In some of my "Mission Possible: Global Issues, Leadership Choices" classes students have to wrangle with decisions about public goods. (Public goods are things that, once provided, benefit everyone, if they contributed to the provision of the good or not -- like clean air or national defense.) Students quickly come to see that (1) not everyone benefits equally from a public good -- the good is often more important to some people (or "countries," in the case of our "Mission Possible" simulation) than others and (2) the burdens of providing a public good are not shared equally -- some people (or "countries") often pay more to ensure the provision of the public good than others. Students negotiate, sometimes fiercely, over if a public good will be provided and who will pay how much to provide it. How individuals and "countries" conduct themselves during these negotiations often impact political alignments and soft power influence throughout the rest of the class. This insight, learned by high school students, is particularly relevant at the moment, with NATO talks last week and a decision expected later this week about if the U.S., the world's second biggest greenhouse-gas emitter (behind China), will begin the process of leaving the Paris climate agreement.
Food is essential. And when you run a country with 1.4 billion people, a lack of food is one thing that can bring down your government. China's leaders recognize that China does not have the land to satisfy its people's appetite. This article from Bloomberg is a fascinating look at how China's quest for food security is changing the geography of agriculture within China and around the world, www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-feeding-china/ The map shows where China has already bought land or made investments in food production.
Today is Memorial Day. This map shows the home counties of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003 through April 2016). www.dailyyonder.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Iraq-and-Afghanistan-casualties-map.png
The recent re-emergence of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of Africa's most populous countries, comes with a new ethical dimension because there's now an experimental Ebola vaccine that is nearly 100% effective in preventing infection: in an epidemic, when there's not enough vaccine to go around, who gets the vaccine? Are some people more important than others on utilitarian grounds? Or because they're young? Or vulnerable? Or good? Or should access to vaccines, like other scarce resources, be determined by power or money or connections? This article, by an Australian philosophy professor, teases apart some of these issues: "How Do We Choose Who Gets the Flu Vaccine in a Pandemic: Paramedics, Prisoners or the Public?" https://theconversation.com/how-do-we-choose-who-gets-the-flu-vaccine-in-a-pandemic-paramedics-prisoners-or-the-public-74164
With the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan it is instructive to look at the geographic distribution of Islam. Currently, the most populous Muslim-majority country is Indonesia, followed by Pakistan. By 2050, it may be Nigeria (which has a rapidly expanding population and is about 51% Muslim). upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/e/e4/Muslim_Percent_Population_v2.svg/1280px-Muslim_Percent_Population_v2.svg.png As a bonus, here is a link to a recent National Geographic photo essay on some of the world's most architecturally significant mosques. www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/lists/beautiful-mosques-around-the-world
Horseshoe crabs from across the Atlantic are heading to the Delaware Bay for their annual mass spawning event at high tide on the next full moon. If you want to witness this millions-year-old spectacle, you, too, can be on the beaches of the Delaware Bay at high tide the night of June 9. Take a jacket and a flashlight and look but don't touch. Although crabs may spawn anywhere along the Delaware Bay, there are spots where they are more likely to come ashore en masse. Prime Hook Beach (near Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge) and Slaughter Beach are good spots to check out. You can return to the beach the next morning to help any stranded crabs back into the water and watch the shore birds feast on the tiny green-gray horseshoe crab eggs along the water's edge. Can't go this year? You can get a sense for what it's like with this short video from NOAA's Ocean Today: https://aamboceantoday.blob.core.windows.net/oceantoday-prod/past-media/horseshoecrabspawning/otkn_815a_horseshoecrabteaser_sm.mp4
The U.S. has many Americans of Italian descent. It is less well known, at least in the United States, that South America has many more people of Italian descent. More than half (by some accounts nearly 2/3) of Argentina's population has at least one Italian ancestor, and São Paulo, Brazil, is believed to have the largest population of people of Italian ancestry outside of Italy. This map shows patterns of Italian ancestry across the Americas. img-9gag-fun.9cache.com/photo/a5bvx2r_700b.jpg
When students play my "Mission Possible: Global Issues, Leadership Choices" simulation, they automatically seem to assume they are leaders of a democracy. But democracy, on decline around the world for most of the last decade, is proving an unexpectedly fragile thing. The new Authoritarian Warning Survey takes as its basic premise that it is the erosion of democratic norms, rather than dramatic events like coups, that has been the biggest contributor to the rise of authoritarianism and the decline of democracy. What are the harbingers of authoritarianism that political scientists believe supporters of democracy need to be watchful for? There are six:
There's a lot more to China than the Great Wall. In fact, China has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country except Italy (50). This National Geographic photo essay introduces readers to 21 of China's UNESCO World Heritage Sites: www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/asia/china/21-best-unesco-sites-china/ The photo below shows the interior of one of the tulou dwellings of Fujian, designed by the Hakka beginning in the 12th century to reinforce ideas of unity, community, and social equality while also providing mutual defense against armed marauders.
