Saturday, 24 December 2011

A record year of disaster payouts?

As the Times states "a torrent of natural disasters in which about 30,000 people lost their lives has cost the worldwide economy a record $350 billion this year according to new figures published yesterday by Swiss Re".

Japan has been particularly hard hit - already struggling with an ageing population and an economy dependent upon imports - the earthquake and subsequent tsunami along with the flood in Thailand and the continuing uncertainty of the Eurozone's prospects dealt a severe blow to Japan's manufacturing confidence. The disasters in Japan will cost insurers $35billion, with the New Zealand earthquake in February resulting in payouts of $12billion and the floods in Thailand costing $12billion.

The fact is, according to Swiss Re's chief economist, Kurt Karl, "Unfortunately, earthquake insurance coverage is still quite low, even in some industrialised countries with high seismic risk, like Japan. So on top of people losing their loved ones, societies are faced with enormous financial losses that have to be borne by either corporations, relief organisations or governments, and ultimately taxpayers".

The question in a time of global economic uncertainty and tightening of belts is how will the world's most vulnerable and hazard prone countries survive i they are already dependent on global voluntary aid - will we see a new form of moral protectionism or will we still want to give?

A BRIC in freefall - India - the economic juggernaut heading for a crash?

"India is not simply emerging: India has already emerged" ( B.Obama,Nov 2010)
"India is a rising economic influence of power in the international system" (C.Rice, May, 2005)

Looking at the quotes above I am sure like me you would tend to think and hear of India as a BRIC - a leading light with the potential to challenge the astronomical growth of other emerging 21st century superpowers like China (i mean often the term 'Chindia' is used to describe the axial tilt towards SE Asia in term so economic power).

However the doomsday prophets in a time of slower economic growth and stagnation are out and in the media recently there has been speculation, along with the demise of Kingfisher airline, that India could be an economic juggernaut about to crash!

India is entering a critical phase and doe indeed need the government to be more pro active and implement the reforms it has promised for so long e.e.g opening and freeing up of FDI, otherwise it will be India's underclass who (once again and always with the dark side of globalisation) will suffer the most - tens of millions could be out of work - in addition to the tens of millions already out of work! So what evidence is there - well in 2011 India was named the world's worst performing stock market, with its bourse down by a third in dollar terms, wiping $500billion from it's value.

But India is still growing at 6.9% - yes indeed, very true but India faces a very different set of challenges compared to the Eurozone countries - with a rapidly growing & youthful population of 1.2 billion people, most economists agree that anything below 7% growth will feel "distinctly uncomfortably" - adding to the issue of rising fuel and food prices and dizzying inequality of wealth - the stratification of society embedded in the caste system of old - all o the latter is arguably a recipe for social tension (and uprising?).

So we will wait and see - keep abreast of India's development - it looks like it could be in a or a rocky time if action is not taken in the New Year!

Bottom Billion country profile: South Sudan

South Sudan' a country which achieved independence fro Sudan in July 2011, splitting the mostly black south from the mainly Arab north after a bloody 20-year conflict in which two million people were nearly killed. The prospects for a child today are very poor: an estimated 92% are illiterate, and it is ranked 154 out o 169 in the UN's HDI, lagging behind most of Africa.It has almost no infrastructure (in a country larger than France, there were less than 40km of roads at the start of this year) and is approaching a nationwide famine.

But why oh why is it like this - do we refer back, as always to Collier's Bottom Billion and his list of factors which contribute to the African poverty trap....?

On the face of things there should be huge opportunities - South Sudan is rich in oil, which provides 98% of government revenues. But the oil must be exported through the pipeline of its northern neighbour, Sudan and tense relationships mean conflict and sabotage is rife. In addition to this there is a shortage of leadership and key skilled workers - there are 3 surgeons in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world!

