Thursday, January 31, 2013

125th Year Anniversary of the National Geographic Society: The Music

Just as History, Economics, Medical Science, Engineering and other fields of study lack a society with public appeal like National Geographic.  Without a society such as National Geographic its hard for any subject to have an "official" public face.  Without a public face it is near impossible for these disciplines to have a theme song.  Geography has a theme song in the sense National Geographic has a theme song.

National Geographic's theme song is one that can stir up emotions such as exploration, discovery, adventure, and even youthful memories.

Readers of this blog will remember that there was a march from the 1930s which predated this theme.  This one still sounds adventurous but in a 1930s newsreel sort of way.

Keyboard version

These songs can be considered fully canonical National Geographic themes.  There are, however, other songs.  National Geographic Channel, which is jointly owned by both the society and Fox Cable Networks, has commissioned various songs for commercials.  These themes come in three flavors:  modern music to express a world being explored through modern methods and technology, a catchy tune about being surprised about the world, or tribal music to express the exotic nature of the world.  None of these songs match the epicness of the National Geographic theme.

Richard Pike's "Think Again"

Viki Nova's Just Can't Believe It

This is Who we Are

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

125th Year Anniversary of the National Geographic Society: The Stars

The most common visual image most people have of National Geographic is the yellow border of the magazine.  This iconic trim gives me the same sort of comfort an old friend can give.  However, there is another, much lesser known icon of National Geographic.  I like this visual very much not only for its beauty but also for its message of where geography's range extends to.

The image is of the stars visible from Washington, District of Columbia on the night of January 13, 1888 when various scientists gathered and agreed to establish a geographical society.

I love the visible Milky Way.  Image created with nakshART
The astronomical pattern is used by the National Geographic Society at its Washington headquarters.  The lobby of the main building along 16th Street Northwest is capped by the stellar arrangement.  The term "meet me under the stars" means "meet me in the lobby".

"Under the stars" From National Geographic Stock image archive
National Geographic, whether one likes it or not, is the heart of geography in the public's mind.  With that true then the headquarters of National Geographic is the center of the heart.  Having astronomy at the ground zero of geography sends a strong message.  National Geographic could have placed a huge map of the world but instead it decided to tie together the place, time, and space when memorializing the society's founding.  This is an affirmation that geography is not bounded to the Earth.  What a great message.  I have long advocated for geographers to study other planets and slowly but surely others are speaking up as well.  Not to do so would cause us to lose surface/terrain/resource studies on different planets to a spin-off field of geology.

When geographers do field research at night they labor under the stars.  My great hope is that one day geographers will work under the same stars but with different constellations viewed through other skies.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

125th Year Anniversary of the National Geographic Society: Geographers' Memories

On January 13, 1888 thirty-three people gathered at night in Washington, District of Columbia and agreed to establish "a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge."  Two weeks later on January 27, 1888 the National Geographic Society was incorporated.

It is undeniable that the National Geographic Society has had a massive impact on geography.  It is the public face of the discipline around the world.  Many of professional geographers, amateur geographers, academic geographers, students, and the general public have been impacted by the society.  It's outreach, most especially the magazine, has helped define what is geography.

I decided to ask other geography bloggers for a story about them and National Geographic.  Here are the responses.  The stories, including my own, show the good and the bad about the society.

Catholicgauze (myself) of Geographic Travels

I remember as a kid looking at a National Geographic magazine while sitting in my mother's bathroom.  The article was about a former National Geographic photographer.  I was so excited about the old photos that for some reason, the logic is not quite clear, I ran downstairs to my brother who was in the kitchen.  "I'm going to work for National Geographic!" I triumphantly declared.

A few years later I did work for National Geographic.  While my time was short I managed to write online news stories, help edit videos, and managed to meet a vast range of people.  The fact that the non-profit side of the society greatly suffers while the profit side of the company has so many more resources at hand was shocking.  When I was in the non-profit sector, I horded things like notepads and pens because there was none available for workers.  Meanwhile, when I worked in the profit division, things like wine, food, fancy headphones flowed freely.

My manager on the non-profit side would not tolerate animosity towards the for-profit side.  "Say what you will about the profit side.  They have not sold out like the Discovery channel which only shows reality shows.  The National Geographic Channel (which is only 50% owner of the channel) still shares the educational mission of the society."  Today the channel has more than sold out to the reality show formula.

My time may have been short but it was an experience I will forever remember and cherishes.

Matt Rosenberg of

Through my Geography at website, I had become quite familiar with the National Geographic Society's geography bee as I had contact with many young people who were preparing for local, state, and national-level bees.  I was the MC for a bee at a local elementary school and served as a judge at the state-level competition in Sacramento.  A year or so after I served as a judge, a publisher approached me to write a book about preparing for the geography bee. I wrote the book, based on my knowledge and experience at various bees and with winners.  After the book was published, I was informed by the state coordinator of the bee that I was no longer welcome to serve as a judge for the state-level bee.  Since that time, I still have somewhat of a distaste for the society and its heavy-handedness toward me.

