Greenland’s Banana Coast.

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Sineriak Bananeqarfik is Greenlandic for “Banana Coast”. That is the nickname of Greeland’s southern coast. Greenland has an ironic name, considering that most of Greenland’s 2,166,086 km(836,330 sq mi) of land consists of ice cap, the largest outside of Antarctica. However, the southern coast of Greenland truly has green vegetation and even trees. Being the southernmost part of Greenland, this is the warmest part of Greenland, specifically Kujalleq, a municipality (Greenland’s equivalent of a state, province, or county) in southern Greenland. No, bananas do not grow here, but it does have a milder (though still cold) climate than anywhere else in Greenland, suitable for raising sheep, a big part of Kujalleq’s economy.

Learn more from the video below (Source: Youtube)

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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

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.