Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Embarrassed residents try to rename beauty spot called Negro Bill Canyon - but NAACP wants to KEEP it

Should geographical place names be changed from their original "unenlightened" forms to new names that have little to do with their history? Will future archeologists and geographers be confused by these name changes. Would such confusion matter?

Does the not-politically-correct names inspire visitors to ask questions so they can learn about the history of the location?

From Daily Mail: Embarrassed residents try to rename beauty spot called Negro Bill Canyon - but NAACP wants to KEEP it

Residents in Moab, Utah are trying for a third time to get a popular canyon just outside the city renamed because they believe the current name is embarrassing and disrespectful.

Local resident Louis Williams says he cringes every time he has to tell visitors that the name of the canyon is Negro Bill Canyon.

Williams, a window cleaner who has lived in the area for 14 years, has posted an online petition that has garnered more than 600 signatures. He plans to submit a formal renaming application to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

The canyon was named after black cowboy William 'Bill' Grandstaff who lived in the area from 1877 to 1881.

‘People cringe when we have to tell the name of it. The looks on their face is: “What did you just say?”’ Williams said. ‘People ask. “Why is it named that?” They don’t ask who he is.’

But president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Salt Lake City chapter, Jeanetta Williams, has said her organization will oppose the name change just as it has when the proposal has been put forward before.

‘If the name changes, it’s going to lose its history,’ she said. ‘Negro is an acceptable word.’

Even though efforts in the late 1990s and 2000s to change the canyon name were met by resistance from the NAACP, Williams is optimistic the idea will gain more traction this time.

‘Most of the places and streets and trails that were named after settlers just used their last names,’ Williams said. ‘That is what we should do for him.’

For nearly 100 years the canyon had an even worse name featuring the 'N-word', which was changed in the 1960s apparently at the request of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. Louis Williams says the current name and its earlier, ruder, variation is disrespectful. He wants the southern Utah canyon to be renamed Grandstaff Canyon. 'I don't think he introduced himself that way and I know that isn't the way his parents named him,' he told 'All the other settlers in this area have got the respect of their given names. So I think we should give a little bit more homage to Mr Grandstaff.' The campaign is one of dozens across the country to rename canyons, reservoirs, lakes and other places still bearing names deemed derogatory. There are 757 places with ‘negro’ in the name from Alaska to Florida and Maine to California, according to an analysis of government records.

It’s difficult to say precisely how many offensively named towns and geographic features remain as state lawmakers don't always agree with federal government on geographical labels, and people have varying levels of sensitivity.

Government mapmakers have however been working for decades to clean up such relics from less enlightened times. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a branch of the Interior Department, issued two blanket rules decades ago to erase racial slurs from federal maps.

In 1962, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names replaced ‘N*****’ with ‘Negro’ in the names of at least 174 places, when 'Negro' was still widely considered an acceptable alternative.

Along with Negro Bill Canyon, there are more than 700 other places with 'Negro' in the name including Free Negro Point in Louisiana and several Little Negro Creeks.

‘Jap’ was switched to ‘Japanese’ in 1974 in dozens of places.

The also remain more than 800 places with ‘squaw’ – an offensive word for a Native American woman with sexual undertones - in their title including South Dakota's Squaw Humper Dam, Squaw Humper Table and Little Squaw-Humper Creek.

A handful of state legislatures have banished select racial slurs from their maps, yet there remain places such as Arizona’s Dago Spring and Gringo Gulch, Florida’s Jew Point, New York’s Polack Swamp, Indiana’s Redskin Brook and Chinaman Bayou in Louisiana, to name just a few.

GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry got into trouble last year, after it was revealed his family had long held a lease on a hunting camp in Texas known to many locals as ‘N*****head,’ a name that appeared on a large rock on the property.

Perry claims his father painted over the name as soon as he bought the land, although some in the area dispute the governor’s timeline. N*****head was a fairly common place name in the 19th century.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Explorers Jourmal: Explorer of the Week: Brendan Buzzard

From National Geographic:  Explorer of the Week: Brendan Buzzard

Where do we all belong? How do we as individuals and species fit into the spaces of the world? These are questions that fascinate conservationist Brendan Buzzard, whether he’s following a herd of elephants in the desert or simply sitting at his desk writing an essay. Growing up in Southern and East Africa set Buzzard up for a lifetime of interest in wildlife, and he uses this passion to work on their behalf as a conservationist and storyteller.
What project are you working on now?
Right now I am working on two things. The first is a book based around a number of walks I have done over the years in the northern rangelands of Kenya, which includes the expedition supported by the NG Young Explorers grant. Sometimes I was following wildlife, sometimes moving with pastoralists as they shifted grazing areas, sometimes alone. The book is a story of time and place, of a changing landscape, its people, and its wildlife.
The other thing I am doing is putting together a walking expedition for 2013 that will follow elephant movement routes for about 600 kilometers through Kenya’s Rift Valley.  Given increases in poaching as well as rapid habitat fragmentation, elephant ranges in many parts of Africa are shrinking as they (and other wildlife) become confined to core protected areas. In Kenya, there are many good conservationists already engaging these issues, but there is still much to be done, and the reason for this walk is to bring attention to the need for connectivity. I will be adding updates to my blog as I move forward with the planning process.
Picture of an elephant
Photograph courtesy Brendan Buzzard
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I grew up amid the wildlife landscapes of Southern and East Africa and all I have ever wanted to do is be in the bush around wildlife. When I wasn’t in school, I’d be out exploring. As I spent more time around wildlife and saw the threats that they face, I decided that I had to work on their behalf as a conservationist and storyteller.
What’s the biggest surprise you’ve discovered in your work or in the field?
I am most fascinated by the question of belonging, how we as individuals and as a species fit into the spaces of the world. We all have origins and labels, things that we carry and that claim us, like our cultures, our languages, our skins, our beliefs, and our ideas.  Because the world isn’t neat, many of us blur these lines even while we are defined by them, and being both social and ecological creatures we occupy and shape various historical and geographical niches. It is in this context that I want to understand belonging, so whether I am out following a herd of elephants on foot in the desert of northern Kenya or sitting at my desk writing an essay and digging into memory, I am trying to understand how to be human in a human world, while also a member of just one species in a more diverse and complex system of life. I have not discovered an answer yet, but I feel like the questioning is just as important, a turning over of ideas, an asking if that is really the way you see things, if that is truly what you believe, and as you ask these things you evolve in a way, you move forward, and this always astonishes me—the ability to exceed ourselves.
Have you ever been lost? How’d you get found?
I was lost once, when I was a little kid. I was in Berlin with my family and something caught my eye—I don’t remember now what it was—and I simply walked off to explore. After a while I realized I was alone in a big city. It was a rainy day. Somehow I managed to get back to the place where I was last with my family, and my mother was there. It was very scary.   

