GeoNews to 11 Dec 2016

Forest Losses and Gains since 1990 – Animated map; sad to see Canada in the loss category. Congratulations Europe and China for your huge gains! (
Further info from Global Forest Watch, FAO (scroll down for maps & infographics), and UNEP – Vital Forest Graphics
World Migration Map – Animated to show “live” movements of people – very cool! (
Maps that show us who we are (not just where we are) A fascinating perspective on mapping (
When Earth hit the reset button on life: New research on the Permian-Triassic mass extinction A somewhat long, but enlightening look at P-T extinctions and the anthropomorphic extinctions of today (EARTH magazine)
Earthquakes of the first 15 years of the 21st century – Animation Teaching plate tectonics? Here you go… (USGS on YouTube)
Beyond GDP – is it time we rethink how we measure growth? Yes it is, and it has been for years now! (World Economic Forum)
100 Women 2016: Female Arab cartoonists challenge authority Excellent insights (BBC News)
Thinking about a career in Geography? U of T “Careers by Major” A great overview of “what’s out there” 

Latest GeoNews

You may have noticed, I’ve update the GeoNews “window” on the landing page. Using Google Docs and “Publish to the Web”, I finally found a way to update GeoNews without having to go into the web-authoring app I’m using. This is just too easy!!

The latest update includes:

Canada moves ahead with carbon taxes, leaving the US behind Canadians too often look south for guidance when, in fact, they can be (and are) leaders (MIT Technology Review)
How an Ancient Greek mathematician calculated Earth’s circumference
A great, short video (Business Insider via
Solving the mysteries of the MonsoonScientists have just returned from a groundbreaking research campaign to understand the Indian monsoon (
Unearthing a Giant Marine Reptile – nearly 75-foot-long ichthyosaur fossil found in the limestone banks of Sikanni Chief River of BC (NatGeo)
Health Canada proposes ban of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticide (
Notre Dame Must Vacate 2012, 2013 Football Wins Over Academic Violations (NPR) Plagiarism costs! Dearly!
Sea Ice Reaches a New Low  Sea ice in the Arctic is about 2m km² smaller than its November average (The Economist) 
You may be higher up the global wealth pyramid than you think IF YOU had only $2,220 to your name, you might not think yourself terribly fortunate. But you would be wealthier than half the world’s population… (The Economist)
Canadian Index of Well-being  Is our overall quality of life getting better or worse? Are we getting closer or moving farther away from realizing the kind of Canada we want to live in?  (Univ of Waterloo)

…all well worth the reading!


Weekend Wandering 11: EarthLabs

EarthLanbsCongratulations to Carlton College in Minnesota. Through their Science Education Resource Lab (SERC), they have created dozens of Earth Science labs on their EarthLabs website. The labs are designed for high school students to discover, in their words…

What could be cooler than learning about the planet you live on?

The labs are all online with numerous links to data, graphics and animations.

Even better, they have a corollary site EarthLabs for Educators as a guidebook for teachers using the labs. Included are State and National Science Teaching Standards to make it easier to link the labs into courses.

Take a few minutes or, indeed, a few hours to wander through…


Ploughshares and Conflict Studies

ploughsharesDYK: In one year (2014), the world spent over $1.6 trillion on the military, over 1/3 of which was spent by one country…the United States.

DYK: The United States spends more on their military than the rest of NATO (#2) China(#3), Saudi Arabia (#4), Russia (#5), India and Japan COMBINED!!

Lately, I’ve been working with my Canadian and World Studies students on Conflict Studies. This has come out of our work in Current Affairs classes (once per week) which seems, every week, to revolve around conflicts. There is always, always, always conflicts in the news, but very little understanding around who is actually involved and why it’s happening in the first place. There is only so much a news organization can bring into a 30-second sound bite, which is what so much of the news is made up of.

ploughsharesEnter Project Ploughshares. Project Ploughshares started back in the 1970s. It grew out of a Mennonite Central Committee background and currently operates as an arms-length project of in the Canadian Council of Churches. To quote its website:

Project Ploughshares takes its name and its vision from the ancient biblical vision in the Book of Isaiah in which the material and human wealth consumed by military preparations are transformed into resources for human development, thereby removing the roots of war itself.

“God shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:4

The value of is many-fold. It is a local organization to us, operating out of Kitchener, Ontario. It is dedicated to bettering the world: “A secure world without war • A just world at peace”. And, equally important, is its unbiased (read: “not churchy”),  authoritative/credible documentation of the numerous conflicts plaguing the planet today. Each year, it produces an Armed Conflict Report with a summary, interactive map and poster, to summarize the various conflicts, locations, combatants and human toll. My students are using the website to create info-posters to help others understand the background of what’s going on around the world.

