Browsing Tag: geography

    Amtrakโ€™s Grand Plan for Profitability
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    Amtrakโ€™s Grand Plan for Profitability

    December 4, 2019

    This video was made possible by Away. Get the perfect suitcase for $20 off by going
    to and using the promo code, “wendover20.” On July 12, 2017, Amtrak got a new CEO. The American government-owned railroad company
    would now be helmed by Richard Anderson. Anderson was no stranger to the American transport
    industry. He had previously worked for nine years as
    the CEO of Delta Airlines—leading it from bankruptcy to prosperity. This job, of turning around a struggling company,
    is rarely a popular one. It requires making difficult decisions that
    plenty will not agree with, but it’s a job that some leaders have a knack for. Having succeeded with this at Delta, there
    was at least some evidence that Richard Anderson could complete the same task elsewhere. That’s why he was brought to Amtrak. Amtrak is certainly a company in need of turnaround. While it is government owned, it is intended
    to operate as a for-profit company. Despite that, however, it has never turned
    a profit since its inception in 1971. Each year, the difference between what it
    makes from running its trains and what it costs to run those trains is made up by government
    subsidies, grants, and debt. The company’s primary purpose, beyond making
    money, is, of course, to carry passengers, and they don’t even do that all that well. In 2018, only 73% of their trains arrived
    on time. In the case of their long-distance trains,
    just 43% got to their destination on time. In fairness, the majority of the company’s
    delays are the fault of the freight rail companies that own the tracks that carry their trains,
    but still, it’s sure that the company could use some work. So, Richard Anderson has been getting to work. To understand how Amtrak works as a company,
    you have to understand the types of trains it operates. There are essentially three categories. The first are the Northeast Corridor trains. This route, connecting Boston, New York, DC,
    and a number of smaller cities up and down the east coast, is operated by both higher
    speed Acela and slower Northeast Regional trains, and overall, the Northeast Corridor
    is by far Amtrak’s most profitable route. The slower, regional trains they operate earn
    them a profit of almost $25 per passenger. On the higher-speed Acela, they profit more
    than $80 per passenger. Without this route, Amtrak would be in a far
    poorer financial state. The second type of trains are the state-supported
    ones. Essentially, what these are are shorter routes
    supported by the subsidies offered by state governments. Every single short-distance train outside
    the northeast corridor is state-supported, and this type includes routes like Charlotte
    to Raleigh, North Carolina; Chicago to Quincy, Illinois; or Vancouver, Canada to Portland,
    Oregon. These routes range in profitability. The DC to Lynchburg train, for example, earns
    the company almost $40 in profit per passenger. Meanwhile, the Fort Worth, Texas, to Oklahoma
    City, Oklahoma one loses more than $30 per passenger. Overall, though, the state-supported routes
    as a grouping are unprofitable, but not by that much. They are somewhat close to break-even. The third type of trains is the long-distance
    ones. Ranging from 13 hours to 65, these routes
    connect big cities to small towns all across the US. Many of these routes have storied histories
    and strong fanbases of those who prefer the more relaxed method of travel, however, these
    routes certainly do not help Amtrak’s financial performance. Every single one of Amtrak’s long-distance
    routes lose money. How much money they lose ranges anywhere from
    $12 per passenger in the case of the Palmetto between New York City and Savannah, Georgia
    all the way to $456 per passenger in the case of the Sunset Limited from New Orleans, Louisiana
    to Los Angeles. Overall, Amtrak loses more than a half billion
    dollars a year operating these long-distance routes. Part of what makes Richard Anderson the perfect
    figure to turn around Amtrak is that he does not care about trains. That’s to say, he has no sense of sentimentality
    about the history or the grandeur or the allure of particular storied routes. His passion is for profitability and that’s
    his goal, seemingly no matter the cost. Therefore, three core parts to Anderson’s
    Amtrak plan have emerged—expanding the Northeast Corridor services, optimizing the state-supported
    services, and cutting back the long-distance services. Starting with the Northeast Corridor, this
    is clearly Amtrak’s greatest asset. The company owns most of the tracks between
    DC and Boston meaning that they don’t run into the same problems of using freight railroad’s
    tracks like with almost all their other services. This means they can run these services relatively
    reliably, and therefore have a clear advantage over planes or buses when traveling between
    New York and DC or Boston. Consequently, they have cornered the market
    between Boston, New York, and DC. The first part of Amtrak’s plan to double-down
    on this route was initiated before Anderson even joined the company. Amtrak is receiving new, faster, and larger
    train sets for their higher-speed Acela Express service on the route in 2021. With the introduction of these, Amtrak has
    teased plans to create four tiers of transport for the corridor. The lowest would be a new, local train operating
    all the way from Richmond, Virginia to Portland, Maine making most all stops along the way. This idea for this sort of, “super-local,”
    train would be to connect additional smaller communities to the Amtrak Network, as this
    service could be used to connect to other higher-speed trains. The next tier up would be the existing Northeast
    Regional service, operating between Boston and DC, with some continuing on into Virginia. Above that would be the current Acela Express,
    operating limited-stop service between Boston and DC, then above that would be new, nonstop
    services from DC and Boston to New York. The company launched the first of these in
    September, 2019, with a travel time of 2 hours and 35 minutes—shaving about 15 minutes
    off the travel time of the stopping Acelas. In the future, the addition of nonstop services
    from Boston and additional frequencies from DC will cement this as the most premium option
    in the Northeast Corridor, and the idea is that these four tiered options together will
    help capture more of every customer segment—thereby squeezing more revenue out of Amtrak’s most
    profitable route. The fact that some of Amtrak’s state-supported
    trains break even is a fantastic sign because it means, with optimization, that Amtrak can
    turn this grouping profitable. Anderson has made noise about expanding Amtrak’s
    short-distance network across the US. The company has not announced any specific
    new routes as part of a major short-distance expansion, but it’s clear that there are
    opportunities. Trains tend to be competitive in time and
    cost to flights under a distance of about 300 miles or 500 kilometers. That means there are plenty of likely profitable
    routes that Amtrak could set up, like Dallas to Houston or Los Angeles to Las Vegas. While it’s unlikely that Amtrak would set
    up any additional short-distance routes without state funding, the company does have potential
    future competition. Two private companies are fairly serious about
    starting up high-speed train service on these routes. Between Dallas and Houston, a company called
    Texas Central Railway is months away from starting construction on a high-speed line
    connecting the cities in just 90 minutes. Elsewhere, Virgin Trains USA—the company
    that owns what is currently the only privately-owned inter-city railroad in the US between Miami,
    Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach—recently acquired a company that had begun planning
    and permitting work for a Los Angeles area to Las Vegas high-speed line, and is looking
    to start construction in 2020. If these projects are completed, which seems
    quite possible, two of Amtrak’s most potentially profitable routes would be snapped up and,
    if successful, it would open the door to future private rail projects in the US. While significant rail investment and development
    would no doubt prove quite beneficial for the country and help solve many of its transport
    problems, to Amtrak, it would get in the way of their ability to cherry-pick the most profitable
    short-haul routes in order to offset the loss of long-distance routes. That brings us to those long-distance routes. This is where things get tricky for Amtrak. As a publicly-owned company enjoying quite
    sizable amounts of public funding, Amtrak relies on keeping in the good graces of the
    US Congress. Their long-distance routes pass through more
    than 40 states and cutting them would be politically unpopular anywhere. Not only do they serve as economic stimulus
    by providing jobs to rural areas, but many of the company’s 500 stops represent the
    only public transport link to the outside world from the small towns they’re in. Congresspeople are well aware that the loss
    of a route that their constituents use would not help with their popularity. At the very same time, Congress has been putting
    the pressure on Amtrak to cut its losses, even though the very thing loosing all their
    money are these long-distance routes. Therefore, for now, the company has started
    making efforts to cut cost on these trains. As one example, they’ve started to move
    their long-distance trains away from serving fresh meals from their onboard kitchen towards
    stocking pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods. This, undoubtably, did not go down well with
    Amtrak loyalists, but the whole long-distance mess gets even messier. The company has been accused of, essentially,
    misleading accounting practices. This would presumably be in order to make
    the long-distance routes seem like bigger money losers than they truly are in order
    to help the case for their discontinuation. The company attributes different costs to
    different lines to give a sense of which make money and which don’t, but this isn’t
    always done well. For example, it apparently cost $3 million
    a year to maintain the company’s electric train equipment outside the northeast corridor
    even though, aside from a small branch line to Harrisburg, there are no Amtrak electric
    train routes outside the northeast corridor—only diesel. It also attributed all the cost of its baggage
    handling services to its long-distance trains, even though these are used on many short-distance
    services as well. The biggest highlight of their cost attribution,
    though, is what they marked down as the cost they bore for their station in Miami—the
    terminus of some of the long-distance routes—to be cleaned of snow. The last time it snowed anywhere close to
    Miami was 1977. What’s likely to happen, in the near future,
    is that Amtrak will cut the most egregious losers in its long-distance portfolio while
    keeping those that are closer to break-even in order to appease Congress. The termination of any route would be a huge
    loss to many. They each provide hundreds or thousands of
    jobs and connect many of the country’s smallest towns to bigger cities, but its likely a necessity
    given the pressure from DC. The new leader of Amtrak, Richard Anderson,
    has, though, helped lead the company towards the goal that long seemed impossible. In the company’s last fiscal year, it lost
    just $30 million. In Amtrak terms, that is nothing, and it puts
    them on track to break-even in 2020—an achievement that the company has never reached since its
    inception 50 years ago. This will occur during what is clearly a time
    of great change for Amtrak. It is reinventing itself at the beginning
    of a period of reinvention for the American rail industry as a whole. What many are worried about, though, is that
    it and the Congresspeople behind it will forget the difference between a private company and
    a government-owned one. If Amtrak was a true for-profit company, it
    would have long ago made the quite easy decision to cut every single long-distance route. Doing so would immediately turn them into
    a quite profitable corporation, but the company’s purpose is to connect America, and there’s
    a whole lot more to America than a four-hour radius around the largest cities. Anyone who’s travelled a lot, and possibly
    experienced the ups and downs of Amtrak, knows that not all suitcases are created equal. You can get really cheap and flimsy suitcases
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    What if there was an EARTH METRO RAIL? (Geography Now!)
    Articles, Blog

    What if there was an EARTH METRO RAIL? (Geography Now!)

