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‘A Question of’ …Nine Number Picture Boards

This nine number picture board is adapted from a template made available by

Click on a number to link to an image

Click the image to link to an information page

Click the yellow square to link back to the image

Click the red square to link back to the picture board

Once selected, numbers will change colour



“Italy pays cash for babies”

Why are babies bringing in money?




“The Big Picture”

What is the big climate picture for the UK in the immediate future? 14.05.2004



“Wrinkle Face”

How is a dinosaur ageing tectonic movements?04.06.2004



“A New EU!”

Why has Europe had a make-over?




“Dam downstream disaster”

Why is a dam in China affecting millions of people in south east Asia? 05.04.2004



“Bachelor Boys”

Why will 40 million Chinamen not be able to find a wife by 2020?




“Samsung Swansong”

Why is a successful transnational company pulling out of the UK? 16.01.2004



“Fair Aid”

Why is aid to Africa not working? 09.03.2004



“Fat North, Thin South”

What does this new north/south divide in the UK tell us about the geography of traditional diets? 05.03.2004


Italy pays cash for babies

09 Nov 2003

The small village of Laviano, south-east of Naples, is running so short of babies that mayor Rocco Falivena is offering the equivalent of £7,000 to anyone who produces one (The Observer, November 09 2003).

This finding is particularly shocking, given that Catholic Italy used to have a higher CBR than any other western European nation apart from Ireland until recently.

The initiative is a response to a plummeting crude birth rate (CBR) in Italy, with population losses of 15 million predicted by 2050. In common with other MEDCs, more career-orientated women are delaying giving birth. In addition, parents that succumb to peer pressure by dressing their children in designer clothes are apparently limiting numbers of offspring as a result of escalating costs.


The big picture

14 May 2004

River erosion! Failing drainage systems! Coastal flooding! Failure of the Thames Flood Barrier! Snippets from a new Hollywood blockbuster? No, rather the findings of a new report written by government experts, suggesting the worsening of climate change-driven hazards are now inevitable (The Guardian, 22 April 2004).

Even if the UK adopts a radical new approach to the stewardship of the environment, much of the damage is already done. The nation will face several billions pounds’ worth of additional flood damages annually in the coming decades.

Writing for the Office of Science and Technology, the government’s chief scientist, Dr David King, reports that:

Average annual flood damages in the UK will rise from a current cost of £1.2 billion to more than £20 billion by 2080 if no action is taken. However, new approaches to local governance could still slash the bill to around £2 billion per year if local people take communal responsibility and adopt stronger land use rules, amongst other measures.


Wrinkle Face

04 Jun 2004

Scientists have found new evidence to help piece together the history of plate tectonics. A dinosaur called “First Wrinkle Face” has been found in Africa. Previously, remains were only known in South America and India.

This newly-discovered First Wrinkle Face (the translation of its Latin name Rugops Primus) is about 95 million years old. According to the theory of plate tectonics, this means that the continents of Africa and South America must have joined together until around then. Previously, scientists thought that separation had begun at an earlier date, based upon existing fossil remains for species such as Mesosaurus and Lystrosaurus.


The new EU

01 May 2004

The European Union (EU) experienced the greatest single enlargement in its history, when ten new states were accepted as members. Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia were officially welcomed at a ceremony held in Dublin on 1 May 2004.

Although the total number of nations increased from 15 to 25, the population of the EU Trade Bloc has only increased from 380 million to 455 million (growth of around 16%). This comparatively low increase in numbers reflects the fact that three existing member countries - the UK, France and Germany – are very heavily populated and are home to nearly 200 million EU residents. In comparison, some of the new countries have tiny populations. Cyprus and Malta both number less than one million, for instance. Amongst the other eight nations, all of whom were previously part of the Communist Soviet Union until 1989, only Poland is heavily populated, with 38 million citizens. There are substantial economic differences between the old and new member states. The combined annual GDP of the original fifteen members is around £6,000 billion. In comparison, the ten new states bring in just an additional £750 billion (The Guardian, 29 April 2004).


