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Earth Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


see Regional Geography, Physical Geography, Human Geography

Earth Ways: Framing Geographical Meanings edited by Gary Backhaus, John Murungi, (Rowman & Littlefield) How do you connect the discipline of anthropology to both philosophy and geography? What about history, sociology, and other applied and theoretical forms of knowledge? In Earth Ways: Framing Geographical Meanings, Gary Backhaus and John Murungi challenge contributors to find the organizing component, or framings, that enables them to bridge their own work to philosophy and geography. What emerges are truly creative contributions to interdisciplinary thought.

Excerpt: This volume is divided into three sections. Section One (chapters 1, 2, 3): Framing Historical Contexts; section Two (chapters 4, 5, 6): Framings Substan­tive Theories; section Three (chapters 7, 8, 9, 10): Framing Case Studies of Spe­cific Time-Places.

In the first chapter, "Herodotus and the Origins of Geography: The Strange, the Familiar, and the Earthbound," Dennis E. Skocz frames the geographical component of Herodotus' writings, which he characterizes as the way of the aerial and idiographic. He illustrates Herodotus' method of discovery in contrast to the apriorism of the mapmakers of his day. Herodotus provides "ethno­graphies" from the standpoint of geographies—the grounding of cultures in place. Herodotus is attentive to the differences in cultural geographies. Skocz describes Herodotus' approach to understanding the other, which includes three techniques: pairing, reciprocity, and analogue. The way that Skocz presents Herodotus' geography corroborates what we have called the immanent formism of the Greeks. But as Skocz takes up themes concerning the other's religion, morality, sense of justice and hospitality, Skocz rightly senses a shift in Hero­dotus' voice, which takes us beyond the immanent formism to which Herodotus is committed and into questions concerning the transcendent formism of which he was critical. And thus with Herodotus we witness what Buttimer has indi­cated as the problematic tension in Greek geography between giving both the historical elements and transhistorical structures their due and, as important, their relationship.

In the second chapter, "Conceptualizing World Environmental History: The Contribution of Immanuel Wallerstein," Jason W. Moore's scholarship reframes Wallerstein's The Modern World-System I as a volume that is strong in ecohis­torical content, especially highlighting the historico-geographical modifications that occurred during the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Thus, Moore argues that Wallerstein's theoretics can be framed as a world environmental history in addition to its framing as an economic history. Moore shows how Wallerstein pays careful attention to the production of space and thus economic activity is always interpreted as embedded in, and transformative of, landscapes. Moore shows that Wallerstein emphasizes the interconnection between the quality of the transformations of landscapes and the quality of social relations, which truly constitutes an environmental history. We have placed Moore's chapter before Kirkman's on Rousseau because the historical content is prior to Kirkman's historical and contemporary discussion concerning Rousseau.

Robert Kirkman's "Rousseau in the Suburbs: Geography, Environment, and the Philosophical Tradition," is a study of various incompatible framings of Rousseau's thought. Kirkman injects a healthy contextualism into the practice of framing. For as we have said, the framing of geographic meanings is an exercise in interpretation, and thus it entails the parts/whole problematic. Kirkman cau­tions that framings can be manifest through the process of narrow selection that neatly forms the frame, but if taken for the whole, it can be quite aberrant.

Kirkman follows a methodology of collecting the framings, contextualizing them. He then observes their reflection in the inconsistency of values that are exhibited in the contemporary landscape. Kirkman begins by framing Rousseau as a suburbanite, as someone who prefers the "middle landscape" between wil­derness and the city, far enough from the city's corruption, but close enough to enjoy its amenities. Rousseau is seen as upholding the values of leisure and pri­vacy inscribed in the idea of suburban living. Rousseau also contributes to the romantic sentiment of anti-urbanism. Kirkman explains that this framing is based on a selective reading of Rousseau as well as a selective reading of the processes of suburbanism. He then cites environmentalists who find congeniality in Rousseau's thought. But he also cites humanist thinkers who read Rousseau's advocation of freedom as entailing a sharp separation from nature. Against these selective readings, Kirkman looks at those thinkers who note the complexity of Rousseau's thought. He emphasizes the complexities in notions such as "pas-toral ideal" and "nature," and suggests that their ambiguities exhibit a seeming dichotomy between environmentalism and suburbanism that is far too simpli­fied. A much more accurate understanding is gained through a contextualized framing by which there is overlap between them that should not be tidily dismissed and should be recognized as the place where thorny environmental issues arise.