    September 6, 2019

    This episode is brought to you by the Great Courses plus Hey, geogrphy peeps, so I got another little topic for you guys to pontificate. I recently came across this image by Chris Gray from West Yorkshire, depicting his vision for a global metro system. It looks amazing, it has hundreds of different stations on 20 different lines, each reaching a different region of the planet – and it kind of got my gears spinning. First of all I Love trains. I love metro systems. They totally beat traffic. You know at first glance this picture You know it looks kind of fun yet a little far-fetched considering that a lot of the lines traverse what seems like impossible boundaries and the entire Pacific Ocean But what if. What would it take to make this a reality? Well first of all this map misses a few countries. Especially in oceania and the Caribbean and it doesn’t go to antarctica, but that’s okay. We can make that happen later. First of all there’s a few things you have to consider. If we were to literally connect every single continent on the planet it would take a lot of time energy and resources to an extent that the world has never seen before also It might be wise to make a lot of these trains hyper loops as to cut down the travel time with long distances which would also allow more people to travel. Now the first thing you would have to consider would be diplomacy and permission on which areas to build. If we were to connect North and South America, it’s unlikely that panama would open up the darién gap due to the indigenous tribes that refused to build on their land so we might have to build over the ocean into Colombia. That one section of land if it would just open up! Also keep in mind that unless if some kind of miracle Agreement was made it is most likely that people going to armenia would only be allowed to board a North-South train Line going through Georgia and Iran Due to the closed-off borders between turkey and Azerbaijan. Maybe North Korea would allow a train going in through either China or Vladivostok in Russia But I highly doubt there would be a simple Stopover between them and Seoul South Korea that means that if Chinese people want to visit South Korea they would either have to build a really long sea crossing line from the shandong peninsula to incheon or they would have to take a line through Taiwan and the yeah Yama and Okinawa Prefecture island up to Kyushu and then across to Busan and you get a lot of strange scenarios like that all over. I mean there’s that weird strange thing between Algeria and Morocco Ukraine and Russia Iraq and Uzbekistan are just a nightmare and unless you have the right Visa Belarus would probably just kick you out which brings us to the next part I really like the tactic that this guy had for transatlantic oceanic lines for North America He connected Canada to greenland to Iceland to scotland utilizing maximum land crossings at the shortest distance But with South America for some reason he decided to connect Belém brazil with Conakry guinea I don’t know exactly why he chose those cities for me a more reasonable route might be for Stella – maybe Dakar senegal or if You want minimal distance maybe in that tall – Freetown Sierra leone with a quick stopover in Ela Fernando? De Noronha off the coast to cross the pacific Of course Hawaii would have to be like the main central hub and then from there You could go to either kid or bus or the marshall Islands or hey? Why not both? It’s our imaginations We can do whatever we want. No rules up here. Yeah now if this map did go to antarctica I would suggest extending the purple America Line to Tierra Del Fuego Somehow traversing the Impossible Patagonia Glaciers and somehow without dying during the construction process reaching King George Island and from there It’s just a bunch of quick island hops until you hit gram land on the antarctic Peninsula and just be mindful building the train on Solid ground and not an unstable ice shelf and there you go now the big question what are all of the factors Elements and variables that would have to go into the mix to make this become a reality well the answer is Insanity now one thing we can consider to alleviate some of the cost is using some of the train lines We already have so that we don’t have to build a new one now I counted and it seems like with the exception of some train lines in North America Europe Russia China, India and Australia most of these lines actually don’t exist. So let’s assume We’re funding maybe about 75% of all these train lines That’s still a lot each line might cost differently based off of the terrain or ease of transport for material it would be a lot easier to transport materials over the flat plains of Russia rather than the middle of the ocean by Fiji also Are you passing through a row area or through a city because it costs more to build underneath the city then you have to consider? The Labor Force how many people are well equipped with the proper training to construct such a project how long would it take to invest? In the training of people who aren’t also you have to consider the hiring of people to mine the raw? Materials to bring to the factories to shape and mold into the train tracks and the trains themselves And how many people would it take and then you have to consider wages people in different countries get paid different wages and the oceanic Lines especially ones crossing the Pacific would probably cost the most they would probably have to be hyperloop due to the incredibly long Distances and they would have to be very strong and solid due to the fact that you know it’s the Pacific Ocean there’s cyclones There’s crazy things happening all the time They gotta be Solid oh and also consider that a transoceanic train has never been done before which by the way if you didn’t know there actually are Some hyperloop companies out there like hyperloop one or trans Pod that are in the alpha Stages of capital fundraising and researching It’s so cool. Look it up I did the math and factoring absolutely everything I could possibly think of into this whole equation I came around a number somewhere around either 65 to 94 Trillion dollars although it could be a lot more based off of so many factors that I missed out on in the end We live in a time in which air travel is the preferred method of long distance Journeys however Is that really the best way and is it the most efficient is it possible that ground? Transportation and hyperloop technology could bring us into a brand new era of unimaginable global possibility. What do you think it? What do you think about a global metro system? What destinations would you like to see being built I personally think a West Coast, California La to the Polynesian Islands train line would be the coolest thing ever and with that being said I have three very important announcements You’re going to want to listen to at least one of them the first thing that the great courses plus contacted us And they want to sponsor geography now again wahoo for those of you that don’t know the great courses plus is a website with over 7,000 online courses from all across the academic spectrum taught by highly accredited Professors and professionals many ivy league trains they have classes and so many different things like science weightlifting chess art There’s a really cool course called inventions that change the world by professor w bernard Carlsen I recommend it right now They are offering a free one-month trial Or if you really like it you can even sign up and join for a plan at really good rates All you have to do is go to this website here the great courses plus comm slash geography Or you can click on the link in my description. Thanks great courses plus you guys are always there for me You guys rock my next announcement Is that the heritage trip is? Completely funded and ready to go and happen in October with me and my mom thanks to Patreon Patrons I was able to buy the flight tickets and have a side budget for other things like trains and food you made it happen So thank you so much patreon patrons and finally my last Announcement as you know august is upon us which means the school year will soon begin for all students which means I want to visit your school earlier this year I got to visit the cool kids at Centennial High School in Corona, California And now it’s time to see more after the heritage trip in October I want to have a geography bee at your school as of right now I can only travel in North America as I’ll be using my own money to fund the travel cost for me Brandon and ken it’s A little outside of my budget to travel outside of the continent So maybe in the future of geography now gets bigger But right now I can only travel within North America and for sure I have to visit at least one place in Canada I promise you kentucky’s that I would visit before this year is over because I got to celebrate with your 150th anniversary I will be holding a contest and whichever schools win. I will visit details will come next week, so stay tuned in the meantime Thank you for watching this video. I hope you got something out of it subscribe if you want and a stay cool stay tuned

    The Rise of ETHIOPIA and its GEOPOLITICAL challenges – KJ VIDS
    Articles, Blog

    The Rise of ETHIOPIA and its GEOPOLITICAL challenges – KJ VIDS

    September 1, 2019

    (popping music) – [Kasim] Ethiopia is an emerging economy and the Horn of Africa’s power hub. But in spite of its
    considerable potential, it also has to face significant
    challenges to its rise. Depending on how it copes with them, Ethiopia could either become
    a leader of African progress or another fragmented
    state torn by conflict. I’m your host Kasim and
    thanks for joining me for another KJ Vid. In this video, we will discuss
    the geopolitics of Ethiopia. Just before we start, we are pleased to announce that we now provide geopolitical news and forecasts as well as analysis. You can access our content on and subscribe to one of our plans. We have left a 50% discount link in the description for all
    our YouTube subscribers. Ethiopia is a rather large country located in the Horn of Africa region. It extends for 1.13
    million square kilometres and its territory is
    largely made of highlands and plateaus that occupy
    its central-western part. The capital, Addis
    Ababa, lies at the centre of Ethiopia in the heart of its highlands. The mountain ranges are separated
    by the Great Rift Valley, which runs from the
    south-west to the north east. Yet, there are also some plains. To the north, the Danakil Depression runs along the eastern part of
    the border with Eritrea. To the south-east, the land descends into the arid Somalian
    plateau and the Ogaden Desert that mark the border with Somalia. This difficult terrain
    configuration complicates transport and communication in Ethiopia. However, the great geographic challenge for Ethiopia is its position. Firstly, it is a landlocked country, and this hinders its economic development. Ethiopia can of course reach
    the sea via its northern and eastern neighbours, but this is not an easy solution. To the east, Somalia
    is a failed state torn by fragmentation, poverty and conflict. Northwards, a war was fought with Eritrea over a territory dispute,
    and years of tense relations have denied Ethiopia the
    access to the Red Sea. Only a recent agreement
    has reopened the border, thus paving the way to better ties. However, there are doubts
    over the tenure of the deal, as the border has been closed again by Eritrean authorities in April. As such, Djibouti has been
    Ethiopia’s only access to the sea for a long time, to the point that its ports handle 95% of Ethiopia’s foreign trade. To secure its access to the sea the Ethiopian government acquired
    stakes in Djibouti’s ports and built a railway
    connecting the two countries. Yet, there is strong foreign
    competition in Djibouti, as many other states are present in economic and even military terms, the country hosts US, Chinese,
    Japanese and French forces. Another problem related
    to Ethiopia’s position is that it is surrounded
    by fragile neighbours. Somalia is the most prominent case, but even Eritrea and
    Djibouti do not perform well in terms of stability, especially Eritrea. The state of affairs to the
    west are also complicated. Sudan and South Sudan
    are two other weak states where armed conflict is common, notably in the case of South Sudan. The situation is better only to the south, where Kenya enjoys relative
    peace and prosperity. Such instability from
    its fragile neighbours could spill over to Ethiopia, also because it is socially
    fragmented state itself. Ethiopia’s growing population counts around 109 million people,
    most of whom are young, and is divided along
    ethnic and religious lines. In regards to religion,
    43.5% of the population was Ethiopian Orthodox in 2007, while 34% were Muslims
    and 18.5% Protestants. Other minor faiths were also present. But the most significant
    differences are ethnic-related. The most important groups
    are the Oromo and Amhara, representing respectively
    34.4% and 27% of the total. These are followed by the
    Somalis and the Tigray, who both count for a bit more than 6%, and many more groups also exist. This ethnic fragmentation
    is a cause of tensions in Ethiopian politics. As a matter of fact, the Oromo and Amhara, in spite of being the majoritarian groups, are politically and
    economically marginalised. By contrast, the Tigray minority holds much wealth and power. It dominates the ruling
    government coalition, called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, and this creates resentment
    among the other larger groups. Contrasts between them
    is a prominent feature in current Ethiopian politics, as the recent events demonstrate. An army officer belonging to
    the Amhara attempted a coup in the north. He was known for his ethnic nationalism, demanding greater autonomy
    and even calling the Amharas to take up arms. The coup failed and he was killed. Two officers who opposed
    him also lost their lives. They belonged to the Tigrays, many of whom blame the
    government for the death of the two officers even though incumbent Prime Minister
    Abiy Ahmed mourned them. He is of mixed Oromo and Amhara ancestry, but is politically
    affiliated with the Oromos. This shows the complexity
    of Ethiopia’s political life and the tensions existing
    within its society. Yet, the country must also
    cope with other issues. Like many emerging countries,
    Ethiopia is in the middle of a transition phase. It experienced double-digits
    growth for most of the 2000s and in 2018 its GDP grew
    of 7.7% in real terms, reaching more than $84 billion. Income inequality is low, but unfortunately this
    is because large swathes of its population live in poverty. In 2014 almost 30% of the population lived below the poverty line. Agriculture remains a
    central economic sector, representing almost 35% of the GDP and absorbing close to
    73% of the workforce. Inflation is high, reaching almost 10%. The government runs a deficit
    of more than 3% of the GDP, but the public debt is
    currently relatively low at 54% of the economy’s size. In terms of trade, Ethiopia
    experiences a negative balance of around $6 billion. Its main export destinations
    are European countries, but also China and the US, while its imports comes
    primarily from China and Europe, with India being another
    important partner. This indicates that the status of Ethiopia’s economy is mixed. Its industrialization process
    is still in the early stages, and it does not enjoy the
    positive trade balance that allow other emerging
    countries to develop. Its economy is growing fast, but at the moment many
    people still live in poverty and their living conditions
    remain difficult. Droughts and livestock mortality
    can result into famine, and poor sanitary conditions
    favour the spread of disease. These problems could
    be further exacerbated by climate change, whose effects
    will be particularly marked in the Horn of Africa. According to estimates, Ethiopia’s GDP will be reduced of up to 10%
    due to climate change by 2045. Water scarcity will become more common as the region gets warmer, thus damaging crops and livestock. Pests and diseases will also spread. As a consequence, Ethiopia’s food security will be severely threatened, together with the health of its people. The effects of climate
    change are already visible. A recent USAID report
    shows that in 2016 Ethiopia was struck by the worst
    drought in 50 years. Around 8.5 million people requested emergency food assistance
    for a total value of $1.4 billion. Ethiopia hosted 730,000 refugees
    from neighbouring countries in 2017 plus 1.3 million
    internally displaced persons, many of whom belong to
    the Somali minority. More than half of them
    had fled the conflict in the Oromia and Somali regions, which are those that are projected to suffer the most from climate change. In other terms, food insecurity is already sparking conflict, and the situation will probably
    worsen in the coming years, also because of the population growth. In a country marked by ethnic tension, this could further exacerbate conflict with destabilising effects for a region that already experiences
    significant turmoil. The Horn of Africa is located on the important Bab el-Mandeb Strait which connects the Indian
    Ocean to the Red Sea. Along with Suez, it is the crossroad for trade between Europe and Asia, meaning it is one of the economically most relevant
    chokepoints in the world. Maritime trade in the area is threatened by pirates operating from Somalia. Piracy is itself a complex
    issue strictly linked to the poor conditions of that state, and has triggered a
    multinational patrol operation to ensure the safety of cargo ships. In addition, the region is
    also a hub for armed groups, notably the Islamists
    Al-Shabab based in Somalia. They perform terrorist
    attacks inside the country and across the borders, and are considered a regional threat. Piracy and armed factions are the factors explaining the presence of foreign military forces in Djibouti. It is therefore important
    to keep Ethiopia stable. If such a population country
    becomes a failed state, an already troublesome region would become even more unstable, and this would also increase the flow of migrants towards Europe. But there are also other issues. The source of many of the region’s rivers is located in the Ethiopian highlands. Among them, the most important
    is surely the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile in
    Sudan to form the Nile proper. Any activity that Ethiopia
    conducts on the river’s course would have deep consequences
    on the downstream states. Egypt is particularly concerned,
    it depends on the Nile, and the water flow along
    the river is a major point of contention between the two countries, especially since Ethiopia began building the Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011. As such it is possible
    that conflicts over water will arise as the region
    becomes more arid. Finally, Ethiopia is an
    ambitious geopolitical actor. It wants to become the main
    power in the Horn of Africa and expand its influence
    beyond the region. Even though it is a landlocked country, last year it announced
    plans to build a navy, but the move is not regarded as credible. Most importantly, Ethiopia’s ability to play a greater
    international role depends on its success in tackling
    the numerous challenges it is facing, notably
    poverty, climate change and regional instability. This will not be easy, and Ethiopia must be
    careful not to aim too high if it wants to avoid becoming
    another failed state. That’s all for today, guys. Thanks for watching another KJ Vid. We hope you enjoyed the video and would love to hear your
    thoughts in the comments below especially if you’re from Ethiopia. Please don’t forget to visit and subscribe to one of our plans so that you can access
    our geopolitical news, analysis, and forecasts. We have also left a 50% discount link in the description below. Thanks for watching again
    and see you next time.

