Saturday, June 28, 2008

Largest Cities in the World

One thing I would like to do in this blog is to occasionally post and comment on themed lists of various items related to world geography. So, to start things off in this post, the first of a series of "list" posts, I would like to list and discuss the largest cities in the world. But, when forming such a list, particularly pertaining to a geographic feature such as a city, one must ask what criteria will we take into account when classifying cities on the list. Do we just count the city itself (the city proper), the urbanized area, or the metropolitan area? Or perhaps we should form a separate list for each of those items. Various cities would most likely then appear at different points on the list. But for this post, I will list the twenty largest metropolitan areas by population (I also may come back to the post and add more lists based on different criteria as well). So, without further adieu, here we go:

Tokyo, Japan, with Mt. Fuji

Earth's twenty largest metropolitan areas by population (based on 2003 population data):
1. Tokyo, Japan - 32,450,000
2. Seoul, South Korea - 20,550,000
3. Mexico City, Mexico - 20,450,000
4. New York City, United States - 19,750,000
5. Mumbai (Bombay), India - 19,200,000
6. Jakarta, Indonesia - 18,900,000
7. Sao Paulo, Brazil - 18,850,000
8. Delhi, India - 18,600,000
9. Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto, Japan - 17,375,000
10. Shanghai, China - 16,650,000
11. Metro Manila, Philippines - 16,300,000
12. Hong Kong/Shenzhen, China - 15,800,000
13. Los Angeles, United States - 15,250,000
14. Kolkata (Calcutta), India - 15,100,000
15. Moscow, Russia - 15,000,000
16. Cairo, Egypt - 14,450,000
17. Buenos Aires, Argentina - 13,170,000
18. London, United Kingdom - 12,875,000
19. Beijing, China - 12,500,000
20. Karachi, Pakistan - 11,800,000

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Thursday, June 26, 2008

GeoManiaWorld - Geo Games and Trivia Resources

Don't forget to check out all the cool geography trivia and map game resources located at the other GeoManiaWorld site:
GeoManiaWorld - Geography Trivia Games and Map Quizzes

Start building or strengthening your geographic literacy and geographic knowledge. And have fun all at the same time!

Geographic Literacy and Illiteracy

A while back I came across the following article, "Study: Geography Greek to young Americans", and found it both interesting and disturbing considering the prominent role the U.S. plays around the world:
CNN - Study: Geography Greek to Young Americans

Here is an article about the same story directly from National Geographic:
National Geographic - Young Americans Geographically Illiterate, Survey Suggests

The decisions and actions made and taken by the United States play a profound role and have a great impact in many local places and lives around the world. I think it might be important for U.S. citizens to at least be cognizant of who, what, and where is/are affected by the actions of our country. Here are the results of the actual survey/report described in the above articles:
2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy

and if you would like to test your own knowledge through a twenty-question sample of the survey questions, then go here:
2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy, Sample Questions

And here is an excerpt from
"Where's Iraq?
Although we Americans are famously lacking in world geography knowledge, there has always been one surefire way we could learn a country’s place on the map: by attacking it, or at least intervening in its affairs. When that happens, our newspapers feature little regional maps with the country colored black, and our TV news shows offer up little glowing maps in the right-hand corner of our television screens. This is how we learned that Vietnam is a nation in Southeast Asia, and that Nicaragua is a small country in Central America. But now, sadly, even this extreme educational method is failing. Reports CNN: “After more than three years of combat and nearly 2,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map, a study released Tuesday showed." The National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study states that it coincides with the launch of the National Geographic-led campaign called ‘My Wonderful World.’
A statement on the program said it was designed to ‘inspire parents and educators to give their kids the power of global knowledge.’”

Well, here is a link to conclude this post, if you're interested, to an op-ed I wrote about the disturbing lack of geographic literacy and knowledge among young people in the United States:

May 04, 2006 - Geographic Knowledge in America is Severely Lacking

Hopefully all this will light a fire under many more people to take it upon themselves to become more geographically literate and geographically aware of the world in which they live.

To continue the discussion of the importance and necessity of a knowledge and understanding of geography, here is a poignant article by one eminent geographer, Harm de Blij, in which he comments on the current nature of geography and the importance of geography in this ever increasing era of global interconnections and economic, political, and cultural globalization:
Uncle Sam Wants study geography

Finally, if you want another take on the foundational importance of the field of geography in all walks of life, you may find the following essay, by James Michener (a prominent writer), quite interesting as it describes his take on the field and how geography is quite literally the foundation for many other fields of study:
Geography - The Queenly Science

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How do you know if you should be a Geographer?

When some people find out that I majored in geography or that I like geography, their eyes tend to glaze over as if that is unheard of. Well, there are probably more geographers lurking around among us than most people might think. In fact, some people may think like a geographer on the inside despite what they do to earn a living. In this post I would like to convey ten characteristics common to most geographers. If you have an inclination to adhere to any of these characteristics, then deep down you may think and act like a geographer.

Most of this post comes from an article I previously wrote for another site. The original article, "How to Know if You Should be a Geographer", is located at:
How to Know if You Should be a Geographer

Geographers are a special breed. Many geographers share similar interests, traits, and characteristics such as a wonder and curiosity about the world and everything on/in it, a strong desire to stare at maps of all types, and a never ending appetite to travel to places. The ten characteristics here should help you determine if you are a geographer deep down.

