AAG Annual Meeting: Tips and Tricks

By Emily Speelman

Earlier this month, 9,000 geographers from around the world travelled to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. This five-day conference featured hundreds of paper sessions, panels, and talks to help geographers meet, discuss their passions, and learn more about their discipline. This year’s key speakers included Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, Andrea Wolfe, and many more. Thanks to the DePaul University Department of Geography, I was able to attend the meeting with two other students. I learned so much at the conference and had the opportunity to meet geographers from around the world.


If you plan on attending the Annual Meeting in New Orleans next year or have never been to an AAG Meeting before, here are a few tips for attendees:

Download the AAG App

AAG’s app (available for Android and IOS) allows you to search easily through the entire conference program. Each session is marked by certain themes and tracks (such as Urban Geographies or Jobs and Careers) so you can search under a certain category if you aren’t sure where to start. This helps you plan. You can search through all of the paper sessions, panels, presentation, and different subgroups and save them to your individual calendar. Physical copies of the program are also available, but since the conference has hundreds of possibilities, the app is the best method.

Organize In Advance

Before getting to the conference, go through the program and identify the sessions you definitely don’t want to miss. Star those in your app calendar so you can easily access information about the speakers, their paper abstracts, and the session’s location. This also helps identify when you are available, making other activities easier to choose.

Diversify your activities

While I personally would love to go to every session related to urban planning, the best part about AAG by far is seeing the variety of ways Geography is used and studied. If you aren’t sure where to start, join friends or colleagues at a session of their interest – you never know how it will benefit you in the long run.

Spend time in the conference city

I had never been to Boston before, so I made sure to schedule in time to explore the city. You can do this through a field trip (like I did to the Boston Planning Agency) or on your own. Getting out of the conference center for a bit will help break up the trip, give you time to process all of the new information, and really enjoy the place you are visiting.

Realize you can’t do it all

The annual meeting is exciting. There is so much to learn and do but, unfortunately, you won’t be able to go to everything you want. And that’s okay! Do as much as you can but don’t feel bad about sleeping in one day or spending the day on a field trip. There is a lot of freedom to do what you like, so build your day to what suits you.

Conversation with Noam Chomsky

Conversation with David Harvey

Thank you again to DePaul Geography for sending me to the Annual Meeting – I had a fantastic time. To learn more about AAG and attend next year’s meeting, visit their website here

GSC is Going Green!

The Geographic Society of Chicago is Going Green!

We’re proud to be a 2017 sponsor of the Village of Wilmette’s Going Green Matters initiative. Going Green is designed to encourage residents of Wilmette and the Chicagoland area to consider their impact on the environment and change what they can to make their community more sustainable. Some of these ways include:

  • LED lighting
  • Energy-efficient homes
  • Solar energy
  • Active transportation
  • Clean, green cars
  • Natural yards and native habitat
  • Parks and open spaces
  • Storm water management
  • Water conservation
  • Edible gardens and smart food choices
  • Waste reduction and recycling

Learn more about the Going Green Matters movement here.

To promote this movement, Go-Green Wilmette and the Village of Wilmette will be hosting a Going Green Matters community event on Sunday, March 12. The Geographic Society of Chicago will be there – will you?

The event is FREE and will be held at Michigan Shores Club (911 Michigan Avenue) in Wilmette from 12pm – 4pm. This fair will include exhibits such as:

  • Environmental Graphiti Art Exhibit by artist Alisa Singer
  • Native Plant Sale
  • Raffle and Auction Prizes
  • Household Battery Recycling
  • The Geographic Society of Chicago’s Geosphere!

The event is for all ages and has something for everyone! For questions regarding the event, contact info@gogreenwilmette.org.

 

We hope to see you there!

February Travelogue: Belgium and Luxembourg

The next travelogue in our 2017 Winter Series is tomorrow!

