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POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY

How does geography influence politics?

Geography is a key component in many political decisions and actions. The borders of countries, location of natural resources, access to ports, and the designation of voting districts are a few of the many geographical factors that affect politics.

What is the difference between a country and a nation?

Many people use the terms "country" and "nation" interchangeably. But not all nations are countries, nor are all countries nations. A country is the equivalent of a State, and is a political entity. A nation is a group of people with a common heritage and culture. Some nations have a State and are thus called a nation-state. Nation-states include France, Germany, Japan, China, and the United States. Some nations have no State, such as the Kurds and Palestinians. Some States have multiple nations such as Belgium, which is composed of two nations, the Flemings and Walloons.

What is the difference between a State and a state?

A State, with a capital "S," is equivalent to a country. A state, with a lower case "s," is a division of a country, like the states that make up the United States.

Do all countries have states?

While most countries are divided into states, provinces, or departments, there are many that have no political divisions. Large countries without political divisions include Mali, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria.

The depletion of the world's fisheries begins and ends in fish markets, like this one in Boston, Massachusetts (photo by Paul A. Tucci).

The depletion of the world's fisheries begins and ends in fish markets, like this one in Boston, Massachusetts (photo by Paul A. Tucci).

How does a choke point "choke" a body of water?

A choke point is a narrow waterway between two larger bodies of water that can be easily closed or blocked to control water transportation routes. Though historically the Strait of Gibraltar (connecting the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean between Africa and Spain) has been one of the world's most important choke points, the Strait of Hormuz gained significant attention during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. The Strait of Hormuz, bounded by the United Arab Emirates and Iran, connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea and, thus, to the Indian Ocean. It was feared that if Iraq controlled the Strait, then most of the oil from the region could not be shipped out.

Who controls the world's oil supply?

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) coordinates most of the world's oil production. The members of OPEC meet to coordinate oil policies and prices. Thirteen countries comprise OPEC: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Though Russia, the United States, and Mexico are also leading petroleum producers, the three countries are not members of OPEC.

Who else controls the price of gas besides oil producers?

There are many factors that influence the price of gas. Among them are the rising demand for fuel from developed countries such as the United States; new and growing demand from China and India; market speculation; and public policy. The refining industry, which is under government regulation, is also consolidated into the hands of a very few global refiners. This has the potential for removing competitive pricing.

COLONIES AND EXPANSIONISM

Why did the sun never set on the British Empire?

In the early twentieth century, the United Kingdom included colonies from North and South America (Canada, British Guiana, and Bermuda), Africa (Egypt, South Africa,

Who owns the world's oceans?

The battle over control of the world's oceans has increased over the past few decades due to the discovery of vast mineral and fuel resources located under the sea. In 1958, the United Nations held the first Conference on the Law of the Sea. This conference established territorial seas, measuring 12 nautical miles (22.24 kilometers) from the shore of coastal nations that are under the full control of that country. (The United States, along with such countries as North Korea, Chad, Liberia, and Iran, have refused to sign the treaty.) Additionally, countries have mineral, fuel, and fishing rights in an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that spans 200 nautical miles (370.6 kilometers) from shore. Problems arise when two countries' zones overlap. Median lines between countries have been drawn in most cases, but there are still many areas of disagreement.

and Nigeria), Asia (India and Burma), and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). Because the British Empire spanned the globe, there was always at least one portion of the Empire in daylight.

Why would countries want colonies?

Colonies are a source of raw materials, new land, wider trading opportunities, and militaristic expansion for the mother country. Colonies were established around the world from the sixteenth century through nineteenth century by powerful western nations. After World War II, the concept of colonization was widely attacked as an exploitive policy. Though most colonies were granted independence, many countries still control colonies around the world.

What were some of the earliest colonies?

The Phoenicians, around the year 1000 b.c.e., founded some of the first colonies in Tyre (present-day Lebanon). Colonists from there went on to colonize Carthage (present-day Tunisia) and the coast of Spain. This enabled them to control access to the Atlantic Ocean and trade with the indigenous peoples of what is today Great Britain and France.

How did the Nazis use geopolitics?

During the Nazi era in Germany, 1933-1945, the "science" of geopolitics was utilized to support Germany's concept of Lebensraum, or living space. The Nazi concept of Lebensraum was based on the idea that there was a racial hierarchy that allowed "superior" races to conquer "inferior" races. Adolf Hitler used this warped sense of geopolitics to invade Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Soviet Union. For example, Ger

At its height, the British Empire had colonies on every continent except Antarctica (darkened areas of this old illustration indicate Great Britain and its colonies).

At its height, the British Empire had colonies on every continent except Antarctica (darkened areas of this old illustration indicate Great Britain and its colonies).

many claimed that the ethnic Germans living in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia should be included within the German fatherland.

How did irredentism help start World War II?

Irredentism is a term used to describe a situation in which a minority group in one country shares the culture and heritage of another country. The minority group may attempt to have their region annexed into the mother country or may be happy in the country they are in. Adolf Hitler used irredentism as an excuse to invade and conquer Czechoslovakia in 1938. He claimed that the Germans in the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia, were being treated unfairly and thus this area should be annexed to Germany. Though Germany's annexation of Czechoslovakia did not start World War II, it was the Nazis' first direct aggressive step toward conquering Europe.

 
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