In my own chapter, "Toward a Phenomenology of Cognitive Mapping," I frame a genetic phenomenology of cognitive mapping—knowledge of our whereabouts and how we image getting around our environs. I begin with a fun­damental structure introduced by Husserl and advanced by several of the major phenomenologists—the lived-body as the zero point in its own system of spatial orientation. I argue that Husserl's grounding of this structure is inadequate for describing an essential aspect of lived-geography. Husserl's methodology at the time of describing the lived-body's coordinate system, static phenomenology as practiced through the Cartesian way, makes an unjustified leap into "transcen­dent formism." Just short of supplying the most crucial structure for the lived-experience of cognitive mapping, Husserl moves to the abstraction of Objective space. I argue that Husserl's "mistake" does not allow for the proper description of the highest level of cognitive mapping—the synthesis of the multifarious ori­entational systems mapped through the lived-body's relation to its environment in a unifying system that transcends the limitations of the lived-body's constitu­tive powers. I argue that the Cartesian way must be abandoned for a phenome­nology that takes into account the embodied subject and the embodied world as co-constitutive. I take a genetic approach in order to show the logical progres­sion in the structures of significance. This genesis pinpoints what the embodied subject achieves through its own constituting powers and then what structures the "embodied world" (Earthbody) contributes in order to achieve a cognitive mapping that adequately accounts for spatial understanding and orientation.

In chapter 5, "The Die is Cast: Boundaries of Time, Boundaries of Space," John M. Rose frames a dynamic geography of human events. Rose claims that as a technologically oriented civilization our preoccupation with conquering, managing, and possessing space has skewed our understanding of boundaries as merely spatial. According to Rose in order to understand the ontological character of boundary in an adequate fashion, human geography must frame the temporal dimensionality of boundaries. Rose illustrates his theory through three examples: the Dionysian ritual in ancient Greece, the myth of Remus and Rom­ulus, and Caeser's crossing of the Rubicon. The most important point concerns the transgressions across spatial boundaries interrelated with the temporal or­dering of acts in time, which are irreversible and irrevocable. The boundary can only be understood adequately as a passing of one time into another. Rose returns to Aristotle's theory in order to explicate the act of time cognition. This allows him to discuss "decisional embodiment" in terms of temporal demarcation. The production and enactment of space, which are created as time fram­ings, constitute boundaries.

In chapter 6, "Toward a Geography of Material Artifacts and an Outline for Synergetic Geography," the co-authors, François-Xavier Nzi iyo nsenga and Gary Backhaus, argue for the need to create a definitive geography of material culture. This geography of human artifacts is framed as a component in a three-fold geography that also includes physical and human geography. It is further argued that Buckminster Fuller's physics/metaphysics allows for a common vocabulary and treatment such that the earth's energy as the interrelation be­tween these three geographical taxonomies can be examined. A structural out-line of the geography of material culture is developed.

In chapter 7, "A Contextualized Science and the Changing Landscapes of India: A Case Study of Science as a Graft," Deepanwita Dasgupta frames a revi­sionist doctrine of the role of science by advocating its contextualization. Sci­ence must relinquish its hegemony and become a partner in a culture's overall worldview. Dasgupta examines the history and culture of India as a case study. She is optimistic that there can be convergence between India's venerable tradi­tions and modern science, but only through a thoroughly contextualized framing in which the leading role of science is highly tempered in a cultural dialogical network. By examining various weaknesses of the traditional hegemony of sci­ence—described as utopian, contextless, "Big," laissez-faire—Dasgupta seeks to show that the sense of science can only be understood through its external rela­tions. She illustrates "context sensitive science" through a discussion of two models of agriculture that had been adopted in India. In another section she takes up the traditional metaphysical views of India and seeks to modify them in a way that can guide scientific contextualization.

Lawrence A. Peskin draws attention to the notion of the geographical dimen­sion of knowledge-acquisition in chapter 8, "Pirates and the Geography of Knowledge: America and Algiers in the Late-Eighteenth Century." In his case study of the Algerian crisis of the late 1700s, Peskin describes the qualities of various mediums for the transmission of news events, oral comunication, letters, official documents, and news reports and how such transmissions shaped a Pub­lic Sphere and individual and group identities. He also discusses the cause of an expanding geography of knowledge, which in this era of merchant capitalism concerned the needs of commerce. This theme obviously shaped the contents of the news, including what is constituted as geographically important. Thus, an "informed citizenry" required a great deal more global information. At the same time that cosmopolitanism was developing through the globalization, national-ism was rising as well. So, the geography of knowledge provides important clues for political geography. By framing the significance of the geography of knowledge, the mapping of knowledge dissemination, Peskin provides key in-sights that are valuable to many areas of concern.