What are you reading right now?
One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina. It is an incredible memoir. Wainaina’s narrative is a story of time and place, of puzzles and mosaics, of the world processed by one Kenyan man that has found his way toward writing. His story of Kenya and Africa is one account of place, but through his grace with words and his ability to see, his account is one to be trusted and admired.
If you could trade places with one explorer at National Geographic, who would it be and why?
For as long as I can remember, National Geographic explorers have been an inspiration.  When I was growing up and developed a love for wild animals and places, I was fascinated by the work and energy of people like Jane Goodall, Michael Fay, and the Jouberts. Because we all have our own ways of approaching the world, I could not trade places with any of them, but they remain important figures for me that I continue to turn to for inspiration.
What do you think National Geographic explorers will be exploring in 100 years?

Explorers seem intent on ordering space, if not for a scientific reason, then to understand something of themselves. These spaces are ever changing, and as our world becomes more globalized and technological, I can understand how some explorers describe the Earth as becoming a smaller place. But I don’t always feel that way. Great geographical puzzles remain. There is so much we don’t know about the intricacies of ecological systems or the patterns of the deep sea, the inner workings of the human body and the arrangement of the universe beyond our planet, the evolutionary history of our own species and the need to develop a language—a way of speaking—that includes us as ecological members. So, to be honest, in a hundred years exploration will not be that different than it is now. The scale of inquiry will change, as will the tools to do it with, but the desire to answer questions, to see and know, to understand ourselves in spatial and temporal contexts, will remain constant. It is this curiosity that is at the heart of exploration.
If you were to meet your eight-year-old self, what would you say?  
Keep imagining. Follow your dream. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you it is not possible.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Geography students going places

From the Tahlequah Daily Press:  Geography students going places

TAHLEQUAH — A common misconception about geography is that it’s all about maps and where things or places are located.

Next week is Geography Awareness Week, and it’s set aside to observe how humans, things, and places are connected. The theme this year is “Declare Your Interdependence.”

Geography, or the study of the Earth’s features, is the relationship identification of everything sharing space, said Northeastern State University Assistant Professor of Geography Dr. Christine Hallman.

“It’s more than just locating a place on a map. Usually that’s what you think geography’s all about – countries and rivers, and that’s part of it, but that’s just a small part of it,” she said. “Geography is everything, spatially – anything from studying weather patterns to urban sprawl, to studying past climates to politics and economics. Geography, really, is everything in a spatial way.”

One of the activities NSU is conducting in conjunction with Geography Awareness Week involves a geocaching exercise with seventh-graders at Tahlequah Middle School, said Hallman.

“I and several assistants – a retired professor and a few NSU students – will be teaching seventh-graders to use GPS units to find coins from all over the world [strategically placed on their campus],” she said. “All seventh-graders at Tahlequah Middle School will get the opportunity to participate in this treasure hunt.”

Geocaching is a recreational activity wherein participants use a handheld Global Positioning System, or GPS receiver, to hide and seek containers that will hold a designated item selected by the participants. Position coordinates are used to trace a route that will present other points, or map numerical designations, to follow until arriving at the end destination. The exercise teaches a person how to consider start and end points, while exposing the him or her to land features along the anticipated route.

An activity suggested by National Geographic includes students investigating their interdependence by completing a global closet calculator, which is an interactive game that collects the contents of their bedroom closets by origin to generate a map showing individual global footprints.

Maps have changed greatly over the years, and whether using an electronic device or a compass to determine direction when going from point to point, today’s technology has helped geographers see everything spatially in great detail, said TMS geography teacher Austin Elliott.

“Satellite images have increased the accuracy of maps, but they still show some distortion on a large scale,” he said. “The most reliable map is the Robinson Projection. It still has distortion, but shows the least amount.”

Hallman said technology influenced the changes in how maps are created, but noted that how people viewed or used the map also provided a change in direction of its use.

“Thousands of years ago, humans still created maps – they were just on cave walls. It’s sort of interesting how humans have always been thinking about their environment spatially,” she said. “At first, they might have thought about star patterns and then how it relates to them. So you’re going all the way from there, to pen and ink maps, to today, where it’s dynamic computer maps.”

Keys geography teacher Amber Kinney said hers is a subject that can open the mind and ears of a student who otherwise may think the class is simply about pinpointing places on a map.

“Geography is such a broad field that includes all elements of education: history, culture, government, economics, math, science, literacy, language,” she said. “The amazing thing about teaching geography is getting students involved who aren’t usually that responsive in other social studies classes, and then learn about all these other subjects without even realizing it.”

