The Onion knows all…
The Library of Congress is going Web 2.0 by making some of its photo collections available online at Flickr. This is a really cool project that not only allows users to see these amazing photos, but the LOC is also hoping that the Flickr community can help them out by tagging, commenting, and even provide captions or notes for photos that may be missing this information. Flickr is also promoting this project and perhaps others by creating a new publication model called The Commons for publicly held photographic collections. The hope is that other institutions will join in the effort and add their photos. What an amazing resource this has the potential to become!
There are over 3000 photos already up in the LOC’s Flickr collection, including several series of photos from the 1940s and the 1910s. These photos are an amazing visual historical record that document the landscapes, lives, and events of American history from the local to national and events, and if you have some time you should definitely check them out and maybe even add your own tags and comments. And, if you know of any public photo collections that you would like to see online, spread the word about this project!
Want to support Service at Sea? Want to visit Mexico? Anyone who donates to Service at Sea between February 2007 and January 31, 2008 will be entered for a chance to win a trip to Mexico. You get one entry for any donation up to $50 and an additional entry for every $50 after that (eg. $200 = 4 entries).
Even if you aren’t up for Mexico, this is still a great project that is definitely worth the support if you can afford it.
Time to wrap it all up with Element 6: The Uses of Geography. Thatâ€™s right it is the last day people and it is time to consider how we can apply Geography and spatial thinking to help us understand what has happened in the past, what is happening around us now, and how we can use that information to plan for the future.
Standard 17 – How to Apply Geography to Interpret the Past, is the standard that is closest to my own background and the research that I work on. Historical Geography is a subdiscipline of Geography that focuses on understanding how people in the past created and modified the cultural landscapes around them, as well as identifying and interpreting the spatial aspects of historical events and processes. Within the last decade, a number of geographers and historians have begun to develop the subfield of Historical GIS, which utilizes GIS as a tool in understanding historical problems.
However, Geography can also be a powerful conceptual framework for understanding the present, as Standard 18 – How to Apply Geography to Interpret the Present and Plan for the Future, is trying to highlight. Geographers work on problems and issues in a wide range of topics from urban planning, to social and community issues, to hazards research. In each case, understanding how people utilize and inhabit space and place, as well as understanding their interactions with the physical environment around them, helps us to develop interpretations of these processes. Taking these interpretations a step further, we can actually begin to develop long-range models and plans to help us meet future challenges, such as global warming, population pressures, pollution, and disaster planning.
Hopefully you have taken some time to consider these 6 elements and 18 standards during this Geography Awareness Week. From our overviews and the materials available from National Geographic and the NCGE you hopefully have an idea of how these standards might impact Geography education in K-12 and beyond to college and university. They can not only support education but to create a better prepared geospatial workforce.
Element 5: Environment and Society is tied to human-environment interaction and the first two standards are essentially mirror images.
How Human Actions Modify the Physical Environment
How Physical Systems Affect Human Systems
16) The Changes That Occur in the Meaning, Use, Distribution, and Importance of Resources
The goal of Standard 14 is to consider the impact of how we, the human species, affect, change, and/or modify the physical environment. Perhaps the most telling example of this impact is the increasing evidence that the planet is warming, and that warming is being accelerated by human processes and resource usage. Global warming became center stage when the Nobel committee recognized Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. However, global warming is only one example of how humans impact the physical environment around them every day. For example, water is one of the most vital resources on Earth, and human population pressures and pollution are seriously threatening people’s access to fresh water.
Standard 15 is the mirror of 14 with a focus on how physical systems affect humans. One of the more obvious examples of this can be seen in natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, avalanches, etc). Beyond the extreme events of natural disasters, there are everyday examples of how physical processes impact the way we live our lives. To take the example of water again, access to fresh water plays a crucial role in where people can live. In fact, the combination of weather patterns over the last few years and increased consumption from rising populations has led to drought and conflicts over water in both the southeastern and southwestern United States.
We close the day out with Standard 16, in which the role of natural resources is considered. To use our water example from above, the increasing populations in warm areas of the United States have magnified the importance of water as a valuable commodity due to its scarceness. However, in other areas of the world such as the monsoon areas of Southeast Asia, where the climate and weather patterns are different and rainfall is overabundant, water can actually be a hindrance to local human populations. It is important for students to recognize the importance in not only managing natural resources but also in understanding the differences in meaning, use, and distribution of those resources in different contexts.
We are back with day four of the Geography Standards which brings us to the humans. Element 4: Human Systems contains 5 standards on its own, which makes sense since the standards are focused on K-12 education, which includes Geography in Social Studies. This generally covers history, political and economic geography, and other humanities content. Here are the 5 standards of Element 4.
