Topic Name Description
Course Introduction Page World Regional Map
Course Syllabus Page Course Syllabus
1.1: What is Geography? Page The Where and the Why

Read this text to understand the principles of geography as a field of study. In the next section, we explore how we use maps, visual representations of location, and spatial relationships, as tools to study the world geographically and spatially.

Page World Regional Map

Maps divide the world into regions that can be smaller or larger, depending on the map, its purpose, and its creator. The regions vary according to the characteristics we use to define them. The United Nations Statistical Commission divided the world into continental regions, which they have subdivided further into subregions as shown on their website, Countries or Areas/Geographical Regions. Their goal was to achieve greater homogeneity within each subregion according to population size, demographic circumstances, and the accuracy of demographic statistics. While we will use fewer regions than the United Nations has identified in this course, there are similarities that we will explore later.

You should be able to identify and place all of the regions of the world listed on this map.

Page Introduction to Geography and the Five Themes

Before we examine the map we will work from, we need context for this regional approach and a framework for how to explore the world in one course.

This section presents a framework that does the following:

  • Provides an overview of geography as a field of study,
  • Justifies the spatial perspective the discipline of geography provides,
  • Explains the role maps and geospatial technology play in geography,
  • Summarizes the subdisciplines of geography that will inform our analysis of each region,
  • Defines regions and shows how they help us understand the world, and
  • Introduces the concept of spatial interaction as a means for exploring the world's regions and their interconnectedness.

Watch this video for an overview of geography. The presenter introduces geography through the five themes of location, place, region, movement, and human-environment interaction. We will study many different concepts to understand the world from a spatial perspective. You will see that identifying the patterns that connect regions is an important element of this course.

1.2: Maps Page The Spatial Perspective

While we will not go into all of the details of the projection process in this course, we learn to appreciate that distortion is inherent in mapmaking. We also need to understand scale when selecting a map. Read this introduction to the concepts of latitude and longitude, relative versus absolute location, and scale.

Page Introduction to Using Maps

Maps do not always include a scale or a coordinate system, such as latitude and longitude. It depends on what type of map it is. For example, while general reference maps and topographic maps usually include the scale of the map and the reference system, thematic maps do not. Many maps include a legend to help interpret the symbols on the map. There may also be a directional indicator, such as a compass rose.

These elements all help us:

  1. Locate the place that is represented on the map,
  2. Interpret what we see on the map,
  3. Measure distances on the map, and
  4. Identify the sources of the data used to make the map.

Watch this video to learn more about the different types of maps and the information they include to make them useful.

Book Thematic Maps

In the previous video, the speaker said we use GIS to make thematic maps. However, humans have made detailed thematic maps by hand or with software that is not a GIS long before GIS became mainstream during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, GIS allows us to make these maps more quickly. Access to accurate data has increased the use of maps and facilitated the mapmaking process. These three thematic maps were created by hand before the advent of GIS.

1.3: Geospatial Technology Page A Street Overlay

Figure 1.2 shows the overlay of streets, building footprints, and vegetation data to create a map of all three layers.

Page A GIS User Interface

Figure 1.3 illustrates the user interface of a GIS software platform.

Page An Ever-Evolving Map of Everything on Earth

Watch this video. The presenter, Jack Dangermond, the president and co-founder of Esri, which produces the suite of ArcGIS products, highlights how we use geospatial technology (GIS in particular) to understand our changing Earth and take action to create a more sustainable future.

Page Comparing Satellite Navigation Orbits
This map compares GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and COMPASS (medium Earth orbit satellites) orbits with the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope, geostationary and graveyard orbits, and the nominal size of the Earth.
Page Images to Depict Urban Development

In addition to GIS, geographers use other technological components to explore and understand the world. Satellite technology provides access to positional data. GPS (global positioning system) or GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receivers rely on a network of satellites that determine our position on the surface of the Earth and our elevation or vertical position.

GPS satellites and ground stations, installed and maintained by the United States, provide horizontal and vertical positional data. The GNSS includes the U.S. GPS and those from other countries, such as the European Union (Galileo), Russia (GLONASS), and China (BeiDou). Figure 1.4 illustrates the orbits of these satellites relative to Earth, the International Space Station (ISS), and the Hubble Space Telescope. The ISS and Hubble Space Telescope are in low Earth orbit (LEO).

Satellites, aircraft, and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) capture remotely sensed imagery, a valuable source of geospatial data. This imagery includes data on Earth's land cover, elevation, magnetic field, weather, and climate, among other phenomena. For example, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration/U.S. Geological Survey (NASA/USGS) Landsat program has been capturing satellite imagery of the Earth's surface since 1972. Geographers and other scientists use this imagery, which is free to the public, to track changes in land cover over time.

For example, Figure 1.5 illustrates the increase in urban development in Casablanca, Morocco, from 2005 to 2018.

Page Satellite Images

Aerial imagery programs provide more detailed coverage of smaller areas. Figure 1.6 shows the difference in coverage extent between a Landsat satellite image and an image captured by an aircraft. An aircraft with a Microsoft Ultracam Eagle sensor captured the image on the right. In this image, Horseshoe Falls, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, is clearly visible. It was captured from an altitude of about 5,850 m. The image on the left is a Sentinel-2 image and was captured from an orbit of 786 km. The Sentinel-2 image covers a much larger area and shows much less detail. The red rectangle on the Sentinel-2 image indicates the coverage of the aerial image.

Remember the definition of scale from the reading in Section 1.2, "Scale is the ratio between the distance between two locations on a map and the corresponding distance on Earth's surface". The distance between two locations on the aerial image is larger than the same distance on the satellite image. Thus, the aerial image of Horseshoe Falls is considered a large-scale image, and the Sentinel-2 image of the same area is considered a small-scale image.

All of these technological components, including GIS, comprise what we call geospatial technology. The term geospatial may seem redundant, but remember that "geographic" refers to particular locations, and "spatial" refers to the position, size, and area of things. Thus, geospatial technology refers to technology that helps us capture and analyze places and the relationships between those places.

These varied applications of geospatial technology reflect the breadth of geography. The next section introduces some of its subdisciplines and specializations. You will see that GIS actually pervades many of these subdisciplines and specializations.

1.4: Geography's Subdisciplines Page Maps Show Us Who We Are, Not Just Where We Are

Some geographers focus on spatial relationships in the human realm, and others focus on them in the physical realm. Danny Dorling, the presenter of this video, describes himself as a human geographer because he studies the relationship between humans and the Earth's surface. In this presentation, he describes maps that depict Earth and observes that border controls are a recent construct – there was a time when people were free to immigrate wherever they wanted without passports.

Page Subdisciplines of Human and Physical Geography

As a human geographer, Dorling uses maps to show cultural landscapes and the landscapes humans have altered or created, such as trade routes, light pollution, and where rice, maize, and corn grow.

A physical geographer, on the other hand, considers the physical landscape. They would look at Dorling's annual precipitation map to see if a pattern exists among the physical features. For example, they would see if the location of mountain ranges, the distance from the coast, the pattern of ocean currents, or other physical factors might explain why annual precipitation differs from place to place. Like human geographers, physical geographers study and compare places, but they focus on non-human elements, such as rivers, landforms, climate, and plants.

Below is a summary of some more specializations within the subdisciplines of human and physical geography. Note that the categories of human and physical geography often overlap. Some specializations span both disciplines. For example, a hazard geographer studies the physical aspects of certain phenomena (such as earthquakes or wildfires) in addition to efforts to mitigate their effect on humans. Figure 1.7 shows specializations within geography that share aspects of human and physical geography. Note that this figure does not include every specialization within geography – there are lots more!

Page Sub-Disciplines of Geography

Read this text which explores different specializations in geography, with examples of the problems they try to solve using a spatial perspective. Remember this opening statement from the preface of this textbook:

"Geography is a discipline of explorers. Some geographers explore the world using satellite imagery and others by interviewing members of an indigenous community in an isolated area. What unites geographers everywhere is a desire to dig deeper, a desire to better understand why the spatial patterns and unique features we find in the world exist and how they interact and change."

1.5: The Physical Environment and Human Activity Page The Physical Setting

Read this introduction. Pay attention to the brief introduction of climate change – the long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. While some of these shifts may be natural, human activities have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change since the 1800s (see Figure 1.10 in Section 1.4).

Page The African Swamp Protecting Earth's Environment

Burning fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and gas), which produce heat-trapping gases, have been the primary drivers of climate change.

For example, the peatlands of the Congo Basin, which result from natural processes, are a physical feature on the Earth's surface. However, a human component threatens this feature, puts the local population at risk, and could contribute to climate change.

Watch this presentation to learn about the role peatlands, a type of wetland, play in the climate process.

1.6: The Human Setting and Globalization Book Concepts of Human Geography

Read these three sections of our text to learn more.

Page The Big Picture on Globalization

Economic development varies from region to region. Globalization provides opportunities to certain world regions by increasing national income and other value-added profit activities. However, it can negatively affect cultural independence and ecological and human well-being. Globalization is a major theme in later units of this course. Ian Goldin, a professor of globalization and development at the University of Oxford, presents the advantages and disadvantages of globalization in this video from the World Economic Forum.

Page The End of Globalization and the Beginning of Something New

Globalization has increased collaboration among countries based on their shared values rather than their geography or geographic proximity. During globalization, the shared value was economic wealth which was not equally distributed. In the next video, O'Sullivan argues that the shared values in this new period of post-globalization are ecological and human well-being.

This does not mean Tobler's First Law of Geography no longer applies. Countries still have more in common with their neighbors than distant countries due to their shared physical and cultural landscapes. However, communications technologies have made it possible to collaborate with geographically-distant countries in real time. They have accelerated interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide.

As we study the world's regions, we explore the concepts we have discussed above, such as language, religious practices, political and economic systems, birth and death rates, and the role of colonialism. A regional approach helps us organize the complexity of the world.

Watch this video where Mike O'Sullivan, an economist, investor, and author, presents his perspective on globalization. He highlights two commonly-accepted limitations of globalization: inequality and record-level indebtedness. Do you agree with his claim that globalization is "on its deathbed"?

1.7: The World's Regions Page The World's Regions

Read this section for more examples of these different types of regions.

2.1: Maps of Europe Page Political Map of Europe

Study this map of Europe so you are familiar with the locations of the countries that comprise this region. Pay attention to the major oceans, seas, and waterways that surround Europe.

2.2: Europe's Physical Geography and Boundaries Page Map of Four Main Landforms of Europe

Figure 2.1 shows Europe's four main landforms, including the Northern Lowlands and the Alps. The Northern Lowlands support much of Europe's agricultural activity. The Alpine region has served as a barrier to movement and as a contributor to the more temperate type C climate of the Mediterranean region. The ocean, particularly the Gulf Stream, makes these temperate regions of Europe possible.

Page European Physical Geography and Boundaries

The climate becomes less temperate as you travel inland, away from the coastlines. For example, winters in Warsaw, Poland, are much colder than in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, although both cities are about 52° N. The North Sea mitigates the effects of Amsterdam's northern location. Warsaw's interior location does not afford this advantage.

Europe has long depended on its rivers, such as the Rhine and Danube, as trade routes. The connections European cities have to these waterways have been integral to prosperity within this region. Europeans have also benefited from the natural resources their physical geography provides. However, retrieving and using these resources has imposed costly and irreparable damage to the environment. For example, burning fossil fuels in Europe's urban centers has caused air pollution and acid rain that has affected the health of the population, damaged buildings, and jeopardized its forests, such as the Black Forest in southwest Germany.

Read this text to learn more about Europe's climate, geographic features, and their interaction with the humans living there.

Make sure you can answer these questions.

  • Why is it difficult to tell where Europe ends and Asia begins?
  • What geographic advantages has Europe experienced despite being one of the world's smallest regions?
  • How have the mountains of Europe helped develop its cultural landscape?
  • How was the Netherlands able to increase its land area despite its elevation below sea level?
  • How has the North Atlantic Drift moderated Europe's climate?
  • Why are straits and channels chokepoints?
  • Why has acid rain affected the eastern part of Europe more than the western part?
Page The Physical Geography of Europe

Watch these two videos for more insight.

2.3: Europe's Shifting Political Landscape Page Cooperation and Control in Europe

Much of Europe is characterized by access to fresh water, good soils, various minerals, forests, temperate climate, flat terrain, rivers, and coastlines. In addition to the Greek and Roman Empires, the Vikings recognized the value of Europe's physical geography and natural resources. They connected Europe to the outside world through infrastructure and navigation. This led to an Agrarian Revolution in Europe, where agricultural production increased dramatically, especially in Britain. Europe's rivers, minerals, forests, and other resources fueled the Industrial Revolution, which we explore in the next section.

Europe's political landscape changed dramatically over a relatively short period of time: shifting from empires and kingdoms to countries and economic alliances. Europe's colonial influence adapted accordingly.

Read this text to learn how Europe has changed since the days of the Greeks and Romans.

2.4: European Exploration Sets the Stage for Colonialism Page Map of Colonial Africa
This map shows the European countries that colonized different parts of Africa.
2.5: The European Union Page Map of the European Union

The EU continues to seek to foster a sense of a European identity, but most citizens continue to profess a stronger national connection to their home country. Some worry that being European will dilute their national cause. This is one reason many British citizens chose to leave the EU in 2016. Figure 2.4 shows the members of the European Union (in blue) as of May 2022. (Note that the map in our textbook was published in 2019, before Brexit).

Page Why Brexit Happened – and What to Do Next

In 2016, 52 percent of voters in the United Kingdom (UK) chose to leave the EU, while 48 percent voted to remain. Those who voiced the need to leave the EU (which politicians and the British press called "Brexit") cited concerns about immigration, resentment toward interference and rule-making from Brussels, and a desire for better border controls. The withdrawal took effect in 2020, but contentious political issues, such as the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, continue.

The Brexit response reflects the devolutionary forces we explored in Section 2.2, which constitute a response to globalization.

Watch this video which considers the role globalization played in Brexit in 2016. The presenter argues that Brexit is simply one example of the theme that inequality is a frequent by-product of globalization.

2.6: Europe's Geography and Economic Development Page The Industrial Revolution

Read this text, which explains how Europe's geography contributed to (and was affected by) the Agrarian and Industrial Revolutions. Pay attention to the map in Figure 2.10, which shows a core area of industrial development and a pattern of diffusion. Recall from Section 1.2 that diffusion is "the spreading of something from one place to another".

During this period, Europe's population shifted from being primarily rural to being highly concentrated in urban centers or cities. Today, Europe is a highly-urbanized region with low population growth. Consequently, there is an increased demand for low-priced labor, a demand that is being met by increased immigration.

Page Origins of the Industrial Revolution

Watch this video to learn how geography explains why the Industrial Revolution originated in northern England. Among other factors, large coal deposits near the surface, its proximity to cities, and relatively flat terrain proved to be critical to Britain's early industrialization.

2.7: Historical Migration Patterns in Europe Page European Migration

The recent influx of migrants into Europe has exacerbated concerns about European identity and perceptions of declining job opportunities for its long-term residents. Many Europeans feel threatened, while others (especially those who live in Europe's diverse urban centers) have welcomed multiculturalism and feelings of connectedness with others in the world.

Several countries have seen the rise of nationalist political parties with anti-immigrant policies and platforms. For example, the French National Rally party has advocated for significant cuts to legal immigration and protections of French cultural identity. These political groups have fueled resentment and violence toward people who they claim have negatively affected European security, culture, and prosperity.

Read this section on historical patterns of migration.

Page A New Approach to Defending the Human Rights of Migrants

Watch this video, which highlights the plight of Libyan refugees seeking asylum in Italy.

2.8: Does a European Identity Exist? Page Shifting National Identities

Read this text to learn about some other components of identity.

2.9: Demographic Changes in Europe Page Map of the European Migrant Crisis

Figure 2.7 illustrates a convergence of immigrants in Europe in early 2015. Europe continues to process asylum applications from refugees fleeing human rights abuses in Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Europe's geography makes it a more accessible safe haven than other regions such as North America and Oceania.

Page Current Migration Patterns and Debates

Europe's geography explains many of its demographic changes. Immigrants from outside Europe and Ukraine have strained Europe's natural resources and infrastructure. Animosity toward Russia has prompted many Europeans to reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels. The war has also led many Europeans to search for more stable sources of the wheat and corn they previously purchased from Ukraine. Hopefully, Europe's new, younger immigrant population will promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and opportunity, as they often do.

Read this text for an overview of the impact of immigration on the European region.

3.1: Maps of Russia Book Political Maps of Russia

Study these maps of Russia so you are familiar with the locations of its major cities, landforms, and regions. Pay attention to the major oceans, seas, and waterways that surround Russia.

