In This Chapter
Learning about geography at About.com
Spanning the DigitalGlobe
Banking on developing nations
G eography-related Web sites abound in cyberspace — why do you think they call it the World Wide Web? The problem isn’t finding ten good sites, but instead having so many from which to pick! In most cases, the sites presented here were chosen for their collective breadth rather than their individual greatness. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to check out Chapter 19. Each organization listed there maintains a Web site, some of which, had they not already been mentioned, would surely be included in this chapter.
The About.com Geography Page
Arguably, this is The Mother of All Geography Web Sites (http://geography.about.com). I like to equate it to a huge shopping mall full of stores devoted to different aspects of geography. You want maps? They got maps. Plus info on atlases, cartography, census data, climate, country facts, cultural geography, disasters and hazards, geo-fun, geo-games, geo-humor, geo-education, GIS, GPS, geographic terms, homework help, latitude and longitude, photos, physical geography, river and streams, streets and roads, time zones, topographic maps . . . I can go on and on! When you’re done with that, you can take their weekly quiz, participate in the weekly Geography Chat, or follow any one of the variety of links.
DigitalGlobe (www.digitalglobe.com) is one of several companies and agencies involved in satellite monitoring of Earth’s surface that offer sample images or even catalogs of images for online perusal and purchase. While several galleries are available on this Web site, the Application Tour is especially recommended for the novice geographer. Here you can access a variety of image types that pertain to agriculture, mapping, environmental issues, emergency monitoring, and forestry applications. Each image or set of images is accompanied by a paragraph-length description.
Mapquest.com (http://www.mapquest.com) may be the best source of general-purpose maps on the Internet. Its world atlas allows you to zoom in on fairly detailed country maps that are accompanied by comprehensive fact sheets. For the U.S., you can zoom in on similar state-level resources, as well as maps of cities, towns, and street addresses, each of which is complemented by an aerial photograph and topographic sheet. Separate maps are available for U.S. national parks, scenic drives, and airport terminals. For North America and Europe, you can access the site’s road trip planner. Just punch in your origin and destination points, and the program gives you detailed driving instructions, plus a route map that can be viewed at varying scales.
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
The Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas at Austin (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps), is home to more than 250,000 maps of all parts of the world. A representative cross-section numbering about 5,000 are available on this site. On the home page, you can click on various world regions to access map menus that pertain to different countries. In many instances, this leads to another menu that offers a mix of contemporary and historical maps, some centuries old. Maps from various journalistic sources pertaining to current and recent events also are present. On the main menu, “Finding Information” provides links to other map sources and related materials.
The official Web site of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (http://www.fao.org) is a treasure trove of statistics on global — you guessed it — food and agriculture. Here you can find country-level data on all kinds of agricultural production, plus general economics, fisheries, forestry, and nutrition. An impressive supporting cast of subjects includes contemporary information on sustainable development, desertification, ethics in food and agriculture, gender and food security, biotechnology in food and agriculture, and other important items related to economic development and human well-being. In addition to these regular menu clickables, the homepage typically contains at least one “in-depth focus” essay on a timely topic (such as how the African AIDS epidemic is threatening agricultural production and future sustainable development) and current news items related to food production in different countries.
The U.S. Department of State’s Geographic Learning Site (GLS)
Devoted primarily to political geography, this Web site (http://www.geography.state.gov) is typical of the genre that is designed with teachers and students in mind. From the home page, you can go to sections on traveling and living abroad, facts and information about countries and regions, current international topics and issues, and history and culture around the world. Interactive and historical maps are available, as well as topical ones that complement the sections mentioned. When you tire of the serious stuff, you can try your hand at one of the games or quizzes. Also, check out the links that, in addition to literally giving you the world, lead you to a host of statistics on demographics, trade, and business at home as well as abroad.
The Virtual Geography Department
Based at the University of Colorado, this site (http://www.colorado.edu/geography/virtdept/contents.html) is designed to help college and university geography departments share a wide range of information including the structure of their degree programs, course syllabi, modules and materials for classroom use, and online courses. For the novice geographer who may be considering “taking it to the next level,” this is a great place to peruse the content of academic geography to see whether or not it looks right for you. Think of it as an online catalog for the potential college geography student or geography major.
The official Web site of the World Bank (http://www.worldbank.org) is a great source of information about conditions and trends in developing nations. From the main menu you can navigate to a series of tabular data on individual countries or the regions of which they are part. You can also read up on a number of regional initiatives — perhaps the most intriguing of which is the Indigenous Knowledge program, which seeks to incorporate traditional local know-how into development projects. Click on Development Topics and up pops about 25 issues that range from AIDS to environment to water supply. Click on Kids and Schools to access teaching modules and classroom resources for teachers, and reference material for students.
WorldClimate.com (http://www.worldclimate.com) offers climate data for 85,000 locations around the world. Want information on, say, Madrid, Spain? Just type in Madrid, click on Search, then click on the Madrid that happens to be in Spain (as opposed to the one in Perkins County, Nebraska), and you got data. Average monthly rainfall (in inches and millimeters) and average monthly temperature (in Fahrenheit and Celsius) data are available for most sites. Also available is information on the source(s) of the data, the precise period of time over which the data was averaged, and a map that shows the location of the weather station where the data was collected. This is an excellent resource for teachers and students of physical geography, as well as for the prospective traveler who wants advice on what to pack.
World Resources Institute
The World Resources Institute (http://www.wri.org) seeks to educate people “to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.” Toward that end, WRI maintains a robust, informative, and well-organized Web site. On their homepage, click on Global Topics or Earth Trends to access information on agriculture and food, coastal and marine systems, forests and grasslands, population and human well-being, and other topics related to global resources and ecological linkages. Information formats include feature articles, data tables, country profiles, maps, and searchable databases.