9) The Characteristics, Distribution, and Migration of Human Population on Earth’s Surface
10) The Characteristics, Distribution, and Complexity of Earth’s Cultural Mosaics
11) The Patterns and Networks of Economic Interdependence on Earth’s Surface
12) The Processes, Patterns, and Functions of Human Settlement
13) How the Forces of Cooperation and Conflict Among People Influence the Division and Control of Earth’s Surface
Quite a bit to go through in just one column so I am just going to touch on them briefly (and hopefully finish by the time we land in Chicago). Standard 9 is fairly broad and actually encompasses aspects of each of the other 4 standards in this element, especially with its focus on characteristics, distribution and migration of human populations. These processes play crucial roles in determining the cultural, social, economic and political make up of our world, where as Standard 10 begins to narrow it down a bit with a focus on cultures. How cultures are formed, the impact they have on how we live and interact, and the relationships between cultures are often thought of as the focus of Anthropology, but the spatial patterns and impacts of cultures are more important aspects of understanding our human species and are squarely within the realm of Geography.
One of my standard answers for â€œwhat is Geographyâ€ is to talk about it as a series of connections that go beyond location to show larger relationships that include spatial patterns of human and physical systems. Standard 11 focuses on those relationships as networks of economic interdependence. While this network has always been important, the trend towards globalization has brought it to the fore as we no longer have the weeks or months that it used to take to exchange goods over long distances. Instead we live in a world where information is exchanged in seconds and materials can make it around the world in a day or possibly even less.
Standards 12 and 13 are often interrelated. Standard 12â€™s focus on human settlement considers how and why people put down roots in places. Standard 13 looks at the interactions between groups that determine how the world is divided, primarily politically, but also culturally and economically. Where people settle often defines the boundaries and interactions between groups. While often these interactions lead to cooperation and positive benefits, in some cases, disputes arise due to conflicts in various beliefs.
This was definitely a dash through these 5 standards, but they truly do lay the basis for a lot of what is taught in middle schools and high schools in Social Studies classes in the US.
Today is a travel day so Day 4 of the Geography standards will be Thursday, but I did want to point out the efforts of various organizations such as the AAG who are calling on their membership and others to support recognition of Geography as No Child Left Behind is before congress for reauthorization. To learn more head over to the AAG website.
Day three, time to get physical with the next two standards which fall under Element 3, Physical Geography. This element covers quite a bit – everything from climatology to geomorphology is fair game for Physical Geography. While only two US Geography standards are specifically Physical Geography, these are essential parts of Geography and we shouldnâ€™t underestimate Physical Geography’s importance to our understanding of the world.
7 ) The Physical Processes That Shape the Patterns of Earth’s Surface
8 ) The Characteristics and Spatial Distribution of Ecosystems on Earth’s Surface
The Earth is a dynamic environment which is made up of a number of elements. National Geographic’s Xpeditions page lies out four categories:
“those operating in the atmosphere (i.e., climate and meteorology), those operating in the lithosphere (e.g., plate tectonics, erosion, and soil formation), those operating in the hydrosphere (e.g., the circulation of the oceans and the hydrologic cycle), and those operating in the biosphere (e.g., plant and animal communities and ecosystems).”
It is important to understand the interactions between these categories in order to appreciate their impact on the world around us. Examples of the more extreme end of these impacts include earthquakes which originate in the lithosphere, hurricanes and typhoons which are tied to both the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, and wild fires which come out the biosphere. Other examples have a less ominous aspect such as having an idea of what areas are the best for skiers, knowing where not to build a house (stay out of the flood plains), and even knowing what areas are best for growing strawberries. As GI Joe said, â€œknowing is half the battleâ€ and by knowing about the physical processes that impact the Earth and the people that inhabit its surface, we can better understand the world we live in and even help make it better.
Standard 8 looks at specific types of physical regions on the the Earth’s surface. Ecosystems are diverse assemblages of plants and animals that share an environment. These assemblages evolve from a distinct mixture of climate, terrain, soils, etc… and are relatively stable unless impacted by a significant external force such as drought or fires. Human effects on ecosystems can also be far-reaching and it is important for students to understand the reciprocal nature of the human/environment interaction. While we have often discussed the importance of sustainability in terms of the impact of human actions on resources that we need, but sustainability is just as important to maintaining the balance within existing ecosystems.
While Physical Geography may not often get the attention that Human Geography or GIS do, it is still an essential component in the discipline of Geography as a whole, and it is important that we promote it as well.