Monday, February 28, 2011

China Comparisons

China recently surpassed Japan as the second-largest economy in the world, according to total GDP. According the the CIA (i.e., the official U.S. government source on such things), the top ten are reshuffled as follows:
  1. United States: $14.7 trillion
  2. China: $9.9 trillion
  3. Japan: $4.3 trillion
  4. India: $4.0 trillion
  5. Germany: $3.0 trillion
  6. Russia: $2.2 trillion
  7. Brazil: $2.2 trillion
  8. United Kingdom: $2.2 trillion
  9. France: $2.2 trillion
  10. Italy: $1.8 trillion
Not only is China near the top, but it is growing at the incredible rate of 10.3 percent, a rate at which it could surpass the United States (2.7 percent) within a decade. Since Brazil -- at 7.5 percent -- is growing faster than Russia and Germany, it will be in sixth place within a year or two, and will soon be closing in on fifth place, while India climbs to third place.

The Economist has created a series of maps illustrating that China's meteoric rise does not reflect widespread wealth. When considered on a per-capita basis, only the special cases of Hong Kong and Macau exceed the wealth of the United States. Many of China's  eastern provinces are comparable to middle-income national economies, but in primarily rural provinces in central and western China, per-capita wealth is comparable to some of the world's poorest countries.

The map below is one of four in this interactive set, which includes similar comparisons for total GDP, population, and exports. These are perhaps more interesting, but I have chosen to excerpt the per-capita GDP map because it is the only one that is cartographically appropriate; it is a choropleth map (from the Greek χώρος (area) + πληθαίν (multiply)), which should only show rates, as this one does, not totals, as some of the others do. Totals should be represented by graduated symbols. (See the Map Forms article at NCGIA for more information about appropriate map forms for different kinds of data.)

Despite the cartographic misstep, I recommend these truly interactive maps for the story they tell of China's rapid and highly uneven development. The Economist has prepared a similar pair of maps for the United States, showing only total GDP and total population, from which I learned that Massachusetts has a GDP close to that of Saudi Arabia.

Click map to enlarge
Visit Economist.com for more

TV Nation?

Many thanks to my friend Bryan for keeping me supplied with interesting maps -- such as the "Mean Map" I posted earlier this month. The latest is from a November 2010 blog post by Kent State geographer Andrew Shears, who has decided to represent each state with a television series. As he points out, the available choices are far from even. New York and California are default settings for producers who do not think much about place, or who do such thinking without really thinking, as it were. As Dr. Shears (who is to be congratulated on his new PhD!) details, many states leave him with a single choice, and others with precious few. States fortunate enough to have a handful of choices, of course, bring out the back-seat cartographers who will quibble with the choices, as all such lists tend to do.

Click map to enlarge
Visit Pseudogeographically for original post

I will not fall into that trap (at least not too deeply), though I will make a couple of observations. First, I am pleased that of the several choices available for Maryland, Shears chose a series in which my own father-in-law had a role. I've still not seen The Wire, as we've not gotten a copy of his episode. Another good choice for Maryland that would have filled the same condition is Homicide, in which my father-in-law played two different roles: one living, one dead. Several choices ring very true for me -- Alice for Arizona, Drew Carey for Ohio, and the Andy Griffith Show for North Carolina. That show --  and the Waltons (Virginia) -- really capture my rural, southern childhood.

If I were to quibble with any choice, it would be Coach for Minnesota, until I read what Shears had to say about this choice in his blog. As a geographer who has spent several years each in many different parts of the United States, his answer rings true. As I reported on my Celebrating the States entry for Missouri, cultural touchstones are tied both to time and place. Coach represented Minnesota while Shears was growing up, just as MTM epitomized the state when I was in my formative TV-watching years. Apparently Baby Boomers such as myself dominated the feedback Shears received, as his remix map does put Mary Richards in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The television mental map actually builds on an earlier post, in which Shears built upon a map of movies by state that had appeared on The Huffington Post. Shears seems to have put more thought and research into his choices than had the earlier cartographer, for example taking Fargo out of Minnesota. In addition to the choices he mapped, he included several interesting alternatives for most states. Readers of Environmental Geography will recall that state-by-state movie choices were integral to the Celebrating the States blog that I co-authored with Pamela Hayes-Bohanan. The main page of that blog includes the films Pam chose for us to watch as part of that project, and the individual postings include her reviews and comments. Although we liked some of them very much, it is by no means a list of favorites!

Click map to enlarge
Visit Pseudogeographically for original post





Thursday, February 24, 2011

Coffee Shop Jr.


