What is North America

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What is North America?

1) Canada, USA and Mexico
22
30%
2) Canada, USA, Mexico and central american Isthimus
34
47%
3) Canada, USA, Mexico and central american Isthimus (stops at Panama Channel)
9
12%
4) Canada and USA
4
5%
5) Other
4
5%
 
Total votes: 73

brenok
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What is North America

Postby brenok » Mon May 05, 2014 7:34 pm UTC

So, in Brazillian schools it is usually taught that the American continent is divided between North, Central and South America, and which country belongs to each division is well defined. Nonetheless, I often see other definitions around the Internet. What are your thoughts?

I am excluding the Caribbean because that would probably mean too many options. Here are the options with pictures and my thoughts about it:

1)
Spoiler:
Image
I, like anyone else, am probably biased toward what I was first taught. I like it, but I don't know if there is a decisive argument for or against it.
2)
Spoiler:
Image
The one I believe is the most common in the United States. In this case, the continent would be divided between North and South America only.
3)
Spoiler:
Image
I see this one when someone says that the definition of a continent is a large contiguous landmass, and the other responds "So North and South America are different continents, they're separated by the Panama Channel". I personally find this one a little bizarre, but if Istambul can separate Europe and Asia, Panama might as well separate America
4)
Spoiler:
Image
Also known as "Anglo-Saxon America" here, to me this one seems to put socioeconomical factors over geographical ones, and puts Mexico in Central America. Possibly my least favorite

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Re: What is North America

Postby Brace » Mon May 05, 2014 7:48 pm UTC

This post had objectionable content.
Last edited by Brace on Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:54 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is North America

Postby Angua » Mon May 05, 2014 7:52 pm UTC

I'm from the Caribbean. We were taught North America is Canada, US and Mexico. Central America was everything down to Panama and then you have South America. The Caribbean was its own thing, but that's probably because we spent a lot of time learning about Caricom and stuff.

In atlases, the Caribbean is generally found with Central America or sometimes 'Central and South America' , but I don't think I've ever seen us lumped in with the North.
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Re: What is North America

Postby JudeMorrigan » Mon May 05, 2014 8:33 pm UTC

Here in the States, I was taught both I and II with continents being defined by I but that II were useful geographic regions. That is, that the continent of North America cotains the regions of North and Central America.

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Re: What is North America

Postby LaserGuy » Mon May 05, 2014 8:35 pm UTC

JudeMorrigan wrote:Here in the States, I was taught both I and II with continents being defined by I but that II were useful geographic regions. That is, that the continent of North America cotains the regions of North and Central America.


I think you have I and II backwards here. But otherwise, this is the way I was taught as well.

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Re: What is North America

Postby JudeMorrigan » Mon May 05, 2014 8:45 pm UTC

Gurk. Yes, I do. Sorry about that and thanks for the correction.

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Re: What is North America

Postby EvilDuckie » Tue May 06, 2014 5:58 am UTC

I voted option 2, neat because it doesn't bisect any countries and because it kinda matches the geology as well (it's southern end would more or less match the boundary between the Caribbean and South American plates)
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Re: What is North America

Postby strake » Tue May 06, 2014 6:50 am UTC

I define North America to include Canada, the USA, Mexico, and Greenland. I'm a native [2nd generation] Canadian.

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Re: What is North America

Postby cyanyoshi » Tue May 06, 2014 8:03 am UTC

From the US here. I've been taught several conflicting things, but the one that stuck in my brain was the inclusion of Central America (and much of the Caribbean) into the geographical region "North America". Then again, "America" over here is almost exclusively used to refer to the US, with "The Americas" referring to North and South America collectively. Latin America consists of Mexico and Central and South America. I'm still not totally sure where Hawaii fits into all of this, but I'd be inclined to lump it in with Oceania. I was reading about the history of Hawaii, and it was rather interesting/disconcerting how the US gained control of those islands. But that discussion is for a different thread.

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Re: What is North America

Postby eSOANEM » Tue May 06, 2014 8:49 am UTC

UK here.

I went with 2 and would include Greenland. I was never taught a specific border but that's the one that seems the most natural. I might sometimes talk about central america/mesoamerica as a cultural region (the spanish speaking countries of my north america) but don't really see it as a disjoint set from north america.

I count the Caribbean as part of north america although wish that treating it separately was more common.
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Re: What is North America

Postby mathmannix » Tue May 06, 2014 1:24 pm UTC

US here. I went with 2 also, but it was almost a toss-up between 2 and 3.

There are multiple definitions, based on geopolitical boundaries. Traditionally, there are seven continents - North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Antarctica, and Australia / Oceania. Of course, it has been accepted for quite some time that Eurasia is one continent, but Europe and Asia are still taught as separate continents too.