Tom Howder  of Twelve Mile Circle

National Geographic has been a mainstay of my household for as long as I can remember.  Posters I put on my wall as I grew up weren't of supermodels or rock bands, they were the colorful, detailed fold-out maps tucked inside a lifetime of editions that arrived in our mailbox.  I subscribe to very few print magazines today in the digital age and National Geographic is one of them.  It's best appreciated on paper and usually I have to compete with my son to be the first one to read it.  The fascination has been passed along to a new generation.

Daniel Raven-Ellison of  Guerrilla Geography, Geography CollectiveMission: Explore, and National Geographic Emerging Explorer 2012

On his first memory of National Geographic

I'm really not sure which of my early memories are real. It's not a glamorous answer, but probably in the waiting room of a dentist or doctor's surgery before having an alien body removed from me. I developed a more intimate relationship with National Geographic when I got to Secondary School and started collecting the magazine to plan imaginary trips and create works of art for my walls. Something I loved doing and continue to do when working with young people in classrooms.

On whether or not National Geographic help inspire Mission Explorer and/or Guerrilla Geography

Without a doubt. National Geographic is a successful pioneer of popularising geography and its impossible not to be inspired by that. They being home important issues in smart ways too. Last year they published an awesome article on Koala deaths that helped galvanise support for them to receive more protection, a real achievement. Nat Geo is far more engaging for the public compared to many other explicitly 'geography' organisations and their reach helps them make real change happen. I want my work to have a similar kind of effect but with a twist of guerrillaness. Guerrilla Geography is all about radical, alternative, unexpected, unusual, innovative and creative geographies. There is much about National Geographic that is traditional and even conservative, this gives confidence to much of the public and funders so that the Society can do some fairly radical work to try and improve the world. Just take what they're currently doing in the Pircairn islands with my fellow Nat Geo Explorer Enric Sala. Ambitiously they're working with islanders to make the largest marine reserve in the world. This is big thinking that can bring about real change and is definitely on the 'guerrilla scale' in my book. They also support our work in The Geography Collective which is direct guerrilla geography education work that encourages children to explore and think about the world in new ways - both things that Nat Geo do too, but we're a little more warped (-;

On whether or not he sees National Geographic helping geographic literacy

I live in the UK and like much of the world we are lucky enough to have geography taught as a subject in our schools. It's not without its problems, but in many schools its taught in highly creative and innovative ways, using fieldwork, place-based learning, philosophy, GIS, citizen science and much more. Our fight is for a decent and flexible curriculum, better policy, reasonable funding..... In the US the situation is very different. Geography is largely damaged, misunderstood and undervalued. It's a core subject but the ONLY ONE WITH NO FEDERAL FUNDING, which is a DISGRACE. It's almost like there is a conspiracy against children having a decent understanding of their world. In the medium term the fight in the US is for the value of geography to be recognised, the subject to be integrated within the current system and for standards to be raised. Danny Edelson at Nat Geo Education is doing a great job of making the case for geo-literacy as an approach for threading geography across the curriculum while also finding creative ways to support green-shoots for formal and informal geography education. We should get behind Danny and his team in their efforts.

Evan Centanni of Political Geography Now

Growing up in the U.S. with a thirst for exploration and a passion for geography, my childhood intellectual pursuits were heavily influenced by National Geographic. The magazine, illustrated every month with striking photos and a map accompanying almost every article, was my window to the world. Now, as a university-educated and moderately-well-traveled adult, I can see that the writers and editors rely a bit too heavily on the romanticization of "exotic" peoples and places (even if that's not the term they would use). Nevertheless, the sheer power of National Geographic's passion for exploration and scientific understanding, delivered through its top-notch maps and always-fresh photography, has continued to secure the magazine a welcome place on my coffee table.

The National Geographic Atlas of the World has also played a huge role in the growth of my geographic knowledge since I was young, and I still see it as the gold standard for popular cartography. In some senses, I've grown beyond that book - I now realize that many of the world's most interesting examples of political geography are hidden from its pages, either by their transitory nature or by the organization's reluctance to truly follow through with its claim of illustrating all political features "as they exist on the ground" (for example, Taiwan is colored the same as China, and breakaway states are not always indicated on maps). As writer and cartographer for Political Geography Now, today I'm often working with precisely those cases not done justice by the Atlas. However, I still look to National Geographic's cartographic style as something of a holy grail, the highest bar I could set for the quality of my own work. If one day I can succeed at filling the gaps in the world map while also matching the professionalism and flare of National Geographic's cartographic team, I'll be one happy geographer!

Update: Z Geographer of Z Geography 

Thanks for asking for my thoughts on National Geographic! I have two found memories of National Geographic. The first, and the most persistent memory throughout my childhood, is undoubtedly the National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our World. This is the exact book because I remember the cover fondly. This book is probably one of a few reasons that I'm a Human Geographer. It offered the reader the usual: maps, currency and economic data, brief descriptions, and some pictures. I remember being absolutely captivated by the book, almost reading it every night. The pictures, they always had at least one per country or territory, always gave you an amazing glimpse into the place, the vistas or the people. The longest description and most pictures were of the United States, but I almost never read it. I spent most of my book-travels in Kyrgyzstan/Central Asia (there was an AMAZING picture of mountains) and Mongolia (since I've been obsessed with that country since time immemorial). This atlas ignited a lasting curiosity with the world and its people.

