This interactive geospatial information site maps the density of problem rodents in New York City, based on complaint data from the last five years. geobi-lab.com/Maps/NYC311_RodentDensity/map.html#11/40.7643/-73.9112
This article from Philosophy Now (UK) looks at a dog auction through the prism of moral philosophy. The "right" thing to do may depend on which philosopher you consult...
"I was sitting in the bleachers with the rest of the crowd, looking down at the center-stage folding table, where bidding on a purebred English Bulldog had stalled at $185. I had the cash, but I didn’t reach for it. Instead, to my surprise, I found myself haggling morality with Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, and finally, Peter Singer. The commercial-scale dog breeders – some would call them ‘puppy mill’ owners – sitting all around me would have thought I was crazy to consider morality. For them, auctioning dogs is the stuff of everyday commerce, no different than auctioning farm equipment or anything else they might need to keep their businesses going. Dogs to them were no different than cows or pigs or chickens – yet another animal that can be bred to produce offspring the public wants to buy, in one form or another. These breeders, who have long helped to fill the insatiable demand for pet dogs by the millions each year, were hoping to score good deals on new canine stock for their own kennels across America’s heartland, no apologies required. The rescuers – some would call them ‘animal rights activists’ – were there bidding in the bleachers too. They drop tens of thousands of dollars at these auctions, because, as they argue, it’s important to buy the dogs’ freedom from the breeding industry. The money, of course, ultimately passes through the auctioneer’s hands and then lands, sans his commission, in the pockets of breeders, including the types of breeders the rescuers loathe; but the rescuers offered no apologies, either. They tell adopters all across America that the dogs have been ‘saved from puppy mills’, collecting adoption fees, and putting the money right back into the system as they see fit. It was the very participation of the rescuers at the dog auction that had summoned the ghosts of Kant and Mill to me in the first place."
Not a map, but this geo-graphic shows the countries with the highest number of refugees per 1,000 inhabitants. As a total number (not a ratio), Turkey continues to host the most refugees, an issue that has been discussed in the lead up to Turkey's elections tomorrow. www.statista.com/chart/14323/countries-with-most-refugees-per-1000-inhabitants/
From July 1 through Labor Day, the Newseum is offering free admission for up to four kids (ages 0-18) with every paid adult admission. The Newseum is one of my favorite museums -- by turns powerful, moving, and inspiring -- but because some of the exhibits deal with news coverage of violence, famine, and human suffering, it is best for older kids; those with an interest in history will find it particularly worthwhile. Newseum tickets are good for two consecutive days, which means you don't have to try to squeeze everything into a single visit. www.newseum.org/visit/tickets/summer-fun-deal/
Since the subsections of what is today Cameroon merged following their independence from Britain and France in the early 1960s, the country has been officially bilingual. But the geographically smaller, less populous English-speaking part of the country has burbled with talk of secession on and off for decades, most recently re-emerging in late 2016 and escalating over the last nine months. This map shows the French-speaking regions of Cameroon in light blue and the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon in light red. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/62/Langues_du_Cameroun_Carte.png/450px-Langues_du_Cameroun_Carte.png
Modern slavery takes many forms. In Southeast Asia, for example, the fishing fleet of Thailand, most prominently, relies heavily on men who are drugged, captured, tricked, or sold to work as forced labor. One of the factors that makes this possible is that these ships never dock: they transfer their cargo and take on supplies at sea. Governments have been turning a blind eye, but anti-slavery NGOs are now using the same tactic employed by groups trying to stop illegal fishing: tracking the GPS transponders of fishing vessels to identify those that never dock. www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/05/03/software-that-detects-human-trafficking
The demand of growing populations for water has meant diverting rivers that once fed lakes. This article profiles California's shrinking Salton Sea and the consequences of its decline.
"An enormous blue void at the north end of the Imperial Valley, the Salton Sea once attracted more visitors than Yosemite. But California’s largest lake is now mostly forgotten, and those who know of it don’t have flattering things to say: they’ll tell you about vast beaches where the sand is made of fish bones; about eerie, half-abandoned Mad Max-esque communities; and most of all, its noxious emissions. In 2012, the Salton Sea burped up a cloud of sulfurous odor so thick that residents in Los Angeles 150 miles away were hit by the nauseating smell of rotten eggs. Though it’s been shrinking for decades, on January 1st, 2018, the Salton Sea entered a nosedive. Thanks to a water transfer agreement with San Diego, 40 percent less water will now flow into the sea. It will recede dramatically, and its already shallow surface level will drop 20 feet. By 2045, its waters will be five times as salty as the Pacific Ocean, killing whatever fish still live there and scattering the birds that feed on them. Though we often think of lakes as permanent landmarks, global warming, irrigation, and our constant thirst threaten these resources around the world. Terminal lakes like the Salton Sea, bodies of water that have no natural drain, are particularly vulnerable. Iran’s Lake Urmia — once the largest body of water in the Middle East — has shrunk by almost 90 percent over the last 30 years; Africa’s Lake Chad is also 90 percent smaller than it was in the 1960s; and Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea, once the fourth largest salt lake in the world, has practically been wiped off the map. When these lakes evaporate, they can upend industries and erase surrounding communities. For residents near the Salton Sea, the most pressing problem is the threat of toxic dust. The receding Salton Sea will reveal at least 75 square miles of playa, the lake bed that the water once hid. When that soil dries, it will begin to emit dust laced with industrial runoff from the surrounding farms: up to 100 tons of dust could blow off the playa daily."
