Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Comparing land-use in the Sahel and the Mojave

Description: Riviera Hotel Las Vegas
Sahel                                                  Mojave

Location (including states/countries)

Spans several countries across the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa along the south edge of the Sahara desert. Includes Sudan, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Located in south-western USA, mostly in California but also extends into Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

How does this affect land-use management?

Very difficult to reach agreements between countries, strategies end up being disjointed. Some countries more proactive than others when it comes to environmental conservation. Some countries face political instability and have a lack of decision-making infrastructure making cooperation difficult. Weak links between different levels of government (e.g. central government and local authorities) may make management strategies difficult to implement.

The entire area is within one country which has a strong system of government. Governmental and non-governmental organisations are able to work together effectively and a strong law-and-order system allows policies to be enforced. The USA also has well-respected environmental pressure groups. Conservation is generally seen as an important issue.

Economy (e.g. GNP)

Niger = $380 per capita; Mali = $700

USA = $50,000 per capita

How does this affect land-use management?

Poverty is a huge issue for both countries and individuals. National governments need to prioritise where to spend a limited amount of money and they may choose to invest in other areas such as industry or cities rather than the sparsely populated Sahel. At a local scale people have little time or money to spend on land management projects as they are too pre-occupied with their day-to-day survival.

The USA is highly developed and affluent country where most people live a higher quality of life than those in the Sahel and hence have time for other considerations such as the environment. Desert areas are seen as resources which can be exploited and the challenges they pose can be overcome with large scale projects as money is not so much of an issue as it is in Africa.

Natural Processes (local climate, desertification, flooding)

Desertification is a major problem in the Sahel. The high rate of population growth (thought to be doubling every 20 years) is putting a lot of pressure on an environment, which has experienced a significant reduction in rainfall since the 1970s. Prolonged droughts are common, and when the rains finally do come they can result in flash floods, causing even more destruction to any crops that survived the drought.
Quotation from the UN:

“Over the last half century, the combined effects of population growth, land degradation (deforestation, continuous cropping and overgrazing), reduced and erratic rainfall, lack of coherent environmental policies and misplaced development priorities, have contributed to transform a large proportion of the Sahel into barren land, resulting in the deterioration of the soil and
water resource”

Although vulnerable to desertification due to climate change and mis-managed grazing, the process is largely kept under control and is much less of a threat in the USA.


Livestock herding and cultivation is the main form of land-use in the Sahel with many people being subsistence farmers. Traditionally Sahelian people were nomadic, moving to greener pastures and leaving other areas to re-grow. However, a combination of enforced colonial barriers and population increase (3% per year) that is outstripping food production (2% per year) has led to settling of the nomadic population and hence overgrazing and overcultivation.

The settled population is also removing trees and vegetation to use for fuelwood as they have no other source of energy. This is extremely unsustainable as it removes the protective cover of the soil, reinforcing the desertification process. Low levels of education and security mean that people do not realise or do not have a choice but to destroy their own environment. A lack of knowledge may also lead them carry out inappropriate farming techniques such as over-irrigation, which can lead to soil salinization.

However some initiatives have been put in place to place to tackle these problems. Most of these are small-scale and low-cost. For example the use of diguettes to reduce soil erosion, early-warning systems to prevent drought-induced food shortages, use of more efficient farming techniques such as drip-irrigation and high-yielding crop varieties, and afforestation programmes such as ‘Sahel Eco’.

Cattle-ranching was one of the first agricultural activities due to the arid climate of this area but the development of large scale irrigation allowed more intensive forms of agriculture such as cotton, grapes, nuts, vegetable and alfalfa – a forage crop for cattle.

Irrigation has brought a number of problems including salinization and a lowering of the water table.

Water Supply

The Sahel suffers from frequents droughts and hence famines as they are extremely dependent on rainfall and have few back-up options. When the rains do come they often lack the ability to store water. Millions are dependent on long-term aid to survive.

The situation is totally different in the USA as development and technology has enabled the country to not only meet individual water needs but also provide for intensive irrigation. However this is not without its problems.

The Colorado river is a heavily used source of water for irrigation. This has led to a decrease in discharge and an increase in salinity downstream and caused tensions between the USA and Mexico.

