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Articles in North America

The Californian Insular Myth: Follow the Blue Seashells (Adapted from the work of Annick Foucrier)

By Martin W. Lewis | June 21, 2014 | One Comment

(Note:  GeoCurrrents is concerned with all things connected to mapping, including the history of cartography. One particularly interesting and rather mysterious feature of world mapping in the early modern period was the persistent depiction of California as an island. This portrayal is so distinctive is that it has captured the attention of many historians, geographers, and map aficionados. In 2012, …

American Geographical Illiteracy and (Perhaps) the World’s Worst Atlas

By Martin W. Lewis | April 30, 2014 | 22 Comments

GeoCurrents has long been concerned with geographical illiteracy. The depth of ignorance continues to be revealed, most recently in a Washington Post piece that indicates that only 16 percent of Americans can locate Ukraine on a world map. Most distressingly, a significant number of respondents placed Ukraine in central Greenland. Other reports indicate that geographical ignorance is widespread even at …

Tim Draper’s Proposed “Six Californias”

By Martin W. Lewis | January 8, 2014 | 22 Comments

As was noted last October on GeoCurrents, efforts to split U.S. states have been gaining increased attention. Geographer Andrew Shears has made an intriguing map that shows a number of “failed state partition proposals through US history,” posted here. Note that few of the 50 states have never been so challenged. A single map of this type, however, cannot capture …

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 …

State-Level Secession Movements in the United States: Northern Colorado and Jefferson

By Martin W. Lewis | October 9, 2013 | 21 Comments

The intense political polarization of the United States is most clearly reflected by the dysfunctional nature of the federal government. At a more local scale, it is seen as well in the growing movement to create new states by splitting existing ones. Most of these cases involve the desire of people in rural, conservative counties to secede from the more …

The Geography of American Baby Names

By Chris Kremer | August 11, 2012 | 2 Comments

Websites designed to help expectant parents find the perfect baby name abound on the Internet, offering statistics on the most popular names by year and sometimes by country or state. A few sites, such as The Baby Name Wizard and NameTrends.net, even have maps of name popularity past and present for each American state.

French History and Language in the American Midwest

By Nicholas Baldo | July 18, 2012 | 4 Comments

The history of the American Midwest has a French flavor which hasn’t quite vanished.

Mining in Yukon

By Chris Kremer | July 4, 2012 |

Yukon, Canada’s westernmost territory, has few people but generates much mining revenue.

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, …

Utah Seeks to Annex Federal Lands

By Martin W. Lewis | June 17, 2012 | 5 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?”

Fantastic Geo-Historical Visualization of California’s Inland Delta

By Martin W. Lewis | June 12, 2012 |

A new interactive website on the changing conditions in California’s inland delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers provides one of the best visualizations in historical geography that I have every seen. Produced as a collaborative project of called QUEST, KQED’s science and environment program, the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s Aquatic Science Center, and Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center …

Food-Cost Protests in Northern Canada

By Martin W. Lewis | June 11, 2012 | 9 Comments

Major protests against the high price of food and economic insecurity more generally were held last weekend in the remote northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, inhabited mostly by Inuit (“Eskimo”) people. Organized on Facebook, the “Feed My Family” campaign has attracted roughly a third of Nunavut’s population. A recent study found that some “three-quarters of Inuit preschoolers live in food-insecure homes, and that “half of youths 11 to 15 years old sometimes go to bed hungry.”

Hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project

By Martin W. Lewis | March 26, 2012 | One Comment

Federal Canadian hearings will begin on March 30 to consider the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, which would transfer fossil fuels between the tar sands districts of Alberta and the Pacific port of Kitimat in British Columbia. The project is often viewed as an alternative to the equally controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would connect the tar sands with the oil refineries of the Gulf Coast in Texas.

The Political Contradictions of Anti-Urban NIMBY Activism in California

By Martin W. Lewis | March 19, 2012 | 4 Comments

This final entry on Northern California will conclude the series by elaborating on the previously stated thesis that the local drive to protect urban and inner suburban neighborhoods from development is self-contradictory. Although anti-development activists incline to the left, their land-use policies are actually conservative, undermining their own larger agenda. Earlier posts looked at environmental sustainability and class divergence, contending …

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