Japan Wants 30% of Housholds to Go Solar by 2030

Japan has set a target to increase it’s number of solar powered houses to 14 million by 2030. It’s a fairly lofty goal. The exceptionally noteworthy part of this is that Japan is focusing on reducing the costs of panels, increasing the power output, and increasing the ease of installation. Since Japan produces roughly half the solar panels in the world, hopefully some of these improvements will find their way to other shores. I know I looked at solar panels for my house a couple of years ago when I was building. It just wasn’t cost effective for our area at the time. Hopefully with the rising price of electricity, these potential improvements will be a big boon!

UK Homes Wind Powered by 2020

Engadget is reporting a news item that the UK is planning on powering all the home in Britain via off shore wind power by 2020. That’s a pretty ambitious project. The interesting portion of this is the off shore wind farms, which have been in use in Europe for upwards of a couple decades. The US has been rather slow to adopt off shore wind farms for a variety of reasons. Hopefully plans like these – even if ultimately unsuccessful – will spur the US to explore the technology further.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this project, as I’m a HUGE proponent of offshore wind energy.

America’s Most Obese Cities

Forbes has a run down of the most obese cities in the US. Suffice to say I have a few issues with their methodology, but it is interesting to see fully half of them (and arguably a couple more, depending on how you define the region) are in what I would call the South. As Jesse and I can attest, southern cooking isn’t what one would call the healthiest in the world – although I’d rank it up there for yummiest! I thought it was interesting how they showed a link between poverty and obesity. I can tell you from first hand experience, it’s expensive to eat healthy.

Human Systems

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 “what is Geography” 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 12’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.

Historical GIS in Great Britain

I just finished my oral exams and passed, so just that little hurdle of a dissertation between me and those three very expensive and time consuming letters: PhD. One of my main research areas is the use of GIS in historical research, and I thought it would be nice to highlight one of the first and probably most successful national efforts at a Historical GIS, the Great Britain Historical GIS. This project represents a decade at least of work by Ian Gregory and others to develop a spatial database of historical boundaries, historical census and other demographic data for Great Britain. The main portion of the Historical GIS is not publicly available, but there is a nice public site called A Vision of Britain Through Time, partially funded by lottery proceeds, that allows users to get online access to some of the place information, census data and historical maps and other digital datasets that were developed as part of the Great Britain Historical GIS. Although a number of projects relating to other countries, including the US, have been done or are underway, no other national Historical GIS has really gotten to the level of usage of the Great Britain project.

Ten Most Polluted Places

National Geographic has a photo essay/article about the top ten most polluted places on Earth. It’s unfortunate how many of them are located in the former Soviet Union areas. I found the photo of the cemetery of radioactive vehicles near Chernobyl to be the most disturbing. With luck, Chernobyl will be a one time event. The number of vehicles contaminated by the event is astounding.

US Commutes Getting Longer

The USA Today ran an story a little over a week ago about the changing lifestyle of Americans based upon the longer and longer commute. The data has been clear for some time – our commutes are getting longer and longer with each passing year. However, the article does a pretty nice job of talking about some of the auxiliary impacts, like on news and carpooling, that one would not normally consider. Families have known for years about the lengthening compute because they’ve been experiencing it first hand. I know it’s part of the reason I left Washington, D.C. a number of years ago and the problem has just gotten worse.

Via Treehugger

China’s own version of Paris – complete with Eiffel Tower replica

A while back I blogged about the planned suburb of Songjiang outside of Shanghai, China called Thames Town, which was built to replicate an English town, complete with shops and even a stone bridge. Not to be outdone, the new suburban development of Tianducheng, outside the city of Hangzhou in eastern China has been constructed to look like the city of Paris, complete with its own replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Reuters has posted a nice slideshow of images here.

Via Gadling