#1: Have a curiosity about places.
#2: Enjoy studying all sorts of maps.

#3: Prefer sitting next to the window on airplane flights.

#4: Have an interest in foreign areas as well as areas of your own country.

#5: Enjoy working outside, hiking, or exploring.

#6: Have good problem solving skills.
#7: Be good at seeing connections at what others may see as unrelated problems or issues.
#8: Be able to adapt to rapid technological change.
#9: Try to see the big picture in any circumstance.
#10: Have an interest in connections between people and the environment.

So, if you have or do any of these things, then you may have the makings of becoming a geographer, in addition to what it is you may already do.

London, England

While I'm on a role about world cities, I though I would go ahead and write about one more. So here is the third of a series of posts about famous world cities. In this case, London, England, capital of the United Kingdom. London is another city I have been fortunate to travel to many times over the years, and one in which I always look forward to returning. London is probably one of the most famous cities in the world. It has a very long history, from being a Roman backwater to the nerve center of one of the largest empires in history (British Empire), and today remains one of the control centers of the global economy. Geographers of all types, like most places we visit, will become very excited upon a visit to London. There is just so much to see and do here. Geographers who look at the world through one or more of the five themes of geography (see a previous post) will undoubtedly find much to examine and observe in London.

But if you are reading this and have never been to London before, but might like to plan a trip there in the future, you might be interested to know about the most famous sights. With this in mind, I'll post here an article I previously wrote for another website - "How to See London's Top Ten Attractions". The original article is found here:
How to See London's Top Ten Attractions

London contains a myriad of things to see and do, some world famous, others waiting to be discovered. But many would agree that there are certain sites that come to mind when one thinks of London. This article briefly describes sites that many would consider to be the top 10 attractions in London (but discussed in no particular order).

London Top Ten #1: British Museum - A museum of world history and culture housed in a monumental structure. It contains over six million artifacts from around the world spanning over a million years of history, including the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles, and other famous antiquities.

London Top Ten #2: National Gallery and Portrait Gallery - The National Gallery houses one of the greatest art collections in the world, including over 2,000 items from the early Renaissance to the Impressionists. On display are items representing all the European schools of painting and works by all the famous artists from those styles. The National Gallery is adjacent to Trafalger Square and St. Martin in the Fields Church. The Portrait Gallery opened in 1856 and allows visitors to actually see the faces of many famous and well-known names. Popular portraits include: British Royalty, Shakespeare, The Beatles, and Margaret Thatcher.

London Top Ten #3: London Eye - This is the tallest observation wheel in the world. It sits along the Thames across from the Houses of Parliament and allows spectacular views all around London from one of its 32 enclosed capsules that each hold 25 people. One complete revolution takes 30 minutes.

London Top Ten #4: Tate Modern Museum - This museum houses an extensive collection of international modern art and is affiliated with the Tate Britain Museum. It is housed within the old Bankside Power Station, along the Thames across from the City of London and St. Paul's Cathedral. Famous works on display include exhibits by Dali, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko, and Warhol, as well as many current artists.

London Top Ten #5: Natural History Museum - One of London's most popular museums. The many exhibits in this large structure lead visitors through the array of subjects relating to natural history, with as many as 70 million specimens from around the world. Exhibits include dinosaurs, fossils, geology, earthquakes and volcanoes, a journey through the globe, the water cycle, biology, gemstones, origin of species, and much more. There are also many interactive and hands-on exhibits.

London Top Ten #6: Science Museum - This hi-tech museum contains many exhibits relating to many facets of science and technology, as well as the development of scientific and technological innovations throughout the centuries. Particular subjects covered in the exhibits include the industrial revolution, the space age, and the latest cutting edge technology. Many of the exhibits are hands-on and interactive.

London Top Ten #7: Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guard - This is the most famous residence in London and home to Queen Elizabeth II. It was first built in 1705, and extended between 1824 and 1830. Queen Victoria took up residence here in 1837. The recognizable front of the building was completed in 1913. Although this is the Queen's primary residence, some of the State Rooms are open to visitors during the summer. Many people time their visit to the palace in the mid to late morning to coincide with the changing of the guard. The guards dressed in the familiar regalia march to the palace from nearby barracks.

London Top Ten #8: Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament - This structure was founded in the 11th century by Edward the Confessor and is an excellent example of Medieval architecture. It continues to provide a place for royal ceremony to this day. The abbey on the south side of Parliament Square, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament. Two famous events to be held here in the last half century include Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953 and the memorial service for Princess Diana in 1997. Of popular interest by many visitors is that many famous royals, poets, writers, statesmen, and scientists are buried within the abbey. The Houses of Parliament are within the Palace of Westminster, along the banks of the Thames. The palace was built over a thousand years ago and is currently the seat of government for the United Kingdom. The palace, including the famous "Big Ben" clock tower, are located across Parliament Square from Westminster Abbey. Nearby Parliament Street leads to Whitehall (where many government offices are located) and Number 10 Downing Street (the official residence of the Prime Minister).

London Top Ten #9: Tower of London - Originally built around 1080 as a moated fort, the Tower of London (with its famous White Tower in the middle) has had quite a varied history. It has also been a fortress, a prison (where certain people were beheaded - famous prisoners include Henry VI, Henry VIII's wives, Lady Jane Grey, and Catholic Martyrs), an arsenal, and is now home to the Crown Jewels (including the Imperial State Crown and other crowns, sceptres, rings, orbs, and jewels), the Royal Mint, and a large collection of armor related artifacts. It is located along the Thames nearby the Tower Bridge.

