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Conflict and me

The geography of conflict - Conflict and me

The geography of conflict

This lesson allows you to think about how conflict affects you.

Key questions

  • How does conflict affect me?
  • Can I use Google Earth to map the effects of conflict on me?

Key concepts

  • Place
  • Space
  • Interdependence

Our own lives connect with others.

A central aspect of Geography today is being able to relate things which are happening on a global scale to the effects which it has on us as individuals. We can identify a series of connections between conflicts which may be happening on the other side of the world and ourselves, both directly and indirectly. We are all affected by conflict in some way.

Mobile phones are linked to conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo - The DRC has very rich mineral resources. In addition to rich deposits of copper, gold and diamonds it has 80% of the world's coltan (or columbite-tantalum) deposits, most of which are found to the east of the country. This is a mineral which is essential to the making of mobile phones as well as laptops and computer games due to its heat conducting properties. Much of the east of the DRC is in the hands of rebel troops and farmers have been forced off of their land to mine the coltan. Some estimates report that 30% of children have abandoned school in order to work in the mines. It is also reported that gangs from neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe are also said to be heavily involved in the coltan smuggling trade, and use the proceeds from sales of the mineral to fund their store of weapons. Approximately three million Congolese have been killed as a result of the war. Three mobile phone manufacturers, Motorola, Nokia and Vodafone have made statements on their websites addressing the coltan issue.

For further information read the BBC News article Wealth in Africa's conflict zones, which provides more information about the use of coltan in the making of mobile phones and the way it has exacerbated the conflict in the DRC. The Motorola website has a statement (PDF) on the illegal mining of coltan.

Plastic and petrol are linked to the conflict in Iraq - The Middle East, and in particular Iraq, have 65% of the world's oil reserves. Oil is the lifeblood of the American economy, the US consumes 30% of the world's oil, and oil is vital to sustaining the UK economy as well. For example, ink, CDs, many clothes, make-up, fertilizers, car tyres, plastic and petrol are all manufactured from oil. Prior to the invasion of Iraq the US was concerned that none of the members of the Arab League (a regional organisation of Arab states including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen) was a true democracy. The US believed that the fall of Saddam Hussain would bring democracy to the Middle East and deny radical Islamic groups access to oil reserves so desperately needed by the west.

For further information read the BBC News article Analysis: What does the US want from war? which discusses the link between the war in Iraq and its oil reserves, or visit the PRI's Petroleum Education website, which explains how oil is used to make a number of everyday products which we take for granted.

Call centres and software technology are linked to the conflict in Kashmir - Sringagar, Kashmir's capital, is home to a software technology park which has employed 16 engineers to develop software for America's construction companies. The work has been outsourced to India to cut production costs as labour is amongst the cheapest in the world at approximately £1,500 per year compared to £36,000 per year in Japan and Europe and £26,000 in the US. However, Kashmir has been disputed by both its neighbours, India and Pakistan since the subcontinent was divided in 1947. The most recent conflict began in 1999, some separatists want Kashmir to become independent, others want it to become part of Pakistan. The conflict has caused problems for those working at the software technology park, for example, it took two and a half years to get internet access as security agencies were concerned that militants would take advantage of it.

For further information read the BBC News article Kashmir logs on to IT boom, which discusses how IT business is being outsourced to Kashmir, an area which has experienced conflict for the last 15 years, or visit the More4 website for details of an investigation by Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame) who follows an successful American computer programmer who has lost his job as it was outsourced to India in the documentary '30 days'.




How does conflict affect me?

Have a look at the how does conflict affect me cards which suggest some ways in which you might be linked to conflicts around the world. There are also some blank cards which can be used to write your own ideas on. Use the cards to think about how conflict affects you - you can sort the cards into piles to help you.



Using Google Earth to illustrate how conflict affects me

Using your links to conflict from the starter activity, follow these instructions which show you how to use Google Earth to present your information using placemarks. You can add images, movie clips and text to your placemarks to explain how conflicts in different parts of the world affect you.

If you need a bit more help with using Google Earth, take a look at this online demonstration.



Present your finished work to the rest of the class, remembering to explain how different conflicts around the world affect you.

You have now come to the end of this module on the geography of conflict. As a final task, complete the third column of the KWL grid. In this column, you should write down what you have learnt during this unit.

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