Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Going to the well! Water scarcity on Earth

Water scarcity on Earth

Despite the amount of water that makes up our ‘Blue Planet’, water scarcity is one of the biggest problems facing our Earth.

Water is an essential resource for life and good health. A lack of water to meet daily needs is a reality today for one in three people around the world. Globally, the problem is getting worse as cities and populations grow, and the needs for water increase in agriculture, industry and households. The health consequences of water scarcity, its impact on daily life and how it could impede international development should urge everyone to be part of efforts to conserve and protect the resource.

Where is the water?

Sites related to GeogSplace 
Spatialworlds blog
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Geographical thinking  

"Sustainability is both a goal and a way of thinking"
The distribution of water on Earth: not a lot of fresh water really!!!

The image above shows that in comparison to the volume of the globe the amount of water on the planet is very small - and the oceans are only a "thin film" of water on the surface.
The blue spheres represent all of Earth's water, Earth's liquid fresh water, and water in lakes and rivers

The largest sphere represents all of Earth's water, and its diameter is about 860 miles (the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Topeka, Kansas). It would have a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)). The sphere includes all the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, and rivers, as well as groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.

The ‘Blue Planet’

Water is widely distributed on Earth as freshwater and salt water in the oceans. The Earth is often referred to as the "blue planet" because when viewed from space it appears blue. This blue color is caused by reflection from the oceans which cover roughly 71% of the area of the Earth.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another contentious resource use issue: The Great Barrier Reef coal port at Abbot point

Image above: The resource issue of dredging to develop a coal port at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


Related sites to GeogSplace
Spatialworlds blog

Geographical thinking  

Firstly, watch this ABC Four Corners program on the issue.

Background on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is responsible for ensuring the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – one of the world's greatest natural treasures - is protected for the future.

An ecosystem based approach is used, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is widely recognised as one of the best managed marine protected areas in the world.
The Marine Park is a multiple-use area that supports a range of communities and industries that depend on the Reef for recreation or their livelihoods. Tourism, fishing, boating and shipping are all legitimate uses of the Marine Park.
The entire Marine Park is covered by a Zoning Plan that identifies where particular activities are permitted and where some are not permitted.
The Zoning Plan separates conflicting uses, with 33 per cent of the Marine Park afforded marine national park status where fishing and collecting is not permitted.
In high use areas near Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, special Plans of Management are in place in addition to the underlying Zoning Plan,
In addition, other Special Management Areas have been to created for particular types of protection, such as the Dugong Protection Areas.

The GBRMPA coordinates a range of activities to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef. They are focused on 12 broad management topics:

This all sounds great as a way to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is sustained as a valuable environmental and heritage resources for all Australians, and as a World Heritage listed area, for the world. However as is often the case, the Great Barrier Reef is also an area with competing and  conflicting demands in the area of transport, mining and tourism, to name just a few. Over recent years there has been a decline in the health of the Great Barrier Reef and serious threats now face the ecology of the reef into the future. The ABC Four Corners program aired on 18 August 2014 on the latest controversy is just one such threat created by the plan to dredge a coal port at Abbot Point. 


Background on the dredging and dumping for a Coalport in Great Barrier Reef area

The nub of this issue is that in December 2013, Greg Hunt, the Australian environment minister, approved a plan for dredging to create three shipping terminals as part of the construction of a coalport at Abbot Point. According to corresponding approval documents, the process will create around 3 million cubic metres of dredged seabed that will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area. On 31 January 2014, the GBRMPA issued a dumping permit that will allow three million cubic metres of sea bed from Abbot Point, north of Bowen, to be transported and unloaded in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 

Potential significant harms have been identified in relation to dredge spoil and the process of churning up the sea floor in the area and exposing it to air: firstly, new research shows the finer particles of dredge spoil can cloud the water and block sunlight, thereby starving sea grass and coral up to distances of 80 km away from the point of origin due to the actions of wind and currents. Furthermore, dredge spoil can literally smother reef or sea grass to death, while storms can repeatedly re-suspend these particles so that the harm caused is ongoing; secondly, disturbed sea floor can release toxic substances into the surrounding environment.

Commentators say that the decision by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has shocked and angered the scientific community. There seems to be deep divisions between the scientists and bureaucrats behind the decision. They show that the dumping was approved despite previous recommendations from senior scientists that it be rejected.

"That decision has to be a political decision. It is not supported by science at all, and I was absolutely flabbergasted when I heard." - Dr Charlie Veron, marine scientist 

The Chairman of the Marine Park Authority denies the decision was political and the Federal Environment Minister insists it will take place under the strictest environmental conditions.

As you will see in the video, this certainly is an interesting and confusing debate about the issue of a resource. Use the issue deconstruction template to clarify your thinking on the issue.

What do you think should happen?

