Iceland, Where Europe And North America Meet.

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There is vast ocean separating North America from Europe. There would be no way that Europe and North America could meet, not with land masses touching.

However, if you go to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, there is something else to be found. A divergent plate boundary in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is where the North American and Eurasian Plates meet. In the country of Iceland, this is known as Reykjanes Ridge. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge goes through Iceland.

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One major feature is the Silfra Fissure. A rift formed by the Mid Atlantic Ridge. This is a divergent plate boundary. The plates are moving away from each other.

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Taking a dive into the spring-fed waters of the Silfra Fissure will bring a point home. At this point, a diver can touch both the North American and Eurasian plates at once.

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The Mid-Atlantic Ridge also plays a role in Iceland’s geothermal power resources. Being a geothermal hotspot, this helps Iceland.

Iceland is located closer to continental Europe than continental North America. However, it is on both the North American and Eurasian plates. It also has some proximity to Greenland, a large North American island ruled indirectly by an EU nation, Denmark. It its own way, Iceland can be considered where Europe and North America meet.

 

The Geography of US/Cuba Relations

 

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90 miles of water separates the U.S. state of Florida from the nation of Cuba. Such a short distance, and yet, much contention.

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Recently, an entry about the potential for a tourism boom in Cuba was written on TheGeoScholar. With President Donald Trump rolling back changes that former President Barack Obama made towards US/Cuba diplomatic relations, particularly in tourism, it looks like such a boom will not be, at least as far as U.S. tourists are concerned.

Essentially, diplomatic relations between the U.S.A. and Cuba have been at a standstill since the 1960s. However, to understand such relations, understanding geography is a requirement.

Cuba is in a strategic position near Mexico, the Bahamas, and the USA. Mexico used to be part of the Spanish Empire alongside Cuba. Simultaneously, the USA expanded in size and influence while the Spanish Empire declined in influence and size. The Spanish Empire was still feared by the USA nonetheless. The British Empire was feared too. Bahamas was a British colony during the expansion of the USA. One fear was that trade routes out of New Orleans would be cut off around the Straits of Florida, where Cuba is located.  ew Orleans has long been a major port in the USA since the Louisiana Purchase. Its location means that ships would pass through the Straits of Florida. There was a fear that either the British Empire or the Spanish Empire could cut off trade routes. This is a major factor in the Spanish-American War taking place.

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There has also been influence by the USA via businesses having holdings in Cuba, particularly in the sugar industry. After the Cuban Revolution took place in the 1950s, the late Fidel Castro took power. After being declared a communist nation, the Soviet Union would use Cuba as a strategic position, being so close to the USA, and the USA and the Soviet Union being enemies of each other. The Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba. With Cuba being a Communist nation, an embargo was put on Cuba. Travel to Cuba via the USA restricted, business and diplomatic ties to Cuba frozen, and thus the current geopolitical situation.

In short, Cuba has a close position to the USA. This has played a major role in geopolitics. On one hand, proximity was one part of wanting to do business. On the other hand, there was also fear, especially with trade routes being a factor. And with

People Shaping The Land: Polders

 

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Geography Is Dynamic. Remember it, and remember it often. Things on the earth are changing all of the time. Many of those things are natural. Many things change because of human beings. One example is polders.

What is a polder? Land which has been reclaimed from a body of water. That is the short definition. It is like making new land out of the water. Draining a swamp, a lake, or the sea(you have to put a wall around a certain area if draining part of the sea). This done by engineering. The video below will give more details.

Land reclamation, the creation of polders, has often been necessary in places where an adequate amount of land was lacking. Human beings would shape the land by changing certain things about the land. In particular, what features are on the land. One example, a very famous one, is The Netherlands. Flevoland, the 12th province of The Netherlands, is a product of this process. Most of the land in Flevoland was only reclaimed in the 1950s and 1960s.  The land was reclaimed from IJsselmeer, a lake. It is home to the city of Lelystad, built in 1967, established as a city in 1980. Another example of Alemere, The Netherlands. This is the newest city in The Netherlands, becoming a municipality in 1984. Like Lelystad, it is located in Flevoland. It is built on reclaimed land. Today it has a population of over 196,000 people.

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Photo by Mark Ahsmann.

If cities like Lelystad and Almere can be created on polders, this leaves much to consider as far as other places that could be built out of land reclamation. Other cities have been expanded due to land reclamation, Singapore, San Francisco, Perth, Dublin, New Orleans, Boston,etc.

With the good comes the bad. Building polders has the advantage of creating more land. That land itself can also be a liability. This is land that was perennially under water. The soil will be very soft and unstable. One thing Singapore did to make sure the land would be stable by leaving the land unused for 20 years. This would give the reclaimed land enough time to settle. There is also the issue of the environment itself. A lake or swamp that existed before will disappear, and with that, the flora and fauna that would have been there. Many will see this as a bad thing, arguing that it would destroy a habitat. Some might see it as a good thing, particularly in the case of swamps. Some will argue that it would get rid of an environment that was poor for habitation.

