Posts Tagged ‘economist’

Captain Hudson’s journey: Fair to foul and back again (Economist)

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

2709us5[Editor's note: The Economist notes the 400th anniversary of the Netherlands' discovery of the Hudson River, which passes thru New York City, once New Amsterdam. To celebrate, the city moved the annual 4th of July fireworks display to west of Manhattan island.]

Republished from the Economist.
July 2nd 2009 | NEW YORK. Image by Corbis.

The Hudson River, 400 years on

AS AMERICA celebrates its birthday on July 4th, New York is celebrating the discovery of its Hudson river. The Dutch East India Company hired Henry Hudson, an English explorer, to find a north-west passage to Asia. He failed: the route defied all explorers until Roald Amundsen in 1906. But Hudson’s journey of 1609 up the river that would later bear his name led to a valuable trade in furs and eventually to settlement by the Dutch. His shipmate recorded abundant fish and that the surrounding lands “were as pleasant with Grasse and Flowers, and goodly Trees, as euer they had seene, and very sweet smells came from them.” The smells unfortunately, have not always been so sweet.

The Hudson has been exploited and abused. Factories used the river as a dumping-ground. At one time a 20-mile stretch of the Hudson had little or no aquatic life. “You could tell what colour the GM plant in Sleepy Hollow was painting its cars by the colour of the water,” recalls Alex Matthiessen, president of Riverkeeper, an environmental watchdog. Since the 1960s, groups like Riverkeeper and advocates such as Pete Seeger, a folk singer, have fought to restore the river’s ecosystem. The 1972 Clean Water Act helped deter polluters. And in 1984 the federal Environmental Protection Agency classified 200 miles of the river as a Superfund site, eligible for special attention. As a result of all this the river has begun to look like its old self. Water quality has improved. Some fish populations look healthier. The Bald Eagle once again nests nearby.

There are still concerns. Indian Point, a nuclear power plant in Westchester, uses up to 2.5 billion gallons (9.5 billion litres) of river water a day. The water is then discharged back into the Hudson. According to Riverkeeper, the hotter discharged water kills large numbers of fish, larvae and eggs. Indian Point says there have been no temperature-related deaths. There is also considerable contamination by PCBs, toxic chemicals with carcinogenic effects. After years of delays General Electric has now begun a process of dredging to clean up the contaminants. But it was already safe to swim with the fishes, except after heavy rain. Antiquated sewage systems in New York City and in towns and cities further up river cannot handle storm surges.

The Netherlands still retains an interest in its former New Amsterdam. The country is America’s fourth largest investor. It is participating in many of the festivities, including a big flotilla last month. New York’s July 4th fireworks display is taking place on the Hudson. In September a replica of Hudson’s ship, the Half Moon, will re-enact the captain’s journey. But he wasn’t the first to discover the river, of course. Native tribes lived along the “Mahicantuck” for thousands of years.

Humboldt’s Gift (Economist)

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

greenview[Editor's note: My alma mater and home county in California (others) are named after the famous German naturalist, apt for a school with strong Geography program.]

Republished from the Economist.

Alexander von Humboldt pioneered the science now used to study climate change

AMID this year’s flurry of scientific jubilees, one seems to have passed largely unnoticed. On May 6th admirers celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of Alexander von Humboldt, a Prussian naturalist and geographer. He may no longer be as famous as some of his contemporaries, yet Humboldt’s work sheds a clear light on the great challenges the world faces today from climate change.

Humboldt cut a remarkable figure. He traveled widely, making scientific notes of his many geographical, zoological and botanical discoveries, and formulating theories to explain the relationships he observed. Humboldt noticed, for example, that volcanoes form in chains and speculated that these might coincide with subterranean fissures, more than a century before plate tectonics became widely accepted. Broadly educated, cosmopolitan and a polyglot, he championed the study of how living things were related to their physical surroundings. Charles Darwin described him as “the greatest traveling scientist who ever lived” and later added, “I have always admired him; now I worship him.”

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Canada: Stop, border ahead + Obama must pass the telephone test (Economist)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

[Editor's note: The Economist continues their strong use of geographic-oriented photo editing (Canada) and illustration (Obama's night table light as a glowing globe).]

Republished from The Economist.