Other water supplies are the Sierra Nevada Mountains, from which water is transported via the California Aqueduct and sub-surface aquifers. Conflicts over water allocations have also occurred between farmers, the water authority and Native Americans.


Some mining is carried out in the Sahel such as ACM corporation who mine for manganese in Mali and Burkina Faso. Gold has also been mined in Mali as well as Senegal. This provides some local employment opportunities but riots have also occurred in mining areas by locals who are unhappy with the lack of benefits they have had from mining revenues. As well as environmental impacts it has also created problems such as prostitution in the once tiny in the once tiny and very traditional village of Diabougou, which is now home to thousands of informal minors.

The south western states are an important source of minerals such as copper, silver, gold and salts from the Great Salt Lake in Utah. In the Mojave desert itself Molycorp has begun mining for rare earth elements, which are used in many products from mobile phones to missiles systems. Mining is a costly process both economically and environmentally, but new methods are being developed to reduce the impacts.


Conflict in Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia have all hindered efforts to develop sustainable land-use management strategies. Deliberate burning of vegetation and deforestation by for fuelwood by refugees has is accelerating the process of desertification.

A large amount of land in the Mojave is owned by the Department of Defence, who have several training bases there. They have been heavily involved in developing the West Mojave Management Plan which aims to conserve the biological resources of the area. They have also established a scientific database (the Mojave Desert Ecosystem Program) to assist with sustainable management of the environment.


There are some tourist attractions in the Sahel such as the rock engravings of Pobe Mengao in Burkina Faso as well as wildlife parks. Some of the Tuareg people in Mali and Niger earn an important part of their income running trips into the Sahara desert. However, many people are put off by fears of kidnappings and terrorist attacks. E.g. 4 French hostages were taken in Niger by Al-Qaeda in October 2013.

Tourism is an important industry and major source of employment in the Mojave with millions of visitors attracted to honeypot locations such as the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks every year. This poses a huge management challenge for the authorities who have to balance the tourist’s needs with environmental conservation. Strategies have been implemented to reduce the impact of tourism. For example the Bureau of Land Management had designated large areas for the use of off-road vehicles, in the hope that other areas will be conserved. However in 2009 environmental groups won a court order to prevent further expansion of the area as the judge found that they BLM had failed to consider other alternatives or carry out adequate environmental impact assessments.

Desert cities in this area such as Las Vegas also attract many tourists who come for the gambling and live entertainment.

Urbanisation &
Waste management

Although the Sahel is largely rural, urbanisation has been occurring in some places, particularly around existing large cities but also in other areas. For example in Mali the number of urban centres containing 5-10 000 people increased from 16 to 59 in less than 30 years. This rapid urbanization has brought all the problems that area seen with slums in development countries; issues with water supply, congestion, pollution, crime, housing and waste. Population increase and desertification are greatly contributing to rural-urban migration.

The population of the Mojave has rapidly increased since the 90s and is expected to triple within 20 years. Las Vegas is home to 2 million people with a further 1 million living in the semi-arid area of Greater Los Angeles. There is an increasing demand for retirement homes due to the potential to enjoy all-year-round sunshine from an air-conditioned home. Commercial developments and a new airport is planned to serve Las Vegas. All of these are potentially very damaging to the sensitive desert ecosystem.
Waste management for all of these people and developments is a challenging and controversial issue. A recent initiative in Barstow attracted 500 people to help clean up all sort of rubbish including abandoned cards, sofas and washing machines from the surrounding desert area. In 2009 a planning application to create a massive landfill site in Joshua Tree NP was turned down. The site would have received 20 000 tons of waste from LA every day for 117 years.


Conservation in the Sahel is a secondary consideration since many people are not able to lead a decent quality of life themselves.

Environmental awareness is much higher in the USA, especially in a fragile ecosystem like the Mojave Desert which is home to several endangered species, and large amounts of funding have gone into conservation projects. For example, between 1996 and 2006 $93 million was spent on saving the Mojave desert tortoise from the brink of extinction.

Introduction to Globalisation

Defining Globalisation

There are many definitions of globalisation as it involves many different areas including the following:

Economic – Under the auspices of GATT and latterly the WHO, world trade has expanded rapidly. TNC have been the major force in the process of increasing economic interdependence, and the emergence of different generations of NIC has been the main evidence of success in the global economy. However, the frequency of ‘anti-capitalist’ demonstrations in recent years shows that many people have grave concerns about the direction the global economy is taking. Many LEDCs and a significant number of regions within MEDCs feel excluded from the benefits of globalisation.

Urban – A hierarchy of global cities has emerged to act as the command centres of the global economy. New York, London and Tokyo are at the highest level in this hierarchy. Competition within and between the different levels of the global urban hierarchy is intensifying.

Social/Cultural – Western culture has diffused to all parts of the world through TV, cinema, the Internet etc. International interest in brand name clothes, food, music and celebrities has never been greater. However, cultural transmission is not a one-way process. The popularity of Islam has increased in many Western countries as has Asian, Latin American and African cuisine.

Linguistic – English has clearly emerged as the working language of the ‘global village’. Of the 1.9 billion English speakers, some 1.5 billion around the world speak English as a second language. In a number of countries there is great concern about the future of native languages.

Political – The power of nation states has been diminished in many parts of the world as more and more countries organise themselves in trade blocs. The EU is the most advanced model for this process of integration taking on many of the powers that were once the sole preserve of its member nation states. The UN has intervened militarily in an increasing number of countries in recent times, leading some writers to talk about the gradual movement to ‘world government’. On the other side of the coin is the growth of global terrorism.

Environmental – Increasingly, economic activity on one country has impacted on the environment in other nations. The long-range transportation of airborne pollutants is the most obvious evidence of this process. Global environmental conferences such as that in Copenhagen (2010) is evidence that most countries see the scale of the problems as so large that only coordinated international action can bring about realistic solutions.

Demographic – The movement of people across international borders and the desire to move across such borders has increased considerably in recent decades. More and more communities are becoming multicultural in nature.

Here are some definitions of globalisation:

The simple definition of globalization is the interweaving of markets, technology, information systems and telecommunications systems in a way that is shrinking the world from a size medium to a size small, and enabling each of us to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before, and enabling the world to reach into each of us farther, faster, deeper, cheaper than ever before. That's what globalization is” (Friedman, 2000)

Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.
This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world.

Most definitions make reference to openness, integration or flows. Openness pertains to individual countries participating in, or being willing to participate in, international economic activity. Integration refers to combining or amalgamating elements across countries, which predominantly occurs through cross-border activity and international division of production. Flows as they pertain to globalisation encapsulates the movement of goods and services through trade, financial transaction through investment and foreign exchange markets and the sharing of ideas, intellectual property and technology.

The History of Globalisation

There is nothing new about globalisation. From ancient trade routes and the discovery and subsequent colonisation of the Americas to the invention of the transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858 there have been connections between countries around the world for centuries. Some commentators believe that ‘modern’ globalisation (a word which, by the way, has only been in common use since the late 20th century) began in the late nineteenth century when transport and communication networks expanded rapidly around the world, world trade began to grow and capital flows began to expand.

Events that have contributed to globalisation since then include:
  • The establishment of the World Bank, GATT and the Bretton Woods agreement in 1948

  • The emergence of NICs from the 1960s and the rise of TNCs

  • OPEC oil price rises in 1975, when money invested in MEDC banks was loaned to the developing world, which has cheaper labour costs

  • The integration of the Soviet Union and countries of Eastern Europe into the capitalist system in 1989 (this led to further opportunities for investment in a previously closed off market)

  • The emergence of free market ideas, promoted in the UK and USA and copied by others

  • The deregulation of world financial markets, which gave companies the freedom to expand beyond national boundaries in search of the best returns on their capital.

  •  The formation of the WTO in 1995 and other trade blocs.

  • Advances in technology and communications e.g. the internet (1980s), mobile phones, jumbo jets, fibre optic cables and satellites allowed cheaper and quicker transport of information, goods and people.

  • Although labour markets are not as advanced as financial markets (due to the difficult of moving people compared to money and the affinity people feel to their home country) there has been increasing movement of people across borders seeking employment. Much of this has been from lower to higher income countries, e.g. from South to North America and East to West Europe.

Global Marketing

Global marketing has been defined as ‘marketing on a worldwide scale, taking commercial advantage of global operational differences similarities and opportunities in order to meet global objectives’.

When a company becomes a global marketer it views the world as one market and creates products that fit various regional marketplaces. The ultimate goal is to sell the same thing, the same way, everywhere.

Coca-Cola is an example of a company with a single product. Only minor elements are tweaked for different markets. They use the same formulas (one with sugar, the other with corn syrup) for all its markets. The design of the bottle/can is the same in every country but the size varies according to country standards. Some people are concerned that this type of marketing will erode local diversity.

The New International Division of Labour

Globalisation has brought about a new division of labour on a global scale. The highly skilled, highly paid, decision making, research and managerial occupations tend to be located in high-income, developed countries, whereas the unskilled, poorly pair assembly jobs can be found in developing countries.

This simple division has undergone radical changes since the 1960s. Countries have moved from developing, to NICs, to MEDCs in the space of 40 years, while others have also started industrialising and are at various stages of being NICs or RICs. This has had a huge impact on the location of different types of jobs.

Global Shift

Global shift is the movement of economic activity from MEDCs, originally to NICs, then to RICs and LECDs. Initially the shift involved labour-intensive manufacturing, but increasingly it has involved all sorts of manufacturing and, more recently, services.

In the 1950s around 95% of manufacturing was concentrated in the industrial economies. As large companies grew in these areas they began to look for ways to reduce their costs. At the same time improving communications and transport enabled them to search the world for cheaper manufacturing locations. FDI in NICs such as Singapore led to deindustrialisation in MEDCs. Later there were shift from NICs to RICs to keep costs low, and as NICs developed they set up their own industries, investing in countries less developed than themselves.

This shift has been aided by the transfer of technology. High levels of technology are no longer associated with high productivity and high wages. Companies in the developing world are now able to increase their productivity through technology without raising their wages. This could widen the development gap, as workers in the developing world are paid less to make the same products as those in developed countries. By the beginning of the 21st century, more than 50% of all manufacturing jobs were located in the developing world and over 0% of exports from those countries to the developed world were of manufactured goods.

There has also been a shift in services as they have become increasingly detached from the manufacturing sector. As manufacturing has dispersed worldwide, the top of the service hierarchy become concentrated in cities such as London, New York and Tokyo rather than in old manufacturing centres. Low level services on the o0ther hand have shifted to the developing world much like manufacturing. Call-centre operations, for example, have moved from the UK to India where employment costs are generally 10 – 20% of those in the UK.

NB These notes relate to the following part of the AQA A2 specification: 
·    Factors and dimensions: flows of capital, labour, products and services
·    Global marketing

·    Patterns of production, distribution and consumption

Monday, 24 February 2014

Leishmanisis - Case Study of an Infectious/Communicable Disease


o More than 90% of global cases of visceral leishmaniasis occur in only 6 countries including India, Sudan and Brazil.

o Cutaneous leshmaniasis is more widely spread in 3 main epidemiological regions including South America and the Mediterranean basin with Sudan, Afghanistan and Brazil having some of the highest rates.


o Parasitic disease caused by the leishmania parasite and transmitted by the female phlebotomine sand fly; associated with malnutrition, famine and weak immune systems

o Cutaneous and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis affect the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth and nose leading to disfiguring scars and deformities

o Visceral leishmaniasis causes a swollen liver and spleen and can kill without treatment

o Health impact has been grossly underestimated until recently, now thought to be second to Malaria

o Could be due to a high morbidity and low mortality, although some epidemics of VL have high case-fatality rates e.g. 100 000 deaths caused in Sudan between 1984-94

o 70 000 deaths per year from VL

o HIV and Leishmaniasis are mutually reinforcing

o Leishmaniasis stimulates the HIV virus to replicate and people with HIV are up to 2000 times more likely to catch leishmaniasis because their immune system is supressed

o Affects the ‘poorest of the poor’ making it impossible to earn and thus affecting their whole family

