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Articles in Physical Geography

The Cold War Between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

By Martin W. Lewis | April 21, 2010 | 2 Comments

In August 2008, the New York Times described Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as being locked in a “cold war.” Recently, the conflict has warmed up. In early 2010, Uzbekistan imposed a partial blockade on Tajikistan, a much poorer country poorly tied into global transportation networks. Uzbek authorities have been holding freight cars at the border, stifling

Kerguelen: France’s Desolate Islands

By Martin W. Lewis | April 13, 2010 |

One of the most intriguing — and obscure — parts of France’s far-flung territorial domain is the Kerguelen Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, also known as the Desolation Islands. Dominated by Grande Terre Island, Kerguelen is one of the world’s largest remote oceanic landmasses; covering 2,786 square miles (7,215 km. sq.), it is roughly

Sudan: Africa’s New Breadbasket?

By Martin W. Lewis | March 25, 2010 |

As yesterday’s post discussed, Ethiopia’s western lowlands have significant agricultural potential. The agricultural resources of neighboring Sudan, however, are much greater. Vast clay plains cover much of east-central and southern Sudan; although they are not easy to farm, their soils are fertile and they have abundant – often too abundant – supplies of water.

Christmas Island: Land Crabs and Detainees

By Martin W. Lewis | March 11, 2010 |

Christmas Island is 52-square-mile rainforest-covered limestone and basalt platform several hundred miles south of Java. Most of the island is a national park, sheltering a limited and highly distinctive native fauna. It is best noted for its eponymous red crab, a land dwelling crustacean than lives in rainforest burrows – in staggering numbers.

Lord Howe Island: Return of the Tree Lobster

By Martin W. Lewis | March 8, 2010 |

Isolated oceanic islands, with their small to non-existent populations and scant resources, are ignored in most discussion of global geography. Yet there are good reasons to pay them close attention. Remote islands form natural laboratories for research in biogeography, and their unique assemblages of flora and fauna are highly vulnerable to introduced species and

How Many Continents Are There?

By Martin W. Lewis | March 4, 2010 | One Comment

The main problem with the continental scheme of world division is its mixture of physical geographical criteria (continents are defined as landmasses more or less separated from each other by waterways) with human geographical criteria (Europe is separated from Asia not by the physical landscape but by historical and cultural features). Intellectual coherence calls

Nonsense about Continents

By Martin W. Lewis | March 3, 2010 | 5 Comments

Basic geographical education in the United States remains, in a word, pathetic. As students are required to learn virtually nothing about the world, we should not be surprised that few young Americans have any idea where Iraq or Afghanistan are located. And the one locational lesson in global geography that young students are required

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

National Parks of DR Congo: Hippos, Rhinos, Gorillas, and Guerillas

By Martin W. Lewis | February 15, 2010 |

Despite its poverty, lack of infrastructure, and interminable wars, the Democratic Republic of Congo has admirably tried to salvage its national park system and preserve its wildlife. It has not been easy. Since 1994, an estimated 120 rangers have died trying to protect Virunga National Park alone. The existence of large wild areas in

The Geography of the Bolivian Election

By Martin W. Lewis | January 29, 2010 |

Latin American electoral politics have been trending to the left in recent years. Although Chile just confounded that tendency by voting in a center-right president, Bolivia overwhelmingly reelected its socialist president, Evo Morales, in December 2009. Morales, the champion of Bolivia’s indigenous majority, received 64 percent of the national vote, while his main challenger, Manfred

Sakha: World Capital of Cold

By Martin W. Lewis | January 27, 2010 |

The attention of the global media usually remains focused on a limited portion of the earth’s surface. Wealthy countries and regions are covered in depth, as are places considered threatening to the developed world, but most parts of the earth are more often ignored. Consider, for example, Sakha (Yakutia), a vast internal Russian republic

Bad News and Good News for Tigers

By Martin W. Lewis | January 12, 2010 |

On December 22, 2009, the BBC reported that a Chinese man was sentenced to twelve years in prison for killing and eating an Indochinese tiger, perhaps the last of its kind living in China. The man, Kang Wannian, claimed that the tiger had attacked him while he was gathering freshwater clams in a

Australian Camel Invasion

By Martin W. Lewis | January 1, 2010 |

The remote Aboriginal village of Kaltukatjara (“Docker River”) in Australia’s Northern Territory is currently under siege – from camels. Severe drought has driven some 6,000 dromedaries into the community, where they wreak havoc by knocking over fire hydrants and busting into houses – right through the walls in some cases

Giant Killer Mice of Gough Island

By Martin W. Lewis | December 24, 2009 | One Comment

Remote oceanic islands often form interesting laboratories for biological process, as well as arresting geopolitical anomalies. Few are as remarkable as Gough Island, a 35 square mile landmass in the temperate reaches of the South Atlantic. Although without a self-sustaining permanent population, Gough is one of the world’s most isolated places

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