In chapter 9, "Finding the There There: Local Space, Global Ritual, and Early Cold War Berlin," Paul Steege provides a very fine example of an interdiscipli­nary framing. He emphasizes the geographical component of historical framing through his case study of the city of Berlin during the Cold War. As macrohis­torical narratives have given way to microhistorical approaches, Steege pro-motes an alternative framing (a third way) that accounts for the tension between symbolic (macroscopic) and material (microscopic) meaning-contexts. Steege argues that this approach will place much emphasis on the geography of an his­torical event, and thus it is inadequate for historical analysis to treat place as merely the setting and name for historical events. Temporality and causality have largely characterized historical events at the expense of the meaning-producing role of the particular contexts, the locations, through which material significances are concretized. Symbolic meanings created by political powers can be quite detached from particular and historical locations. Their symbolic constructions of the meaning of a contested space may not be reflected in the actual meaning-context of the locality. Thus the constructions of these two re­spective meaning-productions is best understood by framing the geographical location or site of their tensional encounters. Steege argues that the tension be­tween these two levels of meaning—the great powers' decision-makings and the material struggles on the ground—is truly constitutive of the Cold War. Geogra­phy, then, discloses the spatial reality of the tension, which means that the geo­graphical nature of the events is necessary and intrinsic to historical interpretation; geography is not merely a backdrop, rather it is co-constitutive. In Steege's framing, history works along with geography as necessary to its own projects. As Steege has built a bridge towards geographers, perhaps geographers could collaborate with him in a geohistorical framing of two levels of meaning in ten­sion.

Geosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography: Virtual Field Trip Upgrade by Robert W. Christopherson (Prentice Hall) Welcome to physical geography in the new century! Media edition of Geosystems builds on the success achieved by earlier editions in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Students and teachers alike express appreciation for the systems organization, readability, scientific accuracy, up‑to‑date coverage and relevancy, clarity of the summary and review sections, the functional beauty of the photographs, art, cartography, and the many integrated figures in the text that combine media. An informed citizenry requires meaningful education about our life‑sustaining environment; that is the purpose of this book.

I am pleased that prentice Hall supports such a media edition and update of the text. Physical geography is a dynamic field that demands the latest data and scientific findings. You will note updated graphs, text, and figures. Note the new title page photo and the new height measure for Mount Everest. The Virtual Field Trip CD‑ROM is thoroughly revised and more supportive to this text.

Geosystems Communicates the Science of Physical Geography

The goal of physical geography is to explain the spatial dimension of Earth's dynamic systems‑its energy, air, water, weather, climate, tectonics, landforms, rocks, soils, plants, ecosystems, and biomes. Understanding human Earth relations is part of the challenge of physical geography‑to create a holistic (or complete) view of the planet and its inhabitants.

Geosystems analyzes the worldwide impact of environmental events, synthesizing many physical factors into a complete picture of Earth system operations. A good example is the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. The global implications of this major event (one of the largest eruptions the 20th century) are woven through seven chapters of the book. Our update on global climate change and its related potential effects is part of the fabric in six chapters. These content threads, among many, weave together the variety of interesting and diverse topics crucial to a thorough understanding of physical geography.

Systems Organization Makes Geosystems Flow

Each section of this book is organized around the flow of energy, materials, and information. Geosystems presents subjects in the same sequence in which they occur in nature. In this way you and your teacher logically progress through topics which unfold according to the flow of individual systems, or in accord with time and the flow of events.

The text culminates with Chapter 21, "Earth, Humans, and the New Millennium," a unique capstone chapter that summarizes physical geography as an important discipline to help us understand Earth's present status and possible future. This chapter is sure to stimulate further thought and discussion, dealing as it does with the most profound issue of our time, Earth's stewardship.

Geosystems is a Text That Teaches

Geosystems is written to assist you in the learning process. Three heading levels are used throughout the text and precise topic sentences initiate each paragraph to help you outline and review material. Boldface words are defined where they first appear in the text. These terms and concepts are collected in the Glossary alphabetically, with a chapter‑number reference. Italics are used in the text to emphasize other words and phrases of importance. Also, every figure has a title that summarizes the caption.

An important continuing feature is a list of Key Learning Concepts that opens each chapter, stating what you should be able to do upon completing the chapter. These objectives are keyed to the main headings in the chapter. At the end of each chapter is a unique Summary and Review section that corresponds to the Key Learning Concepts. Grouped under each learning concept is a narrative review that redefines the boldfaced terms, a key terms list with page numbers, and specific review questions for that concept. You can conveniently review each concept, test your understanding with review questions, and check key terms in the glossary, then return to the chapter and the next learning concept. In this way, the chapter content is woven together with specific concept threads.