    James Kunstler: How bad architecture wrecked cities
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    James Kunstler: How bad architecture wrecked cities

    August 30, 2019

    The immersive ugliness of our everyday environments in America is entropy made visible. We can’t overestimate the amount of despair that we are generating with places like this. And mostly, I want to persuade you that we have to do better if we’re going to continue the project of civilization in America. By the way, this doesn’t help. Nobody’s having a better day down here because of that. There are a lot of ways you can describe this. You know, I like to call it “the national automobile slum.” You can call it suburban sprawl. I think it’s appropriate to call it the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. You can call it a technosis externality clusterfuck. And it’s a tremendous problem for us. The outstanding — the salient problem about this for us is that these are places that are not worth caring about. We’re going to talk about that some more. A sense of place: your ability to create places that are meaningful and places of quality and character depends entirely on your ability to define space with buildings, and to employ the vocabularies, grammars, syntaxes, rhythms and patterns of architecture in order to inform us who we are. The public realm in America has two roles: it is the dwelling place of our civilization and our civic life, and it is the physical manifestation of the common good. And when you degrade the public realm, you will automatically degrade the quality of your civic life and the character of all the enactments of your public life and communal life that take place there. The public realm comes mostly in the form of the street in America because we don’t have the 1,000-year-old cathedral plazas and market squares of older cultures. And your ability to define space and to create places that are worth caring about all comes from a body of culture that we call the culture of civic design. This is a body of knowledge, method, skill and principle that we threw in the garbage after World War II and decided we don’t need that anymore; we’re not going to use it. And consequently, we can see the result all around us. The public realm has to inform us not only where we are geographically, but it has to inform us where we are in our culture. Where we’ve come from, what kind of people we are, and it needs to, by doing that, it needs to afford us a glimpse to where we’re going in order to allow us to dwell in a hopeful present. And if there is one tremendous — if there is one great catastrophe about the places that we’ve built, the human environments we’ve made for ourselves in the last 50 years, it is that it has deprived us of the ability to live in a hopeful present. The environments we are living in, more typically, are like these. You know, this happens to be the asteroid belt of architectural garbage two miles north of my town. And remember, to create a place of character and quality, you have to be able to define space. So how is that being accomplished here? If you stand on the apron of the Wal-Mart over here and try to look at the Target store over here, you can’t see it because of the curvature of the Earth. (Laughter) That’s nature’s way of telling you that you’re doing a poor job of defining space. Consequently, these will be places that nobody wants to be in. These will be places that are not worth caring about. We have about, you know, 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States today. When we have enough of them, we’re going to have a nation that’s not worth defending. And I want you to think about that when you think about those young men and women who are over in places like Iraq, spilling their blood in the sand, and ask yourself, “What is their last thought of home?” I hope it’s not the curb cut between the Chuck E. Cheese and the Target store because that’s not good enough for Americans to be spilling their blood for. (Applause) We need better places in this country. Public space. This is a good public space. It’s a place worth caring about. It’s well defined. It is emphatically an outdoor public room. It has something that is terribly important — it has what’s called an active and permeable membrane around the edge. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s got shops, bars, bistros, destinations — things go in and out of it. It’s permeable. The beer goes in and out, the waitresses go in and out, and that activates the center of this place and makes it a place that people want to hang out in. You know, in these places in other cultures, people just go there voluntarily because they like them. We don’t have to have a craft fair here to get people to come here. (Laughter) You know, you don’t have to have a Kwanzaa festival. People just go because it’s pleasurable to be there. But this is how we do it in the United States. Probably the most significant public space failure in America, designed by the leading architects of the day, Harry Cobb and I.M. Pei: Boston City Hall Plaza. A public place so dismal that the winos don’t even want to go there. (Laughter) And we can’t fix it because I.M. Pei’s still alive, and every year Harvard and M.I.T. have a joint committee to repair it. And every year they fail to because they don’t want to hurt I.M. Pei’s feelings. This is the other side of the building. This was the winner of an international design award in, I think, 1966, something like that. It wasn’t Pei and Cobb, another firm designed this, but there’s not enough Prozac in the world to make people feel OK about going down this block. This is the back of Boston City Hall, the most important, you know, significant civic building in Albany — excuse me — in Boston. And what is the message that is coming, what are the vocabularies and grammars that are coming, from this building and how is it informing us about who we are? This, in fact, would be a better building if we put mosaic portraits of Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and all the other great despots of the 20th century on the side of the building, because then we’d honestly be saying what the building is really communicating to us. You know, that it’s a despotic building; it wants us to feel like termites. (Laughter) This is it on a smaller scale: the back of the civic center in my town, Saratoga Springs, New York. By the way, when I showed this slide to a group of Kiwanians in my town, they all rose in indignation from their creamed chicken, (Laughter) and they shouted at me and said, “It was raining that day when you took that picture!” Because this was perceived to be a weather problem. (Laughter) You know, this is a building designed like a DVD player. (Laughter) Audio jack, power supply — and look, you know these things are important architectural jobs for firms, right? You know, we hire firms to design these things. You can see exactly what went on, three o’clock in the morning at the design meeting. You know, eight hours before deadline, four architects trying to get this building in on time, right? And they’re sitting there at the long boardroom table with all the drawings, and the renderings, and all the Chinese food caskets are lying on the table, and — I mean, what was the conversation that was going on there? (Laughter) Because you know what the last word was, what the last sentence was of that meeting. It was: “Fuck it.” (Laughter) (Applause) That — that is the message of this form of architecture. The message is: We don’t give a fuck! We don’t give a fuck. So I went back on the nicest day of the year, just to — you know — do some reality testing, and in fact, he will not even go down there because (Laughter) it’s not interesting enough for his clients, you know, the burglars, the muggers. It’s not civically rich enough for them to go down there. OK. The pattern of Main Street USA — in fact, this pattern of building downtown blocks, all over the world, is fairly universal. It’s not that complicated: buildings more than one story high, built out to the sidewalk edge, so that people who are, you know, all kinds of people can get into the building. Other activities are allowed to occur upstairs, you know, apartments, offices, and so on. You make provision for this activity called shopping on the ground floor. They haven’t learned that in Monterey. If you go out to the corner right at the main intersection right in front of this conference center, you’ll see an intersection with four blank walls on every corner. It’s really incredible. Anyway, this is how you compose and assemble a downtown business building, and this is what happened when in Glens Falls, New York, when we tried to do it again, where it was missing, right? So the first thing they do is they pop up the retail a half a story above grade to make it sporty. OK. That completely destroys the relationship between the business and the sidewalk, where the theoretical pedestrians are. (Laughter) Of course, they’ll never be there, as long as this is in that condition. Then because the relationship between the retail is destroyed, we pop a handicapped ramp on that, and then to make ourselves feel better, we put a nature Band-Aid in front of it. And that’s how we do it. I call them “nature Band-Aids” because there’s a general idea in America that the remedy for mutilated urbanism is nature. And in fact, the remedy for wounded and mutilated urbanism is good urbanism, good buildings. Not just flower beds, not just cartoons of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. You know, that’s not good enough. We have to do good buildings. The street trees have really four jobs to do and that’s it: To spatially denote the pedestrian realm, to protect the pedestrians from the vehicles in the carriageway, to filter the sunlight onto the sidewalk, and to soften the hardscape of the buildings and to create a ceiling — a vaulted ceiling — over the street, at its best. And that’s it. Those are the four jobs of the street trees. They’re not supposed to be a cartoon of the North Woods; they’re not supposed to be a set for “The Last of the Mohicans.” You know, one of the problems with the fiasco of suburbia is that it destroyed our understanding of the distinction between the country and the town, between the urban and the rural. They’re not the same thing. And we’re not going to cure the problems of the urban by dragging the country into the city, which is what a lot of us are trying to do all the time. Here you see it on a small scale — the mothership has landed, R2-D2 and C-3PO have stepped out to test the bark mulch to see if they can inhabit this planet. (Laughter) A lot of this comes from the fact that the industrial city in America was such a trauma that we developed this tremendous aversion for the whole idea of the city, city life, and everything connected with it. And so what you see fairly early, in the mid-19th century, is this idea that we now have to have an antidote to the industrial city, which is going to be life in the country for everybody. And that starts to be delivered in the form of the railroad suburb: the country villa along the railroad line, which allows people to enjoy the amenity of the city, but to return to the countryside every night. And believe me, there were no Wal-Marts or convenience stores out there then, so it really was a form of country living. But what happens is, of course, it mutates over the next 80 years and it turns into something rather insidious. It becomes a cartoon of a country house, in a cartoon of the country. And that’s the great non-articulated agony of suburbia and one of the reasons that it lends itself to ridicule. Because it hasn’t delivered what it’s been promising for half a century now. And these are typically the kind of dwellings we find there, you know. Basically, a house with nothing on the side because this house wants to state, emphatically, “I’m a little cabin in the woods. There’s nothing on