Territorial disputes are an inevitable aspect of political geography. One of the most contentious regions in the world is the South China Sea. We've been researching a blog for this on and off for a few months, but recently we found a succint videographic by The Economist that actually makes it understandable. The islands and atolls may seem insignificant at first blush - but not when you consider that they are located amidst potentially rich oil and gas sea reserves, in one of the business sea-trade routes in the world.
While everyone else this morning is reeling over the death of David Bowie, I'm far more shocked at the news that Canada has just been cut in half!
Living in a metropolitan area of over 6 million people, I often forget just how remote and isolated much of Canada is. And I never imagined that one bridge in the middle of Canada was the only thing joining the west with the east.
Due to extreme weather conditions, the Nipigon River Bridge has failed, causing one side of it to rise two feet. This bridge is on the Trans-Canada Highway, which you may gather from the name, is a highway that goes pretty much right across Canada.
“Canada has been cut in half,” said Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey. “If you want to take something from Toronto to B.C., it goes across this bridge. There is no alternative. Every truck that goes across Canada goes across this bridge.” (Quote from the Toronto Star article on the bridge closure.)
Zooming in, you can see the Trans-Canada Highway is pretty much the only road around. Other minor roads shown in grey just service local communities.
While the bridge is closed for who knows how long, all trans-Canada traffic must now take a detour through the US.
Gotta love Google, they're on top of things, already showing that the bridge is closed, and what the detour is. It looks like the additional travel time is 4.5 hours, plus however long the border crossings will take.
This is a matter of national security, and will cause some serious economic impact, and I imagine will be the source of a lot of jokes. The perfect storm of Canada's renowned cold weather and remoteness.
Drones are much in the news these days as prices fall and make the technology more and more accessible. Most of the interest is in the flying types of drones, but a recent GEOGRAPHICAL item discusses a different type of drone that has the potential to make new geographical knowledge available. As part of a growing interest in underwater drones, a start-up company called Hydroswarm is developing a robot to map the seafloor in greater detail.
The EVE robot is a pumpkin-shaped bot is made for searching the sea. Made up of one part steering mechanism and one part ultrasound sensor, the autonomous drone could be more useful than existing remotely-operated robots as ‘they are less complex, but smart in terms of sensing,’ according to Sampriti Bhattacharyya, mechanical engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and EVE’s creator.
Still in its development stage, the drone can only dive 250 metres below the surface. However, Bhattacharyya has ambitions towards using this kind of technology to create a deeper ‘Google Maps’ of the sea. ‘The whole point of Hydroswarm is to provide a cheap and scalable method of mapping the ocean,’ she says. ‘EVE can be used as a single drone, or as a bunch of them working together to map large areas.’ Deployed en masse, the drones use algorithms to communicate with each other in a network. Plus, they don’t get lost. ‘They have a homing mechanism and are recovered at the end of their missions,’ she says.
We think our American friends take a lot of teasing in the press every now and then when a survey comes out revealing gaps in geography knowledge. So we thought it only fair to report on a story out of Northampton in the UK.
The recent Travelodge survey reveals some shocking facts:
- about 1 in 10 (11%) believe the UK is made up of more than 6 countries,
- Almost the same (9%) believe that England alone makes up the UK,
- Over half (54%) think that the UK has a bigger island than Great Britain,
- In fact, over one third didn't know the difference between the UK and Great Britain, and
- None of the respondents knew how many islands surround the mainland.
Well, to be honest, the answer to that last one (over 6,000) surprised us. However, look for that question to be in an upcoming Trivia quiz. But we do expect all our viewers to get perfect on this quiz.
Now, if you really want to to understand the British Isles a little better, we heartedly recommend the following video (watch until about 2:15 = although the rest is interesting too).
Yes, that does sound a little like hyperbole, but it is actually true. Epochs are subdivisions of Earth's geologic timescale. The progression from one to another is marked by some easily distinguishable, global stratigraphic 'event' such as mass extinction or shift from one climate regime to another. Scientists are currently moving toward the formal declaration of a new epoch - the Anthropocene Epoch.
The event that distinguishes this epoch from the previous (Holocene Epoch) is the arrival of mankind as an agent of change on a global basis. James Syvitski, IGBP Chair, explains this in his 2012 article "Anthropocene: An epoch of our making" (pdf). His report describes broad changes since the Industrial Revolution spanning dramatic alterations in eco-systems from coastal zones, loss of rain forests, domesticated land, ozone depletion and water use. Syvitski states, "By any unbiased and quantitative measure, humans have affected the surface of the Earth at a magnitude that ice ages have had on our planet, but over a much shorter period of time".
The impacts of these global changes aren't reported in doom and gloom, end of the world terms - in fact the report ends on a hopeful note. Sustainability is simply a goal to be achieved to keep improving human wellbeing. Says Syvitski, "Our strength as humans is the capacity to recognize problems, to understand them and to develop solutions". Let's hope so. At Lizard Point, we're encouraged by the emerging recognition of the degree to which mankind is actually influencing the world we live - and we have faith in new generations of globally aware and sensitive humans.
Here's the "TedTalk" video on the Anthropocene.
A recently released study from the University of Leeds indicates that the 6 month eruption from the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland emitted three times as much toxic gas than all man-made sources in Europe.
According to an article in Wired UK the eruption started in August, 2014, and continued until February, 2015. At points, the volcano expelled as much as 120 kilotons of gases a day, eight times the rate of all European industry. The article quotes Anja Schmidt, author of the study from the University of Leeds, "This was a truly spectacular eruption -- the biggest in Iceland for more than 200 years. It became clear very quickly that the eruption was producing truly staggering amounts of sulphur dioxide -- a toxic gas," .
In an sobering side note, John Stevenson, co-author of the study at the University of Edinburgh, told WIRED, "For the next two decades we'll be in the peak of Icelandic rifting period" -- a period of heightened volcanic activity that occurs every 140 years or so -- meaning "there will be a chance that there will be more eruptions like this one in the next 20 years."
Lizard Point has a geography definitions study guide that can be useful in learning definitions of terms such as volcano, magma, caldera and lava. Just follow this link and click on the study quiz mode.