However one looks at it, polders are an example of people shaping the land for a need. It is geography showing itself to be dynamic. The land changing. In this case, via people.

Explaining The Blue Jay Fan Presence in Seattle.

Photo from Seattle Times.

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In September 2016, a frustrated Felix Hernandez shouted this refrain to booing Blue Jays fans at Safeco Field while pointing downward at the field: “THIS IS MY HOUSE”!!

1977. The Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays begin play. Whenever the Toronto Blue Jays come to town, so do Blue Jays fans. In some cases, the Blue Jays’ fans outnumber the Mariners’ fans.

How? Toronto doesn’t even play in the same division as Seattle. Toronto is close to Detroit and Cleveland than it is to Seattle.

Well, the answer is alot closer than you think. Seattle is much closer to Canada than many people realize. Seattle is 142.6 miles from Vancouver,BC,Canada. This is basically a 2 1/2 hour drive. One might think that because Vancouver is so close to Seattle, people in that city would root for the Seattle Mariners. Well……..

Some of this could be blamed on the subpar playing of the Mariners between 2004 and now(out of those years, only 4 seasons above the .500 mark). However, there is a cultural geography component here. Vancouver is in Canada. The Toronto Blue Jays have traditionally represented English-speaking Canada. The Montreal Expos, baseball’s representatives in the Francophone province of Quebec, play in Washington,DC as of 2005. This leaves the Blue Jays as Canada’s sole team. Not that this would matter. Vancouver is an Anglophone city, and it’s closer to Toronto than Montreal. Even if Seattle is the closest city to Vancouver, Vancouver is in the long-reaching sphere of the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays being a Canadian team, people in Vancouver would be more likely to root for the Blue Jays.

In short, Blue Jays fans in Vancouver have an easy drive to Seattle. Could the Mariners and Blue Jays become a big rivalry? Geography is strangely on its side. The Mariners have never really had geographic rivalries. At least not in the traditional sense. However, the geography is in the details. With Vancouver 2.5 hours away, this could really make things interesting.

Catalonia Referendum on Leaving Spain

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Spain is the 4th largest nation in Europe. Currently, there are 46,423,064 people living there. Politically, there is something going on that could affect whether or not the two stats mentioned remain this way.

Spain does not have provinces or states. Instead, Spain has 16 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities(Ceuta and Melilla). One of those autonomous communities is having a vote on whether or not to stay, or break from Spain.

That autonomous community is Catalonia. Catalonia is due to hold a referendum on Sunday, 1 October 2017. There will be a vote on whether or not Catalonia will remain part of Spain or become its own country. According to the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Catalonia, along with Galicia and the Basque region, has the definition as a nationality. Catalonia lost autonomy after the Spanish Civil War, and had no such autonomy under the rule of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. After Franco’s death, Catalonia would soon regain autonomy, and its people the recognition as a distinct people.

To put this in human geography terms, Catalans are the name of the people living in Catalonia. Spanish is the official language of Spain. For Catalonia, Spanish is spoken, but Catalan is the official language. Catalan people see themselves as a distinct people. Separatist sentiments are nothing new for Catalonia. This can be traced back to the Catalan Renaissance (Renaixença) of the 19th century. The goal was to revive the Catalan language and traditions. Some people started to demand independence from Spain.

The current upcoming referendum goes back to 2014, when Catalonia held a non-binding vote on self-determination. It was about Catalonia desiring to become a state. In the 2015 regional election, Carles Puigdemont was elected President of the Generalitat of Catalonia. He was the first to refuse to take the oath to the Spanish constitution and its current monarch, Felipe IV.

To understand more about Catalonia and the impact of an independent Catalonia, let’s look at the current geography. Catalonia is located in northeastern Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. 7,522,596 people live in Catalonia. Catalonia has a land area of 32,108 sq km (12,397 sq mi). Catalonia is a highly industrialized region of Spain. Generating 200 billion euros, it has the highest GDP in Spain. Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, is also home to one of Spain’s largest ports.

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However not everything is great. Its per capita income is 27,000 euros($30,000). This is lower than Madrid, the Basque County, and Navarre. Catalonia has lost almost 1,000 companies to other regions in Spain. Most have been relocating to Spain’s capital, Madrid. Catalonia is also the 2nd most expensive region in Spain to buy a new home. Catalonia’s economic credit rating is considered “non investment” grade. In 2012, Catalonia had the highest debt of Spain’s autonomous communities.

Even with some economic issues, Barcelona still leads Spain when it comes to employment. It is a major industrial center, port city, fashion and cultural center.

