One of the advantages of being married to an environmental scientist, is that I get random nature adventures. The other morning, the boys and I were out walking the dogs, wondering what to do with our day, when I got a phone call from out of the blue. It was an hour away from low tide, and people were already gathering with snorkeling equipment at the local rock pools for the last day of the annual Sea Slug Census.

Brown-lined Paper Bubble – Hydatina physis

We hurried home, grabbed our snorkeling gear, and raced off to the headland. Every year in late January, I learned, anyone who is interested is invited to go down their local rock pool and look for sea slugs. They then upload these onto iNaturalist, a citizen science database. There is nothing particularly special about January for its its impact on sea slugs. It is just a good time to get in the water, because it is high summer here, and by collecting information at the same time every year, it reduces one of the variables for data analysis and makes comparisons possible.

Gem Doris – Dendrodoris krusensternii

At the rockpools, we met up with a random group of friendly strangers. I later found out that many of them were fiercely qualified leaders in marine science. Because we didn’t have an underwater camera, or the faintest idea what we were looking at, we didn’t really add anything to the scientific endeavours. Really, we were just going snorkeling, but we were doing it with intent, and I think that makes a big difference.

Sea hare – Aplysia argus

I very rarely have anything to do with the water, but this was truly excellent. We spent a couple of hours down there. It is tide dependent, but it is not like it is hard to do. We were never in water more than waist deep, and its only ten minutes walk away but every time I would stick my head underwater, the whole world would change. There is no external sound there, the surface forms a kind of ceiling that you can’t properly see through, and seaweed forms a dense miniature forest which is structurally very different from any plant life I am familiar with.

Ornate Wobbegong – Orectolobus ornatus

We saw a couple of wobbegong sharks, some sea hares and an octopus as we carefully pushed our way through the seaweed. The real scientists, of course, saw much more than we did. They are also the ones who took all these photos. It made for a great morning out, and everyone is extremely keen to do it again soon.

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What is History? Russian invasion of Ukraine – 20th/ 21st century history #17

Having begun our history lessons with the evolution of humans, we have finally, after all these years, arrived at the present day. For this lesson, I wanted to cover the concept of making history. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is clearly going to be remembered as a defining point in Ukrainian history, but there is no way to know just yet how much global impact it will show in fifty or a hundred years from now. So in this lesson, we had a lot of discussion about what historic events look like as they are happening.

One thing about this war is that there is enormous amounts of footage and analyses of it, which cover all the aspects you could think of. We spent the whole lesson, which lasted several hours, watching videos, and discussing what we saw. I originally intended to have two essay questions for this, rather than the usual pattern of short answer questions. It was the very last lesson of the year though, and there was not a lot of energy left, so they became discussion points instead.

What History Was, Is, and Will Be – Crash Course European History

I wanted to start with this video, as it looks at how history has been studied over time, and how this shapes our view of the world. It highlights that what will be important to one group of people will be largely irrelevant to another, and it makes clear that history is always inherently biased. The lens through which we view history will shape what we see and how we react to it. Changing social norms and new findings will cause history to be rewritten. This has often been a bone of contention with the boys over the years when it comes to our history lessons. Completely opposite to the binary logic of maths, where you are either right or wrong, in history, you are never certain. It is all interpretation.

Teaching the Importance of the Present Through Time Travel

I enjoy the serious idea hidden behind the silly proposal of this meme. I love a good time travel story, and how in various convoluted forms, they all seem to revolve around picking the ‘right’ timeline. There is so much tied up in the idea of ‘what if I could go back in time and change history,’ when, of course, we can change history, and do every day.

Will Russia invade Ukraine? – Al Jazeera, January

This clip was made a few weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. There was a lot of power moves by Russia at the time. They might have been bluffing, but no one was quite sure at this stage. This clip explores Russia’s build-up of troops along the border, quickly recaps regional history over the last few decades, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, why NATO is interested in all of this, and a few interpretations of what might happen next. I chose this clip because it is so uncertain, and because it shows how people analyse this kind of international posturing.

How Ukraine Prevented Russia a Day 1 Win – The infographics show

This is an animated explanation on the battle for Hostomel airfield on the first day of the war. The special military operation which was going to be over in a week at most all hinged on a shock and awe style assault, coupled with a blitzkrieg like run straight for the president at Kiev. It is a high risk, high reward type strategy. We have looked at this basic idea before, and it was really something to see a modern example. The two biggest and most obvious examples we have studied with a similar idea in mind was Napoleons disastrous capture of Moscow, and Hitlers rapid capture of Paris. Here, I wanted to show how the outcome of a single critical day would cause a series of events which indirectly shifted the initiative from the Russians to the Ukrainians.

Ukraine War: Helmet Cam Captures Russian Air Assault Troops First Capture of Hostomel Airport – War leaks, February

Most of the battles we have studied in our history lessons have been through maps or animated videos, so I was fascinated to find this footage. Unusually, it is from the Russian perspective and shows the view of a Russian paratrooper arriving on the second wave of helicopters at the battle for Hostomel airfield. It made a very interesting contrast having just watched the event being clearly explained with neat graphics and an explanation made with the benefit of hindsight, to see how this looks in real time.

