Geography asks three questions:
Where is it? Why is it there? So what?
Geographers apply spatial understanding to the real world.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Water Vapor and Climate Change
Water vapor varies from zero to four percent of the atmosphere, but as the second writer points out, its overall concentration is not changing. Over the past half-century, carbon dioxide has steadily increased from about 0.028 percent to about 0.036 percent of the atmosphere. It is the rapidity of this change that is the essential part of the story, and what makes the enhanced greenhouse effect so frightening.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Boxing Day, Five Years On
Coincidentally, the Aceh region is home to some exquisite coffees. See Sumatra coffee and travel notes from Sweet Maria's.
The before/after images below are from the Earth from Space series compiled by The Guardian UK.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Dinero al Norte
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Wisdom from Bill O'Reilly
It is good that O’Reilly’s understands the value of “positive environmental behavior” and a cleaner Earth. His authentically conservative conclusion is that conserving resources is a good idea, whether the climate is changing or not. Most of the remedies that arise from concerns about a changing climate are simply good stewardship.
O’Reilly’s interpretation of climate science and its implications, however, is flawed in several important ways. First, he asserts that “only the deity knows for sure whether the planet is in danger from warming.” It is one thing to exaggerate the uncertainty about climate change; it is quite another to assert that such uncertainty is inevitably permanent. We already know enough about our interruption of the carbon cycle – and its results – to act.
Second, O’Reilly describes the growing consensus on climate change and the growing business interest in alternative energy, and assumes that the latter caused the former. A far more reasonable interpretation is that the smart money is following the science. It is laughable to suggest that the “climate change industry” has somehow outflanked Big Oil in its ability to influence governments.
The reality is that the evidence is mounting in favor of the most direct explanation for climate change: roughly half the carbon that accumulated in fossil fuels over eons has been released in just two centuries, increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide dramatically and increasing average temperatures steadily.
Near the end of the article, O’Reilly expresses a desire for an affordable system to provide renewable energy for his home; on that, we can agree. At the very end of the article, however, he could not resist a flippant dismissal of the science that underscores the need for such innovations.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
As in Honduras (most recently) and elsewhere, the range of diplomatic options open to the U.S. is somewhat limited by our past involvement in Bolivia -- in this case our support of Colonel Banzer.
Following the election, however, the U.S. government did issue somewhat guarded congratulations to President Morales.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Finca y Feathers
On arrival, students have wondered how they could possibly survive for two whole days in a place with such limited access to electricity, clubs, and other essentials. In each case, however, the students have enjoyed their time. I did not return on the 2009 tour and will not make it back in 2010, but I do hope to take students to FEV again some day.
The only problem with Nicaragua is that each time I go, I learn of one or two additional places that I want to take my students, so choosing the itinerary becomes more challenging each time. It is a good problem to have, though.
Finca Esperanza Verde, by the way, is the location of a certain incident involving a very large insect, a much larger spider, and quite a few shrieks from my 2006 student group.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Minas Gerais -- Let's go!
One of those places is the state of Minas Gerais (meaning General Mines), which happens to be the home of many Brazilians who currently live near Boston. This New York Times travel essay The Other Brazil makes it clear that Minas has a lot to offer. Because Minas is also home to Brazil's nascent efforts at growing specialty coffee, it will be part of a study tour I am leading in July and August of 2010. Stay tuned or contact me if you are interested in details, which will be available on our Study Abroad web site as they become finalized.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Mo Rocca the Geographer
Of course, geography is much more than capitals (keep reading this blog or my home page for examples) but I still applaud Mo Rocca's enthusiasm for learning about places.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Searching the magazine -- which is the official publication of North America's original environmental organization -- I actually found three interesting little articles related to coffee and the environment.