either side of me. I don’t have any eyes on the side of my head. I can’t see.” So you have this one last facade of the house, the front, which is really a cartoon of a facade of a house. Because — notice the porch here. Unless the people that live here are Munchkins, nobody’s going to be using that. This is really, in fact, a television broadcasting a show 24/7 called “We’re Normal.” We’re normal, we’re normal, we’re normal, we’re normal, we’re normal. Please respect us, we’re normal, we’re normal, we’re normal. But we know what’s going on in these houses, you know. We know that little Skippy is loading his Uzi down here, getting ready for homeroom. (Laughter) We know that Heather, his sister Heather, 14 years old, is turning tricks up here to support her drug habit. Because these places, these habitats, are inducing immense amounts of anxiety and depression in children, and they don’t have a lot of experience with medication. So they take the first one that comes along, often. These are not good enough for Americans. These are the schools we are sending them to: The Hannibal Lecter Central School, Las Vegas, Nevada. This is a real school! You know, but there’s obviously a notion that if you let the inmates of this thing out, that they would snatch a motorist off the street and eat his liver. So every effort is made to keep them within the building. Notice that nature is present. (Laughter) We’re going to have to change this behavior whether we like it or not. We are entering an epochal period of change in the world, and — certainly in America — the period that will be characterized by the end of the cheap oil era. It is going to change absolutely everything. Chris asked me not to go on too long about this, and I won’t, except to say there’s not going to be a hydrogen economy. Forget it. It’s not going to happen. We’re going to have to do something else instead. We’re going to have to down-scale, re-scale, and re-size virtually everything we do in this country and we can’t start soon enough to do it. We’re going to have — (Applause) — we’re going to have to live closer to where we work. We’re going to have to live closer to each other. We’re going have to grow more food closer to where we live. The age of the 3,000 mile Caesar salad is coming to an end. We’re going to have to — we have a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of! We gotta do better than that! And we should have started two days before yesterday. We are fortunate that the new urbanists were there, for the last 10 years, excavating all that information that was thrown in the garbage by our parents’ generation after World War II. Because we’re going to need it if we’re going to learn how to reconstruct towns. We’re going to need to get back this body of methodology and principle and skill in order to re-learn how to compose meaningful places, places that are integral, that allow — that are living organisms in the sense that they contain all the organs of our civic life and our communal life, deployed in an integral fashion. So that, you know, the residences make sense deployed in relation to the places of business, of culture and of governance. We’re going to have to re-learn what the building blocks of these things are: the street, the block, how to compose public space that’s both large and small, the courtyard, the civic square and how to really make use of this property. We can see some of the first ideas for retro-fitting some of the catastrophic property that we have in America. The dead malls: what are we going to do with them? Well, in point of fact, most of them are not going to make it. They’re not going to be retro-fitted; they’re going to be the salvage yards of the future. Some of them we’re going to fix, though. And we’re going to fix them by imposing back on them street and block systems and returning to the building lot as the normal increment of development. And if we’re lucky, the result will be revivified town centers and neighborhood centers in our existing towns and cities. And by the way, our towns and cities are where they are, and grew where they were because they occupy all the important sites. And most of them are still going to be there, although the scale of them is probably going to be diminished. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not going to be rescued by the hyper-car; we’re not going to be rescued by alternative fuels. No amount or combination of alternative fuels is going to allow us to continue running what we’re running, the way we’re running it. We’re going to have to do everything very differently. And America’s not prepared. We are sleepwalking into the future. We’re not ready for what’s coming at us. So I urge you all to do what you can. Life in the mid-21st century is going to be about living locally. Be prepared to be good neighbors. Be prepared to find vocations that make you useful to your neighbors and to your fellow citizens. One final thing — I’ve been very disturbed about this for years, but I think it’s particularly important for this audience. Please, please, stop referring to yourselves as “consumers.” OK? Consumers are different than citizens. Consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities and duties to their fellow human beings. And as long as you’re using that word consumer in the public discussion, you will be degrading the quality of the discussion we’re having. And we’re going to continue being clueless going into this very difficult future that we face. So thank you very much. Please go out and do what you can to make this a land full of places that are worth caring about and a nation that will be worth defending. (Applause)

    The Fake Neighborhoods on Google Maps
    Articles, Blog

    The Fake Neighborhoods on Google Maps

    August 28, 2019

    This video was made possible by Brilliant. Start learning with Brilliant for 20% off
    by being one of the first 200 to sign up at If you’re from San Francisco there’s a
    few things you’ve probably never heard of: toast without avocados, three figure rent,
    republicans, and the East Cut neighborhood. If you go on Google Maps though and search
    for East Cut it’ll tell you that’s this neighborhood between Market Street and the
    Bay Bridge even though, before a year ago, nobody had even tried to call this area the
    East Cut. Nowadays, however, the “East Cut” name
    is seeping into the real world all thanks to the world’s benevolent dictator—Google. Now of course Google is amazing and lovely
    and I don’t mean to be critical at all of such a fantastic organization but they do
    have a certain amount of power over, well, everything. More than half of the world’s smartphone
    users have used Google Maps in the past month and, considering that there are 2.5 billion
    smartphone users in the world, that’s a lot. Google Maps is the most popular mapping service
    in the world and that means that when someone wants to figure out what something is, they
    check Google Maps. Quite bafflingly, the benevolent dictator
    almost almost started a war in 2010. You see, where Nicaragua and Costa Rica meet
    on the Atlantic Ocean Nicaragua believes the border to be this while Costa Rica believes
    it to be this. In 2010 a Nicaraguan military troop was sent
    to the area to do dredging work on the San Juan River. While there, though, the troop just happened
    to meander onto Calero Island which, as far as Costa Rica was concerned, was Costa Rica. Now, having a foreign military strut into
    your country with no prior warning doesn’t look great. It looks a whole lot like an invasion so Costa
    Rica, being, interestingly, the most populous country in the world without a military, sent
    70 police officers to make sure that this wasn’t the beginning of the Nicaraguan annexation
    of Costa Rica. In response, Nicaragua sent an additional
    50 troops and the two parties sort of just had a stand off while the two country’s
    leaders had a discussion. As it turned out, the few dozen troops that
    entered Costa Rica had no intentions to singlehandedly overthrow a country of five million. Their commander was just using Google Maps
    to navigate which showed the border as this. Costa Rica then went to the International
    Court of Justice, and complained and then, after years of back and forth, the court ruled
    that this area was in fact Costa Rica and so now Google Maps shows it as Costa Rica
    and Nicaragua lays off the invasions. Unfortunately Apple missed the opportunity
    to create a great Apple Maps ad. Google Maps does try more or less to follow
    what people say places are but sometimes some people disagree on what a thing is. For example, some say New Zealand, other say
    “where?” Some say Machias Seal Island is part of Canada,
    other say it’s part of the US so if you search it on Google it won’t tell you which
    country it is like it does for the rest of the US or Canada. It’ll do the same if you look at a town
    in Western Sahara, Kashmir, the South China Sea, or any other disputed territory. But perhaps the biggest issue for Google Maps
    is what to call neighborhoods. You see, in most cases, neighborhood names
    aren’t official—they’re just decided through what people colloquially call places. People just refer to this area in San Francisco
    as Russian Hill or this area Telegraph Hill, this area Jackson Hill, and at least a few
    people call this area the East Cut. In 2015, you see, an organization was founded
    to improve what was then called Rincon Hill. For some inexplicable reason they decided
    they needed a rebranding and they settled on the neighborhood name “the East Cut.” They updated street signs and their website
    and everything but still, when asked, the mayor of San Francisco said he had never heard
    of the neighborhood. Lucky for the East Cut organization, one of
    their board members just happened to work at Google, whose offices are in the East Cut,
    and, according to the New York Times in an article about this debacle, was able to persuade
    the company to switch the name which is the most San Francisco story ever. Some neighborhood names on Google Maps are
    even more baffling, though. In Detroit Google Maps refers to this area
    as “the Eye” even though really nobody has ever referred to this area by that name. A blogger did some detective work and was
    able to figure out that Google Maps copied the neighborhood names from a map that some
    random website published in 2003. Google Maps even copied the misspellings from
    that map. As it turns out, “the Eye” was the name
    of a community watch organization in the area so there were signs around the area saying
    “the Eye” and somewhere along the line someone got confused and assumed it was the
    neighborhood name. Still today that name shows up on Google Maps
    and, if you really want, you can search and buy real estate in the prestigious Eye neighborhood. In true Detroit fashion, houses start at $8,000. Nobody’s really sure exactly how Google
    determines neighborhood names but, once they do, that name essentially becomes official. According to Google Maps Machias Seal island
    is both Canada and the US at the same time but you know what’s also two things at once—Quantum
    objects since, thanks to Quantum superposition, these particles can be in two or more quantum
    states at the same time. This is what Schrodinger’s Cat is about—it’s
    like if a cat was both dead and alive at the same time. Quantum mechanics is like magic that’s happening
    in our world right now and it’s sort of complicated but Brilliant is the expert in
    teaching super complex things in an understandable way. If you take their quantum objects course you’ll
    go away knowing what only specialized physicists understand. Of course Brilliant has plenty of other great
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    Why Cities Are Where They Are
    Articles, Blog