London Top Ten #10: St. Paul's Cathedral - Considered to be the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren (who designed many churches after London's Great Fire of 1666). St. Paul's was completed in 1708, was the first church built for Protestant purposes in England, and has many similarities to St. Peter's in Rome. There are many areas within the cathedral for visitors to explore, including stairs to various galleries and even to the very top of the dome (one of the largest in the world) for a spectacular view of London. Many events, particularly of music, continue to take place in the cathedral.

Original article by Paul McDaniel is found here: How to See London's Top Ten Attractions

Mexico City, Mexico

Now that I've gotten started talking about one city (Beijing - see previous post), I feel inclined to go ahead and discuss another - in this case, Mexico City (la Ciudad de Mexico). I've been able to travel to Mexico City several times over the past few years, and its always an exciting experience! The view from the plane window during the descent into the city is quite spectacular as the city stretches out over the Valley of Mexico surrounded by volcanic peaks. Mexico City is one of the largest cities and metropolitan areas in the world. It sits in the Valley of Mexico (at over 7,000 ft. elevation) surrounded by mountains and volcanic peaks (the two most prominent are Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl). Human geographers (particularly urban, cultural, and population geographers) and physical geographers both will find much to get excited about here. Most great cities are great because of many different factors. Mexico City is no exception. As the old historic center (el Centro Historico) of Mexico City sits on the same site as the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the city is abundant with history (both pre-Columbian as well as colonial), and archaeological sites. There is an excellent and efficient subway/metro city to get around the city. It is very easy to use this system to explore various parts of this vast metropolis.

As with the previous post about Beijing, I will now contribute a part of an article about Mexico City that I previously wrote for another website. The original article, "How to See Mexico City's Top Ten Attractions", is located at this site:
How to See Mexico City's Top Ten Attractions

Mexico City is one of the most populous cities in the world. It is also very historic, with many sites from different time periods accessible by visitors. Because of its vast size, tourists may have a hard time deciding on what sites to visit. This article will describe what many consider to be the top 10 attractions (listed in no particular order) in and around Mexico City.

Mexico City Top Ten #1: Plaza de la Constitucion (Zocalo) - This is literally the heart of the city and the heart of the nation's capital. Located in el Centro Historico (Historic Center), this plaza is the second largest public square in the world (Moscow's Red Square is the largest, and Beijing's Tiananmen Square is third largest). At the center of the plaza is a tall pole with a huge national flag of Mexico. As this is the heart of the city, there is always something going on here. From indigenous dances and cultural events, to music concerts and political protests. There are always souvenirs being sold as well. The Plaza, located on a Metro stop, is also surrounded by several other of the city's top ten sights: the Catedral Metropolitana, Palacio Nacional, and Templo Mayor. It is also within walking distance of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, el Torre Latinoamericana, and Alameda Park.

Mexico City Top Ten #2: Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) - This is one of the largest cathedrals in the city and contains several architectural styles as it was built over a period of around 250 years. It is located on the north side of the Plaza de la Constitucion. Many of the materials used to construct the cathedral came from the destroyed Aztec temple that stood on the same site. Due to the nature of Mexico City's soil, the cathedral is slowly sinking (as are many historic structures). If you take a stroll through the cathedral's vast interior, you will see many religious displays and examples of architecture. If you are lucky you may also here the massive pipe organ or the cathedral bells.

Mexico City Top Ten #3: Palacio Nacional (National Palace) - Located on the entire east side of the main plaza, this government building is most famous for housing several Diego Rivera murals.

Mexico City Top Ten #4: Templo Mayor (Great Temple) - These are the archaeological ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor, which was dedicated to the Aztec gods of Tlaloc (god of rain) and Huitzilopochtli (god of war). This was the primary temple and focal point of the great center of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which at the time was located in the same location but on a series of islands on Lake Texcoco. Many of the temple's materials were used by the Spanish to construct the adjacent Catedral Metropolitana.

Mexico City Top Ten #5: Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower), and Alameda Park - The Palacio de Bellas Artes was completed in 1934 and is one of the city's finest theaters and performance venues. The interior contains several murals by Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros, and Tamayo. Visitors to Mexico City often enjoy a performance of the Ballet Folklorico at this venue. Adjacent to the Fine Arts Palace is the Torre Latinoamericana, completed in 1956 with 44 floors. At the time it was built this was the tallest building in Latin America. Visitors may pay to ride an elevator to an upper level observation deck (with an interior and exterior) for 360 degree views of sprawling Mexico City, the Valley of Mexico, and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes (on clear days). Look directly down to the east to see the Plaza de la Constitucion, Metropolitan Cathedral, and National Palace. Look to the southwest to see Chapultepec Park. Nearby the Tower and the Fine Arts Palace is Alameda Park, which was the city's first park, dating to the 1500s.

Mexico City Top Ten #6: Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) - Located at the southwestern end of Paseo de la Reforma, this is the city's largest and most sprawling park (1,600 acres). Many pathways lead visitors through acres and acres of forests and lakes. Chapultepec Castle is located on a hill in the park and was once the home of Maximilian I and Empress Carlota, and is now open to visitors and home to the National History Museum. There are excellent views of Paseo de la Reforma and the Park from the Castle's various balconies. Also located in the park is a zoo, a lake with boat rentals, an amusement park, Los Pinos (the official residence and offices of the President of Mexico), the National Auditorium, and several other museums, including the Modern Art Museum, Natural History Museum, Children's Museum, and the excellent and massive National Museum of Anthropology.