A difficult development pathway is ahead but Sudan has the resources it just needs to ensure that its people reap the benefits as opposed to the hungry foreign giants like TNCs and China as well as neighbouring entrepreneurs looking, as ever to exploit, a very vulnerable country.

Watch this space....

Friday, 16 December 2011

African demography is unique...

AFRICAN demography is unique. It is the only continent that will double in size, reaching 2 billion people by 2045 at current rates. Some countries, such as Liberia and Niger, are growing faster still. They are due to double in size in less than 20 years—an increase that is causing forecasts of Malthusian disaster for countries that cannot feed themselves. Yet Africa is also showing signs of embarking on the same transition towards smaller families that has occurred everywhere else, thus avoiding the Malthusian trap. 

Further links:

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Chinese luxury labels to challenge Western counterparts

There is a small but growing stable of companies who are betting that Chinese luxury goods buyers will begin to seek out items that reflect their own culture, rather than just the European heritage and exclusivity that have been so popular to date.
While industry experts say it will be an uphill struggle for such brands to take on the prestige and marketing power of well-established luxury goods and fashion houses, some big-name companies are gearing up to meet the challenge of changing appetites.
However, Henry Steiner, who runs Hong Kong-based Steiner & Co that advises companies about brand creation and strategy, is sceptical about the chances of a high-end, Chinese brand emerging any time soon.
"They have to go through this very difficult process of not just coming up with a cute idea, but really building a company, working on it strategically and logistically and sticking their neck out when it comes to marketing," he says.
"Western brands come with a certain personality that's been built up over the years, with recognition and consistency and dependability - all the things that Chinese brands don't have."
Few Chinese brands have recognition in the West - luxury or otherwise

Best known Chinese brands

  • Lenovo (PCs)
  • Huawei (telecom equipment)
  • Haier (home appliances)
  • Tsingtao (beer)
  • Li Ning (sportswear)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

STA travel around the world - one man's perspective on travel and food

STA Travel Australia sent 3 of our mates, Rick Mereki, Andrew Lees and Tim White on an amazing trip around the world. A 6 week journey of a lifetime crammed into one epic minute.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Darwin & biogeography on Podcast

A fantastic resource for Environmental scientists and Biogeographers using the New Scientist website:

Durban: an overview

So, they did it, or did they? Ministers worked through the night in a desperate bid to salvage a new global climate deal to tackle climate change at the conference in Africa.

In a week in which India, China and the US had consistently taken a hard line in opposition to proposals for action to curb global emissions and continue/adhere to the Kyoto legacy, it appears that the strong sense of urgency from other nations has brought them round to a legally binding commitment.

So in it's simplest form Durban achieved it's goal - to bring the key polluters, players and stakeholders round a table and agree on a set agenda to tackle global climate change - the barometer of success, as ever, will be who will stick to it 6months, 1year and 5 years down the line...

Check out the following websites and blogs to get involved and offer your insight:

Saturday, 10 December 2011

NERC - Free online mgazine!

Cover: Planet Earth Winter 2011

A great, free e-magazine resource - great for budding geographers, geologists and environmental scientists!

Check the latest issue here

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Why the UN climate change summit is our last chance to save the world

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, climate change summit

A little bit sensationalist for the metro but it is not too bad - aside from the doom and gloom and catchy headlines it turns out that there is a reasonable summary and if you click website there are some excellent links to more recent stories...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Poorer countries overtake rich world's consumption carbon footprint

The financial crisis of 2009 saw the developing world's carbon emissions from consumption shoot past the developed world's years earlier than expected, new research shows...
Carbon emissions after the recession - graph
How emissions have bounced back after economic crisises. Source: Nature Climate Change

The carbon footprint from consumption in the developing world has overtaken that of the developed world, according to research published on Monday. The change happened years earlier than expected due to the fact that the developing world's emissions were largely unaffected by the global financial crisis.
Emissions within the borders of developing countries outstripped those emitted in developed countries (as defined by the Kyoto Protocol's 'Annex B') in around 2005. But the rich world still accounted for the majority of the carbon footprint of consumption due to the goods it imports from China and other developing economies.

