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.

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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.

Poland’s Borders, Geography, and Geopolitics.

Poland is one of the largest nations in Europe. It is also a nation that has been through immense changes in its history. It has gone from being one of Europe’s largest empires to not even appearing on the map. Watch video below to see Poland’s borders change from 1635-now.

Now, it is important to consider that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was at its largest in 1619, after the Truce of Deulino. This truce ended the Polish-Muscovite War, a series of conflicts between the Commonwealth vs The Tsardom of Russia and the Kingdom of Sweden. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth once included nations such as Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, southern Estonia, parts of Russia, and a tiny sliver of what is now Moldova. The westernmost regions of Poland were not part of that Commonwealth. It was a union between Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

 

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(Photo by Samotny Wędrowiec)

The first Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth started in 1569. Poland and Sweden had a complicated relationship. The Commonwealth would expand east and north, gaining territories such as Livonia and Prussia. These regions would prove to me a subject of contention between Poland and Sweden. Starting in 1648, the series of wars ravaged the Commonwealth. Unlike conflicts of the past, these conflicts were not limited to the peripheral regions. The central regions were affected too. Conflicts with Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Livonia, Ukraine, Sweden, and other neighboring nations would result in its decline. Poland would endure a series of invasions known as “the Deluge”. In particular, from the Tsardom of Russia, Brandenburg, Khmelnytsky Cossack Uprisings in Ukraine, and the Kingdom of Sweden.

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War, and epidemics would decimate Poland’s population, and weaken the Commonwealth. Between 1764-1795, the Commonwealth underwent a series of partitions by Prussia, Russia, and Austria. These partitions took Poland off of the map. Through the 19th century and into the early 20th century, a series of rebellions took place. By 1918, the Second Polish Republic was established.  This lasted until 1939. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It was a neutrality pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It was signed 23 August 1939. 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany attacked Poland. On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland. 2 year later, Hitler would send the German Army on attacks in Eastern Poland, where Soviets had their positions. As World War II concluded, territories were redrawn. Poland would gain what was Germany’s easternmost regions. Danzig would become Gdansk, one of Poland’s port cities today. Poland would also lose its eastern regions. Those areas are now part of Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania. The borders were shaped by the demands made by Stalin in the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, which were brought up in the Tehran Conference of 1943, and again in the Yalta Conference of 1945.

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Poland’s political geography has been shaped by its conflicts with its neighbors. This conflict has a physical geography element to it. Poland today is on the Great European Plain. Most of the nation is flat with the exception of the southernmost parts, where the Tatra Mountains are located. Poland’s location has made it a major thoroughfare for invasion. With relatively flat terrain, there were no buffer zones, except in the south. It has also influenced how its own empire has grown. Poland grew by expanding north, southeast, and east. Going directly south would make invasion difficult due to mountainous terrain. This is particularly so for what is now Ukraine. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, it occupied much of Ukraine except for the westernmost regions. The Carpathian Mountains are in Ukraine’s western areas. The rest of Ukraine is much less rugged, and has historically been more prone to invasion.

Poland has had conflicts with Russia, Austria, Germany, Sweden, the Ottoman Empire (at one this empire occupied southeast Europe), and Prussia. Many of the biggest conflicts have involved Russia, Sweden, Germany, and Prussia. Relatively flat land has made invasion strategically easy.  Land plays a big part in war. Land is a resource. This is what should be considered.

Much of Poland has fertile soil, with the exception of the northern regions with its sandy soil. Fertile land for farming has long been a sought after resource. Another resource is warm water ports. Poland gets cold winters. However, its portion of the Baltic coast is warmer than most places along the Baltic Sea, being further south. Land and greater maritime access are often factors in fighting wars. Poland’s geography has been both an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantageous in terms of fertile soil, a greater access to the sea, and a mountainous buffer zone to the south. However, its geography of rolling hills and plains have given it a disadvantage. It has both been able to invade, and at the same time, be invaded from different directions.

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Geography has been a factor in shaping Poland, from its height in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to the Polish Partition, to what it is today.

 

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.