Mexico City Top Ten #7: Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Museum of Anthropology) - Considered to be one of the great museums of the world, the Museo Nacional de Antropologia contains perhaps the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and art. The museum is massive and is arranged according to each of the particular pre-Columbian cultures, with entire halls and galleries dedicated to each. The central courtyard is famous for its vast square concrete umbrella. Popular exhibit halls include those dedicated to the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations.

Mexico City Top Ten #8: Xochimilco - Located in the southern part of the city, these are the last remnants of the series of lakes that once were here in the time of the Aztecs. The area now contains a series of canals, where visitors may take rides on brightly colored gondolas. The canals are all that is left of the Chinampas (floating gardens) type of agriculture developed by the Aztecs.

Mexico City Top Ten #9: Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe) - Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. The image of Guadalupe that appeared to Juan Diego on the very hill (Tepeyac Hill) where the Basilica is constructed is an important and easily recognizable national symbol. There are actually two basilicas on this hill, an old and a new (more modern) one. Construction of the old basilica began in 1531, and of the new in 1976. The apron of Juan Diego, with the image of Guadalupe is displayed for all to see in the new Basilica. It is most likely the most important religious building in Mexico and possibly in all of Latin America. The site is particularly important in Catholicism as it is the second most visited religious site after Vatican City.

Mexico City Top Ten #10: Teotihuacan - This pre-Aztec archaeological site is a nice day trip from Mexico City (about 25 miles out from the city). It is one of the largest archaeological sites in the country and at its cultural height (150 to 450 AD) was the largest city in the world with a population of over 200,000. The site contains two large pyramids - Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moom - and many smaller pyramids flanking the Avenida de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead). The Temple of Quetzalcoatl is also worth seeing. Visitors may climb to the top of the two large pyramids for spectacular views of the entire site and the surrounding countryside and mountains.

Original article by Paul McDaniel located at:
How to See Mexico City's Top Ten Attractions

Beijing, China

One of the purposes of this blog is to discuss particular places. With this in mind, and knowing that the Summer Olympics are coming up soon (8 August 2008) in Beijing, in the People's Republic of China, I thought it would be interesting to add a post here about Beijing. I traveled to Beijing last September (2007) to visit one of my brothers who was studying Chinese there at the time. The visit to Beijing was part of a broader trip that also took us to Shanghai, Tunxi, and beautiful Huangshan.

Beijing (along with many other parts of China) is an interesting city for a geographer to visit for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is growing at a tremendous rate (as are many cities and areas of China). Beijing also has a very long history and a huge presence in the Chinese national psyche. Urban geographers will have a fun time here, as will population geographers. The transit and road infrastructure is notable because of Beijing's many "ring" roads. Beijing's impact on the environment, and the environment's impact on Beijing are also two interesting points to consider. Beijing is in fact located at the southeastern edge of the massive Gobi Desert, which is why sandstorms often frequent the area. Although the city of Beijing itself feels relatively flat, visitors and tourists will note that there are some high mountains on the outskirts of the city and in the hinterland. Visitors to one of the sections of the Great Wall will especially be able to take in the mountainous scenery outside of Beijing.

To further comment on Beijing, I would like to add to this post an article that I previously wrote for another website. The link to the original article, "How to See Beijing's Top Ten Attractions", is here: How to See Beijing's Top Ten Attractions

Beijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China, but has been the seat of government for successive imperial dynasties since the Ming Dynasty established the "northern capital" in 1403 AD. Many believe that Beijing was actually the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 and from 1710 to 1825. It plays a significant role in the cultural history of China, even to the present day. Of particular note is that Beijing is the site of the Olympic Games, which begin on the 8th of August, 2008. This article describes what many believe to be the top ten sights and attractions in and around Beijing, although these top ten here are not presented in any particular order. Some visitors may prefer some sights, while different travelers may prefer others. This descriptive listing is particularly helpful to potential visitors to Beijing.

Beijing Top Ten #1: Forbidden City (Imperial Palace) - This is one of the quintessential images of Beijing. The Forbidden City (Imperial Palace) sprawls across 250 acres to the north side of Tiananmen Square. With over 9,000 rooms, the palace complex was first built between 1406 and 1420 AD. But due to being burned down, most of the architecture visible today was built in the 1700s during the Qing Dynasty. You can enter the palace from the north side of Tiananmen Square (south gate of palace) through the large Tiananmen Gate with Mao's picture hanging above. From the north gate of the palace you can enter Jingshan Park, where there is a spectacular view of Beijing from a hilltop.

Beijing Top Ten #2: Tiananmen Square and Great Hall of the People - The square is one of the largest public squares in the world and is the site of numerous large-scale rallies and parades. It has also been the site of many historical events over the years. Most people immediately think of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. But other important events include the announcement in 1949 by Chairman Mao of the creation of the People's Republic of China. There is typically a flag raising and lowering at sunrise and sunset, accompanied by much precision by the troops. The square is flanked on the north by the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace - with Mao's portrait) which is a main entrance to the Forbidden City, on the south by the Monument to the People's Heroes and Mao's Mausoleum, on the east by the National Museum of China, and on the west by the Great Hall of the People (the meeting place for the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. It is well worth the effort to get inside the Great Hall of the People and look around. The architecture is monumental in scale and there are many interesting works of art, murals, paintings, and historical items on display.