This year, Kinney’s classes conducted activities similar to the global closet calculator suggested by National Geographic.

“We are continuously looking at ways that we are all connected throughout the world in my geography classes. This week, we are focusing on China, and our connection with China historically, culturally, and economically,” she said. “[On Thursday] for example, we took a virtual tour of a Walmart in Shanghai as part of our global connection discussion.”


Monday, November 19, 2012

Super Quiz: Geography

From NWAOnline:  Super Quiz: Geography

1. What is a loch, as in Loch Ness?

2. What is the smallest province in Canada?

3. What is the world’s largest coral reef?

4. Which country’s name is derived from “equator” ?

5. What is the westernmost large city located in continental Europe?

 6. The one-time leader of this country wrote The Green Book.

1. Loch is Scottish for Lake
2. Prince Edward Island
3. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia
4. Ecuador
5.  Lisbon, Spain
6. Moammar Gadaffi (author of  The Green Book: The Solution to the Problem of Democracy, The Solution to the Economic Problem, The Social Basis of the Third Universal Theory)


Teen geography buffs plot courses to victory in contest at Oxnard College

Read more:

Teen geography buffs plot courses to victory in contest at Oxnard College

Read more:

Teen geography buffs plot courses to victory in contest at Oxnard College

Read more:

Teen geography buffs plot courses to victory in contest at Oxnard College

Read more:

Teen geography buffs plot courses to victory in contest at Oxnard College

Read more:
Teen geography buffs plot courses to victory in contest at Oxnard College

Read more:
Teen geography buffs plot courses to victory in contest at Oxnard College

Read more:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Venice ’70 per cent underwater’

Venice   is a city in northeast Italy sited on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges.It is located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon which stretches along the shoreline between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon..
Venice is the capital of the Veneto region. In 2009, there were 270,098 people residing in Venice's comune (the population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia; around 60,000 in the historic city of Venice (Centro storico); 176,000 in Terraferma (the Mainland), mostly in the large frazioni of Mestre and Marghera; 31,000 live on other islands in the lagoon). Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE) (population 1,600,000).
The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city historically was the capital of the Venetian Republic. Venice has been known as the "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". Luigi Barzini described it in The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man". Venice has also been described by the Times Online as being one of Europe's most romantic cities.
The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.

From BBC:  Venice ’70 per cent underwater’ 

‘Acqua alta' occurs mainly between autumn and spring
‘Acqua alta' occurs mainly between autumn and spring
The phenomenon of acqua alta (high water) has been particularly severe in Venice this year.

Around 70 per cent of Venice was flooded after several days of relentless rain and rising sea levels, which reached a peak of 1.5 metres (five feet) above normal – the sixth highest tide levels since 1872.

‘Acqua alta' occurs mainly between autumn and spring when a combination of astronomical tides, scirocco (strong south winds) and seiche (the periodic movement of sea waters) can cause a larger inflow of water into Venice.

Elsewhere in Italy, the bad weather led to the evacuation of 200 people in Tuscany, as the heavy rain flooded homes and caused mudslides.

The most affected region was the province of Massa and Carrara, which produces the famous Carrara marble.

Streets in Pisa were also flooded and homes left without electricity.

The bad weather is said to be heading slowly towards the centre of the country and is set to hit Rome.


In U.S., geography is politics

From  In U.S., geography is politics
Author Timothy Heleniak is the director of the American Geographical Society.

PEOPLE who voted for Mitt Romney in the presidential election are amazed that he lost because they don't personally know many people who didn't vote for him.
Likewise for President Obama's supporters. Because they have few close acquaintances who voted for the other party, they are puzzled that the margin of victory wasn't higher.
As in many recent presidential elections, this year's was close in the popular vote. The reason for that closeness is that we have segregated ourselves geographically into such like-minded clusters.
The clearest reflection of that segregation is the Electoral College, which shows that there are a number of reliably red or reliably blue states and a small number of swing states.
But things are more obvious at the finer geographic scale of 3,000 U.S. counties, which are even more reliably red or reliably blue; often more than three-quarters of the electorate in many counties cast ballots for one party. Reliably Republican are rural, small-population counties in the Great Plains, the South, Utah and neighboring states and the South. Reliably Democratic are Washington, D.C., Indian reservations, black-majority counties in the South, major universities, high-amenity counties on the West Coast, large metropolitan counties and Vermont.
At an even finer geographic level of neighborhoods, political party preference is even more skewed toward one party or another. A major explanation for this is the high rate of mobility of the American population — 1 in 8 of us move each year — and how we end up residing near other like-minded persons.
Although there are many issues that cause people to vote for candidates — the proper role of government in people's lives, the place of the United States in the world, abortion and gay marriage — people don't usually select a place to live based on the political affiliation of neighbors, but rather on lifestyle and other characteristics and amenities that then translate into political preferences. But knowing where a person stands on one issue is a fairly reliable predictor of that person's political party affiliation and stand on other major issues.
A number of recent studies show that neighborhoods or clusters across the country explain how we have become so polarized. The most prominent describes "The Big Sort," or segregation by lifestyle. It showed that The Big Sort was also an arrangement by political party affiliation, which has become extreme since the 1970s. We also segregate in the clubs we belong to, in the TV and radio stations we listen to and in the periodicals we read.
We have become increasingly less exposed to viewpoints that differ from our own. We rarely know or associate with people who think differently from the way we do.
Think of the last time you were at a party that was divided roughly equally between liberals and conservatives. Typically, any gathering of friends or acquaintances will result in 90 percent or more consisting of like-minded persons with similar views on a range of social and political issues. For the one or two oddballs who hold views that are opposite yours, you will not only disagree and not understand them, you will likely question their mental stability.
This same segregation into opposite ends of the political spectrum is taking place in Congress as well, certainly in the House of Representatives, where redistricting creates safe and extreme districts. These are the people we voted for, so we have the Congress we deserve.
The high levels of racial segregation in the United States seemed to have peaked and are subsiding, but political segregation is increasing. One possible way to shift the political debate and expose the country to different solutions would be to eliminate the Electoral College. This is unlikely to happen because of the high hurdle of needing a constitutional amendment to do so and vested interests in retaining it. However, eliminating the Electoral College and bringing more voters into the discussion could produce a different set of issues, different candidates and different solutions. It's something worth trying, since the current system doesn't seem to be working.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Esri Celebrates National Geographic's Geography Awareness Week

