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Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing Americaby Harm J. de Blij
"[R]emarkable....This is not an academic tome or a technical book about geography. It is a friendly and accessible reader for those who have a basic grasp of some of the concepts of geography and who want to understand where the world is headed....A powerful and deeply personal writer, de Blij discusses his own background in detail and fills the book with anecdotes from his experience. This makes for an entertaining and enlightening trek through the compromises required in a complex, challenging, and dangerous world." David J. Smith, Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
Synopses & Reviews
Over the next half century, the human population, divided by culture and economics and armed with weapons of mass destruction, will expand to nearly 9 billion people. Abrupt climate change may throw the global system into chaos; China will emerge as a superpower; and Islamic terrorism and insurgency will threaten vital American interests. How can we understand these and other global challenges? Harm de Blij has a simple answer: by improving our understanding of the world's geography.
De Blij demonstrates how geography's perspectives yield unique and penetrating insights into the interconnections that mark our shrinking world. Centuries ago a surge of climate change halted China's maritime plans; more recently, environmental calamity altered the course of geopolitical events in East Asia; today, terrorists look for failed and malfunctioning states to base their operations — and some of these are in our own hemisphere. Preparing for climate change, averting a cold war with China, defeating terrorism: all of this requires geographic knowledge.
In Why Geography Matters, de Blij makes an urgent call to restore geography to America's educational curriculum. He shows how and why the U.S. has become the world's most geographically illiterate society of consequence — and demonstrates that this geographic illiteracy is a direct risk to America's national security. In this personal and engaging book, de Blij provides a geographer's perspective on the challenges of this new century.
As he states, we are crossing the threshold to a century that will witness massive environmental change, major population shifts, persistent civilizational conflicts and while geographic knowledge by itself cannot solve these problems, they will not be effectively approached without it.
"De Blij, a geography professor and former National Geographic Society editor, seeks to rekindle interest in his discipline with this unfocused survey of the world and its discontents. Struggling to describe his notoriously hard-to-define field, de Blij suggests that geographers 'look at things spatially' as opposed to 'temporally' or 'structurally,' the 'things' being a grab bag of phenomena, including climate, topography, demographics, national boundaries and the distribution of languages, religions, energy deposits and pipelines. It's an often illuminating perspective, nicely visualized in the book's many splendid maps. Unfortunately, while mapping things spatially is a very useful methodology, it doesn't add up to a coherent analytical framework, and often boils down to simply compiling information about places. As a result, de Blij's discussions of global developments, including European integration, the decline of Russia, Africa's ongoing travails and the three challenges mentioned in the title, amount to extremely well-informed but hardly groundbreaking rehashes of conventional wisdom." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Geography professor de Blij writes from a conviction that not only the American public but also government officials can be dangerously ignorant of basic geography." Booklist
"[A]n illuminating inquiry that traces the history of Earth's climate as it has fluctuated over time. De Blij's treatment of this subject is particularly refreshing." San Francisco Chronicle
Making an urgent call to restore geography to America's educational curriculum, a renowned geographer shows how and why the U.S. has become the world's most geographically illiterate society of consequence and explains how this illiteracy is a direct risk to America's national security.
About the Author
Harm de Blij is Distinguished Professor of Geography at Michigan State University. He is an honorary life member of the National Geographic Society and for seven years was the Geography Editor on ABC's "Good Morning America."
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