Beijing Top Ten #3: Temple of Heaven - This exquisite site, with beautiful classical architecture, is regarded as a Taoist temple. It is located south of Tiananmen Square. Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors would visit the temple to offer prayers to Heaven in hopes of good harvest. The temple grounds include three main groups of structures, and are surrounded by ancient trees of various types. The three main groupings of buildings are the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Earthly Mount. Each was built to strict philosophical requirements and contains much symbolism.

Beijing Top Ten #4: Beihai Park and Jingshan Park - Beihai Park, initially built in the 10th century, was used as a winter palace for emporers. Nowadays, people go to the park for a respite from the city. The lake within the park is the largest in all of Beijing. There are also several structures to see such as the White Pagoda (built in Tibetan style), the Five Dragon Pavilion, and the Nine Dragon Wall. Jingshan Park, on the other hand, is located directly north of the Forbidden City. From the hilltop (one of the highest in Beijing) in the center of the park, visitors have a spectacular 360 degree view of Beijing. Of particular interest is the view to the south back over the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square on the other side of the Forbidden City.

Beijing Top Ten #5: Great Wall - This is one of those world famous sights that everyone grows up hearing about, and is definitely a must see! The wall was began in the 5th century BC and construction ceased in the 16th century AD, and stretches for over 4,000 miles. The section of wall nearby Beijing is well preserved in most places. These sections of wall mostly date from the Ming Dynasty. There are various places that travelers can go to see the wall and to walk along it. The most popular (and therefore the most crowded) is the section at Badaling, which is the closest part of the wall to Beijing. Other sections are accessible at Simatai, Jinshanling, Juyongguan, and Mutianyu, for example. It is possible to hike on the wall from Jinshanling to Simatai, as well as other sections, although it is quite strenuous in places. But the very mountainous scenery, along with the wall itself, make the trek worthwhile.

Beijing Top Ten #6: Summer Palace - Located in a suburban area northwest of Beijing, the Summer Palace was an imperial retreat set on a large tract of parklike land, about 10 square miles. It is the largest and most extensive imperial garden within China. Visitors to the park can explore mansions, ancient pavilions, temples, bridges, and the central Kunming lake. In 1998, UNESCO designated the Summer Palace as a World Heritage Site.

Beijing Top Ten #7: Ming Tombs - The tombs are actually located about 50 km north of Beijing, allowing visitors to see some of the countryside on their journey there from the capital. In all, 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (which ruled from 1368 to 1644) are buried at this site. Only two of the tombs have been excavated and are open to the public.

Beijing Top Ten #8: Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple) - This is one of Beijing's most visited religious sites. Located in the northeast area of Beijing along the second ring road, it is one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world. The architecture of the buildings are in both the Han and Tibetan styles. There are many halls within the temple, but probably the most amazing sight is the large statue of Buddha carved from a single piece of Sandalwood.

Beijing Top Ten #9: Museums and Gardens - As the capital of the People's Republic of China, Beijing contains many fascinating museums. These include the Beijing Capital Museum, the National Museum of China (at Tiananmen Square), Chinese Ethnic Museum, the Palace Museum, various art and culture museums, various science and technology museums, Beijing Museum of Natural History, Beijing Aviation Museum, Geological Museum of China, a Military Museum, as well as the many historical sites that are like museums in and of themselves. There are also many parks and gardens in addition to the ones previously mentioned, including several Imperial gardens and the beautiful Beijing Botanical Garden.

Beijing Top Ten #10: Beijing Opera and Chinese Acrobatic Shows - Beijing opera developed in the late 18th century and combines a variety of vocals, music, acting, dance, mime, and acrobatics. Performers utilize skills of speech, song, dance, and combat to convey the story in time with music. Beijing Opera repertoire includes over 1,400 works, mostly based upon Chinese folklore and history, as well as contemporary life.

Link to original article by Paul McDaniel:
How to See Beijing's Top Ten Attractions

Monday, June 23, 2008

Earth's Population Distribution

The Earth contains over 6.6 billion people. But these six billion are not evenly spread over the world's habitable surface. Where are all these people located? Many factors contribute to the geography spread of people and populations around the globe, such as climate, terrain and topography, physical and political boundaries, and more. However, broad general patterns of populations on Earth can still be understood. In this post, I outline the general characteristics of Earth's human population distribution. This is based on an article I previously wrote for another website, "How to Understand Earth's Population Distribution", located at:
How to Understand Earth's Population Distribution

Two-thirds of Earth's population lives within the mid latitudes, and almost 90 percent of the world's population lives north of the equator. Around 90 percent of the world's population is concentrated on only 20 percent of the land surface. Therefore, a large majority of Earth's inhabitants live on and occupy a small portion of Earth's total habitable land area. Three major population centers around the world include: East Asia (China, the Koreas, and Japan); South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh); and Europe (Western, Eastern, and Southern Europe). In fact, two countries each contain over one billion people: China and India. Since Earth's population is over six billion, this means that China and India each contain at least one-sixth of the Earth's total human population. Each major world region contained the following percentage of the Earth's total population in 1999: Africa (12.8 %), Asia (60.8 %), Europe (12.2 %), Latin America and the Caribbean (8.5 %), North America (5.1 %), Oceania (0.5 %).