Canada’s relations with the United States: Stop, border ahead

May 28th 2009 | OTTAWA. From The Economist print edition

New border controls and protectionist bills have dashed Canadians’ hopes that the change of occupant in the White House would mean warmer relations

Photo by Christinne Muschi

WHENEVER Canadians grow anxious about heightened security at the United States border—as they are now because of America’s new requirement, from June 1st, for passports or other approved identification to be shown at entry points—their news media invariably invoke the twin towns of Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont. In these towns, the line that looks so neat on maps is a messy business, running through a factory, a combined library and opera house, and a number of homes. In some cases it lies between the bedroom and a morning cup of tea.

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

Lexington: Tough enough?

May 28th 2009. From The Economist print edition

Barack Obama must pass the telephone test

Illustration by KAL

FIFTEEN months ago, at the height of the battle for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton unleashed her most powerful weapon, a telephone call. “It’s 3am and your children are safe and asleep,” a voice intoned. “But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something is happening in the world.” Barack Obama might be able to give a pretty speech. But was he “tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world”?

The telephone has been ringing off the hook of late, as hostile governments tweak the new administration, to see what it is made of, and Republican politicians raise doubts about Mr Obama’s national-defence credentials. On Memorial Day North Korea tested a nuclear bomb, following up with a few ballistic missiles for good measure. (The North Koreans were kind enough to give the administration a heads-up, in case the Mr Magoos of the intelligence establishment missed the fireworks.) On May 21st Dick Cheney delivered a televised speech accusing the administration of unravelling “some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11”. The day before that, the Iranians tested long-range missiles.

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

Suddenly, a Wider World Below the Waterline (Economist)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

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[Editor's note: Nations around the world are laying claim to areas beyond their 200-nautical-mile limit to lay claim to underwater mineral riches like oil and gas, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic, as detailed in last month's National Geographic magazine. Note the use of Southern Ocean on this map for waters around Antarctica south of 60 degrees.]

Republished from the Economist. May 14th 2009
Related story: St Pierre and Miquelon – Squaring off for a seabed scrap

The scramble for the seabed: Coastal states have now made their bids for vast new areas of continental shelf

YOU never know what may come in handy. That is the principle behind the rush for the seabed that reached a climax of sorts this week with the deadline on May 13th for lodging claims to extensions of the continental shelf. When Russia sold Alaska to the United States for two cents an acre (five cents a hectare) in 1867, it thought it was parting with a useless lump of ice. After gold was discovered there, it began kicking itself. Now it is one of a host of countries eagerly laying claim to swathes of the seafloor that may one day yield huge riches. That is the hope anyway.

The rules for this carve-up derive from the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. These gave all countries that had ratified the treaty before May 13th 1999 ten years in which to claim any extension of their continental shelf beyond the normal 200 nautical miles (370km), so long as that extension was no more than 100 miles from the point at which the sea reached a depth of 2.5km, and no more than 350 miles from land. Any other country wishing to make a claim has ten years from the date on which it ratified the treaty. It must then, like all the states that have now made their claims, submit copious scientific evidence to show that the seabed in question is indeed continental shelf.

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

Geography Illustrations in the Economist (Kelso)

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

[Editor's note: This week's Economist print edition features several geography themed illustrations, including KAL's take on the H1N1 swine flu situation.]

Republished from The Economist.
April 30, 2009

Cover Artwor: The Pandemic Threat
Illustration by KAL

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The Berlusconisation of Italy
Illustration by Peter Schrank

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Australia’s Chinese entanglement
Illustration by M. Morgenstern

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A healthy development: Taiwan and the WHO
Illustration by Claudio Munoz

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Credit Crunch Board Game (Economist)

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

[Editor's note: Game board amusements were the rage in 2008 print from sports to the credit crunch. This entry a Christmas present from the Economist. See related content from Harpers on The $10 Trillion Hangover - Paying the Price for Eight Years of Bush.]

Republished from the Economist.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • The board from the centre of The Economist’s Christmas issue (or pdf version of board below)
  • These rules
  • Risk cards, currency and icons from the pdfs below (or you can use your diamond cufflinks, or any other mementos of your former wealth, to represent you on the board)
  • Four coins
  • Scissors (to cut out currency and cards)
  • Three or more players; probably six at most

HOW IT WORKS

Players start with 500m econos each. One player doubles as banker.

