Environmental Geography

Whither GeoCurrents?

UnknownDear Readers,

GeoCurrents has just completed its fourth year of publication and its second year as a joint production of myself and Asya Pereltsvaig. During that time it has undergone a number of changes, as we have sought various ways to increase our visibility and readership, relying on the technical expertise of Kevin Morton. Running this site has been an extremely rewarding experience for both of us. It has allowed us to explore a wide range of topics that we find interesting and significant and to get informed… – Read More

Unnecessary Environmental Destruction from Marijuana Cultivation in the United States

cannabis legal status mapOver 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 methamphetamine. The position of cannabis in American society is a deeply charged issue undergoing a sea change in the court of public opinion.

Mapping the Farmlands of Coastal Peru

Peru Coastal Farmlands MapIn 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. I have therefore constructed a rather crude map indicating the main areas of intensive farming in the strip of land sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and… – Read More

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

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. Owing to the seasonal harvest complementarity, Chilean fruit exports have done little harm to orchardists in the Northern Hemisphere.

A similar but less noticed transformation in the asparagus market has occurred more recently. Fresh asparagus was once a springtime… – Read More

The Paradoxes of Ethiopia’s Dam-Building Boom

African Hydropoer PotentialThe 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. But due to DR Congo’s political instability and lack of effective government, Ethiopia has emerged as the leader in African hydropower development. As Ethiopia is… – Read More

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

Nile Hydropolitics MapWater 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 last week as the Egyptian opposition lambasted the Morsi administration for allowing the project to proceed. The reaction from the Egyptian government, however, was muted… – Read More

Bhutan’s Paradoxical Development

Himalayan GDP Per Capita MapThe 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 a per capita GDP map of the seven relevant states as if they were equivalent geopolitical entities. As can be seen, politically troubled Nepal lags behind the… – Read More

Zoï’s Fantastic Central Asia Water Map, and Turkmenistan’s Geo-Engineering Projects

Aral Sea Water MapThe Geneva-based Zoï Environment Network has created some detailed and well-designed environmental maps. Available through flickr photostream along with many other images, the maps are not very well catalogued. Regardless of such organizational problems, the site is well worth exploring. The map that I have posted here, moreover, is the best presentation of the Central Asia’s water crisis that I have seen.

Note on the map how the Amu Darya no longer reaches the Aral Sea, which as a result has largely turned into a… – Read More

Self-Rule and Environmental Crisis in Ogoniland

In recent months, relations between the Ogoni people of Rivers State in southeastern Nigeria and the government have come under intense pressure. On August 2nd, a group of Ogoni led by Goodluck Diigbo of the pro-autonomy Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) declared their sovereignty in internal affairs while stopping short of secession. – Read More

From Drought to Floods in South Asia

The all-important summer monsoon of South Asia has given weather and climate forecasters, as well as news reporters, a wild ride this year. In late June, Reuters hopefully reported that India’s crucial monsoon rains were “expected to be average in 2012, … helping to allay concern over farm output triggered by sparse rainfall in the last few weeks.” Such concerns, however, only deepened, and by late July, news sources were reporting that “with drought conditions prevailing in most parts of India, Monsoon 2012 is set to be the worst in the last 65 years.” – Read More

Khareef Season Draws Thousands to Southern Oman

Lush, verdant hillsides are not the type of landscape one would expect to find on the Arabian Peninsula. Indeed, most of the region is parched desert where plant life is extremely sparse without human intervention. During the summer monsoon season, however, parts of Oman and Yemen find themselves soaked in rain and wreathed by fog. – Read More

The U.S. Drought and the South American Farming Boom

The drought in the U.S. farm-belt is having major repercussions in South America, as farmers in the region seek to take advantage of high commodity prices. As reported in BloombergBusinessweek, Argentine farmers hope to harvest as much as 31 million tons of corn (maize) in early 2013, which would smash their previous record of 22 million tons. – Read More

Melting and Mining in Greenland

Reports of recent massive surface melting on Greenland’s central ice cap have circulated widely in the global media. According to NASA, the area exhibiting a surface thaw expanded from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent in a mere four-day period this July. As reported by Canada’s CBC News, “You literally had this wave of warm air wash over the Greenland ice sheet and melt it,” NASA ice scientist Tom Wagner said Tuesday. – Read More

Massive Smallwood Reservoir and Dry Waterfalls

In working on the recent GeoCurrents post on dams, I was astounded to learn that the world’s second largest human-created lake, by surface area, is Smallwood Reservoir in northeastern Canada, which covers 6,527 km2 (2,520 sq mi) of land. This massive lake was created not by an individual dam, but rather by 88 dikes that together stretch over 64 km (40 mi). An idea of the size of the Smallwood can be gathered from the map to the left that overlays the lake on the Tokyo area; this image is found on… – Read More

The Environmental Paradox of Large-Scale Hydroelectric Developments

Hydroelectric power poses a major paradox for environmentalism, as noted in a previous GeoCurrents post. On the one hand, most environmentalists detest dams, which drastically transform riverine ecology, prevent anadromous fish migration, inundate productive and diverse terrestrial ecosystems, displace sizable numbers of people, and occasionally threaten entire indigenous cultures.  Yet on the other hand, hydropower is remarkably clean, produces no greenhouse gasses (beyond temporary releases from decaying vegetation), and is renewable over long periods of time (depending on the rate of sedimentation). In the poorer parts of the world, moreover, the relatively cheap power that can be produced… – Read More