The Dissemination of the United States

I feel like the recent government shut down proves my theory! I have this theory that in the future there will no longer be a United States like we know it because people will get tired of the shenanigans happening on the federal level. So slowly, states will slowly start to become their own countries, like Northern Colorado and Texas.

Even though I have no research or evidence to thoroughly support my theory, I just foresee states not feeling equally represented at the federal level, because let’s be honest, the goals of Georgia are vastly different than New York, Colorado, and Oregon. So slowly, states will separate and become their own countries. I’m not saying this will happen anytime in the near future, but the 51st State Initiative here in Colorado, sort of proves my theory but on a much smaller scale. I think the United States will turn into the European Union of America; it will be an over-arching form of government that will continue to keep things in balance, but the countries (states) still have their own rule and say at the end of the day.

So as WordPress as my witness, this is my theory that will slowly pan out over the next few centuries. (Since I have to think of a dissertation topic, maybe I will look into this more in depth….) Again, I think the government shut down is just furthering the fact that Americans are unhappy with the federal government and these events will continue to prove that point.

Happy GAW!

It’s that time of the year again to celebrate Geography Awareness Week (GAW)! It happens once a year to help show support for the importance of geography – here in the US and around the world. It’s kinda cool to know that everyone in the world can celebrate this small “holiday” together – regardless of location, nationality, religious affiliations, financial status, gender, or age.

Rewind one year to GAW 2010. Last year at UNC, we (the other geography students and myself) held a GIS day so students not in the geography department could try out geo-caching. We also offered cupcakes for correct geography questions answered at the University Center. The questions were fairly simple (ok, really simple, like what are the four directions on a compass rose) but students played along because there was free food. It was also a great opportunity to hang out with my fellow geography and Powell Club members and hopefully we got some people interested in Geography. Looking back, it was a pretty small effort, but at least we tried to bring awareness to Geography! ūüôā Hindsight really is 20/20, and looking back we had no focus on last year’s theme¬†which was Freshwater. Ooops. {A for effort?!}

THIS YEAR however, I’m¬†much more involved (working for NatGeo¬†definitely helps with that!) with GAW –¬†I’m blogging for the My Wonderful World blog, I’m hanging out on the Hill to award Legislatures who have been Geography Heroes, I’m also running some mapping activities¬†on the Hill and at some Marine Corps event (still a little unsure on the details), I’m volunteering at two NatGeo Live! events¬†– Ocean Soul and The Untold Civil War, I’m going to try to get some fellow interns to dine with me at Founding Farmers¬†for Think Local Thursday, I’m decorating tiles¬†for a rather large map that is composed of more than 130 tiles (I’m¬†hoping to post a picture when¬†this project is completed, so people can see the¬†visual but think of 130 tiles¬†done by 130 different people to create a diverse map),¬†and I’m attending a Conservation Symposium by WWF¬†all day Thursday and Friday.¬†¬†I’ve also Spoken Up for Geography – as I encourage everyone else to do. It takes a quick minute to send a pre-made letter to your members in Congress to tell them that geography is important and needs proper funding. And last but not least, I pledge to be more aware about recycling in my community and focus on recycling one new type of material this month through America Recycles Day (Tuesday 11/15/11). I’m going to focus on mixed use paper.

About me: I really like word scrambles, acrostics, anagrams,¬†and puzzles¬†(which is surprising¬†since I’m¬†so terrible at them)¬†so from the word “Geography”¬†I came up with this list of anagram words (and thanks to excel they are alphabetized and arranged by letter length)¬†– hero, gorge, grape, graph, grope,¬†hyper, opera, pager, payer, raggy, repay,¬†¬†ropey, pager, ahoy, ergo, gage, gape, gear, goer, gore, gory, gray, grey, gyre, hare, harp, heap, hear, hope, hype, ogre, orgy, page, pear, pore, pray, prey, rage, reap, repo, rope, yeah, year, yoga, age, ago, ape, ear, egg, ego, era, gag, gap, hag, hey, hog, hop, oar, ore, par, pay, pea, peg, pro, rag, rah, rap, and ray. I did a quick anagram search via Google and found out that my list is less than 50% of the words that could be created using “Geography.” But it’s still fun to play with and that’s my focus for GAW this year – have fun and learn lots!

I hope everyone has a great Geography Awareness Week and has fun exploring their community and getting involved! :))  

Beautiful Life

Hands down, I love working for National Geographic. I get the opportunity to meet extraordinary people and work on amazing initiatives – The Big Cats Initiative and The Ocean¬†Initiative. My eyes have been opened to issues around the world and problems in my own backyard. However, it’s these dilemmas that keep me thinking long after I should have already fallen asleep at night. It breaks my heart to know that the last Javan Rhino has been poached in Vietnam or that the flooding in Thailand has killed nearly 500 people or that there is yet another sex scandal¬†in our country. The list could go on and on and these are the types of issues that have been weighing on me – I want to do more, help more, be more, see more. The flooding in Thailand is especially near and dear to my heart considering I was just there a few short months ago and I haven’t heard from my host mom since the flooding.

However, while it is easy to worry myself into oblivion (which I tend to do), I’ve been trying to remember all the beautiful things there are in life. Granted there are some horrifying aspects of our planet but it is also truly beautiful. Here’s a short list I came up with and examples from my life…

-The¬†seasons, although not constant everywhere, are a reminder that we have the opportunity to continue to live and to develop ourselves and to do something new each day, each moment, each season, each year. This Fall I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work for NatGeo, get out of the comfort of my parent’s house, struggle to buy groceries, and to go see awe-inspiring places like Gettysburg, The Baltimore Aquarium, go on a Ghost Tour of Fell’s Point, see The National Mall (which is not actually a mall!), and eat at local mom and pop shops. This list is definitely not an exhaustive and I still have¬†6 more weeks to conquer other spectales¬†– like Williamsburg and New York City.¬†I’ve also gotten to know some pretty swell gals in our tiny intern cave at NatGeo. It’s nice to have people with which to share food, laughs, and YouTube videos.

Beautiful reminder that it is Fall time on the East Coast.

Left to right: Chari, Me, Makayla, and Julia

-I am surrounded by amazing people. I have a few close friends,¬† my truly wonderful family, and a boyfriend who care about me and I am fortunate to have them to care about and love back. They put up with my crazy plans and bizarre ideas. ūüôā

Left to right: My Mom, Jamie, Maddie, Taylor, Me, and My Dad, Kevin

-I’ve had the pleasure of traveling the World and next December I will be going to Nicaragua for another astonishing adventure to meet the locals and hopefully see the red-gold¬†economy and how American’s consumption of lobster effects this part of the world. Traveling has been an excellent way to learn about people and cultures face-to-face and not from a textbook (duh!), which I believe is vital as a future geography teacher!

Last meal with my host family before I came back to the US.

-I have an¬†adorable puppy who makes me beyond happy and I love coming home to her unconditional love and her ridiculous puppy antics. She was a former foster puppy of mine and I just couldn’t give her back. Because of little Miss Roxie Jane I have this need to continue to foster and help other puppies who had been abused and abandoned like her, which should never, ever happen.

Mommy/Daughter bonding time

-While¬†it’s taken me some time to figure out what I “want to be when I grow up,” I’m able to attend school and get an education. These days in the US that¬†doesn’t seem like a huge feat, but¬†in other parts of the World, like some of the people I’m working with in Tanzania, they can barely afford an elementary education. I also have gotten to meet some amazing geographers and friends through my program at UNC, which has allowed me to have this unforseen life changing lens on the World.

-As always, people throw out that they have their health, and while I do have my health, my clumsiness interferes with my health on a frequent basis. I’m currently nursing a black and blue knee.
 
-And if none of those things make me smile or feel better about the World, I can always re-watch Life In A Day, which is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. It features people from all over the World, sharing their life for a single day and it was one of the most stunning films I have ever seen. I’ve seen it 3 times now and each time I cry because of how amazing our planet is and how we can all come together and create change.
 
-AND if all else fails, I always have Finding Nemo to watch, while I snuggle with my puppy and drink a Venti Chai Tea Latte! ūüôā

That’s alot of meat!

So i’m¬†currently reading EarthTalk: Expert Answers to Everyday Questions about the Environment¬†(as well as a few other books), but¬†I’m really digging this book for a few reasons – it takes questions from everyday people, ranging from various environmental topics like water pollution and¬†organic foods and clothing, and breaks down the answer so that it ¬†is¬†very understandable. AND it gives a list of additional resources to check out. I love when websites do this (I’ve never seen this in a book) because it allows the fascination and interest in the topic to continue to grow. I’ve also recently discovered StumbleUpon, which has fueled my obsession to check out new stuff.

Anyways, while I was reading on the train home last night, I read this statistic, “A 10% reduction in U.S. meat consumption would free up enough grain to feed sixty million people.” Just take a second to really think about this… It’s staggering to think that the amount of meat consumed in the United States affects those all over the world – to the point that people are starving while we over-indulge in meat products. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak, but I read somewhere else that if everyone in the U.S. gave up one meal a week that contained meat, we would be able to feed everyone in the world.

For as long as I can remember, when we would have family dinners¬†growing up, we would have the main meal focused around the meat – a burger, ham, grilling; or we had meat in almost everything we ate – yum yum, manicotti, chipped beef, spaghetti, hamburger helper meals, lasagna (notice an Italian theme here?) and so on. According to many websites and dieticians, an adult plate should be¬†2 parts¬†fruits and veggies to less than one part protein/meat – this is definitely not the balance on my plate!¬†And overall, Americans need to cut back on their meat intake. There are¬†many health¬†benefits to cutting meat out of one’s diet, and while those reasons are important, I want to focus more on the conservation side. But for people who are interested in all of the above, there is a movement called Meatless Mondays (I just signed the pledge) that¬†is all about the benefits to the earth and to people who partake in this movement by not eating meat on Mondays, just one day a week, it’s pretty cool.

Back to the conservation stuff. The meat industry contributes to global warming by leaving a HUGE carbon footprint by using excessive water (and the polluting other water sources), clearing tropical rain forests for grazing land or for meat factories, using a lot of grain, that as previously mentioned good go to better use feeding people around the world. So what are some solutions to this problem?

  • Number 1 being definitely cut meat or some meat out of your diet! This definitely is not an easy task, one intern in particular said it would be near impossible for her because she loves meat that much. However, this simple dietary change can make a world of difference (pun intended). The Meatless¬†Monday campaign is a great way to start, but it’s more than just cutting meat out of your diet, I think the real focus is to eat healthier – more fruits and veggies.¬†OR another option would be to eat organic meat, in which animals are raised humanely and not given any hormones or toxins.
  • I think the¬†second thing people can do is just educate themselves and others – I think the teacher in me is coming out a bit ūüėČ However, I truly feel like education is the number one thing people can do to help themselves and others. AND it’s been proven that when woman in developing countries become educated or more educated they have¬†a huge impact in changing their livelihood.
  • The final thing I would recommend people to do is to positively contribute to the environment in other ways if they can’t cut meat out of their diet or find it hard to read a book about the topic. I’ve found there are a number of things people can do to positively contribute to the environment and I’ve¬†been recently inspired by Eco-Day (today) at National Geographic. They had booths and gave out all sorts of goodies, but more than that the goal was to educate the staff about how to leave a smaller carbon footprint – solar panels, wind energy, ¬†biking to work or public transportation or carpooling, installing water regulators in faucets and toilet tanks, and the list goes on and on. NatGeo¬†is apparently very eco-friendly, which is just another incentive for me to want to come back and work at NatGeo in the future.

If you do a quick search for “meat industry impacts on environment” you get over 3 million hits. These were a few sites I really liked:

NY Times article is basically a summary of the meat industry Рincluding a lot of statistics and interviews from experts. It also lists a few solutions and ways people can help.

This article I think is mis-titled, but it’s called 13 Breathtaking Effects of Cutting Back on Meat, it lists 13 problems associated with the meat industry. I was expecting more of a health article and benefits from cutting back on meat – it doesn’t. Nevertheless, it lists 13 impacts of the meat industry on the environment.

PETA‘s brief¬†article, and website for that matter, are a bit extreme, and I don’t think I could ever completely give up meat in my diet, but this statistic is pretty intense, “According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.”

I would also highly recommend reading Fast Food Nation. It’ borders on the gross factor, but for the most part it is very eye-opening. Granted, it focuses only on¬†the negative aspects of the food industry, but it does put into perspective the positive associations most people have with the fast food industry – like the fact that it’s cheap and convenient!

Lots of information to think over. Just a heads up, the next chapter of Earthtalk is about¬†shopping organically – you should probably expect a post on that. ūüôā

Things I’ve Noticed…

Tonight, the NatGeo¬†education team had a staff party. While conversing among the other employees and their families,¬†it occurred to me that I’ve noticed many differences between DC and the midwest/west part of the country – and talking with other people confirmed what I’ve been thinking.

-People¬†in the midwest/west are definitely friendlier as a whole. One gentleman was telling me a story about how in Rhode Island, where he lived for 5 years, people were closed off from each other and did not allow people into their social circles. Another woman was telling me that she use to live in New York for many years and people either love it or hate it. So when people love it they stick around forever and yet again, people do not let new people into their old social circles. My own personal experience has been very much the same – people do not chit-chat on the train, they do not smile at each other, and people drive like they are¬†stunt-drivers¬†aka insane! A few weeks back I was pushed on the train and sprained my foot because a guy was in a hurry to get wherever he needed to go. Granted, these are generalities – but when I lived in Iowa, people waved and smile while driving down the road. Living in Colorado, i’ve had similar experiences – people are nice. I’ve had a few pleasant conversations on this side of the country, but generally, people have a cold exterior.

-Along¬†the same lines, some people are meant for the city, and there are people definitely not meant for the city. On the metro the other day, a woman complained so loudly that she hated the crowded rail system and she was pissed when people pushed her out of the way¬†to get through the door when she didn’t move out of their way. It amazes me how many people lack awareness of other people. Maybe it’s a trait people are born with, but i’m willing to bet that it is skill parents didn’t teach their children was essential to being a human. That’s right, I used the word “essential.” People need to be aware of others and treat each other with more respect and kindness. Granted this woman’s outburst (to no one in particular) was uncalled for, but her underlying message was that people need to be more conscientious of one another.

-Never, ever underestimate people! People are shocking – in both good and bad ways – but you will never know or learn those things if you do not give people a chance. I think it’s ironic that the type of things you learn about people is the small town things you would never expect – like meeting someone who’s brother was in Thailand at the same time I was or knowing someone who grew up just 30 minutes from¬†my house in Iowa, or realizing that the six degrees of separation is surprisingly easy to find.

-The weather is bizarre, no matter where you are in the country. In Iowa, we had a saying that read, “If you don’t like the weather, give it a few days.” In Colorado, the saying went, “If you don’t like the weather, give it a few hours.” In DC, it doesn’t matter what the weather is, it sucks all the time anyways. It’s muggy and rainy all the time (I wish I was over exaggerating). Apparently, someone had the genius idea that we should place the nation’s capitol in a swamp…

-When¬†you find something you love, it clicks. I absolutely love what i’m¬†doing at NatGeo¬†– so much so, that i’m¬†considering changing what I want to be when I grow up and become a “real” adult. There’s many inspirational stories that do just that – they inspire me – to do more, to see more, to help more, to “be a hummingbird.” Wangari¬†Maathai’s video of the hummingbird is so powerful it made me well with tears and then I realized that I want to permanently be a hummingbird to those that can’t help themselves.

So to wrap it up, i’ve¬†learned alot¬†in my short time in DC. I’m thankful i’m a geography major though. I’ve learned so much because I have this beautiful lens that allows me to look at¬†things with more perspective and understanding –¬†I feel like. But it’s more than that, geography allows me to¬†feel connected to the world and to others, and that’s why people need geography in their lives.

Staff party + sangria + geography = one hell of a good time!