From a geographical point of view, a continent probably should be defined as a large single landmass (and its surrounding continental shelf) which is reasonably separated from other continents at the narrowest point between them. North America, South America, Africa, Eurasia, Antarctica, and Australia are the best candidates, even though (not counting canals) "America" and "Eurafrasia" are connected - but by narrow strips of land. It is difficult to say where exactly the narrowest point is between North and South America, but it is almost certainly in one of several places across Panama, one of which is where they put the Canal, so the Canal is as good a boundary as any. (The actual border between Panama and Colombia is not the best boundary.)

The continental shelf rule is important, and includes some islands: Eurasia includes the British Isles and Sri Lanka (and possibly Japan and Borneo), but not Iceland or the Philippines; Australia includes Tasmania and New Guinea but not New Zealand; Africa does not include Madagascar; North America includes Vancouver, Baffin, and Newfoundland but not Greenland, the Bahamas, Cuba, or the rest of the Caribbean.

From a political/historical point of view, there is a Central America, but it is certainly not as much a continent as Europe. Mexico is usually not included in it; Central America + Mexico is taught as "Middle America" (or Meso-America.)
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Re: What is North America

Postby philsov » Tue May 06, 2014 2:21 pm UTC

Pretty much what Jude said. There's the continent of North America, which everything north of panama -- and the region of North America, which doesn't include things south of mexico because that second region is referred to as Central America, which as a continent does not exist.
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Re: What is North America

Postby Heisenberg » Tue May 06, 2014 6:39 pm UTC

It's whatever you want it to be. Unlike the word "planet," which astronomers got together and ruined for everyone, the word "continent" does not have any sort of scientific monopoly on it.

That said, I always thought North America included all the little countries between Mexico and Columbia. Efforts to repackage it as Central America always struck me as vaguely racist.

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Re: What is North America

Postby Djehutynakht » Tue May 06, 2014 7:37 pm UTC

I went for 2, in terms of geographical definition (US).

If we're dividing as Geographic Continents, then North America would encompass everything down to the end of the Panama isthmus (and, I'd say, probably include most of the Caribbean).

There's no particular reason to stop North America at the US-Mexico Border--that's a man-made border subject to change.

Same with the southern Mexican Border.

And then even the Panama Canal, even if it may have formally split the American landmass into two halves... is manmade, and comparatively recent. Plus it has all the locks and everything anyways.

So I'd say the most sensible geographic split would be at the end of the isthmus.

However, if we want to delve into other factors... climate, socioeconomic status, cultural groupings, etc., then any number of these groupings could be applicable.

Central America, for instance, is definitely defined as a distinct region (excluding or including Mexico from case to case), although few in the US would call it a continent; they'd probably place it on the North American geographic continent, but culturally/socioeconomically within Central/Latin America.

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Re: What is North America

Postby Angua » Tue May 06, 2014 7:56 pm UTC

Most of the Caribbean and Central America share the Caribbean plate. If we're doing it geographically...
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Re: What is North America

Postby Heisenberg » Tue May 06, 2014 8:29 pm UTC

Wouldn't that be geologically?

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Re: What is North America

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Sat May 10, 2014 4:42 am UTC

5) The United States.

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Re: What is North America

Postby ahammel » Sat May 10, 2014 5:47 am UTC

Why would it stop at the Panama canal?
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Re: What is North America

Postby cplns » Sat May 10, 2014 8:23 pm UTC

I'm from the US, and I was always taught that it was number 2. I was also taught that Central America was a distinct region, but not a continent.

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Re: What is North America

Postby mathmannix » Mon May 12, 2014 2:47 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:Why would it stop at the Panama canal?


Not really because of the canal, but because the canal is (presumably) at the narrowest part of the isthmus.
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Re: What is North America

Postby cyanyoshi » Mon May 12, 2014 7:24 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:Why would it stop at the Panama canal?

It perhaps makes more sense to divide the continents based purely on the land and waterways, and not on country boundaries. After all, the Suez Canal is widely accepted to be the boundary of Africa and Asia/Eurasia, leaving the Sinai Peninsula as a chunk of Egypt that is not in Africa. I doubt that many people would put the boundary between Central and South America at the present Panama-Colombia boundary if Panama were still a part of Colombia. Then again, South America just looks nicer in my opinion without that weird skinny part of Panama included.

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Re: What is North America

Postby Lazar » Mon May 12, 2014 7:33 pm UTC

The problem, though, is that the Panama Canal goes over high land and wouldn't be a waterway without humans operating the locks. The Suez, on the other hand, is a nice simple sea-level canal.
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Re: What is North America

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue May 13, 2014 8:02 am UTC

If the sea levels were raised, where would they first bridge the isthmus of Panama? That might make a good boundary.
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Re: What is North America

Postby eSOANEM » Tue May 13, 2014 11:43 am UTC

This map makes it look like it wouldn't make much difference. I assume this is because of mountains.
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