One of the things my geography students explore on occasion is how cultural traditions are updated for the 21st century. This video showcases The Hu, a group from Mongolia that blends traditional Mongolian instruments and throat singing with a heavy metal motif. If you like throat singing -- or have never heard it -- this video is worth checking out.
Auschwitz was liberated 75 years ago this week by the Soviet Red Army. Located in Nazi-occupied Poland, Auschwitz was not the only Nazi death camp, but it was the largest and arguably the most infamous. This map from The Economist (UK) shows the results of researchers' on-going efforts to identify the Jews who died at Auschwitz, including by country of origin: www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/01/25/archivists-are-racing-to-identify-every-jewish-holocaust-victim
The anti-corruption NGO Transparency International just released its 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index. The index ranks 180 countries and territories on perceived government corruption, and it is worth digging through the data. (Spoiler alert: the U.S. has fallen to 69 out of a possible 100, down from 76 in 2015 and putting it behind Uruguay and the UAE.) www.transparency.org/cpi2019
As sea ice in the Arctic recedes, channels are opening connecting the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. While this is normally discussed in terms of navigation and geopolitics, this article considers these channels as unprecedented avenues for the exchange of marine microbes. geographical.co.uk/nature/wildlife/item/3542-channel-hopping
This map from a recent New York Times article highlights the 500 U.S. counties that contribute the largest numbers of U.S. Army recruits, as a percentage of population. "More and more, new recruits are the children of old recruits. In 2019, 79 percent of Army recruits reported having a family member who served. For nearly 30 percent, it was a parent — a striking point in a nation where less than 1 percent of the population serves in the military. For years, military leaders have been sounding the alarm over the growing gulf between communities that serve and those that do not, warning that relying on a small number of counties that reliably produce soldiers is unsustainable...." www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/us/military-enlistment.html
One of the perpetual problems in the philosophy of mind is what, if anything, we truly know about the consciousness of others. A 1974 paper by American philosopher Thomas Nagel produced a famous thought experiment about what it's like to be a bat. This article considers, instead, what it is like to be a bee.
"You’re a honeybee. Despite being around 700,000 times smaller than the average human, you’ve got more of almost everything. Instead of four articulated limbs, you have six, each with six segments. (Your bee’s knees, sadly, don’t exist.) You’re exceptionally hairy. A shock of bristly setae covers your body and face to help you keep warm, collect pollen, and even detect movement. Your straw-like tongue stretches far beyond the end of your jaw, but has no taste buds on it. Instead, you “taste” with other, specialized hairs, called sensillae, that you use to sense the chemicals that brush against particular parts of your body. You’ve got five eyes. Two of them, called compound eyes and made up of 6,900 tiny lenses, take up about half your face. Each lens sends you a different “pixel,” which you use to see the world around you. The colors you see are different. Red looks like black to you and your three “primary” colors are blue, green, and ultraviolet. ... Your four wings move at 11,400 strokes per minute. You can sense chemicals in the air. ... But how much does any of this tell us about what it actually feels like to be a bee?
"We all know what it’s like to be ourselves—to be conscious of the world around us, and be conscious of that consciousness. But what consciousness means more generally, for other people and other creatures, is a hot potato tossed between philosophers, biologists, psychologists, and anyone who’s ever wondered whether it feels the same to be a dog as it does to be an octopus. ... The problem is that in trying to envisage any consciousness besides our own, we run into the limits of the human imagination. In the case of honeybees, it’s hard to know if interesting behavior is reflective of an interesting experience of the world or masks a more simple stimulus-response existence. The lights are on, but is anyone home? ...
"In a human brain, key studies suggest consciousness lies in the midbrain, an evolutionarily much older section. In a study published last year, [cognitive scientist Andrew] Barron and [philosopher Colin] Klein investigated the structure of the bee brain, which seems to be made up of similar bits to our own, with a region responsible for similar tasks. 'It’s smaller, it’s organized differently, it’s different-shaped, but if you look at the kind of computations it does, it’s doing the same sort of things as the midbrain,' Klein says. 'So if you think in humans the midbrain is responsible for being conscious, and you think this is doing the same kind of thing, then you ought to think insects are conscious as well.' This biological approach opens up consciousness to a variety of other organisms that don’t do the clever things that bees do, like beetles or potato bugs. They might be less obviously interesting, but that doesn’t make them less likely to be conscious. ...
"While neurobiology is a very important part of the story, says [philosopher David] Chalmers, 'it may not settle the issue of consciousness. You very frequently find a situation where two people might agree on the neurobiology of a given case, but disagree on what that implies about consciousness.' He gives the example of fish, and the ongoing discourse about whether their neurobiology suggests that they do or do not feel pain. 'Knowing the neurobiological facts doesn’t necessarily settle the question.'
"We can try to imagine what it’s like to have six hairy legs, or see in pixels, or crave nectar. We can even try to imagine what it’s like to be part of a hive, a superorganism with motivations of its own. But what it’s actually like to be a bee—its subjective experience of the world—is going to remain elusive. But we’re starting to figure out that it’s probably like something. And that’s not nothing."
