Anyone who has been following me for a while on Twitter may have noticed that about once a month I post a tweet saying I’m currently reading the latest issue of National Geographic magazine and probably also banging on about how brilliant it is. I asked my mum to get me an annual subscription to it a couple of years ago for Christmas because I had read a couple of odd issues here and there and found them practically stuffed to bursting point with information on history, culture, science and the environment, all accompanied by stunning pictures and also, in some cases, detailed maps and explanatory diagrams. I also like the fact that part of your annual subscription goes to fund research projects and trips organised by the National Geographic Society – and if any article in the magazine has been written about one of these projects you have helped to fund, they inform you of this so you can see where some of your money is going.
The National Geographic Society was founded in 1888 and it originally began as a club for academics who were interested in travel and also patrons who were keen to sponsor expeditions. The National Geographic magazine was started nine months later and was intended to act as the Society’s official journal, as well as being a tax-exempt benefit for Society members. The second president of the NGS was Alexander Graham Bell, who succeeded from Gardiner Greene Hubbard following his death in 1897. The Society’s mission is to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge whilst promoting conservation of the world’s cultural, historical and natural resources”. The current president of the Society (since 1998) John M. Fahey Jr, has also stated that it’s purpose is to inspire people to care about the planet. To this end, the Society has both funded and reported on some of the greatest scientific expeditions and research projects of our time, including: Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s underwater exploration, Diane Fossey’s work with mountain gorillas, Jane Goodall’s research with chimpanzees and the Leakeys’ excavations in Olduvai Gorge, uncovering the remains of ancient hominids.
Having purchased a much older edition of NatGeo magazine from 1962 for research for a previous blogpost (“Mountains of the Moon”), I can tell you that the articles used to be interminably long – they’re still very interesting but the depth and detail is almost overwhelming because there is just so much information to take in, and of course there were less photographs/diagrams etc. Nowadays the magazine is much more ‘readable’ in that the articles are considerably shorter, but still somehow manage to concentrate all the information into a much more concise form that is nevertheless still satisfying in terms of detail.
The range of subjects they cover is extraordinary – one of the main benefits of this is that it makes you realise how incredibly varied and beautiful our planet is, both in terms of the natural environment and also human society and culture. Having said that, they don’t shy away from addressing some of the serious issues which we are now facing: climate change, water shortages, war, poverty etc. This year the global population reached 7 billion and to mark this, NatGeo have run a series of articles throughout the year on the challenges we will face due to problems caused or exacerbated by (over)population.
To give you an general idea of the kind of articles you might see in your average NatGeo issue, I have included below a list of some of the main articles that have appeared in the magazine over the past year. I should also point out (and I promise you they are not paying me to say this!) that the annual subscription to this monthly instalment of informative goodness will cost you the ludicrously small sum of £15. Considering that each issue costs well over £3 to buy on the high street, this is, in my opinion, seriously good value for money – and that’s before you even consider the educational value, which is naturally rather more difficult to calculate, but it would certainly be well over 15 of your measly pounds. I believe the price in dollars is about the same…and you can also get the NatGeo magazine app for your iPad, should you be lucky enough to own one of those. They seem to post the magazine pretty much anywhere too, the list of countries on their website is a pretty long one.
Anyway, here is a list of some articles which have appeared in NatGeo this year. If you or anyone you know has any kind of curiosity or interest in the world around them, I strongly urge you to take out a subscription. Apart from anything else, it’s like giving them twelve presents in one year – and it makes such a nice change to get something in the post that isn’t bills or spam!
January – Population 7 Billion, Bleached Reefs Bounce Back, Conquering Vietnam’s Megacave
February – The Curious History of Feathers, Can Afghanistan Win the War Against Opium?, Why Fish Flock to Sunken Ships
March – Designing the Perfect Pet, Kung Fu Kingdom: Shaolin’s Battle
April – The Genius of the Inca, Crimea: A Jewel in Two Crowns, Indomitable Snow Frogs
May – Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Magic Photos of Camera Obscura
June – The Birth of Religion, The Secret World of Child Brides, Crazy Creatures in Tide Pools
July – Searching for the Real Cleopatra, Not Too Late for Polar Bears, The Middle East: Young, Angry, Wired
August – Making Robots Human, Land of the Spirit Bear, Behind Burma’s Shadows
September – Can We Fly?, Girl Power in Brazil, The Race to the South Pole
October – The New Science of the Teenage Brain, Lost in Australia’s Slot Canyons, Genghis Khan’s Urban Clan
November – Who Buried the Warrior’s Gold? – England’s Medieval Mystery, Iceman Unfrozen: New Clues to his Death, America’s Wild Rivers
December – The King James Bible: Making a Masterpiece, Nuclear Zone: Japan’s Abandoned Towns, Space Clouds: Bound for the Milky Way?