Where are you most likely to encounter hobby drones? This map looks hobby-drone registrations by county. California has the most registered hobby drones (as it has the most of many other things because it has the largest population). Hawaii has the most hobby drones per capita. Only 7 counties in the U.S. have no registered hobby drones. learningrc.com/number-of-drones/
A recent piece from New Philosopher (Australia) highlights some of the contradictions, even irrationality, in our bias towards the future. www.newphilosopher.com/articles/are-your-best-days-ahead/
"If philosophy is good at one thing, it’s pointing out things that seem so obvious we don’t even notice them and making them suddenly seem unnervingly strange. Here’s one: would you rather your best days were ahead of you, or behind you? For most people the answer is irritatingly obvious. Of course we’d all prefer our best days to be ahead of us. Nobody wants to think they’ve already peaked. That might even seem perfectly rational. After all, if your future is going to be better than your past, your life overall will ultimately contain more goods – it’ll have higher ‘net welfare’ – than it would if things just coast along as they are, or started to decline. ...
Consider the following scenario from the Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit. You need an operation. The operation is always successful, but it hurts like hell, and you can’t have an anaesthetic. To lessen the trauma, once the operation is over, you’ll be given a drug that wipes your memory of the operation and the hours leading up to it. You wake up in a hospital bed. You don’t remember being wheeled in for surgery, but then, that’s just what you’d expect if you’d had the operation. You ask a nurse if you’ve been operated on yet. The nurse says she knows the facts about two patients, but she’s not sure which patient you are: either you had your operation yesterday, and it lasted for ten brutal hours; or you’ll have the surgery later today, and it’ll only take two hours. Which do you hope turns out to be the case? Everybody I’ve ever run this scenario past – and there’s been quite a few, which is probably why I don’t get invited to parties much any more – all say the same thing. We’d all prefer to find out we’d had the surgery yesterday. But think about that for a moment. While the nurse is off finding out, you’re desperately hoping your life contains more overall pain. You’d prefer to have a worse life, one containing eight hours more pain, than the life you’d have if your surgery is tomorrow.
Yes, you might say, of course – because that extra pain is all behind me. But why should that make a difference? Why should pain matter less if it’s in the past than if it’s in the future? We all agree that it does, but actually finding a rational justification for this ‘temporal discounting’ turns out to be maddeningly hard. A bee sting hurts the same on Tuesday as it does on Thursday, regardless of whether today is Wednesday or Friday; so why would I rather be stung yesterday than tomorrow? Parfit’s little thought experiment seems to uncover a deeply troubling fact about us: we’re biased towards the future, a bias that’s so deep we don’t even notice it, a bias that can at least in theory lead us to act against our overall best interests. ...
We care about the future over the past in a way that's hard to explain and harder to justify, but so deeply ingrained it's hard to imagine thing being otherwise. If we ... consider our lives as wholes, it seems the rational thing to do would be to prefer the life that has the highest overall welfare (whatever that turns out to mean). But from mid-stream, so to speak, we care much less about what's behind us than what lies ahead. ...