From HeraldOnline:  Esri Celebrates National Geographic's Geography Awareness Week

— /PRNewswire/ -- Esri—in partnership with the City of Redlands, California; University of Redlands; Colton-Redlands-Yucaipa- Regional Occupational Program (ROP); and Inland Valley Newspapers Group—will host a series of activities that will educate about the importance and value of geographic information systems (GIS). The events are part of National Geographic's Geography Awareness Week, which celebrates geography worldwide and will take place November 11–17, 2012.
"We've lined up fun, informative activities for all ages," says Jacqueline Gimenez, Global Marketing Programs manager at Esri. "This is the most comprehensive set of geography-related events organized for the City of Redlands since GIS Day began in 1999. Our goal is to show how geography and GIS improve the community and impact citizens' daily lives."

The week's events will kick off on Tuesday, November 13, at 5:30 p.m., with a presentation by former National Geographic chief cartographer and current Esri staffer Allen Carroll at the Redlands Forum on the Esri campus. He'll share his experiences creating story maps and discuss the value of using maps and GIS to tell stories.

Celebrating GIS Day on Wednesday, November 14, Esri and its partners will provide interactive demonstrations, engaging presentations, and a special reception at the Redlands A. K. Smiley Library from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. This free event will be open to everyone.

GIS Day is an opportunity for Redlands residents to understand how GIS is used within their community. Several representatives from the five local hosts will give presentations on how their respective groups use GIS to improve the community. Student GIS projects will be featured, allowing a glimpse into how this technology will be used by future GIS professionals.

As a special treat, there will be interactive opportunities at the reception for children to learn about the importance of geography. Esri staff will read geography-related stories to children inside the library during two story times.

To round out the events, historical maps from the University of Redlands library collection will be displayed at the university and at the Smiley Library throughout the week.

Read more here:


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Scarcity of Water and Land Shifts Geography of Food Production and Irrigation Networks to China’s Northeast

From Circle of Blue: Scarcity of Water and Land Shifts Geography of Food Production and Irrigation Networks to China’s Northeast 
OU YI, Heilongjiang Province, China — On the south side of the two-lane highway leading to the largest farm in China, the angled sun paints a curtain of water from a spray irrigation rig the colors of a rainbow. All aluminum tubes and angled corners, the rig spans a sugar beet field so large that a tractor at the far end looks as small as the period at the end of this sentence. On the highway’s north side, men and women wield shovels to tap mud against the walls of new concrete irrigation canals. Loose ends of white scarves that the women wrap around their hair and faces fall to strong shoulders. The sounds of the construction project — tap, tap, tap — mix with laughter on a sunny June morning. Pride and good cheer are evident everywhere on the state-owned, 120,000-hectare (296,000-acre) You Yi Farm.

Sixty years ago, more than 100,000 Chinese soldiers were dispatched here to plow virgin prairie and plant rice and corn. Last year, Heilongjiang and its network of state-owned farm enterprises became the top grain-growing province in China, making up about 10 percent of the nation’s 571-million-metric-ton grain harvest, which was the world’s largest. By any measure, Heilongjiang’s farm productivity is an exceptional achievement that is celebrated nationally.
In fact, the northeast region of China — which includes not only Heilongjiang, but also neighboring Liaoning and Jilin provinces — harvests more than 100 million metric tons a year, or about 18 percent of the country’s grain, and is now among the world’s most important breadbaskets.
By 2020, China anticipates needing nearly 600 million metric tons of corn, rice, and wheat annually, which is about 5 percent more than is grown now, to feed its people — and China is counting on these three northeastern provinces to deliver 80 percent of that increased harvest.
In elevating Heilongjiang and its neighboring provinces from the bottom of the farm production pack to the very top during this decade, China has shifted the geographic center of its grain harvest from Henan and other central provinces to the northeast, where there is abundant water and some of the world’s most fertile black earth.
Advocates say that plans to rebuild and expand irrigation networks here will increase crop yields. But deep doubts abound in universities and on the street with regard to China’s relentless pursuit of ever-larger harvests and the rising risks to erodible land, water supplies, water quality, and public safety that China seems prepared to accept in its northeast and other farming regions.
“China has reached the stage where these concerns cannot be ignored, and they aren’t being ignored,” said Qian Yi, a professor of environmental policy and dean of the Qingdao University of Science and Technology. “We’re doing better, but we still have a lot of problems. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

How China, a nation that knows starvation, developed such assurance is a history lesson in the convergence of central planning, technology, and human determination with fertile ground and ample water resources.
Good Soil, Ample Water
You Yi and much of Heilongjiang Province is located atop a crescent of deep and fertile black dirt, comparable to Ukraine’s wheat region and America’s Midwest Corn Belt, that reaches from the Russian border north of here all the way to Jilin Province, thousands of kilometers to the south.

hough there are other soil types, northeast China’s black earth, encompassing 10 million hectares (25 million acres) and irrigated by the ample waters of the Songhua River Basin, supported 60 percent of Heilongjiang’s 55.7 million metric tons of grain that were harvested last year. That is more than double the harvests of wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans that Heilongjiang’s farms produced in 1991, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.
Considering that the national grain harvest rose from 435 million metric tons in 1991 to 571 million metric tons in 2011, Heilongjiang’s grain producers — by themselves — have accounted for almost one-quarter of China’s steadily increased harvests.
And Chinese farm authorities are now pressing these northeast farms to produce even more. One signal of the geographic shift in production is to provide farms with cleaner sources of water and to provide water to land that is not currently irrigated.

