With the death of Russian mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin, many people are wondering about the future of the Wagner Group, especially in Africa where the organization has a large footprint, often trading security services, disinformation campaigns, and similar assistance to governments for mines and minerals. This map shows the Wagner Group's activities in Africa as of earlier this year: www.statista.com/chart/30665/wagner-group-engagement-africa/
Cargo shipping has been among the last segments of the transportation industry to find greener alternatives. Earlier this month, a cargo ship chartered by the U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill left Singapore bound for Brazil and then Denmark using WindWings technology, "sails" made out of the same material as wind turbine blades designed to generate power at sea and reduce carbon emissions by 30%. qz.com/cargill-pyxis-ocean-cargo-ship-wing-power-windwings-1850756956
In the context of last week's BRICS [Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa] summit, there was much discussion of "the Global South." Unfortunately, there's no line on a map that denotes where the Global South begins or ends. The term is meant to call attention to the idea that countries in the Tropics and Southern Hemisphere (roughly south of 30° N latitude) are less economically and politically developed than their neighbors to the north. Even though this generalization is borne out along many metrics -- including GDP per capita, human development, political fragility, etc. -- some of the world's most affluent, developed countries are also in this region (including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates) and would be excluded from the term Global South. Today, "the Global South" is most often used in lieu of terms like "Third World countries" or "developing countries." This map shows one take on the Global South (in red):
Crash Map maps fatal car crashes across the contiguous U.S. by state, by county, and by date. In many states, August is among the worst months for fatal car crashes. nextbase.com/crash-map
Philosophy Now (UK) sponsors a question-of-the-month, inviting readers to submit responses (not to exceed 400 words) on a salient question in philosophy. The next question is, "What are the limits of knowledge?" Submissions are due by Oct. 16. For more information -- or to read the published responses to last month's question, "How will humanity end?" which, as one reader points out, "can be thought of in at least two different ways: (1) How will humans die out?, or (2) How will the characteristics that make us human cease to exist? Humanity ends not only if there are no more people, but also if the traits that define us as ‘humans’ disappear" -- see philosophynow.org/issues/157/How_Will_Humanity_End#1
If you're looking for geography trivia (or great maps) to expand your learning, the Map Shop has a section of its website devoted to geography trivia questions and their answers: www.mapshop.com/trivia
The 2023 Global Terrorism Index has been released, showing that Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly the Sahel, has become the global hotspot for terrorism, with the Sahel now accounting for 43% of all deaths due to terrorism. The U.S. is still #30 on the list, just behind Benin and Sri Lanka, but in 2022 recorded the fewest attacks classified as terrorism since 2012. www.visionofhumanity.org/maps/global-terrorism-index/#/
The tropical storm that delivered record rains to Southern California and parts of the Southwest earlier this week was fueled, in part, by the return of an El Niño weather pattern. This article from Foreign Policy looks at what El Niño means, not just for local weather but also for food security, armed conflicts, disease outbreaks, territorial claims, and other geopolitical concerns: foreignpolicy.com/2023/08/18/el-nino-forecast-weather-season-global-impact-conflict-food-supply-health-disease
If you're thinking about an exotic fall getaway, September and October are usually the peak months for the Maldives' bioluminescent beaches. Vaadhoo Island at the northern end of the archipelago is the best known spot to see the "sea of stars," but this tourism piece highlights a number of other possible, and less remote, locations as well: samudramaldives.com/maldives-glowing-bioluminescence-beaches/
Although not population adjusted, this map from Statista highlights the U.S. states that make above-average contributions to U.S. GDP and notes a few that punch above their weight (California, Massachusetts, New York) and below their weight (Florida): www.statista.com/chart/9358/us-gdp-by-state-and-region
When people change because of dementia or brain damage, for example, should their new wishes be respected, even if they fly in the face of their earlier stated preferences? This article from The New York Times Magazine is a case study, a cautionary tale, and a philosophical thought experiment all rolled into one: www.nytimes.com/2023/05/09/magazine/dementia-mother.html
"In the philosophical literature on dementia, scholars speak of a contest between the “then-self” before the disease and the “now-self” after it: between how a person with dementia seems to want to live and how she previously said she would have wanted to live. Many academic papers on the question begin in the same way: by telling the story of a woman named Margo, who was the subject of a 1991 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), by a physician named Andrew Firlik. Margo, according to the article, was 55 and had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and couldn’t recognize anyone around her, but she was very happy. She spent her days painting and listening to music. She read mystery novels too: often the same book day after day, the mystery remaining mysterious because she would forget it. “Despite her illness, or maybe somehow because of it,” Firlik wrote, “Margo is undeniably one of the happiest people I have known.” A couple of years after the JAMA article was published, the philosopher and constitutional jurist Ronald Dworkin revisited the happy Margo in his 1993 book, “Life’s Dominion.” Imagine, he asked readers, that years ago, when she was fully competent, Margo had written a formal document explaining that if she ever developed Alzheimer’s disease, she should not be given lifesaving medical treatment. “Or even that in that event she should be killed as soon and as painlessly as possible?” What was an ethical doctor to do? Should he kill now-Margo, even though she was happy, because then-Margo would have wanted to be dead?"