    Why Cities Are Where They Are

    August 27, 2019

    This is a Wendover Productions video made
    possible by Squarespace. Make your next move with a beautiful website
    from Squarespace. The Cumberland valley is home to six towns
    lying between Hagerstown, Maryland and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania— Greencastle, Chambersburg,
    Shippensburg, Newville, Carlisle, and Mecanicsburg. What’s exceptional about these small Pennsylvania
    towns is that they’re each almost exactly 10 miles from each other. The distances deviate by no more than a mile
    from this rule. This isn’t a coincidence and this isn’t
    planned. Drawing equal sized radii around each town
    shows you their spheres of influence. Assuming each town has the exact same shops
    and services, rational people will just go to whichever town is closest to buy or sell
    goods. Towns ten miles apart mean that nobody has
    to travel more than five miles to reach a town. Each one of these towns was founded before
    the formation of the United States, so that means that, of course, nobody had cars and
    pretty much everybody walked everywhere. 10 miles, or 5 miles each way, is about the
    distance a person can comfortably walk in a day with enough time to buy or sell goods
    at a central market. Back in this era before cars, a 5 mile radius
    was essentially the largest possible commuter zone to small agricultural towns and therefore
    having towns ten miles apart was the most efficient possible use of rural land. When you get a chance, take a look at map
    of a rural area that existed before cars. You’ll see that the distance between medium-sized
    towns is almost always somewhere between about 10 to 15 miles. Because the Cumberland valley is a valley,
    towns really could only develop in a line, but in most cases towns develop in all directions. This is what the ten mile rule looks like
    going out in all directions. Each of these points is a town and the hexagon
    around it is the area from which people will go to the town. In the real world, each of these towns probably
    has a small grocery store, a pharmacy, a bank, and maybe a restaurant. Since everybody uses these services, there
    doesn’t have to be many people in a towns sphere of influence in order to sustain these
    shops. But where do you put something more specialized,
    like a mechanic. People only need to go the mechanic every
    once in a while so you need more people to sustain one mechanics shop than one grocery
    store. Well, some of these small towns develop into
    larger towns with more people that can support more specialized shops and services. Putting these larger towns with more specialized
    shops closer together would be unsustainable since there wouldn’t be enough people going
    to those shops but putting them farther apart would be inefficient since there’s land
    that people would not go to a city from. This happens once or twice more until you
    have cities. These cities have the largest spheres of influence
    and the most specialized shops. You of course still have grocery stores and
    pharmacies in cities, but you also have things like luxury car dealerships, brain surgery
    centers, and airports. The city’s sphere of influence is enormous
    because people will travel hundreds of miles to buy an expensive car or get brain surgery
    or fly from an airport. Think about it within a city. How far would you walk to buy a latte. Probably only a few blocks and that’s why
    you see Starbucks or other coffee shops on almost every block. Since almost everyone buys coffee, you only
    need a few blocks of people to sustain one coffee shop. But how far would you walk to buy a MacBook? Probably quite far since its a infrequent
    and substantial purchase. That’s why Apple stores are rather rare
    even in cities. You need an enormous amount of people to sustain
    one Apple store and we can actually figure out roughly how many. In Connecticut, the Trumbull Apple Store is
    about 20 miles away from the New Haven store to the north-east and the Stamford store to
    the south-west. In the 10 mile radius around the Trumbull
    Apple Store there are about half a million inhabitants which tells us that you need about
    half a million people to sustain one Apple store. We can compare that to the Starbucks’ of
    lower Manhattan which are spread out at an average distance of about 600 feet. Drawing a 300 foot radius around one Starbucks
    in lower Manhattan covers around 6,000 people which means that one Starbucks needs 6,000
    people to sustain it. Of course both Connecticut and New York are
    places with higher than average incomes which means less people are needed to sustain one
    Starbucks or Apple Store. The numbers would be very different in, say,
    rural Kansas, but since each store generally only builds in areas with higher-than-average
    incomes this gives a good sense of how many people Apple and Starbucks looks for in an
    area before opening up a store. So, our model shows where cities should be,
    but its not like this in reality. This is the most efficient spread of cities
    if you’re assuming that the cities are on a perfectly flat plane with no geographic
    features, no social influences, no variability of income, equal distribution of resources—essentially
    assuming the world is one homogeneous place… which its not. In reality, of course, our world has an enormous
    effect on where and why cities develop. To start out, let’s cut this down to one
    city on a flat, featureless plane for simplicity. What affects the location of cities more than
    anything is water. If we put an ocean on one side of our isotropic
    plane, our city will almost certainly locate near it. Oceans have always been and still are what
    connects the world. There’s no other means of transport that
    can move such enormous amounts of cargo for so little. Any city needs to be economically efficient
    to grow and it will cost more to bring goods to a city that’s 1000 miles inland than
    one right by the ocean. Just look at Europe. 6 of the 10 largest European cities are within
    100 miles of the coast. But oceans aren’t the only bodies of water
    to affect cities. Rivers are just as or perhaps even more influential. Milan, the 19th largest European city, is
    the largest to not be either directly on the ocean or on a river, and even then its only
    15 miles from a river and 75 miles from the ocean. Until the last century or so, cities could
    not survive without direct water access. If you need more proof, 14 of the 15 largest
    cities in the world are within a few dozen miles of the ocean. Perhaps the most obvious attractor for cities
    is resources, so going back to our isotropic plane, putting natural resources anywhere
    on this map will draw cities near it. Cities that existed before the last century
    or so generally sprung up right near the resources, much like Pittsburgh, since they acted as
    manufacturing and transportation hubs for those resources, but more recently new resource
    dependent cities don’t need to be as close to the resources themselves. New transportation technologies can bring
    the resources from their source. Just look at Dubai. Of course the UAE has enormous oil deposits,
    but they’re much closer to Abu Dhabi and the South-West than Dubai. In 1900, Dubai had 10,000 residents, less
    than half that of Carlisle, Pennsylvania—one of the farming towns we talked about at the
    beginning. That only grew to 40,000 by 1960, but today
    its known worldwide and has more than 2.5 million residents. It was able to grow at this enormous rate—even
    faster than Abu Dhabi—since it cemented itself as the economic and administrative
    hub for the oil industries of the region. Another geographic feature that we can add
    to the plane is mountains. Now, mountains don’t always have a uniform
    affect on cities. Mexico City, Bogota, and Addis Ababa are all
    enormous cities at elevations above 7,000 feet. Mountains do make transport and trade difficult,
    but they also provide protection. Many ancient cities grew in these locations
    since they were easy to protect, which left more time to focus on growing the city, but
    mountains can also hinder development. For quite a while, the United States could
    not develop west of the Appalachian mountains. They just served as an enormous barrier. In 1800, the average center of population
    for the entire United States was here even though the US had sovereignty over this entire
    area. Of course technology eventually conquered
    this barrier and moved the mean population center all the way out to Missouri today,
    but if the Appalachian mountains didn’t exist American history and geography would
    be completely different. We would have seen urban development much
    earlier in the mid-west. But mountains can have another effect. You see, coal, silver, gold, and other mineral
    deposits are all often located in mountainous regions, and, just like Dubai, cities can
    develop in less hospitable and easy places due to resources. The economic advantage of exploiting the resources
    overpowers the economic disadvantage of being in an inhospitable location. Denver, Colorado grew 650% between 1870 and
    1880 with the opening of a railroad branch connecting with the transcontinental railroad. It served as an access point to transportation
    to the gold miners in the rockies. So mountains can either push cities away or
    bring them nearer—it really just depends on the circumstance. Let’s exchange our isotropic plane for a
    world map. Where should cities be on here? Well, our world’s cities are not necessarily
    all in the most geographically efficient locations. While there is a certain level of natural
    selection that grows the efficiently placed cities and shrinks the inefficiently placed
    cities, humans are not always able to put cities in the most efficient locations. Let’s put up the 224 cities in the world
    with a population over 2 million. You can immediately see some patterns. Putting up the equator, you can see a clear
    divide. Only 32 of these cities lie in the southern
    hemisphere. One might think this is because there is so
    much more land in the northern hemisphere, but that’s not entirely true. You see, the southern hemisphere still has
    32% of the world’s land, but only has 14% of the world’s large cities. There’s clearly a higher density of cities
    in the northern hemisphere. You can pretty much trace this all back to
    Europe and Asia. The first large civilizations and empires
    were on these two continents even though the human race likely originated in Africa. There’s hundreds of different theories on
    why civilizations succeeded in some places and failed in others, but one of the more
    plausible and interesting theories is that Europe and Asia succeeded because they’re
    wide instead of tall. The very shape of the continents may have
    changed the course of human history. You see, when a continent is wide, you have
    a ton of land with roughly the same climate. Climate tends to change when you go north
    and south rather than east and west as a nature of how the earth rotates around the sun. Much of the success of early civilizations
    had to do with the domestication of plants and animals and the corresponding technology. When expanding horizontally, the climate is
    similar enough that an empire can use the same successful plants and animals, while
    expanding vertically requires the domestication of new plants and animals. If a civilization started in central-america,
    for example, there would be very little land on the continent with a similar climate and
    their expansion would be severely limited. In Europe and Asia, on the other hand, theres
    thousands upon thousands and miles of similar climate that can be reached just by traveling
    east or west. There’s evidence to back this up. Just look at the maps of the four largest
    early empires—the Qing Dynasty, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Umayyad Caliphate, and the
    Mongol empire. They were all in Eurasia and they all expanded
    horizontally. When some of the more modern empires expanded,
    they had the technology to do so overseas. The three major modern empires were the British,
    Spanish, and French empires—each of which came from relatively similar climates. A major reason why America was able to succeed
    is because all the agriculture from Europe worked there. Climatically, Europe and America are nearly
    identical. The majority of developed colonized countries
    are in the northern hemisphere just because they were closest to Europe, but formerly
    British countries like South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are all highly developed and
    in the Southern Hemisphere. Their success over more northern countries
    in the southern hemisphere can also be partially attributed to their greater climate similarity
    to Europe. Let’s ask one more question. If our world only had one city, where would
    it logically be? Well if you take the location of every person
    in the world and average it out, you come to south-central Asia. That means that this general region is the
    optimum place to live on the planet, but where more specifically should our world city go. Well, this region is already in the Northern
    Hemisphere and in Eurasia, so we’ve already covered those two criteria. We want a place within a hundred of so miles
    of the ocean, on a navigable river, near mountains with rich mineral deposits—the single best
    place for a city on earth just might be… Dhaka, Bangladesh. Every geographic model and theory says that
    there is no better place on earth to put a city than here. There’s evidence to back this up: Dhaka
    is between the 4th and 18th largest metropolitan area on earth depending on how you define
    metropolitan area, and Bangladesh is the sixth densest country on earth—there are 161 million
    people living in an area about the size of England. History has affected geography enough that
    the largest and most advanced civilizations are not all in South-Central Asia, but if
    we started all over again, did humanity a second time, every geographic model says that
    this region could be the origin and central point of human civilization. I hope you enjoyed this Wendover Productions
    video. This video was made possible by my amazing,
    brand new sponsor, Squarespace. Squarespace is an all-in-one platform to make
    your beautiful, professional website. Months before Squarespace signed on to sponsor
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    they have to offer and make your next move with Squarespace. You can support Wendover Productions by contributing
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    North Korea’s Tiny, Terrible Airline
    Articles, Blog