Join us tomorrow at 1pm in Chicago Cultural Center’s Renaissance Room to hear Ralph Danielsen’s presentation on Belgium and Luxembourg. More information about the talk can be found below:

“Belgium & Luxembourg are a perfect microcosm of the best of Europe, with a long history right up to and especially including last century’s world wars.

We’ll visit some of these battle sights and somber monuments, as well as the world’s most beautiful town squares, marvelous medieval towns, imposing castles, ancient art, and dramatic architecture. Highlights include EU capital Brussels, Bastogne, and bewitching Bruges.”

We will see you there!

The Electoral College Explained

by Emily Speelman

The United States is in the last leg of the 2016 Presidential Election and, as November 8 approaches, “The Race to 270” is on. But what does this phrase mean? How does is apply to the everyday voter? And what role does geography play in this race?

“The Race to 270” refers to the number of votes a presidential candidate must win in the Electoral College to secure the presidency. There are a total of 538 members in the college and, to become president, candidates must earn 50% + 1 of their votes. Electors are appointed by their state and the number of electors is equal to their state’s number of representatives in Congress, giving each state a minimum of 3 (accounting for two senators and at least one representative in Congress per state).

Image from National Geographic: http://nationalgeographic.org/maps/electoral-college/

Image from National Geographic: http://nationalgeographic.org/maps/electoral-college/

Rather than voting directly for their desired candidates, citizens cast their ballot to the electors, telling them who to vote for. Based on this popular vote, the state’s electors put all their votes toward the majority candidate. Even if the candidate wins by only 51%, state’s “winner-take-all” policy dedicates that all the state’s electoral college votes can only go to the majority winner.

This applies to all states except Maine and Nebraska, who use Congressional Districts to determine electoral votes. Maine has four electoral votes and two congressional districts: the winner of each district gets at one vote and the statewide winner automatically gets two of the four. Nebraska, with its three electoral votes, has a similar system: the statewide winner gets two votes and the district winner gets the third. It is possible for the votes to split, which is important to note in a close election like this years.

While this sounds pretty straightforward, there are some problems with this system:

  1. Unequal voter power: As previously mentioned, a state’s number of electors is determined by its number of representatives in Congress. With each state getting a minimum of one, the number of house representatives are decided by a state’s total population. By giving each state three electoral votes (to account for the two senators), voting power is unequally distributed amongst the population, which can have a big impact on the election. Votes from states with lower populations (such as Vermont and Wyoming) have more power representation in the Electoral College than their population calls. They receive electoral votes that should belong to states with bigger populations, like California and Texas. Therefore, the individual votes of these smaller population states are giving more weight in determine who their state’s’ electoral votes go.
  2. Problems with a winner-take-all system: The winner-take-all system can greatly misrepresent the popular vote. With this system, the majority candidate in most states gets all of their electoral votes, no matter how much or little they won by. Therefore, the candidate needs to win states votes more than people’s votes.  This can make a massive difference when the nationwide popular vote is calculated, potentially swaying the election results. This occurred in 1876, 1888, and 2000, where the candidate won less than half of the popular vote, but won the election due to the Electoral College’s rules. To see this explained, CGP Grey made video exploring it here.
  3. Missing American Votes: There are a huge amount of American votes missing from each election. Why? This is because US territories are not allowed to vote in the election, with the exception of the District of Columbia (which was only granted in 1964). The territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and US Virgin Islands are not granted Electoral College votes because they are not states. They are, however, US citizens and over 4 million people live here (which is more people than live in the city of Chicago!).

While the Electoral College has its problems, every vote counts in an election. The deadline to register online or by mail in Illinois is October 12 so make sure you are registered and make your voice heard on November 8.

 

Questions about how to vote in Illinois? Click here for a video explaining IL deadlines, absentee ballots, and more!

 

For more information on the Electoral College, see the videos and articles below:

A Breakdown of the Electoral College: http://nationalgeographic.org/maps/electoral-college/

How the Electoral College Works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUS9mM8Xbbw

The Trouble with the Electoral Collage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wC42HgLA4k

History of US Elections: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48EZKXweGDo