While low-lying areas are more preferable for the locations of settlements, still a large portion of the Earth remains quite uninhabited. The sparsely population regions include northern and western North America, northern and central Asia, and interior South America, interior Africa, and the interior of Australia. Cities and urban regions have seen dramatic increases in population over the last fifty years, with much growth continuing at present and into the future. Currently the Earth's urban population is estimated to be around 3.5 billion people.

Original article by Paul McDaniel is located at:
How to Understand Earth's Population Distribution

The Five Themes of Geography

In addition to the four traditions of geography, described in a previous posting, there are five themes of geography. In 1984, the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) composed the five themes of geography and outlined them in great detail in a publication entitled "Guidelines for Geographic Education, Elementary and Secondary Schools." The five themes are: Location, Place, Human-Environment Interaction, Movement, and Regions. This how to article will describe each of the five themes and how to understand them. This post is based on an article I previously wrote for another website. The original article, "How to Understand the Five Themes of Geography", is located at this link:
How to Understand the Five Themes of Geography

Geography Theme #1: Location - Answers the question "Where are we?" Location can be either Relative or Absolute. A relative location is described by direction to the location, its place in time, adjacent landmarks, distance from one place to another and may associate places with each other. An absolute location refers to a specific point on the Earth's surface indicated by latitude and longitude coordinates or by a street address.

Geography Theme #2: Place - Answers the question "What kind of place is it?" May be described by both physical and human characteristics. The physical characteristics of a place include topography, geology, climate and weather patterns, and natural features on the landscape such as mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, deserts, beaches, wildlife, soil types, and more. The human characteristics of a place include man-made features such as towns and cities, farm and agricultural land, roads and railroads, buildings, infrastructure, architecture, cultural habits, and more. Different people form different perceptions of place based on their own experiences and knowledge. This reveals their attitude, values and perceptions of a place.

Geography Theme #3: Human-Environment Interaction - Answers the questions "How do humans and the environment affect one another?" Three key concepts of this theme are how humans adapt to the environment, how humans modify the environment, and how humans depend on the environment. But this theme also seeks to determine what the consequences - positive and negative - of human environment interaction are. For example, what are all the outcomes of damming a river? A reservoir for human use and water consumption is created, but the landscape has also been altered.

Geography Theme #4: Movement - Particularly includes the movement of people, goods, and ideas. People interact with one another, exchange goods and services, and exchange ideas. These movements have all played formative and major roles in shaping our world over time. They are particularly important in our current era of globalization, with an ever increasing politically, culturally, and economically globalizing world.

Geography Theme #5: Regions - May be formal, functional, or vernacular. A formal region are defined by administrative and governmental boundaries, such as specific sovereign countries. Physical regions also fall under this category. A functional region is defined by its specific function (such as a television network's market coverage area). A vernacular region is a perceived region, loosely defined by the perceptions held by people (such as "the South" as in the U.S. South as a cultural region).

Original article by Paul McDaniel located at:
How to Understand the Five Themes of Geography

Cultural Geography

Cultural geography is a subfield of Human Geography, which is one of the main branches of the larger discipline of geography. I would like to take the time to offer a brief overview of cultural geography, as I previously did in an article I wrote for another website. The original article, "How to Understand Cultural Geography" is located at:
How to Understand Cultural Geography

This brief article outlines the major and important points of cultural geography. Cultural geography is a subfield of human geography and seeks to explain and identify human cultural patterns and how those patterns vary across the landscapes of the world. "Culture" may be defined as the behaviors, understandings, adaptations, and social systems that characterize a group of people's lives. Cultural geographers often look for and observe "cultural traits", which include such elements as diet, clothing styles, music, religion, and language. These may also include or influence aspects of government and economy. Cultural traits often emerge from centers of innovation called "cultural hearths". Cultural geographers also want to know how culture shapes human-environment relations in addition to how people perceive as well as modify the landscape.

A "Cultural Landscape" describes the way in which a person's culture influences his or her perception of the environment. Carl Sauer (a formative geographer in the first half of the 20th century) described cultural landscapes in a famous 1925 article. Additionally, "Cultural Ecology" seeks to understand the relationship between a cultural group and the natural environment that particular group occupies. However, this gave rise to the no defunct idea of environmental determinism (which states that the physical environment is the sole determinant of human behavior and actions).

Cultural geography today is somewhat different than that of the earlier twentieth century. Cultural geographers currently deal less with aspects of the natural environment while instead focusing on issues such as communication and culture, as well as various meaning and symbolism present in cultural landscapes. Other topics currently studied from the framework of cultural geography include: globalization; ideas of Westernization, Americanization, or Islamization; theories of cultural hegemony, cultural pluralism and assimilation, multiculturalism, or cultural imperialism; cultural regions; as well as sense of place, colonialism, post-colonialism, internationalism, immigration and emigration, tourism, and more.

Link to original article by Paul McDaniel:
How to Understand Cultural Geography

The Four Traditions of Geography

Geography is among the older of disciplines. Modern geography, however, has moved beyond simple description of the earth. The field of geography today is best understood as "the study of how the physical and cultural attributes of the earth interact to form spatial or regional patterns" (Clawson 2001). In 1964, William D. Pattison outlined four traditional areas of study that aid the geographer's ability to explain what goes on in the world: the spatial or location tradition; the regional tradition; the human-environment tradition; and the earth science tradition. With this in mind, I offer a brief overview of the four traditions of geography.