3.2: Russia's Physical Geography Page Russia's Physical Geography and Climate

Read this text to learn more about the massive expanse that is Russia. Make sure you can answer these questions.

  • What is the significance of Kaliningrad?
  • Can you distinguish between the steppe, taiga, and tundra biomes of Siberia?
  • What key factors affect Russia's climate?
  • Why does Russia's population tend to live on the Northern European Plain of Russia?
  • What is the impact of the Yenisei River on Siberia?
  • What is the significance of Lake Baikal?
  • Why is there so much seismic activity on Russia's Pacific coast?
  • What are the challenges of building on permafrost?
  • How does distance decay and Tobler's First Law of Geography apply to Russia
Page Russia and the Republics: Physical Geography

Watch this video. Note that also it devotes five minutes to countries that are part of the regions of North Africa and Southwest Asia, which we will study in Unit 7: Transcaucasia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) and Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan).

3.3: Russia's Settlement Patterns and Environmental Challenges Page Russia's Population Density

The thematic map in Figure 3.1 shows that Russia's population density (the number of people per unit area) is much higher west of the Ural Mountains (an area some call European Russia). The map shows circular areas of high population density at the base of the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. With the exception of St. Petersburg, population densities are highest below 56° north latitude.

Page Settlement and Development Challenges

Read this text to learn more about the role climate plays in Russia's population distribution, why Russia's population is declining, and why we see an urban-to-rural shift rather than the other way around.

Page Examples of Human Environmental Damage

Environmental damage often coincides with human settlement. Many of Russia's environmental challenges date back to Soviet-era industrial practices. Sewage and chemical pollutants from the country's industrial centers and urban areas have contaminated the air, waterways, and bodies of water, including the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea (the world's largest inland body of water by area), and Lake Baikal (the world's oldest and deepest lake). Let's look at some examples.

Until its closure in 2009, the Bajkal'sk Paper Mill, shown in Figure 3.2, was a major source of Lake Baikal's pollution. In spite of its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, proposed oil and gas exploration now threatens Lake Baikal's biodiversity.

Page Russia: Environmental Problem Areas

Oil exploration and production pollution, including oil spills, have contaminated the Siberian tundra and taiga environments. Nuclear waste is dumped in the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea. Given their remoteness, concern for these vast ecosystems and the humans who live there have only received recent attention. Coal-burning utilities, mining, and smelting activities in and around Siberian cities reduce air quality. The smog in Krasnoyarsk, a Siberian city on the Yenisei River, causes Black Sky emergencies.

Overfishing depletes fish stocks in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. These waters are the source of Russia's increasingly rare, caviar-producing wild sturgeon. The thematic map in Figure 3.3 summarizes these environmental issues. Note that this damage coincides with the pattern of human settlement.

3.4: Russian History and Expansion Page Origin and Migration of Slavs in Europe

Russia covered much less area when it first appeared as a state. The East Slavs, a subgroup of Slavic tribes that emerged in northeastern Europe about 1,500 years ago, were the ancestors of today's Russians. The East Slavs moved toward the area we call European or Western Russia. In Figure 3.4, the arrows that point to the northeast (north of the Dnieper River toward the Don River) represent the East Slavic migration. These immigrants settled in the Grand Duchy of Moscow, a territory centered in present-day Moscow.

Page Russian History and Expansion

Moscow remains Russia's primary core area, followed by St. Petersburg.

Read this text which describes Russia's territorial growth, including the rise of St. Petersburg, Peter the Great's eponymous city. Although the Bolsheviks brought the political era of Imperial Russia to an end in 1917, their territorial aspirations were equally ambitious. In 1922, the Soviet Union adopted its neighboring republics and annexed others to rival the size of Imperial Russia.

3.5: Russian Multiculturalism and Tensions Page Map of Soviet Nationalities by Republic

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) included 15 Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs). The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), with the largest population, is ethnically Russian. The remaining SSRs included Georgians, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, and others. Figure 3.6 shows a thematic map of the ethnic composition of each SSR.

Page Russian Multiculturalism and Tension

These SSRs had little autonomy – the Soviet central government diluted their influence by moving ethnic Russians to live in their regions. Keep this relocation in mind as you interpret the map in Figure 3.6, which uses data from 1979 after the Soviet Union had moved ethnic Russians into these SSRs. Note that the Kazakh SSR shows a slightly higher percentage of Russians in their population than ethnic Kazakhs.

In addition, many members of these ethnic groups were exiled to the hinterlands of the Soviet Federated Socialist Republic to separate them from the historic homeland of their people. It is common to find ethnic Russians who have lived in Kazakhstan (the former Kazakh SSR) and ethnic Ukrainians who have lived in Siberia (part of the former Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) for generations.

Read this text to learn about the lasting consequences of this resettlement.

Page Sovietization

Sovietization (not the same as Russification) occurred during the Soviet Union (1917–1991). The word soviet comes from the Russian word for "council" or "assembly". Toward the end of the Russian Empire, councils or soviets of workers formed in many large cities to address poor working conditions. These soviets took political and economic action to fight the Czarist Russian Empire and are credited with contributing to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Sovietization promoted a Soviet way of life, mentality, and culture and forced citizens to speak Russian and use the Cyrillic script. Its leaders used propaganda to promote the idea of a collective Soviet people and Soviet socialist patriotism.

Today, the Russian government uses the Internet, radio, and television to reach its population. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the government has curtailed access to any information that the Russian government does not sanction. Unless Russians can connect to a virtual private network (VPN), residents only receive positive news about the war in Ukraine and negative news about those who oppose the Russian war efforts.

This article explains how Stalin used aircraft to disseminate newspapers and films about the glory of the Soviet Union to peasants across the country.

3.6: The Economy and Government during the Soviet Era Page Economics and Development in the Soviet Union

Read this text to learn more about the implementation and consequences of the communist system in Russia.

Page Socialism vs. Communism

We use the terms socialism and communism to describe the Soviet Union's approach to its economy. Many people mistakenly use the two interchangeably. Watch this video for a general explanation of the key differences between these two ideologies.

Page Famine, Subjugation and Nuclear Fallout: Russia and Ukraine

Life was harsh for most Russians when the Soviet Union tried to implement socialism. The collectivization of agriculture and the dispersal of industrial development proved inefficient and deadly. Millions of people died due to poor government decision-making. The impact of Ukraine's experience as a former Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) continues today.

Read this article which was updated shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The authors highlight the role the past is playing in Ukraine's resistance to Russia's invasion.

3.7: The Russian Federation Page The Modern Russian Landscape

Read this text for more on the challenges Russia faces during the post-Soviet era.

Page Geography: Russia and the United States

Russia's relationship with the West seemed hopeful until tensions deteriorated when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Collaboration with Western countries, such as building a new space station with the United States, seems unlikely in the near future.

Despite this political climate, the geographic distance between Russia and the United States remains unchanged. The boundary between Russia and the United States (part of North America) coincides with the International Dateline (180° longitude) – the border runs between the two Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait. Big Diomedes is the easternmost location in Russia, and Little Diomedes is the westernmost location in the United States.

Using the scale of the navigation map in Figure 3.7, we see the distance between the United States and Russia is less than 2.5 mi (3.8 km). Notice that the scale on this map uses statute miles as the unit of measure. The statute is used to distinguish the mile from international or nautical miles and measures 5,280 ft or 1609.34 m. The caption mentions the International Peace Bridge, a hypothetical bridge or tunnel that could connect Asia and North America if it were ever built.

4.1: Maps of North America Book Political Map of North America

Study these maps of North America so that you are familiar with the locations of the cities, mountain ranges, lakes, and rivers.

4.2: North America's Physical Geography Page Physiographic Regions of North America

These two maps show the physiographic regions of the United States.

Page The Earth's Tectonic Plates

In Figure 4.2, you can see that the Atlantic Plain is in the interior of the North American Plate, about 2,000 miles from its eastern edge.

Page Classifying North America's Climate

In North America, temperatures are generally warmer from north to south. Recall that the Earth is a sphere, so places closer to the Equator receive more direct sunlight than places that are farther away. North America ranges in latitude from the southernmost point in the state of Florida in the United States (24.5° N) to the northernmost point on Ellesmere Island in the Nunavut Territory of Canada (83°N).

Use the thematic map of climate in Figure 4.3 to identify the following climates.

  • Florida and much of the southeast portion of North America have a warm oceanic/humid subtropical climate.
  • The northern portion of the region, including Ellesmere Island, is within the Arctic Circle (66.5° N) and has a tundra climate.
  • Climate generally follows a latitudinal pattern east of the Rocky Mountains and throughout much of Canada.
  • The climates in the western United States and the Pacific coastal region of Canada vary considerably, primarily due to changes in elevation and associated precipitation levels".
Page North America's Rain Shadow Effect

In the United States, precipitation generally decreases as we move from east to west due to the Pacific Mountain system, which creates a rain shadow effect. The Pacific Mountains cast a rain shadow that limits precipitation in much of the western half of the United States, including eastern Washington and Oregon, the Great Plains, and the Desert Southwest. Figure 4.4 illustrates the rain shadow effect.

Moist air from the ocean is blown onshore and rises as it follows the slope of the mountains. As the moist air rises, it cools, and the moisture precipitates as rain and/or snow. By the time the air begins to descend on the leeward side, it is dry. We will see that the rain shadow effect impacts other regions too. The East coast lacks a coastal mountain range that would prevent moisture-laden air from reaching the interior.

Page North America's Physical Setting

Read this text for more on the physical geography of North America. Pay attention to how geography impacted settlement and economic development. How did the Ogallala Aquifer make the arid Great Plains agriculturally productive? Pay attention to the environmental damage human activities caused to the natural resources, including groundwater depletion, acid rain from burning fossil fuels, and topsoil erosion.

Page Landforms in the United States and Canada

Watch this video. Pay attention to the roles the St. Lawrence, Hudson, and Mississippi rivers, the Great Lakes, and the Welland, Erie, and Illinois and Michigan canals played in accelerating settlement and trade into the U.S. interior.

Please note these corrections. At 7:08, Rueschhoff meant to say that the Mississippi River generally flows straight south from its headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. At 7:57, he meant to say that the Rio Grande River serves as the border between the United States and Mexico (not Canada). Note that Rio means "river" in Spanish, so we should call this waterway the Rio Grande.

4.3: North American History and Settlement Page North American History and Settlement

Great Britain imparted a lasting cultural legacy to the United States and Canada. Read this text to learn how Britain, France, and Spain altered the physical and human landscape of North America.

Page Territorial Claims in North America

While France colonized areas that would become the United States, it has had a much greater impact on Canada. English and French are the official languages of Canada. Most Francophones or French-speaking Canadians live in the province of Quebec, which includes areas French fishermen and fur traders settled in the 1500s.

The thematic map in Figure 4.5 shows the French territory of North America in blue. The modern political boundaries are outlined in white. Quebec is a province with predominantly French place names, such as Montreal and Quebec.

Page French Influence in Canada

The French influence evolved into a Québécois identity which was strong enough for Quebec to push for secession or independence from Canada in 1980 and 1995. See Quebec's location in Figure 4.6. The Quebec provincial government remains committed to preserving the Québécois cultural identity and established French as its sole official language in May 2021.

Page Canada's Indigenous Population

Read this article, where the author fears this law could hinder the indigenous population and non-French speakers from receiving key government services.

Page North America's Western Frontier

Both the United States and Canada actively encouraged their citizens to populate their western frontier. The Homestead Act of 1862 in the United States and the Dominions Land Act of 1872 in Canada provided settlers with land in exchange for cultivating and population these territories. The governments completed transcontinental railroad lines to increase western access. Gold booms of California (1849) and British Columbia (1858), and Canada's liberal immigration policy also fostered westward migration and territorial expansion (see Figures 4.6 and 4.7 for maps of British Columbia and California).

Large numbers of immigrants from western, southern, and eastern Europe joined these groups in search of good agricultural land and resources.

Page Westward Migration and North America's Indigenous Peoples

These westward migrations were devastating to the indigenous populations who lived in North America. In addition to the number of lives lost due to forced displacement, disease, and war, the European newcomers threatened their very culture.

The map in Figure 4.8 helps visualize this loss of culture by showing the myriad languages spoken in North America before the Europeans made contact during the 15th century. Today, the people who live in these regions struggle to retain this important cultural heritage.

Page Why Aren't There More Native American Restaurants?

The United States and Canadian governments have engaged in their own versions of Russification as they tried to indoctrinate groups of indigenous children into their European-based culture. The impact of the residential boarding schools they created continues as Canada and the United States take steps to acknowledge their roles in what some call a version of cultural genocide.

In 2008, Canada created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to document the history and lasting effects of the Canadian Indian residential school system on indigenous students and their families. In 2015, the Commission released a summary report of its findings and "94 Calls to Action" to "redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation".

In 2021, the U.S. Senate introduced the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. They referred the legislation to the Committee on Indian Affairs, but no further action has been taken.

Beyond these commissions, both countries have begun locating the burial sites associated with these schools, exhuming the bodies, and returning them to their respective tribes. Watch these two videos, which highlight the loss of cultural heritage in terms of food and language.

Sean Sherman, an Ogalala Lakota, is a chef from the Pine Ridge Reservation in southeastern South Dakota.

Page A History of Indigenous Languages

Watch this video. Lindsay Morcom, an Algonquin, is a linguist at Queens University Canada in Kingston, Ontario.

4.4: Industrial Development in North America Page Industrial Development in North America

Despite its recent decline, manufacturing remains an important component of the U.S. economy that many people depend on for employment. Read this text for more on the impact of industrialization on the landscape of North America during the past 300 years.

Page Colin Grant Clark's Economic Model

Economists argue that North America is in a period of deindustrialization due to the decline of manufacturing (the secondary sector). Using the British-Australian economist Colin Grant Clark's economic model (see Figure 4.9), this begins when the number of people employed in the primary sector equals the number working in the tertiary sector.

Here is how Clark defines these economic sectors.

  • The primary economic sector includes growing and extracting activities (of raw materials), such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining.
  • The secondary economic sector includes activities related to processing raw materials through manufacturing.
  • The tertiary economic sector includes activities that produce services rather than physical products. Healthcare, real estate, hospitality, and retail are examples of tertiary activities.
  • The quaternary economic sector includes intellectual or knowledge-based activities such as information technology and research and development.

Manufacturing does not play the role it once did in North America. However, the cities where manufacturing occurred now attract the tertiary and quaternary sectors. For example, the corridors of the old manufacturing core (Boston-New York City-Philadelphia, Pittsburgh-Detroit-Chicago, and Montreal-Toronto) are now home to healthcare, real estate, and information technology companies.

The San Francisco-Los Angeles and Vancouver-Seattle-Portland corridors in western North America also attract these tertiary and quaternary sectors. While these economic activities are not tied to natural resources, many continue to center their activities in these historic manufacturing cores. Those that have chosen to disperse are often located near space-age development sites, such as Houston, Texas, and Cape Canaveral, Florida. Others have positioned themselves near research universities or along major transportation corridors.

4.5: The North American Urban Landscape Page The Urban Landscape in North America

The original city centers of the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and St. Lawrence River areas, including Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., are now connected by a series of surrounding edge cities, suburbs, highways, and railways to form a densely-populated corridor known as the Northeast Megalopolis.

Read this text for more on how cities have evolved in North America.

Page Canada's Quebec-Windsor Corridor

Canada also has an eastern megalopolis. The Quebec City – Windsor corridor extends along the St. Lawrence River, the north shores of Lakes Ontario and Erie, from Quebec City to Ottawa, and Toronto to Windsor. The thematic map in Figure 4.10 indicates this densely-populated, heavily-industrialized region of Canada spans 1,200 km. We find these urban corridors all over the world.

Book Urban Sprawl

Urban sprawl has a number of environmental, social, and economic consequences. Our text cites the New Urbanism approach, which addresses some of these, but its implementation has not always been successful or gained widespread traction.

Suburban developments continue to appear in previously untouched open spaces and land once cultivated for agriculture. Suburban growth exacerbates environmental problems, such as pollution, the loss of permeable surfaces, and an increase in the heat island effect. Figures 4.11 and 4.12 illustrate the impact buildings and pavement have on water flow and air temperature.

Page New York Before the City

Watch this video where Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist, recommends a natural history approach to making cities more livable and sustainable. Using GIS technology, historical maps, and other documents, Sanderson and his team recreated the natural environment of Manhattan Island before European colonization.

They explored what Mannahatta looked like when the Lenape people were its only residents and saw an opportunity for combining the past and present to influence the New York City of the future.

4.6: Patterns of Economic Inequality in North America Page Countries by Gini Coefficient

Figure 4.13 shows a thematic map that uses Gini coefficients, a tool Corrado Gini, an Italian statistician and sociologist, created to indicate global income inequality. While issues remain with regard to interpreting this data, Gini coefficients do provide a general overview of income equality.