Worldwide Carbon Emissions No Longer Dropping — Is Anyone Surprised?

Check out the blog discussion and links on the Freakonomics website - it is all there!

Bill Gates developing nuclear reactor with China

TerraPower aims to develop a sustainable and economic nuclear energy system while greatly reducing proliferation risks and creating new options for converting low-level waste into vast energy resources.The nuclear-power firm that he and Bill Gates are promoting, which would use depleted uranium (castoff waste from traditional nuclear plants) as fuel. TerraPower has impressive plans but has yet to build its first plant.

For more info click on the links below:

Global Development: Views from the Center

The US Fair Trade Kerfuffle

Podcast on the challenges for the developing countries

Click this link to listen to the podcast on

COP17: the issues at stake for developing countries - podcast

Water Security - Egypt update

A great piece on water (in)security in Egypt from the Guardian - excellent for U6th students and environmental geographers:

Egypt is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile, which provides around 95% of its drinking and irrigation water. Protecting this supply has long been regarded as a matter of national security but the new political situation inside Egypt raises questions about its future.

First, the instability of the revolution has arguably diminished Egypt's regional presence and diplomatic strength in the basin. Incorporated in the Mubarak regime was a regional dominance, with significant support from the United States. This gave Egypt both a diplomatic and military advantage, which appeared insurmountable to the less powerful upstream states. For example, Egypt had consistently put pressure on the Arab League not to supply loans to Ethiopia for Nile water development.
With Mubarak's overthrow, a new optimism surfaced in the upstream countries. This is symbolised by Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi's announcement of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam at the end of March – just one month after Mubarak was ousted from power. The proposed dam, the largest in Africa, is forecast to generate 5250 megawatts of hydroelectric power, and has significant implications for Ethiopia and neighbouring countries that may also benefit from the energy produced.
Second, the newly independent South Sudan now has voting power as the 10th riparian state in the basin. With its own energy, infrastructure and resource needs, South Sudan is a relative unknown in its position on the Nile water agreements. However, its plan to build a dam in Wau, on a tributary to the White Nile, highlights its own independent needs, and is a further factor for Egypt to consider.
Finally, the increasing demand for agricultural land across eastern Africa, often described as "land grabbing", has significant implications for water use, as noted by a recent post on the Guardian's Poverty Matters blog. Often, water rights are incorporated into land deals or leases, which is clearly outside the confines of traditional water use patterns.
External support for dam building, particularly with Chinese finance and expertise, as was the case with the Kekezze dam in Ethiopia, is a further important dimension. The impacts of such dams are not always clear, but their existence, and with foreign support, is a worrying development for Egypt.
These different factors present a fundamental challenge to Egyptian hegemonic control over the Nile. Democracy will not alter the importance of the Nile for Egypt but may reduce its capability to control it. New water strategies are one possible avenue, but can be only part of the solution. Greater co-operation with upstream states will have to become a key factor in the Egyptian Nile policy.
There are, of course, ethical questions about Egyptian hegemony over the Nile and the rights of upstream states to its waters. This is not to ignore their importance or validity, but to emphasise the implications for Egypt and its new political environment.
Water security is set to change in the Nile basin and the new democratic government in Egypt will have to act decisively and forcefully in a period of shifting power dynamics to maintain its supply at current levels. No one should be under any illusions – the stakes are high.