Many of us know that coffee grounds are great for garden composting -- come see my hydrangeas some time -- but this Green Tip article provides some details about this, and links to many additional suggestions. The College Buzz article describes nationwide efforts to bring socially and environmentally sustainable coffee to campuses. I'm proud to say that our own Social Justice League students at BSC have been working very effectively in this direction -- with some changes already taking place and more to come.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
A grand gift to the town from the man you can’t see - The Boston Globe
He has given the town of Townsend a great gift -- a new library. At a time when many people -- even educators -- are willing to kill or maim their school and town libraries, Mr. Stone funded a new one. (He is not alone; the wise voters of Walsenburg, Colorado recently did the same, without a major benefactor.)
Mr. Stone also seems to understand what a lot of rich people do not. None of us deserves great wealth, and none of us earns it on our own. Many who are wealthy point to the hard work it took to get wealthy, not realizing that many work even harder and remain poor. Mr. Stone recognizes that his success did not occur in a vacuum, and he is to be commended for giving something back.
In this case, he is giving the town a new heartbeat. I do not know anything about Townsend; maybe it has been weathering the recession just fine. But even in prosperous towns -- like my own -- the benefits of a good library increase during a recession. From the practical benefits of job hunting and skill-building to the solace of a place to spend productive and enjoyable time without spending money, a library is an essential investment in hard times.
And as some towns whack their library budgets, the bottom-line benefit of a library as comparative advantage should not be ignored; I cannot imagine that home values in Bridgewater will recover as quickly as those in towns with fully-funded libraries and schools.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Main Street USA/Mexico
View Larger Map
When I lived in Arizona and Texas for a total of seven years, I managed to cross the border at most points that were then open, but I do not think I ever made it to San Luis. From this story, however, it sounds very much like the places I did know well -- Nogales/Nogales, Hidalgo/Reynosa, and Brownsville/Matamoros.
This story focuses on a binational community just south of Yuma -- one of the hottest and driest places to be found in North America. When I lived in Tucson, people would warn me against going to this area, because it was dry! The green lands shown in the satellite image just west of town are irrigated by the canal that is shown entering from the north.
As with most cities on the border, the city on the Mexico side is close to ten times larger than its U.S. partner.
New Music From Long-Dead People
Friday, November 06, 2009
Read about the map on Strange Maps or on Meyerowitz' own site. Find out what "-stan" really means.
The map calls attention to difference and tribalism both in the far-away and in the familiar. In so doing, the map deeply represents the notion that "People are more alike than different."
Monday, November 02, 2009
Birthdays for MOBALS
Writing in the Boston Sunday Globe, Kate Darnton writes eloquently about one such group of MOBALS and how they exhibit their wealth. Her article on children's birthday parties in Vasant Vihar, New Delhi is both entertaining and distressing. One risk of being a MOBAL, apparently, is the temptation to adopt all of the most garish and least sustainable aspects of the lifestyle of the GLOBALS. Just as we try to reign in our own instincts toward over-consumption, the elite in the rest of the world take our bad ideas to entirely new levels.
And as if over-pampered children in India were not enough, the same edition of the Globe mentions the Prombron Monaco Red Diamond Edition -- an SUV for elites in Russia. Mileage figures are not available, but the excesses of this vehicle put Hummers in the same category as a Prius or a bicycle. See Worst Vehicle Ever for the sordid details.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Coffee or Tea?
Thursday, October 29, 2009
What does this have to do with geography? Everything.
For all of these beverages -- and most foods -- the quality of the end product is improved if the people involved and the land and water they use are treated well. Moreover, at least for these beverages, geographic differences in soil, climate, and processing traditions contribute to great variety in the cup or bottle.
The 2BASNOB blog is a very nicely organized site that provides a very rich introduction to the four beverages mentioned above. I will be consulting it as I work on my new book about tea!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Taught to the Test
|See the full comic at ComicStrips.|
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
Fair Trade: What Price for Good Coffee?
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Lessons from the world of girl gangs
Through geography -- particularly environmental geography -- we find that everything is connected. The human impact on the environment, for example, is inextricably linked to the economy. Economic geography analyzes spatial patterns of economic activity -- what humans produce where, and why they do so.
