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The Seven Continents: Countries, Cultures, Politics & Religion

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  • 0:00 From Pangea to 7 Continents
  • 0:30 Africa, Antarctica and Asia
  • 3:52 Australia
  • 4:45 Europe
  • 6:07 North America and…
  • 7:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

The one-third of the earth's surface that isn't water consists of seven large land masses called continents. In this lesson, we'll learn about the history of these continents and the current cultural, political, and geographical make-up of each one.

From Pangea to 7 Continents

Beginning about 175 million years ago, a giant land mass, called Pangaea, started to break apart. That supercontinent consisted of all the land Earth had. Eventually, Pangaea separated into much of what a map of the world looks like today. Let's learn about each of the seven continents and a bit about their people and places.

Africa, Antarctica, and Asia

Africa is the 2nd largest continent, in terms of size and population. There are 54 countries in Africa, and two that are disputed (Somaliland and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic). Nigeria, by far, has the most people, with 175 million citizens, with Egypt coming in second with 85 million citizens. The economic center of Africa, as measured by GDP, is also Nigeria, thanks to large oil reserves. South Africa, a popular tourist destination, has the second largest economy.

Turning to religion and politics, Islam is the largest religion in Africa, where 47% of citizens are Muslims. Christianity is the second largest, with 39% of the population as followers. The other 14% are smaller, regional or local sects that have their roots in their historic tribes or countries. The countries in Africa have political systems that range from democratic, such as in South Africa, to dictatorship, such as in the Congo and Chad.

Next, we'll discuss Antarctica, a pretty easy continent to talk about. It's the fifth largest continent, and located at the very southern point of the earth. While there are no permanent human settlements in Antarctica, the population is officially cited at 1,128; essentially the average number of scientists and researchers that live there at different times throughout the year. Obviously, in a land with no real, sustainable population, religion and politics doesn't play much of a role.

The largest continent, in terms of size and people, is Asia. Asia accounts for 30% of the world's land mass, and over 60% of the world's population with more than 4 billion people. Turkey is the country furthest west and the Russian Far East Federation, which is mostly Siberia, stretches the furthest east, almost far enough to touch Alaska.

Hinduism, the most common religion in Asia, is found mostly in India. It has approximately one billion followers in Asia. Coming in second is Buddhism, with the 150 million Buddhists actually spread throughout Asia. Other popular religions include Shinto, Sikhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, and Taoism. This makes Asia one of the most actively religious regions in the world, both by number of people that consider themselves religious and the number of religions that exist.

Economically, China is the largest economy in Asia with a GDP over $10 trillion. Japan comes in second, but at less than half of the GDP of China, with about $4.8 trillion. There are a number of other countries - South Korea, India, Indonesia, and the Middle Eastern states - that have quickly growing economies, but that are still significantly lower than China.

Australia

Australia is the smallest of the continents, and the sixth in terms of population (or the lowest if you are counting livable continents). While Western Civilization has only been there since the 1770s when European explorers found it and started using it as a place to send convicts, or where the occasional ambitious explorer would go to try and start a new life, the native aborigines have lived there for about 45,000 years.

Speaking of Australia as a continent, there are four countries. Australia, the largest, and then New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the southern part of Indonesia. About 50% of the people on those continents claim Christianity as their religion, with most of the rest practicing a local or regional religion.

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