Accountability is a vital weapon in the battle against climate change

This is a story of losing battles: our planet losing battles to climate change and corruption. It is a story that will become all too familiar in years to come, unless world leaders take action.
There is strong consensus that someone has to pay to reduce the emissions responsible for climate disasters like flooding and rising sea levels. By 2020, an annual $100bn is expected to flow to green technology, defences such as sea walls, and to helping people forced to abandon their homes.Any climate agreement, and any new climate money, must give citizens a voice in selecting which projects to fund, allow them to monitor budgets, and show them who is responsible for making sure the work takes place.When the agreed work is not carried out, citizens must be able to sound the alarm through hotlines or advice centres. Investing in accountability now will save money and lives further down the line.
The alternative is allowing resources to be hijacked and spending decisions to be made behind closed doors; permitting contracts to be given out to companies without the scrutiny that prevents bid-rigging, and work to be done without quality control or regular audits.This is what can happen when unprecedented sums of money take a confused journey from international organisations, each with their own rules on reporting, through government departments to private companies. Sometimes we have no way of knowing what was spent and why, and who is ultimately accountable for a project's success or failure. Leaders in Durban can start with the proposed green climate fund, which should distribute the bulk of all climate money. The fund already promises to allow citizen consultations, independent monitoring and corruption investigations. These are great advances, but it remains to be seen whether leaders at the climate summit vote for a fund that hears and responds to people on the ground.
We all fear what the consequences of taking too long to tackle climate change will be for our children and grandchildren. In Bangladesh, they already know the consequences. They live them every day: in ruined crops and flooded homes, in the saturated ground under their feet.It is not too late to help people who are already feeling the effects of climate change, however. And the place to start is Durban this week. If leaders act, and people are empowered to hold their leaders to account, the flood defences will be high and strong enough to keep out the water.

Another stake in the heart of climate change and targets

Brazil, the hope for future sustainable forestry management has dealt a severe and arguably deathly blow to it's sustainable forestry conservation strategy with the new forest code, recently approved by the Senate, meaning that the buffer zone will be reduced, allowing more deforestation to take place.

In a world when there are desperate calls to preserve our environment it appears that one of the country's with the largest pristine forested areas is like the rest of the world putting the economy over the environment - what would Kuznet say!

Amazon rainforest

Click here for the full story.

The 2011 American Geophysical Union

Well well what am eventful conference for geographers! Find out more here on the key findings and reports from this year's conference:

Also the BBC have posted an interesting story for physical geographers with a penchant for tectonics and shield volcanoes - check the headline out here:

Two-faced Kilauea volcano exposed

Scientists say their latest research indicates that explosive eruptions have been far more common in the past than the gentle outflows seen today.
And they warn that a return to this more violent behaviour would require the permanent evacuation of large areas around the volcano.
Kilauea would simply be too dangerous.
"We've found from our work that over the past 2,500 years, which is about as far back as we can see, Kilauea has been in an explosive mode about 60% of the time and in a lava-producing mode, such as it's in now, only about 40% of the time," explained Dr Don Swanson from the US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hawaii National Park.

French Alpine glaciers in retreat

More evidence of global warming and the impacts of increased GHGs emissions or is it all just part of natural climate change...whatever your thoughts the retreat of glaciers globally over the past 60years has been unprecedented!

Click here

Glacier de la Meije (Ecrins massif)

Undersea mountains march into the abyss

Where the Pacific plate collides with the Indo-Australian plate, it is forced downwards into the trench, a subduction zone, and the volcanoes are carried with it.
The trench, reaching a depth of 10.9km, forms the second deepest stretch of seabed anywhere in the world - easily large enough to hold Mount Everest.
Pacific trench zone infographic

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Thursday, 1 December 2011

What is a Brincle and how does it form?

Whoever said that physical Geography was dull obviously had seen a Brincle being formed! Thanks to the crafty slow motion cameras of the BBC's Frozen Planet formation has been captured for the first time - incredible.
What is a Brincle and how does it form? 
Freezing sea water doesn't make ice like the stuff you grow in your freezer. Instead of a solid dense lump, it is more like a seawater-soaked sponge with a tiny network of brine channels within it.
In winter, the air temperature above the sea ice can be below -20C, whereas the sea water is only about -1.9C. Heat flows from the warmer sea up to the very cold air, forming new ice from the bottom. The salt in this newly formed ice is concentrated and pushed into the brine channels. And because it is very cold and salty, it is denser than the water beneath.
The result is the brine sinks in a descending plume. But as this extremely cold brine leaves the sea ice, it freezes the relatively fresh seawater it comes in contact with. This forms a fragile tube of ice around the descending plume, which grows into what has been called a brinicle.
Brinicles are found in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, but it has to be relatively calm for them to grow as long as the ones the Frozen Planet team observed.