Li Fanghua, a senior engineer at the Water Conservation Institute of Heilongjiang Province, said that northeast China is determined to keep its place in the nation’s rice and corn pecking order. According to Li, 80 percent of the anticipated increase in the nation’s grain harvest over the next decade will occur because of the increases in yield from better water and more water to larger expanses of lands that are not served by irrigation channels. There is no question, she said, that northeast China will achieve its grain production targets.
“Our geography. Our weather. The amount of land we irrigate and will irrigate,” Li told Circle of Blue. “We will reach and exceed those targets.”
Such tactics make sense. Heilongjiang has 80 billion cubic meters (21.1 trillion gallons) of fresh water in reserve, some of the most abundant and accessible freshwater resources in the country. Precipitation and river level records show they are also among the most stable.
Heilongjiang also has an irrigation network as extensive as any in China.
In 2010, according to provincial records, 5 million hectares (12 million acres) were irrigated here, which is about one-third of the province’s total 16 million hectares (39.5 million acres) of cropland. Earlier this year, China’s central government announced a five-year, $US 6.3 billion (38 billion RMB) program to rebuild and expand irrigation networks in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, and eastern Inner Mongolia. Replacing northeast China’s leaky, half-century-old, mud-bottom irrigation canals with concrete channels and expanding the irrigation network to the expanses of farmlands that are not currently irrigated will raise yields per hectare by an estimated 20 percent or more over the next decade.
“We have enough water,” Li said. “But it is not distributed everywhere. There are 240 million mu (16 million hectares, 39.5 million acres) of farmland here. One-third is irrigated, and two-thirds of farm production comes from irrigated land. You can see why irrigation is so important.”
Fertilization and Pollution
Good soil and seed. Adequate nutrients and moisture. These are the essential elements of crop production in every nation, including China. Since a catastrophic famine from 1958 to 1962 caused the starvation deaths of 30 million to 45 million Chinese peasants — the result of the central government’s focus on industrial advancements instead of grain production — a top priority of modern-day China’s leadership is generating sufficient stores of food.
China has plenty of good seed and nutrients. The nation’s network of agricultural universities and its big grain companies have developed strains of rice, wheat, corn, and soybeans that grow well in China’s various climates and soil types.

Northeast China’s powerful harvests — along with increasing farm productivity in Hebei, Henan, Shandong, and several other big agricultural provinces — have clarified China’s proven capacity to feed itself. The prospect of food shortages is no longer in question, at least not for decades, say You Yi Farm managers and agricultural authorities.
The bounty of Chinese harvests is on display in the outdoor markets of Harbin, Heilongjiang’s capital. Crowds of buyers press around vendors offering a cornucopia of grains, vegetables, fruits, meats, and other foods in an abundance, color, and variety that is rarely matched in the United States. Likewise, indoor supermarkets are a rushing stream of shoppers, gathering up fruits and meats and packaged products, most of which are produced in China.
What is in worrisome is the damage to the nation’s water and land that China appears ready to accept to ensure that its growing population — with its much stronger appetite for grain-fed beef, pork, and chicken — is handsomely fed.
The risk to natural resources is apparent here. Heilongjiang’s farmers are among China’s heaviest users of fertilizer to boost yields, which have doubled from 2.5 metric tons per hectare (2,200 pounds per acre) in 1994 to more than five metric tons per hectare (4,400 pounds per acre) in 2010.
Men fish along a draining canal fed by the Liaohe River near Xinmin in Liaoning Province.
But provincial environmental reports show that Heilongjiang’s $US 22.4 billion (RMB 135.6 billion) farm sector uses 74 percent of the province’s water supply and last year contributed most of the 3.81 million metric tons of ammonia and nitrogen in the province’s treated and untreated wastewater.
The result is excessive levels of water pollution.
On the national level, Chinese farmers applied 55.6 million metric tons of fertilizer to grain fields in 2010, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. That is more than three times as much nutrients as U.S. farmers used that same year and a big reason why runoff from farm fields is a critical water pollution problem in China.
Some 60 percent of the waters of the Songhua River Basin, which supplies water to this region’s irrigation networks, are rated as so contaminated with agricultural chemicals and industrial wastes that they are unfit for human contact, according to China’s Ministry of Water Resources.
Erosion and Desertification
The environmental risks of expanding grain production also apply to the land, which is in short supply, according to Duan Aiwang, the dean of the Farmland Irrigation Research Institute in Xinxiang, a city of 5.7 million residents in Henan Province, the nation’s largest wheat producer.
“It is difficult to find new farmland in China,” he explained. “In central China, we are already using every piece of land. In northern China, there is land, but there isn’t much water.”

