Geographic Investigation

This module contains two lessons which investigates how political boundaries, natural resources, and/or social differences influence peace and stability. Lesson 1 explores a measure of global peace and security called the Global Peace Index (GPI). This exploration will enable students to observe patterns of peacefulness and conflict among the world’s nation states and analyze related social and demographic variables. Lesson 2 provides students with an opportunity to explore conflict arising over access to limited natural resources – in this case, water. The exploration enables students to see the scope of water conflict over time and compare the extent and nature of water conflicts in different regions.

The Geographic Advantage provide a deeper understanding of links and causal relationships between political power and geographic space. A geographer may ask questions such as, “Are new spaces of geopolitical significance emerging around access to water, oil, or other resources?” or “To what extent are local or sub-national ethnic divisions undermining traditional geopolitical arrangements?”  These types of questions rely on the knowledge of geographic scientists to fully explore short- and long-term implications of political arrangements and how such arrangements can promote peace and stability. To examine these and other related questions about peace and stability, geographers draw on unique approaches and analysis known as the Geographic Advantage:

The importance of spatial variability

Relationships between people and the environment

Lesson 1: Global Peace Index Lesson 2: Natural Resources and Stability

Lesson 1: Global Peace Index

Global Peace Index

The Global Peace Index (GPI), developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranks world countries according to their peacefulness. A country’s Index number, and therefore its rank, is based on a formula that takes 23 variables into consideration. This lesson introduces and explores the multiple factors that influence peace and stability within a predefined geopolitical area.

Activity 1:  2011 Global Peace Index

The video below is an introduction to the Global Peace Index - click on the image to watch.  Watch the video in its entirety first, then watch again while pausing and replaying parts of the video to answer the questions which follow.

Note: This video is on the 2011 Global Peace Index but the activity below is on the current 2012 data. When a 2012 video is available, it will replace the 2011 version.

Global Peace Index
Source:
© Institute for Economics and Peace

As you watch the video, listen for answers to the following questions:

• What three general categories does the peace index cover?
• Which three countries have the highest peace index?
• Which three countries have the lowest peace index?
• Which indicators have shown the greatest change in recent years?
• What events of recent years have had the greatest impact on the GPI?

Activity 2:  Explore the interactive map of the Global Peace Index

Click on the image below to open the interactive Global Peace Index map. The map that you see displays the state of peace by assigning each country/nation a color according to its GPI.  Green countries are considered most at peace, while countries colored red are considered least peaceful.

Global Peace Index
Source:
© Institute for Economics and Peace

This interactive map allows you to investigate extensive data related to peace and stability. Before you answer any of the questions below, familiarize yourself with the map by doing the following:

1. Click on "About the GPI" listed on the left hand panel to see a brief explanation of the GPI.

2. Click on the words "Peace Indicators" to see a list of the 23 indicators that are used to determine the GPI. Each time you select a different indicator, the map and data display change accordingly. Notice that the ranking for that indicator is listed below the map.

3. Click on the words "Other factors" listed under the map, beside "GPI Indicators" to see a list of 30 additional indicators which are believed to be related to a country’s level of peace. Again, each time you select a different indicator, the map and data display change accordingly and the ranking is displayed below the map.

4. Examine the timeline tool (2007-2012) above the map. Click the PLAY arrow to see an animation of the changes from 2007 to 2012.

5. Hover your cursor over Canada, Mexico, and USA, neighbors in North America, to see a pop-up of the country name and GPI rank compared to 153 countries.

6. Select a country from the drop down menu from "Select a country..." below the map.

Map interpretation questions using 2012 Global Peace Index

1. Which continent/s have the greatest number of countries with a GPI in the red zone – 2.4 or higher?

2. Which country ranks highest in secondary school enrollment – which ranks the lowest?

4. What changes can you see in the GPI for countries in North America from 2007 to 2012?

5. Compare the GPI of the following countries: Argentina, Austria, Chad, Costa Rica, Japan, Kenya, Turkey, and the United States. Which of these countries has the highest GPI? Which one has the highest life expectancy?

