Human ecology

Shipping on the Great Lakes: Benefits and Consequences of Exporting Goods

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Learn how Lake Michigan is used for the shipping and exporting of goods. Lake Michigan is 118 miles at its widest point, 301 miles long and is the third largest Great Lake by surface area. Today Lake Michigan continues to be a major shipping route to and from the Midwest for freighters. 

The town of Singapore, founded in the 1830’s, was one of the first establishments on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan. This town started as an entrepreneurial town to rival Chicago or Milwaukee as a lake port. It quickly became known as a busy lumbering and timbering town.

White pine lumber was in great demand all over the Midwest until October of 1871. A couple of days after the Great Chicago Fire, a big forest fire burned the western side of Michigan near Singapore and depleted the timber supply. Singapore went bankrupt because of the weakened timber supply and became a ghost town.

With Singapore becoming a ghost town and no longer a Lake Michigan shipping port, timber and leather had to find a way to be shipped to Chicago and the Midwest. The town of Saugatuck became the nearest port on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan to ship goods across Lake Michigan to Chicago and the Midwest. 

With the decline of the timber industry, due to the forest fire, fruit farming was gaining popularity. Boats were needed to ship fresh fruit and leather across Lake Michigan.

With Lake Michigan becoming a major shipping route, this led to a decline in the fishing industry. 

The opening of the Welland Canal connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, via the St. Lawrence Seaway, had positive and negative effects on the ecosystems of Lake Michigan. 

America's Grasslands: A Threatened National Treasure | Impact of Loss of Native Prairie

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In spite of being described as a “jewel, a national treasure,” America’s Northern Plains grasslands are being threatened by increasing pressures of agriculture. The area’s subtle beauty and ecological diversity and significance have not prevented large tracts of prairie from being cultivated for crops necessary to feed the nation. The key is finding the delicate balance between protecting what remains of original grasslands to preserve the ecological benefits they provide for wildlife, as well as clean air and water, and growing the crops that produce food for people all around the world.

Is New Orleans Prepared for the Next Katrina?

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Find out what has been done to prepare New Orleans for the next big storm with this video and educational resources from PBS NewsHour from August 25, 2015.

Record Snowfalls Hit Boston

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See the effects of record-breaking snowfall on Boston's communities with this video and educational resources from PBS NewsHour from February 18, 2015.

Introduction | Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl

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The Dust Bowl was a decade-long natural catastrophe of biblical proportions, and the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history. It is the classic tale of humans pushing too hard on nature and nature pushing back, during a period of economic boom and bust in the 1920s and 1930s.

Great States | Oregon

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A state on the edge of a continent, Oregon’s first inhabitants first arrived 15,000 years ago. But it wasn’t until 1805 that explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark established Fort Clatsop, paving the way for newcomers who would help shape the state of Oregon into what we know today. Learn how the unique geography, economy, and culture of Oregon earned the state its name—the Pacific Wonderland.

Great States | Idaho Geography

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Explore the three geographical sections of Idaho—the Columbia Plateau, the Rocky Mountains, and the Basin and Range Region. Discover mountains and plains, learn about differing climates, and find out more about Idaho’s varied geographical layout and features. 

Germans from Russia in South America | Soybean Production

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Brazil is one of the largest exporters of soybean. Santa Rosa is called the soybean capital of the country where the soybean production was started originally.

Kora Riddim | Beat Making Lab

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The PBS Beat Making Lab offers a challenge to the locals in Senegal to create a beat using a traditional West African instrument, the Kora. Bringing together this classical African sound with a Jamaican-enriched dance genre, and collaborating with the Beat Making Lab's high-tech style, these Senegalese musicians were able to create some inspiring new sounds.

A Garden in Cairo

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Discover how the development of the Al-Azhar Park in Cairo was initiated and explore the impact of the park's development on the surrounding community. Cairo, a city of 16 million, is one of the most densely populated in the world, with only one square foot of green space per person prior to 2005. His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, saw the need to relieve this congestion. The result is Al-Azhar Park: a 500-year-old dump-turned-"urban lung" that provides much-needed green space and a source of civic pride.

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