Thursday, February 23, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Geography the Extraordinary


Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Our first post is by Isabella Contolini: a proud Coloradoan who has represented her state at the national level of the Geography Bee. 

The extraordinary thing about geography is that some people don’t find geography extraordinary.
Geography knowledge in the United States is pitiful. My dad and I were shocked by this when I did my first geography bee in 4th grade. First of all, you’d think that common sense would tell people it’s pretty important to know about the world! After all, we live in it every day; hear about it on the news, and travel all over for vacations! You’d think that Americans find the nature of the countries around us interesting.

Geography is a relevant part of our lives- just as relevant as math and science! Look at the tags of your clothes. Where are they made? Do you know where those places are? Do you have any idea why your clothes might be made there? Tune into the international news tonight. (BBC is great.) Make a list of all the different places outside the US mentioned. What names do you hear?

Does your house have an atlas? If not, consider purchasing one. Or use the computer if you don’t want to spend any money. Learn something about these places - be it their capital, official language, currency, or even something as simple as what continent it is on. If you see a new place, look it up. Repeating simple acts like this can teach you geography little by little. 

However, geography is not just names of places and cities and memorization, either. Geography is about people and cultures. Geography has to do with the sports you play, the music you listen to, the clothes you wear, the language you speak, what you eat, where you go to school, what kind of car you drive- everything is related to geography!

Here’s an example. What do you do in your free time? Playing sports is one of the most popular pastimes worldwide. Popular American sports include football, basketball, and baseball. But by far the most played, most well-known, most loved sport is soccer. There are tons of different names for it, too. The English call it football (confusing!), the Mexicans fùtbol, the Italians calcio, the Dutch voetbal, the Estonians jalgpall- the list goes on and on.

What are some of your favorite foods? Pizza, tacos, and noodles are all popular in America and very delicious. But none of these foods originated in the United States. Pizza began in Naples, Italy. Tacos are, of course, Mexican. And the Chinese have been making noodles for thousands of years, and they were brought to Europe in the 1200s by Marco Polo. Cheese is presumed to have been discovered by Arabs traveling through the Sahara Desert carrying milk in a bag of animal skin. So food is related to geography, too.

Do you know what you would like to be when you grow up? For most people, that’s a simple question. Ask a kindergartener, and you will get tons of different answers- astronaut, firefighter, teacher, nurse.  But what most people don’t realize is that all of these jobs- and lots more- have to do with geography. Pilots need to know about where they will land, and the weather conditions along their route. Nurses and teachers work with people from many different cultures. They should know some things about these people! Meteorologists share the weather forecast with us every day. They show us that giant map of the US and tell us the names of places all over.

Do you think about helping poor people and solving the world’s problems? Geography has to do with this, too. About half of the world’s population of 7 billion people lives on $2.00 or less a day. That’s approximately 3 ½ billion people- an inconceivable number. Think about what you could buy with $2.00. Would it be enough to live on every day?  How much money do you think you spend on average every day? Take gas, for example. $3.00 a gallon- to fill up a car with a 30-gallon tank is about $90.00. That is an incredibly high number. The amount you spend on gas each week could feed a person in a poor country for 45 days- more than a month! Do you go out to dinner? Most sit-down restaurants charge about $10.00 a plate. Multiply that by your family of 4 or 5, and that is $40.00 or $50.00! Enough to feed a person in a 3rd-world country for a week or more.

These numbers give you a small idea of how most of the world’s population lives. Our 3-times-a-day meals, 2 cars, a large, heated house with furniture and other luxuries- they are not common occurrences. Compared to most countries, the US is extremely wealthy. GDP per capita is the average amount of money a person in each country earns a year. According to the CIA World Factbook, the American (USA) GDP per capita is $48,100.00. However, the average Guatemalan earns about $5,000.000 a year. That is almost ten times less than us. And the average person in the Democratic Republic or the Congo earns $300.00 a year. Many Americans earn than much money in a day!

It is clear that most of the world people aren't nearly as privileged as we are, and by learning geography, we can figure out ways to help them.  The Bible says, “Whatever you did unto to the least of my brothers you did unto Me.” God wants us to help the poor and needy, and when we go to His kingdom someday, that is how we will be judged. Learning geography is the perfect way to start. The world is all around us, and we need to stop ignoring it. There is so much more out there than our safe, wealthy country. The world needs you.  God needs you. He is relying on you to help Him. There is only one question left: Will you?

Isabella Contolini, almost 14. - www.geokid.org

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While it is true many people do not have the things we do, I can not help but think about the kind of governments that control them. Many in control take all their country's wealth and keep their people poor so they can remain in power. How different peoples lives would be if they were free, and not forced to depend on others.