Celebrate ‘Peace Day’

POLITICS On Sept. 21, the United Nations marks the International Day of Peace with a call to invest in education that embraces global citizenship based on values of tolerance and diversity. (UN News Centre) Use our resources to help encourage tolerance, diversity, and global citizenship. Discussion Ideas In the video above, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encourages teaching the values of “tolerance and mutual respect.” (Fast … Continue reading Celebrate ‘Peace Day’

Finger-Lickin’ Grub

FOOD Finger-Lickin’ Grub The United Nations has new weapons to fight hunger, boost nutrition, and reduce pollution, and they might be crawling or flying near you right now: Insects. In a new report, the Food and Agriculture Organization hailed the likes of grasshoppers, ants, and other members of the insect world as an underutilized food for people, livestock, and pets. Discussion Ideas: In its new … Continue reading Finger-Lickin’ Grub

Ethnic Violence Breaks Out In Kyrgyzstan

Thursday, June 10th, ethnic violence broke out in the southern city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan.  Shortly after, American newspapers and news channels began covering the story.

For many of us, Kyrgyzstan isn’t a country we hear about often. We’re
likely unsure of what language Kyrgyzstanis speak, what type of
government they have, how big the country is, where it is located, and
even how to pronounce or spell “Kyrgyzstan.” 

Without context,
stories of violence in Kyrgyzstan on news programs and in newspapers
are nothing more than stories, confined to a 2D non-reality.

Courtesy New York Times





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Gearing Up for Climate Change in Copenhagen

Thumbnail image for 800px-Copnhagen_Arial_View_Night.jpgThe United Nations Climate Change Conference is underway in Copenhagen. Over the course of the 12 day summit, participants from 192 countries representing governments, the business community, and civil society will attempt to agree on “an ambitious, global agreement that meets the challenge set by science,” although many officials doubt that a solid treaty will be achieved. Instead, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, outlined these four questions, and feels that if these questions are answered, a sufficient framework will be in place to solidify future plans:
1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?
2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?
3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?
4. How is that money going to be managed?
Hammering out all the little details will be tricky, de Boer says, but if conference participants can agree on these points, he’ll be happy.

So why do we care as geographers?

This conference highlights environmental, political, and cultural issues… all topics that geographers study. The effect that this conference could have on climate legislation is clear, but just think about the logistics and cultural hurdles of getting representatives from every country in the UN together in one place to come to a solid agreement. A tricky game to play!

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Five for Friday: World Refugee Day at National Geographic

UNHCR.jpgStriking actress Angelina Jolie and silky-voiced NBC anchor Ann Curry visited National Geographic yesterday to participate in World Refugee Day events, as reported by NatGeo News Watch’s David Braun.

Joining a number of NG employees watching the proceedings via close-circuit television in our cafeteria, I was humbled by the genuine sentiments and stalwart calls to action offered by the two women. The real show-stealer, however, was Rose Mapendo, the 2009 recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award. Through tears punctuated with an endearing wit, the Tutsi survivor of violence in the Rwanda/Congo African region shared details of her harrowing journey from refugee to international advocate.

Rose-Mapendo-picture.jpgRose Mapendo accepts the Humanitarian of the Year award from UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterrez.

 As she told her story of flight from oppressive forces, captivity, and eventual salvation through international assistance, I reflected on the many geographic aspects associated with refugee crises. Here are five:

1)    Circumstances producing refugees

The circumstances forcing citizens into refugee status frequently have geographic underpinnings. Civil war and government-sponsored brutality often emerge out of conflicts over natural resources (physical geography) and ethnic tensions (cultural geography). In Africa especially, these circumstances are largely the result of post-colonial power dynamics.

2)    International awareness and recognition

The extent to which state governments, international organizations, and members of the public are aware of humanitarian crises and the plight of refugees is contingent upon multiple factors; including governmental transparency, freedom of the press, victims’ access to communications, geopolitics, etc. Increasingly, new technologies are providing deeper insights into conflicts occurring in remote areas of the world. Through Google Earth, for example, international audiences can view satellite images and photographs of events on the ground in places like Darfur.


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