point, a view from the pagoda of surrounding Rangoon is quite impressive. 

Downtown Rangoon seems to radiate out from the Sule Pagoda, also over 2,000 years old and 157 feet high.  The area surrounding the pagoda appears to bustle with the comings and goings of humanity.  Within the holy site of the pagoda are many pilgrims and worshippers performing tasks of merit such as washing images of the Buddha.  But this is not the only holy site in the city’s center.  Nor is Buddhism the only religion represented here.  From my vantage point at the pagoda I could see several structures each representing one of the world’s great religions.  One corner is graced by a Catholic cathedral, which stands in front of a Baptist church. On another corner is an Islamic mosque, with a Hindu temple located next door. 

The famously described “1,000 scents of the Orient” may be found intermingling, stirring the senses, in many a market in Asia – ginger and curry, cinnamon, cardamom and coconut, dried fish and fresh fruits, for example.  The markets of Rangoon are no exception.  Everything one could possibly require may most likely be found in the city’s largest and oldest market, the Bogyoke Aung San Market, located a few blocks north of the Sule Pagoda.  

The monument to Burmese independence from Britain, a 150-foot high obelisk surrounded by five 30-foot pillars, is merely a short walk from the Sule Pagoda.  Nearby to the park containing the independence monument are many government buildings, housed in stately colonial structures.  Also nearby is the U.S. embassy.  The city center is also experiencing changes to its colonial skyline.  Foreign investors are funding construction of several high-rise office and hotel buildings. However, given the political situation in Burma, with a military junta ruling the country, no one is quite sure in what direction the country is headed.

Note: this post stems from my travels to Southeast Asia in 2004.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Geography of the Global Economy

In light of the recent tumultuous events shaking the United States' economy, and subsequently the world economy, I thought an entry here about the geography of the global economy (which is directly linked to the geography of globalization) would be interesting.

Here is a link to an interesting learning module about the geography of the global economy, courtesy of the Association of American Geographers:
Global Economy Module

Concerning geographers' study of the global economy, the learning module states that "Geographers study the spatial activities of economies at different scales. In the global economy, these activities include patterns of international trade, the flow of information through communication networks, regional flows of capital and resources, and the spatial distribution of labor. Increasingly, economic processes and patterns are affected by globalization - a process by which 'events, activities, and decisions in one part of the world can have significant consequences for communities in distant parts of the globe' (Haggett, 2001)" (Global Economy Module - Lesson 1).

The Global Economy learning module goes on to state that: "The global economy is a very complex system linking nations through the trade and flow of goods, services, and information. Geographers are interested in how globalization affects the spatial arrangement of economic services and activities; how this arrangement affects local and national economies; and how local and national economies contribute to the form and function of the global economy. They are interested in issues such as the relocation of economic activities and jobs from high-wage to low-wage countries; the role of information technologies in building electronic networks of commerce; the formation of economic blocs such as the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) and the European Union (EU); and the spectacular growth of newly industrialized economies, most notably in Pacific Asia" (Global Economy Module - Lesson 1).

Additionally, the module states that "The importance, extent, and sheer economic scale of these spatial changes, most notably during the 1970s and 1980s, took many governments and industrial enterprises by surprise. Many governments struggled to react in the face of the industrial and labor relocations that took place and to recognize that the foundations of the new economy were no longer locally or nationally based, but were now global. Likewise, private firms had to adapt by restructuring their production systems to consider the most effective and efficient means of doing business in a global market" (Global Economy Module - Lesson 1).

Globalization and the global economy are obviously very geographic and warrant the study by geographers and others. With all the upheavals currently occurring the the U.S. and global economies, it is important for people to gain a better understand of the foundations of the current system and to understand how and why globalization occurs and how and why the global economy is the way it currently is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Geography on YouTube!

Here are some interesting videos about geography and geographic topics discovered on youtube.com:

Geography Tutor - Map Skills:

Geography Tutor - Types of Maps and Map Projections:

Geography Tutor - Map and Globe Terms:

The Nations of the World:

Fifty State Capitals:

Places to See

Refresh page to see a new picture!

World Travel Gallery

World Geography RSS Audio Feeds

Click on any of the feeds below to listen to the program. Updated regularly.

PRI's The World: from BBC/PRI/WGBH

PRI's The World: Geo Quiz