Refugee crisis begins as tens of thousands of Ukrainians flee west – ABC News, February

This news clip is just a few days into the invasion. I wanted to point out to the boys that the first thing that happens is a massive flood of refugees, and everyone who is not fleeing is seeking shelter. In our very stable lives, it is easy to forget just how quickly it can all be turned upside down. On another level, I thought this clip was interesting because it talks about how quickly Russia was cut out of the international banking system, and makes clear the idea that wars are not just fought with weapons, but also finances.

Russian military convoy approaches Ukraine’s capital – CBS New York, March

The war had been going for about a week when this news clip was made. I chose it because it shows the chaos in regular cities, and how the Ukrainians were able to diplomatically win straight away. I wanted to stress this last point because even as Russian columns rolled across the country, it shows Ukrainians being given the international backing needed to keep fighting, as well as all kinds of support on many different levels.

Russia-Ukraine: Is Russia’s invasion going to plan? – Al Jazeera, March

I wanted to highlight what a near thing an early Russian victory was. This short clip from early March shows that the Russian plans of a lightning raid are starting to fall apart pretty quickly, but it is still a desperate fight, and there is tremendous uncertainty over what will happen next.

Putin’s war on Ukraine, explained – Vox, March

This nine minute video was made about a week into the war, and gives a historical context for why this war came about. This is the first of several videos which we look at today which demonstrate that political and social shifts never just happen out of the blue. They are strongly tied to previous events, and so without a proper understanding of history, it is never possible to gain a proper understanding of current events.

Ukrainian Soldiers Knock Out Russian Tank with NLAW In Point Blank Ambush – War leaks, March

I wanted to show this clip as an introduction to anti-tank missiles which so impacted the opening of the war, and how quickly using one can throw an imposing column of metal into chaos. When we studied the Battle of Kursk in WW2, it made the point that Russian tanks were an overwhelming force, an idea that now seems to have lost its relevance.

The brutality of war on Ukraine’s front lines – Washington post, March

This six minute video is about a month after the initial invasion. There is still fighting close to Kyiv, but the initial shock and surprise is shifting to a fight of attrition. This clip describes what it is to like on the front line, but what I really liked about this video is that most of it is interviews with the soldiers.

Why the battle for Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant matters – South China Morning Post, April

This clip gives a brief overview of the destruction of Mariupol and the siege of the Azovstal steelworks. To try and get a sense of the destruction here, we were trying to compare Mariupol to a city we could relate to. The closest we could get was Newcastle, a major city in NSW with a large industrial centre, a port, and a similar population. The idea that every building there would be destroyed in a couple of months was a difficult one to comprehend.

What’s happened at Azovstal steelworks? – Sky news, May

Another view of the Azovstal siege, just before its fall. In various history lessons, we have looked at many sieges, so I wanted to take a close look at being inside one. With a large structure cut off from outside help, packed with soldiers and civilians under constant bombardment and direct assaults, there was a lot here to remind us of the sieges of various medieval cities. Only the technology has changed. Everything in this video is marked with a heavy mix of defiance and desperation. The boys were particularly struck by the children trapped living underground for months while fighting raged above ground.

Captured medic’s bodycam footage shows horror of Mariupol – Sky news, May

In this short but disturbing clip, we are looking inside the hospital at the Azovstal steelworks. I was pleased to learn that a few months after her capture, the medic who took this footage was returned to Ukraine in a prisoner exchange.

Putin thinks he is Julius Caesar – Jake Broe, June

After the claustrophobia of Mariupol, we were all feeling like we had seen enough raw footage for a while, so we stepped back for a big picture view on the (very long) chain of events which led to this war. This very neat analysis uses long term historical patterns to fit this war into a much bigger picture. Although it is a stretch to call it cause and effect, the historian in me was delighted to trace links in Putin’s ambitions all the way back to ancient Rome. He makes the very interesting point that Russia as we think of it on a map, is more of a colonial empire which never went through the process of decolonisation after WW2 which we studied earlier.

More stunning breakthroughs by Ukrainian forces reported – ABC news, October

Where the last footage we looked at was from May, where things were looking very dire for Ukraine, this short news reel is from October, and the balance has very definitely shifted to Ukraine’s favour. We watched this mostly to provide context as to what came after.

Ukraine Liberates Kherson! Russia Loses BIG Again! – Jake Broe, November

I like to watch this channel because I think his analyses of how the war is going and what can reasonably be expected to happen next is very astute. I chose this particular clip for several reasons. Partly because this was only a few weeks old when we saw it, so it was the last major event that happened before our lesson; Partly, having reached the river, that part of the Ukrainian counter offensive had clearly finished, and; Partly because having sat through the tension and horrors of Mariupol, I wanted to show the boys the delirious joy of liberation. This clip very strongly reminded us of the liberation of France and the Netherlands from Nazi Germany eighty years ago.

Echoes Of World War I Highlighted in Mud, Shattered Trees of Ukraine – Radio Free Europe, December

With neither side dominating control of the air space, and both sides having lots of artillery, it seems a reasonable expectation that trench warfare develops. I am certainly not the only one to have noticed the similarities to the Western front of WW1. This interesting photo essay is a series of comparisons of these two conflicts which are a hundred years apart.

I’m Sorry, Your Father is Dead – Ukraine_tbic, November

With my background in nursing, the people I relate most to are the medics. This video is the day to day job of being a medic for the Hospitallers Medical Battalion. In this clip, Brandon and his indomitable partner, Nika, spend their day primarily evacuating civilians from the battlelines around Bakhmut. Despite their going to a great deal of trouble to care for people, there is very little about this which is warm and fuzzy, although it does have its moments. I have a tremendous amount of respect for this organisation and the sense of hard nosed compassion with which they go about their work.

Why I chose this clip specifically, is because the nature of their work takes them all over the place, and this is a particularly busy and varied day. Outside of soldiers, there are plenty of ordinary people trying to live normal lives in the midst of battlefields, and we catch a glimpse of what that is like for them. In another video, which we did not look at, Brandon explains why he went to such effort to get involved in this war when he could so easily have avoided it. Interestingly, and related to the time travel essay we looked at earlier, he said the primary reason for his involvement was an interest in history, a recognition of how this war fits into a historical perspective, and a desire to shape history in a particular way.

Why Russia Will Not Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine – Jake Broe, December

There are several reasons I finished with this clip. First, it was only ten days old when we watched it, and I wanted to get the very latest analysis. Second, it answers the questions that naturally arise when a nuclear power is losing a war. Mostly though, I like this analysis because it makes excellent use of historic patterns and influences to assess current events. It is by studying history that we so much better understand what is happening in the present, and what we can expect to happen in the future.

What is history discussion points

1. Read the article ‘Hilary Mantel talks about history, facts and fictions.’ In this article, historical novelist, Hilary Martel, says

‘Facts are not truth, though they are part of it – information is not knowledge. And history is not the past – it is the method we have evolved of organising our ignorance of the past.’

What does she mean by this?

2. While the effects of some historical events are quite short lived, the effects of others last for centuries. Some historical events happen in a single day, while others take years to progress from start to finish. The war in Ukraine is still unfolding and its consequences will not be fully known for years or decades. When does something change from current events to history?

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Climate change and society – 20th/ 21st century history #16

Climate change marks a new period in history. In terms of human history, it is all very nebulous. It has come on quite slowly, its impacts are very different depending on where in the world you live, and it is still unclear where those impacts start and finish. These are a few reasons why people have struggled so much to come to terms with the idea. The effects are still unfolding, so putting it in a history lesson is a little odd, but I wanted to view this as the beginning of a new period, where it is still unknown how things will play out. When looking at particular examples, I chose videos that were reasonably local so as to show global events on a relatable scale.

Climate Science – Crash Course

This very interesting video begins with the history of the science behind climate studies. Rather than discussing the effects of climate change exactly, it presents the modern age as something which is geologically and historically distinct. It poses a lot of questions about what knowledge is needed in an increasingly disrupted world.

Australia bushfires: ‘It’s like fireballs exploding in the air’ – BBC News

This brief news clip deals with the bushfires we hated living through a couple of years ago. I put it here to show how the outside world saw our experiences.

Why Australia’s fires are linked to floods in Africa – Vox

This video was made in early 2020, at the height of the worst Australian bushfire season to date. I was so caught up my own affairs at the time that I did not realise that East Africa was going through major flooding. This clip shows the links between these two seemingly unrelated events.

Raging hailstorm sweeps through Coffs Harbour

This is a sudden squall which ran through a local town. It only lasted about half an hour, but when I drove through a couple of days later, every tree was stripped bare of leaves and the bark looked like it had been gone over with a ball pein hammer. From the headland, I could easily see a clear brown line though the trees where the storm had stripped everything next to the green which was left relatively undamaged. The aftereffects look like snow, but bear in mind that we live in the sub tropics here. Over a year later, there is still a thriving local industry fixing the storm damage from this event.

Lismore NSW Flood 2022 Supercut

Lismore is a couple of hours away from us here. Earlier this year, it flooded. Shortly after the recovery, it flooded again. The damage was such that proposals were made to abandon the town and move it somewhere else. This video is a mash of different people’s footage of the floodwaters through and around the town. I lived in Lismore for about six years, so, although I can’t stand the music on this video, I was able to give a running commentary on exactly what we were looking at.

Merchants of Doubt: What Climate Deniers Learned from Big Tobacco – Yale Climate Connections

There is a definite pattern to denying climate change. I found this video an interesting look at the history of denial and its development as a niche industry.

We WILL Fix Climate Change! – Kurzgesagt

 So as not to get too caught up in doomerism, I wanted to take a look at something positive as well. This is a favourite channel of ours, so it seemed like a good idea to see what they had to say about this.

Friendly Guide to Climate Change – Henrik Kniberg

I found this to be the best video I have seen in discussing what can actually be done about climate change on a personal level. It is a 17-minute presentation given through infographics of what climate change is, how it functions, and given that there are many ways climate change impacts the world, there are also many ways to respond to it. When looking at how to respond to climate change, mostly, there are three types of advice given, which I have always found entirely unhelpful. Adjust your own habits (I take great issue at accepting personal responsibility for global issues), shut down coal mines (I don’t own any), or become an activist (A role I am spectacularly unsuited for). Rather than the usual fear based reaction, this took a far more practical and hopeful view of things in its encouragement to build a better world.

Climate change and society questions

1. Although weather records in Australia go back to the late 1800’s the science of climate change is only very recent. In 1988, Dr. James Hansen, then director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, stated that “Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming…In my opinion, the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” Climate change in Australia has only been a critical issue since the beginning of the 21st century. Find the Bureau of Meteorology chart which shows temperatures across Australia over the past 110 years.

2. Hurricane Katrina was a destructive storm in 2005 which killed over 1800 people and destroyed or damaged large parts of the U.S. city of New Orleans. How did climate change contribute to hurricane Katrina?

3. One of the consequences of the Arab Spring was the Syrian civil war, which we looked at during the ‘War on terror’ lesson. While wars are certainly driven by politics, there are other issues at play. What are the effects of climate change on the Syrian civil war?

4. In 2022, flooding in Pakistan has killed nearly 1500 people and displaced more than 30 million. How did climate change impact the Pakistan floods?

5. In 2019, we lived through an unprecedented bushfire season. What role did climate change have on the Australian bushfires in 2019/ 2020?

6. During the 2019 fires, as over 17,000,000 hectares burned, then Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was absent. Where was Scott Morrison while Australia burned? The rationale he provided for his absence was that he didn’t hold something. What did Scott Morrison say he didn’t hold?

7. With increased flooding, bushfires, storm damage, and coastal erosion in Australia, it is becoming increasingly expensive to insure property against climate related events. As a house is the most expensive thing most people will ever own, the inability to insure it becomes a major financial issue for both individuals and society generally. What action is the Insurance Council of Australia taking about climate change?

8. Food production is closely tied to climate. According to the Australian Climate Council, what are six ways that climate change impacts food and farming in Australia?

9. Thinking about climate change can certainly fill you with a sense of doom, however, there are reasons for optimism. What are five reasons to be optimistic in the fight against climate change?

10. Exciting change is often driven by fairly dull government policy. Read the article ‘82% renewables by 2030 – Smart Energy Council welcomes Labor’s Powering Australia plan.’ What is the objective of the plan. What are the major policy commitments made to achieve this goal?

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The War on Terror – 20th/ 21st century history #15

We have now reached the 21st century, and this raises a few issues for the history class. First of all, everything we look at is in all of our living memories. Our own personal biases, especially mine, become glaringly apparent, no matter how objective I try to be. Secondly, they are periods which are either ongoing, or still so recent that it is not possible to say what the end result is.

The war on terror has dominated international politics for over twenty years, so we have to look at it. Although I certainly have a deep hatred of any religious fundamentalism, I have also been very cynical of the allied response. In my late teens, the first Iraq war was presented to me with giddy excitement as a live fire, live target sales pitch for the arms industry, and the most thrilling reality TV show that money could buy. Fortunes were clearly being made, and anyone from any side who happened to be on the ground was just another statistic on a balance sheet. I rapidly became very sceptical of the whole thing. Years later, while the 9/11 attacks were obviously and understandably going to generate a tremendous response, I never noticed any great shift in that attitude. Also, the complete absence of any terms of victory meant that at no stage would I ever know if we had won. Although I called the withdrawal from Kabul the end of the war on terror, this is a subjective opinion. We may or may not still be fighting it, depending on who you ask.

9/11, 2001 as it happened – The Age and Sydney Morning Herald

In 2001, I was a student living in a share house, and late one night after I had gone to bed, my somewhat embarrassed flatmate came and woke me up because ‘something really weird is happening.’ All channels were flooded with the same story, and it became rapidly apparent that everybody was just as confused as we were. At one stage the comment was made that intercontinental retaliatory strikes had been primed and were only waiting for a target to unleash on. We decided that from our house in rural Australia, nothing we did in the immediate moment would have any impact at all. We made ourselves comfortable on the couch, cracked open a couple of beers, and settled in to watch the end of the world brought to us on live TV.

Terrorism, War, and Bush – Crash Course US History

This clip was to provide context to the boys, who had never previously seen or heard of George Bush. We only watched from 4:18 to 11:36, which are the parts of this clip which deal with the US involvement in the war on terror.

What is the War on Terror? – Choices program

This clip is a short talk which mostly deals with the lack of definition about what the war on terror actually is, and the many problems this causes.

How the US created a disaster in Afghanistan – Vox

We watched this clip to try and gain an understanding of what the US and its allies were trying to achieve in the two decades spent in Afghanistan, and why it is not just an exercise in capturing territory, but something far more complex.

Iraq War 2003 Explained: Why Bush and Blair attacked Saddam Hussein – Imperial War Museums

This video is mainly concerned with how the Iraq war came about, rather than the events that happened on the ground. It looks at what Iraq’s connection was to global terrorism, who Saddam Hussein was, how the coalition of the willing was formed, weapons of mass destruction, and briefly touches on the consequences.

Syria’s war: Who is fighting and why – Vox

Although not directly a part of the war on terror, a lot of the major players all seemed to end up in this incomprehensible mix, where at any time, any different faction might be an ally, an enemy, or both at the same time. It also introduces a new low in religious fundamentalism with the caliphate of ISIS. We watched this, not with any real intention of understanding what was going on, but more to show the absolute chaos of a failed state.

What happened after the Arab Spring? – Start Here

The Arab spring uprisings seemed to take everyone by surprise with the sheer overwhelming effect that civil populations could have on the world. Despite having nothing to do with terrorism, and really being driven by decades of resentment at political repression, corruption and lack of opportunities, everyone involved in the war on terror tried to see how they could turn this to their advantage. I included the Arab spring here mostly to try and contextualise what was happening in Syria.

Looking back at 20 years of the war on terror – ABC News

I chose this video to finish with to try and get something of an overview of this whole period. It is a series of interviews with different journalists who based their careers reporting on the war on terror.

The War on Terror questions

1. Although not a part of the War on Terror, the first Persian Gulf war set the scene for much of what followed. What caused the first Persian Gulf war?

