Sunday, June 29, 2014

The environment concept: The human-environment link

 Image above: Hunting and living with lions: from the BBC Human planet explorer site.

Related links to Spatialworlds 
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website    

Where am I??  
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

The human-environment link

A key aspect of the Environment concept of the Australian Curriculum: Geography is the fact that it is not only about the physical geography as an end in itself but about how physical geography (which encompasses the study of the environment) influences humans, and in turn how humans influence the environment. This is what makes geography geography, as opposed to Earth Science which is focussed wholly on the physical processes of the Earth. Such a statement certainly creates some interesting discussion, particularly with passionate physical geographers. An interesting side discussion is whether we can do the environmental geography of Mars, considering Mars does not have any human occupation. We certainly could do some spatial geography of the features of Mars but would it be environmental geography - some argue that it would be Mars Science!! 
To further the importance of the human link in geography is supported by the statement from the Australian Curriculum website which states that the Australian Curriculum: Geography Environment concept: 

... is about the significance of the environment in human life, and the important interrelationships between humans and the environment.

 An important aspect of the human-environment link is the associated phenomenon of interdependency. Although we are now moving into the Interconnection concept of the curriculum, it is important to note that the link is often two-way and in turn creates degrees of interdependencies between humans and the environment. To elucidate these links and interdependencies between humans and the environment in my workshops (and to clarify the Environment concept) I have been using  the fantastic video clips from the BBC Human Planet Explorer site.  These 3-4 minute clips from vastly contrasting world environments, show some amazing WOW (World of Wonder) geogstories about important interrelationships between humans and the environment.

Here are some amazing environment-human geogstories from the Human Planet Explorer site:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lionfish giving a roar in the Atlantic

Image above: The lionfish invasion

The lionfish invasion, a case study of environment, interconnection and sustainability

"The lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face" said Graham Maddocks, president and founder of Ocean Support Foundation

The story of the lionfish invasion of the Atlantic is a very useful case study for the geography class to explore the concepts of environment, interconnection, space, change and sustainability. After giving a brief overview of the issue this posting will provide information, videos and map visualisations to illustrate this fascinating and geographically useful case study of a little fish from the Pacific which has become a big problem in the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the waters of the Caribbean and beyond. 

The story in a nutshell 

The lionfish, a native of the South Pacific region, has brought enormous change to the biodiversity of the areas it has invaded and is now the the most abundant top-level predator on some coral reefs in the Atlantic.

Lionfish were first recorded in 1985 in the Bahamas and since then their population has grown quickly. They produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days and are sexually mature by 1 year old. Today, you can find them throughout the Amazon, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and in the waters along North Carolina. As a non-indigenous species, lionfish are especially dangerous to the ecosystem because fish in the Atlantic lack a native instinct to stay away from them.

Although some commentators blame the breaking of aquariums during Hurricane Andrew for releasing lionfish to the ocean, it is more likely that they were introduced to the Florida area in 1985 when some pet owners released their lionfish when they got too big for their aquariums (DNA evidence traces all lionfish in the Atlantic back to only six to eight female lionfish). Having no natural predators in the area, scientists say it is up to humans, the fish's only known predator, to save the ecosystem.

Since being released they have altered the coastal ecology and an enormous amount of work is being initiated to limit their impact an spread. 

* Video introductions to the issue

* Map of current distribution: all from 6 lionfish released in 1985   

* World distribution map for lionfish, including projected future spread

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the lionfish invasion in the Western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. With the invasion being a relatively new phenomenon (at least to most people), there’s bound to be some misinformation flying around. The National Geographic website explores the top five misconception about lionfish and the facts behind them. They say, quite correctly; ...'Knowing the truth behind lionfish puts us one step closer to figuring out a solution to the problem!' 

* Attempts to manage the invasion of lionfish

In January 2010 during the general assembly of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the Secretariat agreed to set up an Ad Hoc Committee to develop a strategic plan for the control of lionfish in the wider Caribbean. Quite a task to control a species in waters they thrive in and have no predators.

