Saturday, October 10, 2009

Geography for the Day

In the last two weeks there have been a flurry of tidal waves, typhoons, and other water-related disasters in China, Japan, the Philippines, Samoa, Tonga and other Pacific Rim nations. Whenever I think about countries in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, I wonder about their relationship to the equator. Have you ever thought about it?

South America is relatively easy. Equador straddles the equator. Therefore, Colombia, Peru and Brazil are also crossed by the equator. That means all of North and Central America is above the equator.

Africa. The Mediterranian is not equatorial, so at least part of Africa is north of the equator. As it turns out, the northern edge of Lake Victoria is at the equator. So we have the Congo AND the Democratic Republic of the Congo (I didn't realize there were two countries using the name Congo ....) Uganda, Kenya and a bit of Somalia all touch the equator. A country which calls itself Equatorial Guinea must lie on the equator, too.

On to Asia. India is way north. Singapore just misses, but Sumatra and Borneo straddle the equator. New Guinea just touches the equator on the north. Once past New Guinea we have the Solomon Islands, which are either north or south depending on the map projection you are viewing, and not much else until we run once again into Equador. Samoa is a bit south. Micronesia is north. Manilla lies nearly 1000 miles north.

So what lies south of the equator? Part of South America. Part of Africa. Parts of Indonesia. Australia and New Zealand. Antarctica. A smattering of Pacific islands. The rest of the Earth's land masses -- North America, Europe, Asia, all the countries and continents most of us can find on a map (and a whole lot more in the bargain) -- are north of the equator. That is most of the population of the world. No wonder we don't know much about our Southern Hemisphere neighbors -- and cousins.

Of all the Southern Hemisphere nations, which one flies a flag carrying the Southern Cross (the constellation in the SH as important to navigation as the Little Dipper is in the north)? Answer? New Zealand!

Go exploring. This site is a little harder. If you are reading this, play for a bit on Google Earth. You never know what surprises you will find.

Give thanks that with the magic of electronics we can instantly communicate with friends and family who are literally on opposite ends of the Earth as well as those who are much nearer neighbors. Practice really listening to those whose values are different, sometimes very different, from your own. Focus on the common ground rather than the differences. Can we be friends?

Don't forget to pray ....

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