Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Learning from the past for the future: Sustainable development

"Sustainability is both a goal and a way of thinking"

 Tatanka Yotanka (Sitting Bull), Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux (1831-1890)

Here are some great quotes on the connection between humans and land from the First Nation people of America. They thought very differently about sustainability, compared to modern western industrial society. They had much wisdom on human-land relations. Indeed, we can learn from the past for the future!

"The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us." Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki Algonquin

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children." 

Ancient  American Indian proverb

"The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged."    Luther Standing Bear Oglala Sioux  1868-1937


"When we Indians kill meat, we eat it all up. When we dig roots, we make little holes. When we build houses, we make little holes. When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don't ruin things. We shake down acorns and pine nuts. We don't chop down the trees. We only use dead wood. But the white people plow up the ground, pull down the trees, kill everything. ... the White people pay no attention. ...How can the spirit of the earth like the White man? ... everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore."Wintu Woman, 19th Century 

"We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can't speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees."  Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.

~ Ancient Indian Proverb ~

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.~ Chief Seattle, 1854 ~

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.

~ Cree Prophecy ~

I do not think the measure of a civilization
is how tall its buildings of concrete are,
But rather how well its people have learned to relate
to their environment and fellow man.~ Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe ~

Earth, Teach Me

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.

    - An Ute Prayer

 Quanah of the Comanche

Considering these quotes and the relationship such indigenous group had/havewith the land it is interesting to look at the efforts being made around the world in the 21st Century to arrest and and even reverse much of the damage done to our environment through uncontrolled economic development over the past 100-200 years. The concept of sustainable development is fundamental to the work of a geographer as we balance the issues of environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability of life on Earth.
The Industrial Revolution and the related technological advances have greatly intensified human impacts on the environment – little regard for their ecological limits in the pursuit of material wealth, consumption and economic development.

We need to pursue sustainable development


At any level of development, human impact on the environment is a function of population size, per capita consumption and the environmental damage caused by the technology used to produce what is consumed.

Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) represents one of the greatest challenges facing Australia's governments, industry, business and community in the coming years. While there is no universally accepted definition of ESD, in 1990 the Commonwealth Government suggested the following definition for ESD in Australia: 

'using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased'.

Put more simply, ESD is development which aims to meet the needs of Australians today, while conserving our ecosystems for the benefit of future generations. To do this, we need to develop ways of using those environmental resources which form the basis of our economy in a way which maintains and, where possible, improves their range, variety and quality. At the same time we need to utilise those resources to develop industry and generate employment.

The Guiding Principles of ESD in Australia are:

  • decision making processes should effectively integrate both long and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations
  • where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation
  • the global dimension of environmental impacts of actions and policies should be recognised and considered
  • the need to develop a strong, growing and diversified economy which can enhance the capacity for environmental protection should be recognised
  • the need to maintain and enhance international competitiveness in an environmentally sound manner should be recognised
  • cost effective and flexible policy instruments should be adopted, such as improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms
  • decisions and actions should provide for broad community involvement on issues which affect them.

Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

The following list of guiding principles for sustainability comes from the Australian Curriculum: Geography Shape Paper. They are the principles to guide the teaching of sustainable development in the geography curriculum.

* Quadruple Bottom Line (QBL) of Sustainable development

The QBL has become a powerful defining factor of sustainable development in the  21st century. The quadruple bottom line takes into consideration the following factors: 

1. Environmental

2. Social

3. Cultural (including governance)

4. Economic. 

Just like many of the indigenous cultures, Geography sees sustainability broader than the physical environment as an isolated ‘thing’. It is the interdependency of the QBL that we see as the necessary approach to sustainable development. 

Some videos to watch on Sustainable development

"The Spirits Warn You Twice,

The Third Time You Stand Alone"

From the 1927 Grand Council of American Indians

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Things to ponder

 Image above: The Aging World - oldies taking over in parts of the world!

An assortment to discuss and stimulate

The following sites are an interesting assortment of commentary, information and maps to explore issues as diverse as resource use, population, globalisation, inequality and climate change ... plus some which are just interesting for the geographer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The many and varied purposes of maps

Image: Maps used to explain or not explain the Middle East.

Related links to Spatialworlds  
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??  

Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

The purpose of maps

This posting on maps of the Middle East and religion around the world and in the United States (US). They contain some interesting facts/information about the Middle East, global religious tolerance and the religious affiliations in the US to explain why they are the way they are. The posting also showcases some maps of the Middle East which simply provide facts/information about the region just out of interest without any higher purpose of providing explanations. Maps can be used for many and varied things, not just for analyse and solutions.  What is important is that we are using maps and spatial literacy as such to engage students in thinking about regions of the world, in a variety of ways - in an effort to uncover the complexity and uniqueness of the spaces and places of the world.

Maps that explain the Middle East

Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.

Maps that don't explain the Middle East  

Violent upheaval in the Middle East has recently spawned all manner of maps purporting to explain how the region got this way. Here, instead, are 15 maps that don’t claim as much. Or rather, they do not seek, like many other maps, to capture some fixed set of core facts about the region. Instead, these maps provide a more fluid perspective on the Middle East, often by showing what didn’t happen as opposed to what did. But for all these maps don’t show, they do illustrate one thing: the sobering fact that no one map—or even set of maps—can ever explain the region’s complex history and politics.

Another example of the power of maps to explain, this time religious diversity

A pattern of religious diversity and maybe religious tolerance around the world, but not as expected.

The world's most and least religiously diverse countries may not be quite what we would think. The source of the data for this maps is from an extensive report by Pew that scored and ranked countries on religious diversity by indexing survey data with a mathematical model. 

The maps shows the most religiously diverse countries are in blue and the least diverse in yellow. Surprisingly, the map indicates that the three most religiously diverse countries are in East Asia: Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In fact, almost all of the world's most religiously diverse countries are clustered in two regions: East Asia and West Africa. The least religiously diverse countries are easier to see, and are typically dominated by a large Muslim majority: that band of yellow from Morocco, across North Africa and Middle East, all the way to Pakistan. The very least religiously diverse country in the world is the Vatican City.
In regards to methodology, while every religion has internal sects and divisions, and while those can be very important, for the sake of workability comparing across countries and religions, Pew's data simply divides people into one of eight groups: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, folk religion, other religion, and unaffiliated. That last category means that non-religious people count toward a country's religious diversity score.

Here is another way of showing the diversity between a few countries, this time using graphs.

An interactive map of the topography of religion in the United States

A very useful map to get a picture of religious affiliations across the US. We see amazing differences from place to place. Why do these differences occur in their extremes and what impact does it have on the politics of the US? Here are a few more questions such a map stimulates:
* What patterns do you notice? 
* Are there religious regions that could be drawn based on this data? 
* What geographic factors have created the differences in the religious geographies of the United States?
* How do such difference impact on the nature of the places across the US.