To understand economic geography, it is important to know something about financial systems, business cycles, and the connections between each of these and employment. Reliable and cogent discussions of these are difficult to find. That is why I was pleased to hear this hour-long discussion. On Point Radio host Tom Ashbrook leads a very informative discussion with Robert Reich and Elizabeth Warren. It is worth investing an hour to hear what they have to say about the U.S. economy at a critical crossroads.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Family Tree Lesson
This is the first panel of a cute comic strip that makes an important point about what we are doing to waterways.
Because plastic is lightweight and durable, it eventually finds its way to rivers, and then to oceans. Re-use and recycling only delay the journey.
The time frame are mind-boggling. Hundreds of millions of years to produce, perhaps thirty minutes of convenience, and centuries of pollution.
Pacific Rim Action
The photo of surfers riding the wave, by the way, is just symbolic of big waves -- tsunamis do not really work this way. If you were on a tsunami in the middle of the ocean, by the way, you would never know it.
My Wonderful World is a project of National Geographic. I am very fortunate to work closely with the MWW outreach person for Massachusetts as part of my department's Project EarthView.
Monday, October 05, 2009
The George-Jetson solution to sprawl
The ambitious idea has idealistic advocates and vigorous doubters. It could provide an alternative to current visions of public and private transportation -- both of which are seriously problematic today and bound to get worse. Near the end of the article, Tuhus-Dubrow mentions what would be the greatest advantage in the Boston area: avoidance of its "notorious drivers." As someone who was nearly run over at a petting zoo yesterday, I consider anything that gets my neighbors out of the driver's seat is a good thing.
San Jose, California is currently farther along than any other U.S. city in planning a pod-car system. See the sidebar article for details.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Similarly, the Earth as a whole has a lot of mechanisms that tend to limit the damage we do to it. This study published in Nature and reported on MSNBC is the first comprehensive analysis of these thresholds on a global scale. The results are not encouraging. With respect to climate, nutrient loading, species extinction, and too many other systems, human activity is pushing the Earth past its thresholds.
Author Jonathon Foley says that the most important lesson is "that 'wait and see' is a bad environmental policy." Because this news is unpleasant, I anticipate most responses to range from apathy to a "shoot the messenger" effort to discredit the work. We can hope, however, that people will start to think about the fundamental problem of unlimited growth on finite planet.
Monday, September 28, 2009
View U.S.-Brazil Higher Education Consortia Program Grants FY 2006 - FY 2009 in a larger map
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
More Trouble from Dunkin'
Brazilian Embassy in Honduras
Embassies are treated as small zones of sovereign territory; this recognition allows President Zelaya to be in Tegucigalpa unharmed, as long as he is the guest of the Brazilian government. The de facto government may have limited respect for the rule of law, but it is not willing to transgress this diplomatic barrier.
It is clearly, ready, to test limits, and has cut off electricity and other connections to the Embassy. And although it is proud not to have killed any civilians, it has not refrained from beatings and tear gas as a means of discouraging any kind of rallying around the president.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy have offered to help their diplomatic colleagues from Brazil, though it is not clear what they can offer.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Zelaya's daring return: A patch of Brazil in Tegucigalpa
For analysis from a variety of perspectives since the June 28 coup, see the Honduras page at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. A lot of the online chatter has focused on the relative merits of Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti, but the manner of President Zelaya's removal is of deep concern to elected leaders throughout the hemisphere.
A New Transamazon
a century ago -- will join South America from "sea to shining sea."
National Public Radio focuses on the Peruvian part of the project in an excellent series by , by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, The Amazon Road: Paving for Progress? The story includes a thorough explanation of how road development for one purpose leads to the exploitation of resources for other purposes. As with oil booms and gold rushes in the United States, brief explosions of populations in the pursuit of minerals lead to permanent settlements, even in places that are ecologically ill-suited to large-scale agriculture.
