Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Geography is important (part 2)

I am only now following up a previous post (12/16/2011): why Geography is important. But instead of listing a bunch of boring reasons, I thought I would express a few considerations. The world is becoming smaller and smaller. Ease of communications and travel, imports and exports as well as tourism are making each country more and more dependent on other nations. First question: “how many countries are there in the world today?”

An economical, political and even environmental crisis in one country has repercussions all over the world. Prices of food and goods fluctuate, travel restrictions affect the ability of companies to buy or sell goods and, as a result, people can lose their jobs... It may not always be easy to see, but our dependence on each other is growing. Here are a few simple examples: the price of oil goes up when producing countries in the Middle East are affected by internal instability or just decide to limit production. This drives up the cost of goods, including gasoline for cars (which in turn affects transportation costs and therefore food costs) and other things like natural gas for heating houses and workplaces.

When a volcano erupted in Iceland two years ago (“do you remember that?” “Can you pronounce its name?”) it disrupted air travel across Europe. This not only affected tourists, but also business travel as well as goods shipped across the globe. Airlines lost a lot of money, as probably did many other firms that rely on quick and frequent air connections.

As our children grow up, this interdependence will only increase. That is why it is important for them to know where places are located, but also to understand other people, languages and cultures. Geography helps increase mutual awareness , better understanding and acceptance which hopefully leads to a better and more peaceful world. Yet, Geography is often overlooked in today's schools and the results show:,

When we see pictures of starving children in the "Horn of Africa" (who knows which countries that part of the world include?) or of destroyed schools in Afghanistan, we feel sad and many of us are compelled to donate money. Often though, one tragedy follows another and soon we become immune even to the disturbing images that reach us from poor, faraway places. Instead, we should care for those people. Why? Here is one reason: A friend who grew up in Pakistan once told me: "Going to these countries with 21 century weapons to try and eradicate extremists will not solve US or world problems. There are thousands of people without jobs standing at street corners in those countries that would accept to strap a bomb around their chest in exchange for money that will feed their family.” The future of these countries and the people living there will deeply affect the world our children will live in as adults. We, who have the means, are called to help, if not out of compassion, at least out of concern for the world future. Education, mutual understanding and access to an acceptable lifestyle are some of the goals what we need to help them achieve. And, once we learn more about the children and the people living in Asia, Africa and South America, we will realize, that most of them are not so different from us and that, like us, all they strive for is to have a safe home for their children and some food on their table. Does anybody know approximately how many people in the world live on less than $2 a day? If you don’t, you have not been paying attention (to our video from December 16, 2010)

Learning geography will open our prospective to these realities and many more. Yes, because through geography we can learn about stuff that is fun too, like precipitation, different food and customs, history, weather and… if our GPS ever runs out of batteries, we may still be able to read a map and reach our destination. What does GPS stand for, anyway? Anybody?

Enrico at approx. 39N, 105W