Canada’s intact forests: world’s largest!

Canadian Geographic has just released a short article that certainly begs the half-full-half-empty glass question, or, this case, forests. Over 90% of Canada’s intact* forest is boreal forest, making it, at 300 million hectares, the largest intact forest in the world. However, the same can’t be said for some the species-rich southern forests which have almost eliminated. And, sadly, Alberta has only 16% of it’s intact boreal forestremaining. So, much to celebrate, but also much to consider.

*intact = a forest area of 50 000ha or larger.

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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.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/08/the-earths-population-is-going-to-reach-9-8-billion-by-2050

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: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E

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

Unsustainable supermarkets

The next time you bite into that seemingly luscious red strawberry – in January – think about this article…

Are supermarkets facing the beginning of the end?

We, in the West, really do face a number of hypocritical decisions and actions on a daily basis. Many of us recycle, but then we go buy more “stuff”; we love our “self-propelled” activities, but then drive our cars to enjoy them; we eat healthy diets, but demand unquestionably unsustainable fruits & veg all winter long.

For most North Americans, it’s possible to have virtually the same health benefits by purchasing locally-grown fruit and veg in season – even through the winter – especially the veg because eating vegetables is far healthier than eating fruit. But let’s face it, selling beets, carrots and cabbages is not as sexy as strawberries, kiwis, avocados, mangos, etc. And lettuce in January is, perhaps, the least sustainable of all. Imagine transporting a truckload of plants from Mexico or California that are 96% water, all this way, just to add a few micronutrients to our table.

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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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 GeoKnow.net 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