Monday, June 30, 2014

The environment as a resource

Sites related to GeogSplace 
Spatialworlds blog
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website sites for the class


The human-environment link and resources

A key aspect of the Environment (the atmosphere, biosphere and lithosphere, including the living and non-living elements) concept in Geography is the fact that it is not only about studying the environment as an end in itself but about how the environment influences humans, and in turn how humans influence the environment. This is what makes geography geography, as opposed to Earth Science which is focussed wholly on the physical processes of the Earth. 

The concept of environment in geography is about the significance of the environment in human life, and the important interrelationships between humans and the environment. In particular geographers look at:
  • the environment as a product of geological, atmospheric, hydrological, geomorphic, edaphic (soil), biotic and human processes.
  • how the environment supports and enriches human and other life by providing raw materials and food, absorbing and recycling wastes, maintaining a safe habitat and being a source of enjoyment and inspiration. It presents both opportunities for, and constraints on, human settlement and economic development. The constraints can be reduced but not eliminated by technology and human organisation.
  • the ways culture, population density, type of economy, level of technology, values and environmental worldviews influence the different ways in which people perceive, adapt to and use similar environments.

Most importantly humans use the environment to live - we call these environmental resources. In this section of the Core topic we examine the use of resources by humans. As the SACE Curriculum outlines for the resources section:


·   Changing perceptions of resources over time, including Indigenous perceptions

·   The distinction between renewable and non-renewable resources

·   The concept of an ecological footprint as a measure of the relationship between population and resources

   case studies involving the comparison of ecological footprints from economically developed countries with those from economically less-developed countries

·   Comparisons of global per capita consumption rates of key resources such as energy

·   The impact of the use of resources on an ecosystem

   basic principles of the ecosystem model, illustrating the interrelationship of its elements and the implications for the use of resources

·   Sustainable use of resources

Case Study of a Resource: Water

·   Importance of water as a resource

   processes and biophysical systems

   the hydrological cycle

   the global distribution of fresh water

   sources of fresh water (e.g. catchments and groundwater, the transboundary nature of catchments and sources of groundwater, local sources of fresh water, and seasonal and yearly fluctuations in rainfall)

Case studies illustrating the social, economic, and environmental consequences of human interaction with source(s) of fresh water and the diversity of views and perceptions

   future possibilities and moves towards the sustainable use of water (e.g. agreements between countries and regions, whole-catchment management, regulation and appropriate pricing, and contemporary developments in sources of fresh water)

 An interesting aspect of the human - environment link is the associated phenomenon of interdependency. It is important to note that the link is often two-way and in turn creates degrees of interdependencies between humans and the environment. To elucidate these links and interdependencies between humans and the environment here are some fantastic video clips from the BBC Human Planet Explorer site.  These 3-4 minute clips from vastly contrasting world environments, show some amazing WOW (World of Wonder) geogstories about important interrelationships between humans and the environment.

Here are some amazing environment-human geogstories from the Human Planet Explorer site:

* Building an Igloo

Holiday reading from Global Interactions  Book 1:
  • Biophysical interactions: Page 8-16
  • Biosphere: Page 108-137
  • Natural resources use: Page 260-276
Holiday reading from Essentials
  • Resources and Development: Page 119-127

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Making an impression: Ecological footprinting

Image above: A Worldmapper cartogram showing ecological footprints around the world.

Sites related to GeogSplace 
Spatialworlds blog
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website sites for the class


The ecological footprint concept

Use the attached questions as you do your ecological footprint, watch the videos and read the materials.

Read from the Essentials book: Page 147-158 

A popular concept and application to the issue of resource use  and environmental impact is that of ecological footprinting. When looking at resource use it is a useful concept but by no means answers all the questions.
An ecological footprint measures the total amount of land and resources used, it includes your carbon footprint but goes further. Find out your ecological footprint by answering questions about your lifestyle. See how your choices affect the environment and whether you are living beyond the capacity of the planet.

Here are just some of the general footprint calculators on the Internet

The EPA in Victoria has customised the footprinting concept even further to help businesses, schools and events organisers to use the concept to calculate their footprints. Have a look at their calculators at

Some background and limitations

The Ecological Footprint Analysis (EFA) concept was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William E. Rees in 1996 to represent the natural resource consumption associated with human activity (Wackernagel & Rees, 1996). The ecological footprint is defined as the total area of biologically productive land and water required by an entity to sustain its current consumption levels. The result is an area, usually given in hectares. Ecological Footprint analysis has been applied to countries, businesses, individuals, and educational institutions.