Maybe we care about future goods more than past ones because we take it the future is open and indeterminate, which make it more urgent than the unchangeable past. Perhaps it's just an evolutionary hangover: an animal that cares more about securing its future than dwelling on its past is more likely to survive than one that's indifferent between past and future. In that case, perhaps what's really surprising is that we care about our past as much as we do. Our bias towards the future seems to point to a deep division in what we are. Each of us is a human animal, living a life that is spread out across time. But each of us is also a present-tense subject of experience, living here-and-now, relating to events that are been-and-gone or yet-to-come."
With the U.S. president visiting Saudi Arabia today it seemed a good time to share an excellent source of information about Middle Eastern geography: Gulf/2000, a project of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University. Gulf/2000 has dozens (hundreds?) of maps detailing the region's cultural, economic, historical, and political geography. For example, this map looks at Saudi Arabia's tribal geography. (If one looks carefully, one can find the Sa'ud family just west of Riyadh.) gulf2000.columbia.edu/images/maps/Saudi_Tribes_lg.png
The finals of the National Geographic Bee air tonight (8 pm ET, National Geographic Channel), but you can try your hand at answering practice questions every day: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/bee/study/quiz (FWIW, the questions posted online are more typical of state- or national-level competition and are generally substantially more difficult than those students would see at a school-level bee.)
By combining monthly veterinary reports of Lyme disease infections in dogs with geographic factors correlated with the emergence of Lyme disease (forestation, area of surface water, temperature, population density, median household income), researchers at the University of Georgia and Clemson have created a forecasting map to predict and prevent the spread of Lyme disease in dogs and in humans. www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2017/05/new-lyme-disease-forecast-map-targets-rising-tide-of-ticks.aspx
In some of my high school geography and world affairs classes we discuss remittances, the money sent by immigrants back to people (typically family members) in their country of origin. Remittances are a major if often overlooked component of the global economy and play an important role in poverty alleviation, among other things. Globally, remittances total about $600 billion -- three times the sum of all foreign aid -- of which roughly 2/3 is sent to developing countries. For those who want to understand more about the drivers and impacts of remittances, Geographical magazine (UK) offers this excellent article: geographical.co.uk/people/development/item/1485-the-money-trail
How much a person knows about geography affects his or her opinions about foreign policy, sometimes in surprising ways. A recent poll conducted on behalf of The New York Times, for example, found that only 36% of adults could correctly identify North Korea on a map -- but those who could identify North Korea on a map were more likely to support economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and cyberattacks and to oppose airstrikes and sending ground troops than those who could not find North Korea on a map. To paraphrase geographer Harm de Blij, a better understanding of geography serves as a "superb antidote" both to isolationism and to misleading public information about world affairs. www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/14/upshot/if-americans-can-find-north-korea-on-a-map-theyre-more-likely-to-prefer-diplomacy.html
Having just sat on an airplane for a long time, I was thinking about the world's longest commercial airline routes. The longest flight, which premiered earlier this year, is from Doha (Qatar) to Auckland (New Zealand) and traverses more than 9000 miles in 16+ hours. This map shows its route. At present, seven of the world's 10 longest commercial flights involve travel to or from the Middle East, reflecting the region's growing influence as an air traffic hub. www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/longest-flight-in-the-world-qatar-doha-auckland/
I'll be out exploring a corner of the world for the next two weeks and, unless I find time to share a photo or two, do not expect to be posting to my blog or Facebook page during that time.
NOAA (the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has developed an interactive mapping tool that allows users to see how changes in sea level (up to 6') could be expected to affect U.S. coastlines and landmark locations along coastlines. https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/beta/
Travel is big business. This geo-graphic shows how big of a business tourism is for selected countries around the world: the darker pink the country, the more the country's economy relies on tourism; the larger the country, the more tourism dollars it takes in. cdn.howmuch.net/content/images/1600/travel-industry-2017-ccfb.jpg
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