Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Panama Canal and Public Health: A Geography Tale

In my 2011 posts The Ship That Changed the World and Biggest Ships Ever, I described some of the important implications of containerization for economic geography and global trade. Whenever I see containers -- which is often -- I am nostalgic for my undergraduate transportation professor, who always said the word conTAINerization with inimitable enthusiasm.

I must admit that I was actually giddy earlier this year, when a working-harbor tour took us within a beam's breadth of the containership Valletta in Boston. Even though I knew its Maltese registry signifies an effort to skirt taxes and safety regulations, I could not help being in awe of the scale of this endeavor, as we watched entire truckloads of cargo (mostly underpriced textiles) being offloaded every other minute.

As a Latin Americanist, I am particularly interested in the ways that container technology continues to intersect with questions of economic development and national sovereignty in Panama. It was not until this morning, reading a Washington Post article about asthma in areas surround the seaport of Newark, New Jersey, that I thought about the implications of Panama's expansion for environmental geography, environmental justice, and human health.

Geography is all about connections!

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