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September 29, 2006

Poverty Maps

A news item from the Earth Institute at Columbia University:

To increase awareness and promote usage of GIS-based applications in development strategies, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network and the World Bank have produced "Where the Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty," a series of maps detailing spatially referenced data on hunger, child mortality, income poverty and other related indicators at the global, regional, national and local scales.
The maps included in "Where the Poor Are" show how advances in data collection and technology can be used to put poverty-related indicators into meaningful visual context. The book includes maps on the global and continental distribution of infant mortality and hunger, the distribution of resource inequality in five sub-Saharan countries, and poverty rates in Vietnam, Nicaragua and Bolivia, to name just a few.

The excellent website at www.ciesin.org/povmap/index.html includes the maps, data sets as Excel files, and other information. As I post this, the maps seem to be down but keep an eye out for them. Judging from the sample map from the Earth Institute link (the image below) these will be very cool to look at (until you realize what you're looking at, of course. Then depression ensues). Very useful information for people doing poverty-related or other applied research.

fullinftmortalmap_africa.jpg

Posted by Will at 12:33 PM

September 24, 2006

Quote of the semester

I came across this tonight in one of my theory readings. It made me laugh:

"If the social sciences were like mathematics or physics, economists might be rich, political scientists would be elected, sociologists would be unemployed, and archaeologists would know all the answers."
--T. Price on the unpredictability of archaeological inquiry (Ch. 16 of Principles of Archaeology)

True, so true.

Posted by Will at 08:41 PM

Develop or Die

From the New York Times, depressing news from my previous neck of the woods:

Rare Woodpecker Sends a Town Running for Its Chain Saws

BOILING SPRING LAKES, N.C., Sept. 23 (AP) — Over the past six months, landowners here have been clear-cutting thousands of trees to keep them from becoming homes for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
The chain saws started in February, when the federal Fish and Wildlife Service put Boiling Spring Lakes on notice that rapid development threatened to squeeze out the woodpecker.
The agency issued a map marking 15 active woodpecker “clusters,” and announced it was working on a new one that could potentially designate whole neighborhoods of this town in southeastern North Carolina as protected habitat, subject to more-stringent building restrictions.
Hoping to beat the mapmakers, landowners swarmed City Hall to apply for lot-clearing permits. Treeless land, after all, would not need to be set aside for woodpeckers. Since February, the city has issued 368 logging permits, a vast majority without accompanying building permits.

What is the cost of development? From what I understand North Carolina has been exploding in terms of land development in the Raleigh area and now in the southeast part of the state. I remember when I was a freshman at UNC-Wilmington you could buy a lot of beachfront property at Carolina beach for a mere few hundred thousand dollars. Now many of the same lots are well over a million dollars, and that's just for the land itself. I mention this because it shows that people will pay absurd amounts of money to live in a beautiful environment. What many don't realize is that if development continues at the current pace and is left unchecked (indeed, promoted) by local governments then there won't be any beauty to enjoy anymore in North Carolina.

The situation in Boling Spring Lake is especially depressing because people are destroying the land preemptively; that is, landowners perceive a threat from the natural environment and are making sure it doesn't get in the way of any future plans they may have to further decimate one of the most ecologically diverse states in the country. I speak as someone who enjoys being among living things other than humans. But even from the uninformed point of view of the landowner who values a nice house over a nice view from that house, it makes no sense to slowly but surely chip away at their natural surroundings. The very reason they value their land in the first place is going to be the very reason that it's going to be an artificial wasteland a few decades for now. I've seen it happen firsthand in both my hometown and where I went to college and it's not a nice thing to think about.

The sad reality is that what is happening in Boling Spring Lake is perfectly legal, as evidenced by City Hall handing out hundreds of logging permits, seemingly unconcerned about long-term effects. The Fish and Wildlife Service is making it clear that development=no woodpeckers. Sure, it’s just a woodpecker whose numbers are dwindling, and it’s not really the woodpecker that I’m concerned about. It’s what the woodpecker represents that makes me sad. Humans have reached a level of unabated ignorance about the environment in exchange for big homes and even bigger cars. My hope is not that Americans return to their early history of living at one with nature (which is a myth, anyway) but that we simply turn our iPods off for a few minutes, unplug from the internet, step outside, and look around. We are literally killing our surroundings at a rapid pace yet we remain unaware of it. As with so many other issues affecting humans, education is the remedy. Learn that this earth is not here as a gift from God to us but a natural entity that we are a part of, not apart from. In terms of ecology, we are no more or less significant than a cockroach, a housefly, or a woodpecker. We each have a specific role to play and ours is not to eliminate the opportunity for other living things to carry out theirs.

Posted by Will at 01:07 PM

September 19, 2006

New Apocalypto theatrical trailer

Mel and company have released the new theatrical trailer for the upcoming Apocalypto film loosely based on the Mayan civilization. Below is a low-fi YouTube version but you can view a better quality version at the Apple website.

Posted by Will at 08:27 PM

September 18, 2006

"Maya culture 'ahead of its time'"

From BBC News:

Elaborate ritual objects and carved masks have been uncovered in the ancient ruins of a city in Guatemala.
Exploration of the 2,000-year-old site has caused archaeologists to question the established chronology of the enigmatic Maya civilisation.

Full story here.

Posted by Will at 09:15 PM

September 11, 2006

"The reason I don't dispair..."

Jon Stewart, on his first show back after 9/11/01:

Posted by Will at 09:44 PM

September 06, 2006

SAA Paper

I will be presenting a paper at the 72nd meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Austin, Texas at the end of April. The title is "The Mesoamerican 3-Dimensional Database." It is a project that I am working on with two PhD students at USF and will hopefully get off the ground in the next few months. Meanwhile, here is my abstract:

Recent advancements in 3-dimensional laser scanning, High Definition Documentation Survey, and digitization have facilitated the application of these geospatial technologies to the preservation of archaeological data. Due to the nature of ancient carved artifacts and the limitations of traditional methods, previous attempts to record and illustrate indistinct or obscure details have proven inadequate as a visualization tool. The Mesoamerican 3-Dimensional Database is an expandable electronic archive designed for researchers who wish to incorporate high-definition, 3-dimensional laser scans into their interpretations of carved stone, wood, shell, or stucco sculptures.

Posted by Will at 07:29 PM

September 01, 2006

CNN.com taken over by teenage girls?

The slowest news day EVER! Here's a screen capture from the front page of CNN.com at about 10:20pm. Never mind one of the top stories is about 007's male kiss. Guess what happened to Jessica!! Oh...my..GAWD:

cnn_front.JPG

Hence my disdain for the Mainstream Media.

Posted by Will at 10:22 PM