Rainwater Harvesting, Geopolitics, And The Future Of Water Supply.

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No, rainwater is not some kind of crop. However, the harvesting of rainwater can be one of the most valuable things for human beings. While Earth itself is majority water, most of that water is not usable for human consumption, unless you plan on building a plethora of desalination plants.

Most of the world’s freshwater is locked up in glaciers and ice sheets. Rivers and lakes serve as sources of freshwater. And there is one more source, the weather. In particular, the rain. Human beings have been capturing and using the rain as a water resource for thousands of years. In times when municipal water systems were not available, and water was needed, wherever it rained, that rain could be a source of water for drinking, washing up, irrigation, or in the case of the video below, fountains.

In a world where water is becoming more valuable than ever, rain water capturing still proves to be a beneficial sources of water. In many places, rain that would have simply become storm water runoff is put to good use in ponds and fountains.

Harvesting the rain is often used as a source of drinking water. In Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta, there is salt water among the ground water. In a land where rainfall is plentiful, rainwater harvesting is a major source of water.

In places with a decent water supply, rainwater can be a supplement to the existing water supply. It can also be a set-aside in the event that a drought takes place. And in that case, captured rainwater is beneficial in agriculture, as it serves as an irrigation source. Rainwater is often used to recharge the groundwater in some areas. For developing nations, harvesting rainwater is often seen as a solution for combating a scarcity of potable water. In many places, there is plenty of water, but much of it is not drinkable.

Capturing rainwater is nothing complicated. It can be done through simple means. It is often collected in vessels, from rooftops, and it can be harvested from rivers or reservoirs. It is simple, but it will have an impact on the water supply world wide. With more technological innovations, this form of capturing water for human consumption could play a major role in the future. Of course, it has to be conducted the right way. In many places, rainwater is collected from rooftops. There isn’t a guarantee that such water is safe. Birds often land there, and defecate in many cases.

Consider this. Many geopolitical issues in the world are related to the water supply. Water is a major issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Water rights are a major issue in the Middle East. Considering the desert geography the region this will continue to play a role in geopolitics. Rainwater is not equal everywhere. Many places have low rainfall totals. Technological innovations can often be a response to bridge the gap between humans and the environments they live in. It will not be just a matter of harvesting rainwater. It will also be about where that rainwater will go. In theory, rainwater can be collected in one place, and sent to another place. In fact, this is already being done in several places. In California, much of the population lives in areas that get rainfall totals that qualify it as semiarid or desert. The California Aqueduct collects water from the Sierra Nevadas, and through an elaborate network of canals, pipes, and tunnels, that water id distributed to places such as southern California. Aqueducts have been used to distribute water for ages. It was done in the Roman Empire. It can be done today, with even more advanced technology than in antiquity. And even in the Middle East, rainwater can be harvested from high elevation areas. Turkey and Iran have some of the rainiest places in the Middle East. Lebanon has high elevation regions where snowfall is commonplace.

However, water issues go beyond California. How will geopolitics play a role in water distribution, if measures such as distributing collected rainwater take place? Will there be peace as a result? Or will the existing geopolitical problems hinder such solutions? And will it be enough? Where will it come from? Many questions, no easy answers. In the present, rainwater harvesting still has its benefits locally.

Geography Is Dynamic, And A Newspaper Article Proves It.

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Geography is dynamic. This is the Earth. Things are always changing on this planet. Borders change, land changes. A 1994 newspaper article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that geography is dynamic. The article shows the changes and events that were taking place back then. Consider the events of the early/mid 1990s, and compare them to today.

Houston, We Have Indoor Baseball

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Take some time to imagine this. Playing baseball where the sun doesn’t shine. Now imagine playing baseball in a place where no kind of weather takes place, only that which HVAC controls. Mom always said don’t play ball in the house. But imagine that your house is wider than a baseball field and 18 stories high.

Well, in 1965, such a place would come to fruition. The place: Houston, Texas,USA. The Astrodome. During the 1960s, man would be trying to reach the moon, and eventually got there by decades’ end. Closer to Earth, humans were trying to figure out how to attract Major League Baseball to Houston, and cope with Houston’s hot, humid, mosquito-clad environment.

In 1962,  baseball would come to Houston in the form of the Houston Colt .45s, named for the gun that would epitomize the west. This is Texas. With Houston growing as a city, it seemed fitting that Major League Baseball would have a team there. However, Colt Stadium was an outdoor stadium. And Houston’s geography made it difficult to play baseball. Heat and humidity, mosquitoes (Houston is located on Buffalo Bayou), and the afternoon thunderstorm during late afternoon.

How does one respond to such geography and weather? Go inside. And with that, a stadium was constructed for that purpose. By 1965, it was named the Astrodome, and would be the new home of the newly named Houston Astros for the next 35 seasons. And this home was complete with air conditioning.

This will not get into the architecture of the Astrodome or its putt-putt playing surface. This however, will get into the geography of baseball in Houston. It is fitting that the Astrodome was built in Houston,TX. Before 1962, Major League Baseball never went that far South.  Anaheim, a Los Angeles suburb in Orange County, was the furthest south baseball went. However, being so far west, and being on the chilly eastern Pacific Ocean, summers were relatively cooler, and drier. More comfortable for the players.

In many ways the Astrodome represented a new frontier for baseball. A growing city in the sunbelt region. Houston was beginning to throw off the shackles of Jim Crow. It would also represent the hottest place baseball would be played, until 1972 when an a metro with even hotter summers, the Dallas-Ft Worth region, would be given the Texas Rangers baseball team. It represented the first time baseball would go indoors because of the climate/geography of the local area. It is fitting that a Houston baseball team is called the Astros. With the NASA space program making its home in Houston, and baseball having to be on the cutting technology to respond to the geography of Houston, this was very fitting. Houston Astros would reiterate this  in 2000, when it moved into Reliant Stadium, an indoor stadium with a retractable dome.

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.