A Gini coefficient of zero means everyone has the same income. A higher Gini coefficient indicates more unequal incomes. For example, the southern part of Africa has high coefficients, but they are low in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, where income inequality is low. In North America, income inequality is higher in the United States than it is in Canada.

Page Patterns of Inequality in North America

Read this short text which explains the geographic variation of income inequality in Canada and the United States. Finlayson recognizes the roles race, ethnicity, and historical development play in the spatial pattern of poverty and income inequality.

For example, she observes the southern United States has a higher percentage of people in poverty than in other parts of the country. Similarly, in Canada, provinces with high percentages of indigenous people have high-income inequality. Spatial patterns of income inequality are also apparent at the local level.

Why does income inequality vary geographically? Why do clusters of census divisions with similar levels of poverty and wealth exist? Income determines where people can afford to live. Where people live determines where their children attend school, the goods and services they can access, where they go for entertainment and recreation, their job prospects, and many other factors that shape their lives.

Your address can limit or expand your options. Aging, housing options, stagnant wages, and higher costs can make the situation worse. Globalization has exacerbated income inequality as more people make less and fewer people make more.

Page Poverty in Toronto

Figure 4.14 is a thematic map of the percentage of people in poverty in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Note the dark orange-red patch in the southern part of the city. This area of high poverty was once a suburb of Toronto and home to its middle class. The areas with lower percentages of poverty are lighter in color and found to the north. The Forest Hill neighborhood is home to some of Toronto's wealthiest people.

Page Cultural and Physical Connections

It is important to remember the strong connections that exist within North America. It is not surprising that the United States and Canada engage in more trade with each other than any other country. Their border follows the 49th parallel, 49° N latitude, and is the longest international border in the world at 8,891 km. It dates to the Oregon Treaty of 1846 between the United States and Great Britain. It also includes 119 land border crossings, 30 railroad crossings, and 13 international ferry crossings.

Figure 4.15 helps visualize how many crossings exist by only showing those in the eastern states. They are many physical locations for trade between these two North American countries.

4.7: North America's Global Connections Page North America's Global Connections

Read this text on the effects of USMCA and North America's participation in global trade organizations. Note that the G8 became the G7 when its leaders removed Russia after it invaded the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine in 2014.

Page Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by Country

In 2022, the United States and Canada were the first and eighth largest economies in the world based on GDP. The thematic map in Figure 4.16 puts these North American countries in context. Read this article to learn what the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does and does not tell us about a country's economic health.

Page The U.S. Economy and GDP

Read this article which explains that having a high GDP does not necessarily mean individuals are prosperous and healthy. Despite its high GDP, the United States has high levels of inequality. Not everyone can access the opportunities a high GDP indicates. Nevertheless, those who live elsewhere are often attracted to countries with a high GDP. As in Europe, many who seek a better life want to move to North America despite the negative, xenophobic backlash many immigrants have experienced in the United States.

5.1: Maps of Middle and South America Book Maps of Middle America

Study these maps of Middle America so you are familiar with the locations of the countries, rivers, and surrounding water bodies.

Page Map of South America

Study this map of South America so you are familiar with the locations of the countries, mountain ranges, and rivers.

5.2: The Physical Geography of Middle America and South America Page The Geographic Features of Middle and South America

Read this text for more on the physical geography of the region. Pay attention to Figure 5.6, a map of the Amazon Basin.

5.3: The Panama Canal Page The Panama Canal

See the map in Figure 5.1, which indicates the location of the Panama Canal between the Caribbean Sea (to the north) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the south), with the canal at the top center. It spans the distance between Colón and Panama City.

Page Views of the Panama Canal

Figure 5.2 provides topographic and profile perspectives. Although the canal has been expanded since this map was created, it provides an effective visualization of the challenges the topography posed.

Page Panama Canal Time-lapse

Watch this video for an idea of what it is like to traverse the Panama Canal.

5.4: Amazon River Basin Page The Amazon River Basin

The Amazon River drains this vast region, which covers more than 35 percent of the continent. Its headwaters are in the Andes mountains to the west at about 6.635 m. It travels about 6,400 km before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean to the east, near the port city of Belém.

The Amazon accounts for 20 percent of the total water the world's rivers carry to oceans. A river's drainage basin is the land where precipitation collects and drains off, feeding the flow of the river and its tributaries. Drainage basins are separated by areas of higher elevation, as shown in Figure 5.3.

Page Warmer Ocean Temperatures and Saharan Dust

Watch this video for a visualization of the transport of dust across the Atlantic.

Page Koppen–Geiger Climate Classification for South America

The Amazon River Basin is home to the Amazon Rainforest, a tropical rainforest. The location of the Amazon Rainforest roughly corresponds to the dark blue zone shown in Figure 5.4, straddling the Equator. Given its proximity to the Equator, it is not surprising that it is a tropical rainforest with hot, humid conditions and an average annual rainfall that ranges from 1.5 to 3 m.

The warm, equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean are the source of this moisture-laden air which is drawn inland, making its way all the way to the Andes Mountains in the west. Interestingly, there is a connection between the Amazon Rainforest and the Sahara Desert in northern Africa. Some of the dust from the Sahara is blown west and deposited in the Amazon, where it fertilizes plant life.

Page The Amazon Belongs to Humanity

The size and biodiversity of the Amazon River Basin play a critical role in global climate and hydrology. Deforestation – which provides timber and land for cattle ranching and mining activities – has taken a toll on the physical and human landscapes. While they are frequently ignored, the indigenous populations that rely on the Amazon River Basin for their survival serve as stewards to protect it. These communities, which descend from those who settled in the region 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, are in the best position to teach others how best to preserve this vast, unique area.

Watch this video to learn about the connection between the Amazon rainforest and the Yawanawá indigenous people who live in its western reaches.

Page Indigenous People May Be the Amazon's Last Hope

The Waimiri-Atroari, Munduruku, Yanomami people, and others have all fought to preserve the Amazon River Basin. Unfortunately, their populations are shrinking, as are the size of their homelands.

Read this article to learn what indigenous people are doing to prevent the loss of their native lands despite the Brazilian government's efforts to increase infrastructure development in the Amazon.

5.5. The Atacama Desert Page Map of the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert formed in this area due to several factors. The Andes Mountains created a rain shadow desert that prevents the warm moist tropical air (brought by the tradewinds) from reaching the west coast. (Remember that the reverse is true on North America's west coast, see Figure 4.4 in Section 4.1.) The Atacama Desert is on the leeward, not the windward, side of the Andes at these latitudes. At higher latitudes, this pattern reverses, which creates the prairie grassland of Patagonia in southern Argentina.

A cold ocean current along the west coast of South America lowers the air temperature, so little moisture accumulates. Once this air blows onshore, there is no potential for precipitation. At this latitude, a belt of high atmospheric pressure makes it difficult for air to rise and suppresses the formation of clouds. This creates a zone of low precipitation, which contributes to the already-dry conditions of the Atacama Desert.

Page Atacama Desert – The Ultimate Survival

Watch this video for a tour of the Atacama Desert with views of its dunes, salt lakes, flats, hot springs, geysers, flora, and fauna. In addition to these natural landscapes, the video includes footage of the Chuquicamata open-pit copper mine.

5.6: Earthquake and Volcano Hazards Page Tectonic Plates and Their Movement

The convergence of the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate (see Figure 5.12) explains the presence of the Andes Mountains along South America's west coast and why earthquakes are frequent in the region. The length of the arrows on the map indicates the speed the plate is moving. For example, the Nazca plate is moving quickly (80 to 100 mm per year) compared to many other plates.

5.7: Hurricane Hazards Page Tropical Storm Tracks
Figure 5.13 shows the clusters or patterns of tropical storms experienced between 1985 and 2005.
Page How a Hurricane Forms

The global pattern of tropical storms is distinct. Most of these storms form between 5° and 20° north and south of the Equator because the water in these areas is warmer than 26° C. The water becomes too cold for them to form as the distance increases beyond 20° north and south. El Niño can contribute to stronger storm activity in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which affects the west coast of Middle America.

Watch this video on how hurricanes form.

Page Average Sea Temperature and Hurricanes by Wind Strength

Let's look at an example from 2005. In Figure 5.16, we see the waters off the coasts of Middle America are the strengthening zone for the hurricanes that occur in the North Atlantic. Some of these 2005 hurricanes made landfall in Middle America, including Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Those that did not make landfall would still have had a tremendous impact on coastal areas in the form of strong winds and storm surge flooding. Hurricanes pose a deadly hazard that affects millions of people in Middle America.

5.8: The Colonization of Middle America Page Mainland and Rimland Characteristics of Middle America
The map in Figure 5.17 illustrates the characteristics of each subregion.
Page Colonization and Conquest in Middle America

Read this text on the rise and fall of the indigenous empires in Middle America and the role the Spanish, French, English, Dutch, and Portuguese played in changing human and physical geography.

Page Languages of the Caribbean

The Amerindians populated the Caribbean Islands before the Europeans arrived in 1492. These indigenous populations included the Taino, Kalinago, Ciguayo, Macoris, and Guanahatabey, among others. Figure 5.18 illustrates some of the languages spoken during Pre-Colombian times. The Taino were the first indigenous group Columbus encountered when he landed in the Bahamas. Like Mexico and Central America, some of these indigenous people remain in places like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Leeward Islands. The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean likely traveled there from northern South America.

The Amerindians populated the Caribbean Islands before the Europeans arrived in 1492. These indigenous populations included the Taino, Kalinago, Ciguayo, Macoris, and Guanahatabey, among others.

Figure 5.18 illustrates some of the languages spoken during Pre-Colombian times. The Taino were the first indigenous group Columbus encountered when he landed in the Bahamas. Like Mexico and Central America, some of these indigenous people remain in places like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Leeward Islands. The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean likely traveled there from northern South America.

Page Pre-Colonial Caribbean

The Rimland of Middle America had a thriving trade network that dates back thousands of years before the European colonists arrived. Watch this video on the Pre-Colonial Caribbean to learn more about the indigenous people from the Mainland who developed these networks and formed communities throughout the Rimland.

Page Paths to Settle the Caribbean Islands

Read this article for more on the timing and settlement patterns of these pre-Colombian communities.

Page Indigenous Peoples in the Americas

The thematic map in Figure 5.19 shows the percentage of indigenous peoples living in the Americas. It does not include mixed-race populations, such as the mestizo. We can see that southern Mexico (including the Yucatan Peninsula) and Guatemala have a high percentage of indigenous people compared to the rest of the mainland. In the rimland, percentages are low, but it is important to note that "no data" is included for the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and some of the Leeward Islands. Areas with high percentages of indigenous people coincide with the locations of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca Empires.

5.9: The Colonization of South America Page Colonial Activity in South America

See Figure 5.20. Francisco Pizzaro, a Spanish conquistador stationed in Panama, began colonizing South America after he landed in Peru in 1531 to search for gold and silver. Portuguese colonists sailed directly to South America from Portugal and seized land on the east coast of Brazil to expand their empire.

Page The Colonial Landscape

Since the Spanish and Portuguese penetrated South America's interior from opposite directions, they eventually claimed the same territory. They turned to the Catholic church to resolve their dispute. The Tordesillas Line of 1494 is the boundary they established between their new acquisitions. The British, Dutch, and French colonized the Guianas just as they had colonized the rimland of Middle America. French Guiana is the only remaining colony on the continent of South America.

Several other indigenous groups lived in South America in addition to the Incas. Historians estimate that 2,000 different tribes inhabited the area that is now Brazil before Europeans arrived. Three hundred indigenous groups remain in Venezuela.

Approximately 10% of Chile's 2012 population considers itself indigenous. The Mapuche account for a majority of this 10%, although at least 15 other indigenous groups live in Chile. The varied physical geography, in the form of mountains, rivers, deserts, and forests, did much to foster the development of so many different groups.

Although most of the countries of Middle and South America are now sovereign states, the effects of colonization remain. In the next section, we see a similar pattern of urban development across this region which features extraordinarily large cities characterized by numerous slums.

Read this text for more on the Inca Empire and the role the Spanish, French, English, Dutch, and Portuguese played in changing South America's human and physical geography.

Page The Haitian Revolution

The appalling living conditions enslaved people were forced to endure, and the ideas of the American and French Revolutions inspired the independence movements that led to decolonization in Middle and South America. The enslaved people of the French colony Saint Domingue were the first to revolt. Watch this video to learn more about their revolution.

Page Inca Expansion Map

As shown in Figure 5.21, the Inca Empire extended along the Andes Mountains from the present-day countries of Colombia in the north, through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, to Chile and Argentina in the south. It was the largest pre-Colombian empire in the Americas.

There are several familiar placenames in Figure 5.21:

  • Cuzco, or Cusco, is a city in Peru that was once the capital of the Inca Empire. The Kingdom of Cusco, which the Incas founded in the early 1400s, is the red area on the map. It was succeeded by the Inca Empire as expansion began in 1438 and comprised the original extent of the Inca Empire.

  • Nazca, or Nasca, another city in Peru, was once part of the Inca Empire. It is named for the Nazca culture, which predated the Incan Empire by about 600 years. The Nazca tectonic plate takes its name from the Nazca region.

  • Lake Titicaca in the Altiplano Region of the Central Andes Mountains is the largest lake in South America. Its surface elevation is 3,812 m. For comparison, the surface elevation of Lake Baikal in Russia is 456 m.
5.10: Urban Development in Middle and South America Page Urban Development in South America

Read this section for more on the evolution of these cities since colonization.

Page Urban Unrest Propels a Global Wave of Protests

Rural-to-urban migration has fueled the rapid growth of cities in Middle and South America. Housing construction typically fails to keep pace with the influx of newcomers who live in makeshift dwellings on the city fringes. The living conditions in these areas are often deplorable and can lead to urban unrest.

Read this article to learn about some of the cities where this unrest has occurred. The next section highlights income inequality, a problem that is particularly acute in this region where rapid urbanization has led to uneven development and the formation of primate cities. In these cases, the city advances, but the periphery is lagging. This imbalance intensifies income inequality.

5.11: Income Inequality in Middle and South America Page Income Inequality in Middle and South America

Read this text which observes that while income inequality has recently decreased across the region, it continues to be a challenge with many long-term repercussions. Despite its decline, income inequality in Middle and South America remains higher than in most parts of the world.

Page Inequality and Political Instability in Latin America

Read this article to learn why income inequality tells a cautionary tale for other regions. The author cites the following contributing factors to social and political unrest in Middle and South America:

  • Concentration of land and wealth among a few,
  • Lack of investment in the region's economy,
  • Lack of incentive to increase productivity, and
  • No support for high-quality public education.

Globalization has exacerbated this situation. The Russian oligarchs are not the only members of the wealthy elite who have transferred their money to offshore accounts. The remaining population in Middle and South America has felt left behind with little opportunity to advance. Those who are able to leave the region to seek a better life elsewhere often do.

5.12: Patterns of Globalization in Middle and South America Page Patterns of Globalization in Middle and South America

Brazil and Mexico are the largest economies in Middle and South America in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). They are 12th and 15th, respectively, from a global perspective. Compared to the regions we have discussed so far, Middle and South America trails North America but is comparable to Russia and parts of Europe. See Figure 4.16 in Unit 4 to see the countries of Middle and South America in a global economic context.

Despite Brazil and Mexico's relative GDP success, Finlayson identifies five challenges these and other countries in the region face: 1. outmigration leading to brain drain, 2. institutional corruption, 3. environmental damage, 4. dependence on offshore banking, and 5. dependence on remittances. Read this text to learn about other effects of globalization throughout the region.

Page The Deadly Genius of Drug Cartels

A lucrative and thriving drug trade continues to plague this region primarily due to its proximity to drug markets in the United States. Although the United States receives illegal drugs from other places, most drugs cross the Mexican border to reach the U.S. marketplace.

Watch this video which explains why the drug trade continues to be a violent and debilitating challenge for the Mexican people and government. The speaker identifies several familiar themes and contributing factors to the success of drug cartels, including income inequality and geography.

There is a feeling among many Mexicans (real and perceived) that government institutions have failed them and they are being left behind. In some cases, organized drug cartels fill the void by providing protection and jobs. Although this talk was presented in 2013, its message still resonates.

6.1: Maps of Sub-Saharan Africa Page Physical Features of Sub-Saharan Africa

Before we get started, take a moment to study the map in Figure 6.1. The red dashed line indicates the approximate "border" of the Sahel and the southern boundary of the African Transition Zone. The location of the Sahel is inexact because it shifts according to the seasons. This is why many call it the African Transition Zone, a name that accounts for its changing location.