The lionfish invasion is an interesting example of interconnection, environmental management and sustainability. Much research and management efforts is now taking place to avert ongoing ecological disaster. However, the likelihood of success is limited considering the nature of the lionfish and its adaptation and dominance of the Atlantic coastal environment.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Being visual - graphicacy

 Image above: Amazing maps

Related links to Spatialworlds 
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website    

Where am I??  
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

The art of visualising data

This posting is dedicated to the capacity of spatial technology to visualise data - the graphicacy skill/art of geography using modern technology. 
"Graphicacy is concerned with the capacities people require in order to interpret and generate information in the form of graphics. Our society is becoming increasingly reliant on graphics to communicate information. Until recently, words and numbers were the main vehicles for communication – compared with graphics, they have long been relatively easy to produce and distribute. However, advances in information and communications technology and visualisation techniques now mean that graphics are far more readily available and more widely used than ever before." 

 Here is an interesting YouTube on Graphicacy, tied in with literacy and numeracy.

To illustrate graphicacy, here are some great examples from my Spatial Literacy

An Urban World: UNICEF's new data visualization of urban population growth over the next 40 years. This graphic depicts countries and territories with 2050 urban populations exceeding 100,000. Circles are scaled in proportion to urban population size. Hover over a country to see how urban it is (percentage of people living in cities and towns) and the size of its urban population (in millions).

* Population pyramids: Powerful predictors ofthe future 

Population statistics are like crystal balls -- when examined closely, they can help predict a country's future (and give important clues about the past). Kim Preshoff explains how using a visual tool called a population pyramid helps policymakers and social scientists make sense of the statistics, using three different countries' pyramids as examples.

Interactive Map of the World, through a flash based Map Viewer application which provides a bird's eye view of every country in the world. It provides country facts such as population, area, GDP, time zone etc.

To illustrate the network of globe-trotting journeys, Abel and Sander generated the above fantastic graphic for 2005 to 2010. Migration flows for different world regions are shown as color-coded arcs, with lines that begin close to the circle's edge depicting outgoing migrations (as shown with the arrows for "Central America"). Fatter arcs represent larger migrations and the numbered tick marks indicate how many millions of people are involved

"Some beautiful, information-dense cartography, which provide a moment of self-reflection like a giant, geographic mirror.”  Seth Dixon

People get the general shape of the world when the draw a map of the world from memory.

Maps after maps, some quirky some just plain interesting and useful.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Really really interesting

Just real interesting

I continue to find  geographically interesting bits and pieces from my Just Real Interesting, some of which I find really really interesting. Hence I thought I would just pick a few that stimulated my geographical thinking over recent weeks for this posting.

This daily dose of satellite photos helps you appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things humans have constructed--as well as the devastating.

Interesting futures idea?

* India's Census: Lots of cellphones,too few toilet

India's once-a-decade census has turned up some striking numbers: The population grew this past decade by 181 million — that's the total population of Brazil. India now has more than 1.2 billion people and is on track to overtake China as the world's most populous nation in 2030.

Is this geography of the person? Across cultures, people feel increased activity in different parts of the body as their mental state changes.

* Crisis watch

An interactive map showing conflicts across the world every month. Produced by the International Crisis Group - to prevent conflict worldwide.

Marvel at these global heat maps of popular cycling and running routes. A glimpse into the geography of elevated heart rates and sweaty pits is now available thanks to Strava, maker of GPS-enabled exercise-tracking gizmos. Over time, the San Francisco-based company has collected a lot of user data. Now it's put the info in play in a giant, visual way, with these global heat maps showing the movements of the hardcore huffing-and-puffing populace. The maps include 77,688,848 rides and 19,660,163 runs for a blink-inducing total of 220 billion data points.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The place of music with place

Image above: An image from Karl Jenkins music piece called Palladio.

