Teaching Geography Workshop 4: North Africa/Southwest Asia – Part 2: Egypt
Our investigation of North Africa/Southwest Asia continues in Egypt. Here as throughout that region, the presence or absence of water has had a profound influence on human settlement.
We will see the great impact that access to resources has on the characteristics, distribution and migration of human population on Earth's surface. You will be able to understand how changes in the spatial distribution of population may result in changes in social and economic conditions. Conditions may include availability of water supply for expanding urban regions, adequate space for extra housing, and opportunities or a lack thereof for education and employment.
Egypt has harnessed the mighty Nile with both positive and negative consequences. This case study shows how human actions modify the physical environment. Here we see the contrast between ancient ways of life and modern technology in a contest for domain over the resources of Egypt.
This drives our second objective: to understand the role of technology in changing the physical environment, and the environmental consequences of such actions. Following the case study, we will observe seventh-grade teacher Cynthia Ryan use Egypt and the Nile as the focus of a classroom lesson.
From space, the earth can seem an abstract pattern of color and shape. But as we look closer, environmental processes come into view. Here the rain of East Central Africa collects into the giant Lake Victoria. Its waters drain to the north, giving rise to one of the world's great rivers, the Nile.
Descending from the African highlands, the Nile winds through one of the Earth's most arid landscapes. Coursing through the vast desert of northern Africa, the waters of the Nile nourish a ribbon of green across the sun-baked terrain. And 4,000 miles from its source, the Nile puts forth its greatest gift-- a lush and fertile delta that ushered in one of the world's oldest civilizations.
Near the neck of the delta is the city of Cairo. Today the streets are alive-- 11 million people crowd the city, 68 million crowd the country. And though the bounty of the Nile is great, today the agriculture it supports is not sufficient to feed the people of Egypt. And so the pressure to use more of the Nile's water for desert irrigation mounts.
Nile Valley is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. 95% of Egypt's people live on and depend on just five percent of the land. But the Nile River and its narrow ribbon of fertile soil has fed Egypt for most of its long history.
Every year when the river flooded, it left a rich layer of silt to grow crops in. Nourished by the wild river, the land here was as fertile as any on Earth. But nearly 50 years ago, Egypt decided to tame the Nile.
The Aswan High Dam was the greatest public work project since the pyramids. 24 ancient monuments were moved, but many others disappeared under the new lake. Lake Nasser, the world's largest man-made lake, holds two years worth of the Nile's water. With the Aswan Dam, Egypt regulates the flow of the Nile. This has been a boon for agriculture in the delta.
The dam is very important. Without the dam, you would not have perennial irrigation in the delta. You would not have three cropping seasons. But there's a down side-- you are holding back silt, so the nutrient-rich water which used to come every year during the flood no longer comes. So this has resulted in increased dependency on fertilizers, on the additions to chemicals to the land. Not only are these expensive, but there's an environmental cost as well.
One such cost is a kind of pollution called salinization. Salinization occurs most often in arid climates like we find in Egypt. In the hot, dry air, surface water evaporates quickly before it can sink down into the soil, leaving behind whatever mineral content was in...
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