What does your state acquire through international trade? This map shows each state's major import (by dollar value). howmuch.net/articles/biggest-import-from-each-state
One of the open questions concerning artificial intelligence is whether AI, like people, can correct for their early training. To demonstrate how easy it is to bias an AI algorithm with tainted information, researchers at MIT trained an AI they named "Norman" (for the creepy protagonist in Psycho) on information from an unnamed Reddit thread "that is dedicated to document and observe the disturbing reality of death." Norman, not surprisingly, ended up being referred to as the "world's first psychopath AI," obsessed with murder and death. The MIT proof of concept experiment points to the importance of the role of the information used in training AI systems and the value of ethics in computer science training. norman-ai.mit.edu/
The concern about plastics (in our landfills, in our waterways) seems to have accelerated since the airing of David Attenborough's "Blue Planet II" series. This map shows which countries have passed laws banning or limiting plastic bags and styrofoam. (Although several U.S. states and municipalities have acted on this issue, this map only considers national laws.) www.statista.com/chart/14120/the-countries-banning-plastic-bags/
This 30-question quiz on North American geography allows you to test your geography knowledge and includes interesting informational tidbits in every answer. (And it's not true that you have to be an expert :-).) learn.howstuffworks.com/quiz/youre-not-a-true-north-american-geography-expert-dont-even-bother-this-quiz
This map from The Economist (UK) highlights some of the 104 countries that have laws prohibiting women from working in certain jobs -- or at all. "Some countries publish lists of jobs deemed too dangerous for women (Russia’s 456 include driving a train or steering a ship). Others stop women from working in entire sectors, at night or in 'morally inappropriate' jobs (in Kazakhstan women cannot bleed or stun cattle, pigs or small ruminants). In four countries women cannot register a business. In 18 a husband can stop his wife working." www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/05/24/billions-of-women-are-denied-the-same-choice-of-employment-as-men
Is "biohacking" citizen-science or is it a threat to public health and/or national security?
"In the past few years, so-called biohackers across the country have taken gene editing into their own hands. As the equipment becomes cheaper and the expertise in gene-editing techniques, mostly Crispr-Cas9, more widely shared, citizen-scientists are attempting to re-engineer DNA in surprising ways. ... The most pressing worry is that someone somewhere will use the spreading technology to create a bioweapon. Already a research team at the University of Alberta has recreated from scratch an extinct relative of smallpox, horsepox, by stitching together fragments of mail-order DNA in just six months for about $100,000 — without a glance from law enforcement officials. The team purchased overlapping DNA fragments from a commercial company. Once the researchers glued the full genome together and introduced it into cells infected by another type of poxvirus, the cells began to produce infectious particles. ... A site called Science Exchange, for example, serves as a Craigslist for DNA, a commercial ecosystem connecting almost anyone with online access and a valid credit card to companies that sell cloned DNA fragments. ... Biohackers will soon be able to forgo these companies altogether with an all-in-one desktop genome printer: a device much like an inkjet printer that employs the letters AGTC — genetic base pairs — instead of the color model CMYK. A similar device already exists for institutional labs, called BioXp 3200, which sells for about $65,000. But at-home biohackers can start with DNA Playground from Amino Labs, an Easy Bake genetic oven that costs less than an iPad, or The Odin’s Crispr gene-editing kit for $159. ... 'There are really only two things that could wipe 30 million people off of the planet: a nuclear weapon, or a biological one,' said Lawrence O. Gostin, an adviser on pandemic influenza preparedness to the World Health Organization. 'Somehow, the U.S. government fears and prepares for the former, but not remotely for the latter. It baffles me.'"
As students in some of my geography classes know, Virunga is the oldest national park in Africa and home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, among other species. Located on the far eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga has long been threatened by poachers, occasional armed militias operating in the area, illegal charcoal production, and the discovery of oil within the park. In light of a recent spate of violence targeting primarily park rangers, Virunga announced that it will be closed until 2019 to evaluate how the park can ensure the safety of rangers and tourists. www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/04/virunga-national-park-congo-closes-tourists-2019-security
This GIF shows U.S. claims to Native American land between 1810 and 1891. www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/8j1w1k/seizure_of_native_american_land_in_the_us_between/
The Stoic philosophers share with the Buddhists a goal of disentanglement from the world in order to find peace and meaning apart from the bustle and material goods and quest for power that preoccupy others. The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote a famous essay "On the Shortness of Life" that begins with a passage I find useful to consider occasionally:
"The majority of mortals, Paulinus, complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live. ... It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly."