A Critical Thinking section ends each chapter, challenging you to take the next step with information from the chapter. The key learning concepts help you determine what you want to learn, the text helps you develop information and more questions, the summary and review helps you assess what you have learned and what more you might want to know about the subject, and the critical thinking provokes action and application.

New Career Link essays feature geographers in a variety of professional fields practicing their spatial analysis craft. You will read about a cartographer‑GIS practitioner, a weather forecaster at the Forecast Systems Lab, an environmental scientist, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, a snow avalanche specialist, an expert on global scale ecosystems, and a student just entering the GIS workplace.

Continued coverage of Canadian physical geography includes text, figures, and maps of periglacial landscapes and Canadian soils (a new Appendix B and color soils map). Canadian data on a variety of subjects are portrayed on 28 different maps in combination with the United

States‑physical geography does not stop at the United States‑Canadian border!

Nineteen "Focus Study" essays, some completely revised and several new to this edition, provide additional explanation of key topics as diverse as the stratospheric ozone predicament, solar energy collection and wind power, forecasting the near‑record 1995‑1998 hurricane seasons, the 1997‑1998 El Nino phenomenon, status of the High Plains Aquifer using new maps, floodplain strategies, an environmental approach to shoreline planning, the Mount St. Helens eruption, the 1998 status of the Colorado River, and the loss of biodiversity.

Forty‑two "News Reports" relate topics of special interest. For example: GPS, careers in GIS, a 34kilometer sky dive to study the atmosphere, jet streams and airline flight times, how one culture harvests fog, the UV Index, coordination of global climate change research with many URLs presented, the disappearing Nile Delta, artificial scouring of the Grand Canyon to restore beaches and habitats, how sea turtles read Earth's magnetic field, and threats to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

We now live on a planet served by the Internet and its World Wide Web, a resource that weaves threads of information from around the globe into a vast fabric. The fact that we have Internet access into almost all the compartments aboard Spaceship Earth is clearly evident in Geosystems. Many entry points link directly from the words in a chapter to an Internet source allowing you to be up to‑the minute in understanding and facts. You will find nearly 200 URLs (Internet addresses) in the body of the text. Given the fluid nature of the Internet, URLs were rechecked and edited at press time. If some URLs changed since publication, you can most likely find the new location using elements of the old address.

Any textbook equipped for the new information millennium is going to be different from those when the first edition of Geosystems appeared. Textbooks, especially in dynamic fields like geography must be tapped into these streams of scientific discoveries and environmental events. Geosystems is in the new millennium in content, relevancy, and application.

Postmodern Geography: Theory and Praxis by Claudio Minca (Blackwell) The idea for this collection arose during a conference on postmodern geography that I had organized in Venice in 1999. It was that very meeting which first brought together the contributors to this volume and it was also then that many of the questions about the place and role of postmodern reflection within our discipline tackled within the pages of this book were first articulated. Nevertheless, the idea of publishing yet another edited collection on postmodern geography was not what I had in mind: first, because excellent works of this sort already exist, and secondly, because the task of recapitulating the past fifteen years of a long line of reflection within the Anglo-American academy certainly did not pertain to an `external' observer such as myself.

The intentions behind this book were quite other. I wanted to pose a series of questions to some of the scholars shaping today's theoreti­cal debates in geography on an issue that I had myself long held at heart: that is, what were the implications of the postmodern turn for geographical praxis? Or, what praxis for a postmodern geography

Running down the list of authors, the reader will note that I turned for answers both to some of today's leading geographers within the Anglo­American world, but also to key figures within my own, Italian, geo­graphical tradition, for here the postmodern debate had developed in an entirely diverse fashion, and had been afforded an entirely diverse set of meanings, as will surely become apparent within the chapters written by Italian authors.

Why the need to problematize the meanings of a possible postmod­ern praxis in geography? Above all, because the postmodern debate within our discipline does not seem to have successfully resolved the key dilemma that has accompanied it since its inception: does the post­modern turn merely signal a new and revolutionary way of reading modernity (as many of the contributors to this volume seem to argue) - or do veritable postmodern spaces exist, are we now confronted with new and revolutionary geographies which follow coordinates that are radically different from those of modernity and thus necessitate new analytical tools, new understandings capable of grasping their dynamics?