This map looks at religious traditions around the world. (What is especially interesting to me about these sorts of maps are the outliers and the cultural geography that contributes to their unexpected status.)
I must admit, this article had me at the title -- "Six Books to Inspire the Next Generation of Geographers" -- but all of these books look really interesting. Because Geographical is a UK publication, the prices are in pounds, but all of the books are available in the U.S. too. (Rachel Ignotofsky's book has been published in the U.S. as The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems instead of the title in the article.) geographical.co.uk/reviews/books/item/3501-young-geography-books
The Chinese city of Wuhan has been in the news this week as the epicenter of a new SARS-like epidemic. So where is Wuhan, exactly? How close is it to major population (and tourism) centers like Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou? As this map shows, Wuhan is in central China. (While it may not look central, it is central by Chinese standards because of the country's eastern-heavy population distribution.) Wuhan is not particularly close to China's coastal megacities, but the upcoming Lunar New Year, traditionally the largest human migration on the planet, is likely to bring many Chinese to and through Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province on their way to and from visits to family. geology.com/world/china-map.gif
In the U.S., a significant proportion of white Evangelical Protestants believes that impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump are the first salvo in a civil war in which Democrats and atheists will deprive white Evangelicals of their civil liberties. But is it true? This political science piece, based on opinion polling, finds that an inverted golden rule seems to be at play: although Democrats and atheists wouldn't deprive Evangelicals of their civil liberties, Evangelicals would deprive Democrats and atheists of their civil liberties. Moreover, even if Evangelicals' fears are overblown, the proportion of those who believe them reflects "a core question in democratic societies: Are citizens willing to extend rights to groups they dislike? If not, the political process can no longer fairly resolve disputes and the nation may turn to violence — just as far-right commentators and public officials are predicting." www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/23/white-evangelicals-fear-atheists-democrats-would-strip-away-their-rights-why/
President Donald Trump's recent threat to target Iranian cultural sites raises the question, "What are Iran's cultural sites?" This interactive site allows users to view and learn about Iran's 22 cultural and two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Persepolis, the Golestan Palace, and the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque built by Shah Abbas in Esfahan: whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ir
When students in my online modern drama class read Pygmalion, they learn how our accents and word choices can identify our geographic origins and influences. Taking this quiz from The New York Times will show where in the U.S. people are most (and least) likely to talk like you do. www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/dialect-quiz-map.html
I saw a t-shirt in a shop in Hawaii several years ago that stuck with me because the philosophy was both profound and a dramatic departure from that of the East Coast of the U.S.:
There are two ways to get rich in Hawaii
One last photo instead of a map. This is the Hawaiian state fish, known in English as the reef triggerfish. In Hawaiian, its name is humuhumunukunukuapua'a. The Hawaiian language was oral, not written, until missionaries arrived in the islands in the early 1800s and used English letters to capture Hawaiian sounds. It turns out that the Hawaiian language employed only 12 sounds: the five vowels plus seven consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, and w). Not surprisingly, many Hawaiian words transcribed into English are long and, to outsiders, look confusingly similar. The Hawaiian language is related to languages spoken elsewhere in Oceania, including Tongan, Maori, Samoan, and Tahitian. (Politically, Hawaii may be part of the United States, but geographically it is actually part of Oceania.)
Take a virtual field trip to Hawaii's unusually colored beaches: black sand (from eroded lava) is found on several islands, most prominently the Big Island; red sand (from eroded iron-rich lava) is found on Maui; green sand (from eroded olivine) is found on the Big Island; orange sand is found on Molokai; and white sand (from eroded coral) is found on several islands, most prominently Oahu. (A sharp observer may recognize Hawaii's green sand beach from the home page of my website.) www.onlyinyourstate.com/hawaii/colored-sand-beaches-in-hi/
Not a map but a photo highlighting a bit of biogeography. This is the photo of a coffee tree; the red "cherries" are nearly ripe enough to be picked. Coffee is a very picky plant, growing best at altitude in tropical regions with just the right amount of sunshine and precipitation. Hawaii is the only U.S. state with commercial coffee production, almost all of which is centered on the island of Hawaii. Even on the island of Hawaii, though, coffee is only grown in a few specific regions, the most well known of which is Kona. Kona coffee is grown on the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai, at 700' to 2000' in elevation, in a narrow belt just two miles long.
