BBC – Earth – Your life on earth

BBC – Earth – Your life on earth.

Enter your age, and this interactive site tells you how much the world has changed since you were born.  In my case, over 4 billion people!

It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography and Ebola. – The Washington Post

Today we commemorate Columbus Day, an American holiday observed in some states, perhaps for Christopher Columbus’s perseverance and bravery rather than his geographical knowledge. In light of recent scares involving “potential Ebola cases” and air travel involving individuals who had been nowhere near the Ebola outbreak zone, it seems we all could use a little geography lesson.

via It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography and Ebola. – The Washington Post.

Face it, many places in Europe are closer to the Ebola outbreak than many places in Africa.

Greenland is actually about 1/14 the size of the African continent, but the misunderstandings perpetrated by old maps — plus cultural and media norms that often refer to Africa as one entity rather than an 11.7 million-square-mile land mass comprised of 54 countries and over 1.1 billion people who speak over 2,000 different languages

perpetuate many misconceptions.

Hopefully geography classes will do their part in educating students about the continent.

Africa is big. Really big. As this resource from Boston University’s African Studies program shows, the combined land masses of the United States (including Alaska), Europe, and China are all smaller than the African continent.  The United States — including Alaska — would fit into Africa three times.

So although 3 tiny countries in West Africa are going through untold horrors, most of the massive continent is unaffected by Ebola.  Except economically.

Safari bookings are way down, because ignorant people have no idea how far Kenya is from the outbreak zone.

These actions are based in fear, not reality. We are faced with risk every day, and would be better suited to understand our relative risks if we appreciated where in the world some places are.

What are you most at risk for?  I bet it’s not Ebola.

Ebola in graphics

Ebola in graphics: The toll of a tragedy | The Economist.

Ebola still barely rates among the continent’s big killers. Far more deaths are attributable every day in west Africa to malaria, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS. But the spread of infections means that death rates are rising fast: from four a day in August to 13 now.

Should you be worried – no.  Statistically you’re much more likely to be in a car accident, and you don’t even think about that.  But Ebola is disrupting all kinds of things within the countries of West Africa, especially farming and trade.  This could lead to seriously destabilized governments.

The major problem is the lack of healthcare, the poor infrastructure, and the fact that these are really poor countries.

Besides the awful toll in human lives, orphaned children, and starving people, it is also taking a (much less terrible) toll on the Western world.  We are implementing screening at major airports, a waste of money since infected but asymptomatic people will be passed through.  We must spend hundreds of thousands of healthcare dollars on potentially infected people who end up not having Ebola, and we increase the fear factor through ignorant media  pieces by people who have no idea of the consequences of what they are talking about.  Some people have called for a complete travel ban, which would make things worse, according to health officials.

Hopefully we’ll soon have a vaccine or a treatment that can stop Ebola in its tracks.  Until then, wear your seatbelt.

Waste Not, Want Not

Why our environmental obsession with plastic bags makes no sense - Vox

Why our environmental obsession with plastic bags makes no sense – Vox.

Plastic bags are certainly harmful to the environment; but we are doing other things that are much worse.

Plastic bags are

 a pretty small percentage of the total amount of plastic we throw away: 31.8 million tons annually. And this total is still smaller than the amount of food waste we throw away — 36.4 million tons per year.

And the most effective thing we can do is not only eliminating waste, its changing what we buy.  Climate change is a much bigger threat to our way of life.

Why our environmental obsession with plastic bags makes no sense - Vox

Banning plastic bags is a start, and it would help decrease some garbage in the great oceanic garbage patches, but

 it would be extremely hard to find a marine biologist willing to argue that garbage patches are more of a threat to ocean ecosystems than acidification.

If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to reinvent our energy systems and make other big, structural changes. An environmentalism that focuses on personal choices and visible, superficial steps is not one that leads to it.

From Now On

Why a leading professor of new media just banned technology use in class – The Washington Post.

I’ve stopped thinking of students as people who simply make choices about whether to pay attention, and started thinking of them as people trying to pay attention but having to compete with various influences…

After all the texting, etc,. going on during the video today, I’m cracking down.  So from now on, devices need to be in your backpack, or face down on the table.

Read the article if you want to know why.

Where’s the Midwest?

Which States Are in the Midwest? | FiveThirtyEight.

more on vernacular regions.

Refrigerate or Not?

Why The U.S. Chills Its Eggs And Most Of The World Doesn’t : The Salt : NPR.

We Americans, along with the Japanese, Australians and Scandinavians, tend to be squeamish about our chicken eggs, so we bathe them and then have to refrigerate them.

But we’re oddballs. Most other countries don’t mind letting unwashed eggs sit next to bread or onions.

Because of several salmonella outbreaks the US mandates eggs must be washed and refrigerated.  But that washes away the protective coating that naturally  comes on eggs.

The coating is like a little safety vest for the egg, keeping water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. Washing can damage that layer and “increase the chances for bacterial invasion” into pores or hairline cracks in the shell, according to Yi Chen, a food scientist at Purdue University. So we spray eggs with oil to prevent bacteria from getting in, and refrigerate them to keep microorganisms at bay.

Geography Education says:

For many Americans that are traveling abroad for the first time, realizing that eggs aren’t in the refrigerator is a bit of a culture shock (not to mention the moment they find milk in a box that also isn’t being refrigerated). Agricultural practices dictate storage requirements and some things we might have imagined were universal are actually place-specific or peculiar to our cultural setting. What we are taught to think of as gross, appropriate, attractive or even sanitary is often steeped in a cultural context. So is it strange the we refrigerate our eggs in the United States, or that they don’t in other places?

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