For the actual magazine, I remember the maps the most. When I was a wee boy an uncle fought with the U.S. Army in Desert Storm, though he was almost on the other side of the planet - I remember poring over one issue of National Geographic's maps. The map showed the primary towns and cities of Iraq, axis of advance of the Coalition's forces, and a pictograph of the relative amounts of manpower and material available to the Iraqis and the Coalition. Around the edge were pictures, including a few of burning oil derricks that the Iraqis set to stem the advance. During that time of uncertainty, I can't recall a single news story - and we had to have watched the news for hours and days at a time - but I do recall sprawled out on my living room floor, with the map in front of me, just poring over it.

My uncle made it home safe and between these National Geographic productions, I gained geographic literacy - at least for the human side of things! I couldn't really comment on the effectiveness of National Geographic for physical geography - I've never really considered myself one, not even good at it. But for an appreciation of the differences and similarities in human groups, you can't beat a good National Geographic atlas or magazine. And then there's the maps, I'm always surprised when I hear stories (almost like legends) of students and people who can't read maps, perhaps this is somewhat elitist to say in a world that tolerates illiteracy. But I think National Geographic fills an important niche in geographic awareness between primary/secondary school and university. Most importantly, it brings Geography in a most accessible way to millions of readers.

Monday, January 28, 2013

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Three - French Advancing in the International War

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch One - The French Counterattack
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Two - Geography as a Barrier to the Islamists
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Three - French Advancing in the International War
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Four - Final French Drive to Victory and Cartoon Propaganda Maps

The French-led counterattack against Islamists in northern Mali, also known as Azawad, is so far succeeding with French and Malian forces recently taking the city of Gao.

The war has taken on an international component on multiple levels.  France is leading an international coalition of African armies and Western military logistical support.  Meanwhile, some of the Islamists rebels are international and have attacked locations in Algeria as retaliation for the French-led military action.

Le Monde and the Guardian have put together a good regional overview map which shows the conflict area, the range of the Tuareg, smuggling routes, arms flows coming out of Libya after the fall of Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the political health of neighboring countries, and resource locations.

Click to Enlarge
The Times has put together a map showing the range of various allied west African Islamist terrorist groups.  Notice how far the attacked old fields in Algeria are from Mali.  The vast emptiness of the Sahara creates an ungoverned space which small groups of Islamists can quickly take over as a safe haven.  Due to the extreme lack of population, Islamists here do not really have to worry about creating a functioning country of their own and can focus on war.  It is only when Islamists took over Gao and Timbuktu, the two major cities of northern Mali, that they had to slow their advance and give time and money to governing.

Click to Enlarge
The France-based AFP created a map showing refugee outflow from the conflict zone.  About 150,000 Malians have fled from the north with 30,000 of those fleeing since the start of the French counterattack on January 11.  The Saharan Desert creates a natural boundary of the north which only 1,500 have decided to cross to seek shelter.

The AFP has made a great map showing contributions to the French-Mali alliance by various African and Western militaries.  African countries are giving additional boots on the ground who can hold territory as the French advance.  Meanwhile, Western contributions are light and restricted, except for Belgium, to offering transportation support.  Even though these countries do not seem to eager to get involved in another war, they are paying their respect to France through this support.  Of special note is the United Arab Emirates support to France.

The French-coalition seems to be working as the alliance is taking cities once held by the Islamists.  The assault for Timbuktu while the Gao front seems all but won.  Although it is too early to tell, it seems that the French are focusing on winning in the eastern front in order to cut off Islamist retreat into Niger, where the Islamists could link up with Boko Haram.  Islamist retreat from Timbuktu would be much harder as it would be forced through the desert in the south and east are cutoff.

From Facepunch

Friday, January 25, 2013

Abortion in the United States and the World

Tuesday was 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade which stated the Constitutional right to privacy, which the Constitution does not declare, allows for abortion.  As a federal-level originalist and practicing Catholic no reader of this blog should be surprised that I oppose this ruling. I will be extremely tired today as I am volunteering to support the March for Life.   I wish to offer some statistics on the devastation caused by abortion to explain my opinion and actions.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (a special affiliate to Planned Parenthood), the 2009 to 2011 average for abortions in the United States was 1,212,400 per year.  That equates to 3,322 per day, 138.4 an hour, 2.3 a minute, or one baby aborted every 26 seconds.  This number actually reflects a slight decline in abortions in the United States.  1990 was the high point for abortions in the United States with 1.61 million.  That equates to 4,410 a day, 183 an hour, 3 a minute, or one baby every 20 seconds.

By the time you read this the Alan Guttmacher Institute estimates there will have been about 55,900,000 abortions in the Untied States since 1973.