The series includes maps of the part of Peru involved in the project -- which skirts alongside forest reserves that are likely doomed by this opening. The maps suggest, erroneously, that the road does not yet continue past the Brazilian border. See the map below to explore the area and to see that the highway connects to BR-317, which crosses the western Brazilian state of Acre very close to the Bolivian border. BR-317, in turn, connects to BR-364, which so thoroughly changed the landscape of Rondonia two generations ago. (Chapter Two of my dissertation describes this process of change, and provides citations for more detailed descriptions.)
View Larger Map
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Equal Time for Tea
Find out more about the tea from Equal Exchange. Some fine coffee shops also offer tea, including Jaho Coffee & Tea in Salem and Rockin' K Cafe in Bridgewater.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Why Capitalism Fails
What does this have to do with geography? Everything. The world-space economy has been dramatically reordered at the insistance of neoclassical economists whose self-confidence belies the fact that they did not really know what they were doing. The aid and credit policies of the leading Western economies and institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund not only assume that these models are correct; they insist that developing countries gamble their own futures on the models.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
All those years—almost a hundred—
the farm had hard water.
Poet Laureate Ted Kooser (2004-2006) included this poem as Column Number 99 in his American Life i Poetry project. Visit the posting there to read the rest. It brings me back to the groundwater geology class I took in graduate school in Ohio late last century. After reading the poem to us, Rev. Ed went on to relate a very similar experience he had with a well of his own on Cape Cod.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Original Hub Coffee Shop
Friday, September 11, 2009
Walt & El Grupo
I look forward to seeing the film; perhaps it can restore some of the good feeling I had for Disney long ago, before I associated him with the creation of fake geographies and a children's films laced with racist stereotypes. In the main, Disney has worked against what I try to do as a geographer. This film, however, is about a time early in his career, and it apparently shows him learning about places and people, rather than trying to create and control both.
As Mondello points out, the work that resulted from this exploration is full of stereotypes. Given the rest of the Disney legacy, though "comparatively friendly" stereotypes might be all we can hope for.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Not Made in the Shade
See my Coffee Hell page for my admittedly off-the-cuff musings about the company.
The Coffee Habitat article mentions DD's connections to Sara Lee and Procter & Gamble, the latter of which formerly owned Folger's. Sadly, my wife Pam and I played a small part in the growth of Folger's, by participating in a marketing study they it conducted in the 1980s. I also learned that DD is backed in part by Bain Capital, a.k.a. Mitt Romney, nemesis of public education. It is indeed a small world of coffee.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Subprime Herders in Mongolia
This radio story by Luisa Lim is an excellent piece of environmental geography, as she weaves together connections among the world financial crisis, shoppers in the United States, and pastoralists in Mongolia. As the sparsely-populated country seeks financial relief, a trade-off between overgrazing and damaging gold mining looms.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Just like Arlo
British Columbia Climate Action Plan
Some of his findings are encouraging and a bit surprising. One reason that so many environmental problems are regulated at the Federal level in the United States is that individual states were once very reluctant to restrict activities that other states did not. Federal regulations on waste disposal, for example, ensure that a U.S. company cannot save money by shopping around for a state with a lighter regulatory burden. This has been one factor, by the way, in the flight of many U.S. firms abroad.
With current efforts to address climate change, though, things are different. State governments -- and even many municipal governments -- are concluding that climate change poses a serious enough threat locally that local measures should be taken instead of waiting on national governments. As the U.S. video below indicates, state- and provincial-level leaders from across the political spectrum are no longer willing to wait on national governments.
As an environmental geographer, I must admit to being rather surpised by the bold moves states and provinces, cities and towns are making. It takes quite a bit of courage to enact local regulations on climate change, since the regulations will only have a climate benefit if many other localities join the effort.
The British Columbia Climate Action Plan comes highly recommended, not only because it is a bold step in the right direction, but also because the plan's documents very clearly describe the expected threats to the local environment, should the status quo be allowed to prevail.
