This morning I armed myself with reading material and bundled
up in long underwear, sweatshirt, and mittens for my first voting experience in
the District of Columbia,
fearing that higher-than-average voter turnout could mean long lines in the chilly
fall air. Luckily, my trip to the polls turned out to quick, painless, and
entirely indoors. But after months of anticipation I was prepared to exercise
my civic duty—whatever the circumstances.
Now that the historic night is finally here, we hope you’ll follow
along with an eye toward geography as the state-by-state electoral map turns
shades of red and blue. First, keep a close watch on the battleground states. You
may even want to try a hand at CNN’s electoral calculator to
see if you can beat the experts at predicting which way the states will swing!
With so much emphasis on the presidential race, it’s easy to
forget the many other contests and issues at stake; like those ballot questions
on the docket in 33 of 50 states.
Will gay marriage be overturned in California? Will Massachusetts ban dog racing?
Learn more the ballot measures with these resources from CBS
News, the National
Conference of State Legislatures, and CNN News.
CNN also features a ballot measure scoreboard
with town by town results and maps, a comprehensive guide to the issues and a “Track Your Race”
tool to help stay on top of the issues and contests most important to you.
Of course, not everyone’s voting
experience will go quite as smoothly as my own. Experiences with past problems
(who could forget the 2000 election snafu?) and this year’s high voter
turnout are adding to the concerns of many. Check out this map of complaints
that have already been filed. Of course, you savvy geographers will want to
carefully compare this with the map of battleground states. Fingers crossed
that any excitement tomorrow will follow from the final results, and not from closer
analysis of these dynamics!
Finally, our friend Danielle Williams, employee
with the National Geographic Research, Conservation, and Exploration group, is “feeling the excitement” this
week from a somewhat less conventional setting. Read
about her experience below!
It Starts With a Question: “How Will Climate Change Impact
the Next Four (or Five) Years?”
This week, there is going to be a diverse group of people
gathering from the DC-MD-VA area who want to play a part in finding solutions
to the climate crisis, and I am one of them.
I’ll be participating in the HSBC/Earthwatch Institute
Climate Change Fellowship as part of a five-year project going on in five
countries. Along with ten other
participants from all walks of life, I’ll be given an opportunity to get out of
my desk chair (wohoo!) and get dirty, learning and experiencing first hand some
of the field techniques and quantitative scientific approaches being used to
monitor the effect that our changing climate and human-related activities have
on temperate and tropical forests. The
project is entitled: “Sustainable Forest Management in a Changing Climate.”
I am representing The National Geographic Society, in part,
because of my work as a member of our Green Initiative’s subcommittee on
Employee Practices. Building upon our
mission of increasing and diffusing geographic knowledge, National Geographic
seeks to inspire people to care about the planet. In order to speak to the public through our
media on issues like climate change, it is necessary for our staff to embody
that mission. For our efforts in implementing and marketing ECOmmuting
Awareness Day to staff, National Geographic received the Washington Council of
Governments Commuter Connections Award in June 2008. This team-oriented and carbon-reducing
mentality is what I hope to bring to the discussions with my fellow climate
change stakeholders this week as we share best practices from our respective
organizations and communities.
Our particular field site is located at the Smithsonian Environmental
a forested area around Edgewater, Maryland, right in the heart of the Chesapeake
Bay watershed. The other
forest field sites being studied as part of this global project are located in
Brazil, India, England and China. Beyond
tasting a piece of the science behind our changing climate, this week we’ll
also discuss several themes surrounding it, including the cultural perceptions
of climate change, its socio-economic impacts, and meeting the challenges of
the future. As members of the North American (MD) team, we’ll be the first to
brainstorm ideas for community-level solutions to the climate crisis, projects
that will connect our newfound understanding of the science behind climate
change to the ways in which we can reduce our impact on it. As the team from the United States, we’re setting the
precedent for this global five-year project, and the symbolism is not lost on
It may be a week in the woods, but this is no ordinary
week. Getting to experience real
fieldwork and brainstorm solutions that may help mitigate the effects of
climate change on our planet is one thing. Getting to experience it in the middle of a presidential election is
quite another. Many scientists and other
climate change experts agree that our window of opportunity to change our
current course for the better is very narrow, and considering that the United
States’ portion of global CO2 emissions is quite large, it’s going to take
great leadership at the helm to ensure that we find myriad alternatives to the
status quo – and encourage other world leaders to do the same. Our entire week will be framed by the results
of this historic presidential election, and it will be exciting to see how
those results add fuel to our discussions. After all, the next four (or five)
years depends on it.