Other ways to think about that sum are
  • California's population is only 37.7 million and New York state's population is 19.5 million.
  • 55.9 million would be worth about 77 electoral votes (one more than the battleground states of Nevada, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida put together).
Number of abortions per year according to the Planned Parenthood-aligned Alan Guttmacher Institute
Around the world the estimated average of abortions is about 45 million a year.  That equates to 123,287.7 a year, 5,137 a day, 85.6 a minute, or one baby aborted every .7 seconds.

Poodlewaddle created a world clock with data of various categories.  Click "Deaths" and then "Now" and watch abortion easily become a plurality of all deaths in the world.

Using Alan Guttmacher Institute numbers, the pro-life/anti-abortion website abortion counters states there have been over 1.28 billion abortions in the world since 1980.  This is 18% of the world's current total population.  That is a death rate of nearly one in five children.

From Flickr

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Geo-Literacy Survey of Obama Inauguration Attendees

Canada is being rocked, as much as a geography scandal can cause, by Sociology professor Judith Adler's pop quiz which found out that college students could not correctly identify continents and major bodies of water.

Inspired by her discovery, the staff at Geographic Travels decided to conduct a geography quiz to those attending the 2013 second term inauguration for President Barack Obama.  We wanted to see how knowledgeable people who were taking part in a major national civic celebration were with the world.  We did not want to ask silly trivia questions like "what is the capital of Belarus" but instead we worked to create relevant questions which impact both domestic and foreign policy.

We settled on eight questions:
  1. Can you point to Afghanistan on a world map?
  2. Can you name three countries that have gone/are going through a significant Arab Spring?
  3. What country receives the most foreign aid from the United States?
  4. What country produces most of the oil the United States consumes?
  5. What is the hottest year on record globally?
  6. What is the hottest year on record in the United States?
  7. What state has the most guns per capita?
  8. What state has the healthiest gun culture?
The questions were chosen because they related to 1) international events that are impacting U.S. policy, military actions, immigration, and economics 2) important environmental issues and 3) a contentious domestic policy debate.

The results of the survey revealed that American's knowledge of geography is, not surprising, not good.  Bold numbers reflect the percentage of people who correctly answered the question.
  1. Can you point to Afghanistan on a world map (world map was provided)? 15%
  2. Can you name three countries that have gone/are going through a significant Arab Spring? 12%
  3. What country receives the most foreign aid from the United States? 12%
  4. What country produces most of the oil the United States consumes? 4%
  5. What is the hottest year on record globally? 0%
  6. What is the hottest year on record in the United States? 38%
  7. What state has the most guns per capita? 0%
  8. What state has the healthiest gun culture (defined as the ratio of gun ownership over gun homicides)? 0%
The hottest year on record in the United States had the most correct answers, probably due to this being in the news.  However, the fact that only fifteen percent of all people could find Afghanistan on the map after 11 years of war, two presidents, and six congressional elections is troubling and upsetting.  Meanwhile, the fact no one could correctly answer gun questions shows just how poorly understood this issue is by some.

From analyzing the results we heard numerous comments and made our own observations.
  • Almost everyone answered "China" for biggest trade partner.  When told the correct answer (Canada) most people expressed visual shock.  Canada's massive role in the American economy is ignored.
  • More people thought Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran received more foreign aid than the correct answer (Israel).  
  • When one person was shown the correct location of Afghanistan he remarked "What?  Way over there?  That's not near anything important!  We've been there how long?"
  • A majority of people thought Texas had the most guns per capita.
  • One person remarked how the healthiest gun culture answer "puts things in perspective."
  • A majority of people were able to say that the warmest year on record for both the United States and globally was between 2000 and 2012.  People have been paying attention at least.  (Strangely though no one could say either 2005 nor 2010 for the global question)
This quiz was not designed to make Obama or his supporters look bad.  What these results are meant for is to show how American citizenry who are actively involving themselves in national-level political activity lack knowledge about the issues that will or are impacting them in a significant way.  Without knowledge about important international, domestic, and environmental issues how can a democratic republic system (which is run by citizenry) successfully support itself/the citizenry?

Note:  For those interested answers are in white text next to the questions below
  1. Can you point to Afghanistan on a world map?
  2. Can you name three countries that have gone/are going through a significant Arab Spring? Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq
  3. What country receives the most foreign aid from the United States? Israel
  4. What country produces most of the oil the United States consumes? United States
  5. What is the hottest year on record globally? 2005 or 2010 (debatable tie)
  6. What is the hottest year on record in the United States? 2012
  7. What state has the most guns per capita? Wyoming
  8. What state has the healthiest gun culture? Wyoming

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Israeli Political Compass

The Guttman Center in the Israel Democracy Institute has a political compass which is designed to find out the political party closet to one's own political beliefs.  The political party preference quiz seems accurate and unbiased.

As a  personal disclaimer: the quiz rated me a near exact fit for Kadima with Yesh Atid coming a close second.  The Communist Hadash Party was the furthest political party away from my personal ideology according to the quiz.  Meanwhile, the religious-nationalist Otzma LeYisrael was furthest on the right from my own ideology.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Geography

"I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." -Martin Luther King Jr., 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Today's post is dedicate to King and other civil rights leaders who tackled racial discrimination.