2. Osama bin Laden quickly became the face of terrorism.  Briefly describe who was Osama bin Laden? Include a picture.

3. On 11 September 2001, the militant Islamist extremist organisation ‘al Qaeda,’ raided the United States, setting off the War on Terror. This raid, commonly known as 9/11, was the coordinated suicide attacks of four hijacked commercial airliners. The hijackers crashed the first two planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City, and the third plane into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the United States military). The fourth plane was intended to hit a federal government building in Washington, D.C., but crashed in a field following a passenger revolt. In the background section of the Wikipedia article ‘September 11 attacks,’ it says that on December 27, Osama bin Laden released a video stating his motives for the attacks. What does he claim was his motivation? Find a picture of the attack on the twin towers.

4. In late 2001, the United States and its close allies invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government. The invasion’s aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda, which had executed the September 11 attacks, and to deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban government from power. The invasion came after the Afghan Civil War’s 1996-2001 phase between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance groups, resulting in the Taliban controlling 80% of the country by 2001. The invasion became the first phase of the 20-year-long War in Afghanistan and marked the beginning of the American-led War on Terror. Who is the Taliban? (Use the Britannica website) Find pictures which highlight the difference in Afghanistan before and after the Taliban came to power.

5. The War on Terror was often depicted as a war against the Axis of Evil. What was the Axis of Evil?

6. Under Prime Minister John Howard, Australia was one of the countries to invade Iraq in 2003. This decision was highly controversial at the time and remains so today. Since the formation of the United Nations at the end of WW2, there are international laws in place to determine if a war is ‘legal.’ What was the legality of the Iraq War?

7. The Iraq War was a protracted armed conflict in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 that began with the invasion of Iraq by the United States led coalition that overthrew the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. It quickly collapsed into a complex war which lasted much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the coalition forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government. According to the Wikipedia site, what was the Iraq war’s relation to the global war on terror. Find some pictures which describe what was happening.

8. Although not directly related to the war on terror, it influenced, and was influenced by the Arab spring. Briefly describe what was the Arab spring.

9. The US and their allies (including Australia) invaded Afghanistan in the opening phases of the war on terror and occupied the country for 20 years in an effort to build a stable government free from the Taliban. Briefly summarise the United States invasion of Afghanistan. With the withdrawal of US troops late in 2021, the capital city Kabul instantly fell back into the hands of the Taliban. Find pictures showing the fall of Kabul.

10. Various critics dubbed the term “war on terror” as nonsensical, in part because of its lack of definition. “War on terror” is a “false metaphor.” There cannot literally be a war on terror, since terror is an abstract noun. Terror cannot be destroyed by weapons or signing a peace treaty. A war on terror has no end. Although for the purposes of this lesson, we are using the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan as the end point of this historical period, there are many who would argue that the war on terror is still going on. What are the failures of the War on terror?

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Technological change – 20th century history #14

One of the points which I like to highlight to the boys is that despite it all feeling pretty mundane, the period of history we are living through is completely unlike any other which has preceded it. Very little that we look at is ‘normal’ in any historical reference. The thing that sets this point in history so far apart from any other is the overwhelming amount of technology which drives every facet of our lives. This is what we were looking at in this lesson.

The Anthropocene and the Near Future – Crash Course Big History

This video deals with the idea that in terms of technological change, more has happened in the last hundred years than in the previous quarter of a million. It discusses the idea of rising complexity, those small incremental gains and the feedback loop this creates. Certainly not everyone is a winner from change, and there are a whole lot of pros and cons. Mostly I like how this video gives a sense of the scale of change involved.

Top 10 Inventions of the 20th Century – Watchmojo

There are lots of lists of top ten inventions of the 20th century. They all have some similarities, and they are all quite subjective, including this one. I really just wanted a good spread of ideas which might not all be immediately obvious, but which definitely included antibiotics.

Who Invented the Internet? And Why? – Kurtzgesagt

With the internet being a global, real-time information repository, I can carry entire libraries of information in my pocket with plenty of room to spare. This video is just  a quick and easy look at how that came about.

“Computers” 1970 Educational Film IBM Mainframe Punchcard & Magnetic Tape Based Computers Xd11964 – Periscope film

I love this clip. The grainy texture, the soundtrack, the font, the reams of punch cards, the reel to reel tapes, memory disks the size of buckets, dot matrix printers, everything about it is beautiful. It’s 1970, and these groovy machines are bringing us the future.