This shifting zone is where the subtropical high-pressure belt that contributes to the arid conditions of the Sahara Desert meets the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), an equatorial low-pressure zone that makes the tropics wet.

The African Transition Zone shifts due to the seasonal shifts of the ITCZ. It shifts north in the summer, making the conditions wetter, and shifts south In the winter, making the conditions drier. Variations to this pattern occur when the high- and low-pressure belts stall for various environmental reasons, leaving the Sahel with no moisture.

Page The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

Now take a look at Figure 6.2, which illustrates the seasonal movement of the ITCZ in Africa. Notice that the maps include two acronyms: Congo Air Boundary (CAB) and surface (sfc).

Page The Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa

For thousands of years, humans in the Sahel followed the moisture. Unencumbered by political borders, the nomadic Bedouin people migrated north in the summer and south in the winter. However, the colonial powers curtailed the seasonal movement of the Bedouins and divided the groups by imposing political boundaries on the landscape. We can trace many of the ongoing conflicts in the Sahel to a clash between traditional practices and this interference from outside powers.

In this unit, we analyze the physical characteristics of Sub-Saharan Africa and explore the region before colonization. Then, we consider the impact of European imperialism on the indigenous peoples and their culture. We continue our study of the familiar themes of income inequality and globalization. We cannot escape the cultural, political, and economic impact of European colonialism around the world. This is particularly true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where life for many people has not changed much since achieving independence.

Study this map of Sub-Saharan Africa in Figure 6.3 so you are familiar with the locations of the countries and some of the major geographic features.

6.2: Sub-Saharan Africa's Physical Landscape Page Physical Landscape of Sub-Saharan Africa

The authors of the next three resources highlight the challenges the people of Sub-Saharan Africa face as climate change and desertification intensify.

As you review the materials, make sure you can answer these questions.

  • What is the Sahel?
  • Why is Lake Chad shrinking?
  • Why is the Niger River so important?
  • What is creating the Great Rift Valley, and how is it related to features like Mt. Kilimanjaro and Lake Malawi?
  • Why are the lakes in the Rift Valley soda lakes?
  • What explains where grasslands, savannas, and tropical rainforests occur?
  • How does the Congo River Basin compare to the Amazon River Basin?
  • How does the Namib Desert compare to the Atacama Desert?
  • How does the Kalahari Desert compare to the Namib Desert?
  • Where is desertification occurring, and what are the contributing factors?
  • What are some of the other environmental challenges this region faces?
  • Why do escarpments impede land and river movement?
  • How do cataracts form?
  • Where do the Blue Nile and White Nile Rivers originate? Where do they meet?

Read this text for the tectonic context for many of these features, an introduction to a few features beyond the rift zone, and a description of the environmental challenges of this region. Note that it calls Africa the "cradle of human civilization". Pay attention to the description of the livestock herders of the Sahel.

Page Physical Geography of Sub Saharan Africa

Watch this video for more detail on the features beyond the rift zone. It provides an overview of the region's resources and its endangered species and focuses on desertification. Pay attention to the description of the San peoples of the Kalahari Desert. Note that the speaker refers to the Drakensberg Mountains, which are actually an escarpment that forms the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment. The Great Escarpment is the edge of central southern Africa and slopes downward toward the narrow coastal plain.

Book The Great Rift Valley

The Great Escarpment is labeled Cape Ranges in Figure 6.1. This landform contributes to the arid conditions of the Namib desert on the west coast. The continent's latitudinal position and tectonic setting have played significant roles in the physical geography of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The rifting on the African continent, shown in Figure 6.4 and in the cross-section in Figure 6.5, resulted from the East African Plateau – the high, relatively-level ground in the rift zone. It has also produced the following geographic features.

  • Mt. Kilimanjaro – a dormant volcano in Tanzania.
  • Mt. Kenya – an extinct volcano in Kenya.
  • Lake Victoria – the world's largest tropical lake by area, located in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. It is also the source of the White Nile, a tributary to the Nile River.
  • Lake Tanganyika – the second oldest, deepest, and largest-by-volume lake in the world (second only to Russia's Lake Baikal) located in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Zambia.
  • Lake Malawi – the sixth deepest lake in the world, located in Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. It is also home to more fish species than any other lake in the world.
Page Koppen–Geiger Climate Classification for Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa's latitudinal extent creates the climate pattern shown in the thematic map in Figure 6.6. The climate varies from north to south, as it does in North America. The difference is that the Equator crosses Sub-Saharan Africa, intersecting the Congo River Basin. Remember that the Equator also crosses South America, intersecting the Amazon River Basin.

The Congo River Basin coincides with the large dark blue area in Figure 6.6 and the dark green area in Figure 6.7.

Page Africa by Satellite

The satellite image in Figure 6.7 provides a landcover perspective that aligns with the climatic zones in Figure 6.6. Notice the thin arc of deep blue lakes in the east-central part of the continent, which indicates the western part of the Great Rift Valley.

Page Photos of Africa from a Flying Lawn Chair

Given the large expanse of Sub-Saharan Africa from north to south, it is not surprising that its physical geography is so varied.

Watch this presentation to get a sense of what this vast region looks like. Photographer George Steinmetz has flown over many parts of the African continent at low altitudes to capture its incredible landscapes. Although he surveys the physical and human landscapes of the entire African continent, you will recognize the names of the places he photographs. Pay attention to his observations about Africa's cultural diversity in his photos of the Dinka of South Sudan, the rural population of Rwanda, and the Bozo along the Niger River.

6.3: Pre-Colonial Sub-Saharan Africa Page The Dispersal of Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthalensis, and Homo Sapiens

The map in Figure 6.8 provides a visualization of modern human dispersal from the African continent. Paleoanthropologists continue to seek more evidence regarding the exact location where modern humans originated on the African continent.

The Kalahari Desert may not be our only homeland; modern humans may also have originated from other places in Africa. Scientists are analyzing newly-uncovered fossils and applying sophisticated analytical techniques to fossils found decades ago to learn more about the timing of the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa.

Page Pre-Colonial Sub-Saharan Africa

In addition to serving as the location for where the human species originated, Sub-Saharan Africa has an extraordinarily-diverse collection of ethnic and linguistic groups.

Read this text which introduces what we know about the human landscape in this region.

Page History of Sub Saharan Africa

Watch this video. The speaker begins to discuss the colonization of Africa, which we will explore in more detail in the next section. Watch from the beginning to 7:07.

Page Powerful Stories that Shaped Africa

Watch this presentation.

Page The Golden Stool of the Ashanti

Figures 6.9 through 6.12 illustrate some of the symbols and architecture Caseley-Hayford cites. The Golden Stool in Figure 6.9 is lying on its side on its throne. The seat is facing the viewer, and the base is against the back of the throne.

Page Bronze Nigerian Ife Head of the Yoruba People

The Ife Head in Figure 6.10 was created between the 14th and early 15th centuries. It weighs 5.1 kg and is 35 cm high.

Page Great Zimbabwe's Great Enclosure

Figure 6.11 includes only a portion of Great Zimbabwe, which was a city that spanned over seven km and may have had a population of 18,000 people. Construction began in the 9th century and was abandoned in the 15th century.

Page Sankore Madrasah in Timbuktu, Mali

The Sankore Madrasah of Timbuktu, shown in Figure 6.12, was one of the ancient centers of learning believed to be established by Mansa Musa, the ruler of the Mali Empire from 1307 to 1332. The Sankore Madrasah structure dates to 988 AD.

Page The Slave Trade Through a Ghanaian Lens

During the 15th century, Europeans expanded their interest in the coast of West Africa to include buying its people to sell as slaves to work on plantations in America. Watch this video to learn more about the impact of the slave trade through a Ghanaian lens.

6.4: The Colonization of Sub-Saharan Africa Page Sub-Saharan African Colonization

Read this text to learn more about colonial Sub-Saharan Africa and its eventual independence.

Page African Slave Trade

Take some time to examine this map in Figure 6.13, which illustrates how the Atlantic Slave Trade (or Triangle Slave Trade) operated.

Page History of Sub-Saharan Africa

Watch this video.

Page Democracy in Africa: Success Stories That Defied the Odds

The human development index (HDI) measures average human achievement in terms of whether the population enjoys a long and healthy life, education, and decent standard of living. On the African continent, the pattern of military coups and peaceful transitions correlates with the HDI. See Figure 6.16. Generally, countries that have experienced fewer coups in northern and southern Africa have a higher HDI. Mauritius, an island country west of Madagascar, is the only country that falls into the highest HDI category.

It is not surprising that the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa continue to face challenges as they attempt to create successful states within the boundaries that were imposed on them. Establishing a legitimate government that meets the needs of a diverse population is difficult for most countries, and Africa's population did not have the opportunity to follow a nation-state model due to colonization.

Self-interest and tribalism frequently win and lead to voter fraud, mismanagement, corruption, coups, and civil unrest. However, several countries, such as Botswana, Ghana, and Namibia, have successfully increased transparency in their governing processes to foster democracy.

Read this article to learn more about the efforts of Mauritius and other countries to address the challenges of post-colonialism.

Page African Countries by Human Development Index
This map shows the countries of Africa using data from the 2020 Human Development Report from the United Nations.
6.5: The Modern Landscape of Sub-Saharan Africa Page Filming Democracy in Ghana

Watch this presentation on some democracies that have prospered in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its narrative is still relevant, although the speaker describes an election that occurred more than ten years ago. It demonstrates how a relatively new country can achieve democratic governance. Ghana's subsequent presidential elections have been peaceful, free, and fair, an accomplishment that has contributed to its success.

Page Modern Sub-Saharan African Landscape

Read this text on the human geography of today's Sub-Saharan Africa.

Page Lagos, Nigeria: The City That Keeps Growing

While Sub-Saharan Africa has not urbanized as quickly as other regions, this trend is beginning to change. Although the map in Figure 6.17 is ten years old, it shows some highly-populated areas that will likely become denser. In 2022, Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the Congo River, and Lagos, the Nigerian coastal city, are the 14th and 15th largest cities in the world. From 2021–2022 they grew more than any other city in the top 20.

The African Cities Research Consortium was created to address the challenges of Africa's rapidly growing cities.

Read this article by architect Ola Uduku and Taibat Lawanson, an urban planner. They discuss some issues city planners in Lagos must address.

In 1991, Nigeria moved its capital from Lagos to Abuja to expand economic opportunities in the interior of the country. (In 1960, Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia for the same reason). Geographers consider Lagos a megacity because it is growing at such a rate that it is absorbing the land areas in the adjoining state and national boundaries.

We also call Lagos a primate city because it has nearly four times as many people as the next largest Nigerian city, Kano, and 12 times as many people as Abuja. Its economy more than quadruples its nearest rivals – across Nigeria and West Africa – in terms of productivity, capital, and infrastructure.

Page Africa Population Density

The astounding growth of Lagos has exacerbated issues of inequality, a common problem in other regions we have studied. Slums are located along the economic periphery of urban centers across the region. Sub-Saharan Africa's cities increasingly attract rural residents due to rural-to-urban migration.

Page Fertility Rates and Life Expectancy in Sub-Saharan Africa

In addition to increasing urbanization, the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is growing due to rapidly-increasing fertility rates. Figure 6.18 illustrates fertility rates by country. Countries with darker circles have higher fertility rates, while the size of the circle indicates the life expectancy of the population. For example, people who live in Nigeria have a life expectancy of 54–59 years and a fertility rate of six children per woman. High fertility rates tend to correlate with low GDP per capita and low educational attainment. In general, the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have high fertility rates and low life expectancy.

The inability to access quality health care contributes to low life expectancy. Women have more children because they expect so many will die before they reach age five. According to UNICEF, the mortality rate for children under five in 2021 was 55 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, higher than any other region in the world.

Page COVID-19 Shows Why African Data Is Key for the Continent's Response to Pandemics

The lack of access to quality healthcare poses a debilitating risk to the general population who suffers from hepatitis, hookworm, malaria, HIV/AIDS, the Ebola virus, and other diseases. Interestingly, immunologists predicted more people from Sub-Saharan Africa would suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article identifies several reasons why Sub-Saharan Africa experienced a much lower mortality rate than Western Europe from COVID-19. Two factors make the human geography of this region unique compared to other regions we have explored. Sub-Saharan Africa is less urbanized than Europe, Russia, North America, and Middle and South America. The population is also much younger than those of Europe, Russia, and North America, which are aging.

The author cites Matshidiso Moeti, the director of the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional office for Africa, who states that understanding the virus does not prevent disease transmission.

Page Population Displacement Due to Tigray Conflict

Many of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have contended with violent conflict, civil war, and terrorism since they became independent. In 2022, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and South Sudan probably suffered the most. These conflicts have created humanitarian crises that have spilled over into their neighboring countries. In Ethiopia, many people suspect genocide is occurring in the ongoing war between Tigray rebel forces in the north and allied government troops from Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Tigray region of northern Ethiopia (see Figure 6.19) is home to the ancient Aksumite kingdom, which dates to the early first century. The location of the Kingdom of Aksum is shown in Figure 6.6 of Section 6.2. Trigayans trace their ancestry to as early as 2000 BCE and account for about six percent of Ethiopia's population.

Despite their minority status, Tigrayans dominated Ethiopia from 1991–2018. They are no longer part of the governing coalition because they refused to merge with a new political party in 2019. The 2020 election was postponed due to COVID-19, extending the terms of elected officials beyond the October 2020 constitutional mandate. Tensions escalated when the Tigray rejected this extension.

Warming relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea further escalated tensions. At the forefront of the 1998–2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian War, Tigrayans do not hold Eritrea in high regard. Fighting began in November 2020 and has continued through June 2022. The conflict has spilled over into Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Ethnic violence exacerbated the political conflict when some of Ethiopia's ethnic groups – the Omoro, Amhara, and Tigray – began to target each other. War crimes have been reported on both sides of the conflict. The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have accused Tigrayans of genocide, while Ethiopia's ethnic groups have made similar claims against each other.

Page Famine in Ethiopia: Eritrea's Long-Running Feud with Tigrayans

Unlike most of the African continent, Ethiopia remained independent. Ethiopia's current boundaries resemble those that existed during the reign of Emperor Menelik II (1889–1913). Unfortunately, this status has not spared the country from violence. Ethiopia's boundaries represent the subjugation of people who have never been part of Ethiopia. Subjugated populations often retaliate for past oppression, even if it occurred in the distant past. What sets Ethiopia and other war-torn countries in Sub-Saharan Africa apart from those in Europe is the attention they receive from the global community.

Read this article for an analysis of the current situation in Ethiopia.

6.6: Economics and Globalization in Sub-Saharan Africa Page Economics and Globalization in Sub-Saharan Africa

Read this text.

Page Debt Distress in Africa: The Way Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the foreign debt burden in this region. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest gross domestic product (GDP) of any region in the world, according to the map we studied of GDP in 2022 (see Figure 4.16 in Unit 4).

Read this article for an overview of the current economic situation in the Sub-Saharan African countries Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The authors make recommendations for managing debt, such as practicing good governance and paying attention to the social, human, and environmental impacts of debt restructuring. Given the existing strain on many of these governments, this will be difficult to achieve.

Page Scaling the African Sharing Economy

Just as the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa must function in a nation-state governance model their European colonizers imposed on them, they must participate in a global economy that is not of their design. Interestingly, today's digital tools are facilitating a sharing economy that has long existed in Africa.

Watch this video for some examples.

As we saw in the Amazon rainforest, indigenous communities have much to teach outsiders about conserving their valuable resources. Age-old practices from people who traded in the marketplaces of West Africa and Nigeria offer many lessons for today's global economy.

Examples from a "bottom-down economy" point to ways we can alleviate income inequalities that have resulted from "top-up capitalism".

The map in Figure 4.13 in Unit 4 illustrates Robert Neuwirth's observation that .003 percent of the Nigerian population control one-fourth of Nigeria's GDP. Meanwhile, 0.01 percent of the Kenyan population controls three-fourths of Kenya's GDP.

Many of Sub-Saharan Africa's countries have the highest Gini coefficients in the world. For example, the Gini coefficients for Botswana, Lesotho, and South Africa are greater than 60. Colombia has the highest Gini coefficient in Middle and South America at 53.5.

7.1: Maps of North Africa and Southwest Asia Page Map of North Africa and Southwest Asia

Study this map of North Africa and Southwest Asia so you are familiar with the locations of the countries and some of the major water bodies.

7.2: Geographic Features and Cultural Adaptations of North Africa and Southwest Asia Page The Middle East

The map in Figure 7.1 is more than ten years old, but it accurately reflects the water resources that exist in parts of North Africa and Southwest Asia.