Before the American Civil War the South was notorious for its use of Blacks as slave labor.  However, Northern states had Blacks Laws which, depending on the state, barred Blacks from voting, serving on juries, or even being witnesses to trials involving a White person.  The Civil War and the 13th Amendment ended slavery and there was hope for change under Radical Republican leadership.  However, an alliance of Liberal Republicans and Democrats ended Reconstruction of the South after the election of 1876.  White rule was restored in the South and various "Jim Crow Laws" were passed designed to further disfranchise Blacks.  Some of these laws spread outside the South into former "Free" (non-slave) states as Black emigration out of the South grew in the early 1900s.  Other anti-Black codes were actually the old, never repealed Black Laws.

Inter-racial marriage bans were a big part of the Jim Crow/Black Laws.  The ban was designed to keep the White race "pure" and prevent Blacks from becoming upperly mobile by marrying Whites and having light brown children and grandchildren that could pass as White.  

From Map Scroll.  Inter-racial marriage was only allowed in 19 of the 50 states in territories in 1900.
Another important aspect of Jim Crow/Black Laws was restrictions on education.  Many states set up "separate but equal" schools for Blacks and Whites.  The schooling was hardly equal, however.  Besides setting Blacks behind on education, this helped Whites and Blacks view each other as distant "others" with little knowledge of each other's society or each other as individuals     

Map of school segregation.  From William Sugiharto.
PBS has a great collection of maps about Jim Crow on their website.  There are maps about the Jim Crow Laws, restriction on education, population and migration, and lynchings.  Note on the lynchings map that most of them are in the South and against Blacks.  However, outside the South the target of lynchings tend to be overwhelmingly White.  Besides frontier justice against criminals, these lynchings were primarily targeted against European and Mexican immigrants who did not fit the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant model of America.

On this day we remember a leader for Civil Rights for Black Americans.  But let us recognize all leaders for civil rights for races and creeds.  May we not forget other discrimination campaigns like those against American Indians via the Indian codes, Americans of Japanese descent interment and exclusion zones established during World War II, and religious groups who talk and dress different and/or value life over wars or government policy.

May we live in a world where people's rights are recognized from creation until death.

"We, Negro Americans, sing with all loyal Americans: 'My country 'tis of thee,/Sweet land of liberty,/Of thee I sing./Land where my fathers died,/ Land of the Pilgrims' pride,/From every mountainside,/Let freedom ring!' That's exactly what we mean—from every mountain side, let freedom ring. Not only from the Green Mountains and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire; not only from the Catskills of New York; but from the Ozarks in Arkansas, from the Stone Mountain in Georgia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia—let it ring not only for the minorities of the United States, but for the persecuted of Europe, for the rejected of Asia, disfranchised of South Africa and for the disinherited of all the earth—may the Republican Party, under God, from every mountainside, 'LET FREEDOM RING.'" -Archibald Carey Jr. "Let Freedom Ring" speech to the 1952 Republican National Convention

If a man boasts of loving God, while he hates his own brother, he is a liar. He has seen his brother, and has no love for him; what love can he have for the God he has never seen? No, this is the divine command that has been given us; the man who loves God must be one who loves his brother as well. -1 John 4:20-21, Knox Translation

Friday, January 18, 2013

War of 1812: Perspectives in Video

See also War of 1812 Maps and Educational Resources from the Canadian Perspective and the United States versus Canada

The War of 1812 is a Rorschach test for Americans, British, and Canadians.  Each side has their own version of what happened.  The below three videos sum up the views of this war well.


The American point-of-view comes in stages:

What, there was a second war against England?
Well, we did beat the British twice (most commonly held view)
Wait, they burned down the White House?  What did we do to deserve that?
It all ended well when we won the Battle of New Orleans
*Reads a history book on the war* Oh..... (least held view)

Many Americans cannot state why the war happened   Some will claim the British want to recolonize us while others state is was to expand west.  Only a few know that the United States officially started the war in response to the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy and to conquer Canada.  College Humor has a funny take on American's ignorance of the war.


The War of 1812 was an annoying side show to the 20-plus year long war against France.  The British were forced to hold back the Americans, which was fairly easy to do with Canadian militia-support, lack of will among many Americans to fight, and incompetent American generals.  However, British history has mostly over looked the war.

The British ambassador to Canada made one of the only British-perspective videos on the internet.


Canada is enjoying the 200 year anniversary of the war.  Canada's official propaganda (I do not mean that word in a bad way) has Canada's Anglos, French, and First Peoples (Indians) uniting together to successfully defeat the American invasion.

This story is great for unity purposes and is mostly true.  However, it ignores the fact that as the war progressed most militia returned home and British regulars defeated the last invasions of Canada.  It also overlooks Canadian renegades that joined the Americans.  These renegades were responsible for a great deal of the pillaging which took place along the Niagara frontier.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Two - Geography as a Barrier to the Islamists

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch One - The French Counterattack
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Two - Geography as a Barrier to the Islamists
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Three - French Advancing in the International War
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Four - Final French Drive to Victory and Cartoon Propaganda Maps

The Islamists who took over Azawad/northern Mali had two great advantages in terms of military geography: low population density and open desert terrain.  This allowed for lightening attacks and only required a limited amount of men to hold down large swaths of territory.