The Violent Legacy of Africa’s Arbitrary Borders

Local action: Switch off fortnight

As global climate talks like Durban and Copenhagen continue to simply talk a lot of hot air with no binding action and big business holding their hands in their pockets trying to scrabble around for a few coppers to keep the economy going at whatever cost, it looks increasingly likely that it is up to individual to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Pleasingly, the MTS school Sustainability Committee are part of 'Switch off Fortnight' and tomorrow the majority of teachers and support staff will reduce their energy consumption! It is similar to shutdown day -, and it is a step in the right direction by taking the initiative and taking responsibility.

Households told to save water now for next summer

Toads can 'predict earthquakes' and seismic activ

Well we all knew this didn't we - well it has been confirmed by science now that animals, such as the toad, are able to detect and react to earthquakes in advance of the event. The study focused on the L'Aquilla earthquake in Italy -

For further information and to listen to an overview of how toads do detect earthquakes click here

Kyoto protocol may suffer fate of Julius Caesar at Durban climate talks

Kyoto was the first global agreement towards establishing climate targets and with the exception of the USA and despite a few grumbles it gave hope and set a precedent before the millennium. Sadly as we move towards 2012 it appears that many countries have just paid it lip service, with Canada being the most recent country to pull out. The article by the guardian looks at whether Kyoto may suffer the same fate of Julius Caesar...

Information on Durban & past climate conferences:

World Aids Day 2011

Today is World Aids Day. It is a often a poorly publicised event in the global media, notably in the UK, despite the fact that there are over 90,000 people in the UK living with HIV (source: and that over a 1/4 of these people are unaware that they have it (

I am always reminded of the importance of this day due to the annual visit of one Emma Cole; a remarkable lady who has lived with HIV for over 20 years and has become synomyous with national and global campaigns (check out:

Luckily as a geographer it is part of the curriculum and some of the most interesting and important lessons i have taught over the past 6 years have been on this topic. Here are a few facts about HIV in the UK:
  • Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
  • You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
  • HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
  • Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
  • You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
  • There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV
Today the Guardian DataBlog - one of my favourite websites - has mapped 20years of HIV data; see the blurb below and then click the link:

The UNAIDS data shows that since 1999, the year in which it is thought the HIV epidemic peaked globally, the number of new infections has fallen by 19%. We've mapped the prevalence of adults with HIV over the past 20 years, so you can see the patterns of the change throughout the world and that dispite the overall improvement some regions have got worse. The figures come from this UNAIDS spreadsheet and show the prevalence of HIV in adults aged 15 to 49, as a percentage of the population. Let us know what you think.

Also, Hans Rosling has produced and presented on an interesting visual data display using his gapminder resources - the results and issues raised are fascinating, see below:

One of the biggest challenges, no matter where an individual lives, is the perception and stigma that is often associated with HIV and the issues surrounding safe sex ( Although in the UK we are lucky to have sex education as part of our compulsory core curriculum in all secondary (and primary) educational estblishments, in some areas of the world the message of safe sex is not discussed and simply swept under the carpet.  In one of the world's emerging economies and potential superpowers, rates of HIV in certain Indian states are skyrocketing. The link belows shows a timeless clip, indicating how TV advertising and mobile phones are being used to combat the stigma and taboo subject of discussing and practising safe sex, ultimately to reduce levels of HIV infection:

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Good news? Or just more confusion and a further step into the grey area...