A cartogram is a map that's been weighted for a particular variable. In this case, the variable is beehives. Humans have kept beehives for thousands of years, and by 2016, beekeepers had an estimated 90 million hives worldwide. This cartogram shows where beekeeping is most popular. (Having trouble making it out? The four countries with the most beehives are India, China, Turkey, and Iran.) worldmapper.org/maps/beehives-2016/
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has a new exhibit that focuses on global epidemics, specifically zoonotic epidemics that jump from animals to people. Visitors will learn about how biogeography, travel, and trade can influence outbreaks and will be able to engage in a multi-player game with other visitors to contain an outbreak before it spreads. "Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World" will run through Spring 2021. naturalhistory.si.edu/exhibits/outbreak/
Yesterday's post mentioned U.S. military engagement in 76 countries. This map, from Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, shows where the U.S. is currently known to have troops, military advisors, or drones. (It is estimated that classified special ops activity may add two dozen more countries.) images03.military.com/sites/default/files/styles/full/public/2018-05/us-military-global-activity_1200x800.jpg
The U.S. has had an all-volunteer military since 1973. Is that policy working? Some have argued that an all-volunteer force is too expensive (due to recruitment bonuses), stretched too thin (with engagements in 76 countries), and encourages interventionist foreign policy (because too few Americans have "skin in the game," to use the words of one of the retired military officers quoted in this article). The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service is currently evaluating arguments for and against reinstating the draft. www.military.com/undertheradar/2018/05/17/should-united-states-reinstate-draft.html
Walking across the Sahara Desert, you might not notice it from the ground, but from space, the so-called Richat Structure in western Mauritania is perhaps the most distinctive landmark in the Sahara. Although it might look like an impact crater or an open-pit mine, it is believed to be the weathered remains of a magma dome. www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_528.html
Many Americans are aware that Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii ("the Big Island") has been actively oozing lava across the landscape for several weeks, causing property damage and creating impressive footage. There is considerable confusion, though, about how much of the Big Island is affected. This pair of maps may have been created in jest, but the map on the right shows the actual scope of the current eruption.
This entertaining and thoughtful post from Oxford University's Practical Ethics blog considers "vegetarian Thanos" as a prelude to combining ethics, biomedical advances, and mandated behavioral change.
"Vegetarian Thanos, we might imagine, is hellbent on reducing the suffering of farm animals. The suffering inflicted on the 60 billion or so farm animals reared on planet Earth each year – or at least the suffering inflicted on the increasing proportion of them that are factory farmed – strikes an increasing number of people as plainly unjustifiable. The pleasure we get out of eating them can in no way outweigh the suffering entailed by intensive meat and dairy production. This has pushed some ethicists to argue for genetically modifying livestock so they feel less or no pain.... But I imagine Vegetarian Thanos, with his more heavy-handed approach to matters of justice, would take things in a different direction and look at modifying the humans instead. One way he could do that is by releasing upon humanity an army of ticks. Specifically, the lone star tick. The lone star tick is fairly common in the eastern United States and Mexico. It does not carry the bacteria associated with Lyme disease; instead, one bite from it leads its human victim to develop a troubled relationship with animal flesh. Within 3 to 8 hours of eating meat, those previously bitten by this tick will start to feel quite unwell, with a bad stomach ache and ferocious itching. Which is to say, a bite from a lone star tick leaves humans with a nasty, long-term allergy to meat. Could Vegetarian Thanos be the good guy here? And, Thanos aside, if you are a vegan/vegetarian for ethical reasons, should you be gathering these ticks and dispersing them among friends, family and passers-by?"
We are about at the halfway point of Ramadan, the month during which observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. But, as this map shows, the time between sunrise and sunset varies greatly depending on where one is, from 11.5 hours in Melbourne to nearly 19.5 hours in Oslo. (However, according to this article, most Muslim scholars agree that Muslims near the poles can choose to fast during the daylight hours for Mecca or for the nearest Muslim-majority country, which in the case of Norway would be Bosnia.) www.statista.com/chart/13924/ramadan-fasting-times/
Want to learn about the cutting edge of ocean-related research? The National Geographic Society's Explorer Classroom has nine free webcasts -- with ocean biologists, deep-sea explorers, photographers and technology specialists -- coming up June 4-7. To register or to find out more, see www.nationalgeographic.org/education/programs/explorer-classroom/
Blog sharing news about geography, philosophy, world affairs, and outside-the-box learning
This blog also appears on Facebook: