First, you will need to choose one photograph that features a human-environment or human-landscape interaction from The Earth from Above with GoodPlanet collection. The image can be from any location that there is a photograph. Next, select an article associated with the interaction featured in your photograph. Your article must be current, that is, published with the last 18 months, and help connect the location and interaction, in the context of the information you are provided with in the photograph’s pop-up. Please note that if there is an article/link associated with the photograph you chose, do not use that article/link for this assignment. You must actively look for an article, outside of Google Earth, from a credible source (see the example response).
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Assignment Guide: The Earth from Above
The Context
In this course you have been introduced to many types of landscapes, both natural and built,
and the interactions between humans and those landscapes. As you have learned, the
relationship is such that each impacts and shapes the other. This writing assignment will
challenge you to use the knowledge you have learned about those interactions and interpret
a human landscape as a geographer would – sometimes referred to as reading the
landscape.
Though you will be given some information to work with, you must also think critically about
this landscape. You will consider what is happening on the landscape and why? How are
people using their environment and, in turn, how are their actions shaped by it? What global
forces are at play?
Getting Started
You will need to install Google Earth Pro on desktop on your computer. While the mobile
version may also work the same way, the web version does not.
*Tip*
If you have difficulty installing Google Earth Pro™ on your computer and can access a campus
computer (at State’s main campus), all of the computers in the Geography Lab (Room 201)
and all general-use campus computers (for example, in the library or union) have Google
Earth Pro™ already installed on them.
Once installed, launch Google Earth Pro™ and in the Layers menu, open the Global
Awareness layer (that is, click on the + next to “Global Awareness”). You will notice a list of
international organizations whose aim is to promote public awareness about global issues.
For this assignment, you will be using the The Earth from Above with GoodPlanet layer, so
check the box next to it and then double-click on that layer (see image below).
Google Earth™ will fly you to North Africa, where you should see many icons (an aerial
photograph of crops in the shape of a heart, see image below) across the map. Each icon
represents the location of a photograph taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand for his project Earth
from Above, which encompasses over 500,000 aerial photos of the human landscape from
100 countries. Locate a photo on the globe and click on the Earth from Above (green square
with yellow heart-like shape) icon in Google Earth™ to view the photograph and read about
the photo subject and location (in the caption beneath the photo). Double-click on the icon
to zoom into the satellite image on Google Earth Pro™ map to explore the photograph’s
surroundings. You can remove layers to simplify what you are looking at or add other layers
to learn more about the area.
The Layers panel in Google Earth™.
The Google Earth™ map with the “Earth from Above” layer turned on. Each little green
and yellow heart icon marks the location of an aerial photograph taken by Yann
Arthus-Bertrand.
The Assignment
For this assignment you are asked to think critically about an Earth from Above photograph,
so that you can interpret and discuss the human-environment interaction just as a
well-seasoned geographer would.
First, you will need to choose one photograph that features a human-environment or
human-landscape interaction from The Earth from Above with GoodPlanet collection. The
image can be from any location that there is a photograph. You are strongly encouraged to
look at many images and consider all locations before selecting one. Some might not be
suitable for the assignment so I would strongly suggest reading this entire guide before
selecting a photograph.
Next, select an article associated with the interaction featured in your photograph. Your
article must be current, that is, published with the last 18 months, and help connect the
location and interaction, in the context of the information you are provided with in the
photograph’s pop-up. Please note that if there is an article/link associated with the
photograph you chose, do not use that article/link for this assignment. You must actively
look for an article, outside of Google Earth, from a credible source (see the example
response).
*Tip*
It may be obvious at this point, but not all of the “Earth from Above” photographs will work
for this assignment. Some photographs will work far better than others. Choose a
photograph that allows you to address all of the questions below. Take your time in
selecting a photo; there are plenty to choose from.
Also, you may want to do a little outside research on the location of your photograph.
Remember to cite not only your featured article, but any sources you use in the construction
of your response.