Here are some great resources on the issue:

* ABC online  
* ABC News, June 2014 on Abbot Point
* ABC News, July 2014
* Mining Australia website 
* Sydney Morning Herald, March 2014
* Sydney Morning Herald, May 2014
* The conversation  
* Australian Marine Conservation Society
* Canberra times, August 2014
* The Australian, December 2013


... and many more

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sustainable development: learning from the past for the future

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


"Sustainability is both a goal and a way of thinking"

 Tatanka Yotanka (Sitting Bull), Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux (1831-1890)

Some great quotes on the connection between humans and land from the First Nation people of America. They thought very differently about sustainability, compared to modern western industrial society. They had much wisdom on human-land relations.

 "The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us." Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki Algonquin

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children." 
Ancient  American Indian proverb

"The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged."    Luther Standing Bear Oglala Sioux  1868-1937

"When we Indians kill meat, we eat it all up. When we dig roots, we make little holes. When we build houses, we make little holes. When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don't ruin things. We shake down acorns and pine nuts. We don't chop down the trees. We only use dead wood. But the white people plow up the ground, pull down the trees, kill everything. ... the White people pay no attention. ...How can the spirit of the earth like the White man? ... everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore."Wintu Woman, 19th Century
"We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can't speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees."  Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.
~ Ancient Indian Proverb ~

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.
~ Chief Seattle, 1854 ~

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
~ Cree Prophecy ~

I do not think the measure of a civilization
is how tall its buildings of concrete are,
But rather how well its people have learned to relate
to their environment and fellow man.
~ Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe ~

Earth, Teach Me

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.

    - An Ute Prayer

 Quanah of the Comanche

Considering these quotes and the relationship such indigenous group had/have with the land we can now look at the efforts being made around the world in the 21st Century to arrest and and even reverse much of the damage done to our environment through uncontrolled economic development over the past 100-200 years. The concept of sustainable devlopment is fundamental to work of a geographer as we balance the issues of environmental, social, cultural and economic sustaibability of life on Earth.

The Industrial Revolution and the related technological advances have greatly intensified human impacts on the environment – little regard for their ecological limits in the pursuit of material wealth, consumption and economic development.
We need to pursue sustainable development

At any level of development, human impact on the environment is a function of population size, per capita consumption and the environmental damage caused by the technology used to produce what is consumed.

From the Australian Government

Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) represents one of the greatest challenges facing Australia's governments, industry, business and community in the coming years. While there is no universally accepted definition of ESD, in 1990 the Commonwealth Government suggested the following definition for ESD in Australia:
  • 'using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased'.
Put more simply, ESD is development which aims to meet the needs of Australians today, while conserving our ecosystems for the benefit of future generations. To do this, we need to develop ways of using those environmental resources which form the basis of our economy in a way which maintains and, where possible, improves their range, variety and quality. At the same time we need to utilise those resources to develop industry and generate employment.

The Guiding Principles are:

  • decision making processes should effectively integrate both long and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations
  • where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation
  • the global dimension of environmental impacts of actions and policies should be recognised and considered
  • the need to develop a strong, growing and diversified economy which can enhance the capacity for environmental protection should be recognised
  • the need to maintain and enhance international competitiveness in an environmentally sound manner should be recognised
  • cost effective and flexible policy instruments should be adopted, such as improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms
  • decisions and actions should provide for broad community involvement on issues which affect them

OECD Sustainability document
Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Another list of guiding principles for sustainabilty

Quadruple Bottom Line (QBL) of Sustainable development
The QBL has become a powerful defining factor of sustainable development in the  21st century. The quadruple bottom line takes into consideration the following factors:
1. Environmental
2. Social
3. Cultural (including governance)
4. Economic.
Just like many of the indigenous cultures, Geography sees sustainability broader than the physical environment as an isolated ‘thing’. It is the interdependency of the QBL that we see as teh necessary approach to sustainable development.
Some videos to watch on Sustainable development

"The Spirits Warn You Twice,
The Third Time You Stand Alone"
From the 1927 Grand Council of American Indians

Monday, August 11, 2014

Geographical things to consider

 Image above: A map of our aging world

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


 Worth a read/look

The following sites are worth a read and look. Some are directly related to the resources and population core topics, whilst others are just geographically interesting to add to your geographical knowledge. Enjoy and take the time to consider what they show and say.

Bottled water

Maps to explain the world


The plastic bag

The waters of the Nile

Sustaining 7 Billion people


Future of water in Australia

The Good Country Index

Just a T Shirt?

Conflict over water

Five things about World Refugees

12 visualisations about inequity

Cutting down cutting down in Brazil

People living on a dollar a day

Recycling ships

The energy debate

Distribution of renewables in the US

Food spending

Impact of El Nino

An interactive on urban population growth

A map of our aging world