Somalia’s Famine – China’s Fault?

German official blames China for Somalia’s famine – By Edmund Downie | FP Passport.

Chinese investment in African farmland has ratcheted up significantly in recent years, as the government seeks to quell concerns about long-term food security. One estimate puts the number of Chinese farm workers in Africa at 1 million. Meanwhile, the Atlantic quotes a June 2009 report in the Chinese weekly Economic Observer that describes how Beijing “was planning to rent and buy land abroad” to deal with “increasing pressure on food security.”

According to the German’s African policy co-ordinator, China has bought up land in Africa, rendering many small farmers and herders there landless, and deprived of their livelihood.  Since many farmers and herders just use the land, and don’t actually “own” it, the elite landowners can easily sell out to foreigners.

China denies the claims, but

it’s worth noting that China is far from the only foreign investor with major land holdings in Africa today. Private and public investors from India, the United States, and the petrostates of the Middle East, to name a few, have taken their piece of the African land grab, which brought 15 to 20 million hectares of the continent under foreign investment between 2006 and mid-2009. By way of comparison, that’s equal to the size of all the farmland in France.(bold mine)

That’s a lot of land that’s no longer feeding African people.  No wonder the countries there are having problems.

Patterns in Regional Productivity and Night-time Lights

Mapping economic activity from night lights | Resilience Science.

Night-time light remote sensing data has been shown to correlate with national-level figures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Night-time radiance data is analysed here along with regional economic productivity data for 11 European Union countries along with the United States at a number of sub-national levels. Night-time light imagery was found to correlate with Gross Regional Product (GRP) across a range of spatial scales.

In other words, the more light visible from that place at night, the higher their level of development, and the more money the region produces from its economic activities.

On the US map, BosWash (the megalopolis extending from Boston to Washington, DC) is easy to spot, and so are the major metropolitan areas of Texas.  In Europe, the Po River valley stands out in northern Italy, as does the Rhine in Germany.  Both are industrialized, densely populated areas.

As one moves further west in the US, levels of economic development drop – farms and ranches predominate, and they do not generate high levels of economic productivity.

The former East Germany stands out on the map of European productivity – they still have quite a ways to go to catch up with their Western cousins.

I find the connections between the cities (readily apparent on the US map) to be interesting.  Numerous roads lead into Chicago from all across the region; however, further west, the roads tend to run in N-S and E-W directions.

I am looking forward to using these maps in class – what geographic patterns and processes will my students see in them?

If the world’s population lived in one city…

If the world’s population lived in one city… « Per Square Mile.

Simply imagine that the world lived with the same density of a real city, and see how much area they take up. If we all lived like they do in San Francisco (space-wise), we’d take up just under 398k square miles, or rather, only four states. Same density as New York? We’d all fit in Texas. (from Flowing Data)

So what’s the mostly densely populated of these cities?  the least?  which cities probably have good mass transit?  Why is Houston so spread out?

The Dead Zone – not the movie


via Mississippi runoff expands Gulf ‘dead zone’ | TG Daily.

It’s currently about 3,300 square miles, or roughly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, but researchers at Texas A & M University say it’s likely to become much larger.

Due to the massive amounts of runoff from the major flooding, the dead zone in the Gulf Of Mexico is expected to reach almost twice it’s usual size.  Right now its one-third of it’s anticipated maximum.  The large amounts of fertilizer and sediment in the runoff contribute to algae growth in the gulf.  The algae die, and their decomposition uses up all the oxygen in the water.  As a result, nothing can live in the “Dead Zone.”


GPS, Your Smartphone, and Your Brain

Though the data can only be extrapolated so far, Lerch’s mouse studies suggest that human brains begin to reorganize very quickly in response to the way we use them. The implications of this concern Bohbot. She fears that overreliance on gps, which demands a hyper-pure form of stimulus-response behaviour, will result in our using the spatial capabilities of the hippocampus less, and that it will in turn get smaller. Other studies have tied atrophy of the hippocampus to increased risk of dementia. “We can only draw an inference,” Bohbot acknowledges. “But there’s a logical conclusion that people could increase their risk of atrophy if they stop paying attention to where they are and where they go.”

via “Global Impositioning Systems” by Alex Hutchinson | November 2009 | The Walrus.

Long, but really informative article on the implications of reliance on GPS and its affect on our brain.


  • Archives