Now that you have a topic along with your accompanying photograph and article, it is time
to begin writing. You may focus on the photograph with the article as support, or the article
with the photograph as support. The example provided focuses on the article and uses the
photograph as support. Regardless of your choice, your response must incorporate and
connect the two in some way.
Note: At the top your response, you will want to Include the following:
(1) The photograph’s title. Be sure to state the photo’s location (that is, town, country) if
the title does not include this information.
(2) The full citation for the article you selected.
(1) Describe the country and provide context for your topic. You must include the general
characteristics of the location (Where in the world is this?), but should also consider
including things like:
•
•
•
•
Demographics
Economy
Physical landscape
Cultural landscape
(2) Discuss the human-environment/landscape interaction(s) captured in the
photograph. The primary question that should be answered is how are people using and/or
impacting the land? This seems simple, but the answer could be complex.
(3) Why are they using the land in this way? In other words, what is driving the
interaction/change. It could be economics, governance, conflict, population change, culture,
food insecurity, urbanization, among many other things (or combination of things).
(4) What does the future hold concerning this land use / interaction? The last section of your
assignment should consider not only the situation, but the variables (both positive and
negative) that will influence it now and moving forward.
*Tip*
To address question (4) in your response, you will need to discuss the interaction in the
context of what you have learned in this course. Here you will want to be sure to relate your
photograph back to course materials and demonstrate increased knowledge regarding the
interaction that you describe.
Also, be sure to use not only your perspective as a global citizen (that is, someone not from
that country or region), but also a local perspective. In that same regard, you should include
why the two perspectives might differ from one another.
Technicalities
Crafting a short paper is often harder than a long paper! Papers should be between 600
and 800 words. At the very beginning of your response, please type your word count in
parentheses, for example: (Word count: 799). Your response should be written using tight
clear and concise prose that demonstrates the main point or points you wish to convey using
a number of different themes or components of being globally aware.
Any outside sources (including the online lessons) used to develop your response must
have an accompanying citation. Be sure to also include a work- cited page that is
consistent with the citation style used to write your paper. Academic dishonesty (including
plagiarism, in any form), will not be tolerated and will result in a ZERO for the paper
and/or the course (see syllabus for details about academic dishonesty). (NOTE: If you
receive a zero for academic dishonesty/plagiarism, you cannot drop that assignment grade if
applicable.)
*Tip*
Many search indexes allow you to pull up the full citation. We recommend that you do this
for your selected article before exiting the index. If the option is there, the preferred citation
style is the most recent edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (author-date).
Include your name, class, and date in the body of your submitted file. For example, write
“Jane Doe, ISS310, Jan. 1, 2024” at the top of the first page of your file. Failure to provide
this information can result in a deduction of points from your assignment grade.
Be sure to use correct spelling and grammar, and fully answer the question to gain maximum
points on this assignment. Papers are worth 25 points each and will be graded based on how
well you answer the question and meet the criteria provided for you on the Grading Rubric
(found in the Writing Assignments folder). Writing quality, however, is extremely important
and will weigh significantly in determining your grade. LATE writing assignment papers will
NOT be accepted for full credit (see the course syllabus for the late submission policy).
Note: This example is intended to give you an idea of the type of paper you should
be writing, content and format. The topic, image, and article used in this example
may NOT be the same as those used in the current semester/session. Also be
advised that if you are given specific directives in your write-up and you do not
follow those instructions, you will be marked down regardless of whether or not
they are included in this example.
Mary Smith
ISS310, January 20, 2020
Word Count: 652
Article
Greene, Matthew. “Why are beaches disappearing in Morocco?” Middle East Eye,
August 4, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2017.
http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/sand-exploitation-morocco-beach
es-environment-construction-erosion-475164766.
Image/caption
Village in the Rheris valley, Ar-Rachidia region, Haut Atlas, Morocco.
City Construction and Coastal Destruction in Morocco, Africa.