In the news today, covered by both the Economist and the New Scientist is the news that the climate is less sensitive to carbon dioxide than previously thought - this seems a good thing; of course it does in principle. This means that the IPCC's last estimate of climate sensitivity (which measures the amount of warming that can eventually be expected to follow a doubling in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide) is now being revised to 1.7 to 2.6 degrees as opposed to 2.6 degrees. No doubt though, this could either be a blip or will be heavily contested but it provides healthy debate which is ultimately the purpose of science.

Check out the more in-depth articles here:


I have been enjoying the way data is now presented - the internet has revolutionized the way data is both presented and interpreted; from Hans Rosling's Gapminder to world mapper to one of my favourite sites - information is beautiful! Check out the way devastation is represented in the context of the recent Thai floods - really makes you think....

Click here to get to the website link

Click here to go to world mapper

Migration between US states...

Americans are enormously mobile: 37.5 million people moved from one house to another last year, with 4.3 million of them moving between states. This mobility makes us efficient seekers of economic improvement—moving into, and then leaving, cities likePhoenix as their fortunes rise and fall.

Click here for the interactive version!

Time lapse of the sky - one or cloud lovers

Ken Murphy installed a camera on top of the Exploratorium in San Francisco and set it to take a picture every ten seconds for a year. A History of the Sky is those pictures as a series of time-lapse movies where each day is represented with a grid. So what you see 360 skies at once:

For further details:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Kenya's Masai and the Impact of Climate Change

Kenya's Masai traditions threatened by climate change

Masai living in Kojiado district, near the Tanzanian border, are finding traditional cattle herding harder because the weather is getting hotter and the rain more unpredictable. Pasture is becoming harder to find, so many are diversifying to grow crops as well or turning to farming full-time. They are also working with traditional farmers to ensure that both lifestyles can share the resources available without encroaching on each other's survival. Sending children to school is also becoming a priority so that they are better equipped for their changing world.
What a fantastic picture that embraces the Technological Fix!

Life in a day...

Thank you Google for posting this fascinating film which follows a life in the day of people from across the world...arguably even better than the BBC's Frozen Planet series....

Migration: The magic of diasporas

Immigrant networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy. Rich countries should welcome them...

Click here to read this fascinating article about how globalisation has enabled diaspora groups to be a new economic driving force in rich countries. 

Climate gate part 2

Once again, the debate has been rekindled as hackers have leaked snippets of emails from climate scientists once more.  Despite the breach in privacy and the obvious distortion, to some extent, of the context and purpose of statements, i do feel climate scientists should be more transparent and open - to some extent they should do more to actively and publicly practice what they preach and do more to reduce their carbon footprint!

See links below to form your own opinion:

Other errors from the IPCC this time:

Is aid distributed to those who need it most?

Water aid recently released a report which highlighted the paucity of many nation's efforts, including our own, to achieve the MDGs by 2015 - one of the points was that development aid was unequally distributed (almost a development gap within a development gap - and those that needed the most basic needs like access to clean water were being left out).

Look at this graph from gap minder.

There are plenty of questions here to ponder over such as...
 - Is aid the solution to the development gap for the bottom billion & world's most vulnerable?
 - If it is, how do organisations like Water Aid hope to re-address the balance?

The links below are a starting point for further studies:

Climatic Fluctuations, Drought, and Flow in the Colorado River Basin

A great overview of a potential 'super' case study from the USGS - water conflicts and climate change...

The world at 1 billion!

On the last day of the 31st October the UN calculated that the world population would reach 7 billion. With calls ranging from "the world cannot sustain this level of growth; the problem is not the growth, the problem is that areas lack development; to wherever you go in Africa you can buy coca-cola but not a condom" it clearly is a hotly debated topic. Did Malthus ever think it would get to this number, and if so, so soon?

