Mark you calendar! NCGE’s 2012 National Conference on Geographic Education will meet in San Marcos, Texas, October 5–7 at the Embassy Suites San Marcos-Hotel Spa & Conference Center. The conference will feature informative sessions, hands-on workshops, great speakers, and the opportunity meets other dedicated improving geography education. The call for conference session proposals will be announced soon. We hope to see you in San Marcos!
NCGE has published a new book which examines resources used to teach geography in earlier eras of American history. In Geography in Americas Schools, Libraries, and Homes, Author Donald C. Dahmann has compiled a comprehensive bibliography of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century geography books, atlases, globes, and manuals. The volume includes an introductory essay. The price is $75. Order your copy from the NCGE Online Store.
By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner
The government of India has signed an agreement with the World Bank for a $1 billion loan to finance a clean-up operation on the Ganges River. This will be the first major new effort in more than 25 years to clean the sacred Ganges, one of the world’s dirtiest rivers.
The Ganges River, also called the Ganga, at 1,557 miles (2,510 kilometers) long, is a major river of the Indian subcontinent. It flows eastward from a large glacier in the central Himalayas, crossing northern India and Bangladesh, finally reaching its terminus at the Bay of Bengal. The world’s largest delta is formed where the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers drain into the Bay of Bengal.
The Ganges is incredibly important to the people of India, as well as Bangladesh. The river and its tributaries drain a large basin of about 386,102 square miles (one million square kilometers) and provide a perennial source of irrigation. The fertile floodplain supports agriculture that feeds one of the world’s highest population densities. One-third of India’s 1.2 billion people live near the river. Many of those people depend on the river and its tributaries for drinking, cooking, and washing.
The Ganges supports a wide variety of agriculture, including rice, sugarcane, lentils, oil seeds, potatoes, and wheat. Minor crops are legumes, chilies, mustard, sesame, and jute. Indians do fish the Ganges; however, both the catch and the water are quite polluted.
India’s Hindus have revered the Ganges for millennia, and its symbolic and religious significance cannot be overstated. They worship the Ganges, believing it is the goddess Ganga, who also maintains a personified form. In Hindu mythology, the Ganges is the embodiment of all sacred waters, and therefore to bathe in it is a holy act. Hindus believe the Ganges washes away sins, and they often put the ashes of deceased loved ones into the river.
Tourism is an important activity along the Ganges. Every year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims venture to three towns in particular, Haridwar, Allahabad, and Varanasi, to bathe in the river.
Unfortunately, the Ganges is one of the top five most polluted rivers of the world. Untreated sewage, agricultural runoff and industrial waste have been flowing unabated into the river for decades. Much of the pollution is caused by the staggering amount of raw human sewage that enters the river—nearly 265 million gallons (one billion liters) per day.
At some locations, fecal coliform levels are well above what is considered safe for bathing or drinking. Human and animal remains that have been inadequately cremated also add to the pollution and can often be seen floating down the river.
Thousands of industries have been built along the river over the last 50 years. Chemical plants, textile mills, distilleries, slaughterhouses, and tanneries discharge untreated wastewater directly into the river. The tanneries of Kanpur, which use high levels of chromium and other chemicals, are especially polluting.
Furthermore, hydroelectric projects and dams reduce the river’s flow in some places. A 2007 United Nations climate report predicted that the Himalayan glaciers feeding the Ganges may disappear by 2030, leaving the river as a seasonal stream fed only by summer monsoons.
In 1985, the Indian government, with Dutch and British support, initiated the Ganga Action Plan, the last large-scale project to address the Ganges’ pollution. Many consider the Ganga Action Plan a failure, as it built some wastewater treatment plants in certain areas but failed to halt raw waste disposal into the river. The plan’s administration was criticized for misuse of money, lack of technical expertise, and absence of good planning.
A new project funded with the World Bank loan will replace the Ganga Action Plan. The 2020 goal of this new project is once again to halt the discharge of untreated wastewater into the river. It will not only build treatment plants but will focus more broadly on regional environmental health and a public education campaign.