However, geography is against the Islamists as they try to take over the rest of Mali.  The southern half of Mali is much more densely populated and the terrain is a complex mix of grasslands, wetlands, hills, forests, and human-impacted land like agricultural fields.  The Islamist modern-day pickup truck cavalry's freedom of movement is denied by the changing terrain and the Islamist Tuareg are not use to having a large army capable of holding territory after initial victories.  Finally, the Tuareg are entering a ethnically mixed land which is unlikely to provide support and aid to mobile soldiers with weak supply lines.

Columbia University's map shows how southern Mali is much more dense than Azawad
USDA map shows that southern Mali terrain is much more diverse than the northern desert

The Atlas Jeune Afrique shows the Islamist Tuaregs are invading other ethnic groups' homelands unlike the Islamist conquering their own ethnic lands earlier this year

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch One - The French Counterattack

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch One - The French Counterattack
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Two - Geography as a Barrier to the Islamists
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Three - French Advancing in the International War
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Four - Final French Drive to Victory and Cartoon Propaganda Maps

Geographic Travels has tracked the war in Mali since the founding of the self-declared Tuareg state, the Republic of Azawad, in April 2012.  Since then the blog has noted the quick rise and fall of the Islamic Republic of Azawad in May and then the fall of pro-Azawad independence MNLA to the al Qaeda-member Ansar al Dine and allies in September.

From fall up until the end of 2012 the Islamists were busy setting up an Islamic emirate in northern Mali with Sharia law and the destruction of the Sufi Muslim cultural landscape.  Early in January 2013 Ansar al Dine and its allies pushed out of the de facto Islamic emirate and into southern Mali.

France, which has long viewed Mali in its sphere of influence even after giving up Mali as a colony in 1960, has decided that losing Mali to Islamists is unacceptable and has launched a war to support the semi-civilian, military-propped up government.  Right now the war is in its opening stages with the French achieving mixed results.  In some places the Islamists' advanced has been stopped while in other sectors they continue to gain ground despite air strikes against forward deployed units.

Le Monde has produced a great overview map showing the range of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) as well as the once powerful Tuareg nationalist National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA).  The current conflict zone is also highlighted.

Click to Enlarge
France24 has an English-language map showing the conflict zone as well the various Islamist and nationalists zones of control.

Finally there is a map going around the Arabic blogosphere showing the end result which many fear will happen if Ansar al Dine and other Islamists are able to take over Mali, which they have stated is their end goal unlike MNLA which just desire for an independent Azawad.

The war is becoming a French-led allied effort as the United States has promised aid and logistical support while Canada is sending one cargo plane for one week.

This is not a war for democracy as Wilsonian principles actually would call for Tuareg self-determination and Mali's military has a proven track record of launching coups against corrupt and/or incapable civilian governments.  This is a war to stop the Islamist wave that has been one of the Arab Spring's biggest spin-offs.  If Islamists can be stopped and destroyed in northern Mali then counter-terrorism efforts elsewhere can limit groups like AQIM.  If Islamists are successful in Mali then the whole region is at risk (as shown in the Arabic-language map above) as the revolutionary Islamist movement will seek to export itself elsewhere from its Afghanistan-in-Africa base.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

North Dakota at Night Reveals Economic Boom

There are few towns in northwestern North Dakota and those towns which do dot the area are small little hamlets.  The region is in fact one of the least populated parts of the lower forty-eight states.

However, looking at night imagery of northwestern North Dakota reveals a mass of lights in geometric order.

Image from NASA.  The oil drilling activity avoids the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Little Missouri National Wild Grasslands, and other federal property.
These are not towns but instead are signs of North Dakota's economic boom due to oil.  NASA writes "On November 12, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of widespread drilling throughout the area. Most of the bright specks are lights associated with drilling equipment and temporary housing near drilling sites, though a few are evidence of gas flaring. Some of the brighter areas correspond to towns and cities including Williston, Minot, and Dickinson."

Further, "according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas production from the Bakken shale has increased more than 20-fold between 2007 and 2010. Gas production averaged over 485 million cubic feet per day in September 2011, compared to the 2005 average of about 160 million cubic feet per day. Due to the lack of a gas pipeline and processing facilities in the region, about 29 percent of that gas is flared."

The Bakken oil boom has greatly aided the United States and the state of North Dakota.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has a great report on the boom.  Some of the key takeaways are

  • Bakken oil production accounts for 11 percent of total U.S. oil production.
  • New businesses have grown by almost 50 percent in the Bakken area since 2009, compared to 5 percent growth for the rest of North Dakota and 3 percent growth in the United States.
  • Per capita household income in the Bakken area is above that in the rest of Montana, North Dakota, and the nation based on data through 2011. In fact, workers in the Bakken make about $200 more per week than the average wage for the United States. The poverty rate is dropping faster in the Bakken than in the rest of Montana and North Dakota, as well as in the United States where it has increased since 2007, but remained steady last year at 15 percent.

