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10 Most Important Geographical Events of 2008

The Ten Events That Shaped Geography


2008 was a big year for geography with much happening in the world of political geography, climate change, and scientific discovery. As is my tradition each year, I have selected the ten most important geographic events of the year.

1. Kosovo Declares Independence

Kosovo Independence
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the former Serbian province of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on Sunday, February 17) and thus became the world's 195th country. Major world powers (except Russia and China) recognized Kosovo and by the end of 2008, more than 50 countries has recognized the independence of the country.

2. The Georgian-Russian War

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On the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Russian troops invaded Georgia, in an effort to "protect" the breakaway South Ossetia region. The war was a short one but was intensely covered by traditional media as well as new media such as bloggers and others witnessing the events.

3. Zimbabwe's Problems

Zimbabwe Flag
Public Domain, CIA World Factbook
This has not been Zimbabwe's year. Runaway inflation, election issues, and now a cholera epidemic have plagued the country which has been led by Robert Mugabe since 1980. hopefully 2009 will be a better year for the beleaguered African country.

4. China's Earthquake

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On May 12, 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck the Sichuan Province of China, killing more than 69,000 people, making it China's worst disaster in more than 30 years.

5. Autonomy for Greenland

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In November, a whopping 75.54% of Greenlanders voted for greater autonomy from Denmark. Beginning June 2009, Greenland will see a greater share of oil revenue, the official language switches from Danish to Kalaallisut, and Greenlanders will be considered as a separate people under international law.

6. Venezuela Selects Offset Time Zone

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Venezuela adopted an offset time zone, becoming the only country in the Americas with an offset time zone (excluding a small part of Canada). Established by their dynamic President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's offset time zone makes it a half hour earlier than Guyana to the east and a half hour later than Colombia to the west. Caracas, the capital, is nearly midway between the 60 and 75 degree centers of Venezuela's neighboring time zones so for the capital the change makes sense but the outlying parts of the country on the east and west won't benefit as much.

7. Half of World Population in Urban Areas

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A United Nations report indicated that half of all of the people on the planet will live in cities by the end of 2008. Urbanization worldwide has been increasing annually and the report estimates that by 2050, 70 percent of humans will live in urban areas.

8. Summer Olympic Games in Beijing

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All eyes were on China as the 2008 Summer Olympic Games were held in Beijing, China, just months after that country's devastating earthquake. By all measures, the Games were a success and the little touch of international conflict was resolved with it was agreed that Iraq could participate.

9. The Proposed Mediterranean Union

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy is working on a proposal to bring together the leaders of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea in a Mediterranean Union of cooperation between southern European countries and their Muslim brethren (and Israel) to the south.

10. Geography of Politics

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The 2008 Presidential Election in the United State inspired a plethora of geographical questions such as: Can you see Russia from Alaska? Was Senator John McCain a natural born citizen having been born in the Canal Zone? How about President-Elect Barack Obama?
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