This post comes from an article I previously wrote for another website. Here is the link to the original article:
How to Understand the Four Traditions of Geography

Geography Tradition #1: Spatial or location tradition - This tradition includes the spatial location or spatial distribution of cultural and physical features and activities on the earth. The following topics are part of this tradition: spatial analysis, mapping, movement and transportation, boundaries and densities, quantitative tools and techniques (such as computerized mapping and Geographic Information Systems - GIS), areal distribution, spatial patterns, and Central Place Theory.

Geography Tradition #2: Regional tradition - This tradition includes the notion that there exists distinctive regions and areas. The tradition includes the explanation and analysis of possibilities as to how those areas or regions formed. The following topics are part of this tradition: world regional geography, international relationships and trends, description of regions or areas, and how regions are different from one another.

Geography Tradition #3: Human-environment tradition (sometimes called the man-land tradition) - This tradition includes the study and explanation of the many relationships that exist between people and the land and environment that supports people. The following topics are part of this tradition: impact of nature on humans, human impact on nature, perception of environment, cultural, political, and population geography, natural hazards, and environmentalism.

Geography Tradition #4: Earth science tradition - This tradition may be the oldest of the four, and includes description, analysis, and explanation of the physical characteristics of the earth. The following topics are part of this tradition: physical geography, study of the earth as the home to humans, parts of the earth including the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. Related disciplines include geology, mineralogy, paleontology, glaciology, geomorphology, and meteorology.

This post comes from an article I previously wrote for another website. Here is the link to the original article:

How to Understand the Four Traditions of Geography

National Parks

I really enjoy visiting national parks. It gives me a real rush. Many national parks contain so much exciting, beautiful, and sometimes quite literally breathtaking sights and scenery. Although the United States contains the most extensive national park system, many countries around the world create national parks to preserve what they deem to be their most spectacular natural scenery and most important historical and cultural items.

For a geographer like me, visiting these magnificent places is quite a thrill. Since geography is such a broad field, from the physical sciences to the social, there is so much for a geographer to get excited about in national parks. How did the spectacular scenery within a particular park form, how did come to be the way it is, how does it continue to change today, and in what way will it change in the future? What is the human history and impact on the landscape in and around a particular park? And how has the land in this particular area shaped and impacted human activity in the past and how does it continue to do so? These questions and many more are part of why I get excited every time I plan a visit to a national park.

With this in mind, I would like to include here bits and pieces of an article I previously wrote for another website. Here, I describe the highlights and offer an overview of the top five most visited national parks in the United States. A link to the original article appears below the article text. Enjoy!
"How to Visit the Top Five National Parks"

Original Article by Paul McDaniel:
How to Visit the Top Five National Parks -

This article describes major attractions in the top five most visited national parks in the United States' National Park Service (based on number of visitors in 2006). These parks include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Olympic National Park. Armed with this information, you will be better equipped to plan your trip to some of the most visited and spectacular national parks in the United States. For more detailed information on each park, be sure to check each park's webpage on the National Park Service website (links listed in the additional resources section below).

Top Five National Park #1: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - On the Tennessee/North Carolina border, the Great Smoky Mountains are ancient, but are also some of the highest in the eastern United States. Most visitors to Great Smoky Mountains travel through the park along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) between the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina. Many attractions are located along this route, including many hiking trails and trailheads, picnic areas, and sights such as the Chimney Tops, Alum Cave Bluffs trailhead (to Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs), Newfound Gap (with access to the Appalachian trail), the road to Clingman's Dome, and several waterfalls. Another popular area of the park is Cades Cove (a farming valley with several preserved or restored structures), accessible via a road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center, or from Townsend, Tennessee. Laurel Falls is a popular waterfall along the road from Sugarlands to Cades Cove. Backpacking and camping are also popular in the park. Other, more remote areas of the park are also worth visiting: Mt. Sterling, Cosby area, Greenbriar area, Elkmont area, and Cataloochee Valley area.

Top Five National Park #2: Grand Canyon National Park - In northwest Arizona along the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is considered one of the top natural wonders of the world because of its size as well as its display of over two billion years of geologic history. Most visitors to the Grand Canyon arrive by car via Arizona Highway 64 to the South Rim and the Grand Canyon Village area (where the main visitor center and park headquarters are located). The Grand Canyon Village has many amenities for visitors, including several restaurants and national park lodges. Highway 64 enters the park at both the South Entrance near Tusayan, and the East Entrance near Desert View, and travels along the canyon rim in between. Many overlooks for spectacular views of the canyon are found along this route, including Hermit's Rest, Yavapai Point, Moran Point, and Desert View (with a stone watchtower). Hiking down into the canyon is also popular, but strenuous. The Bright Angel Trail from Grand Canyon Village is the most maintained trail down into the canyon. Bring plenty of water!! The North Rim visitors area (only open in summer months) of the canyon is more remote by car (although it is only 10 air miles from the south rim). Popular points at the North Rim are Bright Angel Point, Point Imperial, and Cape Royal.