The report's charts also emphasize the boom:

What I find truly fascinating is how economics impacts the geography of northwestern North Dakota so much.  Comparing nighttime imagery of North and South Korea has long been a geographical exercise to point out how economic health is visible from space.  The same principal applies to North Dakota.  While this is nothing new, it always impresses me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Current Hot and Cold Weather Extremes

2012 was the hottest year on record beating out the old recognized record setter 1998 (this title is disputed between 1998 and 1934), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The organization's press release stated "2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year."  Of interesting note there was a notable drop in the number of hurricanes.

NOAA's map below does a good job showing how new heat records, along with drought, was pretty much widespread over the United States.

Down under in Australia the Australian Bureau of Meteorology made a new color in order to display temperature forecasted between 54 and 56 degrees Celsius (129 to 133 Fahrenheit).

So hot it went from black death to somesort of deep cosmic purple
Meanwhile other places are experiencing extreme cold.  Asia is currently going through extreme winter weather.  The Levant saw a major snowstorm which brought up to eight inches of snow in Israel, covered Jerusalem, and froze Syrian refugees to death.  India and China's temperatures have broken or matched record cold.  Hundreds if not more have frozen to death in these populace lands.

Interestingly enough, despite record annual warm temperatures, the snow extent in North America for December was the largest ever recorded.  This despite global warming/climate change models which predicted less snow.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pyongyang Racer: Virtually Traveling to North Korea's Capital to See What It Values

The very first post on this blog was a satellite image of an empty Pyongyang street.  I remarked how desolate the streets were.  Now, in a bit of modern, internet-age tourism literature is today's post: Pyongyang Racer.

The online browser was made in North Korea and servers as a virtual tour of Pyongyang and a window into the soul of the so-called Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

  • The streets are empty except for a few soulless cars which do not move.  At one point a pop up occurs in the game which praises the fact that there is no traffic in Pyongyang.  Harsh economic conditions and government control of movement is praised here.
  • The sexuality of the female traffic wardens is emphasized both in appearance and with sayings like "Drive straight on.  Don't stare at me, I'm on duty."  Yet traffic wardens are not displayed except for sayings like this, meaning there are no traffic wardens on the street to stare at.  It seems a sort of Asian fantasy of tough, professional, sexual women who act like they are not interested but really want you secretly is behind this.
  • This is a  change in North Korean propaganda for foreigners.  Traditionally North Korean propaganda comes in two molds 1) domestically it emphasizes racial purity and innocence and 2) internationally it emphasizes North Koreans toughness and victimization.  This game tries to portray North Korea as a nice place to visit.  Except for a reference to a Korean War memorial, no mention is made about outside enemies and Pyongyang appears (or the North Koreans believe it appears as at least) to be a city as a go.

No mention is made, however, about inside enemies such as free thinkers, Christians, political dissidents, or farmers who cannot meet their production quotas.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Emperor Karl Solution for Syria

A guest post by FSSP.  The position below is FSSP's only and does not necessarily reflect the views of Catholicgauze.

Emperor Karl (Charles) von Habsburg was the last imperial leader of Austria-Hungary.  Karl, his uncle Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and various imperial reforms sought to save the Austrian-Hungarian Empire by remaking it into a federal empire known as the United States of Greater Austria which would allow minority protections.  This, the reformers hoped, would strengthen the empire by pleasing all but the most harden nationalist dissenters while keeping the empire intact.  However, the plan failed to get out of the empire's bureaucratic boardrooms during World War I and the empire died when various minorities violently split at the war's end.

The idea a united country comprised of different, sometimes but not always hostile groups with local autonomy is still sometimes proposed for national unity and it still works.  Ethiopia, Bosnia, Nigeria, and Iraq have federal system which allow local minorities great protections and local freedoms.  Granted, some multinational countries in Africa and Asia are splitting themselves apart but this is usually because one ethnonational group has set up the country as a nation-state at the expense of others.

For Syria to work ethnosectarian autonomies must be established like Archduke Ferdinand and Emperor Karl favored for Austria-Hungary.  Each mini-state needs to have input into the functioning of the federal system (bottom-up).  The top-down system worked as long there was little to no sectarian tension.  However, the civil war made this tension a reality and it is impossible to simply wave away the tension for now.

There are two foreseeable solutions.  The first is a sort of United States of Syria which would be similar to the old French mandate system though a Kurdish state would be a necessity to ensure peace in the now de facto independent northeast.  A rotational, and weak, presidency would give each ethnic group their buy-in and say in federal affairs.

The second solution is a unified Sunni ministate, a unified Christian-Alawite-Shia-Druze ministate, and a Kurdish mini-state.  Perhaps Lebanon could be included thus restablishing a united Syria which was broken up by the French.  Though I admit this would be difficult and therefore unlikely due to Lebanon's fragile balance and Lebanon's Sunni population would be strongly opposed to this idea.  A joint-federal government like that of Bosnia with a Serb ministate and a Croat-Muslim ministate proves this could work.  A writer on Pakistan's Ministry of Defence website even made the below map to show this idea would look like.

