Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The currency of Geography

Image above: A frequently reported current event - displaced persons on their way to Europe from the Middle East and Africa.

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Geogaction (geography professional learning blog)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

The here and now

The term currency if being used more and more in general language to mean more than just about money and the circulation of money. The term has a currency to refer to something which is up-to-date, current and even prevalent.  Other analogous terms are nowness, presentness, contemporaneity, contemporaneous, modernity, modernness – all referring to something being in the here and now.  As discussed in a previous posting, the spontaneity of geography is one of the many attractions of our subject – spontaneity is based on the ability of geography teachers to log into real time events and phenomena happening around the world. The currency term is extremely applicable to geography, a subject that in the first instance is about what is happening in the world now, with an eye on the determinism of the past and the possibilities for the future. In spatial terms we can talk about the currency of a map or chart as determined by the best available information at a given time. In geography we study current events/activities/happenings of an incredibly diverse nature across the globe and ask the geographical questions to determine causation, impact and futures.

In this posting I thought it would be interesting to showcase the currency of several disturbing events/phenomena and provide some data and representations that could be used in the geography classroom – they are the flood of migrants/displaced persons into Europe and the spread of ISIS attacks.

As has been frequently reported in the media over the past 12 months, vast numbers of migrants are making their way across the Mediterranean to Europe, sparking a crisis as countries struggle to cope with the influx. These stresses are creating division in the European Union about how best to deal with resettling people and what is the responsibility and capacity of European countries to respond.

BBC News Online has produced a plethora of graphs and maps to unravels the myths that have grown up about asylum seekers flooding into Europe.To do the unraveling will require considerable data and map analysis and plenty of good geographical thinking.

More than 500,000 migrants are estimated to have arrived in Europe by sea in 2015, but exact numbers are unclear as some may have passed through borders undetected - not to mention the tragic loss of life at sea by desperate people trying to get to Europe. 

One way to measure where migrants have ended up is through asylum applications. Although not all of those arriving claim asylum, over half a million have done so, according to the EU statistics agency, Eurostat.

The map below shows that Germany continues to be the most popular destination for migrants in Europe. It has received the highest number of new asylum applications, with almost 222,000 by the end of August 2015.

Click here to see more geographical data and representations that can be used to help student to unravel the truth and discuss possible futures on this topic with not only currency but urgency! It certainly is a dilemma for Europe and makes Australia's border protection concerns rather insignificant.

Mapping ISIS

The prevalence of articles in the media on the Islamic State (ISIS) is another issue of currecny that confuses and in many cases disturbs students. Again, it can be studied through geographcial representation to try to make sense of what is happening and hopefully provide some thinking on futures - beyond the macabre and doomsday.

The map below shows that at least a dozen countries have had attacks since the Islamic State, or ISIS, began to pursue a global strategy in the summer of 2014. I am sure this map could be added to for 2015 and as we all know, ISIS has a global strategy of terror.

In fact, the 2015 animation below provides data that can be added to the map in real time.

The animation below shows the spread of media coverage of ISIS in 2015 - an interesting spread of fear - exactly what ISIS wants.

An example of the type of geographical coverage of the ISIS issue was produced recently by the New York Times in their presentation The Iraq-ISIS conflict in maps, photos and videos - certainly a comprehensive visualisation of the nature and spread of the ISIS conflict. 

Click here for maps on the Internet  about the work and spread of ISIS that could be used in a geographical study of significant currency - not a pleasant one though!

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