China’s response to these impediments is to expand irrigation networks to Heilongjiang and three other northeast provinces, including a plan to open highly erodible grasslands to crop production.
A five-year research program on erosion by scientists at the Heilongjiang Agricultural Modernization Research Institute found such serious soil erosion in the black earth crescent that, in some places, fertility and organic matter had dropped by more than 50 percent. The researchers also found that the original thickness of the black earth, which measured 30 centimeters to 100 centimeters (12 inches to 79 inches) deep before the great grain expansion, was 0.3 to 1 centimeters (0.1 to 0.4 inches) thinner.
There are few large stretches of unbroken and fertile prairie left in the eastern regions of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning provinces. As a result, Duan told Circle of Blue, central government planners are giving serious consideration to opening crop production to 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of highly erodible, high plains grasslands where the dry western regions of the three provinces bump against the border with Inner Mongolia.
China’s experience with grasslands agriculture has been miserable, say global experts. According to conservative estimates by the United Nations, Inner Mongolia is losing about 5,000 square kilometers (1,900 square miles) annually to the desert — in other words, an area the size of New Hampshire is lost to sand and wind every five years.
The prospect of plowing grasslands in northeast China invites further abuses to the land, raising alarms among land and water conservation groups who consider the proposal a serious ecological mistake.
“It is a terrible idea,” said Li Qinglu, a retired chemical engineering professor, grasslands expert, and consultant to PanJin Environmental, a non-profit group in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province. “Productive cropland depends on water. There is not enough water in those areas. The land is dry.”
Li explained that an early experiment in grasslands cultivation after World War II resulted in such extensive erosion and destertification in western Liaoning Province that government authorities quickly curtailed the project and focused on restoring the damaged land.

“Our grasslands recovered quite well,” Li told Circle of Blue. “Grass grew waist high. There was still some damage, but it was not serious.”
In 1983, though, as the central government called for more grain, grasslands in the region were reopened to cattle and sheep grazing and some dry-land crop production. Again, Li said, huge expanses turned to dust. The depleted land no longer was capable of growing crops, and farming stopped.
There is ample reason for China’s farm authorities to view the country’s grasslands as a potential source of new cropland. Of the country’s 330 million hectares (815 million acres) of undeveloped grassland, almost half are located in the desert regions of northern China.
When asked about the effects of developing new irrigated cropland from these desert grasslands, Duan Aiwang acknowledged the high risks.
“Water shortage is serious there,” he said. “If we develop new irrigation, we will carefully research the situation.”
Irrigation and Production
China irrigated 62.6 million hectares (154.7 million acres) in 2010, the latest year for accurate figures, or a little more than half of the 120 million hectares (300 million acres) of the country’s cultivated cropland. Much of the nation’s irrigation network is constructed of leaky concrete trunk canals and mud-lined feeder networks that lose water.
The national network is divided into 6,000 local irrigation projects, said Duan of the Farmland Irrigation Research Institute. Each of the 285 largest irrigation districts, he said, water more than 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres).
Because canals and feeder lines are expensive to build and rebuild, China’s program to modernize and expand its irrigation network — the most extensive of any nation — has not attained the same level of attention or funding as other infrastructure programs, like high-speed rail, highways, and the South-North water transport project, to name a few.
Still, China has increased the expanse of irrigated cropland an average of 645,000 hectares (1.6 million acres) a year since 1990. A $US 6.3 billion (38 billion RMB), five-year project to expand irrigation in Heilongjiang and three other northeast China provinces represents the largest single investment in canal modernization and expansion in recent memory, Duan said.
No province irrigates more land than Henan. Duan’s second floor office is within sight of northern Henan Province’s wheat fields. A latticework of canals transport water from the Yellow River to irrigate about half of the 5.28 million hectares (13 million acres) of wheat in Henan that is irrigated. In all, 5.1 million hectares of Henan’s 9.7 million hectares (12.6 million acres of 24 million acres) of land sown in grain is irrigated.
The next closest province was Heilongjiang. Because adequate moisture is so critical to crop yields, it is not surprising that Heilongjiang and Henan are China’s two largest grain producers.
50 Years of Centralized Farming
Not all that long ago grass was all that grew where the state-owned You Yi Farm now operates. In the early 1950s, Mao Zedong’s central government first dispatched 100,000 soldiers to northeast China’s wild prairie to turn virgin black dirt to produce grain. Waves of other settlers dragooned by the government also were sent to Heilongjiang throughout the 1950s and 1960s to break the prairie and to sow grain.
The You Yi Farm is the first, and — at 120,000 hectares (296,000 acres) — the largest of 114 state-owned and state-managed farms in Heilongjiang Province. You Yi means “friendship,” and the farm, one of 177 similar large projects nationwide, takes its name from the cooperative agreements that Mao’s government signed with the Soviet Union for assistance in developing the prairie.

The farm, established on 20,000 hectares (49,500 acres) in 1954 when the Soviet Union provided a grant to China, was the beneficiary of squat, gray tractors and Soviet advisors who taught the Chinese soldiers how to mechanize agriculture and how to build settlements. The earliest farmers lived in wood and mud huts without running water and endured winters that can be Siberian cold and summers that can be desert hot.
Zhao Yu Fu, a 49-year-old agricultural technology specialist, was raised on You Yi Farm, where his parents worked starting in 1958 and where he has spent his entire career. He remembers, in the 1970s, when he was a teenager, the relationship between China and the Soviet Union grew tense. By then, the farm was managed with military discipline, Zhao told Circle of Blue, and he can recall how he and other teenage sons and daughters of the first-generation farmers were trained in the use of firearms and field maneuvers.
“The mindset was military. We prepared for invasion, if it came,” Zhao said. “Our mindset was defense. We trained in a bootcamp. We learned to use a bayonet. We ran a lot. The border is just a 300-kilometer drive from here.”
During a mid-morning tour of the You Yi Farm, Zhao dropped to his knees at one end of a long row of planted soybeans to explain some of the farm’s agricultural prowess.
The contemporary farm employs 120,000 people and is managed from a city of 40,000 of the same name. You Yi’s yields are prodigious — 350,000 metric tons of corn, 650,000 metric tons of rice, 150,000 metric tons of sugar beets. Most of the harvest is irrigated, and 70 percent to 80 percent is exported to other provinces.
The You Yi Farm used to be a huge producer of soybeans, Zhao said. But provincial and central government officials determined that it is cheaper to import the bulk of the nation’s soybean demand, he said.

