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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.

The Zone of Excision: Australia’s Island Screen

By Martin W. Lewis | March 10, 2010 |

The standard model of global geography depicts all international borders as equivalent, simple lines on a map that indicate precisely where the sovereignty of one state ends and that of another begins. In actuality, land borders vary tremendously in their significance and permeability, ranging from the heavily militarized “demilitarized zone” of Korea to the almost

The Tax Haven of Norfolk Island

By Martin W. Lewis | March 9, 2010 | One Comment

With just 13 square miles and 2,142 residents, Norfolk Island is not large. Lying 900 miles off Australia and 600 miles from New Zealand, it is also very remote. But Norfolk played a key role in the British colonization of the Austral realm. Extensive groves of tall, straight Norfolk Island pine

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

Geocurrents on Mars- A 3D Tour of the Red Planet in Google Earth

By Samuel Raphael Franco | |

This weekend’s Google Earth adventure on Geocurrents will take us to a place colder than Svalbard or the Ross Ice Shelf, and dustier than the Namib, Nefud, or Taklaman Deserts.With sweeping dune fields, seismic chasms, deep double impact craters, and a monolithic human face; Mars is a geographer, topographer, seismographer, hydrologist, and conspiracy theorist’s delight.

New Caledonia’s Unique Troubles

By Martin W. Lewis | March 5, 2010 |

Yesterday’s post referred to the French-controlled island of New Caledonia as a “nano-continent.” Owing in part to its continental origins, New Caledonia is classified as a biodiversity “hotspot” by Conservation International, noted for its large number of threatened endemic species. New Caledonia also occupies a unique position in terms of human geography. Its official status

How Many Continents Are There?

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

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

Communist Insurgents and Ethnic Militias in Northern Luzon: The NPA Vs. the CPLA

By Martin W. Lewis | March 2, 2010 |

The main focus of insurgency in the Philippines has long been the Muslim southwest. But as discussed in last Friday’s post, the Maoist New People’s Army (NPA) remains active in remote areas throughout the archipelago. One of the NPA’s main zones of operation is the Cordillera of Northern Luzon, a rugged area divided into

Autonomy and Insurgency in the Southern Philippines

By Martin W. Lewis | March 1, 2010 |

Last Friday’s post on the Maguindanao Massacre in the southern Philippines linked the event to a combination of Philippine electoral politics and privatized military forces. Deeper roots are found in centuries-old imperial conflicts and religious rivalries. Islam was spreading northward through the Philippines when the Spaniards arrived in the late 1500s. Although the Spanish colonial

GeoCurrentcast Episode #8- Central Africa

By Samuel Raphael Franco | February 28, 2010 |
GeoCurrentcast Episode #8- Central Africa

GeoCurrents is proud to present our eighth installment in the Geocurrentcasts series, an in depth illustrated lecture profiling the history and geography of current global events.This week’s episode takes us to Central Africa, providing a comprehensive look at the history, linguistic diversity, and geography of the region, using the Democratic Republic of the Congo as

Militias, Private Armies, and Failed States

By Martin W. Lewis | February 27, 2010 | 2 Comments

Max Weber famously defined the modern state as an entity claiming a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence to enforce order over a specific territory. By this definition, many of the countries that constitute the international geopolitical order fall well short of being genuine states. Consider Lebanon. From 1976 to 2005, a sizable

The New State of Coastal California?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 25, 2010 | 2 Comments

In 2009, former California legislator Bill Maze proposed dividing his state, hiving off thirteen counties as Coastal (or Western) California (see map). Maze, a conservative from the agricultural Central Valley, objects to the domination of state politics by the left-leaning Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas. The initial impetus for his proposal

Argentina’s Claims to the Falkland Islands, and Much More

By Martin W. Lewis | February 24, 2010 | 6 Comments

The Falkland Islands, known in Spanish as the Malvinas, are back in the news, as Argentina reasserts its claims while objecting to offshore oil exploration in the vicinity by British firms. In 1982 the Falklands made global headlines when Argentina unsuccessfully attempted to militarily wrest control of the archipelago from the United Kingdom.

The Andaman Islands: Cultural Extinction, Paleolithic Survival, and Modern Naval Warfare

By Martin W. Lewis | February 23, 2010 | One Comment

In February 2010, a number of major media outlets reported the death of Boa Sr, the last speaker of Bo in India’s Andaman Islands. Sadly, there is nothing unusual about the extinction of Bo; a language disappears somewhere in the world roughly once a month. Some 500 languages are spoken by fewer than ten