Arguably family planning is the way forward if the world population, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa is to slow down, but the level of family planning is determined by it's geography i.e. one factor could be the influence of the Catholic Church in place A but in place B it could be a lack of available contraceptives.

Top links:

Tianjin Eco-City In China: The Future Of Urban Development?

One of the green movement's major coup's must be the the eco-city. Branded often as green cities and environmentally friendly it is no surprise that China has cottoned onto this concept with it's design & plan for, of course, the ultimate eco-city  - Tianjin.


To what extent are eco-cities a model for future urban growth? 
Are they sustainable? If so how?
And is this a concept which could catch on elsewhere?

Further links:

Are Bio fuels the best way to keep cars on the road

Rising petrol prices and concerns about global warming are forcing the demand for alternatives like bio fuels.
However, critics argue that is it ethical to grow crops for fuel when crops could be grown for food?

With millions invested in the growth of green fuel by large TNCs is it too big an unknown gamble?

Further links:

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Are Gibson Guitars destroying the rainforest? (BBC News)

The dark side of TNCs is often well-known but it is often the global brand names like Nike and Addidas that come under scrutiny as opposed to music labels. However, this report raises some interesting questions and ethical issues about the products we buy and consume....

Iconic US guitar maker Gibson is facing a criminal probe over claims it broke environmental laws while importing wood. So is music the next threat to the world's forests?

"Up here you grow up liking Fenders or you grow up liking Gibsons," says Billy Jack, 55, sat in a Nashville music store eyeing up a trio of shiny new Gibson guitars.

Cradling a $3,800 (£2,413) Gibson Les Paul, Mr Jack, a veteran guitarist, recalls riffs gone by as he explains his fondness for one of rock's iconic instruments.

"You can hear it in your ear. It's how quickly you can run through your chops. It's the tone. You just can't go wrong."

But things have gone wrong. On 28 August federal agents raided Gibson's Nashville and Memphis premises, seizing shipments of Indian rosewood and leaving the venerable guitar maker more than a little off-key.
The agents brandished search warrants issued amid suspicions that Gibson had violated the terms of the Lacey Act, an environmental law that requires imports to the US to comply with laws in the country of origin as well.

To read more click here

Rosewood/ EbonyCentral and South America, central Africa and Asia
MahoganyCentral and South America (lesser mahogany types from Africa)
North America and Far East

Alternative Development Indicators: Mobile Phones

Once again an overlap with Economics - the two disciplines do go hand in hand (Econ obviously emerging out of Economic Geography into it's own distinctive discipline...) - as my A-level students were convinced that they had looked at mobile phone use, subscription and ownership as a key alternative development indicator (Mr Chong!), which would make sense as many of the world's poorest and vulnerable people do own pay as you go phones; especially in light of the micro credit schemes in India and the ability to transfer information/money via the web combined with old handsets flooding into Sub-Saharan Africa and SE Asia. So thanks to Simon A for the following posts - enjoy exploring - the International Human Development Indicators website ( is brilliant, especially the Data Explorer section (reminiscent of Hans Rosling's lectures on - click here and here).

Ok so here is the interesting stuff...enjoy:

Now time for a simple and quite up-to-date list of total number of mobile phones in use - can you guess which country is top?
This one per capita:

An in-depth study on mobile phones and development (a clear link to the Technological Fix) for A2 Edexcel is available here:

Other Links:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Alternative Development Indicators: The Big Mac Index

So i was teaching my Upper Sixth today introducing the Development Gap and how development can be measured; specifically how PPP (purchasing power parity) is more robust than GDP/GNI.

The Economists in the room, of which there are many, started to pipe up about other comparative measures like the Big Mac Index - i had not heard of this, but low and behold here it is in all of it's glory:

Websites to explore in more depth:

Questions to consider and discuss:

1. Is there a 'best' measure of levels of development and development per se? If so, what is it and why? If not, what is a food combination?
2. How could the reliability of certain measures be improved?