Thanks, as always, to my favorite librarian for sharing some interesting news about coffee. In this case, it is a coffee shop organized by a creative middle-school teacher in Edison, New Jersey. Thomas Macchiaverna started the weekly cafe as a way of helping students with autism and learning disabilities to learn a variety of life skills, from social interaction to math. It has been popular with students and teachers alike, and has allowed the students to fund some valuable activities that had fallen victim to cost cutting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ten Trillion Beans

Annual coffee consumption in the United States is close to ten trillion beans per year (1.3 million metric tons with about 3,500 beans per pound) -- more than any other country. Brazil is a close second in total consumption, but neither country comes close to the top in per-capita consumption: the average person living in the Nordic countries consumes coffee at 2-3 times the U.S. or Brazilian rate!

Based on a World Resources Institute report, the interactive map of coffee consumption is accompanied by a detailed chart. The details allow for any number of interesting comparisons. (The map below is a static screen capture.) At indexmundi, I found a ranked list of producing countries. Comparison between the two is complicated by the difference in units used (tonnes versus bags), but may be nonetheless intriguing.

Which Came First?

Which came first, the coffee shop or the sweets to go with it? The tradition of exquisite chocolate treats goes centuries in Vienna, but the confections were developed after the first coffee shops opened there, at least according to a recent article on World Stamp News.

The article mentions that a confectioner was assigned to the imperial court as early as the mid-16th century. According to Mark Pendergrast's Uncommon Grounds, however, the first coffee shops opened in the 17th Century;  the discrepancy might just be an error with the nomenclature (17th Century = 1600s).

In any case, coffee and confections have a long history together, and the Austrian post office is celebrating the original Schweden-Bomben (which sounds a lot like bon-bon to me) with a new stamp. My thanks, as always, to Henry Lukas of the Spellman Museum for this scrumptious tidbit of coffee history!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Japan Java

My university has had strong connections to Japan for over a century, and the connections have afforded me some interesting -- if inconsistent -- glimpses into the geography of coffee in Japan. From a faculty colleague I have had samples of coffee packaged for convenient brewing in a form I have not seen elsewhere. Last year, a student who went for a semester-long exchange sent a digital S.O.S. because he could not find whole-bean coffee, a grinder, or a French press, all key components of the kind of coffee care I had taught him. More recently, two students from Japan participated in my Nicaragua study tour, and had not had much prior experience with high-end coffee.

Others have told me, though, that coffee is very important in Japan, and not limited to the high-tech varieties of canned and instant coffees that dominate the market. Courtesy of my favorite librarian comes a story from yesterday's New York Times, extolling the virtues of slow coffee in Japan. Apparently, while I was not watching, Japan has become a source for all kinds of low-tech coffee preparation equipment of exactly the type my student (under my tutelage) was seeking. It turns out that even Williams-Sonoma has eclipsed me in this area! Time for some new research on my part, though I have not even broken in my Chemex yet!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

HarassMap

Yesterday my geography students and I had the privilege of a guest lecture by a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence who recently arrived on our campus from Egypt. Dr. Hassan described the Fulbright SIR and other Fulbright programs and shared insights that helped us to place the current political events in a broader context. During her presentation, she mentioned that Egyptian women are starting to make some advances against repressive attitudes and practices. This reminded me of a very interesting and encouraging story that I described a couple of months ago on one of my other blogs.

HarassMap combines telecommunication and geotechnologies in order to learn more about how, when, and where women in Egypt experience sexual harassment of various kinds. The resulting maps can help individual women in their daily travels and can be used to help set priorities for social-service providers and law-enforcement officials.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Birthday Condolences

Sadly, I only got to vote
against the Gipper
in 1984. I was too young
in 1980!
I was not around -- 100 years ago today -- when Ronald Reagan was born. But I remember where I was the day he died, if only because I was so certain he would disapprove. When the news of his death came on the radio, I was driving through DC -- the city of my birth, the hatred of which Reagan made a cottage industry. I  was not on just any ordinary drive through the city, though: I had been invited to the Swiss Embassy, specifically to the Cuban Interest Section, where Cuba does its U.S. diplomacy while pretending not to be here (the Swiss provide similar fig leaf for U.S. diplomats in Havana). Those of us attending the US-Cuba Sister City reception did not spend too much time discussing the irony, but neither was it lost on us.