Book North Africa and Southwest Asia's Key Geographic Features

Read these two texts, which introduce this region's physical geography and cultural adaptations, and explain why this region is so arid. Notice that North Africa and Southwest Asia are home to the Fertile Crescent, which includes the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates river valleys.

Page Physical Geography of the Middle East and North Africa

Watch this video for more detail on the physical features of North Africa and Southwest Asia. Note that Rueschhoff uses the term "Middle East" for the area Finlayson calls Southwest Asia (which is the term we use in this course).

7.3: Urbanization in North Africa and Southwest Asia Page Effect of Urbanization in North Africa and Southwest Asia

The pace of urbanization has differed across North Africa and Southwest Asia. For example, the populations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, the former Soviet republics, were primarily rural until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. The Soviet Union had created these cities to support its own national economy rather than develop the local economy of each country. Urban development has been underway since then as these countries seek to engage in the global economy.

According to the United Nations Population Division, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were at least 50 percent urban in 2020. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were still predominantly rural – only 37 percent and 28 percent of their populations lived in urban areas (World Urbanization Prospects 2018).

Urbanization is high in other parts of North Africa and Southwest Asia. For example, more than 75 percent of the population lives in urban areas in countries on the Arabian Peninsula (except for Yemen). The sub-regions of North Africa and the Middle East are also highly urban. The Caucasus sub-region has moderate urbanization levels, ranging from about 57 percent in Azerbaijan to 60 percent in Georgia to 62 percent in Armenia (World Urbanization Prospects 2018).

The water resources and existing infrastructure in these cities are already strained and will not support rapid urbanization. For example, the situation in Cairo has been dire for a long time. With a population density of 52,000 people per square kilometer, many people live in slums, and they do not benefit from city services such as garbage collection. Indeed, Manshiyat Nasser, one of Cairo's slums, is known as Garbage City. (See Figure 7.3)

7.4: The Arabian Peninsula's Oil Resources Book Oil Resources in North Africa and Southwest Asia

Our resources highlight the importance of oil to this region, including the challenges of transporting it through chokepoints. The thematic map in Figure 7.4 shows that several countries have large amounts of proven oil reserves.

Notice that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait are shaded black or dark brown, which indicates they continue to have significant oil reserves. North Africa and Southwest Asia are oil-rich due to three primary conditions that evolved in geologic history. See Figure 7.5.

Much of the Arabian Peninsula was still underwater more than 60 million years ago. The rivers that fed into this ocean were loaded with nutrients, which allowed a variety of marine life to flourish. When algae, bacteria, fish, reptiles, and other marine creatures died, they accumulated on the ocean floor in thick layers that grew to be miles deep.

Pressure on the lower layers increased as more layers accumulated. The fossilized marine life which lines the lower parts was compressed and transformed into oil which was trapped in place on the ocean floor by thick layers of salt.

As the Arabian Peninsula rose due to tectonic activity, the ocean waters receded, exposing the land surface.

Page Saudi Arabia's Major Oil and Gas Infrastructure

Figure 7.6 shows the locations of Saudi Arabia's oil fields which intersect Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, and Iraq in the east and northeast. The ongoing war in Yemen has left its fossil fuel deposits untapped.

The west side of the Arabian Peninsula, including the Hijaz and Asir Mountains, contains mineral resources such as copper, gold, and iron ore. Fossil fuels are vital to the economies in other parts of North Africa and Southwest Asia. The sub-region of Central Asia, which we will explore in the next section, is rich in natural gas, oil, and minerals.

7.5: Sub-Region of Central Asia Page Map of Central Asia

Figure 7.7 is a reference map that shows the countries that comprise the sub-region of Central Asia.

Page Silk Road Trade

The countries of Central Asia were part of a historical region known as Turkestan that dates back to 3000–2001 BCE. The Silk Road, or more accurately, Silk Routes, traversed this vast area. Figure 7.8 is a map of the Silk Routes in approximately 1200 CE.

Although the map does not include the current country boundaries, the place names along the routes provide points of reference and show the extent of these ancient trade routes, which extended from Europe to the eastern coast of China.

  • Talas is a town in northwest Kyrgyzstan
  • Osh is a city in southern Kyrgyzstan
  • Samarkand is a city in southeastern Uzbekistan
  • Merv was near the current city of Mary in southeastern Turkmenistan
  • Herat is in western Afghanistan
Page Silk Routes in Central Asia and Afghanistan

Read this text to learn more about the Silk Routes and the geography of the Central Asia sub-region.

Page Another View of Central Asia

Figure 7.9 displays the Tian Shan, the Hindu Kush, and the Pamirs mountain ranges. The Tian Shan mountain range spans Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and China. The Silk Routes followed various passes through these mountain ranges to connect the populations in Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Today, these mountains provide mineral resources for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. In Figure 7.9, the unlabeled lake in the Tian Shan Mountains is Kyrgyzstan's Lake Issyk-Kul, which is the second-largest mountain lake in the world after Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains.

Page Kyrgyzstan and Its Enclaves and Exclave

Kyrgyzstan has an exclave and enclaves. An enclave is a part of a country or entity that is completely surrounded by another country or entity. Figure 7.10 shows the four Uzbek enclaves and the two Tajik enclaves within Kyrgyzstan. For example, a resident of one of the Tajik enclaves must travel through Kyrgyzstan to reach the rest of Tajikistan.

Page Enclaves in Kyrgyzstan

Figure 7.11 shows a larger-scale map of the four Uzbek enclaves and one of the two Tajik enclaves within southwestern Kyrgyzstan. These enclaves and exclave result from border disputes.

Page Afghanistan's Vast Mineral Wealth

The political situation in Afghanistan has changed significantly since our textbook was written in 2012. The first democratically-elected president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan took office in 2014. Several key stakeholders expressed their desire to reduce U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during the next several years. In 2020, the United States pledged to withdraw its military forces and those of its allies and partners in an agreement with the Taliban (without the Afghan government). The Taliban promised they would not engage in or support terrorist activities (although they have not lived up to this promise).

When the United States and its allies withdrew their military forces in August 2021, Afghanistan's political leaders fled the country, and the Afghan military collapsed with little opposition. Within two months, Afghanistan was under Taliban control. The Taliban has since increased its oppression of Afghan society and has severely curtailed the rights of the women who had become prominent citizens and business leaders in their communities before the change in leadership. As of June 2022, no countries have recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the legitimate successor of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has vast mineral resources like many of its neighbors in Central Asia. Given Afghanistan's current geopolitical situation, it is unclear whether these resources will be produced to benefit the Afghani people.

Read this article. The USGS map of mineral resources shows the greatest concentration of mineral resources is in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountain range. Similar concentrations of mineral resources are found in the countries of the Tian Shan and Pamir mountains. These belts of rare earth elements – rare metals (REE-RM) in Central Asia result from tectonic activity and other geologic processes that occurred during the past hundreds of millions of years.

The challenge of extracting these resources is magnified in a country that lacks the necessary infrastructure (roadways, railways, and electricity). Since Afghanistan and the other countries of Central Asia are landlocked, transportation to foreign markets depends on railway transport which is challenged by the region's rugged terrain and harsh climate. The prevailing religious and territorial conflicts, which we explore in the next section, present additional barriers to trade.

7.6: The Religious Hearths of North Africa and Southwest Asia Page Jerusalem, Mecca, and Medina

Jerusalem has been the center of this territorial struggle because all three religions believe it is one of the holiest places on Earth. The city remains divided: West Jerusalem is part of Israel, and East Jerusalem is in the Palestinian West Bank. Israel controls the Old City of Jerusalem, which contains the sites holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, despite its location in East Jerusalem. The cities of Mecca and Medina in today's Saudi Arabia are also holy to Islam. See the reference map in Figure 7.12 for the locations of Jerusalem, Mecca, and Medina.

Page Religion in North Africa and Southwest Asia

In this course, we provide a brief overview of how the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam has affected the human landscape and explain conflicts regarding identity, religion, and physical geography. Be mindful of the fact that there are several interpretations of these events, and the details remain controversial. We encourage you to study this history further since we only provide a cursory assessment here.

You should be able to answer these questions after you review the following resources.

  • What is the connection between Mecca and Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?
  • What places do these three religions consider holy? Why?
  • What places are holy to more than one of these religions?
  • What triggered the Jewish diaspora in 70 CE?
  • What is the current spatial distribution of Jews?
  • How did the spatial diffusion of Christianity occur?
  • Where did Christianity spread?
  • How did the spatial diffusion of Islam occur?
  • Where did Islam spread?
  • What is the spatial distribution of Sunni and Shia Muslims?

Read this text to understand why location is so important to the followers of these three religions.

Page Semitic Religions

Watch this video.

Page Geography of Conflict: Searching for Peace in the Middle East

Watch the first 4:37 of this video. We will watch the rest later.

7.7: Conquest in North Africa and Southwest Asia Page Conquest in North Africa and Southwest Asia

Read this text for a few of the highlights of the history of conquest in this region

Page Russian Turkestan

This region was controlled by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Mongols, and Ottomans. The Russian Empire conquered Central Asia to challenge the British Empire's influence in India and Southeast Asia. This area, called Russian Turkestan (see Figure 7.13) from 1867 to 1917, included Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Notice that Afghanistan, a protectorate of the British Empire during this time, was not part of Russian Turkestan.

7.8: The Impact of Conquest on the Caucasus Sub-Region Book Countries of the Caucasus

More than 50 ethnic groups live in this sub-region. Its connections between Eastern Europe and Western Asia and its rugged terrain (see Figure 7.15) have contributed to its extraordinarily diverse ethnolinguistic landscape. Figure 7.16 illustrates some of this diversity. Indo-European and Turkic languages are spoken in addition to the three language families unique to the Caucasus. The mountainous topography of this sub-region has helped these separate ethnolinguistic groups to develop.

Page Armenian Genocide

The country of Armenia used to extend farther to the west into Turkey. Its territory has seen significant losses and has been conquered numerous times throughout history. During World War I, the Ottoman Empire engaged in genocide to rid the territory of the Armenian population. Watch this video to learn why the Ottoman Empire sought to remove the Armenians.

7.9: Decolonization and Western Sahara Page Spanish and French Protectorates in Morocco and Spanish Sahara

After World War I, Spain left the administration of the Spanish Sahara to Spanish Morocco, which is shown in Figure 7.17.

Page Moroccan Walls in Western Sahara

In 1975, Spain completely withdrew from Spanish Morocco when Morocco annexed the northern two-thirds of the region, and Mauritania annexed the southern third. A local resistance group called the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, challenged the claims Morocco and Mauritania were making and staged a guerilla war to fight for the independence of Western Sahara.

Mauritania withdrew in 1979, leaving Morocco to claim the entire territory. During the 1980s, Morocco constructed a series of sand and stone walls to restrict the Polisario Front to the eastern side of the territory, with a narrow strip to the south along the Mauritanian border. The map in Figure 7.18 shows the location of these walls and indicates when they were built

Page Wall South of Mahebs

Figure 7.19 shows what one of these walls looks like from the Polisario side. The berms are about three meters high, built along the hills and ridges, and fortified with fences and landmines.

Page Morocco and Western Sahara: A Decades-Long War of Attrition

By 1991, the United Nations (UN) intervened, brokered a halt to the fighting, and worked to resolve the matter. A stalemate persists, with armed clashes breaking out as Morocco continues to push for annexation and the Polisario Front continues to advocate for independence. Clearly, conquest and conflict have defined much of the region of North Africa and Southwest Asia.

Read this article for more on the situation in Western Sahara.

7.10: The Modern Political Landscape of North Africa and Southwest Asia Page The Political Landscape

Read this text to learn more about the current political conditions in North Africa and Southwest Asia.

Page Yemen: Understanding the Conflict

As in Syria, Yemen has been the site of a devastating civil war. Saudi Arabia continues to back the Yemeni government against the Houthi movement. Some human rights experts accuse Saudi Arabia and its supporters, including the United States, of engaging in genocide of the Houthi people.

Little has changed in Yemen since these articles were published in 2018. In May 2022, the United Nations (UN) brokered a truce that allowed some aid to reach civilians, but the situation remains dire. The UN has called Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. By March 2022, more than 17 million Yemenis needed food assistance. The UN estimates that 7.3 million of these people will experience emergency levels of hunger by the end of 2022.

Read these two articles for more on the conditions in Yemen and the Houthi movement.

Page Who are Yemen's Houthis?

The author of this article notes that tension between religious sects is a significant factor responsible for the violence and hunger in Yemen, but it is not the only cause.

7.11: Religious Conflict in North Africa and Southwest Asia Page Religious Conflict in North Africa and Southwest Asia

Read this text for examples of religious conflict that continues to characterize much of this region.

Page Islamic Faith and Tradition

The vast majority of Muslims reject Islamic extremism. The oppressive measures ISIS and other violent groups support do not come from the Islam of Muhammad.

Watch this presentation. Pay attention to the author's explanation of the difference between cultural practices and the Islamic faith.

Page Human Rights for Women

Watch this video on the harm extremism inflicts on young girls and women. Laura Boushnak, a Palestinian photographer born in Kuwait, shares her images of the perseverance of women in the face of oppression.

8.1: Maps of South Asia Page Map of South Asia

Study this map of South Asia so you are familiar with the locations of the countries and some of the major geographic features.

8.2: South Asia's Physical Geography Page South Asia's Physical Landscape
The dramatic nature of this realm includes hazards from earthquakes and flooding. South Asia also has some of the world's most famous rivers. The Indus River rises in the Himalayas and empties into the Arabian Sea near Karachi, Pakistan. It has been the center of human civilization for thousands of years.

The Indus River is also sacred to Hindus. The Ganges River rises in the Himalayas and empties into the Bay of Bengal and is the third largest river in the world, after the Amazon and Congo Rivers, in terms of discharge. The Ganges is the most sacred river to the Hindus.

In addition to their religious importance, these rivers are vital to the physical survival of Pakistanis, Indians, and Bangladeshis.

Read this text to learn more about these and the other geographic features that define this region.
Page Physical Geography of South Asia

Watch this video. Figure 8.1 displays many of the features mentioned in the reading and video. The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is not labeled on the map. It extends from northwest India into eastern Pakistan.

You can easily identify the Thar Desert and Deccan Plateau, the arid and semi-arid areas of the region, in Figure 8.2, the climate map that is also displayed in the video. Remember that Afghanistan is not part of South Asia, although it is included in the climate map.

Page Climate of South Asia and Afghanistan

This map shows the Köppen climate classifications in South Asia and Afghanistan.

Page The Nepal Gorkha Earthquake and its Aftershocks

The Himalayan Mountains were a product of the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates. This collision of the two tectonic plates continues to produce destructive forces in the form of earthquakes. Nepal was struck particularly hard on April 25, 2015 – the Gorkha earthquake (magnitude 7.8) was the strongest earthquake to strike Nepal since 1934. See Figure 8.3 for the location of the earthquake's epicenter, about 80 km northwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

Page Convergent Plate Boundary

The Gorkha earthquake triggered landslides and avalanches, killing nearly 9,000 people and injuring almost 18,000 others. More than 750,000 houses were destroyed or damaged. The village of Langtang, shown in Figure 8.3, was almost completely destroyed when a landslide deposited an estimated 40 million tons of rock and ice onto the village. Many of the dead and injured lived in Langtang or were tourists visiting the Langtang National Park.

The earthquake originated 8.2 km below the surface of the Earth on or near the main thrust interface between the Indian and Eurasia plates. Figure 8.4 illustrates the convergence of these two plates.

Page Langtang Village in the Langtang Valley

On May 12, 2015, an aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3, shown in Figure 8.3, triggered an avalanche that killed 20 and injured 120 at the Mount Everest Base Camp. People were killed and injured in China, Bangladesh, and India.

Page Monsoon Rains and Clean Water in Pakistan

The monsoon weather pattern is another characteristic of this region that impacts the human landscape. Monsoons are seasonal winds that bring heavy rains in the summer but leave the landmass dry in the winter. In South Asia, when the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) migrates north in the summer, moisture-laden air from the Indian Ocean is drawn to the warmer landmass. Thus, these monsoonal winds bring heavy rains in the summer. When the ITCZ migrates south in the winter, the winds reverse and blow from the cooler landmass to the warmer ocean.

Monsoons bring heavy rains that cause flooding. The people who live along rivers to access the water and fertile soil are especially vulnerable. Every year, monsoonal rains and the ensuing floods displace people, destroy infrastructure, and increase the prevalence of water-borne diseases. If drought conditions precede the rainfall, flooding occurs sooner because the rain runs off the dry, crusty surface directly into streams and rivers. When soils are dry, it takes longer for water to infiltrate the surface.