Technological change questions

  1. Moore’s Law is used to describe the increase of technology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Despite the name, it is not a scientific law. What is Moore’s law and what does it describe?
  2. In the history of technology, accelerating change is the observed exponential nature of the rate of technological change in recent history. It suggests faster and more profound change in the future which might be accompanied by equally profound social and cultural change. One idea is the hypothesis of technological singularity. Briefly describe what technological singularity is.
  3. Following the Wright brothers first heavier than air flight in December 1903, aeronautics has dramatically shaped global history. How have airplanes changed the world on every level? Discuss the impact of planes on society, their use as a stepping stone to space travel, and GPS systems.
  4. The television was one of the first inventions to affect the lives of masses all over the world, and to this day remains the most popular ways of getting information. Describe seven ways on how television changed the world.
  5. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries and inventions in recent years can be contributed to the computer. Computers impact every aspect of modern life. Describe seven uses of computers in our day to day life.
  6. The radio has impacted everything from nautical studies to space exploration. By the early 20th century radio began to change the world, as it became the main source of broadcast news. Radio broadcasts have been at the centre of all political and mass movements across the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. Radio is an essential tool in warfare. One of the biggest contributions of the radio has been in the development of music and the music industry. On 30 Oct 1938, a live radio play of H. G. Wells ‘The War of the Worlds’ was played as a series of news broadcasts. What was the impact of playing ‘War of the Worlds’ on the radio?
  7. Until the industrial revolution, the only sources of power were wind, water, and muscle. It is a fantastic leap from here to power derived from splitting atoms. The development of nuclear power is strongly tied to the cold war. What are the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power? (Use the solar reviews website)
  8. The automobile has completely transformed transport over the last hundred years. Give eight reasons as to why are cars important to society.
  9. Before the 1930s, and the discovery of antibiotics, infection was a major killer across the world. Describe seven ways penicillin has cured the world for more than 90 years.
  10. When your parents grew up, there was no such thing as the internet. It is impossible to imagine such barbarity today. Describe ten ways the internet has changed the way we live and do business.
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Nuclear disasters – 20th century history #13

With so much nuclear material being mined, refined, and used in the last seventy years, it adds another element to society which was never previously an issue. I wanted to look at nuclear accidents. To keep things from going off on too many tangents, I focused on just the two level 7 accidents of Chernobyl and Fukoshima.  

Chernobyl had a big impact on me as a kid. I was told at the time that the exclusion zone would be uninhabitable for 20,000 years. Ironically, this ‘uninhabitability’ has led to it being something of a wildlife haven, although the cultural memory of this event seems to be very short. I was astonished to see Russian troops digging trenches in the Red Forest just a few months ago. Growing up through the cold war, I was always exceedingly anxious about nuclear power. Preparing for this lesson, I was surprised to find myself shifting this attitude, and seeing nuclear power as far safer and more efficient than I had always believed.

Chernobyl Disaster 1986: What really happened? – On demand news

This fairly short clip gives a basic over of what happened at Chernobyl for anyone who has never heard of it before. It gives a bit of background, and then goes on to cover the explosion, the containment, and the aftermath. Most of it is presented with footage from the time.

Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: News Report from April 28, 1986 – ABC news

This is a news clip from the time, telling the story of what was happening at Chernobyl. I chose it to give a different view of the previous video. Since it was made as events were unfolding, it clearly lacks the benefits of hindsight and there are a lot of unknowns. I wanted to show how the accident was presented to the world as events were still unfolding.

The Animals of Chernobyl – New York Times

Just because there is an exclusion zone doesn’t mean that nothing lives there. This short but interesting clip follows a scientist who has built has career around studying the effects of radiation on animals living in the Chernobyl area, measuring things like overall numbers, diversity, and the adaptations they make.

Chernobyl vs Fukushima. Which was Worse? – Mike Bell

This video primarily deals with Fukoshima but uses Chernobyl as a case study to compare to. Although it uses maps and pictures to show the event, it makes good use of animations to explain what was going on.

Worst Nuclear Accidents in History – Kurzgesagt

I like the kurzgesagt channel a lot, and I think the boys have watched all of it as interesting general science. The information is always well researched and detailed, but also presented in a friendly animated format which is engaging and easy to watch. Despite recognising Chernobyl and Fukoshima as the worst nuclear disasters in history, the bulk of this video then goes on to look at the effects of other forms of energy. It is ultimately an argument for how safe nuclear power is compared to fossil fuels.

Nuclear disasters questinos

  1. What is the International Nuclear Event Scale? Describe it. Include a diagram. State which are the two level 7 accidents which have occurred.
  2. The Chernobyl disaster was the most dangerous nuclear accident in history.  What caused the Chernobyl accident? Where is Chernobyl, and when did the disaster occur?
  3. How large an area was affected by the nuclear fallout from Chernobyl? Find a radiation map from 1986.
  4. After the accident, an exclusion zone around the Chernobyl power plant was established where no people live. Why do animals of Chernobyl thrive in the exclusion zone?
  5. To contain radiation, a massive shelter, called the sarcophagus was built over the plant. Briefly describe the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sarcophagus and its replacement. Find pictures of the damaged plant, and the latest sarcophagus in place.
  6. Look up the articleDid Chernobyl cause the Soviet Union to explode?’ Describe how the Chernobyl accident contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  7. The Fukushima nuclear disaster was a nuclear accident triggered by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Where is Fukushima? When did this happen? Find a picture of the tidal wave striking the power plant.
  8. Using the Wikipedia site introduction as a guide, describe how the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened. Find a picture of the exclusion zone.
  9. Nuclear accidents have many effects. What are the socio-economic and psychological impacts of nuclear accidents? (Use the world-nuclear site to answer this)
  10. Although nuclear power has the potential to cause substantial damage to both the environment and to people, statistically, it is much safer than it seems. Find a picture describing what are the safest and cleanest sources of energy. Energy production can have negative impacts on human health and the environment in three ways. What are these?
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Globalisation – 20th century history #12

In terms of trade and politics, we live in a world where each part is tightly bound to everything else. One of the earliest examples of the effects of globalisation that we studied was a couple of years ago, when we noted that the fall of Constantinople in 1453 blocked off silk road trade routes to Europe and so started the Age of Exploration. Of course, today, everything is orders of magnitude faster, bigger, and able to be tracked on a highly granular level. A while ago, I was sitting in Australia when I clicked a button on a computer made by a Dutch company. By chance, a ship crashed in Egypt, and so a T shirt which was making its way to me from China by way of my button clicking was delayed by a couple of months. It is an insignificant example, but one that shows just how integrated all these completely disparate pieces are.

