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Articles in Economic Geography

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 …

Energy Issues in the Ukrainian Crisis

By Martin W. Lewis | March 27, 2014 | 4 Comments

Energy issues figure prominently in many discussions of the conflict in Ukraine. As is often noted, Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas gives Moscow significant leverage. Ukraine, moreover, is weakened by its own dependence on Russian energy, and its situation is complicated by the Russian natural gas pipelines that transverse its territory. Less often noted are Ukraine’s own significant gas …

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 …

The Philippines’ Uneven Economic Boom

By Martin W. Lewis | September 6, 2013 | 16 Comments

For decades, the Philippines has been noted for its economic failures. Fifty years ago, it was ahead of South Korea on most economic indicators, and its relatively high levels of education and public health seemingly indicated a bright future. Misrule, corruption, and missed opportunities, however, took a heavy toll, as did a persistently high birthrate, leading many observers to dub …

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. …

Asparagus Land: Coastal Peru’s Fruit and Vegetable Export Boom

By Martin W. Lewis | July 17, 2013 |

The global market for temperate fruit was transformed several decades ago when Chile began to take advantage of its Southern Hemisphere location by massively exporting off-season produce to North America and Europe. When I was young, table grapes were only available in the United States during the summer and fall; now they are found in almost every grocery store year-round. …

The Paradoxes of Ethiopia’s Dam-Building Boom

By Martin W. Lewis | June 6, 2013 |

The Wikipedia article on Dams and Hydropower in Ethiopia claims that “Ethiopia considers itself the powerhouse of Africa due to its high hydropower potential.” But while Ethiopia’s hydropower resources are indeed impressive, they are dwarfed by those of DR Congo, as the Congo River alone is said to account for as much as 13 percent of total global hydroelectric potential. …

Egyptian Protests, Ethiopian Dams, and the Hydropolitics of the Nile Basin

By Martin W. Lewis | June 4, 2013 | 13 Comments

Water struggles in the Nile Basin have recently intensified as Egyptian nationalists denounce Ethiopia’s building of the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, the river’s largest tributary. Ethiopia is now diverting the river in preparation for construction, angering many Egyptians, whose country is heavily dependent on the Nile flow. Protestors gathered in front of the Ethiopian embassy in Cairo …

Brazil’s Changing Geography of Murder

By Martin W. Lewis | May 23, 2013 | 6 Comments

Brazil is noted for its high murder rate. In the Wikipedia map posted here, Brazil falls in the highest homicide category, with more than 20 slayings a year per 100,000 people. This figure significantly exceeds that of the United States (4.8) and vastly exceeds those of such countries as Japan (0.4) and Iceland (0.3).  Yet Brazil is hardly the most …

Bhutan’s Paradoxical Development

By Martin W. Lewis | May 13, 2013 | 18 Comments

The southern rim of the Himalayas is rarely mapped as a region, as it encompasses two independent countries (Nepal and Bhutan) and five Indian states.* As a result, maps depicting economic and social development of the area can be misleading, as they typically contrast the two Himalayan countries with India as a whole. To address this situation, I have made …

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