Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Geography Awareness Week at Ball State University Libraries November 14-20

Freshwater Map Presented for Geography Awareness Week

Geography Awareness Week is an annual celebration enacted by Congress in 1987 that encourages educational experiences that draw attention to geo-literacy and the importance of geography education. During Geography Awareness Week 2010, the National Geographic Society’s theme is learning about freshwater and how it connects to geography.

National Geographic published a map in April 2010 called World of Rivers: A New Mapping of Every River System. The Ball State University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) is displaying a copy of this map in its windows on the second floor of Bracken Library to commemorate Geography Awareness Week.

The map describes rivers and their significance in human civilization: “Rivers and lakes store less than half a percent of Earth’s fresh water, but they are the lifelines of human history—where people settled, farmed, traded, built cities, explored.” The map depicts all the major rivers of the world and their “intricacies” as smaller tributaries feed into larger rivers.

The verso of the map describes the “hidden water” consumed in the production of products. “It’s called virtual water: the amount of water used to create a product.” For example, the virtual water in meat like pigs, cattle, and chickens is the water the animals drink and the water used to grow their feed and clean their waste and process the edible end product. In order to produce one pound of beef, it takes 1,857 gallons of water.

Cotton is an example given on the map of a water-intensive crop—it takes a lot of water to transform cotton into fabric. One pair of blue jeans requires 2,900 gallons of water to produce. One cotton t-shirt takes 766 gallons of water.

National Geographic clarifies that “more important than any product’s virtual-water total is whether the region it comes from has sustainable water to grow the crop.” The challenge will be to increase water-use efficiency in the production of future products.

This map is encapsulated for convenient display and can be circulated from the GRMC for two weeks or longer. For more information about using maps for education and research, please contact the GRMC at 765-285-1097.

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