Globalisation is not a single event, it is not centrally controlled, it does not have a traceable timeline, and if you try to examine the details of trade agreements, it rapidly becomes ferociously complex and crushingly dull. Despite this, its effects are not only inescapable, but also exceedingly diverse, and unevenly distributed. As a part of history, it is not easy to pin down, but as it sets the modern world apart from any other time in history, it is something we needed to look at.

Globalization – Crash Course World History

This pair of videos give an excellent overview of what globalisation is and how it works. The first video looks at tangible examples of the effects of globalisation, and largely focusses on its benefits, especially for those in wealthy countries like I am. The second video addresses some of the negative consequences, and attempts to weigh up the pros and cons.

Globalization and Trade and Poverty – Crash Course Economics

This interesting video mostly deals with the unequal distribution of wealth in a globalised economy but does it with more nuance than many videos which deal with this subject.

The History of the EU with David Mitchell – Open Learning

The European Union is quite a novel concept and approach to globalisation which does not really have a historical equivalent. We start to bump into the E.U. a bit in later lessons, so I wanted a quick explanation of what it is and how it came about. This video gives a concise and engaging summary of those things.

Globalisation questions

1. Forms of globalisation have been around for hundreds of years. The Silk Road and the Atlantic Triangular Trade Network are examples of early (but incomplete) forms of globalisation. Especially after the second world war, the rate of globalisation rapidly accelerated.  Why has globalisation increased?

2. The article ‘What is globalisation and how does it impact us?’ provides 7 different examples of types of globalisations. What are these and briefly describe each one?

3. Globalisation has increased the wealth of many people and countries; however, it often does not do this evenly. Find maps of the median wealth and the mean wealth per person by country. What is the difference between median and mean? How would you interpret the meaning of a country with a high mean wealth, and a low median wealth?

4. How did the United Nations form? When was it established, what does the organisation work on, and what are its four main purposes?

5. In September 2000, leaders of 189 countries gathered at the United Nations headquarters and signed the historic Millennium Declaration, in which they committed to achieving a set of eight measurable goals. What were the 8 Millennium Development Goals?

6. Look up What are the advantages and disadvantages of globalisation. Briefly explain each one.

7. Hans Rosling is a statistician who was given the title ‘Scientist of the year’ in 2007. A well-known quote of his is

‘The 1 to 2 billion poorest in the world, who don’t have food for the day, suffer from the worst disease: globalisation deficiency. The way globalisation is occurring could be much better, but the worst thing is not being part of it. For those people, we need to support good civil societies and governments.’

What do you think this means?

8. Free trade agreements are a major part of globalisation. What is a free trade agreement?

9. The European Union is a highly successful modern response to globalisation. What is the European Union in brief? Include a map.

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Space Race – 20th century history #11

It was a relief at last to get onto a subject which, although driven by paranoia and politics, did not involve an outright war. The space race, and the incalculable amount of technological and social change which has come about as a result, is something inconceivable to anyone who came before it happened. In hindsight, the videos I chose put too much emphasis on the precursors to the space race and its modern successors, rather than the actual space race itself.

Air Travel and The Space Race – Crash Course History of Science

It always amazes me that just seventy years before the first people set foot on the moon, there was vitriolic debate over whether heavier than air flight was even possible. This nine minute clip covers the timeline from a couple of bicycle enthusiasts trying to get off the ground through to the space shuttle. It is more about the impacts of cumulative effects of design being pushed in novel directions.

How does the International Space Station work? – Jared Owen

Although coming after the end of the space race, the ISS is something the boys can relate to. We have even stood in the back yard and watched it fly overhead. This neat animated clip shows how it was assembled in a series of stages over a number of years and how all the component parts support each other.

The New Space Race – Start Here

After an introduction of how the cold war space race provided the knowledge and technology to get off the planet, this video largely concerns itself with where space travel is headed today and in the immediate future. This is driven more by purely economic forces than the national pride of previous days.

Artemis 1 launch tests NASAs Mission to Return Humans to the Moon – Wall Street Journal

With the Artemis launch happening at the same time as we did this lesson, we felt compelled to watch this.

Yuri Gagarin, Cold War Cosmonaut – ABC Conversations

We don’t often listen to podcasts, but I stumbled onto this one, and we listened to it in the car one day as we drove around running errands. This is an incredible story of the first man in space. It is always unusual to hear this kind of story told from ‘the other side.’ Also, it really highlights the completely different approach between the Soviet Union and the United States towards the space race. It is very much a product of the cutting edge technology of a global superpower held together with tie wire and baling twine. A genuinely fascinating tale.

Space race questions

1.      The Space Race would not have been possible without the new scientific field of aeronautics. Briefly describe the first successful powered airplane with a pilot aboard. When and where did it occur? Describe the aircraft.

2.      The initial ideas for space travel were based on WW2 Nazi rocket technology, developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun. Look him up on the NASA website. Briefly describe his career after WW2 up until 1969.

3.      What was sputnik 1? When was it launched? Describe its appearance and purpose. Find a picture.

4.      The successful launch of Sputnik 1 greatly accentuated the US perception of a threat from the Soviet Union that had persisted since the Cold War had begun after World War 2. The same rocket that launched Sputnik could send a nuclear warhead anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes, which would strip the Continental United States of its oceanic defences. This perception of threat became known as the ‘Sputnik crisis.’ As a result, US president Eisenhower said were three ‘stark facts’ that the US needed to confront. What were these?