My climate change page provides more on the subject, including the basic science of climate change.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
Fun & Games
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Drought Withers Iraqi Farms
Most of the world's water is in the form of salt water, which is unsuitable for drinking or agriculture. The majority of what is left is frozen (at least for now). Just one percent of the world's water is fresh, liquid water. Significant portions of this are far from human populations For example, 20 percent in the Amazon Basin, where about 0.1 percent of the world's people live. Where water is near humans, it is often contaminated.
This radio story by Deborah Amos describes a more complicated problem -- in some places the interaction of physical and political geography contributes to water scarcity as upstream and downstream users do not cooperate. Professor Erwin Klaas provides other examples and some maps on his Potential for Water Wars page at Iowa State University. Closer to home, the U.S. is the problematic upstream neighbor along the Colorado River, which does not even reach the Gulf of California most of the time.
With climate change, we can expect such problems to worsen.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Churrascão -- Guest Blog
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Geography of Ignorance
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Geography of Sin
I like Abigail Goldman’s description in the Las Vegas Sun: “precision party trick — rigorous mapping of ridiculous data.” Be that as it may, these maps are excellent illustrations of what geographers (and other social scientists) call “proxy variables.” Lust itself is not mappable, but STDs are, and they probably have at least some correlation.
I would like to see one more map. Hypocrisy could be estimated by dividing the other variables by membership in Mean-for-Jesus fundamentalist churches or subscriptions to the publications of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.
Monday, August 24, 2009
For the love of libraries ... and librarians
This is how I came to know Walsenburg, Colorado -- a high-desert town that served as my introduction to the American West. We had drinks in an actual salloon -- it must have been noon somewhere -- with the long bar, big mirror, and everything. I saw tumbleweeds for the first time -- something I would never tire of watching when Pam and I lived in Tucson, years later. (We were there, by the way, for me to get geography education while Pam got library education.)
Mostly, though, I remember a well-kept elementary school with soft grass, where Mike and I were able to find a bit of shade for our daytime lodging. People drove around and thought us a bit odd, but it was summertime and people were not frightened about schools, so we were left to our rest. The next day, we drove on to Flagstaff, just in time for a big ice-carving event at NAU orientation. I remember Mike buying a couple of notebooks so we could pretend to be students there.
I returned to Flag quite a few times, but have not been back to Walsenburg. I remembered it fondly yesterday, though, when I heard a great story about the little town. As regular readers of this blog may know, I live in a town that whacked its library budget before the current recession. In other places, people have faced tough budget choices during the recession, and libraries have suffered.
In Walsenburg, however, the voters realized what has escaped the voters where I live (in the supposedly progressive Northeast): libraries are among a community's very most important resources. With our without the Internet, libraries are a hub of learning and literacy. Particularly in hard times, it makes sense for each member of the community to contribute a little (even if it is hard to come by) to gain access, really, to the whole world.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago on this blog, the movie Food, Inc. describes the frightening world of corporate agriculture, in which fewer and fewer players control more and more of our food. Now, the Obama Administration is doing something about it.
More specifically, the Justice Department has decided to enforce anti-trust laws against Big Agriculture -- something that was not likely under the Bush or Clinton Administrations. (President Bush never met a business regulation he didn't hate, and President Clinton was a wholly-0wned subsidiary of Tyson Foods.)
If successful, enforcement against Monsanto and other monopolies could be a real boon to local and genuinely organic food. In turn, this could have a significant impact on the cultural and environmental landcape of the U.S.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
As some of the online comments point out, the story neglects to mention the fourth border state on the U.S. side: New Mexico. It also refers to neighboring states in Mexico without listing them: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
An Amazon Culture Withers as Food Dries Up
Sunday, August 02, 2009
U.S. Economy Maps
My favorite of these is the Geography of Jobs from TIP strategies. The animation begins with a 2004 map of job gains and losses by metro area, which shows a clear rustbelt/sunbelt divide:
The map then shows the net gains and losses of jobs over the following five years, as a 12-month rolling average (to smooth out seasonal fluctuations and focus on the spatial variations). The impact of Hurricane Katrina is easy to see, and the subsequent crash of economies coast-to-coast is even more dramatic.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
U.S. Drought Monitor
This site, sponsored by University of Nebraska Lincoln, details the deviations. They are especially severe in my old stomping grounds in South Texas (where people pray not to be missed by hurricanes!