After this discussion of the rainfall and monsoon winds, it seems ironic that access to fresh water is a problem in some parts of South Asia. For example, urban planners warn that central Pakistan and northwest India are on the brink of a groundwater crisis due to rising population, the effects of climate change, and the natural lag in groundwater response to management interventions.

Central Pakistan's groundwater also suffers from arsenic contamination. Water evaporates quickly in hot, arid climates such as those in the Indus Plain, creating conditions that increase arsenic levels in the groundwater.

Read this article to learn more about groundwater conditions in central Pakistan and its neighbor, northwest India. The conditions in central Pakistan and northwest India have not changed since it was published in 2017. Indeed, these groundwater systems are among the most heavily exploited in the world.

Page Shallow Groundwater Storage in Southern Asia

Figure 8.6 shows how groundwater levels on March 15, 2021, compared to long-term records for the month of March. Blue areas had more abundant water than usual, and orange and red areas had less. The darkest reds represent dry conditions that should occur only two percent of the time (about once every 50 years). Northern India and parts of Pakistan have conditions that should occur only two percent of the time. There are efforts underway to use data like this to better manage water resources in the region.

Page The Maldives: Rising Seas and Coastal Development

The rising sea level is threatening the island country of Maldives. Alex Arnall, the environmental geographer, has found that governments must address issues associated with coastal development if places like the Maldives are to survive. Read this article to learn more about these environmental challenges. We will also examine how island countries in Oceania are also threatened by rising sea levels in Unit 10.

8.3: Human Settlement and Culture in South Asia Page Patterns of Human Settlement in South Asia

Read this text which introduces the human geography of South Asia, including the evolving patterns of human settlement, the effects of colonization of the region, and the ethnic, linguistic, and religious characteristics that emerged over time.

Finlayson briefly describes some of South Asia's urban and economic issues, including megacities, outsourcing, and economic development. We will consider these and other issues in the next section.

Page Cultural Groups in South Asia

Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam are the dominant religions in South Asia. Hinduism and Buddhism, in addition to Sikhism and Jainism, originated in South Asia. Hinduism and Buddhism both originated in northern India and are the world's third- and fourth-largest religions, respectively.

Hindus and Buddhists use some of the same basic vocabularies and incorporate similar symbolism and practices. However, there are substantial differences. For example, Hindus do not have a single founder; they worship deities and have the concept of a soul (Buddhists do not). Buddhists show reverence and devotion to the Buddha rather than recognize a god. They also renounce the caste system.

Different variations of Buddhism developed as it spread from northern India according to geography, the teachings communities followed, and how monks were ordained. The northern branch, Vajrayana Buddhism, is often called Tibetan Buddhism. The southern branch, Theravada Buddhism, is sometimes called Southern Buddhism. The eastern branch, Mahayana Buddhism, is often referred to as East Asian Buddhism.

Read this text. Notice that Figure 8.8 illustrates the distribution of these branches of Buddhism. Regardless of the focus of each branch, all hold to the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha.

Page Geography and Origins of Culture in South Asia

Watch this video.

Page East versus West – the Myths that Mystify

Watch this video where Devdutt Pattanaik, a mythologist, contrasts Indian and Western belief systems, including perspectives of living one life versus infinite lives. He explains how components of Hinduism have influenced business practices in India. He has also created a strategy for applying aspects of cultural sensitivity to avoid and mitigate conflict.

Pattanaik reminds us that imperial powers can change boundaries and official languages, but they can seldom dominate the culture. However, colonies often embrace some cultural changes. For example, cricket has become a national pastime in South Asia since British sailors brought it to India during the 18th century.

Page Britain's Indian Empire

The British Empire did influence the human landscape of South Asia, although its culture remained largely intact. Britain began establishing colonies in 1857 through the trade activities of the British East India Company. British ruled this region for nearly 100 years. Figure 8.7 shows the extent of Britain's Indian Empire. Note that this map includes the country of Burma (now Myanmar), which we will study in Unit 9.

Page The Partition of India (1947)
By 1947, the British Empire could no longer maintain control of the area due to local resistance and the need to focus on rebuilding Britain after World War II. As the British withdrew, they partitioned British India into India and Pakistan based on their religious differences.

As shown in Figure 8.8, India became the home of the Hindu population, while Pakistan governed the Muslim population. West Pakistan (formerly the northwestern section of India) and East Pakistan (in the far eastern section of India were separated by 1,600 km of Indian territory). West Pakistan administered East Pakistan.
Page Sri Lanka's Protests Show a Fragile Unity

After this partition, disputes arose among the Hindus who happened to live in the area now designated as Pakistan (which was primarily Muslim) and the Muslims who lived in what was now India (primarily Hindu). War erupted when the new governments in Pakistan and India were unable to manage the mass migration of people who wanted to move to their country of choice.

Relations between West and East Pakistan were strained from the beginning – their shared religion (Islam) was unable to bridge their cultural differences. The population in East Pakistan is predominantly Bengali. The people of Bengal, the region around the Bay of Bengal, have their own language and cultural designation. The people who lived in East Pakistan felt further alienated when Karachi in West Pakistan was chosen as the first capital of Pakistan, and Urdu became the national language.

Bengali nationalism peaked after the catastrophic 1970 Bhola cyclone, which killed 500,000 people when it struck East Pakistan. The population resented the inadequate support they received from the federal government in response to the disaster. An ensuing war for independence resulted in the new sovereign state of Bangladesh in December of 1971. The previously western portion of Pakistan became the country we call Pakistan today.

The British colonists left several legacies in this region. The official languages in India are Hindu and English, and in Pakistan, they are Urdu and English. The British also created a vast railroad system and a series of port cities to transport the resources they extracted and ship them to Great Britain. However, they did not build this system to serve the Indian population. It consisted of individual lines that linked the resource depots located in the country's interior to the coast. It was not an integrated network to help the Indians travel from city to city.

The British East India Company developed three major port cities along the Indian coast to send and receive goods by ship. Bombay (now Mumbai) on the west coast provided access to the Arabian Sea. Madras (now Chennai) on the southeast coast provided access to the lower Bay of Bengal, and Calcutta (now Kolkata) on the lower Ganges Delta along the northeast coast provided access to the upper Bay of Bengal.

The British moved the capital city of India from Kolkata to New Delhi in 1911. New Delhi's central location made it easier to administer the entire country. Kolkata also harbored anti-colonial sentiment and was the center of India's nationalist movements. Several assassinations of British officials took place in Kolkata. See Figure 8.1 for the locations of these cities.

The island country of Sri Lanka was also part of the British Empire, and its ethnic groups continue to be deeply divided, but the map in Figure 8.7 is not shaded to reflect its colonial status. Finlayson refers to this communal conflict at the end of Section 8.5. The population is temporarily unified as it responds to the economic crisis the COVID-19 pandemic caused and the war in Ukraine, which caused global food and energy prices to spike.

Read this article for more on the competing ethnic groups and the effects British imperialism has had on the conflict. Figure 8.9 shows the distribution of languages and religious groups by district in Sri Lanka. The majority Sinhalese clearly dominate the island, while the Tamils generally occupy the northern and eastern periphery. The Sinhalese are an Indo-Aryan group, whereas the Tamils are a Dravidian ethnolinguistic group. Note that Figure 8.7 of in the article in section 8.3, Cultural Groups in South Asia, shows a group of Tamil speakers in southern India. The orange polygon of Indian Tamils in south-central Sri Lanka coincides with Mount Pidurutalagalahe, a summit of 2,525 m. Muslims are clearly a minority group.

Page Distribution of Languages and Religious Groups in Sri Lanka

This map shows the distribution of languages and religious groups in Sri Lanka.

8.4: South Asia's Modern Landscape and Future Challenges Page South Asia's Population Dynamics
Read this text to learn more about why there are so many people in South Asia and why it is a problem.

Make sure you can answer these questions after you have reviewed the following readings and videos in this section.

  • What is the sex ratio? For example, what does it mean if Bhutan has a sex ratio of 1.08:1?
  • Why is violence against women so high in parts of South Asia?
  • How has India's transition to a free market economy affected poverty?
  • What stages of economic development have South Asia's countries reached?
  • Where is urbanization increasing?
  • How are Bhutan and Nepal isolated?
  • What has been the impact of English on the economic and cultural landscape of the region?
  • What is outsourcing, and how has it affected South Asia's economy?
  • How does Maldives compare to other South Asian countries in terms of GDP and education?
  • What is the Green Revolution? What are the pros and cons associated with it? What are the megacities of this region? Note that Rueschhoff refers to them as supercities.
Page Challenges and Opportunities in South Asia

Read this text.

Page Geography of South Asia Modern Issues

Watch this video. Note that Rueschhoff corrects a statement he makes in the video that Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. He writes that the population density in Bangladesh is roughly 2,900 per square mile, making it the tenth most densely-populated country (seventh by some measures).

Page Green Revolution

Finlayson and Rueschhoff mention the Green Revolution. Watch this video to learn more about the Green Revolution and its impact on this region and others.

Page Population Pyramids Help Predict the Future

Watch this video for more on population pyramids.

Page Population Pyramid for Bhutan

Consider the 2022 population pyramid for Bhutan in Figure 8.10 to make sure you interpret a population pyramid. Notice how there are more males than females and that fertility rates are decreasing. Recall that Finlayson cites a preference for males in this region.

Book Walking in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh and New Delhi, India

Watch these videos to get a quick feel for what it is like to walk down the street in two megacities, Old Dhaka and New Delhi.

Page Many Faces of Inequality in India

While poverty characterizes much of the region of South Asia, remember Figure 4.13 World Map of Gini Coefficients by Country in Section 4.5 and Figure 4.16 Total Gross Domestic (GDP) in 2022 in Section 4.6. We find that Gini coefficients and GDP are generally moderate for South Asia. This is a useful reminder that single measures do not tell the whole story.

Read this article where Tista Kundu, an economist, writes that many Indians experience inequality due to its prevailing caste system. Kundu cites World Inequality Report 2022, another method to measure inequality that does not use Gini coefficients in which India scores even worse.

Note that gross domestic product (GDP) is not one of those measures – GDP only tells us only about overall production, not value or well-being. In 2021, Japan had the third-highest GDP in the world, but it had a low inequality rating.

Page How Can We Create Happy Societies?

Read this article to learn how economists in Bhutan created a rating system called gross national happiness (GNH) as a way to mitigate its isolation from the global economy. The GNH focuses on defining what constitutes happiness rather than how to achieve it. While GNH does not tell the whole story, there is some value to looking beyond GDP.

For example, in 1972, Bhutan's legislators began to take good governance, sustainable development, preservation and promotion of culture, and environmental conservation into account during their policymaking process.

9.1: Maps of East and Southeast Asia Page Map of East and Southeast Asia

Study the map in Figure 9.1 so you are familiar with the countries, cities, and geographic features in East and Southeast Asia. Note that Myanmar is labeled Burma on this map because it was created by a U.S. government agency. The United States had refused to call the country Myanmar to protest the military's oppressive measures against pro-democracy demonstrators.

In 1989, the ruling junta changed its name to Myanmar to improve its image as a pariah state in the international community. Nevertheless, Myanmar has always been the name of the country in the Burmese language.

9.2: The Physical Geography of East and Southeast Asia Book Climate of East and Southeast Asia

The mainland and the insular parts of the region are predominantly temperate and tropical below 35° north latitude. Southern South Korea intersects 35°N. Several of the insular countries, such as Indonesia, straddle or are close to the Equator. Above 35° north latitude, there is more variation, including arid and continental climates.

Typhoons and cyclones frequently strike the countries of this region. Remember from Unit 5 that we call tropical storms cyclones, hurricanes, or typhoons based on their location. See Figure 9.2.

Page Physical Landscape of East and Southeast Asia

The insular portion of this region is particularly vulnerable to the hazards of tectonic activity (such as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis) due to its proximity to the Pacific Ring of Fire. The mainland has experienced earthquakes due to the Himalayan Mountains, which we learned are also tectonically active (see Unit 8). You will also recognize the Tian Shan mountain range from the region of North Africa and Southwest Asia. The Tian Shan Mountains are also a key feature in the region of East and Southeast Asia.

Rivers on the mainland have played a significant role in the development of civilizations in this region, but they have also contributed to several disasters.

The two mainland deserts, the Gobi Desert and the Taklamakan Desert, are rainshadow deserts (see Unit 4). Desertification has increased the size of the Gobi Desert, which now contributes to poor air quality in some of China's cities. Desertification is also threatening farmland.

Read this text to learn more about the physical geography of this region and its natural hazards.

Book Southeast Asia Physical Geography

Watch these two videos. Rueschhoff notes that China considers the island of Taiwan to be part of the People's Republic of China. However, Taiwan believes it is the legitimate government of China.

9.3: Tsunami Hazards Page Tsunami Wavefield for the 2004 Sumatra Earthquake

Animation 9.1 shows the geographic extent of the tsunami's waves. Aceh province, on the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, bore the brunt of the wave action. This tsunami killed 167,540 people in Indonesia alone.

Page Earthquakes, Decoupled Faulting, and Tsunamis

In Japanese, the word tsu means harbor, and nami means wave. Large earthquakes and landslides that occur under or near the ocean cause tsunamis. During the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake in 2004, the overriding plate slipped along the fault line, moving vertically away from the subducting plate, as shown in Figure 9.4.

Page Tsunami Generation

This vertical movement along the thrust fault caused the seafloor on the overriding plate to displace upward, away from the coastline, and down, dropping (subsiding) landward toward the coastline, as shown in Figure 9.5.

Page Tsunami Splitting

The vertical displacement of the plate results in the vertical displacement of the water above it. The resulting wave spits into two waves that travel in opposite directions, as shown in Figure 9.6, creating the effect seen in Animation 9.1. Indonesia, Thailand, and nearby islands bore the brunt of the "local tsunami", which arrived less than an hour after the earthquake. Eric Geist, the USGS geophysicist from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, has written that "if you see the tsunami, it is too late to outrun it".

9.4: Volcano Hazards Page Indonesia's Volcanoes

Figure 9.10 shows the volcanoes in Indonesia, including Krakatau and Tambora. It also shows Mount Merapi on the island of Java, which is one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupting frequently. Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and islets, has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

Page Formation of a Stratovolcano

Most of Indonesia's volcanoes are stratovolcanoes, also known as composite volcanoes. As shown in Figure 9.11, these volcanoes are typically highly explosive due to the high silica content of the magma. Magma with a high silica content allows gases to build up and forms lava that moves slowly. Lava is magma that has reached the Earth's surface.

The pyroclastic material ejected from stratovolcanoes is far more dangerous than the lava. Pyroclastic is derived from the Greek words for "fire" and "broken into pieces". Geologists refer to fragments or pieces of pre-existing rocks and minerals as "clasts". Pyroclastic flows contain searing hot ash, pumice, and gas and can move up to 110 km per hour.

Other types of volcanoes, such as the shield volcanoes of Hawaii, have magma with a low silica content, so the lava flows faster. The reason for the difference in silica content has to do with the composition of the tectonic plate. Continental plates have a higher silica content than oceanic plates.

Page Eruption of Mt. Merapi
Humans often settle on the slopes of volcanoes due to their fertile soils. Thousands of people live on the slopes of Mount Merapi. Given the high population density on Indonesia's island of Java, the impact on humans is particularly acute. Nearly 70,000 people live in the immediate vicinity of the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta, with a population of about 375,000, which is only 25 km to the south.

Watch this video of the eruption of Mount Merapi on March 3, 2020. Here is a translation of the text posted with the video.

"Today, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at 05.22 WIB, Mount Merapi in the Special Region of Yogyakarta erupted again. In addition, according to BPPTKG (Balai Penyelidikan dan Pengembangan Teknologi Kebencanaan Geologi), the eruption of Mount Merapi also triggered [pyroclastic flows that moved downslope along the] Gendol River [for] 2 kilometers.

'The direction of the wind during the eruption was from the north', said the statement on the official BPPTKG Twitter account. This time, the Merapi eruption was recorded on a seismograph with a maximum amplitude of 75 mm and a duration of 450 seconds. This eruption of Mount Merapi is the second time that it occurred in 2020; the first eruption occurred on February 13, 2020. The eruption of Mount Merapi today also affected the closure of Adi Soemarmo Airport in Solo, Central Java, according to a notice to airmen (NOTAM) numbered B0614/20 NOTAMN issued by AirNav Indonesia."
Page Mount Rainier Lahars

Volcanic lightning may occur during the early stages of an eruption. Scientists think that ice forms when the smoke plume rises from the volcano. As the altitude of the plume increases, the water vapor it contains begins to form ice. Then, lightning forms the same way it does in a cloud during a storm. The colliding ice crystals build enough of an electric charge to generate lightning.

