Gobar Times
Open Forum

Geography and You

On the morning of December 26, 2004, Tilly Smith a ten-year-old English girl was holidaying in a beach in Thailand. She suddenly turned to her mother and said:

    "Mummy, we must get off the beach now.    
    I think there is going to be a tsunami."         

A recently done school project had come to Tilly’s mind...

“A journey of a thousand miles starts in front of your feet.”

— Lao Tsu

The Great Arc Project

More than two hundred years ago, on April 10, 1802, the British surveyor Col. William Lambton began an ambitious, audacious and mathematically meticulous scientific odyssey at St. Thomas Mount in Madras (now Chennai). It took four decades to be completed. The project ended on the foothills of the Himalayas. Lambton carefully laid the baseline, which stretched across a distance of 12 kilometres between St. Thomas Mount and another hillock in the southern direction, for the "measurement of the length of a degree of latitude" along a longitude,” in the middle of peninsular India.

This 12-km-long horizontal at about sea level grew into what is known as the Great Indian Arc of the Meridian, a gigantic geometric web of 'triangulations' roughly along the 78° longitude across the entire length of the subcontinent covering a distance of about 2,400 km in the north-south direction.

At the end of this massive and perilous exercise, which consumed "more lives than in most contemporary wars" and involved tomes of calculations and equations more complex than any in the pre-computer age, it was conclusively proved in 1843 that the Himalayas
constituted a mountain range that was higher than the Andes, until then believed to be the highest. It also established the height of the highest point on the earth, what is now called Mount Everest.

R. Ramachandran

The girl saved a hundred fellow tourists from the tsunami because of a geography lesson about the giant waves. Tilly Smith urged her family to get off Maikhao beach in Thailand after seeing the tide rush out and boats on the horizon bob violently. Tilly told the media that credit for her quick-thinking should go to Andrew Kearney, her geography teacher at her school.

We may not understand all about the mysterious ways of the world around us but at least we can begin to think like Albert Einstien who said ‘the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible’. Geography is a subject that helps us make sense of the natural world around us. Many of us have distasteful memories of geography as a subject that makes us learn and locate capital cities on the map. An image that needs to be corrected.

Learning from landscapes

Learning begins from right where you are. Observing and understanding the natural lay of the land around us is the first thing that we ought to do, but most often dont. Natural and man-made landscapes teach us a lot about how we interact with nature.

Think spatially

A map is a picture of a place. It gives you a better understanding of that place. It is a two-dimensional representation of a particular place. Maps are made for many reasons and, therefore, they vary in content and context. Different maps show different information. Different symbols are used to represent the features of the environment on a map.

 

New Geography

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, offer a large and growing capacity to answer these and similar questions quickly, efficiently and easily. GIS is revolutionising the ways in which geographically based or mapable information is stored, accessed, analysed, displayed, and made available to the public. GIS is being used in: redistributing state owned lands, law enforcement, utility companies, environmental resource mapping, emergency response routing, public transportation, pipeline industries and many other fields.

Mapping technologies are being used in many new applications. Biological researchers are exploring the molecular structure of DNA, or mapping the genome; geophysicists are mapping the structure of the earth’s core; oceanographers are mapping the oceanfloor; and
so on. Mapping techniques are even being used to explore the relationships between ideas in what is known as concept mapping.

    Careers:        I want to be a...   

VASCO D’gama’s job may not be available but geographers are in great demand nowadays. Given the broad range of knowledge and the specific training that one receives while in college, Geography majors have many career options to consider.

These include, but are not limited to urban and regional planning, cartography, weather forecasting, mineral exploration as well as various opportunities in financial institutions and industrial firms.

To know more about geographers, log on to
www.cseindia.org/programme/env_edu/index.htm

GT Reporters Project: BE A YOUNG EXPLORER!

Map your world

Calling all GT young reporters! Here’s your chance to try your map making skills and map your neighbourhood or school. If you havn’t already registered as a GTYR (can we think of clever acronym??) do so NOW. (gt website?). Here are some ideas for starters.

Map your school and/or neighbourhood:

Create a transportation map of your school staff and students to find a more sustainable transport policy for you schools. Walk around your school campus and create a map of assets. Is your school playground fun? Do you want more lessons outdoors? Is your school wildlife friendly? What about a map showing water use and disposal in your school. Or follow the waste trail of your school. Show your maps in classroom and to your school management.

Put yourself in the shoes of one of the following people. What does the community have to look like to meet this person ’s needs? A person in a wheelchair; a five-year-old child; a homeless street child ; a person with asthma; an elderly person; a ragpicker.

Imagine yourself as the person you ’ve chosen, and explore your neighborhood from his or her point of view. Explore a street, a block or a number of blocks.

Take a map with you, and as you walk down the street —slowly —make a list of those things you find that are good (pros) and those things that could be improved (cons).If you have enough time,take on another role or explore a second neighborhood and
compare your notes.

Once you ’ve completed your list, decide which cons are the most important and select one that you think you can do something about.You ’ve just taken the first step toward making your community more sustainable.

You don’t necessarily need to be an expert cartographer or GIS expert to make useful maps. Just paper and pen, your two feet and loads of imagination and curiousity will do. Take help from your teachers or parents and come up with your own creative map making ideas. Here are some web resources started:

www.greenmap.com
www.neighbourhood-mapping.org
www.gisdevelopment.net

Send in your maps to: Editor, Gobar Times 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi 110062
or mail
panditji@cseindia.org

 

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Geography and You