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Short GeoCurrents Break, But First a Seemingly Impossible Rainfall Map

By Martin W. Lewis | July 29, 2015 |

(Note to readers: GeoCurrents will soon be taking a short summer break. Regular posting will resume in mid-August. But before the pause begins, I have one more post, which discusses the possibility of a seemingly impossible map. )
The map posted to the left appears to be bogus, as it depicts patterns that would seemingly not be found in nature. It …

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Mapping Chile’s Indigenous Population

By Martin W. Lewis | July 28, 2015 | One Comment

(Note: This post concludes the recent GeoCurrents series on regional differences in Chile)
One of the most interesting tables found in the Wikipedia article on “Ranked Lists of Chilean Regions” is that of the indigenous population. According to the 2013 Casen Survey, nearly 10 percent of Chileans identify themselves as belonging to an indigenous group, a significant increase over earlier assessments. …

Aysén Chile in Comparative Context

By Martin W. Lewis | July 24, 2015 | 3 Comments

To understand the physical geography and scale of Chile, it is useful to compare it to its North American counterpart, a region that extends in the north-south direction from southeastern Alaska to Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, and which is bounded to the east by highland crests. As I was not able to find any maps that made this comparison explicitly, …

Chile: Inequality, Education, and Geography

By Martin W. Lewis | July 22, 2015 | 2 Comments

As noted in the previous post, Chile has a strikingly high level of income inequality despite its considerable success in social and economic development. Many observers blame Chile’s educational system for such inequity, contending that the country has many poor schools and does not spend enough money on education. As argued in a recent Council on Hemispheric Affairs article, “National …

Chile: Inequality, Incarceration, and Drug Smuggling

By Martin W. Lewis | July 20, 2015 |

Chile is rightfully celebrated for the socio-economic progress that it has achieved over the past several decades. But although it has seen a substantial reduction in poverty, Chile still has a high degree of economic inequality, like most other Latin American countries. According to the Wikipedia,* in 2011 Chile ranked in the 155th position out of 176 countries in terms …

Chile’s Unusual Core/Periphery Pattern, Part I

By Martin W. Lewis | July 17, 2015 | 2 Comments

The Wikipedia includes a number of articles on “ranked lists” of the first-order divisions (regions, provinces, etc.) of various countries. The one on Chile is particularly comprehensive. It includes only one map, however, that of the human development index. As a result, I could not resist mapping some of the other data found there. I have focused on those tables …

Poland’s Stark Electoral Divide

By Martin W. Lewis | July 15, 2015 | 6 Comments

Some observers were surprised by the triumph of conservative candidate Andrzej Duda over incumbent Bronisław Komorowski in Poland’s May 2015 presidential election. Duda’s margin of victory, however, was thin: 51.5 percent of the vote against Komorowski’s 48.5 percent. As is typical of Polish elections, the results were geographically patterned in a stark manner. Duda, like most conservative candidates, won almost …

Joaquín Guzmán and the Geography of Homicide in Mexico

By Martin W. Lewis | July 13, 2015 |

Considering the astounding escape of Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán (also know as “El Chapo”) from a supposedly secure prison, this seems like an appropriate time to examine the geography of violent crime in Mexico. Comparing crime rates from place to place is a notoriously difficult exercise, as official statistics tend to be unreliable and are often gathered on a …

Troubled Socotra – the “World’s Most Alien Place” – Seeks Autonomy

By Martin W. Lewis | July 12, 2015 |

Yemen’s Socotra Archipelago, dominated by the main island of the same name, is best known for its unique flora, with almost 700 species found nowhere else. Some of its plants have gained fame for their unusual forms, such as the dragon blood tree and the cucumber tree. Socotra’s millions of years of isolation, its complex geology, and its harsh climate …

Oman and Yemen: So Similar, So Different…

By Martin W. Lewis | July 10, 2015 |

At first glance, Oman and Yemen almost appear to be sibling states. They fairly evenly divide the southeastern slice of the Arabian Peninsula. Both countries have extensive highlands on their opposing extremities, which receive much more rainfall than the rest of region and thus allow intensive agriculture both within the uplands themselves and in the adjacent lowlands. They share the …

Yemen’s Beleaguered Al Mahrah Seeks Autonomy

By Martin W. Lewis | July 8, 2015 |

Yemen’s Al Mahrah Governorate has much in common with Oman’s adjacent Dhofar Governorate. The two areas share the seasonally humid landscape of the south-central Arabian coastal uplands, and both have large non-Arabic-speaking communities, which instead speak languages in the Modern South Arabian group. Both Al Mahrah and Dhofar also maintain a strong sense of distinctiveness from the rest of Yemen …

Dhofar: Religion, Rebellion, and Reconstruction

By Martin W. Lewis | July 7, 2015 | 2 Comments

As mentioned in the previous post, Oman’s Dhofar region is highly distinctive in terms of both language and climate. It is also differentiated from the rest of Oman in regard to religion. Most Omanis follow Ibadi Islam, a branch that is said to predate the Sunni/Shia split, whereas most Dhofaris are Sunni Muslims. Dhofar also has a distinctive political history, …

Dhofar: The Other Arabia

By Martin W. Lewis | July 6, 2015 | One Comment

The Arabian Peninsula is a relatively coherent region, tied together by a number of common features. In terms of physical geography, it is noted for its harsh desert landscapes. Even the highlands of Yemen, which receive enough precipitation for rain-fed agriculture, are relatively dry, covered with vegetation that could hardly be described as lush. In terms of cultural geography, the …

Forgotten Modern Kingdoms of the Arabian Peninsula, Part 1

By Martin W. Lewis | July 5, 2015 | 5 Comments

Stanford University’s history department recently took its old collection of instructional maps out of storage to hang on permanent display in the hallways. This was an inspired decision, as some of these maps are gems and even the more ordinary ones have some interesting and unusual features.
A 1923 map of Asia by Denoyer Geppert Co. of Chicago, for example, is …

Is the Earth Greening? If So, Where and Where Not

By Martin W. Lewis | June 30, 2015 | 3 Comments

Several important studies, based mostly on remote sensing, indicate that the world is gaining vegetation. According to Jesse H. Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University, such “global greening” is “the most important ecological trend on Earth today. The biosphere on land is getting bigger, year by year, by 2 billion tons or even more.”
Such …

The Rightwing Nationalist Vote in the Turkish 2015 Election

By Martin W. Lewis | June 29, 2015 | 2 Comments

As noted in previous posts, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Turkey did relatively well in the 2015 election, ending up in third place with 16 percent of the vote. It gained 80 parliamentary seats (the same number as the leftwing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), an increase of 28 seats from the previous election. Describing the political stance of …