In addition to its deadly pyroclastic flows, Indonesia's Mount Merapi is also prone to lahars, an Indonesian word used worldwide for mud or debris flows.

Watch this video to see what a lahar looks like. Although the video is focused on the Mount Rainier stratovolcano in the northwest United States, lahars on Indonesian stratovolcanoes like Mount Merapi follow the same process. V
olcanic lightning may occur during the early stages of an eruption. Scientists think that ice forms when the smoke plume rises from the volcano. As the altitude of the plume increases, the water vapor it contains begins to form ice. Then, lightning forms the same way it does in a cloud during a storm. The colliding ice crystals build enough of an electric charge to generate lightning.

In addition to its deadly pyroclastic flows, Indonesia's Mount Merapi is also prone to lahars, an Indonesian word used worldwide for mud or debris flows.

Watch this video to see what a lahar looks like. Although the video is focused on the Mount Rainier stratovolcano in the northwest United States, lahars on Indonesian stratovolcanoes like Mount Merapi follow the same process.

Page Living with Natural Disasters in Indonesia

The people of East and Southeast Asia have lived with these threats of disaster for centuries. Although early warning systems are in place, many are concerned the population has become complacent. People choose where to settle for personal reasons in addition to historical, economic, and cultural reasons. Read this article to learn the role fate appears to play in how Indonesians respond to natural hazards.

9.5: Human Settlement and Civilization in East and Southeast Asia Page East and Southeast Asia: History and Settlement

As you read the text and watch the two videos, make sure you can answer these questions.

  • Where did human civilization originate in this region? How does it compare with other regions we have studied?
  • Why did people migrate to Japan and the islands of Southeast Asia?
  • Why was China isolated from the rest of the world? What prompted it to explore and make connections in the interior of Asia?
  • What was the extent of the Mongol Empire?
  • Why is rice a staple crop in this region?
  • How did Buddhism diffuse to and throughout this region? How about Islam and Christianity?
  • What is the significance of Angkor Wat to Cambodia?
  • Where did Confucianism and Taoism originate?
  • What are the Maritime Silk Routes?
  • What foreign powers colonized the countries of this region? Why did they want to control this region?
  • What was the extent of the Japanese Empire, and how was a small island country able to achieve its territorial goals?
Book Foundations of East Asian Culture

Watch these two videos on the culture and geography in Southeast Asia.

9.6: Confucianism and Taoism Page Management Lessons from Chinese Business and Philosophy

Watch this video, which describes how the Chinese philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism have influenced management strategies in China.

Page The Ancient, Earth-Friendly Wisdom of Mongolian Nomads

Watch this video where Khulan Bathhuyag, an environmental activist, describes her return to her Mongolian roots.

9.7: China and the Silk Routes Page Rebuilding the Silk Road

The Han Dynasty's management of the Silk Road helped link together smaller regional networks and support trade across Asia. When the Han Dynasty fell, traders from Central Asia operated parts of the Silk Routes. Other empires provided stability until the Tang Dynasty, when Chinese imperial power recovered and a golden age was launched. Watch this video to learn more about the Silk Routes.

Page China's Belt and Road Initiative

Recently, China has taken the Iron Silk Road to another level and launched its Belt and Road Initiative. Figure 9.12 shows the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank members in orange, the proposed overland corridors, or the Land Silk Road, in black, and the Maritime Silk Road in blue.

Using many of the original Silk Routes, China wants to use trade and infrastructure to increase its global influence. China plans to provide funding to more than 100 countries for roads, railways, power plants, ports, and other infrastructure projects. China's goal is to complete the project by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

9.8: Medieval Empires of the Southeast Asian Peninsula Page A Metropolis Arose in Medieval Cambodia

Read this article to learn how they arrived at the estimate of how many people lived in the Angkor Empire.

Page The Khmer Empire

During the early 13th century, the Khmer Empire extended beyond the current borders of Cambodia and included parts of present-day Thailand, as shown in Figure 9.13. The Song Dynasty ruled China from 960–1279, a period of economic prosperity and extraordinary innovation: the population grew, cities expanded, and intellectual pursuits thrived. This period ended when the Mongols invaded China in 1279.

Figure 9.13 shows other kingdoms that shaped the human landscape of the Southeast Asian mainland during the early 13th century. The Kingdom of Dai Viet, or Annam, was centered in the present-day city of Hanoi in north Vietnam. Dai Viet was the precursor to modern Vietnam and is the source of much of its cultural identity. The Dali Kingdom is now part of China.

The Pagan Empire, or Bagan Empire, was the precursor to modern Myanmar (Burma). It ruled the Irrawaddy River valley and the surrounding area. Bagan was the kingdom's capital and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like the Song Dynasty, the Kingdom of Bagan was prosperous, building thousands of Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries. Like the Song Dynasty, the Bagan Empire could not withstand the Mongols and collapsed in 1287.

Dharmasraya was part of the Buddhist Melayu Kingdom, which is now part of present-day Malaysia. The Hariphunchai Kingdom existed in present-day Thailand before the Thai people settled there.

The Arakan Kingdom existed in present-day Myanmar, coinciding with the State of Rakhine. The Arakanese people are also known as the Rakhine. The Rohingya people live in Myanmar's State of Rakhine, but the current government has denied them citizenship. We consider their situation at the end of this section.

9.9: Colonialism in East and Southeast Asia Page China and European Colonialism

Europe had economic inroads but never controlled China to the extent that it colonized other places in the region. China was more technologically advanced than other societies. They had established transportation networks and were using paper and gunpowder before the Europeans arrived. They also recognized the necessity of clean water to avoid the spread of disease.

However, Britain gained a technological advantage during the Industrial Revolution. The British were able to produce goods more quickly than the Chinese, and they pushed the government to allow them to sell opium throughout Chinese society. The Chinese government attempted to destroy this market to counter the destructive effects of opium on their population. However, the British gained the upper hand when they defeated China during the Opium Wars.

The Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island to the British as a condition of the 1842 Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing), following the First Opium War. In 1860 the British colony of Hong Kong expanded to include the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island after the Second Opium War. In 1898, the British obtained a 99-year lease on the New Territories, which includes the area north of Kowloon and the outlying islands of Lantau, Lamma, and others.

Portugal, Germany, France, Japan, and Russia also had a colonial influence on China. Portugal predated the British when they rented the island of Macau from China to use as a trading post. They gained full colonial control of the outpost after the Opium Wars. Trade motivated Portugal and Spain to reach East and Southeast Asia during the 16th century, followed by the Netherlands, Britain, and France. Japan occupied much of Southeast Asia during World War II, including Thailand.

We see several examples of how the colonial powers influenced the culture of East and Southeast Asia. For example, as in India and Pakistan, English is a recognized language in Malaysia and an official language in Singapore (both former British colonies). Catholicism (brought by the Spanish and Portuguese) remains the dominant religion of the Philippines and Timor-Leste.

French is spoken in Laos, and Portuguese is an official language in Timor-Leste. You will also hear Indonesians use several Dutch words when you travel there. Figure 9.14 shows the Municipal Theatre that Ferret Eugene, the French architect, built in Ho Chi Minh City in the French Colonial architectural style in 1897.

While China did not colonize Southeast Asia, it has influenced its culture. Of those who live overseas, more Chinese live in Southeast Asia than anywhere else. For example, more than 75% of Singapore's population and nearly 25% of Malaysia's population are ethnically Chinese. Many of these immigrants fled the political division in mainland China from 1912–1949. They have maintained ties to their homeland and have created economic connections during the age of globalization. Their ability to speak Chinese and the language of their adopted country facilitates business opportunities.

9.10: Political Conflict and Change in East and Southeast Asia Page Political Conflicts and Changes in East and Southeast Asia

Read this text for background on the wars and regime changes that have altered the human landscape of the region. Note that Finlayson used the word "anecdote" when she should have said "metaphor" in her description of the domino theory.

Page Chinese Communist Revolution, a Global Perspective

China was not always the dominant country in this region. The Communist Revolution was a turning point in Chinese history that was fundamental to helping shape what it is today. Watch this video to learn more about the origins and transformational effects of this revolution.

Page Decolonization and the Cold War Through an Asian Lens

Other countries in Southeast Asia also embraced the ideals of communism. Decolonization and the competing interests of the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies have also played a role in shaping these societies. Watch this video which describes how events unfolded in Korea and Vietnam.

Book Geography of East Asia: Modern Issues

Watch these two videos to consider some of the economic issues in the region.

Page Interpretations of Communism

Many countries in East and Southeast Asia adopted one-party rule and instituted policies that violently suppressed dissent and support for opposition parties when they implemented communism after World War II. We often forget that modern communism was a reaction to the negative consequences of the Industrial Revolution.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels observed the exploitation of the working class and presented an alternative system that would place the major means of production (mines, mills, factories, and railroads) and the resulting profits in the hands of the public.

Read this article for another perspective on communism. Kellner reinforces the point that communism is often equated with totalitarianism. To date, no country has been able to implement communism without curtailing individual freedoms. Typically, the government claims to act on behalf of the public as it assumes ownership of the means of production (taken away from private businesses and the merchant class) and decides how profits will be used. The government demands complete public obedience to make this happen.

Page Escaping the Khmer Rouge

Millions of people died in China, Cambodia, and North Korea when their governments tried to implement communism. Watch these videos to learn what it was like to live under the conditions in Cambodia and North Korea. Note that Cambodia is no longer a communist country, but North Korea is.

Watch this video where Sophal Ear, an economist, presents his experience as a child in Cambodia.

Page Escape from North Korea

Watch this video where Hyeonseo Lee describes her escape from North Korea. Most regard North Korea's version of communism as the most repressive in the world. Its citizens and centralized economy are tightly controlled; individuals cannot move freely and can only access state-run media. Living conditions for North Koreans are desperate, with food shortages and inadequate energy to provide electricity consistently.

Page The Korean Peninsula at Night

Figure 9.15 is a 2014 image of the Korean Peninsula taken from the International Space Station. It shows North Korea in the dark except for the capital city, Pyongyang. The largest bright area is Seoul, South Korea, located just across the border. China, Vietnam, and Laos are also communist countries, but their economies are more open even if the freedoms of their citizens are curtailed.

Page A Year after Myanmar's Coup

It is not surprising that conflicts continue in East and Southeast Asia, given its colonial history and strategic location. In 2021, Myanmar's military seized power from the democratically-elected party of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup. The military government has responded to protests with violence, and human rights abuses are widespread. Ethnic groups continue to fight for increased autonomy and independence.

Read this article for more on the situation in Myanmar.

Page The Rohingya Quest for Better Refuge

Read this article on the plight of the Rohingya people, a Muslim community connected to Rakhine State. In 1882, Myanmar's Citizenship Law excluded the Rohingya from full citizenship because it claimed they were not an official indigenous race.

The Rohingya have been violently driven from their homes with charges of genocide. However, few countries are willing to provide them with a safe haven.

Page The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

The article mentions the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a union of ten Asia-Pacific countries that promotes cooperation among its member states and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration (See Figure 9.16). Its activities are similar to the European Union (EU).

Although ASEAN does not recognize Myanmar's military government, it has not condemned its authoritarian regime, persecution of ethnic groups, or human rights abuses.

9.11: The Modern Landscape and Patterns of Economic Development in East and Southeast Asia Page Patterns of Economic Development in East and Southeast Asia

Read this text to learn about the role global connections and relative location have played in this economic success and the challenges of corruption that remain.

Page Global China into the 21st Century

Despite living under authoritarian rule, China's global economic success has dramatically improved the lives of its people. While many people around the world feel threatened by globalization, most people in China view it positively. Watch this video to learn more about China's "great social contract".

Page Hong Kong's Handover to China

The residents of Hong Kong (and much of the international community) had hoped China would continue following a policy that allowed Hong Kong to manage its own affairs as a free-market economy, with independent courts and protection of basic political rights. However, China changed course in 2020.

Read this article to learn more about the conditions in Hong Kong.

Page Architecture in Modern Singapore

Singapore is another Asian Tiger that was once a British colony. If Hong Kong is a financial center and South Korea is a center for manufacturing electronics, Singapore is a center for global shipping. Recall the visualization in Rueschhoff's video of the ships moving between Europe and East Asia through the Strait of Malacca and stopping in Singapore.

Watch this video on Singapore's economic success through the eyes of its former master planner architect, Liu Thai Ker.

Page Comparing Singapore and Hong Kong

Watch this video, which compares Singapore with Hong Kong. Liu Thai Ker's commitment to green space is clearly evident in the video.

Page China's Global Infrastructure Projects

Hong Kong continues to rival Singapore as a global financial capital despite China's legislation to curtail its autonomy and freedoms.

Read this article to learn about China's efforts to influence global economic development. The authors argue China's Belt and Road Initiative could harm the biodiversity and indigenous populations of the places where it wants to invest.

Although China has committed to supporting sustainable energy options in the developing countries that participate in their initiative, the environmental and cultural impact is expected to be significant.

Page Deforestation

Damage to local environments is a frequent byproduct of economic growth. Palm oil is a productive and lucrative crop that yields far more oil at a lower production cost than other vegetable oils. Indonesia and Malaysia are the biggest producers of palm oil, with millions of hectares of oil palms. To grow these trees, native forests have been burned or clear-cut.

See Figure 9.17, which shows land deforested for oil palm trees on Malaysia's Borneo island. The loss of biodiversity is compounded by the air pollution and soil erosion associated with burning the rainforest to make way for the oil palms.

Rising sea levels due to climate change have already begun to affect the region of East and Southeast Asia. Scientists predict Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, peninsular Malaysia, and low-lying locations may be underwater by 2050. Melting ice in Antarctica, a part of Oceania we study in Unit 10, also contributes to the inundation of some of Oceania's islands and other low-lying areas around the world.

10.1: Maps of Oceania Book Maps of Oceania

Study these maps of Australia and New Zealand, the Pacific, and Antarctica so that you are familiar with the locations of the countries, cities, and some of the major water bodies.

10.2: The Physical Geography of Australia and New Zealand Page The Climate of Australia and New Zealand

New Zealand has two main islands – the North Island and South Island, separated by the Cook Strait – and more than 700 small islands. The Tasman Sea separates New Zealand from Australia.

While we often group New Zealand with Australia, its tectonic setting and landforms are really quite different. The country is tectonically active, with rugged coastlines, mountain ranges, and volcanoes. Many consider it part of Polynesia. New Zealand experiences frequent and intense earthquakes since it is located along the southwest rim of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Although there is evidence of past volcanism throughout New Zealand, the only active volcanoes are on the North Island and the smaller, outlying islands.

For those who reside in the northern hemisphere, remember that December, January, and February are summer months for Australia and New Zealand because they are in the southern hemisphere. Their winter months are in June, July, and August. Although their latitudinal locations are similar, the climates of Australia and New Zealand are quite different.

Australia's larger landmass makes its temperatures more extreme than New Zealand's (See Figure 10.1 and Figure 10.2). Australia is dominated by arid to semi-arid climates in the west and interior. It becomes more temperate as you approach the east coast. Since the northernmost tip of Australia, Cape York, is just 10° south of the Equator, Australia's northern coast experiences tropical conditions.

Temperate climates prevail in New Zealand. Snow falls on the South Island in the winter and at higher elevations on the North Island. The west coasts of New Zealand receive more rain than the east coasts due to the rain shadow effect of the Southern Alps.

10.3: The Physical Geography of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia Page Melanasia

Melanesia, shown in Figure 10.3, includes Papua New Guinea, the largest country in the Pacific Islands. Papua New Guinea shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia. All of the countries in Melanesia are independent except for New Caledonia, which is still under French control.

Melanesia is tectonically active like the insular countries of East and Southeast Asia. Active volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis are common in Melanesia. Figure 9.3 in Section 9.2 shows how close Melanesia and the other island groups are to the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Page Climate and Topography of Melanasia
Mount Wilhelm, or Enduwa Kombuglu, the highest peak in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, reaches 4,509 meters. At that elevation, Mount Wilhelm and some of the other mountains occasionally receive snow despite their proximity to the Equator.

Tropical forests cover most of Papua New Guinea and the islands of Melanesia. Figure 10.4 shows the tropical forests in Fiji's highlands.
Book Micronesia
Micronesia is east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia and Melanesia (see Figure 10.5). Most of Micronesia's islands are low islands composed of coral. Some, such as the Mariana Islands, are high islands of volcanic origin.

The Mariana Island archipelago is divided into two jurisdictions: the northern part is the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the southern part is the U.S. territory of Guam. The northern islands are volcanic (see Figure 10.6).
Page Climate and Topography of Micronesia

The Mariana Islands were formed by the subduction of the Pacific plate by the Mariana plate (note geographers say Mariana and Marianas interchangeably). It also created the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth's oceans and the lowest part of the surface of the Earth's crust. The maximum known depth of the Mariana Trench is 10,984 meters, which exceeds the elevation of Mount Everest by more than 2,000 meters.

