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Articles in Economic Geography

NPR’s Incomplete Story on “Trimmigants” in the California Marijuana Industry

By Martin W. Lewis | December 17, 2014 |

On December 4, 2014, National Public Radio (NPR) ran an interesting story on a severely underreported matter: international seasonal labor migration to the “Golden Triangle” of marijuana cultivation in northwestern California. This report—“With Harvest Season, ‘Trimmigrants’ Flock To California’s Pot Capital”*—captured many of the more intriguing and important aspects of the phenomenon. But it also missed some significant things and …

Mapping the Global Distribution of Information at Oxford

By Martin W. Lewis | November 28, 2014 |

A variety of interesting and informative maps and other visualizations of global information flow can be found at the website called Information Geographies put out by the Oxford Internet Institute. The goal of the larger project is to:
[P]roduce a comprehensive atlas of contemporary information and Internet geographies, that will draw on four years of focused research conducted at the Oxford …

Brazil’s Soy Empire: Mato Grosso in the 2014 Election

By Martin W. Lewis | November 5, 2014 |

(Note: This post completes a brief series on Brazil’s 2014 Election. This series has benefitted tremendously from the informed and insightful comments by Frederico Freitas, Ygor Coelho Soares, and Steve. Many thanks!)
In the electoral map of Brazil’s 2014 election, the vast but relatively lightly populated state of Mato Grosso in the center-west stands out for the strong support that most …

Misleading Statistics: The Case of Luxembourg, by Will Rayner

By Martin W. Lewis | September 16, 2014 |

(Note: This post is by Will Rayner, a former student of mine who graduated from Stanford University last year.)
Statistics can be misleading, particularly in regard to international country-by-country comparisons. We all know that. And yet governments, institutions, and corporations rely on these statistics every day.
GDP per capita—just to pick an example—is often used as shorthand for a country’s level of …

Is Poverty the Root Cause of Boko Haram Violence?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 2, 2014 | 13 Comments

The notion that poverty is the main cause of terrorism and insurgency is one of the most contentious ideas in global security studies. Those on the left tend to emphasize the connection between violence and the lack of development, while those on the right tend to deny or at least minimize it.
In recent weeks, this debate has turned to the …

How Big Is the Saudi Economy? Does the World Bank Know?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 26, 2014 | 2 Comments

Country-level economic data are essential yet often highly uncertain. In April 2014, for example, the official size of Nigeria’s economy increased 89 percent overnight due to a “rebasing” of economic calculations. According to the International Business Times, “Most countries go through this [rebasing] process every five years or so, but Nigeria hasn’t done it since 1990, years before developments like …

Dark Areas on the Earth at Night Map

By Martin W. Lewis | May 17, 2014 | 8 Comments

As is well known, North Korea is a dark land when viewed from space at night, quite in contrast to well-illuminated South Korea. In the Google EarthBuilder detail posted here, the discrepancy between the two countries is extreme. In the North, Pyongyang is the only sizable bright spot, and it is dwarfed by many regional South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese …

Industry, Insurgency, and Illumination in India

By Martin W. Lewis | May 14, 2014 | 7 Comments

The “nightlight” map of Burma posted in the previous GeoCurrents article reveals an interesting contrast with northeastern India. Although India’s far northeastern region is generally considered one of the least developed and most insurgency beset parts of the country, it is well illuminated when contrasted with neighboring Burma. To highlight this contrast, I have taken a detail from Google’s Earthbuilder …

Mapping Nighttime Light and Economic Development in Burma

By Martin W. Lewis | May 12, 2014 | 2 Comments

After posting the excellent Wikipedia map of per capita GDP in Thailand in the previous GeoCurrents article, I decided to look for similar information on Burma (Myanmar). I was not surprised to discover that such information is lacking, as the Burmese government publishes little economic data. I did, however, come across a 2012 article from The Economist that highlights a …

Thailand’s Political Crisis and the Economic Rise of its Eastern Seaboard

By Martin W. Lewis | May 8, 2014 |

News that a Thai court had just ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra came to my attention yesterday just as was beginning to prepare a lecture on the politics, culture, and economy of Thailand. I immediately began to assemble a series of maps showing the geographical contours of Shinawatra’s powerbase. According to the conventional story, the populist (former) prime minister, like …

Seek and Thou Shall Fiend: French Satirical Maps

By Claire Negiar | February 1, 2014 | 5 Comments

As any tourist who has traveled to France knows, the French are master critics. But they tend to spare nobody in the line of fire—not even their own compatriots. In the series entitled “La carte de France vue par ses habitants,” the French website CartesFrances.fr offers a variety of satirical mappings of the divisions of France as seen by inhabitants of some of its main geopolitical and cultural hubs: Paris, Marseilles, Toulouse, Brittany, and Normandy.

Unnecessary Environmental Destruction from Marijuana Cultivation in the United States

By Martin W. Lewis | October 22, 2013 | 9 Comments

Over the past several years, the campaign for marijuana legalization has surged ahead in the United States. Colorado and Washington have voted for full legalization, and a number of other states now allow the consumption of medical cannabis. Yet the U.S. federal government still regards the substance as a “Schedule 1” drug, more dangerous and less useful than cocaine or …

Tabulating the Underground Economy, and the DEA’s Pathetic Attempt to Map the Marijuana Trade

By Martin W. Lewis | October 16, 2013 | 4 Comments

When lecturing on world economic geography, I always stress the incomplete nature of the standard data, emphasizing the size of the unrecorded, underground economy, or “black market,” that constitutes up to twenty percent* of global production. Obtaining decent information on such matters is difficult, and as a result I am always on the lookout for maps, tables, and graphs that …

Controversies over Ethnicity, Affirmative Action, and Economic Development in Malaysia

By Martin W. Lewis | September 20, 2013 | 2 Comments

Few issues are more controversial in Malaysia than the country’s National Development Policy, particularly its extensive “affirmative action” provisions that provide economic and social advantages for the majority (61%) indigenous population (“Bumiputeras”) at the expense of the Chinese and Indian communities. Dating back to the early 1970s, this policy has resulted in significant economic gains for the Malay community, but …

Mapping the Farmlands of Coastal Peru

By Martin W. Lewis | July 19, 2013 |

In writing about the fruit and vegetable exports of coastal Peru, I could not locate any on-line maps of the farming districts of the region. It is easy, however, to distinguish these areas in Google Earth, as the color contrasts between the lush, irrigated lands and their desert environs stand out, as do the rectilinear patterns of the cultivated fields. …

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