Having lived through cool, wet, gray days and dusty droughts, I won't complain about the rain here in New England any more.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
In Venezuela, Plantations of Cacao Stir Bitterness
Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
Chocolate and coffee taste great together -- I like a roasted coffee bean covered in dark chocolate, or an extra-dark bar with the coffee chopped up in it. And of course there is mocha!
The two share more than caffeine and rich flavor, however. Coffee and cacao can grow in similar climates and can have regionally distinctive flavor like wine. Most of all, they share a similar political economy. This New York Times article focuses on Venezuela, but it is true everywhere that cacao, like coffee, is rarely as lucrative for the grower as it is for those process it for gourmet markets.
On my next coffee tour, in fact, we will include a day or two in the nascent cacao cooperatives of northern Nicaragua. There, independent farmers are just beginning to get organized and to take control of the production chain, so that they can share in the profits. Otherwise, post-colonial trading patterns persist, ensuring a wide gulf between producers and consumers.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
We were admiring the diversity of offerings in the gift shop when the attendant there invited us to the "Almost Utopia" exhibit upstairs. It is an excellent example of mid-twentieth century efforts around what is now called sustainability. Through old photographs and recent interviews, the exhibit describes the 1950s intentional community of Pikes Falls.
Middlebury itself is a delightful place to visit, full of shops that support local artisans and farmers. A visit any time would be worthwhile and should include a stop at the Folklife Center. Get there before September 5 to see the Pikes Falls exhibit.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Cardinals go Amtrak!
1) Security screening is faster.
2) Train stations are often easier to reach than airports.
3) Trains use a lot less fuel per passenger-mile than planes or cars.
4) Trains contribute a lot less to climate change per passenger-mile.
5) The view is more interesting.
Ticket prices are often not as competitive as they should be. The Cardinals organization is doing its part by stimulating demand; Congress and the President should step up as well and invest more in trains, relative to air and highways.
Coffee Planting Month -- Philippines
Depending on the practices adopted, this could be very good not only for the economic condition of Philippine farmers, but also for wildlife, water quality, and the carbon cycle. The program encompasses many parts of the country and includes both high-quality and lower-quality varieties.
Throughout the world, small farmers and their communities have been displaced by low-cost competition from abroad (as described in the film Food, Inc. I must admit that everything I know about the Philippine coffee business I learned from this article, but I do know that the competition in Vietnam is pernicious.
The Philippine model would serve farmers in other coffee-growing regions well. I have been pleased to see that the coffee served in cafes and hotels in Guatemala is often (though not always) local, but the coffee served in most places in Nicaragua is imported -- low quality junk that has been processed by multinationals. One important barrier is that processing requires capital and specialized knowledge that have traditionally been lacking within producer countries.
Congratulations to the PCB for its coffee-planting campaign!
Monday, July 20, 2009
Food, Inc. the Movie Site - Hungry For Change?
We saw this film Saturday at Coolidge Corner in Brookline. It is a great piece of environmental geography -- explaining many of the connections between humans and the land. I have seen a lot of films about food, and I think this is among the best for making the case for local farming in a clear way.
Shared via AddThis
Friday, July 17, 2009
Mas sobre nopales
Her discussion of the piece iluminates one of my favorite songs, ¿Donde Esta Mi Raza? by Bobby Pulido and Frijoles Romanticos (from our previous hometown of McAllen, Texas).
