Category: Geography

The History of South East Asia

Southeast Asia is an extremely diverse region on Earth. It consists of many large and small ecological areas. It has a staggering variety of economic, social, and cultural niches. Hundreds of ethnic groups and languages coexist in the space between the two large cultural neighbors, India and China. Over the centuries, the region has been colonized by the Europeans, and in the aftermath, it has developed its independence with a strong underlying sense of unity. unity,

South East Asia

I became interested in South East Asia in recent years, and I traveled through the region during the summer of 2017. I live in the Bay Area of California,  which is increasingly influenced not only by China, but also by Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand. America’s identity is deeply intertwined with Asia: The American defeat in the Vietnam war changed America’s political consciousness, and from then on, the US was perceived as the “bad” superpower by many people in the rest of the world. South‐East Asia is largely the product of external cultural influences. It was formed in the intersection...

World Urbanization Trends

“The city allows you to become yourself by making a stranger of you.” We are experiencing a historical transition – human civilization will more and more coalesce into very large urban centers. Cities are the manifestation of the cultural, economic and social acceleration that we have experienced in the last century. In 1950 about 2/3 of the population worldwide lived in rural areas, and 1/3 in urban settlements. By 2050, we will roughly see the reverse distribution, with more than 6 billion people living in the crowded environment of urbanized areas.

Pacific Gardens

This is part two of my travel report through the Pacific Northwest. One of my goals for this trip was to visit several gardens. The climate along the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington is mediterranean: warm, sunny, with mild winters, and plenty of moist air from the ocean – in other words, the region is ideal for gardening! In this post I will share some pictures, and will briefly describe some of the gardens I visited. About Gardens Gardens are among the most interesting places in the world. They mediate our relationship with nature, and they are expressions of culture and human...

Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest

It’s about a thousand miles to drive on Highway 1 from San Francisco to Port Angeles, the northern-most town that connects the US and Canada. The drive along the ocean is beautiful, through vast coastal landscapes and ancient forests. One can find some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world along this remote coastline, small fishing towns, Indian reservations, and several world-famous National Parks. I travelled the whole distance during this summer, and I want to share some of the pictures below. Links to more extensive photo pages are at the bottom.  About the Region The Pacific North West includes Northern California, Oregon, Washington State, and the...

Eastern Europe

I spent some time during the summer of 2015 traveling through Eastern Europe. It has changed dramatically since 1991, the year in which the Sowjet Union dissolved and the Warsaw Pact ended. Former Czechoslovakia became two countries, and former Yugoslavia fragmented in 1991/1992 into six states (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia). This led to several wars in the territory of former Yugoslavia, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 140,000 people. Today, the region is again in the spotlight, because it is a transit hub for many refuges from the Syrian war and the unrest in the Middle East. Where is Eastern Europe today,...

Development in Africa

The development of Africa is an under-rated success story at the beginning of the 21st century. It has economic growth rates above 5% for the last 15 years, and it is modernizing at a fast pace. In 2015, the continent has 1.2 billion people, living in 54 different countries. The borders for most of these countries were drawn during the era of European colonialism, which already explains much of the political instability in the 20th century. Most people also don’t understand how large the continent is: It covers the same surface as the United States, China, India – and the whole of Europe,...

Napa Valley

How does a landscape cultivate mildness? You can find out if you go to the Napa Valley in California during spring. It is a composition of vineyards, small towns, wineries, forests and low mountain ranges that slowly narrow until you reach Calistoga. You will find some of the best restaurants in the world, expensive hotels, and rich tourists. This culture of living well is embedded into a traditional California country-side, with small towns that show their wealth through a display of modern art, beautifully maintained gardens, and vineyards that seem to belong to the surrounding nature forever. Napa county today has around 135,000 inhabitants. The first settlers, a southern...

The Rivers of Europe

The rivers of Europe are the veins that run through European culture and geography. They are the main lines of transportation and commerce, they irrigate and feed the surrounding landscapes, but they also serve as natural borders. European rivers are celebrated in songs and poems; they play a major role in the economy as well as in politics. Hundreds of rivers and their tributaries crisscross the European continent, thus connecting many cities and landscapes. Nowadays, tourism booms along these rivers: River cruises offer an easy way for foreigners to travel through Europe and experience many cities and historic places close-up. The following list includes...

World Population, 2013 – 2050.

It’s interesting to look at some long-term world trends at the end of 2013. The graphs appear more normalized, for instance with the population growth rate above. Countries like Nigeria (see population chart below) are unfortunate exceptions. How will the world really look like in 2050? Trends are extrapolations from current and past data, enhanced with some mathematical modeling. Forecasts cannot account for unforeseeable events. We’ll see in 5 or 10 years from now, looking back, how good these numbers were. Nobody can look very far into the future, because it is really unknowable, even if we try hard to calculate...

China

China is one of the most dynamic and interesting countries today; it’s emerging power will shape the 21st century. Here are some facts about the country that I find useful to understand it better. Population China is the largest country in the world with 1,349,585,838 people, (July 2013 estimate), or roughly 1.35 billion people. By comparison, India has 1.22 billion people, but is slowly overtaking China, because of a higher birth rate. The whole continent of Africa has 1.11 billion people in 2013, but China has a population density that is almost 4 times as high as Africa. Life expectancy...

What is Geography?

As a discipline, Geography cannot easily be defined. It’s the study of our spatial environment, and the relations between the physical and the human sphere. It examines the landscapes, peoples, places and environments of the earth. Geography starts with map-making, and the maps reflect our understanding of the world. If you look at the map above, which is  fairly typical world map, you can see, for instance, that Europe/Africa is in the center. Why do we choose to view the world from this perspective? In recent years, Google Earth has revolutionized our understanding of the world again, because it allows...

Russia

Russia has an estimated population of 142 Million in mid-2013, with a slightly negative growth rate. It is geographically the largest country in the world, with 1.8 times the size of the US. This means that it is very sparsely populated, with vast, open, and empty landscapes. Of these 142 Million Russians, 73.8% live in urban centers, and the largest city by far is Moscow, with 10.5 Million people, followed by Saint Petersburg, with 4.5 Million inhabitants. The total median age is only 38.8 years, and the life expectancy at birth differs widely between men and women: Men reach an...