Set upon the coast of two major water bodies, the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea,
Morocco is a country of North Africa, just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. It is more
specifically in the region of Northwestern Africa known as the Maghreb, a word meaning
west, sunset in Arabic. While much of Morocco’s landscape is made up the coastal Atlas
Mountains which grade to desert toward the interior, Morocco is not without a bright spot
in its otherwise challenging terrain (Nijman, Muller, and de Blij 2016, 232). Take a moment
to Google “beaches in Morocco” and you quickly see stunning images and a host of travel
site populate the results. There is also no denying the impact of tourism on Morocco’s
economy. More tourists visit the country every year than any other country in North Africa,
and, in a country that is economically weak, the service industry contributes nearly 60% to
the country’s GDP (The World Factbook–Central Intelligence Agency 2016). Moreover,
Morocco ranks in the top 25 in the world for tourism’s contribution to employment (The
World Travel & Tourism Council 2015). Both poverty and unemployment plague Morocco,
and while the population growth rate is rather low, the country is largely urban (60%),
particularly among African nations, and a growing number are flocking to the country’s cities
everyday (The World Factbook–Central Intelligence Agency 2016).
Looking almost like block fractals, row houses form rows and columns from edge to edge in
an image of a village in the Rheris valley of the Ar-Rachidia region of Morocco–a symbol of
“demographic growth”. Many cities benefited from a period of economic growth between
2012 and 2014, and a construction boom attempted to accommodate the growth. Buildings
of concrete sprung up across the countries’ urban areas, and many recognized a way to
capitalize and capture a larger profit with little investment. Sand was plentiful along
Morocco’s coasts, and mining the sand from the countries’s most endowed beaches
provided a cheap source of a primary ingredient in concrete. The people who entered and
exited those buildings everyday may have never even noticed the beaches that had been
pillaged and degraded to erect the walls that surrounded them (Greene 2016).
Apart from simply having access to a natural resource, a period of economic growth and high
urbanization rates, there were other contributing factors to the mining of sand from the
country’s beaches. Two of the most glaring being poverty, stemming from a poor
educational system and low human development, and governance (The World
Factbook–Central Intelligence Agency 2016). While the sand was not particularly prized for
its inherent value or even its recreational value, the government of Morocco is a monarchy,
led by a Prime Minister, and founded upon Islamist principles. While more moderate than
other North African countries, prior to the revolutionary events of the Arab Spring in 2011,
the government may have to take more action to stop illegal sand mining. A desire to avoid
political demonstrations may have played a role in allowing the sand mining to continue
between 2012 and 2014 (Greene 2016).
For now the boom has passed and the building slowed, but the degradation remains a scar.
Attempts have been made to replenish the sand of the country’s more popular beaches, but
the loss is still evident and has led to increased shoreline erosion along many stretches. And
who is to say the economic growth engines will not rev again? We are now a part of an
urban world, and even with declining rates of growth, the world’s population is growing
exponentially (Text, page 106). This will continue to put pressure on our natural resources,
and in countries where poverty is consuming, many will choose a tangible income, and a
chance to meet their basic needs, over the intangible value of a coast. Without conservation
efforts, Morocco will always be faced with the possibility of losing one of their most
environmentally critical, beautiful and lucrative physical landscapes.
References
Greene, Matthew. “Why are beaches disappearing in Morocco?” Middle East Eye,
August 4, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2017.
http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/sand-exploitation-morocco-beach
es-environment-construction-erosion-475164766.
Nijman, Jan, Muller, Peter O., and H. J. de Blij, The World Today: Concepts Regions in
Geography. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The World Factbook–Central Intelligence Agency. 2016. “Africa: Morocco.” Last
modified August 1, 2017.
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mo.html.
World Travel and Tourism Council. 2015. “Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2015
Morocco.”
https://www.wttc.org/-/media/files/reports/economic%20impact%20research/coun
tries%202015/morocco2015.pdf.

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