Thursday, July 16, 2009
This story about nopalitos took me right back to Tucson, where I lived from 1990 to 1994. Nopal is the prickly-pear cactus, and as with several other food items, it is common to use the diminutive suffix in the name. The prickly-pear is, I have been told, the only cactus that grows in all U.S. states. I have not confirmed this, but I learned this when looking at them in Kentucky, which is not known for its cacti.
Despite its broad geographic range, prickly-pear is certainly more abundant in the Sonoran Desert than anywhere else I've been.
This story is about the green part of the plant, but the fruit is also quite interesting. During our 1989 summer in central Mexico, we came upon an ice cream stand whose flavors included "tuna" ice cream. What? What? This could not be, and indeed it was not. "Tuna" is the Spanish name for the fruit of the nopal. The Spanish word for tuna, by the way, is "atun," which I have not seen in ice cream so far!
The tuna fruit is a delicacy. We once sent a jar of tuna preserves to friends who were hiking the Appalachian Trail. They picked it up at a trail-side post office, and ate it directly from the jar -- no spoons, even!
Wherever they go, geographers try to learn about local food (and drink). This NPR segment is a terrific example of geography on the radio!
See my mas sobre nopales post for information about the significance sometimes attached to the nopal.
During a travel course to Costa Rica in January 2020, we visited the renowned CATIE research station, where hundreds of coffee varietals are curated, studied, and even invented. Although famous for its vital research in coffee, it is also an important site for the protection and development of other plant varieties, especially fruits. I was so impressed by a nopal I found there (it was not fruiting, but the light green segments indicate vigorous recent growth) that I decided to make a Nopal-en-la-Frente selfie!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
As mentioned in this Boston Globe article, some people see this as a way to promote drunk driving -- neither Muller nor I see it that way. Rather, it is a way to express pride of place. Next time I have a chance to have a meal near the turnpike, I'll be looking for a "perfect pairing" -- a beer that captures the essence of the location, to go perfectly with a meal there. The idea of choosing a local beverage to go with a local meal is something I first understood from the book What to Drink with What You Eat.
Friday, July 03, 2009
The Disappearing Mississippi Delta
Monday, June 29, 2009
The Presidential Map
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A Thoroughly Un-American Institution
As the article mentions, the U.S. Congress is in a position to start making amends. After the school was strengthened and renamed (WHINSEC) by the second Bush Administration, Congress came close to shutting it down last year. Meanwhile, Congress is currently debating whether to publish the names of its graduates. (June 26 update: Congress has given preliminary approval to this amendment, mostly along party lines.)
Understanding SOA/WHINSEC is important to understanding world-wide concerns about U.S. military interventions.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Hard Times for New England’s 3-Deckers
The article also describes how triple-deckers are particularly vulnerable to the sometimes destructive practices of real estate speculators, by comparing dereliction rates between triple deckers and other kinds of housing. The problem is that triple deckers are inviting targets for speculation. As long as markets are trending upward, such speculators can actually contribute to the rehabilitation of homes and the improvement of neighborhoods. The relatively low cost of the buildings, however, makes them very easy to abandon if markets slacken. When large numbers are abandoned in a short period of time, a neighorhood can quickly spiral downward.
A third interesting bit of geography is the fact that triple deckers could not legally be built today in most places. They are too compact; zoning requires sprawling, low-density residential building. Even the single-family home my family lives in would not be legal today, as it sits on a 0.3-acre lot. This affords me easy access to work, shops, a train station, church, and neighbors -- but it would be illegal to build today. When we started the US-Brazil Consortium on Urban Development (UBCUD), I was fortunate enough to bring James Howard Kunstler to our campus to explain this paradox. He does so very well in his book The Geography of Nowhere.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Geography unfolding daily
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Water for Sale
Given this critical scenario, governments and international institutions should be focused on providing MORE access to clean, safe, and renewable water. In reality, however, such institutions often conspire with corporations such as Bechtel to give poor people LESS access to water.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs is a scholarly organization concerned with important political and economic developments in Latin America. COHA's attention to the issue of water privatization is indicative of the growing importance of access to clean water and the potential for conflict over this critical resource.