    North Korea’s Tiny, Terrible Airline

    August 24, 2019

    This video was made possible by CuriosityStream. Watch for free for 31-days by signing up at and using the code, “HAI.” North Korea—it would be great as a reality
    show, but it’s less great as reality. As much as this country likes to pretend that
    the rest of the world is made up exclusively of brainwashed heathens living in hell-scape
    garbage fire countries, sometimes certain North Koreans, special enough to get a hall
    pass, need to get out, and sometimes other people go there to experience the dictator
    Disneyland. Now, there is a train to the DPRK from Russia
    and China, but honestly, what are trains good for… other than low-cost, long distance,
    time-efficient, economically stimulating, carbon minimal, socially egalitarian, death-reducing
    transport? Nothing, because they don’t have wings. That’s why North Korea has its own extra
    special, tiny, terrible, airline… and here’s some boring history, made possible by my declining
    audience retention statistics. Back in the 50’s, the USSR was North Korea’s
    sugar daddy, and so the airline was first established to fly to the eastern bit of the
    Soviet Union so that people could connect onto Aeroflot services to Moscow. In the early days, they flew exclusively Soviet
    planes, which sometimes didn’t crash, and mostly focused on flights to the USSR and
    later China. Eventually, though, they got some big boy
    Ilyushin Il-62 and Tupolev Tu-154’s, which, surprisingly, are not the names of toaster
    models but rather planes that could fly all the way to Eastern Europe. That meant they could finally fly the crucial
    non-stop route of Pyongyang to Moscow. They also eventually added some flights going
    all the way to some of the other Soviet united places like East Germany and Bulgaria. But then the USSR became USS not, North Korea
    and Russia’s relationship diminished, and Air Koryo started flying to some definitively
    non-Soviet places. As recently as 2010, they were flying to far
    flung destinations like Zurich, Budapest, and Prague, but then, the DPRK’s flag carrier
    ran into two major issues. One was that they were added to the prestigious,
    “Airlines Banned in the EU” list meaning that, for the most part, they could no longer
    fly through, to, or from most of Europe and two was that, especially in the past decade,
    a whole host of sanctions were imposed on North Korea by both individual nations and
    the United Nations. These sanctions, preventing all UN member
    states from conducting almost all types of trade with North Korea, mean that there’s
    barely any economic activity with the country so there’s little reason for people to travel
    there. Nowadays, Air Koryo is more modest in size
    compared to its former glory. They fly to just five destinations—Vladivostok,
    Shenyang, Beijing, Shanghai, and they just recently started a new route to Macau in August,
    2019 to allow the small number of North Korean elites to get to this gambling hub for some
    good old fashioned sinning. Since this longest flight is only three hours
    long, they don’t have to deal with some of the complications that would arise from
    their crew liking some of their layover cities a little too much since they don’t have
    to have any overnight layovers. They do, however, have plenty of complications
    arising from operating from one of the most sanctioned countries on earth. These sanctions have long prevented them from
    purchasing Boeing or Airbus planes so they bought Soviet or Russian built planes, but
    then North Korea accidentally pressed the big red, “sanction me more,” button. On November 28, 2017, North Korea launched
    a ballistic missile that landed uncomfortably close to Japan and, in response, the UN dropped
    the mother of all sanction packages outlined in this bad boy document—UN Resolution 2397. This resolution resolved, among other things,
    that all UN members states would, “prohibit the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer
    to the DPRK, of all transportation vehicles.” It clarifies that this includes everything
    between HS codes 86 and 89, which are codes used by customs organizations, and if you
    pull up HS codes 86 through 89, you’ll see that that includes, among other things, locomotives,
    tractors, tanks, baby carriages, buoys, and aircraft. Therefore, since that’s a United Nations
    sanction, that means that North Korea can’t buy aircraft from, let me pull up my map,
    ummm, these countries. They could always buy from, like, Kosovo. They’re not a UN member. I wonder how their aircraft manufacturing
    industry is… not that Kosovo is a country… or not a country… or part of a country…
    or not part of a country… just forget I ever mentioned Kosovo. Anyway, what this all means is that Air Koryo
    can only operate aircraft it had pre-2017 and those were almost all old Russian, Ukrainian,
    or Soviet planes. UN Resolution 2397 specifically allows the
    DPRK to buy spare parts for their passenger planes, presumably to be sure they don’t
    fall out of the sky, so that’s not an issue, but many of their planes are old, and only
    getting older, that’s how time works, so their lack of plane buying ability certainly
    is becoming more and more of a problem. While plenty of countries regularly violate
    the sanctions in secret (*cough* Russia,) it would certainly raise some questions if
    North Korea just suddenly started flying around a shiny new Russian jet, I’d imagine. UN Resolution 2270 also bans all sales of
    aviation fuel to the DPRK, but it specifically includes an exemption for fuel used for passenger,
    commercial flights. It does, however, warn its members to only
    sell the exact amount an aircraft needs to get from, in the example of Russia, Vladivostok,
    to Pyongyang, and back to Vladivostok—no more that could sneakily make its way into
    a military jet, you know, somehow. Perhaps the craziest bit about Air Koryo,
    though, is that you can book a flight on their website, just like any other airline—it’s
    scarily easy. The reception when you get there—well, that
    might be less than warm. Of course, on their rickety Russian jets,
    Air Koryo lets you experience aviation’s past but, if you want to see what flying will
    be like in the future, you should watch, “Into the Skies”— a new episode of the Curiosity
    Stream original series, “Speed.” This covers how aircraft design will change
    to cope with a time not far off when 10 billion passengers will fly each year. This is just one of more than 2,400 titles
    that you can watch on Desktop, Smart TV, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and more
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    likes being entertained and educated simultaneously. What’s best, for HAI viewers, you can watch
    any of these more than 2,400 titles for free for 31-days by signing up at
    and using the code, “HAI.”

    Why Switzerland is the Safest Place if WW3 Ever Begins
    Articles, Blog

    Why Switzerland is the Safest Place if WW3 Ever Begins

    August 20, 2019

    This is a RealLifeLore video, made possible by Hover. Get 10% off your custom domain or email from Hover at Switzerland is a tiny landlocked country surrounded by France, Germany, Italy and Austria. If you’ve ever looked at a map of the European Union you’ll notice an awkward blob in the middle which doesn’t belong to it and that blob is Switzerland. Switzerland is famously neutral and in addition to not being a part of the EU, it’s also not a member of Nato and it didn’t even join the United Nations until pretty recently in 2002. In fact, Switzerland is so neutral that it hasn’t fought a single war in over 200 years. The last one being against Napoleon in 1815. All of this is despite the fact that Switzerland is in the middle of Europe and surrounded by historically more aggressive countries. So why is it that Switzerland has been such a stable and safe place for centuries? The answer lies in understanding the geography of Switzerland. The country can really be divided into three separate parts. In the South are the Swiss Alps. A gigantic mountain range that covers most of Switzerland’s territory and separates it from Italy and Austria. To the West and North are the Jura Mountains a range much smaller than the Alps but still large enough to separate the country from France. And Finally there is the Swiss Plateau. A basin dotted by Rolling hills Rivers and lakes that is home to most of Switzerland’s population. It’s no accident that Switzerland’s major cities are all located in this region instead of the other two. But it’s not as easy of a defensible position either. Switzerland has long been a little paranoid about a foreign invasion and it’s not without good reason. In the first World War Germany invaded neutral Belgium in order to attack France in a more vulnerable position and in the second World War Switzerland found herself in 1940 to be completely surrounded by axis occupied territory and faced an imminent threat of invasion from Nazi Germany. The invasion never happened, but fears persisted into the Cold War of a potential Soviet invasion and that attitude has never fully gone away Switzerland’s plan for dealing with a potential invasion from anybody was called The National Redoubt and it was essentially intended to make any possible enemy look at the map look at Switzerland and think to themselves: “No thanks, I’ll take over something a little easier instead”. The first reason why is Switzerland continues to have mandatory mail conscription meaning that all men have to serve in the military for 170 days and receive basic training. They enter into the reserves afterwards and keep their rifles at their home. And although many get exemptions, Switzerland has the ability to mobilize over 200,000 soldiers within 72 hours of an emergency being declared. In addition, every road, bridge, tunnel and railroad in the country has been designed in a way that they can be remotely blown up to deny a possible invader from ever using them. There are over 3000 of these points that can be blown up inside of the country including entire mountain sides that can be detonated to cause a landslide to block off entire roads. In addition to all of this, the modern Swiss military strategy has always been to abandon the plateau and the city centers and retreat almost the entire military into the alpine region. Here high in the mountains the swiss have built over 26,000 bunkers and fortified positions ranging from anti-tank guns anti-air guns or machine gun nests. They are camouflaged like this anti-tank gun that looks like a rock or this barn that’s actually a machine-gun nest on the left and an anti-tank gun on the right and both of these are connected by a tunnel underground. There are camouflage positions like these all over the alpine region of Switzerland which means that the entire country is basically one big booby trap. An impregnable castle in the center of Europe. This is why Switzerland has been able to remain neutral throughout some of the most difficult times in European history. But many now question the importance of this defensive and neutral mindset. Germany, Austria, Italy and France are today all European Union member states and have no militaristic intentions on conquering Switzerland. The National Redoubt has seen many of its fortresses and bunkers turned into museums in the last Few years and Switzerland is planning on downsizing its military from around 200,000 to only 80,000 by the year 2020. But nonetheless, one place that Switzerland will always be is the safest place in the world to possibly be at in the event of a global nuclear war. This is because Switzerland is the only country in the World to have enough nuclear fallout shelters to house their entire population. In fact, Switzerland has enough fallout shelters to house 114% of their population. Meaning that even in the event of a large refugee influx the country would still have enough shelters to fit everybody inside of them. All residential buildings inside of the country built after 1978 are mandated by law to contain a nuclear shelter capable of surviving a 12 megaton blast from a distance of 700 meters away. As of 2006, there are over 8.6 million fallout shelters located throughout the country ranging in sizes like this in a normal house, up to gigantic public shelters built inside of tunnels that can house over 2,000 people for over four months. In the event of a nuclear attack on Switzerland it is possible that the entire population of the country could retreat to their bunkers and continue fighting off any invader after the bombs have exploded. Not even nuclear weapons can conquer the fortress of Switzerland and it has been said before that in the event of a global nuclear war the only survivors would be the heads of state of a few countries, cockroaches and 8.4 million Swiss citizens. If a nuclear war ever does happen, then the swiss have enough bunkers for not only them but a few friends to survive it all through with. So remember this when it may become important later. Switzerland is likely the safest place you could possibly be during the event of a nuclear war or World War 3. Before you start making plans to visit though It would be nice to let other people know about what you just learned. Possibly by creating a domain with an accurate name, like Hover makes it incredibly easy to buy lots of different domains with fun extensions like .party or .cool But even better, even if you don’t need a domain name, you can set up a custom email account instead. With a email address people will think you’re either a hero or insane. But both still sound fun. For over 400 different domains to choose from and award-winning customer support please make sure to visit for 10% off whatever domain or email your heart desires. Other than that please make sure to subscribe to my channel to stay updated with future videos by clicking here. You can visit my patreon here if you’d like to directly support the channel and I hope to see you next Friday for another brand new video then.