o Cost of treatment in Bangladesh estimated to be 1.2x annual per capita income

o People have to sell or rent their assets or take loans to pay medical bills

o Delays socioeconomic development

o For example epidemics of the disease have delayed the implementation of development projects in the Amazon basin as money is needed for treatment instead

o Puts strain on the economic productivity of a country’s workforce as people are unable to work

o Social stigma due to disfiguring scars can cause anxiety, depression and quality of life

o Associated with illiteracy and low levels of education as people don’t know how to avoid it

o People don’t understand the disease so patients are victimised and isolated, especially those with active lesions, e.g. Afghan refugees have become known for their scars

o HIV-leishmaniasis sufferers can experience even more physical and psychological pain

o Particularly affects women and associated with gender discrimination

o Cultural expectations of women mean that any disability may cause abandonment by their husbands, in societies where women are very dependent.

o Most severely affected group children under 15, which could cause bullying and children to become a burden on the family

Discussion point: Which form of the disease do you think is the worst and why?

Friday, 21 February 2014

Tackling Essay Questions at AS

Essay questions more than any other are designed to test your ability to USE and APPLY what you have learnt to the question, not simply regurgitate it and give a long description with no discussion or assessment.

Remember that these questions are level marked, each level shows a higher level of understanding, knowledge and ability than the previous one. Let’s look at this more closely with an example from the AQA AS topic 'Health Issues'…

“An infectious disease has a greater impact on economic development than a non-communicable disease.” To what extent do you agree with this view? (15 marks)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Less than 3 months before exams...!!

What NOT to do....!!! (5 minutes of kitten watching however is perfectly acceptable and is in fact a good idea according to this study)

The Global Water Crisis

Excellent visual on the global demand for water and how water scarcity impacts on development (click on image to link to a larger version)

Monday, 17 February 2014

What is a Tsunami?

Here is a summary of the key points you need to know about tsunamis for GEOG3, check out the video below which is some raw footage of the Japan tsunami to give you an idea of the time scale and destruction involved. It's hard to imagine how long the waves are actually moving inland for, scary!

• A tsunami is a series of waves, called a wave train, which can be up to 100km long and 1 hour apart.

• These waves can reach heights of 30meters, although most of them are no more than 3 meters

• About 80% of tsunamis happen within the “Ring of Fire”. They are usually caused by underwater earthquakes when the ocean floor rises at a plate boundary and displaces the water above it.

• They have also been know to be caused by underwater landslides, volcanic eruptions or meteorites impacts.

• They race across the sea at up to 500 miles an hour and can cross the entire Pacific Ocean in less than a day while their long wavelengths mean they lose very little energy along the way.

• In deep ocean, tsunami waves may appear only a foot  high but as they approach the shore shallow water slows them down and the tops of the waves move faster than the bottoms so they grow in energy and height.

• A tsunami’s trough, the low point beneath the crest, often reaches shore first, producing a vacuum effect that sucks coastal water seaward exposing harbours and sea floors.

• Flooding can extend 10 miles inland, lifting giant boulders, flipping vehicles and demolishing houses.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Advanced Earthquake Engineering and Preparation in Japan

Japan is a nation that has grown rapidly in the last few decades, both economically and socially. During its development Japan invested well in technology and is now one of the biggest technology exporting countries in the world today. Moreover it has managed to achieve this despite being in an area of the world that is riddled with environmental hazards. 

One of the most hazardous is the threat of a major earthquake. Tokyo, is one of the three most densely populated cities on the planet where seismologists expect major earthquakes to occur. However it is one of the few places on the planet where such seismic activity doesn’t usually cause catastrophic damage. Why is this? It is because of the adaptation techniques that Japan have installed.

Adaptation is the process by which a country prepares itself for the inevitable hazard, in this case earthquakes and their side effects. One way in which Japan has done this is by changing the way in which modern buildings are designed. It is possible these days the design buildings to sustain the effects of the ground shaking caused by earthquakes because we now know far more about how buildings behave in different scenarios.  

One way in which buildings are being designed to sustain the effects of an earthquake is by putting in dampeners. This is far cheaper to do than using building techniques that make the structure far stronger. A dampener is a mechanism that absorbs the energy of the vibrations caused by the quake and makes the movement die away over time. 