Vegetation on the islands of Micronesia depends on whether it is a high island or a low island. The volcanic islands have rich soils that can support a variety of vegetation, while the coral islands have much poorer soils. Figure 10.7 shows the coral island of Nauru.

Page Polynesia

Polynesia covers much of the mid- and southern Pacific Ocean (see Figure 10.8). Composed of more than 1,000 islands, Polynesia includes islands with high mountains, such as Hawai'i, and low-lying coral atolls, such as some of the Tongan islands. The islands that have mountains with elevations high enough to condense moisture from the clouds receive adequate precipitation. However, the low-elevation islands lack this ability and suffer from shortages of fresh water, making human settlement a challenge.

Page Climate and Topography of Polynesia

Many volcanic islands in Polynesia occur in the interior of a tectonic plate rather than along a plate boundary. These are hotspot volcanoes. A hotspot is a large plume of hot mantle material that rises from deep within the Earth.

A line of volcanoes develops as a tectonic plate moves over a hotspot (see Figure 10.9). The plate continues to move, but the hotspot remains in the same place. When a volcano moves away from an oceanic hotspot, it starts to erode and is eventually no longer visible above the surface of the water.

Page Hotspot

Watch this animation to see how volcanoes form over a hotspot and eventually submerge as the plate moves over the hotspot.

Page The Hawai'i Hot Spot

Volcanoes developed on the Hawaiian islands as the Pacific plate moved over a hotspot (see Figure 10.10). The only active volcanoes are on the islands of Hawaii and Maui. Kīlauea is the youngest and most active, followed by Mauna Loa, which is the largest volcano on Earth. Only two more volcanoes are active in Hawaii: Hualālai and Mauna Kea. Haleakalā is the only remaining volcano on Maui. Kama'ehuakanaloa is the only known active Hawaiian submarine volcano – it is labeled Lō'ihi in Figure 10.10.

As the Pacific plate continues to move, Kama'ehuakanaloa will break the surface of the water. These are shield volcanoes rather than the stratovolcanoes introduced in Section 9.3. Consequently, the Hawaiian island volcanoes are much less explosive. They are characterized by thin lava flows that cover large areas rather than pyroclastic flows.

10.4: The Physical Geography of Antarctica Book Glacial Ice Formation

Freshly-fallen snow has a density of 50 to 70 kg m-3. Firn, or partially compacted snow that has no pore space remaining between the flakes or crystals, has a density of 400 to 830 kg m-3. Glacial ice has a density of 830 to 923 kg m-3. This process takes more than a hundred years (see Figure 10.11). Figure 10.12 shows a cross-section with snow at the top, blue glacial ice at the bottom, and firn in between.

Page Map of Antartica

Although Antarctica began icing about 45.5 million years ago, scientists have only been able to extract samples dating 800,000 years old. The terrain below Antarctica's ice sheet is mountainous – it has the highest average elevation of any continent in the world at 2,500 meters.

The Transantarctic Mountains, one of the longest mountain ranges on Earth, bisects Antarctica. Some of its peaks have elevations higher than 4,500 meters above sea level and are ice-free. The Ellsworth Mountains to the west of the Transantarctic range include Mount Vinson, the highest point on the continent at 4,900 meters.

Volcanoes which are likely due to the West Antarctic Rift System, exist under Antarctica's ice sheet. These volcanoes, including Mount Erebus, exist where the Antarctic tectonic plate is thinning. This is similar to the tectonic activity we saw along the East African Rift. See Figure 10.13 to study the locations of these features.

Book The Physical Landscape of Oceania

Read this text, which introduces some of the parts of the vast region of Oceania.

Page The Breakup of the Supercontinent Pangaea

Figure 10.14 shows that Australia was once part of the supercontinent Pangaea. The southern portion of Pangaea (known as Gondwana or Gondwanaland) dominated the southern hemisphere. About 180 million years ago, Gondwanaland broke up to form the landmasses of Africa, South America, the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian Peninsula, Antarctica, Australia, and New Zealand. Consequently, any species that lived together on these landmasses were separated and evolved independently.

Figure 10.14 also shows the stages of the break up of the supercontinents and their drift to their present locations. Australia and New Zealand were particularly isolated given their distance from other landmasses and the length of time they have been separated. Tectonic stability in Australia, climate patterns, and other factors over geologic time have contributed to the high number of unique species on the continent. Scientists estimate that more than 80% of Australia's mammals are not found anywhere else in the world. Although many of Australia's and New Zealand's species are descendants of those that existed on Gondwana, some flew there, floated there, or were brought by humans.

Page Wallace's and Weber's Lines

Wallace's and Weber's Lines (see Figure 10.15) are hypothetical lines geographers have drawn to separate biogeographical realms. Some call these lines "faunal boundaries". The naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace created a line to separate the species of Asian and Austral origin between Borneo and Sulawesi and between Bali and Lombok.

Max Carl Wilhelm Weber, a biogeographer and zoologist, believed the boundary between the species was farther east, between Sulawesi and Buru, coming much closer to the island of New Guinea and the continent of Australia.

During the ice ages, colder global temperatures meant that glaciers could advance, and sea levels were lower. Consequently, animals were able to cross from one landmass to another across land bridges. However, the continental shelf may have been too deep for animals to cross in some locations. For example, we only find Marsupials on the Austral side because they were unable to cross to the Asian side.

10.5: The World's Oceans and Polar Frontiers Page Haunting Photos of Polar Ice

Watch this video to help visualize Antarctica.

Page Exploring Antartica: To the South Pole and Back

Watch this video for a description of the extreme weather conditions Ben Saunders and fellow explorer Tarka L'Herpinieres experienced for 105 days when they retraced Captain Robert Falcon Scott's 1,800-mile expedition to the South Pole.

Saunders recounts this trek on the coldest, windiest, and highest-altitude continent on the planet. However, he recounts that reaching his destination at the South Pole was anticlimactic because it houses a well-equipped research station (see the Amundsen-Scott Research Station in Figure 10.16).

Getting to Antarctica and traveling between these research stations is treacherous, even when you are not traveling on foot. Most researchers approach Antarctica from South America or the Falkland Islands by plane or ice breaker ship. Equipment is usually shipped to one of the research stations in advance.

Once in Antarctica, most scientists travel to field sites by plane (like the De Havilland Twin Otter), snowmobile, or on vehicles modified for the conditions. Since many parts of Antarctica are protected, no vehicles are allowed to enter – researchers must drag their supplies to the field on sleds.

Page World's Oceans and Polar Frontiers

Read this text to learn more about the human interest in this landscape.

Page Amundsen-Scott Research Station

This map shows the Amundsen-Scott Research Station at the South Pole in Antarctica.

Page Kilometers Below the Antarctic Ice Sheet

Scientists come to Antarctica from all over the world. Many are based at research stations like the Amundsen-Scott facility and collect data from great distances.

Watch this video where Dustin Schroeder, a geophysicist from Stanford University, describes his work capturing data on rising sea levels. He uses radar technology to study the subglacial and englacial (inside a glacier) conditions of Antarctica's rapidly changing ice sheets.

Book Drilling through the Arctic Ice

Researchers use ice cores to study the ice sheets and climate conditions of Antarctica. In Figure 10.17, a scientist uses an auger to drill into the ice sheet to retrieve a shallow ice core like the one shown in Figure 10.18.

Page Scientists Drill Deep in Antarctic Ice for Clues to Climate Change

Watch this video to learn about a drilling project that retrieved ice deposited as snow 115,000 to 130,000 years ago.

Page Ice Sheet Dynamics

In addition to global navigation satellite system (GNSS) surveys and ice-flow modeling, scientists use radar to locate drill sites, such as the Hercules Dome near the Thiel Mountains, as shown in Figure 10.13. The best locations for drilling are at ice divides because researchers can avoid disturbances associated with horizontal ice movement. Like a drainage divide, this is where the ice flows in opposite directions, as shown in Figure 10.19.

10.6: Human Settlement and Economic Activity in Oceania Page The Patterns of Human Settlement in Australia and the Pacific

Read this text, which introduces the region's indigenous populations, European colonization, patterns of human settlement, and economic development.

Page Stories My Family Forgot: Assimilation of Indigenous Communities

Like the indigenous populations in the United States and Canada, the Australian Aboriginals and Māori were subject to assimilation and became (and were treated) like minorities in their native lands. For example, they took children from their families and communities, prohibited them from learning and speaking their language, forced them to assimilate into European customs, and confiscated Aboriginal and Māori lands for their own.

Read this article where the descendant of an Irish immigrant describes how his grandfather seized the Māori land for himself.

Page Australian Residents by Country of Birth

Australia's Human Rights Commission and New Zealand's Ministry of Justice have created truth and reconciliation inquiries to settle claims and pay reparations to those affected by government assimilation policies. In addition to discriminating against the indigenous population, Australia implemented the White Australia Policy.

The Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 sought to "keep" Australia "British". It subsidized the relocation of British citizens to Australia and limited the immigration of non-Whites, particularly Asians. New Zealand adopted a similar policy for the same reasons. By the 1970s, both countries eliminated these policies.

While most of Australia's population is White with British ancestry, new immigrants account for nearly 30% of Australia's population, the highest proportion among Western countries. The thematic map in

Figure 10.20 shows the number of immigrants from each country. Most are from the United Kingdom, China, and New Zealand. Fewer than three percent of the population is Aboriginal.
New Zealand has experienced a nearly identical situation. Most of their population is also White with British ancestry. In 2018 nearly one-third of New Zealand's population was born outside New Zealand. Nearly one-fourth of the immigrants are from the United Kingdom, followed by China, India, Australia, South Africa, Fiji, and Samoa. Fewer than 17% of the population is Māori.

Page Australia's Core Areas

Figure 10.21 traces the pattern of urban development along Australia's coast due to British colonization. From 1787–1868, Britain shipped its convicts to Australia to alleviate its overcrowded prisons. Sydney of New South Wales was its first penal colony. The British also created penal colonies in Brisbane in Queensland, Perth in Western Australia, and other locations. Many Australians can trace their lineage to these transported convicts.

The coastal cities anchor Australia's two core areas. The Western Core Area is anchored by the city of Perth, and the Eastern Core Area is anchored by the capital, Canberra, and the cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. The inland areas that buffer Australia's core form the peripheral regions, which provide the food, raw materials, and other goods needed to support the core regions. Nearly 70% of Australia's population lives in these urbanized regions rather than in the interior.

Great Britain took advantage of Australia's natural resources when the British government and private interests seized and converted Aboriginal land into agricultural and mining operations. Several gold rushes in South Australia during the mid-19th century brought immigrants from Europe, North America, and China. Miners also discovered silver, lead, and copper in the region. However, these newcomers never compensated the Aboriginal people for the land they stole, which the Aborigines had lived on for more than 25,000 years.

Book Population Density of New Zealand

New Zealand's population is also coastal (see Figure 10.22). The Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of New Zealand in Figure 10.23 shows South Island is dominated by the Southern Alps, which explains why it has such a low population density. The Southern Alps are along the convergent boundary between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates.

Page Pacific Nations Grapple with COVID's Terrible Toll

Generally, the Pacific islands are not densely populated. They are about 35 percent urbanized, but, like many other developing sub-regions, they are undergoing rapid urbanization. Birth rates are high, and the relatively young populations are seeking job opportunities beyond agriculture and fishing.

Read this article to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked economic havoc on the Pacific island countries in addition to the illness and death residents experienced. The Pacific island economies suffered from the downturn in tourism, which has become a major source of revenue due to the island's attractive climate and sunny beaches. The population has become increasingly dependent on tourism in the core regions.

Overfishing due to human population growth has depleted the fishing industry, which has long supported the economies of the Pacific Islands. Some islands have natural resources, such as the phosphates mined on the Micronesian island of Nauru.

Page Eruption of the Hunga Tonga Volcano

Several islands and archipelagos are under the jurisdiction of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand due to their strategic locations in the Pacific Ocean. Thus, western culture has significantly influenced the traditional cultures of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, American Samoa, the Hawaiian Islands, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Pitcairn Islands, and the Cook Islands.

Although they continue to be remote, the islands of the Pacific are not as isolated as they once were. Modern technology has promoted globalization even among the independent countries of the Pacific Island realm. This physical connectedness was demonstrated on Jan. 15, 2022, when the Hunga Tonga volcano erupted and triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami that killed five people and caused significant damage to many coastal communities in the Tonga island groups of Ha`apai and Tongatapu (see Animation 10.1).

Page Laws Governing Undersea Cables Have Hardly Changed Since 1884

The volcanic eruption severed the undersea cable that connects Tonga to the internet. Tonga is one of many Pacific islands that has only one undersea cable to provide internet service to its residents. The world only learned what had occurred one week after the eruption. The undersea cable took more than a month to repair, while Tonga had to rely on its satellite connections.

Read this article, where Karen Scott complains that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) signed in 2016 inadequately addresses these issues. Several key countries have not yet ratified UNCLOS. For example, the United States, which has yet to sign, says it will abide by the regulations but is not legally bound to do so.

10.7: Oceania's Environmental Challenges Page The Changing Landscape of Oceania

Read this section for more information on these environmental challenges.

Page Kiribati and Sea Level Rise

Kiribati, an island group that spans 3.5 million km2 of the Pacific Ocean and extends into Polynesia and Micronesia, is at high risk if sea levels rise. Interestingly, Kiribati is the only country with land in all four hemispheres: north and south of the equator and on both sides of the 180° meridian. Figure 10.25 shows the extent of Kiribati and the shift of the International Dateline so all of Kiribati's islands are in the same day.

Page My Country Will Be Underwater Soon Unless We Work Together

Although Kiribati's islands are atolls (or coral islands in the case of Banaba), the risks associated with sea level rise are not limited to being submerged by ocean waves. Encroaching seawater threatens freshwater resources and increases soil salinization, which destroys arable land.

Some argue the atoll and reef islands may be able to adjust if the sea level rises slowly – coral polyp activity will continue to occur, and the reef will rise in accordance with the sea level. However, the rise could be catastrophic if it is too rapid and outpaces coral polyp activity. In addition, ocean acidification causes coral bleaching that will inhibit or kill reef growth.

The situation in Kiribati is precarious, even in the best-case scenario. In 1999, the ocean completely inundated two of its small, uninhabited islands.

Watch this video where Anote Tong, president of Kiribati in 1915, discusses climate change and the fate of his country.

Page Antarctica's Riskiest Glacier Is Under Assault

The continent of Antarctica is also vulnerable to climate change. Polar scientist Ted Scambos notes that the activity of Antarctica's ice sheets above the surface only indicates more dramatic occurrences below. An ice sheet grounded below sea level can destabilize quickly once it begins to melt or thin. The embedded animation illustrates how quickly Antarctica's ice mass has decreased during the past 20 years, particularly since 2006. The embedded video illustrates how this acceleration is occurring.

Because seawater is denser than ice, ice sheets with ice below sea level only remain where they are because of their own weight. Once the ice starts to thin, it no longer exceeds the mass of the seawater, and the grounding line (or grounding zone) is pushed back. The ice sheet is now thicker at the new location of the grounding line; if the underlying bedrock's slope is great enough, the ice flow increases. This is what has occurred in the case of Thwaites Glacier.

Eventually, the overlying ice may no longer be heavy enough to keep the ice below sea level from lifting off the ground. When it does, water penetrates beneath the ice sheet. Consequently, more ice breaks off into the ocean and, over time, melts in the warmer seawater. Since this causes the ice sheet to lose mass, the grounding line is pushed back even more, and this self-reinforcing mechanism causes instability.

Read this article. Be sure to watch the embedded animation and video.

Page Ordinance Dumping and Enviromental Degradation

In addition to the loss of polar ice and rising sea levels, Finlayson cites other examples of environmental degradation that continue to plague the Pacific Islands. For example, during World War II, troops from Japan, the United States, and New Zealand all used islands in the Pacific. Guam, Hawaii, Fiji, and New Caledonia have been particularly affected by deforestation, ordnance dumping, and the introduction of invasive species, among other forms of environmental damage.

Figure 10.26 shows unexploded World War II ordnances found on the Peleliu Island of Palau. Residents of these islands still die from unexpected explosions from bombs buried underground.

After World War II, several countries used islands in the Pacific to test their nuclear weapons during the Cold War. For example, the United States detonated nuclear weapons in eastern Micronesia on the Bikini Atoll, which is part of the Marshall Islands. Radioactive fallout remains a concern there and in other areas where the United Kingdom and France tested nuclear weapons.

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