Tag Archives: geographer\’s new map

The Geographers New Map, Part III: Global Terrorism

Catholicgauze concludes his three part summary of a recent speech by Dr. Harm J. de Blij. Part I: Climate Change and Part II: China are also available, as is information about Dr. de Blij’s new book, Why Geography Matters.

This is the last installment of my rundown of by Dr. de Blij. The final part of his speech was spent on global terrorism. The most disappointing thing about his discussion on part three was that he only had a total of five minutes left to communicate his ideas about terrorism.

Terrorism: A main point made by Dr. Blij is that the terrorism of today is unlike the anarchists terrorist of the turn of the last century. Those were unorganized trouble-makers with a penchant for killing heads of state. Terrorists of today are the tip of a well organized effort spanning continents. They rely on failed-states and geographic isolation to thrive.

Pakistan and the former Afghanistan provide a great example of Dr. de Blij’s point. In the tribal areas communication is difficult so local control is a necessity. However, if the locals are crazies (in the words of Bishop Catholicgauze and not Dr. de Blij), it becomes a lot easier for a terrorist group like al Qaeda to set up shop.

A strong state which wishes to grow and connects into globalization would resist a reactionary group like al Qaeda and their ilk. It is then easier to understand why the same group that attacked the World Trade Center (al Qaeda) is actively trying to topple allies of the United States (the Republic of Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) and America itself. They need failed states so they grow like a cancer and then spread to other countries and if strong countries resist and retaliate, the cancer dies.

An example which concerns Dr. de Blij is Ethiopia. Ethiopia borders the troubled , the three Somalias, and Sudan.

Somalia, Somaliland, and Puntland

Ethiopia also is a gateway into Kenya and southern Africa with minimal interference from the Sahara Desert. Islamic terrorists have been slowly dragging Ethiopia into turmoil hoping to turn the whole horn of Africa into a giant center for operations. He citied the increase of Caucasian Chechens (who in a variety of reports I have learned are the most fanatical and “crazy” of all Jihadists) in not only Ethiopia, Iraq, and other hot spots but also those caught trying to bomb targets in South Africa. If a strong country like Ethiopia were to fall to the jackals of terrorism, nothing could stop them in the Horn of Africa.

As an aside Dr. Blij talked about the recent pirate raid on a cruise ship 100 miles off the coast of Somalia. He pointed out it would take a organized group with technology and intelligence to try to ambush a lone ship in the open ocean.

To wrap up his speech Dr. Blij stressed the importance of geography in planning. He blamed the current “mess” in Iraq to planners who knew nothing about the cultural geography of the country and pointed out how the position of Geographer has been empty at the State Department for years and has been vacant through many administrations. (Catholicgauze wishes to give a shout-out to anyone in the State Department and he offers nominates himself to the position of Head Geographer!)

Dr. Blij then wrapped up his speech by taking questions on China and Climate Change and went outside to sign books. I had other pressing affairs and had to skip out on the book signing. But I must stress he is correct in the assertion that the United States of America needs more geography education.

In the seven core areas of No Child Left Behind only one receives no geography funding. About half of the US school-attending population cannot locate Texas immediately on a map of the country and about a quarter of school-attending children cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map of the world (source: the latest NGS PSA). If our future leadership generations are more attuned to popular culture and illiterate when it comes to global affairs, apathy and false ideals like fascism or communism can easily led society astray down the tubes. It happened before to the British Empire and it can happen again. We need to stress a true liberal education with math, science, history, geography, and the arts. A well balanced citizenry will be better able to handle the problems that face us in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Great series, Catholicgauze!

The Geographer’s New Map, Part I

Recently, the crack team at tdaxp‘s Data Acquisition & Extrapolation Program (“tdaxp”) succeeded in planting a mole deep within an influential NGO in Washington, DC. This covert operative, known only as “Catholicgauze,” recently attended a lecture by Harm J. de Blij that was sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

“Harm de Blij on the Web” by H.J. de Blij, http://deblij.net/.

“Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America: Climate Change, The Rise of China, and Global Terrorism” by Harm De Blij, 30 June 2005,

Usually when an organization like the National Geographic Society (which has been shy about the term “Society” as of late) brings a speaker who devotes most of his presentation to Global Warming, I, Catholicgauze, am very skeptical. However, after only one hour with this brilliant geographer I was able to see the problems (and some solutions) to three major problems the United States face in the early 21st century: Climate Change, Red “Anti-tdaxp” China, and Global “Anti-tdaxp” Terrorism.

I won’t waste time trying to give an adequate biography of Dr. de Blij because his website does an excellent job. I will only say that the Distinguished Geography Professor Dr. Gritzner and others consider Dr. Blij “THE” geographer.

Here is a breakdown of the Blij speech given Thursday, November 17, 2005 at the GrosvenorAuditorium.

Climate Change (Being the First Part)

Dr. de Blij believes in the Kyoto Protocol and efforts to obtain alternative, clean energy but views these options as being a good caretaker of the earth. He pointed out interesting facts on Climate Change.

The Ice Ages and periods in between are proof of climate change. He brought up how even in historic times natural climate change has affected man. When the Ancient Egypt was getting started records state that the Sahara was a savanna climate. Dr. de Blij said the Sahara dried up within 50-100 years. He recommended The Little Ice Age by Brian M. Fagan and referred to Roman Church documents which depicted Alpine glaciers swallowing up whole towns, monasteries, and villages.

(In an interesting side note: The Little Ice Age ended around 1850 with a warming trend that seems to be continuing. There was a slight reversal early on between 1860 and 1865. At the Association of American Geographers convention in 2004 I heard an interesting presentation from a professor from West Point who talked about how the cold snap made precipitation heavier than normal in the United States and affected both Union and Confederate armies with their long and short term strategic planning; i.e. one cannot march in the cold mud).

Dr. de Blij seems to have some sort of dislike toward The Economist magazine. An issue that irked Dr. de Blij was when an Economist editorial said even with climate change treaties in effect, climate change would continue for over 100 years. In one of his many “unpublished letters to the editor” Dr. de Blij responded by saying “I’m sure the world will be relieved that in only 100 years 4.5 billion years of change will stop.”

A surprising thing from this part of the presentation was reaction from the liberals with lesser authority in National Geographic. While Dr. de Blij agreed the increase of storms lately was a sign of global warming, he was more dismisses of human-caused reasons given. While it is clear he believes pollution does not help the problem, he was clear in stating Climate Change is natural. One liberal colleague of mine said in shock, “Doesn’t he know what he’s saying.”

The main point of this portion was calling attention the problem of climate change. A force which could melt glaciers at four miles a year (as what happened at the end of the last, “Wisconsin” Ice Age), cause the Black Sea flood by melting glaciers, or destroy the Sahara in less than a century is worthy of fear. Human reactions to climate change also are important. Barbarian raids on Han China, Western Rome, and the Byzantine Empire were motivated in part by climate change at the time. It is important, says Dr. de Blij, to make plans for every case scenario from catastrophic change to no noticeable change.

tdaxp‘s Comment: I thank Catholicgauze for his summary, and look forward to the next parts. I first leanred of the idea of quick yet natural climate change from Bell and Striber. Likewise, of irritation at The Economist from Derbyshire.

Written records of glaciers eating villages are scary. Check out Part II: China, Part III: Global Terrorism,” and the reaction of the blogs.