One type of dampener is  called a tuned mass damper (TMD). This involves installing a huge mass, either mounted on springs or as a pendulum, which is tuned to have a natural frequency close to that of the building. In the event of an earthquake at close to that resonant frequency, the TMD oscillates in the opposite direction to the building, counteracting its motion. 

The natural frequency of the building can be calculated by using the formula:

where K is the stiffness constant of the building and M is the mass of the building.  Structures can be both reinforced horizontally and vertically, by using: diaphragms, trussing, braced frames, shear walls and moment resisting frames.

However structural reinforcing and engineering is not the only way in which Japan is reducing the damaged caused by earthquakes. They have installed my pre-earthquake warning systems such as sirens that allow people such as school children to prepare for the imminent tremors by doing things such as hiding under desks or gathering in areas that should be safest from falling debris and collapsing buildings. 

Another way in which Japan try and prevent catastrophes during earthquakes is by shutting down core reactors in nuclear power plants to avoid meltdowns and radiation related disasters. 

The way in which Japan is now prepared for the threat of earthquakes has not always been the case and much of the planning and building regulations for “earthquake safe” buildings only came in after the Kobe earthquake in 1995. During which over 6,400 people lost their lives and thousands of homes were destroyed.

Sam Evatt

How to Critically Evaluate

This is a help sheet I wrote a while back to assist my students in developing the skill of USING information, not just regurgitating it. I cannot stress enough HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS both at AS and A2. So, hope this helps somebody!

How to Evaluate/Assess the Success of something
You can think about this in 2 stages

1) Weigh up the positives and negatives of the issue with evidence to support each point

e.g. The one child policy in China could be viewed as a success: according to the Chinese government, it prevented an extra 400 000 births, meaning that without it China’s population would be 1.7 billion today instead of 1.3 billion.

2) Say whether it was successful or not with justification.

e.g. Overall the one child policy in China has been a success. This is supported by the fact that China’s population growth rate has been significantly reduced (e.g. the prevention of 400 000 births). Even though it created many problems, such as female infanticide, the reduction in population growth rates was worth it to avoid a Malthusian type disaster in the future.

NB – this is just one opinion of the overall success, feel free to give your own view as long as you can justify it, e.g. you could say the policy was unsuccessful because of all the problems it caused.

How to be Critical
This word is asking you to take the position of a critic – be skeptical about things, don’t take them at face value. Look for biasThere are various ways in which you can do this

      1) Question the source
e.g. According to the Chinese government their one child policy has been successful. However, this could be seen as questionable because of government bias in defending their decision to introduce the policy in the first place.

2) Compare contrasting viewpoints
e.g. According to the Chinese government their one child policy has been successful. However, other people (it would be good to give the name of someone here if you can) have disagreed with this: they say that the terrible problems (e.g. female infanticide) caused by the policy mean that it cannot be called a success. Also they say that restricting people to have only one child may actually have had the opposite effect as ‘people want what they can’t have’.

      3) Challenge a viewpoint with your own viewpoint using evidence
e.g.1 – The policies to reduce population growth in Singapore have worked too well according to some; reducing the fertility rate to far below replacement level (1.1) and causing population decline. However, this result may not necessarily have been caused by the government policies but may simply be a natural consequence of development (e.g. more educated women reduces the birth rate) that would have happened anyway (according to the DTM and many other countries, such as the UK, who have experienced a decrease in fertility as their development has increased).

e.g.2 – The one child policy in China may be seen by its government to have successfully reduced birth rates. However, the existence of a secret control experiment challenges this claim. In Yicheng the policy was not introduced and people were allowed to have more than one child. Despite this the population growth rate of Yicheng is actually below the national average. This suggests that if China had not introduced the one child policy it’s population may be even lower than it is today due to people choosing to have less children of their own accord in order to provide for their family more effectively.

Don't Panic!

The Facts about Population - with my fave professor Hans Rosling! I didn't realise this was on or I'd have shown some in class to my A-level geographers, but I hope you all make sometime to watch it at home, you can count it towards your revision for the exams, not long to go now...! Never too soon to start revising...

You can watch the whole documentary here:

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