Lesson summary

The Global Peace Index measures internal as well as external struggles that may impact a nation's peacefulness. Since 2007, the world as a whole has become less peaceful, with some countries improving while others measuring poorly. This lesson explored a measure of a country’s relative peacefulness called the Global Peace Index (GPI). Students used the Index to explore correlations with other indicators and to observe change in GPI over time. Lesson 2 examines one natural resource - water - and its role in international peacefulness and stability.

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Lesson 2: Natural Resources and Stability

Natural Resources and Stability

This lesson focuses on how access to a natural resource can promote geopolitical instability. Environmental circumstances and resource availability can have an impact on patterns of conflict and cooperation.  Yet these factors do not operate in isolation from other political, economic, and social forces.  Environmental and social stability foster peace while the combination of rapid environmental change and shifting resource demands can foster instability. In this lesson you will investigate situations in which control of water resources is at the root of geopolitical tensions.

Activity 1: Watch a video about water

The Good: Water video is an introduction to many of the issues related to world water resources.  Watch the video in its entirety first, then watch again while pausing and replaying parts of the video to answer the questions which follow.

As you watch the video, listen for answers to the following questions:

• If the world’s water supply were poured into a bucket, how much would be drinkable?
• What fraction of the world’s population does not have access to safe water?
• How many people die each minute, worldwide, from water-related disease?
• How much water does the average person in North America use every day? How does that compare to use in Europe? In developing countries?
• How will the global water supply be affected by population growth in the future?

Activity 2:  Explore the Water Conflict Chronology Map

Click on the image below to open the Pacific Institute Water Conflict Chronology Map. The map that you see displays 225 water conflicts that have occurred in the past 2000 years or more.

Historical and Current Conflicts based on Water
Source:
© Pacific Institute

This interactive map allows you to investigate the location, type, and dates of the 225 water conflicts that you see. Before you answer any of the questions below, familiarize yourself with the map by doing the following:

1. Click the dropdown menu next to the word Region and explore the distribution of water conflicts in each region.

2. Click the dropdown menu next to the words Conflict Type and select one of the conflict types in the list. The following are definitions for each conflict type:

Military Tool (state actors): where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation or state as a weapon during a military action.
Political Tool (state and non-state actors): where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation, state, or non-state actor for a political goal.
Terrorism (non-state actors): where water resources, or water systems, are either targets or tools of violence or coercion by non-state actors.
Military Target (state actors): where water resource systems are targets of military actions by nations or states.
Development Disputes (state and non-state actors): where water resources or water systems are a major source of contention and dispute in the context of economic and social development.

3. Click the dropdown menu next to the words Date Range and select one of the periods shown.

Map interpretation questions

1. In the period between 1900 and 1949, where did Development Disputes occur in North America?

2. In the period 2000-present, how many acts of terrorism related to water occurred in Asia?

3. In the period 1950-1974, how many conflicts categorized as “Military Tool” took place worldwide? How many occurred in each region during that period?

Lesson summary

Water is a resource that is not evenly distributed on Earth and not equally accessible by all. Differences in water usage between countries is staggering, with some populations using 1.3 gallons of water in ONE DAY, equivalent to the volume of water a low-flush toilet uses for a one-time flush. These stark differences in water consumption and other resources may put to question our future peace and stability. Students explored the potential for tensions over access to a natural resource – water – to foster instability and undermine peace in a region and among nation states. They used the Water Chronology Conflict Map to identify recent and present global conflicts over water.

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The importance of spatial variability

Geographers know and understand the importance of spatial variability and the place-dependence of processes. Eight of the modules include this geographic advantage as a focus in the geographic investigation.

Relationships between people and the environment

Our planet as well as the people who live on it are constantly changing. Identifying and understanding relationships between people and the environment are critical to designing a sustainable future. This critical aspect is reflected in the fact that 10 of the 11 modules include this geographic advantage as a focus in the geographic investigation.

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