An even greater irony was the outpouring of grief and faux-grief from the nation as a whole and particularly from the city that Reagan had worked so much against. This Reagasm -- as one of my colleagues called it -- has continued, with lionizing projects that have included trying to name something for President Reagan in every state and the deeply insulting move of naming Washington National Airport .for him. He vilified government employees in general and air-traffic controllers in particular. The ironies continue, as supporters succeeded -- hours before the centennial -- in raising $100,000,000 for a library to honor one of our most deeply anti-intellectual presidents. The library and the fund raising are, naturally centered in Simi Valley, where Rodney King's attackers found a sympathetic jury back in 1992.

I have written elsewhere on this blog that Reagan's legacy continues in the derision of public servants and the empowerment of corporate "persons." His most disturbing legacy -- and that for which this article is named -- was his approach to Central America, which I mentioned in an article about the sanctuary movement. There his single-minded passion for defeating Soviet Communism combined with his racism and his lack of interest in learning the facts on the ground, leading him to deepen U.S. commitments to the very worst regimes.

For some, all of this is fine, since he talked tough and lowered taxes. Two problems with that: the tough talk did not make us safer, and he actually raised taxes, both in California and the U.S. He just kept saying he was against them.

Not everyone sees Reagan as I do, of course. See Ken Rudin's assessment, which is the source of the buttons above.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Friday, February 04, 2011

Locavore Shopping

Followers of this blog know that the geography of food is an important aspect of environmental geography. I once had the great privilege of sitting with Michael Pollan, who is well known as the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules, among other important books about food. (The humorous and insightful Food Rules starts with just three: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. The rest of the book is just examples.) At the lunch, Pollan explained how he overcame the initial skepticism of publishers about his work. He was trying to get support for writing about agriculture, and he was getting nowhere. People are not interested in agriculture, he was told. When he presented the same ideas as writing about food, however, he suddenly became a bit of a rock star. It is in part because of his work that people are rediscovering the connections between the two (agriculture leads to food; food comes from agriculture).

This is all by way of introducing Pam's latest blog project, which is focused on the kitchen and table, but has clear implications for our region and the planet as a whole. Una Nueva Receta is a challenge to ourselves to dust off the shelf full of cookbooks and start using more than the 2-3 favorites in each one. We will do our best to combine the recipe-a-week imperative with the idea of using local food. As with all of the blog projects Pam has initiated, this one involves good books, and one of the first is Jonah Raskin's Field Days, which she is reading aloud to me. The book is a pleasant account of a year spent at Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, California, and it leads the reader through many of the interesting connections to be made among a field, a table, and a region.

As Pam was reading, I particularly enjoyed his description of the store at Oak Hill Farm, and I decided to post that excerpt for readers of the Nueva Receta blog. Raskin writes that "the Red Barn Store drives the farm," which captures the ways that a good farm store can connect the consumer to the bounty of local lands, season by season. In several successful farm stores I have visited, though, the connection between the farm store and the land has another dimension that may be slightly more complicated. It seems to me that a successful farm store needs to strike a balance. The products of the farm need to be the cornerstone of the store's offerings, but the right mix of additional products -- and even some services -- can be equally important, both for attracting customers and for augmenting the revenue of the store. If the sale of off-farm items keeps the farm profitable, that is an important contribution to land protection and to the ongoing integrity of the enterprise. If these items come from another farm in the region, all the better!

In my own town of Bridgewater, the store at Hanson Farm has grown in recent years, and provides customers with an interesting mix of goods that now includes ice cream. The time and energy the owners have invested in the store have helped to ensure the vitality of the farm itself.


Addendum: A geography student who is working on local agriculture with me this semester read the post above, and reminded me that farm stores are not the answer for all farmers. She is, of course, correct. Farming is difficult and retail is difficult; only farms operating at a certain scale should even attempt both, and those farms need to have access to a location that is convenient for shoppers. Those farms that are able to operate stores can help both themselves and neighboring farms, by providing outlets for those who are not able to run a store.

My student also reminded me (I have great students!) that for many farmers the answer is a farmers' market. These are increasingly popular venues for those who produce good food to meet those who wish to buy locally. As with a good farm store, the markets have many benefits beyond the opportunity to buy food; they can also help build community. My own town of Bridgewater has had a market off and on over the past few years and is in the midst of plans to bring it back. Participation in these markets is an strategic decision on the part of farmers and organizers; a critical mass of both customers and farmers is required, as is a reasonable balance in the number and types of offerings. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Painted Rooster

In Nicaragua, gallo pinto is a constant. This morning I learned it is a constant with a (perhaps tenuous) Massachusetts connection.

Gallo pinto is the Nicaragua version of a dish that is an important part of the diet throughout much of Latin America: rice and beans. The dish is an inexpensive way to provide complete protein, and indeed may be the only substantial source of protein for many people living on a dollar or two per day. For travelers, it is a blessing because it is consistent, easy to find, and thoroughly cooked. For travelers craving fresh food and accustomed to a varied diet, it can become the subject of a love/hate affair after a few days, as it is may be the cornerstone of three meals each day.