We need to question ourselves about the possible meanings of a post­modern praxis in geography for another crucial reason as well, however; because, as we well know, the crisis of (geographical) representation has brought with it an accordant crisis of all `projects' - that is, a growing difficulty if not impossibility of translating emergent theoretical reflec­tion into operative suggestions able to dialogue with the complexity of the world. But can we attribute a strategic role to the emergent (post­modern?) geographical praxis beyond its deconstructionist exposure of the `tricks' of normative, positivist knowledge? Can we still identify a political-projectual dimension to geography after the postmodern turn? And if (following the greatly overused saying) `geography is what geo­graphers do,' then we find ourselves back at our original dilemma: when we talk about postmodern geography, are we talking about new, purportedly postmodern readings of the (modern) world - or about new, revolutionary postmodern spaces for which we need new, revolutionary geographies? Thus, is a postmodern geographical praxis simply a geo­graphical reading of the transformations within our societies, cultures, economies - a reading, in other words, of our new `condition'? Or does any such praxis also actively produce such transformations (if we believe that all geographical readings of the world also necessarily transform this latter in practice)? The question is a crucial one, for it forces us to reconsider how the postmodern debate has fundamentally under­mined what we imagine to be geography's and geographers' `political' role.

I'd like to believe that the emergent challenges to modern ways of conceiving the world cannot but give rise to new geographical ways of knowing; new ways of knowing that eliminate, once and for all, the pernicious distinction between the theoretical and empirical moments, between theory and practice; new ways of knowing which, above all, are capable of imagining a new political-strategic role for geographical knowledge.

I thus offer the following disclaimer for the Anglo-American reader: this volume is not a review of state-of-the-art postmodern debate in geography, nor is it a continuation or recapping of multiple previous such attempts. Certainly, many of the chapters in this book draw upon this well-inscribed tradition - but many also do not, reminding us that geographers' reflections on the crisis of modernity do not necessarily travel a singular path but are, rather, the fruit of distinct cultural and academic contexts. This introduction intentionally lacks, in fact, an exhaustive literature review on postmodern geography, for any such review, again, would be partial at best, considering that the reflections presented within the pages of this volume emerge from diverse geo­graphical traditions.

And if there is an explicit aim to the book, it is certainly that of pre­senting a series of widely diverse perspectives on the meanings and attributes of geographical praxis; perspectives which vary considerably both in the theoretical approaches adopted, but also in the distinct per­sonal histories and positionings of the authors themselves - and thus necessarily in the `political' objectives advanced. Like all edited collec­tions of this sort, this volume too has both its advantages and disad­vantages in this sense. On the one hand, all authors had to render explicit, in no uncertain terms, their position on the topic, articulating their distinct understandings of - and suggestions for - a postmodern geographical praxis. And this is, I believe, one of the strong points of the book. On the other hand, however, such diversity could make the whole appear fragmented at times. But this, again, is inevitable in any collection - and particularly one such as this that, unlike many other edited volumes, intentionally did not specify a unity of approach or a determinate theoretical framework.

Yet among all of these `fragments' of reflection we can identify not only points of contact but also of convergence around some of the key questions which have shaped the postmodern debate; forms of conver­gence which do allow us to attempt a preliminary mapping of the con­tributions. The various chapters thus move from perspectives on the restructuring and reconceptualization of urban spaces within political­/economic as well as cultural globalization, to reconceptualizations of the notion of globalization itself as a metaphor of the changing rela­tions between the global and the local, to a critique of the very funda­mentals of the cartographic reason which has forged the modern vision of the world (and thus also the global/local dichotomy).

Geography, Environment and Development in the Mediterranean edited by Russell King, Paolo De Mas, and  Jan Mansvelt Beck (Sussex Academic Press) A region of great historical and ecological coherence, the Mediterranean has now acquired renewed significance in European and global geopolitics. It is the focus of many concerns: about pollution and environmental sustainability; population growth and migration; ethnic and religious confrontation; and about the "development gap" between North and South. Despite its global significance, there is a dearth of books on the contemporary Mediterranean.

This book explores the many geographies of the Mediterranean Basin with chapters on the Mediterranean environment, geopolitics, economic development, trade, demography, migration, cities, tourism, landscapes, mountains and islands. Written by an international team of geographers, the book offers a carefully integrated and up‑to‑date treatment of the contemporary human geography of one of the world's most fascinating and significant regions.

Russell King is Professor of Geography and Dean of the School of European Studies at the University of Sussex. Paolo De Mas is Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. Jan Mansvelt Beck is Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Amsterdam.


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