Place of the Year 2012: Behind the longlist
Last week, we launched Place of the Year 2012 (POTY), a celebration of the year in geographical terms. As Harm de Blij writes in Why Geography Matters: More than Ever, “In our globalizing, ever more inter-connected, still-overpopulated, increasingly competitive, and dangerous world, knowledge is power. The more we know about our planet and its fragile natural environments, about other peoples and cultures, political systems and economies, borders and boundaries, attitudes and aspirations, the better prepared we will be for the challenging times ahead.”
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the 2012 POTY nominees that highlight the history and culture of the year and that give insight into the future.
This year, Africa has been ripe with change. In March 2012, Kony 2012, a short film by Invisible Children, Inc., dominated the social media sphere, calling attention to Ugandan guerilla groupleader and indicted war criminal Joseph Kony. The film and its backlash sparked a closer look at East Africa. One year following the Arab Spring, it’s important to note developments in post-revolution Egypt and Libya. The destruction of Timbuktu’s most sacred sites, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, this summer points to growth of Islamist groups in Mali.
Elsewhere, Myanmar (also known as Burma) began a slow process of reform and Syria spiraled into civil war. Turkey, the fastest growing tourist destination, is a key player in the Syrian conflict and Middle East affairs as a whole. Amid concerns over Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, will regional and international conflict explode? In another corner of the world, island disputes embroil Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. As Japan, China, and Taiwan debate control over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands, tensions are flaring between South Korea and Japan over the Dokdo or Takeshima Islands. While Greece struggles with economic disaster, Shanghai, China’s financial center, might soon become the financial capital of the world.
Politics and economics aside, 2012 has been a remarkable year for science. Between the likely discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN in Switzerland and NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission on Mars, scientists have given the public a renewed sense of wonder about the world. Not all discoveries are worth celebrating; the continued effects of global warming in the Arctic Circle, unfortunately, are a cause for concern — and a territorial race to claim previously inaccessible oil and natural gas deposits. The environmental changes will reverberate around the world.
In the United States this year, Pass Christian, Mississippi, a post-hurricane phoenix, is hometown to Robin Roberts, Good Morning America anchor and inspiration to cancer survivors everywhere. The Barnes Collection now joins the Phillies, the Eagles, the Flyers, Rocky, and cheesesteaks as children of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In Washigton, DC, maintaining the constitutionality of Obamacare and rejecting Arizona’s policies towards immigrants are only two of the historic decisions made by the United States Supreme Court this year. With affirmative action and possibly California’s Proposition 8 on the Supreme Court’s docket, history will continue to be made in the coming term.
On these chilly fall days, there are some Oxford employees who dream of pie à la mode from the dessert’s hometown in Cambridge, NY or a vacation to Belize’s beautiful beaches and mountains. Others wistfully imagine a bellini at Harry’s Bar in Venice or curling up on the couch to watch “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” set in Calabasas, CA, or “The Wire,” set in Baltimore, MD, home to Michael Phelps, the world’s most decorated Olympian. And if you’re not hanging out in Bed-Stuy, Montauk, or at The Standard Hotel in West Hollywood, then where is your “cool” hangout?
Use the voting buttons to make your choice, or leave a nomination in the comments. Check back here weekly to get insights into geography, and stay tuned for the short-list announcement on November 12th.