Source: Chicken Pics
In looking for a recipe for dhal in Extending the Table, I found a reference to "painted rooster" and it took me a second to realize that this is what gallo pinto (GAH-yoh PEEN-toh) means. In five years of travel to Nicaragua, I had not really thought of it that way. According to the cookbook, the name refers to the coloring of a rooster: a particular kind of rooster. The white rice and dark beans really do look like the alternating feathers of the Barred Rock Rooster, also known as the Plymouth Rock.

I certainly like the image better than the Cuban name for what is essentially the same dish. On menus in Havana, it is common to see "Moros X" as a short-hand for Moros y Cristianos, a reference to battles between black Moors and White Christians during the Reconquista in Spain, which ran from the 8th Century until the expulsion of the Moors in 1492.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Mean Map

Can a map be mean? Apparently, yes. And can a mean map be entertaining? Same answer. I did not want to like the movie Mean Girls, either. Two Facebook friends recommended the map below, and a third pointed out that it is just not very nice. And yet we are drawn to it. Some of us, anyway.


To their credit, the cartographers who made this map include a source for each claim, and some of the findings are thought-provoking.

As penance for perpetuating the guilty-pleasure aspect of this map -- and because I hardly ever met a place I did not like -- I am listing here something I particularly like about each state. And since we are enjoying a snow day together, I am actually making the list together with my favorite librarian and originator of the Celebrating the States blog, Pam Hayes-Bohanan, co-guest-blogging on Environmental Geography for the first time.

Herewith, our list of something nice about each state. (Good coffee shops are not included, as I have a separate page for that.) Some of the enigmatic items might be explained in our Celebrating blog, my County Map Project site, or Google. Or you can just ask us :-) States one or both of us have visited are underlined.


Alabama: Birmingham civil-rights museum
Alaska: bald eagles
Arizona: spring-time desert in bloom; Perseid meteor showers
Arkansas: Pam's godmother
California: Muir Woods; John Muir; Eureka; Petaluma; harbor seals
Colorado: Rocky Mountains
Connecticut: Gouveia Vineyard
Delaware: Delaware Memorial Bridge; Rehobeth Beach
District of Columbia: Smithsonian; National Mall; eventually, statehood!
Florida: Carl Hiaasen
Georgia: Savannah; the mountain part of Stone Mountain
Hawaii: coffee-growing
Idaho: Craters of the Moon; potatoes
Illinois: Chicago; Lincoln birthplace
Indiana: Hammond; Metamora
Iowa: Tom Harkin
Kansas: Dorothy; Big Well; Perseid meteor showers
Kentucky: Mammoth Cave
Louisiana: vampires; Tabasco Sauce
Maine: Kezar Lake
Maryland: the only place for crab cakes; Chesapeake Bay; the UMBC French class where we met
Massachusetts: gay rights; Paloma
Michigan: very long summer days; UP; Yoopers
Minnesota: Duluth in the summer; the accent; Mary Tyler Moore
Mississippi: spelling fun; Morgan Freeman
Missouri: Gateway Arch; Kansas City fountains
Montana: Bozeman; big skies; Pirsig
Nebraska: state library includes Pam's essay as required reading
Nevada: Hoover Dam
New Hampshire: Bow Lake
New Jersey: The Boss; NJTP
New Mexico: Old Mesilla, esp. Pepper's Cafe; White Sands; Las Cruces
New York: Unirondack; Times Square; Niagara Falls
North Carolina: Asheville arts and food
North Dakota: low population density (good place to be a hermit)
Ohio: plenty of money for graduate assistantships
Oklahoma: Norman; catchy musical
Oregon: Eugene; sea stacks
Pennsylvania: Lancaster; Punxutawny Phil
Puerto Rico: rescue dogs
Rhode Island: WaterFire
South Carolina: tea farm; Foley Beach; Charleston
South Dakota: The Heads
Tennessee: rescue dogs
Texas: Quaker meeting; tamales; Selina
Utah: Zion, Bryce, Arches
Vermont: Vermont Country Store; Middlebury; GMCR; Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP
Virginia: Camp Montresor (defunct); Shenandoah Valley; Williamsburg; Norfolk Botanical Gardens
Washington: Columbia River at Astoria; Space Needle
West Virginia: Shenandoah Valley
Wisconsin: cousins, of course; Appleton; Door County; Mustard Museum
Wyoming: Bighorn Mountains at night in a storm