Related links to Spatialworlds 
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website    

Where am I??  
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

In some form, music is a popular, constant and fundamentally important aspect of all cultures. The study called ethnomusicology has found that for cultures around the world, music not only provides entertainment and enjoyment but is also important in defining a place and its people. When we listen to any music, our geographical imagination takes us to a place we consider is the origin of the music. When listening to the instruments, voices, structures and rhythms of traditional/indigenous music we are taken to a place we associate with the music, whether Africa, South America, China, Ireland, Australia and so on. With modern music it is somewhat more difficult to associate the music with a place due to the global similarity of instruments and singing style. Even then, it is sometimes possible to pick a Celtic singer, instruments and song structures compared to a European music maker of the same genre. The Eurovision song competition is an interesting test of such a theory. I have even spoken to heavy metal fans who say that they can identify differences in voices, timings and song structure from place to place. Whilst not a music expert, it think it can be safely said that there is a strong link between place and the music of that place as an identifier of place.

The article titled Ethnomusicology and Place supports this view when it says that:

‘The relevance of ‘Place’ is that the environments in which individuals are subjects condition the formative construction of their and their ‘symbolism of self’. As well as influencing the formation of identity, an individual’s consumption of music is central to that persons ‘narrativization of Place’ whereby they make sense of the place in which they are situated. Thus there is reciprocity between individual and their space where both are defined in a constant process of identity negotiation and production’.

The article also provides some fascinating thinking on the changes to the connection of place to music as a result of technological change, in particular that:

‘The advent of media technologies and their use in the mass dissemination of  commercially produced music has played a significant role in the way that music is used to articulate notions of place.’

The article goes on to ask whether the world is becoming a ‘No Place Space’.  Have the processes of globalisation as a result of technology and the  mass dissemination of commercially produced music resulted in the ‘intermeshing’ of the local and the global and the blurring of geographical boundaries, meaning that individuals now exist ‘simultaneously in a local, a regional, and a global context’. They summise that this has led to the alteration of traditional conceptions of ‘Place’ as bounded entities separated in space and time, as often reflected in the difference of music from place to place. Are the local and the global becoming ‘inextricably bound together making it harder to see regional differences in fundamental cultural components such as music?'  The question is asked, "is it going to become harder and harder for people to have a sense of place beyond the global?" Music has always played a major role in providing place identity and meaning for people. Such questions go beyond the field of music alone (food, clothing etc) but they are certainly interesting to ponder when one considers the future of music attached to place.

My interest in the association of place and music was stimulated by the work of Karl Jenkins His work is an interesting study in trying to disassociate music from place and to not be a place identifier. The music Jenkins creates is often call world music because it comes from no particular place and is an amalgam of all sorts of music.  His music even goes so far as to not even have a language from any place but a ‘made-up’ vocalisation of sounds. As the commentary on his music says:
'Each Adiemus album is a collection of song-length pieces featuring harmonised vocal melody against an orchestra background. There are no lyrics as such, instead the vocalists sing syllables and 'words' invented by Jenkins. However, rather than creating musical interest from patterns of phonemes. The musical language of Adiemus draws heavily on classical and world music.'

As a composer, Jenkins breakthrough came with the musical work Adiemus. The Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary (1995) album topped the classical album charts.

Interestingly, as you listen to his work you think you have a purchase on a place for the music but then another place appears in the music. Although some of the work has definite Celtic overtones, it does transport us to many places. The connection between place and music has been studied by cultural geographers for many years and it is an area worth discussing with students when exploring the concept of place in the Australian Curriculum: Geography. 

Here are just a few examples of the spatial aspect of music through maps of …

A map depicting locations that are mentioned in songs or locations of events that are alluded to in songs.   
* GeogSpace: the geography of Rock Festivals

·    * Music map: Finding an artist

Whilst music differences can be mapped across space, I have not been able to find such a map at this stage to include in this posting. What certainly can be said is that music provides a great discussion point on the aesthetics of place and the sense of and uniqueness of place, all of which adds to the richness of the ‘Place’ concept in the teaching of the Australian Curriculum: Geography. In short, music is very important in terms of the ‘meaning-making’ of place for people and in turn connecting the identity of people to a place. Furthermore this meaning-making of place through music is changing globally and possible diminishing in reality as we continue to globalise. The beautiful Adiemus music and the world music phenomena could just be part of such a change.