A top-down governed Syria is dead.  The only way to reestablish one is with the horrible option of Sunni mass killings of minorities which would cause an even greater refugee crisis.  Only mixed government with local autonomy can keep the empire of Syria together.  It must learn from Austria-Hungary's lesson of being too late to change.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

STD Map of the United States Reveal Interesting Medical Geography created a map of four common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States.  There are some interesting medical geography trends which reveal much of the darker, underworld sexual landscape of America.

The "South" has the highest concentration per 100,00 of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis while its AIDS rate is just shy the Northeast.  The "South" though includes Maryland and the District of Columbia.  While this different cultural appendage compared to the South does add to the South's numbers, it is undeniable that sexual diseases have found elements of poorer Southern culture, in a sense long in rebellion against mainstream southern Christian cultural norms, rich territory to infect.

The Midwest has the second highest rates of Chlamydia and gonorrhea.  However, its syphilis and especially AIDS rate are the lowest in the country.  The split between the two groups of diseases is who gets them.  Chlamydia is the widest spread STD in the United States.  Gonorrhea is the second most common STD but only at a forth of chlamydia's level.  The other two diseases, syphilis and AIDS, are much less widespread though deadlier.  These two diseases are primarily homosexual diseases with 72% of syphilis cases being from male-male sex while the Center for Disease Control says 63% of new AIDS cases are homosexual males.  Either the Midwest's homosexual population has healthier sexual culture or the Midwest simply has less homosexuals compared to the rest of the United States.  Which explanation is true I do not know.

The full chart with more information is available by clicking or downloading the image below.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

North American-Centric Map Humor

Hat tip: via Torgo Jr.

Cars Deadlier than Guns... Except for Parts of Latin America and Swaziland

I decided to take a look at deaths rate by gun crime and motor vehicles per 100,000 people.  According to a variety sources collected together on Wikipedia, the people in the below countries have a higher rate of being killed by a gun than via a motor vehicle.

Country              Deaths by Gun Crime                       Deaths by Motor Vehicle
El Salvador          50.36                                                  12.6
Jamaica                47.44                                                  12.3
Honduras             46.7                                                    13.5
Guatemala           38.52                                                  14.7
Swaziland            37.16                                                  26.3
Colombia            27.1                                                     11.7
Panama               12.92                                                  12.7

With the exception of Swaziland, all these countries are in Latin America.  Sadly a combination of the international drug trade combined with a rough culture have lead to fast and loose gun player.  Other Latin American countries like Mexico and Brazil have high gun deaths as well but are out done by even higher motor vehicle deaths.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Four Billion Pixel Image of Mount Everest

Daily Mail is hosting a Glacier Works photo of Mount Everest.  The image is four billion pixels which allows for incredible detail and range!  One can zoom in anywhere and (nearly) experience the awe of being there.  Be sure to view it in full screen for full effect.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Seeking Reader Submissions for the 125th Anniversary of National Geographic

Geographic Travels will mark the upcoming 125th anniversary of the National Geographic Society with a series of posts.  One of the will be readers' thoughts and personal stories of National Geographic.  If you have any thought or story to share please comment below or e-mail me at catholicgauze at gmail dot com.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Wind Map

Wind Map displays live data wind speed and direction across the contiguous United States.  There is a limited gallery showing unusual events such as Hurricane Sandy on 30 October.

While not necessarily a research tool this is a prime example of geography as art.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Eleven - Propaganda Maps

Many thanks to FSSP for this post

Libyan War Maps 
Syrian Arab Spring Protest Maps - Batch One
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Two - Syrian Air Defenses 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Three - Twitter and News Update Maps 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Four - The Soccer Map  
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Five - Ceasefire Violations
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Six - Houla   
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Seven - June 2012    
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Eight - Battle of Damascus 
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Nine - September 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Ten - October 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Eleven - Propaganda Maps
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Twelve - First Quarter 2013

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Thirteen - Chemical Weapons Attack?
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fourteen - Israel Strikes Again
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fifteen - Second Quarter 2013
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Sixteen - The Coming Western Intervention
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Seventeen - Al Qaedastan in Iraq and Syria

As Catholicgauze wrote about Libyan Civil War propaganda maps: "Propaganda maps reveal stories that the cartographer wants you to think."  Both sides of the Syrian Civil War are using propaganda maps to show the war through their eyes.

All maps downloaded from Facebook.

Pro-Assad/pro-Syrian Arab Republic maps

Pro-Assad/pro-Syrian Arab Republic maps have two main themes.  The first theme shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the embodiment of the Syrian nation.  The second major theme shows Syria under attack from foreign forces thus trying to reduce the Syrianess of the rebels.

Original from the official website of Syria's president.  Note that Hatay is shown as Syrian and not Turkish.

The United States encounters Syria which will stop its disrupting the region.

The United States and Israel shown as playing literally geopolitics with Yemen, Sudan/South Sudan, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt 
Wahhabism shown coming from Saudi Arabia and infesting the whole region
Pro-Rebel maps

Almost all pro-rebel maps show Assad.  Most pro-rebel maps show Assad as waging war against/killing Syria itself while a few show the country gaining revenge on Assad.

Syria is shown choking Assad