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Articles in Environmental Geography

The Controversial Global Boom in Dam-Building and Hydroelectric Power

By Martin W. Lewis | July 12, 2012 | 6 Comments

In scanning the global news for potential GeoCurrents posts, I am often struck by the repeated appearance of dam-building controversies.  The construction, or proposed construction, of massive dams has been a major issue of late in countries ranging from China, to Burma, Laos, Gabon, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Canada. The emerging Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in northern Brazil …

Renewable Electricity Production Mapped

By Martin W. Lewis | July 5, 2012 |

As yesterday’s GeoNote pointed out, most countries derive relatively little of their electrical power from renewable sources, and those that do focus mostly on hydropower. Today’s maps, derived from the same somewhat out-of-date Wikipedia data set, shows the total amount of electricity generated in most countries from the five main renewable sources. The data are admittedly somewhat misleading: by showing …

Mapping Renewable Electricity Generation

By Martin W. Lewis | July 4, 2012 | 4 Comments

The use of renewable energy sources (hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass) for electricity generation varies profoundly from country to country, ranging from 100 percent in Albania, Iceland, Paraguay, and Tajikistan to less than 1 percent in Belarus, Eritrea, and Jordan. Intriguingly, the map bears no resemblance to that of economic development; the highest levels of “renewability” are found in …

Mapping U.S. Disasters

By Nicholas Baldo | July 1, 2012 | 3 Comments

As recently highlighted on the weblog Per Square Mile, amateur geographer Crystal Dorn has mapped county-level U.S. data on official disasters from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and published it as a webGIS. Taking this map at face value, it seems that 54 years has not been enough time for clear patterns to emerge when each county is shaded …

Visualizing California’s Soggy Past

By Nicholas Baldo | June 29, 2012 |

A previous GeoNote highlighted a collaborative effort to map historical changes in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin RiverDelta. In a similar spirit, the fantasy satellite map shown at left, created by Central Valley geographer Mark Clark and noted by Frank Jacobs, imagines what the entire state might have looked like in 1851. Perhaps the map’s most salient feature is massive Tulare Lake, …

Dam-Building in Ethiopia & Water Worries in Egypt

By Martin W. Lewis | June 28, 2012 |

Representatives from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan recently met in Khartoum to discuss Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, currently under construction on the Blue Nile River. The governments of Sudan and especially Egypt are concerned that the dam will reduce the flow of water into their countries. In response, both states have threatened to suspend their activities in the Nile Basin Initiative, a co-operative framework for sustainably managing the flow of the Nile that currently involves Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the DR Congo. To avoid such a scenario, future meetings are planned

Japan to Encourage Deer Hunting and Venison Eating?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 18, 2012 | 4 Comments

The sika deer (Cervus nippon), once widespread across eastern Asia, has been eliminated from virtually its entire range. The animal is extinct in Korea and barely hangs on in China and far eastern Russia. In Japan, however, the deer population is exploding, resulting in major agricultural and forestry losses.

Utah Seeks to Annex Federal Lands

By Martin W. Lewis | June 17, 2012 | 8 Comments

A recent political maneuver by the state government of Utah is stirring up intense of controversy. “Utah’s Nuttiest Idea of All,” reads a June 2 headline in the Salt Lake Tribune. A more recent opinion piece by geographer Eric C. Ewart in the same newspaper argues that that the move is blatantly unconstitutional and will “derail the largest single part of Utah’s economy: tourism.” Looking into the future, Ewart contends that tomorrow’s youth will be asking their elders, “Grandpa, why did you destroy Utah’s natural landscapes in search of quick profit?”

Iceland to Export Electricity to Britain?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 7, 2012 |

Iceland is by far the world richest country in terms of per capita renewable energy. 81 percent of Iceland’s total energy needs are derived from renewable sources, mostly geothermal and hydroelectric, as is 100 percent of its electricity. As a result of its abundant resources, electrical power in Iceland is cheaper than anywhere else in Europe.

Earth Observatory’s Fire Mapping

By Martin W. Lewis | June 6, 2012 |

NASA’s Earth Observatory is well known for its “image of the day” series, which showcases particularly striking satellite images. Today’s depiction shows a dust storm over the Persian Gulf (which NASA does indeed call the “Persian Gulf,” without qualification). Many other arresting images are found on the same site. One posted on June 3, for example, shows the smoke plumes …

Global Warming and Siberia: Blessing or Curse?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 22, 2012 | 15 Comments

GeoCurrents has recently emphasized the forbidding cold of the Siberian winter, stressing the obstacles that such a climate presents for the development of the region. Unmentioned in these posts is the possibility that Siberia’s climate will significantly change over the coming decades due to global warming. If the predicted warming occurs, could the change prove beneficial for Siberia, and Russia …

Pre-Columbian Raised Fields in French Guiana

By Martin W. Lewis | April 18, 2012 |

A number of news reports from French Guiana have focused on a recently published scientific article on pre-Columbian agriculture in the region, which offers potential lessons for current-day land-use. Several of the reports express surprise at the researchers’ findings, which indicate that the indigenous peoples of the region were able to successfully grow crops without using fire to clear the vegetation, as has more recently been the norm.

Pleistocene Re-Wilding: Environmental Restoration or Ecological Heresy?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 14, 2012 | 8 Comments

The Pleistocene Park project envisaged by Sergei Zimov and his colleagues calls for an extraordinary transformation of the tundra and tundra-forest transition zones of Siberia. By restocking the region with large herbivores, an ecosystemic shift would theoretically occur, breaking down the current pattern of vegetation and establishing a new equilibrium. The basic idea is to transform waterlogged landscapes, currently dominated …

Pleistocene Park: The Regeneration of the Mammoth Steppe?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 12, 2012 | 5 Comments

I must admit to having difficulty comprehending winter conditions in central and northern Siberia. From the U.S. perspective, Fairbanks, Alaska seems the epitome of cold, with an average January low temperature of -19 F (-28 C), but Fairbanks is positively balmy compared to Verkhoyansk, Siberia, where the average January high temperature is -44.9 F (-42.7 C). But what really staggers …

Massive New Solar Project in Northern Mexico

By Martin W. Lewis | April 10, 2012 |

The small city (population 65,000) of Tecate in Mexico’s state of Baja California, just south of the U.S. border, is best know for its popular beer of the same name. But current plans come to fruition, Tecate will soon be home to the world’s largest concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) power farm, producing 450 megawatts of electricity.

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