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Unformatted text preview: Lecture 4: Geography of Transportation Here’s today’s plan: I want to start with an overview of the basic concepts of transportation geography, which will enable us to see why lowering transportation costs is so key to globalization, and then discuss the actual history of transportation. I said last week that a functioning transportation system is one of the things you absolutely have to have to put products in the international stream of commerce. In fact, it’s even more fundamental than that. It’s the prerequisite to having any economy with larger units than the individual village, or to having production at greater than the subsistence level. If there’s no road, no way to get your products to market, then there’s no point in producing a surplus, in producing more than your and your family can eat, or maybe trade for other products in the village. Surplus production, production for exchange rather than for personal or familial consumption, becomes possible if and only if there’s a way to ship the surplus out of the home village. Here’s one dramatic example of this, in 1958, the Americans built a road from central Thailand, where it connected to the seaport and the wider world, to a province less than 100 kilometers away. Before the road was built, farmers grew rice, and just enough for their own consumption. There was no point in doing any more, because it was just too difficult to bring crops out of the local district; and there’s no point in growing more than you can consume if you can’t get the surplus to market. But being a subsistence farmer, growing just enough for your own consumption, means never having cash, and having the standard of living that goes with no cash—no furniture, no changes of clothing, no access to medical care, no education for the children. After the road was built, farmers were able to raise crops for export through the port of Bangkok. They started planting a cash crop—kenaf, a fiber crop like hemp. The kenaf crop grew by 600 percent a year. In other words, if there was $10,000 in kenaf in the first year, there was $60,000 in the second year, $360,000 in the third year, $2,160,000 in the fourth year, around $13,000,000 in the fourth year, around $80,000,000 in the fifth year and around half a billion dollars in the sixth year—from $10,000 to half a billion in six years. That’s the difference between having a road and not having one....
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- Spring '08
- Intermodal freight transport, Red Sea