If Catalonia does become independent, it leaves much to consider. Currently, Catalonia is a major economic producer and industrial leader in Spain. Its high GDP within Spain leaves much to want to hold onto. Barcelona is the largest port city in Spain, as well as the largest city on the Mediterranean Sea. While Spain has other port cities, Barcelona is powerful. It has the 4th largest GDP of any city in the EU. If Catalonia does become independent, there leaves another question. Will Catalonia join the EU or not? If so, Barcelona will still remain part of the EU. Barcelona is a major producer of automobiles in Spain, and in Europe. It is a major center for tourism with its beaches and being the one of the busiest passenger ports in Europe. Barcelona is a major transportation hub.

Will the referendum pass? This could depend on many factors. So far, cultural ties are a major factor in the push for independence. Could Catalonia do without Spain? Could Spain do without Catalonia? What role will Barcelona play in the EU? Will it join the EU or not?

Hurricane, Typhoon, Cyclone: What’s The Difference?

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Yes, we hear these terms on weather forecasts, those tropical storms that we see causing much havoc. Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones. Three different weather terms. What is the difference between these three?

Well, not much, except where they take place. Such storms in the Indian Ocean are known as cyclones. Such storms occurring in North America are called hurricanes. In East Asia, they are called cyclones.

Watch the video below to learn about this.

Paris Agreement, Geographic Perspective

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After U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris Agreement, an immense amount of controversy has taken place. For a long time, issues such as climate change and global warming have proven to be polarizing subjects, at least when put into the political arena. First, the Paris Climate Agreement needs to be defined.

The Paris Climate Agreement is an agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The goal is to decide how to mitigate climate change and how to adapt to climate change. The Paris Agreement was drafted in November-December 2015, and signed in April 2016. It became effective on 4 November 2016. 195 members of the UNFCCC have signed it, and 148 members have ratified it.

The goals involved according to the agreement.

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

In short, minimize the rise of the average global temperature above pre-industrial level, adapt to changes in the world caused by climate change, and invest more money into technology that would produce less emissions.

Sounds like a noble goal. However, not all nations that signed would stay. When this agreement was signed by the USA, Barack Obama was President of the USA. Today, it is Donald Trump. And President Trump has announced, as of 1 June 2017 that the USA would withdraw from the agreement.

Now, this is to be considered. Every nation within the agreement can determine its own goals in terms of mitigating climate change. There is no force involved and there is no set dates involved. However, the idea is that once a goal is set, said nation should reach or go beyond said goals.

In short, the USA isn’t under the utmost force. According to Trump, it is a solemn duty to the USA to pull out of the agreement. Here is an important question. How is the Paris Agreement harmful to the USA? How do Americans feel about it?

There have been several polls with contrasting results. One poll could show the majority of Americans being for the Paris Agreement. Another poll could show the majority of Americans being against the Paris Agreement. President Trump mentioned that leaving the agreement would boost the coal industry. He mentioned that it would hurt the U.S. economy.

According to the Paris Agreement, the USA can set its own goals and determine the path it wants to go to. And if the USA wants to leave, no one can stop the USA from doing so.

However, it still leaves this question. Would the Paris Agreement hurt the economy? Considering that Trump’s focus on a better economy is manufacturing, there are still many things that need to be considered. Because the USA can determine its own goals in mitigating climate change, there are some things that need to be considered.

  1. The coal industry. This industry has been on the decline for decades, specifically in Central Appalachia. It is flourishing in the Powder River region in Montana/Wyoming. Geographically, it is easier to transport coal from the Powder River region than Central Appalachia, given its more abundant railroad infrastructure, better roads, and less rugged terrain. The coal in this region has a lower amount of sulfur compared to Appalachian coal.
  2. Steel. While the steel industry depends on coal, the dependence on it is dropping. More steel plants are seeking out natural gas as a cleaner fuel source.
  3. Natural gas. Natural gas emits far less CO2, a greenhouse gas, than coal does. As this power source is sought after, the economy could grow because of this resource.

These 3 considerations are just the tip of the iceberg.

And then there is this to consider. There are other forms of energy that can be harnessed, such as water, the sun, wind, geothermal power. Geography, however, will play a role. Places with high average wind speeds will benefit from wind power. Areas near strong watercourses and large tides will benefit from hydroelectric and tidal power. Sunny regions in the USA can harness solar power. Areas near high geothermal activity can use geothermal power. There are a myriad of resources. And the USA can set its own goals if it remains with the Paris Agreement. It will not mean the exclusion of a certain energy source. Energy diversification can be a factor in the USA

If one is to build on ALL of these energy resources, this will require the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, equipment for geothermal power, the building of dams, and this could also spur more innovation. A new economic boom similar to Silicon Valley could begin, depending on the geography of an area.

If one learns more about geography, and how geography can effect energy resources and transportation. A more educated decision on whether or not the Paris Agreement would hurt the USA’s economy.