Pork is sufficiently important to Chinese consumers that the Chinese government maintains a strategic pork reserve. Over the last year, African swine fever, which is harmless to humans but has a pig fatality rate approaching 100%, has killed more than 40% of China's pigs and roughly 1/4 of all pigs globally, driving up pork prices, reshaping global meat markets, and bringing the intersection of food security and global agricultural pandemic to the fore. (The link to Hawaii? Hawaii has a large and growing feral pig population; African swine fever is spread by not just domestic pigs but also by feral pigs and wild boars.) geographical.co.uk/geopolitics/hotspot/item/3479-geopolitical-hotspot-african-swine-fever
Students who have taken my "Hands-On Geography" classes know that most of the world's volcanoes are located near the edges of tectonic plates (and why). Hawaii's volcanoes are an exception. They are "hot spot" volcanoes. Hot spots are created by magma plumes that, for reasons that are not well understood, penetrate the lithosphere and fuel volcanoes on the surface of the plate. As the tectonic plate moves, the stationary magma plume generates a chain of volcanoes and, if underwater, an archipelago of islands and seamounts. The hot spot that has been fueling the Hawaiian islands has been active at least 70 million years, creating islands from the Emperor seamounts near Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula to Hawaii's Big Island. As the Pacific plate continues to move west over the magma plume, the older islands (to the west) become volcanically dormant and newer islands form to the east. The newest Hawaiian island is forming underwater, off the southeast coast of the Big Island. geology.com/usgs/hawaiian-hot-spot/
This map, assembled by Business Insider based on U.S. Census data, looks at the language most commonly spoken at home, other than English or Spanish, in each state. In Hawaii, that language is Ilocano. Previously, it was Tagalog. Students who have taken my "Your Future World: Human Geography 2050" class may recognize both Tagalog and Ilocano as languages spoken in the Philippines. image.businessinsider.com/5d07a1e16fc920279f04aea5?width=1600&format=jpeg&auto=webp
Life is different in Hawaii. This article explains the Hawaiian philosophy of self and community.
"Now, most mainland Americans think "aloha" means "hello," "goodbye," or sometimes "love," and all of that is true. But it also means much, much more. ... When I first moved to Hawaii from the mainland, my limited understanding of aloha was summed up in a general impression of "nice-ness." "How nice everyone is here," I would say to my husband. ... People in my adopted island home talk about "driving with aloha," "speaking with aloha," and even "working out with aloha," which, according to the sign at my gym, means sharing equipment and wiping it down after use. Aloha is manifest in .... the genuine interest in others implicit in the Hawaiian tradition of engaging in friendly and personal conversation, or "talking story," over every encounter. These practices can surprise (and sometimes irritate) newcomers; after all, ... when you're in a hurry, answering the postal clerk's curious questions about the son to whom you are sending a package can be a little maddening. But these practices — and the aloha that drives them — literally force humans to connect with each other. And when you are connected with others, it's hard to follow the very human instinct to put yourself and your biological family above others. By extension, aloha connects humans with the natural world, putting individual humans into context with animals, plants, and the Earth. Over time, I began to understand just how powerful a social construct aloha really is. It is subjugating the urge to benefit oneself at risk of upsetting the delicate balance of life. It helps us get along. And on a densely populated island with an incredibly diverse population, getting along is key to survival."
Most of the Hawaiian islands are fringed by coral reefs, providing Hawaii with the best snorkeling in the United States. This photo was taken near where British explorer Captain James Cook met his demise. (Kidnapping a local chief and holding him hostage for supplies turned out not to be a good idea.)
Test your knowledge of Hawaii's human geography:
Not a map today but a photo: a tray of lilikoi (passion fruit-filled) malasadas. A malasada is a Hawaiian treat, a yeast doughnut brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants. In the second half of the 19th century, Portuguese sugarcane workers were recruited in the Azores to come work in Hawaii's sugarcane fields. Although there is no longer any commercial sugar production in Hawaii -- the last sugar mill closed in 2016 -- there are still sugary malasadas, a reflection of Hawaii's complex cultural geography.
Transnational issues ignore the boundaries of nation-states. Antibiotic resistance is one of these transnational issues, to which researchers recently contributed this finding: "Sewage from airplanes serves as a melting pot for a globally sourced group of gut microbes. Now, a study suggests that such waste is loaded with bacteria resistant to antibiotics along with a smorgasbord of genes that confer drug resistance. That means airplane waste could be helping to fuel the spread of antibiotic resistance around the world. In a survey of airplane sewage from five German airports, around 90 percent of 187 E. coli isolated and tested were resistant to at least one antibiotic. For comparison, between 45 and 60 percent of these common gut dwellers collected from inlets to German wastewater treatment plants were drug resistant, the scientists found. And E. coli from airplane sewage was far more likely than that from municipal wastewater to be resistant to three or more antibiotics." www.sciencenews.org/article/airplane-sewage-may-help-antibiotic-resistant-microbes-spread
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are nearly 1500 volcanoes around the world believed to be active, of which more than half are located in the six countries shown in red on this map. The U.S. has 169 "potentially active" volcanoes, the majority of which are in Alaska. Hawaii has five volcanoes that have erupted in the last 250 years: Kilauea (erupted nearly continuously from 1983 to 2018), Mauna Loa (last erupted in 1984 but believed to be poised to erupt again soon), Loihi (last erupted 1996), Hualalai (last erupted 1801), and Haleakala (last erupted about 1790). Haleakala is on Maui; all of the rest are on the island of Hawaii.
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