    Urban Geography: Why We Live Where We Do
    Articles, Blog

    Urban Geography: Why We Live Where We Do

    August 18, 2019

    This is Wendover Productions. Sponsored by the Great Courses Plus. Here’s an interesting question: which city
    do you think is more dense—Paris, France or New York, United States? It probably seems obvious: New York, the land
    of skyscrapers, the Big Apple… right? Wrong. New York, in fact, has a population density
    of less than half that of Paris. Paris’s is 56,000 people per square mile
    (22,000 per square kilometer) while New York’s is only 27,000 people per square mile (10,500
    per square kilometer.) To find a European city with a comparable
    population density to New York’s—the densest American city—you have to go all the way
    down to number six on the list: Lyon France (27,000 per sq/mile; 10,500 per sq/km.) New York of course has a super-dense urban
    core, but then around it is miles and miles of suburbia—just like almost every other
    American city. Paris, on the other hand, packs almost its
    entire population into a compact urban core. There’s also another interesting pattern
    that differs between the two continents: rich Americans live outside the city, rich Europeans
    live city center. Compare the income map of Paris to that of
    Philadelphia. Of course it’s not perfect, but you can
    definitely see a pattern. The most commonly cited reason for both these
    trends is the difference in age. Most European cities have existed for hundreds
    if not thousands of years, while all but a few American cities only gathered enough population
    to be called cities in the past one or two hundred years. What that means is that European cities existed
    when all but the super-rich had to commute to work by foot. In the middle ages, Paris had a population
    of two to three hundred thousand people, but you could walk from one side to the other
    in thirty minutes. It was incredibly densely populated. You just had to live within walking distance
    of work. Therefore, the rich paid more for the houses
    closest to the center of the city. This is a similar reason to why in historic
    European hotels, you’ll often see the nicest and largest rooms on the lower floors—the
    opposite of what you’d see today. Before elevators existed, the rich didn’t
    want to have to walk up as many flights of stairs. Walking distance was not only important to
    big cities. Small villages across Europe were almost always
    the same size because their population was dictated by the walkability of the surrounding
    fields. European farmers tended to live in small towns
    and walk to their fields during the day rather than the homesteading approach used in America. Therefore, villages would only be as large
    as the amount of people needed to work the fields within walking distance. American cities, on the other hand, began
    their period of rapid growth in a more modern era when decentralizing technologies were
    much more advanced. By the time North American cities grew larger
    than the distance people could reasonably walk, there was already the technological
    capability to create public transportation systems. The first major public transportation innovation
    was the steam train in the mid 19th century. This was a very expensive means of transport
    and was therefore only for the super rich. Interestingly, because steam trains take an
    enormous amount of time to reach speed, the towns that the rich commuted from, known as
    railroad suburbs, were generally not just at the nearest bit of countryside, but separated
    from the city by a few miles of countryside. The impact of railroad suburbs remains today. On the track of the old Philadelphia Main
    Line, there’s a stretch of super-rich communities with huge estates and country clubs from Ardmore
    to Malvern. The demographics just never changed from the
    time of the railroad suburb. A few decades later, streetcars emerged and
    quickly became an instrumental part of the American commute. Much like steam trains, streetcars also created
    new communities—this time with slightly less rich upper-middle class individuals. In Washington DC, the wealthy suburbs of Tenleytown,
    Chevy Chase, Bethesda, McLean, Rockville, and more all grew as a result of the streetcar. But once again, walking distance influenced
    geography. Streetcar commuters had to live within walking
    distance of a stop, so naturally there would be a radius of civilization about 20 or 30
    minutes walking distance from a stop, then past that…nothing. That meant that between the lines, there was
    all this open space where nobody could commute from. Enter: the automobile. At first the car was only for upper class
    individuals especially with the distraction of the two World Wars and Great Depression,
    however, by the time young Americans returned from World War Two, there had been enough
    technological advances to make the automobile affordable for the middle class. Over 50% of households had cars by 1950. At the same time, the government was offering
    loans to returning veterans which significantly increased the number of americans who could
    afford to buy homes. Instead of buying a small central city home,
    this generation opted to use their new cars to commute from cheaper, nicer, and larger
    suburban homes. The idea was that the working parents would
    go downtown each day while the rest of the family would stay to enjoy the suburb. It was the perfect deal. So that whole history was absolutely true,
    but it doesn’t entirely explain why European cities didn’t experience suburbanization as
    well. In Germany, for example, many, if not most,
    cities were bombed to rubble during World War Two. They had the opportunity to rebuild in any
    way they wanted, but then chose to keep their compact design. Today, the average metropolitan population
    density in Germany is four times higher than the US’s. At the same time, other cities across Europe
    that survived the war experienced enormous population influxes and still maintained their
    mammoth population densities. Perhaps the least commonly cited reason for
    suburbanization in the US is crime. It’s a bit of an ugly period in American
    history that we sometimes forget, but crime levels were absolutely insane in the 70’s,
    80’s, and 90’s. There are a ton of different theories for
    why this was—perhaps the most interesting being the that the rise in gasoline emitted
    lead caused lower IQ’s and higher aggressively. New York had an astronomical 2,245 murders
    in 1990. London didn’t even have that many in the
    entire 90’s decade. Violent crime rates are still consistently
    10 or more times higher in the US. In 1992, a poll was conducted asking departing
    New Yorkers why they were moving to the suburbs, and the most commonly cited reason was crime
    at 47%. Cost and quality of living were way down at
    lower than 10% each. Crime rates are significantly lower in suburbs
    as they are typically havens for higher-income individuals. Europeans don’t have to worry as much about
    inter-city crime so they’re much more willing to live downtown. Land for suburban housing is also readily
    available in the US because farmers have always been quick to sell their relatively unprofitable
    land to developers. By contrast, In France, for example, agricultural
    subsidies are 12 times higher per acre of land than the US. That’s a big reason why large European cities
    are still closely surrounded by small farms. In many European cities, you can literally
    take the city bus to farms. Lastly, all sorts of energy are cheaper in
    the US. A gallon of gas costs as much as $7 in some
    parts of Europe compared to the US average of $2.20. It’s significantly more expensive to commute
    by car in Europe so there’s more motivation to live closer to work where either the drive
    is shorter or you can take public transportation. Also, big suburban homes aren’t as attractive
    in Europe because electricity and heating costs are higher. Suburban life really didn’t live up to expectations. Americans now spend an average of 4.25 hours
    per week sitting in cars, buses, or trains traveling to and from work. That’s 2.5% of their entire lives. It’s also been scientifically proven that
    commuting from the suburbs is linked to higher blood pressure, lower frustration tolerance,
    and higher rates of anxiety. Also, the suburbs are no longer the countryside
    havens that they once were. They’re just a continuation of the urban
    sprawl. Rich Americans are therefore beginning to
    return to the city. With lower crime rates, higher fuel costs,
    and an overall shift in attitude, urban cores are having a second renaissance. So that’s why we live where we do. It’s a complicated, controversial, and surprisingly
    political history. I hope you enjoyed this Wendover Production
    video. I first need to thank my amazing sponsor—the
    Great Courses Plus. The Great Courses Plus is a subscription on-demand
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    Professors, National Geographic Scientists, Culinary Institute of America Chefs, and hundreds
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    the course on Cultural and Human Geography. It’s a super-interesting topic, and this
    course absolutely does it justice. You can watch this or any other of the hundreds
    of courses for free when you sign up for a 30-day free trial using the link
    or the link is also in the description. I also recently started a Patreon which you
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    Geography Now! LIECHTENSTEIN
    Articles, Blog