Dam downstream disaster

05 Apr 2004

Giant Chinese dams are threatening the livelihoods of one hundred million people in neighbouring south-east Asian nations that rely on the shared waters of the Mekong river. The governments of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are increasingly concerned that previously sustainable economic activities along their own lower stretches of this continental river are now threatened by dam-building on its upper course in China.

The Mekong is south-east Asia’s longest river. Its 4,880 km journey takes it from the Tibetan plateau into China’s densely-populated Yunnan province. From there, it crosses into Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the sea. These Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) are all beginning to place heightened demands on a river that only twenty years ago was still regarded as one of the world’s most untouched (The Guardian, 25 March 2004).


Bachelor boys

18 Mar 2004

China is facing a crisis as a result of its famous one-child rule, according to an announcement made by a senior politician last week.

The Chinese government’s population advisor Li Weixiong declared that as many as 40 million men will be unable to find a marriage partner by 2020 (The Guardian, 09 March 2004).

A cultural preference for boys has left China with an unbalanced population pyramid since the one-child rule was introduced in 1980 in response to the threat of overpopulation. In very poor rural areas, especially in the initial years of the policy, it was not uncommon to hear reports of female infanticide (the killing of infant girls). Many young girls were also abandoned due to the need to try again for a male heir, especially amongst farming households. More recently, ultrasound testing has enabled couples to choose to abort female foetuses.


Samsung swansong

16 Jan 2004

South Korean electronics giant Samsung announced on Thursday that it is to close its microwave and flat-panel monitor plant in Billingham, near Teesside, with the loss of 450 jobs.

The plant was opened in 1995, and was awarded £10.5 million in a Regional Selective Assistance grant (RSA).

Why is the Samsung plant closing?

The factory is doing a good job, so good in fact that it won Samsung’s gold medal for productivity. However it is apparently heading for a £12.5 million loss, leading one company boss to say closure was the “only practical way forward”. These losses are due to the falling price of electronic goods, driven by competition, against costs of production which has stayed static. The only real way for manufacturers to cut production costs is to reduce the cost of labour. One of the attractions of locating in the north east of England was wage costs of £4.50 to £5.50 an hour - low by UK standards - but high when compared to 50p and £1 in China and Slovakia respectively, where production is moving to. With the latter about to join the EU, Samsung will have access to European markets, for a fraction of the production costs.


Fair aid

09 Mar 2004

The best way to help Africa is to thoroughly reform international trading laws and to acknowledge that international aid is not working.This controversial claim appears in TheIndependent (05 March 2004) and is drawn from a speech made at the Royal Geographical Society by Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society.

Dowden suggests that aid donations are rooted in a ‘missionary approach’ to African development that needs to be critically re-examined. ‘Billions of pounds worth of aid has poured into Africa in the past fifty years. I suggest as a starting point that the development of peoples, of societies, can only be done by those people themselves. It cannot be done by outsiders’.

However, this is only half of the process of change that Dowden advocates. For Africa to develop, MEDCs must further recognise that the current global terms of trade established by European and American nations are actively leading to the underdevelopment of Africa.


Fat north, thin south

05 Mar 2004

A new survey highlights the disparity that still appears to exist between the quality of life experienced in northern and southern regions of the UK. Northern towns come off worst in a league table of local authorities that focuses upon levels of obesity. Topping the league is Kingston-upon-Hull, situated in northern England. In an interesting coincidence, the lowest levels of obesity were recorded in Kingston-upon-Thames, in southern England (leading The Times to report on a ‘tale of two cities’ while The Daily Telegraph examines the two sides of ‘Kingston-upon-Health’).

Of the ten districts at the bottom of the obesity league, all are found in the south. By contrast, the twenty districts ranked with the highest scores are all found in Wales, northern England and the Midlands. Knowsley (Liverpool) is second in the league, while Blackburn comes third. The source of the data used to measure inequalities consists of hospital admission records showing numbers of patients admitted with Type 2 diabetes (which is linked to poor diet and a lack of exercise).