From one end to the other, the row was covered with a thin sheet of clear plastic. Zhao dug beneath the plastic and pulled a thin plastic tube, with perforations every few centimeters, from the dark soil. There are thousands of linear meters of similar drip irrigation tubing just beneath all of the planted rows in this field. Zhao explained that the tubing prevents evaporation and saves water by delivering moisture directly to plant roots.
Chinese agronomists, he said, had worked with Israeli drip irrigation specialists to develop the system of drip tubing and plastic covering. Chinese engineers built the equipment to bury the tubes and simultaneously seal the rows.
The visual effect is arresting. The sun reflects off the plastic, like tin foil in an oven. The dark soil runs to the horizon in straight black lines. Early in the planting season, You Yi grain fields look like huge bakery shelves, with long rows of neatly wrapped loaves of fresh-baked bread.
“We spent 10 years developing this system,” Zhao said. “In the dry season, it has a big benefit. The ground stays wet. Yields stay high.”


Saturday, November 10, 2012

What is the capital of Canada?

From My High School What is the capital of Canada?

What is the capital of Canada? Does any American know? Perhaps some students have learned about Canada and its geography in classes such as AP Human Geography, but the majority of Americans do NOT know the capital of the country touching borders with the U.S., the country in which we also have the most political ties with. I asked twenty people over the course of a couple weeks and the answers were almost always “Ontario” or “Toronto.” Out of these twenty, NONE of them could answer the question correctly. The people asked weren’t just students, but also teachers and adults who have P.H.D’s and successful jobs. Just as expected, after I told them they were wrong many said, “No one cares about Canada; they don’t do anything for us.”
Below is a brief summary of what Canada has done for America over the course of 75 years.
     Canada and America’s relationship started in 1938, when, as war began to form in Europe, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech in Kingston, Ontario saying that “the United States would not sit idly by if another power tried to dominate Canada.” This was the start of a great diplomatic relationship between the two countries that still lasts to the present day.  When World War II finally started, both nations remained close in the challenge to defeat the Axis powers. 49,000 Americans joined the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) during the war and in 1940; FDR and Canadian Prime Minister William King met and signed a declaration calling for close cooperation. On D-Day, there were THREE allied armies that attacked the beaches of Normandy. Everyone seems to remember the U.S. and British attacks, but one of the five beaches, Juno, was taken, and held, by the Canadian military. Canadian ships also provided landing support, cover fire while the Royal Canadian Air Force provided air cover. This act of bravery and support by these three nations helped liberate Paris and eventually Western Europe.

Canada also cooperated with the construction on the Alaska Highway and participated in the construction of the atomic bomb that ultimately ended WWII for the United States.
Canadian forces have provided indirect support for the American invasion of Iraq that began in 2003 and
also fought alongside the Americans in World War II, the Korean War, and continue to do so in the current war in Afghanistan.  

The United States and Canada share the world's largest trading relationship, which supports seven million jobs in the US. Canada is the single largest foreign supplier of energy to the United States and Canada's oil sands has made it the world's third largest holder of oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Canadian uranium helps fuel U.S. nuclear power plants.  Canada is also the United States' second largest supplier of goods. American imports of Canadian goods have risen 185% since 1993.  Canada is also America’s largest supplier of Agricultural imports.  15.1% of oil imported by the US is from Canada. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and other American targets, the Canadian government commenced Operation Yellow Ribbon to handle the diversion of civilian airline flights internationally. Canada did this to ensure that potentially-destructive air traffic be removed from U.S. airspace as quickly as possible and away from potential U.S. targets, and allowed them to land in Canada, where their destructive nature could be better contained and neutralized. As none of the aircraft proved to be a threat, Canada played host to the many people aboard the aircraft during the ensuing delay in reaching their U.S. destination. This selfless act is held in high regard by the United States government and should be known by all its citizens.

President John F. Kennedy told Parliament in Ottawa in May 1961 that "Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder."

President Barack Obama, speaking in 
Ottawa at his first official international visit in February 19, 2009, said, "I love this country. We could not have a better friend and ally."     

Canada has and continues to be the United States biggest ally and trading partner, and has helped the United States in times of war and internal terrorism. So, before you jump on the bandwagon and discredit Canada to make the country you live in feel somewhat “superior”, you should know how they help the United States and impact your everyday life. Do you know what the capital of Canada is?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



Weinerschnitzel, “The Sound of Music” and yodeling the day away — these images often pop into foreigners’ minds when thinking of Austria.
But as a group of Austrian exchange students sought to prove during a recent presentation at Keene State College, there’s a lot more to the country than those general stereotypes.

