World’s Biggest Fracking Quake?

An excellent article on fracking, providing clarity of an issue mired in politics, innuendo and misinformation.

The Mountain Mystery

“Did Alberta Just Break a Fracking Earthquake World Record?” This is the headline in The Tyee, an online independent magazine focused on western Canada, and it seems the paper thinks so. The Tyee’s coverage of a big fracking earthquake in northern Alberta is mostly accurate, although a larger quake was reported in Oklahoma in September 2014. The Canadian shake measured 4.4 while the Sooner State’s quake was 4.5. An even larger one is alleged and implicated in an injury lawsuit in Oklahoma. I’ll have more about that in a moment.

Readers of this blog are aware of fracking. Hydraulic fracturing forces reluctant oil and gas out of the ground. The technology was invented half a century ago (1947, actually) but grew out of much earlier fracturing schemes, dating back to at least 1865 when nitroglycerin torpedoes were dropped into shallow Pennsylvania wells to “loosen up” the rocks, encouraging oil…

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Agriculture Page updated

Soil-SkyI’ve added some resources to the Agriculture page, specific to issues of hunger and waste as well as factory farming. I will continue to build this page to include sources for background information on other issues such as GMOs, pesticide and fertilizer use, traditional farming methods, etc. You’ll find it all at… > Anthroposphere > Resources > Agriculture

Weekend Wandering 7: 3rd World Farmer

3rdWorldFarmerI, too, cringe at the title as I am working with my students to stop using the term “3rd world” in favour of “Developing” or “Pre-Industrial”. That being said, the interactive “game” 3rd World Farmer has done more for my students towards creating empathy than anything else I have introduced to them. Suddenly, they realize what life is like for over 2.5 billion people each and every day. And those same students remember the experience for years afterwards.

Players become subsistence farmers with a family, a small plot of land and $50 to start with. They then direct their own destiny by choosing crops to grow and by suffering the hardships subsistence farmers in developing countries endure: civil war, drought, crop failures, ill health, etc. But, they also have an opportunity to invest in increasing the quality of their lives by sending their children to school, upgrading their farm with a shed and livestock, provided they earn the money to do so.

Students quickly realize the odds are stacked against them. However, that doesn’t prevent some from being “successful” in that they earn income and keep their family healthy and educated.

I use this with Grade 7s in my World Studies course along with a spreadsheet to allow them to keep track of how well they meet the goals that any family would expect from life. What is particularly interesting is how quickly they realize how different their goals in the West are from the goals of subsistence farmers.

If you like reality checks and light bulbs going on in students’ minds, then try 3rd World Farmer. I’ve added it to both the Development page on and the Agriculture page.


Seeing the forest for the trees

imageDo you subscribe to NASA’s Earth Observatory Image of the Day? If you are a student of geography, you should; if you are a teacher, you must! Each week you will be sent a synopsis of the images from that week – but it’s not just images! With each image is a well-researched write up providing context and additional links.

As well, they offer feature stories, often about how remote sensing is used to analyse issues here on Earth. One I turn to frequently is “Seeing the Forests for the Trees” which is a look at how satellite technology is used not just to analyse land cover, but also the height of forest canopy. For Geomatics students, they provide a behind-the-scenes look at how satellite data is verified through direct observation.

The article is multifaceted in that’s you learn about studying forests and forestry issues, and also about remote sensing and forests as carbon sinks.

Land, if you need more information about Forests, head over to