    Geography Now! LIECHTENSTEIN

    August 14, 2019

    Guys, it’s here. Some of you have been waiting for this episode for years. Sure, everybody knows about China, Brazil, Germany and Australia but how many of you know anything about little Liechtenstein! ♫ It’s time to learn Geography Now! ♫ Everybody I’m Host Barb’s. Okay, I actually had the incredible honour to not only go to this country with my mum last year And we also got passport stamps, which by the way Swiss geogra-peeps Hermann and Fabianne thank you for driving and hosting us, but I also had the incredible honour of meeting one of the incredibly rare and few native-born Liechtensteiner Geogra-peeps, Pascal. Dude, a real Liechtensteiner watches Geography Now. That’s amazing! Meeting an actual native of Liechtenstein is like finding a unicorn, in a haystack, in the Saharan desert. And the desert is made of haystacks, Sorry I’m just kind of gushing because come on we’re doing little Lichtenstein today. Let’s begin Now if you don’t know anything about Liechtenstein, the first thing you might need to know is that it is incredibly small. Like this sixth smallest country in the world. And it’s also rather difficult to get into in contrast to other European countries. First of all, Classified as a Microstate, the nation of Liechtenstein is located between Austria and Switzerland taking up only a hundred and sixty-two square kilometres, being only 25 kilometers long and and 9.4 Kilometers wide. It is also one of the only two doubly landlocked nations in the world meaning that it’s landlocked within other landlocked nations, the other one being Uzbekistan. The country is divided into 11 different municipalities with their own exclaves with the capital of Vaduz that has only about 5,200 people located in the center of the country. Vaduz is actually the second largest town in the country, the first being Schaan with about 500 more people. The country has no airports or seaports, but they do have a heliport at Balzers but that’s just like for tourist rides into the mountains. And they do have four train stations operated by an Austrian Federal Railway system and the stations are only serviced on weekday peak hours. So getting in, you’re much better off either taking a bus or car. To drive in, you can take various bridge crossings from Switzerland or you can come in from Feldkirch, Austria. There isn’t any border patrol or passport checks. It’s really easy. However if you do want a passport stamp, you can get one at the Tourism/ Post Office in Vaduz for about 3 Euros. Worth it! The main number 28 road pretty much crosses the entire country north to south as almost the entire country lives on the west side due to the high mountainous border to the east. The funny thing is: After World War 2, Liechtenstein actually had a little land dispute with what is now Czechia over the castles and forests and agricultural land plots that were hereditary lands that belonged to the former monarchs. These lands altogether made up a land area over ten times the size of the Liechtenstein. However when they brought it up, Czechia was like: “Hmm, so you want your old lands back, eh? Well, how about I give you the castles, but not the surrounding land areas.” to which Liechtenstein was like: Finally in 2009, they decided to drop the case and just let it go. But I mean whatever, they have like 7 other palaces in Austria and one in Italy. Otherwise some places of interest might include: The prince’s Castle in Vaduz Malbun, which has a ski resort The Main Square, the National Museum The Postage stamp Museum, The Schatzkammer treasure chamber The Kunstmuseum, The Landtag or “Parliament building” and Balzer’s gothic castle. All right. Now let’s take a look at those pristine Alps, shall we? For such a small country, Liechtenstein actually has a lot going on in terms of landscape. For one, the country is located on the Upper Rhine Valley in the European Alps along the longest river, the Rhine that borders with Switzerland. The entire eastern side of Liechtenstein is mountainous with the highest peak, Grauspitz located on the southern border with Switzerland as well. Just up north, the largest and pretty much only real lake in the country, Gampriner Seele can be found although it should be classified as a pond, but eh. When it comes to resources, Liechtenstein isn’t exactly top dog. I mean there’s a few cultivated fields in the south but overall, not too many things to extract. Nonetheless, they do actually have some industries like textiles, pharmaceuticals, power tools like the company “Hilti”. Other companies are in the country like “Neutrik”, “ThyssenKrupp”, “Hoval”, “Hilcona” and also Liechtenstein is the world’s largest provider of false teeth. Thanks to the company, “ivoclar vivadent” accounting for 20% of sales worldwide producing 60 million sets a year. It has something to do with the close relationship with Bollywood? Eh whatever, just look it up. It’s funny though. Because there’s actually more registered companies and jobs in Liechtenstein than there are people. Which is why over half the workforce has to travel into Liechtenstein from Switzerland or Austria. This means the country has the most exports per capita at around 122,000 dollars per person. It wasn’t always like this though. Before the 17th century, Liechtenstein was known for being “the Witch country” with boring farmers. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that Liechtenstein decided to change up fiscal policies and become a huge tax haven especially for billionaires, but it’s not like one of those blacklisted havens. It’s a good one, Okay? They do things right. St. Kitts & Nevis: “Hey, we’re just hustling, okay? Don’t act like you don’t too!” Out of all the seven-ish trillion shelter dollars worth in tax havens worldwide, Liechtenstein manages about 180 billion. In addition, They host nearly seventy four thousand ‘letterbox companies’ which don’t even really do anything but they still get paid for. So that means the system kind of keeps Liechtensteiners abundantly employed with about five million dollars and two companies to look after per citizen. Yeah, kids. If you really want to get rich, don’t seek after fame study Business and Finance with minors and accounting. Trust me. I’m a Youtuber. I know exactly what NOT to do. Oh, yeah. The national animal is the Kestrel. they even have a falconry center in Malbun. And some of the top notable dishes of Liechtenstein might include: “Käsknöpfle” which is like a variation of “Kaesespaetzle”, “Riobol”, “Sura käs”, Liechtenstein wine and those crown shaped chocolate things called… Oh geez, how do you pronounce this? “Fürstenhütchen” All right. Now, let’s move on to the ones that make those dishes. The people of this country. Once upon a time, there was this thing called the Holy Roman Empire. It was basically made up of like 1800 territories that eventually meshed and melded into what is now parts of like twelve different countries in Europe. Liechtenstein is basically the last surviving territory of the Holy Roman Empire that never really coalesced into any other state. Partially because nobody really cared about it and it was too small to bother with. BUT WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?! First of all, the country is nearly 38,000 people and is almost always ranked in the top three highest GDP per capita states in the world at nearly 180k per capita. The country is only about 1/3 Native Liechtensteiner whereas the remaining populous is made up of foreigners mostly Germans Austrians, Swiss and Italians They use the Swiss Franc as their currency, they use the type J plug outlet and they drive on the right side of the road. Which by the way, I hate the J plug outlet because half the time, the sockets are sunk into these weird hexagon shaped divots. Half the time, I couldn’t even fit my type C adapter plug when I was in Switzerland. Why? why do you guys do that? That’s like borderline statistic in Switzerland in Liechtenstein; that and your prices, for everything. Otherwise, I’d love everything else about you guys. ๐Ÿ˜€ Now here’s the thing: Liechtenstein is one of four countries in Europe that speaks German, however, they speak with their own distinct dialect very similar to the Swiss and Austrians. Obviously, it’s a little different from Hochdeutsch which is spoken up North in Germany. From what I was told, Liechtenshiners are known for saying “Hoi” for hello and “Tschau” for bye. Instead of “Kuh” for cow, they say “Buschla”. Instead of “Hügel” for Hill, they say “Böhel”. This is what you guys told me so yeah. Also I was told that this is how you can tell all the Germanic speaking countries apart. Let’s say that you gained weight. This is how a friend from each country would respond: Hmm, so how are you doing? Ahh! I see you’re enjoying your schnitzel eh? You got fat! Now like the Swiss, Liechtenstein has always kind of kept to themselves and stayed out of affairs. There’s a legend that says that when they fought in the Austro-Prussian war, they came back with negative casualties, as in, the army of 80 men came back with a friend. After that the military was disbanded and today, all military affairs are handled by the Swiss army even though they accidentally fired a shell and burned off a patch of their forest in the 80s and accidentally invaded in 2007 and Bah *I’m a sheep* You know, they laughed over it with glasses of wine. Now Liechtenstein is generally seen as being more conservative than other countries and more religious, mostly adhering to Catholicism with very strict stances on social issues like gay marriage abortion and immigration. In fact, less than 60 resident permits are issued every year for EEA citizens that work in Liechtenstein, half by lottery and half by government. Oh yeah, and the country is a monarchy, a principality to be exact. Essentially the Von Liechtenstein Family where the country gets its name from, are descended from Austrian noblemen related to the Hapsburgs. And even though they get little publicity, They are literally the richest Royals in Europe with a net worth of over 7.5 Billion dollars. The current Prince Hans-Adam II being the owner of LGT bank alone having a personal fortune of about four billion dollars. Yeah. By contrast, Queen Elizabeth has only about 500 million. The prince has four children and 15 Grandchildren. Alois being the next in line to the throne. Oh and his brother Maximilian married Angela Gisela Brown from Panama who was the first person of known African ancestry to have married into a reigning European dynasty. The royal family is actually quite popular and loved by the people. They’re very down-to-earth and they eat at cafes downtown in Vaduz regularly talking to the everyday citizens. Once a year, they even hold a party which everyone is allowed to come to the castle and share a beer. There is a bit of controversy though because today, they are the only monarchy in Europe in which the monarch has influence on every level of government. The prince can veto anything. In 2012, they held a vote which kind of went like this: The people: “We want to take away your powers of Exercising the option to veto bills.” The Royal Family: “Hmm, I mean if you really don’t want me around, I can totally just leave and let you guys handle everything.” The people: “Really??” The Royal Family: “Yeah, I’ll just take my 7.6 billion dollars corporate interest and revenue deals outside of the state, but you know, you can sell postcards to… tourists.” The people: “Wait, COME BACK!!” Annnnd, over three quarters of the population voted to let him remain with his original duties. Speaking of monarchy, History. We don’t have a lot of time to go too far into it, but the quickest way I can summarize it: Two small Holy roman empire earldoms of Vaduz and Schellenberg, 1699 this guy comes along, 1712, He purchases both Vaduz and Schellenberg hence joining the two together making the country complete, The Napoleon years but the prince is like a respected military leader so they remain independent, 19th century joins German Confederation although Austria gets left out which geographically separates Liechtenstein from Germany, World War I, breaks ties with Austria-Hungary, 1938 Prince moves back in from Vienna, World War II after Austria’s annexed, they are literally on the Nazi border But Hitler was like: “Meh, not worth it” and left them alone, They stay neutral and independent Post-World War II, economic boom, all the bank’s fiduciaries and engineers come in Czechia dispute, 1984, women are allowed to vote, the last European country to do so, 1995 they joined the EEA and here we are today. Oh and Liechtenstein has like one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Prisons are often empty and anyone with a sentence over 2 years is actually sent to Austria. It’s been said that people typically don’t even lock their front doors. For such a small population, everyone kind of knows everyone and has a close tie. Nonetheless, they still reach out and make friends abroad. Which brings us to… Now it doesn’t really matter how small your country is. If you’re able to handle your country’s overall economic output with a content populace, holding on to sovereignty is a breeze, and so is making friends. Today, They have six embassy missions abroad in Austria, Belgium, Germany Switzerland and the Vatican and the United States. However Switzerland is authorized to represent Liechtenstein in other diplomatic situations unless they decide to send their own delegates. Liechtenstein is interesting because they don’t host any embassies in their territory, but rather 32 honorary councils, surprisingly three of which are the African states of Chad, Senegal and the Central African Republic whom have reached out and made close ties for decades. They are not part of the European Union but rather part of the Schengen area, which means they have open borders and visa policies with the EU. And also as a member of the EEA, they have free movement of goods and persons and services as well, but yeah, not part of the EU. Austria and Germany have always been close friends especially the Southern Bavarian and Baden Württemberg states of Germany. These two make up some of the largest business partners and foreign population living in Liechtenstein, which is barely even much of a distinction since they are all germanic brothers to begin with. In earlier years, most of the monarchs actually chose to live in Austria rather than their own country until 1938 when Franz Joseph was like: “We’re moving back in folks!” When it comes to their best friends however, most Liechtensteiners might say the Swiss. They share everything. A customs union, a monetary union, military coverage, diplomatic delegates. They even speak relatively the same dialect and have similar mannerisms and culture cues. It’s often said that Switzerland sees Liechtenstein as its little yet surprisingly richer brother. I mean, they literally were totally cool with it when they got accidentally attacked. What more do you need to know? In conclusion, Liechtenstein is kind of like a high capacity storage microchip. Small yet absolutely flooding with abundance neatly tucked away in a small space hidden away from the public eye. Stay tuned, the second creepy Baltic twin, Lithuania, is coming up next.