It has been a real eye-opener for my students. They are beginning to see the complexity of each conflict with multiple layers of historical background and multi-party support of each side. They are also seeing the huge human toll, not just in news clips of a thousand here and 10,000 there, but in terms of the millions of people who have been internally and externally displaced over the years. They have also come to realize there is a whole area of study at the university level called Peace and Conflict Studies. Just one more realization of “what’s out there”.


The Tribes of London: London OAC Supergroups

I’m always amazed at how way leads to way when surfing the Internet.

This morning, I thought I’d have a look at some geography blogs, just to see “what’s out there”. I subscribe to a few different geography magazines – Canadian Geographic, the Geographical, National Geographic – as well as others that relate to geography such as the Alternatives Journal and New Internationalist. But more and more frequently, I’m finding the content of magazines, while interesting, not entirely engaging. And when consumer-oriented geoinformation is engaging, it becomes melodramatic and too focus on the unique (and sometimes outrageous) experiences of a few people. Many travel magazines fall into this last category.

So, more and more, I’m turning to blogs, particularly those being maintained by geographers doing geography. This morning, I came across the blog Geo: Geography and the Environment. It’s an off-shoot of the peer-reviewed journal, Geo. I was pleased to see it is British in origin; from my experience of three years teaching geography in England, I know geography is alive and well – perhaps the strongest geography program in any secondary setting in the world.

The blog has numerous fascinating insights into what is being done in geography today – cutting edge stuff that forces me to think. Yes – that’s the difference. The articles in many consumer-oriented magazines are predictable; the same old same old, re-packaged in a different context, but few insights that are new or thought-provoking.

I started off reading about the “Geographies of Openness and Information” which charts the spatial distribution of national-level domain names. Of even greater interest to me, with my bent towards wildlife populations, was the article following: “Learning from guano: In search of a paleo-seabird proxy“. It was a year ago next month that I led a group of 23 Grade 8s, 9s and 11s to Galápagos to take part in on-the-ground conservation research, so, to see how researchers are making use of seemingly disparate data and concepts of crater lakes, Nitogen isotopes and anchovy populations in an historical and pre-history context, is, to me, fascinating.

I particularly enjoyed “Mapping the Tribes of London“. The title itself is fascinating, but what I found was a new way of imagining and describing different “cultures” across the human landscape. It immediately got me thinking about my own neighbourhood. I also checked out places I am familiar with from my years in England. Based on census data, researchers are able to predict the type of people living in specific areas: urbanites, suburbanites, constrained cits dwellers, multicultural metropolitans, for example. It would be an interesting comparative study of the structurally homogenous neighbourhoods in my city of Guelph, here in Canada, with my former city of Chelmsford, UK, with structurally heterogenous neighbourhoods: how different is the human mix of people in the quite different styles of neighbourhoods? Are heterogenous neighbourhoods “superior” (however that may be defined) to structurally homogenous neighbourhoods of the same age? Sounds like a Masters or PhD thesis in the making.

Of course, the hazard in this approach is that it may over-average groups of people into homogenous pods within a neighbourhood, but it seems their scale is large enough to allow for variability within a neighbourhood. The data has been mapped as “OACs” (Output Area Classifications) for the country, and, within London as London OACs or LOACs. I’ve linked each of these to map views from the Datashine website – which, in itself, is a true Weekend Wandering. It makes our Statistics Canada look downright dinosaurian.

As well, the term “tribe” seems to be ill-used. While there is a certain level of homogeneity within a tribe (bringing in the idea of Tobler’s first law of geography: “All things are related, but nearby things are more related (similar) than far away things”), within a traditional tribe, there would be daily or, at least, regular interactions within the tribe. Whereas, with this use of “tribe” people of the same tribe may never interact even though they live in the same neighbourhood and ride the same train to work – so are they really a “tribe”.

Much exploration here and much thought needed around this idea of breaking down a country or city into “tribes”. Very dangerous from my North American point of view, which causes me to eschew the hierarchies and divisions my ancestors escaped from and tried not to repeat here in Canada. But that’s a whole other topic for discussion.

Just added – El Niño page

New El Nino page on

New ElNino page on

As we are in the midst of another El Niño, and the affects are being felt far and wide, I thought should reflect that by adding a page devoted to it. There are graphics, videos and links to many sites to help us understand the phenomenon and how it affects people.