Shame on OAGEE!

I was shocked this morning to see the post by the Ontario Association of Geography and Environmental Educators (OAGEE) on the World Economic Forum’s take in population growth. It read, “The clock is ticking…” and showed a video sensationalizing the problem of population growth as if it is behind all the world’s troubles.

OAGEE should be ashamed!! This line of thinking is antiquated! I’ve been teaching World Issues since the early 1990s and back then it was old thinking. Blaming the world crises on population growth is attempt by us in the west to place the blame elsewhere.

We, here in the West, with our resource consumption, are the problem! We consume and pollute 10 to100x that of someone in an LEDC, making our relatively smaller population far more dangerous to Earth’s systems. That makes 35 million Canadians equivalent to 350 million to 3.5 billion people in LEDCs!

Interestingluy, if you actually click through to the WEF article, it is far more rational. Besides, population growth is declining!!

Ever heard of Hans Rosling? Have a look at “Don’t Panic!” at:

Of course, maybe, just maybe, OAGEE is only doing what I like doing in the classroom – throw out a red herring to stimulate discussion!


Night Light Maps Open Up New Applications

Much has been written lately in the popular press regarding the new set of satellite images released by NASA showing Earth at Night. Few sources provide a clearer view of human settlement patterns contrasting heavily populated and industrialized areas with those less populated and/or less “plugged in”; while Europe and eastern North America gleam, much of Africa is dark despite its high population, although the Nile Valley and Delta sure stand out.

I particularly like the Earth at Night images for illustrating settlement patterns across Canada: high concentrations show up as the urban archipelago across the nation; there are regular, evenly-dispersed populations across the plainsfarmland of southwestern Ontario and, of course, the Prairies; mountain valleys in the west clearly show linear patterns as do the coastal margins of the Martimes and St. Lawrence and along with rail and road corridors across northern Ontario, while much of the rest of the Canadian Shield is dark except for randomly dispersed mining and logging settlements and First Nations’ communities.

I highly recommend spending a few minutes reading this article by the Earth Observatory, as it provides an insightful glimpse of the tech behind these wonderful images – ideal for anyone pursuing remote sensing.

Improving Your Hallowe’en Haul

Trick or Treat DensityHere’s a take on statistics that will rot your teeth! has created a series of maps that use census data to predict where the best neighbourhoods are for trick or treating tonight. Just visit the Trick-or-Treat Density map, type your city or town into the Search field and away you go! There is also a slightly different version called Trick-or-Treat Onslaught.

It is nothing short of a brilliant implementation and thoughtful use of statistics and GIS (not to mention colour!) using the mapping API from Leaflet. Kids can use geography to predict candy haul based on the density of trick-or-treating-aged kids living in a neighbourhood. To quote

This map shows the number of children of prime trick-or-treating age as defined by Stats Canada per km². In plain terms, we map the percentage of children aged 5 to 14 per area.

CensusMapper Drill DownBe sure to click on a census area for a pop-up with more statistics. And if you are really keen, click on the “more…” button on the pop-up to graphically drill down into the data for that segment – very cool!

Even better, though, at least from an academic perspective, are the myriad other maps has created:

and others that deal a range of topics from religion to young adults living at home. Each map is searchable by place name throughout Canada making comparisons between urban areas and rural and urban areas just a jew clicks away. While many of the topics are beyond Grade 9 Geography, they would be welcome for developing higher-order thinking and conceptualization in senior geography courses.

But in the meantime, hand this over to your kids so they can plan their route for tonight’s Hallowe’en outing. And, while they’re out, have them collect non-perishable food items on behalf of your local food bank and the national We Scare Hunger campaign.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Just added to – Development page

HDII’ve been using HDI now for 20 years – about when it first came out, I believe. This week, as part of the Changing Populations unit in Canadian geography (Ontario), I will be working with students to develop an HDI-like index using 6 different Quality of Life indicators for 18 countries. They will be looking up the values, researching what the indicators mean and using Google Sheets to create spreadsheet of values and rankings to come up with an overall rank.

TZLifeThe goal of all this, in addition to learning the technical skills of spreadsheets, is to use the data to “predict where Canada’s immigrants will be applying from in the future”. I’m liking this new curriculum and how it is much more action-based.

All this prep had me working over the last little while to bolster the links on the Development page under Anthroposphere. The latest HDI link is there plus links to a variety of other indexes of development including the World Happiness Report, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index and, of course, the Economist’s Big Mac Index. You will also find a link on the page to my photos of Tanzanian Life under Explore. This is part of a growing number of images I am making available to students and teachers for educational use.