Players move round by throwing four coins and progressing as many squares as they throw heads. If a player throws four heads, he moves forward four spaces and has another turn; if he throws four tails, he throws again. When a player lands on a + square, he collects money from the bank; equally, when he lands on a minus square, he pays the bank.

The aim is to be the last solvent player. In order to achieve this, players try to eliminate the competition. Risk cards encourage players to pick on each other.

Players who cannot pay their fines may borrow from each other at any rate they care to settle on—for instance, 100% interest within three turns. They should negotiate with the other players to get the best rate possible. Players who cannot borrow must either go into Chapter 11 or be taken over.

Players may conceal their assets from each other. 

Continue reading and download board game assets . . .

 

New 7 Jan. 2009: 

Econopoly from The Washington Post.

Superbowl Game (2008)

Lump Together and Like It (Economist)

Friday, November 14th, 2008

[Editor's note: Returning from traveling in China, cities, growth, and urban geography are on my mind. Enjoy this article from the Economist about a rapidly urbanizing world populous, and how that is not necessarily a bad thing for poverty and wealth.]

Reprinted from The Economist print edition. Nov 6th 2008.

The problems—and benefits—of urbanisation on a vast scale

IN JANUARY this year a vast number of would-be travellers were stranded at railway stations and on roads in China, after an unusually heavy snowfall blanketed the south of the country just before the country’s new-year festivities. What amazed the world (in addition to the unusual sight of a prime minister apologising for his government’s slowness) was the unprecedented scale of the disruption: an estimated 200m people were on the move.

Governments in many poor countries react with a shudder to this sort of news item—and indeed to any news that seems to expose the fragility of newly urbanised economies. Most of those frustrated Chinese travellers were migrant workers going from cities to their families in the countryside or vice versa. Movement on such a scale seems inevitable, given the sort of urbanisation China and others have experienced: over the past 30 years, the world’s urban population has risen from 1.6 billion to 3.3 billion, and over the next 30 years cities in the developing world are set to grow by an extra 2 billion. But many governments have become doubtful of their ability to cope with urbanisation on such an enormous scale; some have concluded that they ought to slow the process down in order to minimise social upheaval. This view owes as much to anti-urban bias as it does to sober analysis.

In 2005, more than half the poor countries surveyed by the UN Population Division said they wanted to reduce internal migration to rein in urban growth. The food crisis of the past 18 months has sharpened worries about how to feed the teeming slums. This week the UN’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, warned the biennial World Urban Forum meeting in Nanjing that 2 billion could be living in slums in the year 2030 and that “urban areas consume most of the world’s energy and are generating the bulk of our waste.”

Such fears of urban over-concentration are reflected in the policies of many different countries. Saudi Arabia is spending billions on new super-cities to ease the growth of Jeddah and Riyadh. Egypt is building 20 new cities to divert people away from Cairo. It plans 45 more. And attempts by poor countries to alter the course of urbanisation have a long pedigree in the rich world. In the 1950s and 1960s, Britain and France built lots of new towns to counter-balance their capitals’ dominance.

Yet new research published by the World Bank in its annual flagship World Development Report* suggests that pessimism over the future of huge cities is wildly overdone. The bank argues that third-world cities grow so big and so fast precisely because they generate vast economic advantages, and that these gains may be increasing. Slowing urbanisation down, or pushing it towards places not linked with world markets, is costly and futile, the bank says. At a time of contagion and bail-outs, the research also reaffirms the unfashionable view that the basic facts of geography—where people live and work, how they get around—matter as much as financial and fiscal policies. (The award of this year’s Nobel prize for economics to Paul Krugman of Princeton University for his work on the location of economic activity was another reflection of that view.)

The bank’s research yields lots of new insights. It argues, for example, that the share of humanity that lives in cities is slightly lower than most people think. The bank drew up a fresh index to get around the knotty problem of defining “urban”; this new measure puts the world’s city-dwelling population at about 47% in 2000. In fact—as Indermit Gill, who oversaw the report, acknowledges—it is impossible to pinpoint the proportion: the urban slice of humanity may be anywhere between 45% and 55%, depending on how you count. The report’s main point is that, whatever their exact dimensions, the Gotham Cities of the poor world should not be written off as a disaster simply on grounds that they are too big, too chaotic, too polluted and too unequal.

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