EFA helps generate awareness of the magnitude of consumption. For example, the average Canadian footprint is 7.8 ha per capita (Onisto, 1998). What is the average in Australia?  That is, the typical Canadian consumes about eight hectares of the world's resources (as if all of the world's resources were spread evenly over the earth--they are not) every year. As a citizen of this planet, each person has a "fair share" of about two hectares of earth (Onisto, 1998). Compare the two figures, and you'll see that if everyone in the world were to live as Canadians (and Australians) do, the resources of four planet earths would be required to sustain us.

The strength of the EFA is that it communicates degrees and patterns of consumption simply and clearly (Moffat, 2000). In addition to serving as an effective awareness tool, the EFA can also be a guide towards sustainability through a change of practice or policy. But the EFA has its limitations. It is a static measurement, representing the consumption of an entity at one particular point in time. More importantly, the only way to reduce the size of a footprint is to acquire more land, decrease the population, or more realistically and appropriately, reduce the amount of goods and services that each person consumes. Overall, the EFA is a conservative measure of resource consumption since any practice considered by its nature not sustainable (e.g., toxic waste production and assimilation) is not included in its calculations.

As with everything we study, we can map it across space. The mapping of ecological footprints across the world shows great disparity between developed and un/underdeveloped (LED/MED) countries. The following thematic map clearly shows that certain regions of the earth are consuming a disproportionate amount of the earths resources.

Some ideas to reduce your footprint
There is much advice on how we as individuals (and governments / businesses / schools) can reduce our footprint. Here are just a few:

Finally, view the Resources presentation attached. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Which way to go? Big or small?

Sites related to GeogSplace 
Spatialworlds blog
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website sites for the class

Big versus Small Australia

Should Australia be Big or Small in terms of population. The topic of whether Australia should continue to increase or stabilise the level of population is a complex and increasingly political issue in Australia. The issue also requires you to consider issues of natural increase, migration (including illegal migration policies), economic requirements, global responsibilities and resource availability and use. The view you take on this will be determined by your geographical knowledge of demography and resources, your social and cultural values and your global perspective.  The contemporary and political nature of this issue will provide you with plenty of current resources and commentary to guide your response.

Read the following resources in preparation for the development of your speech.

Audio on Big Australia





Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Population and development sites and just some really interesting geographical bits and pieces

At this stage of our course it is time to just look at some geographically interesting bits and pieces from the Just Real Interesting , interspersed with some sites directly relevant ot the core work. 

* Houses hanging on!

Interesting futures idea?
This daily dose of satellite photos helps you appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things humans have constructed--as well as the devastating.

An Urban World: UNICEF's new data visualization of urban population growth over the next 40 years. This graphic depicts countries and territories with 2050 urban populations exceeding 100,000. Circles are scaled in proportion to urban population size. Hover over a country to see how urban it is (percentage of people living in cities and towns) and the size of its urban population (in millions).

* Population pyramids: Powerful predictors ofthe future 

Population statistics are like crystal balls -- when examined closely, they can help predict a country's future (and give important clues about the past). Kim Preshoff explains how using a visual tool called a population pyramid helps policymakers and social scientists make sense of the statistics, using three different countries' pyramids as examples.

* India's Census: Lots of cellphones,too few toilet

India's once-a-decade census has turned up some striking numbers: The population grew this past decade by 181 million — that's the total population of Brazil. India now has more than 1.2 billion people and is on track to overtake China as the world's most populous nation in 2030.

Interactive Map of the World, through a flash based Map Viewer application which provides a bird's eye view of every country in the world. It provides country facts such as population, area, GDP, time zone etc.

To illustrate the network of globe-trotting journeys, Abel and Sander generated the above fantastic graphic for 2005 to 2010. Migration flows for different world regions are shown as color-coded arcs, with lines that begin close to the circle's edge depicting outgoing migrations (as shown with the arrows for "Central America"). Fatter arcs represent larger migrations and the numbered tick marks indicate how many millions of people are involved


Across cultures, people feel increased activity in different parts of the body as their mental state changes.

"Some beautiful, information-dense cartography, which provide a moment of self-reflection like a giant, geographic mirror.”  Seth Dixon

People get the general shape of the world when the draw a map of the world from memory.

Maps after maps, some quirky some just plain interesting and useful.

Marvel at these global heat maps of popular cycling and running routes. A glimpse into the geography of elevated heart rates and sweaty pits is now available thanks to Strava, maker of GPS-enabled exercise-tracking gizmos. Over time, the San Francisco-based company has collected a lot of user data. Now it's put the info in play in a giant, visual way, with these global heat maps showing the movements of the hardcore huffing-and-puffing populace. The maps include 77,688,848 rides and 19,660,163 runs for a blink-inducing total of 220 billion data points.