Top Five National Park #3: Yosemite National Park - in the Sierra Nevada of California. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity. As much of the park is wilderness area, most visitors choose to drive through and within the park and see sights from the roadway. Most people enter the park from the west entrances via California Highway 120 (CA-120) or CA-140, or from the southern entrance via CA-41. An east entrance via Tioga Pass, also on CA-120, is only open during summer months after the snow has melted. As of writing this article, there is a $20 entrance fee per vehicle. The most developed area of the park is in Yosemite Valley (open year round, with food and lodging, and the main park visitor center), where many of the famous sights are located. You may drive several loop roads through the valley, which is flanked on either side by sheer granite cliffs thousands of feet high. The most famous sites here include El Capitan (the largest exposed granite monolith in the world, with its sheer cliff face popular with climbers), Half Dome (another granite monolith, which people may hike to the summit), several waterfalls such as Yosemite Falls (one of the highest in the world) and Bridal Veil Falls, and wildlife. Yosemite Valley may be quite crowded in summer months (there is also a free shuttle bus system for visitors in the valley). Glacier Point is another popular site with visitors, with its spectacular and literally breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley below, Yosemite Village, El Capitan, Half Dome, various waterfalls, and the surround high country of the Sierra Nevada Range. It is at the end of Glaciar Point Road, and is several thousand feet higher than Yosemite Valley. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is also a popular place for visitors, located near the southern entrance of the park. Visitors may hike through the grove on a series of loop trails, or take a shuttle bus tour during peak times. Another site is Tuolumne Meadows along Tioga Road (CA-120) heading towards Tioga Pass in the eastern part of the park (open summer and fall only).

Top Five National Park #4: Yellowstone National Park - in northwest Wyoming and parts of Idaho and Montana. Yellowstone is the world's first national park, established on March 1, 1872. It is known for its wildlife and geothermal features, especially Old Faithful Geyser, one of the most popular areas in the park. The geothermal features are a result of hot spot beneath the park, and much of the park contains the Yellowstone Caldera, one of the largest supervolcanoes in the world (and has erupted with tremendous force several times over the past two million years). Most visitors combine a visit to the park with a visit to Grand Teton National Park, just to the south connected by the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. There are entrances on all sides of the park (and there is currently a $25 per private vehicle entrance fee). The road network through and within the park is outstanding, and allows motorists the opportunity to visit most of the famous sites. There are several visitor centers located throughout the park, nearby some of the more prominent features. The most popular sites include Old Faithful Geyser (next to the Old Faithful Inn, an old national park lodge built in the grand style), Yellowstone Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (and Artist Point), the abundant wildlife visible throughout the park (never approach wildlife! They are in fact...wild!), West Thumb Geyser Basin and Yellowstone Lake, Grand Prismatic Spring, and Mammoth Hot Springs. In several of the geyser basins, wooden boardwalks and walkways allow visitors to closely approach the geothermal features (don't step off the walkways though!). Camping, lodging, and food facilities are also abundant throughout the park near to the major visitor areas, as are over 1,100 miles of hiking trails.

Top Five National Park #5: Olympic National Park - On the Olympic Peninsula, in western Washington state, in the Pacific Northwest. The park can be divided into three main regions: the Pacific coastline, the Olympic Mountains, and the temperate rainforest (one of the few remaining in North America). In 1976, Olympic National Park became an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 1981 it was designated a World Heritage Site. In 1988, almost all of the Olympic Peninsula was designated as the Olympic Wilderness, further enhancing the protection of the region. Most visitors arrive by car via U.S. Highway 101, which traverses the Pacific coastal section of the park, and a northern portion of the park west of Port Angeles. There are other spur roads leading into the park from various points as well. The coastal section is typical of the Pacific coast - beautifully rugged and rocky, interspersed with sandy beaches. The center of the park is home to the Olympic Mountains, jagged rocky mountain peaks crowned by ancient glaciers. The highest point is Mount Olympus at 7,965 ft. The Olympic Mountains create a drier rain shadow in the eastern part of the park. In the western part of the park, between the coast and the Olympic Mountains, is the temperate rainforest, including the Hoh and the Quinalt Rainforests. This is the wettest area in the continental United States, receiving more rain than any other part of the country (the island of Kauai, in Hawaii, is actually the wettest place in the entire U.S.). Although few roads penetrate far into the park area, there is a well-maintained network of hiking trails. Many visitors choose to backpack into and camp within the wilderness areas of the park's interior.

Original Article by Paul McDaniel:
How to Visit the Top Five National Parks -

Geography Trivia and Games

Check out the companion site to the GeoManiaWorld Blog:
GeoManiaWorld - Geography Trivia Games and Map Quizzes

Here is an example of just one of the many geography trivia and map games you will find on GeoManiaWorld:

The GeoManiaWorld companion site is designed to provide you with many fun and exciting resources in one place to help you build and maintain your geographic literacy and geographic knowledge. Check back often for more updates and to see how the site expands beyond the pages of knowledge and trivia games.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Welcome to GeoManiaWorld and the wonderful world of geography. The purpose of this blog is to post and comment about a wide variety of topics and issues related to the broad field of geography. Topics will range anywhere from human geography to physical geography and postings will most likely be related to items of a current and pertinent nature, but viewed from the perspective of a geographer and the field of geography. Post topics could be about cities, countries, nations, geopolitics, the environment, natural hazards, transportation, population, etc. So please check back often as new posts are added! You never know what you may find in the wonderful world of geography!

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