And while they’re at it, Austrians only wear the traditional lederhosen or dirndl for special events, like some of the female students in the group demonstrated during their visit to Keene State.
For most of the 20 teenage students, the trip to the Granite State was their first time in the United States. But their hometown of Salzburg draws enough international visitors that they know the views others around the world have of them.
The group’s leader, Fritz Baier, and Keene State German instructor Alison Pantesco paired up to start the exchange program with students from Akademiches Gymnasium Salzburg 15 years ago, when Pantesco was a teacher at Conval Regional High School.
The Austrian students live with families, attend some classes at Conval and visit different areas of the state. This year, they visited the Seacoast and were in Keene for the Pumpkin Festival.
The students come to the U.S. looking to practice their English and learn about the culture. And it’s the little things that have stood out since they arrived: Everything is bigger and cheaper here, all the food is heavily flavored, shops are open on Sundays.
There’s also an educational focus to the trip to give students the chance to compare the school systems in the two countries, and that’s why they visit Conval, Keene State and Harvard University.
“For most of them, it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Baier said.
Even if the Austrian students return to America in the future, it will likely be as tourists who don’t get this inside perspective of the average Granite Stater’s everyday life, he said.
While at Keene State, the Austrian students participated in two of Pantesco’s German language classes, telling the American college students about their home country and splitting up into pairs to help the Americans practice their German.
“It’s a wonderful experience to be part of this kind of exchange,” Pantesco said. “To have your foreign language students actually speaking with people for whom this is their first language is really thrilling, I think. That’s what it’s all about.”
Ten early childhood teachers from China visited the region last month and participated in a panel discussion focusing on early childhood literacy with teachers from Wheelock School, Wells Memorial School and the Child Development Center at Keene State.
The Chinese visitors, representing six different kindergarten classes, participated in professional development workshops at Keene State.
This trip, along with a delegation of Keene State representatives who traveled to China earlier this year, is the result of a collaboration started in 2011 between the college and several Chinese schools.
Auditions for the Children’s Stage Adventures production of “The Fisherman and His Wife” are scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. at Marlborough Elementary School.
About 50 kids in kindergarten through 8th-grade will be cast in the show. Students who receive roles need to be registered for the Marl-Harris Before and After School Program this week to participate in daily afternoon rehearsals.
No advanced preparation is necessary to audition for a role and participation is open to all students in Marlborough, including homeschooled students or students who attend private school. Performances are scheduled for Friday at 1:15 and 6 p.m.
Children’s Stage Adventures is a nonprofit organization based in Sullivan that travels around the Northeast putting on plays.
Franklin Pierce University’s dining services team took home top honors in the Localvore Cooking Challenge, in which colleges and universities compete to create the best meal out of locally produced ingredients.
Franklin Pierce Executive Chef Charles Salmond created a combination bacon cheeseburger, macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwich. The Rindge university competed against 12 other New England institutions, including Keene State. Teams were judged on marketing, culinary innovation and guest interaction at the competition hosted at Plymouth State University.
Monadnock Regional High School is hosting a career and college night for parents of students in grade 11 on Thursday. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library.
A nationwide Geography Awareness Week takes places the third week of November each year with the aim of promoting an understanding of the world’s geography and how today’s global world is interconnected.
To start the week, the New Hampshire Geographic Alliance partnered with the Keene Public Library to host a kickoff party on Saturday. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Keene library and includes free training sessions focusing on teaching geography.
There also will be a giant map of Africa in Heberton Hall beginning Saturday and continuing throughout the week. The map, which is the size of a basketball court, illustrates oceans, rivers, mountains, countries and capitals, and includes games and activities.
For more information or to sign up for the training session, visit


Monday, November 5, 2012

Uncommonwealth: UK geography blog sees the world from a unique perspective

From  Uncommonwealth: UK geography blog sees the world from a unique perspective

University of Kentucky geography professor Matt Zook spends a lot of time thinking about maps, but probably not the kind you remember with tundra, peninsulas and mountain ranges.
Zook and his colleagues are thinking about ways to experience the world in which we live that are far more lively: by breaking down data on subjects such as the seven deadly sins, beer, guns and zombies.
Their work posits a way of putting a new edge on geographic analysis the way that Freakanomics books and Web site revolutionized the way that people looked at the "dismal science" of economics.
At the Web site you'll find sophisticated and often witty insights that link geographic social media and official data that enables people to analyze their communities.
Take the entry called "The Beer Belly of America," for example. It's one of Floatingsheep's top 10 maps.
"We were quite surprised ... when we did a simple comparison between grocery stores and bars to discover a remarkable geographically phenomenon. We had expected that grocery stores would outnumber bars and for most parts of North America that is the case. But we could also clearly see the "beer belly of America" peeking out through the 'T-shirt of data.'
"Starting in Illinois, the beer belly expands up into Wisconsin and first spreads westward through Iowa/Minnesota and then engulfs Nebraska, and the Dakotas before petering out (like a pair of love handles) in Wyoming and Montana."
Is this geography you can use? Perhaps. It's also geography that introduces you to some of the more sophisticated concepts that Zook explores, such as how smart phones give people individualized experiences of the same city, which was recently mentioned in The Economist.
Zook's geography is about "the way in which the physical world is reflected or not reflected in the online world."
As a digital outpost of fanciful mapmaking, is an online funhouse on such diverse topics as the distribution of zombies, proliferation of escorts and the dichotomy between pizza and guns.
The blog also takes note of how well new maps are being assembled online by organizations such as Google and Apple along with crowdsourced efforts, albeit with some very human errors: One placed a Bally's Casino in the area of New Circle/Russell Cave Road around the north Lexington Wal-Mart. (Just for the record, casino gambling is still taboo in Kentucky.) Another map confused Transylvania University with the University of Kentucky.
All of this is not the spellbinding frivolity it may initially appear. Deciding which data signifies what is critical, and for students of geography this can be a valuable learning tool.
Even zombies can turn out to be quite the tool for teaching geographical sorting. Zook looked for Internet references to the instruments used for zombie destruction, among them AK-47s and found that Zombie references tend to huddle amongst the United States and Great Britain: Consider Shaun of the Dead, The Walking Dead and World War Z.
Having fun with Floatingsheep isn't all that Zook does — probably only about five percent, he estimates. He also has research interests in areas including aviation and geography, to wit the effects of airline flight patterns.
But the Floatingsheep blog is "our outlet for having fun," Zook said, and makes the point that modern geography is not a grim science, especially in the age of the Internet, and particularly with the rich resource of being able to analyze a billion Tweets.

Read more here:

Read more here: