Monday, 30 January 2012

Internet Black spots

In an age when most students and adults are globally connected to the web 24/7 either through high speed fibre optics or wi-fi it seems strange to us*(written from a Western perspective) that other people could have their Internet right (?) controlled and even denied!

Where are these Internet black spots and to what extent is it all down to physical geography and levels of development - what role does geopolitics play? Which factor is the biggest barrier to technological development in terms of Internet the Internet a fundamental human right? and is there any evidence that economies who are connected are the most prosperous?

Your thoughts would be appreciated as ever...


Iran to halt oil sales to ‘some countries’

A great pick form one of my students here (Yager) - this article is a cracker concerning future energy security and what will happen to the 'business as usual' approach if one of the world's emerging unstable superpowers (?) has it's way.

Click here to find out more -

Iran oil refinery

Here is some of the up to date feedback from a student (Bennet) on the issue:

As if Greece, Spain and Italy don't have enough on their plate.... now they have to find alternative supplies from other oil producers such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iraq.The interesting part of this article is firstly the outstanding power these oil producing countries have, almost being able to control a countries decisions but also the future of energy is very exciting with growing geopolitical concerns. I was reading in the New Scientist today an article 'How Clean is Our energy?' where it described energy consumption around the world and if all countries developed (energy consumption wise) to similar levels to the USA, energy demand would rise 10 fold. However with growing use of space travel and other high energy consumption activities, demand will rise over 15 times today's figure.The way forward is sustainable development however for this to occur both top-down and bottom-up approaches are needed soon.

Energy is so unpredictable.......

Sunday, 29 January 2012

What is the world's largest* city?

Now here is a tricky question I always get asked but am always somewhat reluctant to answer?

Pupil: What is the world's biggest/largest city?
Teacher: Well it depends what and how you measure it?
Pupil: ...silent and confused look..

Now the BBC have tried to have a go with their article on: What is the world's biggest city? Is it Chongqing in China - but only if you include the metropolitan and administrative areas..ho hum tricky indeed - i mean if London is 8million, what is Greater London (does the word metropolitan come in here?) - and where does the boundary for London start and stop...? I mean really we need to firstly break down what large or biggest actually refers to and means in context....well....?

Questions that need answering I feel - what are your thoughts and opinions?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Davos 2012: Who's afraid of China?

A good one for superpowers:

Farmer pulling a cart
China is already the second-largest economy in the world - and yet most of its population is poor

Too much technology...?

A world without Wikipedia...or even Google?
Just think how panicked you  were the last time your phone died, the TV would not work or the computer had the blue screen of death. We are hooked on technology - we are technocrats not Luddites. This dependency was compounded by the recent Wiki scare; jokes on numerous social network sites (just imagine if they crashed - it is ok I'm joking!) suggested that Phds could not be written and that the media would slowly grind to a halt. But, it did raise the point of the wider question that the young techno-dependent, BB and I Phone hooked, spotify generation really do not know what happened before we could Google or arguably worse, You Tube it. The impatient generation as i refer to them expect things to be done instantaneously and this is also reflected in the business world - markets now do not sleep (neither do some of those that work for them) and it is unsurprising that employees of the Uk are the most workaholic in Europe.  o is technology a good thing...YES of course, but like everything moderation is important and it helps to switch off now and tune out every now and again!

First report on UK climate impact

Headlines for possible negative outcomes, assuming nothing is done in preparation, include:
  • Hotter summers leading to between 580-5900 deaths above the average per year by the 2050s.
  • Water shortages in the north, south and east of England, especially the Thames Valley area by the 2080s.
  • Increased damage from flooding could cost between £2.1bn-£12bn by the 2080s.
The report's positive findings include:
  • The melting of Arctic sea ice opening shorter shipping routes to Asia.
  • Milder winters leading to 3,900-24,000 fewer premature deaths by the 2050s, significantly more than those forecast to die as a result of hot weather.
  • Wheat yields to increase by 40-140% and sugar beet yields by 20-70% because of longer growing seasons by the 2050s.

Is 2011 the year of the disasters? Global economy pays out record $350 bn bill for natural disasters in a time of global economic strife!

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 weither 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?

Google maps

From time to time it is easy to forget how lucky we are to have so much technology at our finger tips. Google maps is just one of those essential tools that all geographers should become familiar with. I have recently finished teaching a young group the basics of Google maps in making their own personal geography maps including place markers, street view and usual routes. Given the open ended nature of the task some students excelled themselves and independently went off and explored much more than i had thought was capable.

So keep the tasks open ended and independent and use Google maps more!