Looking for a different game to play, one that invites brainstorming and conversation? Brave Ideas is a new board game developed by President Lincoln's Cottage in partnership with Game Genius. The Cottage was "the place where Abraham Lincoln worked, and reworked, and reworked again his ideas surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation. These ideas changed the nation, and President Lincoln’s Cottage is dedicated to inspiring the same avenues for innovation in today’s world." To read about the Brave Ideas game or to order a copy, see www.lincolncottage.org/all-about-the-brave-ideas-game/.
This series of maps and images compares current vistas around the world with images predicting how those same vistas might change based on a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures and a 3°C increase in global temperatures: picturing.climatecentral.org/
Air conditioners now account for 10% of global electricity consumption, and the number of air conditioning units is expected to double by 2050. This article from MIT Technology Review looks at new materials and technologies that hope to make air conditioning less energy intensive: www.technologyreview.com/2023/07/26/1076731/materials-air-conditioning
If the runaway success of Barbie has left you craving more pink in your life, Conde Nast Traveler has picked out the world's most beautiful pink places, from Florida to Jaipur to Spain to Vietnam to Scotland: www.cntraveler.com/gallery/the-most-beautiful-pink-places-to-visit-around-the-world
Last fall, low water levels on the Mississippi River cost the U.S. economy an estimated $20 billion in shipping losses. This spring, the Mississippi rebounded, flooding communities in Iowa and Illinois. But a dry summer is again threatening shipping. This map compares water levels at major ports along the Mississippi with historic averages. (Map from www.wsj.com/articles/mississippi-river-careens-from-floods-to-low-water-threatening-barge-traffic-a6d5758d.)
When confronted with the famous trolley problem -- pulling a lever to save, say, five people by redirecting the trolley to run over one person instead of five -- most people say pulling the lever is the right thing to do. Of course, most people assume they will not be the one person the trolley runs over. In China, the government recently pulled the trolley lever, redirecting flood waters to save Beijing and Tianjin (total population: about 36 million) but destroying homes and businesses and forcing the evacuation of about 1 million people in low-lying communities in nearby Hebei province. Not surprisingly, those 1 million people were unhappy about this. China's dilemma is likely to become more common. Many governments are quietly moving from strategies to prevent climate change to strategies that might mitigate the effects and help populations adapt to climate realities. In extreme circumstances, these strategies may require decisions akin to the trolley problem. Which communities are saved? Which communities are sacrificed? www.nytimes.com/2023/08/04/world/asia/china-flood-beijing-rain.html
This map was made by showing all of the domestic flights within each country: comparemyjet.com/domestic-flights-only/
Global Nomads Group offers about a dozen free online classes to connect teens around the world, on topics ranging from architecture and medical research to ocean health and finance: gng.org/programs/courses/
Just as drones have changed the face of modern warfare, so is 3D printing by civilians. This article from The Economist (UK) highlights DIY munitions-making in Ukraine featuring 3D printers:
"Three months ago Lyosha and a group of friends, working in their homes, designed ... an 800-gram anti-personnel bomb called the “Zaychyk”, or “Rabbit”. The group uses 3D printing to produce the bomb’s casing, before sending it to be filled with C4, an explosive, and pieces of steel shrapnel. ... Necessity is the mother of invention, and the Zaychyk is but one example of the sorts of lethal innovation that have sprung up in Ukraine in the 17 months since Russia’s invasion. Stocks of many factory-built munitions have shrunk as the fighting has worn on. But raw explosives remain plentiful. That has helped create an amateur arms industry devoted to supplying soldiers at the front with improvised weapons to use against Russian troops. Lyosha’s team prints the plastic shells of around 1,000 “candy bombs,” as these improvised explosive devices have come to be known, every week. But the Ukrainian officer who acts as the team’s military contact wants 1,500 a day, says “ADV”, the nom de guerre of a second member of the group. Another set of amateurs, the Druk (“Print”) Army, has churned out more than 30,000 candy bombs in the past four months. “Swat”, their leader, says that the production rate is growing. And still more come from beyond Ukraine’s borders. Janis Ozols is the founder of the Latvia chapter of the Wild Bees, a group of volunteer weaponsmiths from outside Ukraine. He reckons at least 65,000 bomb shells have been shipped from Europe since November 2022. ... "Diuk”, a Ukrainian serviceman in Donetsk, a region partially occupied by Russian forces, says 5kg candy bombs are now killing exposed infantry 20 metres from where they land. Bomb techies hope to extend the kill radius still further. Some “candy shops” use software to model the killing potential of different shrapnel types and mounting angles relative to the charge, says one soldier in Kyiv with knowledge of their efforts. ChatGPT, an AI language model, is also queried for engineering tips (suggesting that the efforts of OpenAI, ChatGPT’s creator, to prevent these sorts of queries are not working). Some candy bombs can even be used against armoured vehicles. ... Ukrainian drone operators claim to be able to destroy Russian tanks by dropping these bombs, which weigh around half a kilo, onto the vehicle’s roof, where the armour is thinner."
It's impossible to avoid the heat and drought stories this summer. This one is about Iran and how extreme water scarcity is shaping political protest, basic livability -- two provinces are expected to run out of municipal water completely by September -- and the geopolitics of the region. www.nytimes.com/2023/07/23/world/middleeast/iran-heat-water.html
College football starts in a few weeks. Last week it was announced that in 2024 the Big Ten athletic conference, originally 10 mostly large land-grant universities in the Midwest, will expand to 18 teams, spread from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. This map shows the states in which the original Big Ten teams are located (in red), the states with universities that joined the Big Ten in the last 30 years (in black), and the location of the four new member universities starting next year (in white).
Few of us have first-hand experience with the many issues shaping our lives. Instead, we rely on trusted second- and third-hand sources for information and interpretation. Comparing and using various chatbot functions highlights important epistemological issues, including (a) how what we "know" depends on the information inputs we have been trained on and (b) how technology is shaping our information input. Two New York Times reporters talked to chatbots designed in the U.S. and in China, in Chinese, on issues ranging from Tiananmen Square and Ukraine to trivia and Chinese rap and found the differences revealing: www.nytimes.com/2023/07/14/business/baidu-ernie-openai-chatgpt-chinese.html
This geo-graphic from Statista highlights the world's top net exporters and importers in 2022, with exports continuing to be driven by fossil fuels and manufacturing: cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/18356.jpeg
If you live in or will be visiting Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma or Texas, there's a special citizen science project for you: the United States Geological Survey is asking people in these six states to mail in dead butterflies, moths and skippers to help scientists research the causes that may be contributing to their declining populations. For more information, including the address to which you can mail your specimens, see www.usgs.gov/news/state-news-release/media-alert-usgs-calling-all-dead-butterflies-and-moths-six-states
Blog sharing news about geography, philosophy, world affairs, and outside-the-box learning
This blog also appears on Facebook: