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Articles in Economic Geography

Gambella: Ethiopia’s Troubled Western Lowlands

By Martin W. Lewis | March 24, 2010 | One Comment

Ethiopia is well known as a plateau country. Its cultural and political core areas have always been in the highlands. But Ethiopia also includes extensive lowlands, a legacy of the imperial conquests in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ethnic conflicts plague much of Ethiopia’s lowland fringe, as do tensions with the central government

Taiwan and the Pacific: Contracting for Recognition

By Martin W. Lewis | March 16, 2010 | One Comment

On March 15, 2010, a number of newspapers announced that Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou would visit his country’s allies in the South Pacific: Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, and Solomon Islands. Such headlines were doubly wrong. The region specified is not exactly in the South Pacific, and the countries mentioned are not exactly

Jiangsu and Zhejiang: The World’s Most Important Ignored Places

By Martin W. Lewis | March 15, 2010 | 4 Comments

The standard geographical model of the world, as this blog seeks to demonstrate, unduly emphasizes the sovereign state (or “country”). States, of course, are vitally important, but so too are other geographical entities. The fixation on the independent country, compounded by the myth of continents, elevates some parts of the world while slighting others

The Tax Haven of Norfolk Island

By Martin W. Lewis | March 9, 2010 | One Comment

With just 13 square miles and 2,142 residents, Norfolk Island is not large. Lying 900 miles off Australia and 600 miles from New Zealand, it is also very remote. But Norfolk played a key role in the British colonization of the Austral realm. Extensive groves of tall, straight Norfolk Island pine

Argentina’s Claims to the Falkland Islands, and Much More

By Martin W. Lewis | February 24, 2010 | 6 Comments

The Falkland Islands, known in Spanish as the Malvinas, are back in the news, as Argentina reasserts its claims while objecting to offshore oil exploration in the vicinity by British firms. In 1982 the Falklands made global headlines when Argentina unsuccessfully attempted to militarily wrest control of the archipelago from the United Kingdom.

Tribal War and Natural Gas in Papua New Guinea

By Martin W. Lewis | February 22, 2010 | One Comment

With roughly a thousand languages divided into a surprising number of linguistic families, New Guinea is noted for its extraordinary cultural diversity (see map above). The central highlands of New Guinea also form a diversity center of a different sort: that of warfare. Tribal combat remains ubiquitous, especially in the troubled Southern Highland province of

DR Congo’s Geographical Challenges

By Martin W. Lewis | February 17, 2010 | 3 Comments

Yesterday’s post outlined the troubled history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today I would like to briefly examine a few of the geographical issues that make it a challenge for DR Congo to function as a country. The first issue is transportation. To say that overland transportation is difficult in DR Congo

DR Congo: A Potemkin State?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 16, 2010 | 2 Comments

The ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo is reputed to be the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. Most observers estimate the death toll at around 5.4 million deaths; some figures put the toll as high as 6.9 million. One controversial 2009 report—from the Human Security Report Project of Simon Fraser University—claims

Russia’s Changing Demography

By Martin W. Lewis | February 9, 2010 |

In August 2009, Russia recorded 1,000 more births than deaths, the first month of natural population increase in more than 15 years. Russian officials, worried about their country’s declining population, were pleased that their efforts to encourage childbearing were showing signs of success. Overall, however, demography is still a major concern for Russian nationalists

Kaliningrad, Russia’s Restive Exclave

By Martin W. Lewis | February 8, 2010 | 9 Comments

In the last weekend of January, 2010, massive protests erupted in the Russian city of Kaliningrad, unnerving the country’s political establishment. Despite bitter weather, an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets to denounce both the local governor and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, ostensibly for raising utility prices and transport taxes during a time of

Renewed Violence in the Niger Delta

By Martin W. Lewis | February 2, 2010 |

Few of Africa’s many insurgent groups receive much notice in the global media. One way they can get attention is to attack the infrastructure of oil production. Thus the Movement for The Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) found itself in headlines on January 30, 2010, after breaking its truce with the Nigerian government and


By Martin W. Lewis | January 28, 2010 | One Comment

January 1, 2010, saw the emergence of the world’s largest free trade area in terms of population, linking China with the ten countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Disagreements remain as to what to call the new organization. In the English-language press, the favored term is ACFTA, the ASEAN–China Free Trade

Maps and Stats, Good and Bad

By Martin W. Lewis | January 22, 2010 |

World thematic maps that treat each country as a holistic entity can be highly misleading. Consider, for example, the ubiquitous economic development map based on per capita gross domestic product. Here we see such countries as Brazil, India, and China uniformly colored, as if the goods and services they produced were evenly distributed over their

The Mendocino Marijuana Economy

By Martin W. Lewis | January 19, 2010 |

As mentioned recently in this blog, organized criminal activity supposedly accounts for seven percent of the total value of goods and services produced annually in Italy. But that figure is nothing compared to the illicit economy of Afghanistan, where a 2007 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report argued claimed that opium accounted

The Finances of Man

By Martin W. Lewis | January 15, 2010 |

Sometimes the most obscure news article reveals significant processes that have the potential to reshape global geography. A case in point is a January 13, 2010 article from Transfer Pricing Weekly, all of seven sentences long, entitled “MAP Established between the Isle of Man and Australia.” The first sentence, which outlines “the mutual agreement procedures

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