The clean-up will likely take decades and cost many billions of dollars—much more than the $1 billion initially loaned to the Indian government. At least it is a start for one of the world’s most sacred rivers.
Najar, Nida. “World Bank to loan India $1B to clean Ganges River,” New York Times News Service via The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon: June 15, 2011.
New World Encyclopedia: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ganges_River
Neal Lineback is a professor emeritus of geography at Appalachian State University. Co-author Mandy Lineback Gritzner is also a geographer. Technical editor Jane Nicholson is Appalachian State’s news director. “Geography in the News” is reprinted with permission of maps101.com.
Geographic Literacy in the United States: Challenges and Opportunities in the NCLB Era, an 86-page electronic publication from NCGE, is available for free download. The publication was edited by Gary Elbow, David Rutherford, and Christopher Shearer. It features an introduction by Joseph Kerski and Daniel Edelson along with 15 essays by scholars in the field of geography education.
By Joseph Kerski
As I reflect on the 2011 National Conference on Geographic Education in Portland, Oregon, five words come to mind.
Expertise. NCGE members know geography content and the discipline. Whether your specialty is soils, population, GIS, or something else, you understand the fundamental themes and tenets of geographic content, skills, and perspective. This was evident in the sessions I attended and in the conversations I had.
Enthusiasm. I would like to thank each of you who worked hard to make the 2011 conference a great success. I appreciate the time you devoted to the event and the financial sacrifice you made to be there. I heard glowing reports from participants about the field trips, papers, workshops, exhibits, awards, posters, and food. I also heard comments on the organization, friendliness, and efficiency of the NCGE staff and hotel staff and volunteers from the local arrangements committee, the Oregon Geographic Alliance, Portland State University, Texas State University, and others. The attention to every detail made a positive impact not only on the participants’ experience at the conference but also on their professional careers. Even if you were not on one of the organizing committees, your presentations, participation, and positive attitude made a difference. If we can encourage educators, especially in today’s fiscal and educational climate, we have succeeded. That is due to your enthusiasm about geography.
Tenacity. Education is not for the faint-hearted. I admire the work you are doing. You are making a difference not only in students’ lives, but throughout the education community and society. During his plenary session, Dr. Alexander Murphy’s story proved that he had to be tenacious in order to move AP Human Geography from dream to reality. We must be tenacious to move geography education into a position where it is funded, supported, respected, taught, and used throughout education and society. Nobody will do it if we don’t.
Curiosity. We are curious about all things geographic—from local community issues to global issues such as population, energy, water, and climate. Curiosity motivates us to learn, to practice what we have learned, and to teach it to others.
Teamwork. The NCGE community enables teamwork and partnerships. The partnerships we are building with the North American Association for Environmental Education, the Canadian Council for Geographic Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and others can lead to curricular, research, and professional development projects. Further, our location in Washington, D.C., will continue to build visibility and connections. NCGE is providing critically needed contributions the NSF-funded “Road Map” project that will bring much attention to our discipline. Our partnership with publisher Taylor & Francis and with our excellent journal editors has borne much fruit. Our publications, including Geographic Literacy in the United States; Geography in America’s Schools, Libraries, and Homes; the revised National Geography Standards; and others will be valued by the community and beyond. Our webinars provide professional development and new website content. Our conference follows a model that members value, and it is beginning to attract more exhibitors and others outside our community who care about geography education.
NCGE nurtures and supports excellence in teaching and learning geography in all levels and education venues. We encourage and value our members and others in the geography education community both personally and professionally, provide professional development and curricular development, conduct research, and produce scholarship about that research. NCGE partners with other organizations to make a positive impact on teaching, learning, educational research, and educational policy. Our goal is to instill in every person an understanding of geographic content, skills, and perspectives that enable wise decision making. Our expertise, enthusiasm, tenacity, curiosity, and teamwork can help make this happen.
Joseph Kerski, NCGE’s 2011 President, is an education manager with Esri in Broomfield, Colorado.