Oases And Geopolitics

Huacachina-übersichtImagine this. You’re on a voyage through the desert. Water has not been seen for days. Barren, dry land  abounds. Suddenly, a cluster of vegetation appears. No, this is not a mirage. It is for real. Where does that vegetation come from? It hardly ever rains?

An oasis is an isolated cluster of vegetation surrounding some source of water. Very often, it is a spring. It can be a small lake. What needs to take place is an underground water source coming to the surface, such as an aquifer.

In an arid environment like the desert, water is precious. People go where the water is. Physical geography determining human geography. In an oasis, agriculture is made much easier, thanks to the availability of water. Some cities in the Sahara region got their start BECAUSE of oases.

Oases have also played a major role in human history, particularly in geopolitics. Why? It is about resources. Geopolitical issues are frequently about resources, the allocation of resources, competition for those resources, trade routes,etc. An oasis town had a role in trade. Think of it like a filling station, with more people. Here is where geopolitics has played a role. Empires looking for more control over trade routes wanted control of the oases. Geopolitics is about how geography determines the way nations relate to one another. It is about studying foreign policy through the lens of geographic factories. In the instance of an oasis, a nation wants to bolster its trade. Resources are not what said nation would like. There is competition for a certain trade route.

Example Bukhara, Uzbekistan is a city that often doesn’t make headlines these days. However, during the days of the Silk Route, it was a highly sought after city. Bukhara was an oasis city. It has long been a major center of trade because it was an oasis city. It was like a filling station. You stopped there for supplies while going along a major trade route. Because of this, it was highly sought after. Before becoming part of the Soviet Union, it was part of the Persian Empire. Seleucid Empire, Greco-Bactrians, , Kushan Empire. It was also ruled by the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan. This was an oasis city and it was highly sought after. Its local geography made it a stopping point along a major trade route. Want more control over resources and trade? You sought the oasis cities. In the deserts, they were the islands of prosperity in an otherwise arid land.

A nation’s foreign policy would be determined by the need to control a trade route. This would me trying to get control of a certain oasis city(or cities).

Geopolitics is determined by resources related to geography. The geopolitics surrounding an oasis city has often been about access to trade. Nations fighting for control of resources.

Why Geography Is Dynamic.

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Geography Is Dynamic. Let’s break this down a bit.

Geography – The study of the physical features, atmosphere, and the human-environmental interaction of the Earth.

Dynamic – Constantly changing.

Geography Is Dynamic. Why? Because geography is about studying the Earth, and the Earth is constantly changing. Nothing on Earth remains in a static position. The only constant on the Earth is change. Things are always changing. The rate of which things change varies from place to place.

Even within the field of geography, there is a subfield of geography that is specifically about the changes in physical geographic features. It is known as geomorphology. See video below to learn more.

Geomorphology is just one example of how geography is dynamic. In fact, if you look at every subfield of geography, from tourism geography, limnology, urban geography, biogeography, environmental geography, to political geography, geomatics, and cartography. Things are always changing on the planet. All the more reason they need to be studied. And this should be the very first rule of geography. Geography Is Dynamic. It is dynamic because this earth is dynamic.

In teaching geography in the schools, this should be the first lesson. Geography is dynamic. Learning state capital should not be the first thing anyone learns when it comes to geography. Understanding that the Earth is dynamic is the first thing that should be learned.

Why learn geography? Because it’s a dynamic subject. Why is it dynamic? Because Earth is a dynamic place. Things are always changing. We need to constantly study those changes.

#GeographyIsDynamic

Henderson Island, Paradise Lost In Plastic.

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Henderson Island, a small, uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean. An area of about 37.3 sq km. The nearest populated area is 193 km (120 mi) northeast of Pitcairn Island. A Pacific island uninhabited and far removed from humans. It is halfway between New Zealand and Chile. One of the last raised atolls in the world unaffected by human contact. A place complete with beaches. Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it?

Not anymore. Henderson Island has now developed a messy distinction. It now holds the title as the world’s largest density of plastic trash pollution. It has literally become paradise lost in a rubbish tip. Over 38 million pieces of plastic trash have been found on this island. What is even more bizarre is that no one lives on this island. And there are likely places with far more tourism and exploration than Henderson Island.

How does a place get so inundated with plastic trash, without the aid of humans?

Truth is, plastic trash is far more common in the world’s oceans than one might think. There have been reports of plastic trash in the oceans as the Great Pacific garbage patch. It is estimated to be anywhere from 700,000 sq km in area to 15,000,000 sq km in area. To put this in an appropriate perspective, Zambia is over 750,000 sq km in area. Antarctica is  14,000,000 sq km in area. In short, there is enough plastic garbage in the ocean to cover areas ranging from the size of Zambia and higher. Henderson Island is a mere 37.3 sq km. The amount of plastic in the Great Pacific garbage patch is estimated to be enough to cover Henderson Island over 18,700 times.

The truth is, there is a big issue with people dumping their garbage in oceans. It has been documented in affected ecosystems. Many marine animals have choked on or have been strangled to death by plastic debris. And thanks to ocean currents, that trash isn’t going to stay in just one place. 24°21′S 128°19′W is the geographic coordinates of Henderson Island. That is on the other side of the Equator, far away from the Great Pacific garbage patch. So we can rule out that garbage patch as been the cause of the plastic landing on Henderson Island. The South Pacific Gyre has played a big factor. Henderson Island is located towards the center of this Pacific gyre. In short, plastic garbage, which non-biodegradable, is being carried through the lengths of the earth and throughout the oceans via ocean currents, landing in even the most remote places

With plastic showing up in such a remote place, this is the lesson to take from this. The littering that humans can do will not only affect the immediate area. It isn’t just your neighborhood, your city, or even your country. The garbage in the world’s oceans is being carried to other places. It has created a situation where we could create a garbage pit in a place so far away without us deliberately putting it there. A garbage dump on an island where humans have never lived, and it wasn’t brought in by boat or airplane. Rather, by the ocean currents from far away. The litter we dump on the roads, in the oceans, can be carried far away.  It shows that the earth is more connected than we realize, even in the most remote places.

World’s Coldest Capital City

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Cities located in the higher latitudes are obviously going to be colder relative to cities at lower latitudes. However, that is not the only factor.

Elevation is a factor. The higher up one goes in altitude, the colder it will be. This is why Quito, Ecuador, located along the Equator, has a cooler climate than Tampa,FL,USA, located just outside of the Tropics.

If you factor in distance towards or from oceanic influences, and terrain, these are more factors to consider. Seattle, the northernmost major city in the contiguous 48 US states, has much warmer winters than Kansas City,MO. Seattle, being sheltered by the Olympic and Cascade ranges and having oceanic influences from the Alaska and California currents, keep its winters markedly warmer than Kansas City, located near the middle of the contiguous USA, with cold winter able to sweep down the nation’s midsection unfettered, with no oceanic influences nearby or mountains to block cold winds.

Now, this is about the world’s coldest capital city. Believe it not, Moscow is not the world’s coldest capital city. Neither is Greenland’s capital city. Greenland is not a sovereign nation.

Ulaanbataar, Mongolia is the world’s coldest capital city of a sovereign nation. It has an average annual temperature of -1 C (31 F). All the factors discussed in this blog entry apply to Ulaanbataar. This is a city with a high latitude(very close to 48 N), high altitude(1300 m/4300 ft above sea level), and far away from ocean influences. Temperatures in this city can drop as low as -45 C in the winter. Considering that -40 is the same at both Centigrade and Fahrenheit, that is extreme.

And thus, how geography and weather are connected.