5. When was the creation of NASA? Why was it created and what did the director of NACA have to say about it?

6. What was Skylab? Describe the categories of experiments which were performed there.

7. Briefly describe the Apollo 11 mission.

8. When did the space race formally end and how? Find a picture

8. What is the International Space Station? When was it launched? When was it completed? Why is it important? Find a picture.

9. What is the Artemis 1 moon mission? Find an image of the mission’s path and key points.

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Decolonisation – 20th century history #10

I was surprised to find that of the 195 nations recognised by the United Nations, more than half of them have only gained their independence since the end of the Second World War. As the European powers all lost their grip on their various colonies, this really marked the end of the era of colonialism. It certainly did not always go smoothly, quickly, or easily, but it was very definitely a radical shift in how nations interacted with each other.

Decolonization – Crash Course European History

For a subject which has such an impact on the structure of the world we live in today, there is not a great deal of information which treats decolonisation as an entire process. There is certainly an abundance of information about how each separate country gained its independence but finding something which covers the overall concept in broad principles which are accessible to early teenagers is quite a challenge. Once again, Crash Course History provides an objective, broad view of a complex topic, and the different ways it impacted different areas of the globe.

Decolonisation questions

1.    For hundreds of years, competing Empires controlled areas around the world and exploited indigenous peoples and resources in territory they ruled. In the years following World War II, dozens of countries gained their independence, bringing an end to an age of colonialism in which mostly European empires ruled nearly a third of the world’s population. Look up ‘World 101. How did decolonization reshape the world?’ In the section ‘Why did the age of colonialism come to an end?’ there are four reasons given as to why this happened. List and explain these four reasons.

2. Who is Mahatma Gandhi and why is he important?

3. When was the Partition of India. How were people divided into the newly formed countries? What was the effect of this division?

4. What was the Mau Mau uprising?

5. What was the Korean war? Very briefly describe the wars aftermath.

6. Who is Ho chi Minh and what did he do?

7. Briefly describe the Algerian War of Independence.

8. The term ‘neo-colonialism’ was first used to describe what was happening to African countries undergoing decolonisation in the 1960s. Using the Wikipedia site, briefly describe What is neo-colonialism? How does it differ from standard globalisation?

9. The Wikipedia site for ‘decolonization’ gives five challenges for decolonised nations (you can find these in the contents). List these challenges and use a sentence or two to describe each one.

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The Cold War – 20th century history # 9

I was born in the early 70’s, so we have made it to the parts of history which I can provide first hand accounts of, and my memories of the cold war make themselves felt in quite strange ways on many levels. At school, the most common image of any communist country I remember seeing was always footage of supermarkets with empty shelves. It was never explicitly stated that these were a poor and backward people, but the implicit messaging was unavoidable. It was debatable if covering a table with a white sheet and cowering underneath it was really going to protect you from a nuclear blast, but I think its interesting that we all practiced it anyway. Every second action movie would feature an evil Russian who eventually, in his climatic defeat would internally acknowledge the superiority of the U.S. He would generally get a nod of respect for this epiphany. When I told the boys that it was possible to buy pieces of the Berlin wall after it fell, they were incredulous. The cold war so permeated everything, that it was difficult to see what it was, even as it happened all around me.

The Cold War – Oversimplified

In order to compress nearly fifty years of political tensions and proxy wars onto something coherent, I turned once again to oversimplified. As always, the animation and humour is pitched just right for this age group, so there is a lot of engagement. While this channel certainly does condense the details, it always does a good job of explaining the concepts behind the actions which caused events to play out as they did. It starts off with a brief recap of the Russian Revolution, and then really picks up the story with the USSR as one of the tension fraught allies in World War 2. By the end of the second video, the Berlin Wall has fallen, and the Soviet Union has collapsed.

The Cold War questions

  1. At the end of WW2, Churchill said in a speech that an Iron Curtain had descended across the continent of Europe. What was the iron curtain? Find a map showing this.
  2. The world was in flux in the aftermath of World War II, and political upheaval reigned in many countries. The USA developed a number of methods of maintaining their power.What was the purpose of the Truman doctrine and the Marshall plan?
  3. The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. Describe what was the Berlin airlift.
  4. The Korean war and the Vietnam war were major wars which were both fought because of cold war policies. Look up ‘Students of history. Comparing wars in Korea and Vietnam.’ Briefly describe how these wars were both seen in the west as wars against communism.
  5. The cold war brought competition between the two superpowers in many fields. What was the space race?
  6. A powerful symbol of the cold war was the Berlin wall. What was the Berlin wall? When was it built? Describe it. When was it pulled down?
  7. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and was the moment when the two superpowers came closest to nuclear conflict. Who was Vasily Arkhipov, and how did a Russian soldier prevent World War III 59 years ago?
  8. By 1985, out of a global total of 61,662 nuclear weapons, the USA owned 21,392 and the USSR owned 39,197. What was the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed in 1987? Is it still in place?
  9. Who was Mikhail Gorbachev? Use the Wikipedia site to describe his reception and legacy. Find a picture of him.
  10. In 1991, the Soviet Union broke up into different independent countries. What are the 15 post-Soviet states and find a map showing them.

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