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Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America: Climate Change, the Rise of China, and Global Terrorism Kindle Edition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Highly recommended, this book completes the set of new books to detail the new world order(Clash of Civilizations and Pentagons New Map). A wonderfully written, daring and original work.
Seth J. Frantzman
It could have been great but there are just too many shortcomings.
1. Obviously the editor did not spend too much time on this book (i.e., misspellings and incorrect word choice and basic facts that are glaringly wrong). The issue here is missing the simple mistakes makes me wonder about his other facts. One simple mistake is 127 billion people in Japan (pg 97). This leads to the next point.
2. No footnotes, this is huge to me. Most of his facts were not backed up with a source.
3. Misquotes and incorrect definitions of words and terms.
For example, "Spy, but verify" instead of "Trust, but Verify"
Also, "spy plane" in regards to the EP-3 is factually incorrect. The EP-3 is a reconnaissance plane that was on an overt (not covert) mission over international waters.
Overall, I still enjoyed the book and recommend reading it (please skip the first chapter or at least speed read through it). I would not reference the book's facts without checking them somewhere else first.
However, the main thrust of this book is to cover a huge amount of ground in trying to put three main issues into geographic perspective. The issues are, of course, climate change, the rise of China as a global force, and the threat of Islamic terrorism. That means understanding the geography of the present, so that one can assess what may be happening.
This book does cover plenty of ground, and I'm sure there will be quite a few people (including myself) who feel the author has not only made a bunch of minor errors here and there but has also taken a number of interesting and controversial stands without being completely convincing. For example, just how solid is the evidence for a link between the Uralic languages and Japanese? And how sure are we that around 10,000 years ago, an enormous ice sheet slid into the Atlantic, sending a wall of water into the Mediterranean and then into the Black Sea which caused the water to rise at a rate of 6 inches per day, until the water level was 500 feet higher?
Still, I think de Blij has some useful and valuable material about the three main questions. He does a good job of telling about the ice ages of the past 400,000 years. Basically, there have been four ice ages, with an average length of about 80,000 years, with warm periods between them lasting about 20,000 years. That is the big picture. And it means that we probably ought to think about what sorts of climate changes the several billion people on this planet may need to get ready for.
The next interesting topic is demographics. Just what population changes seem to be occurring right now? Only a generation ago, many folks assumed that the world's population would grow catastrophically until some disaster stopped it. Now it appears that this may not be the case: in many areas, populations are declining right now. Italy and Germany are good examples of this phenomenon, and de Blij predicts that the total population of the anticipated 27 nations of the European Union will drop during the next 50 years and more, staying under 500 million. That means that the political and military influence Europe, which used to dominate the world, may continue to decrease. And the author shows us plenty of maps of portions of Europe which put some of its issues into much better perspective.
We also see maps of Russia (another nation with a declining population) and China, and some interesting speculations about their futures. And there is a map showing the "front" between the Islamic and non-Islamic portions of Africa that the author uses to discuss various threats of religious strife there.
Obviously, our civilization faces many potential threats, and the future is quite uncertain. But I agree that we ought to consider threats that we're already able to see, and I think it is proper to start by looking intelligently at the present situation and at fundamental trends. I think the author makes a good effort to do just this.
1) The Shia population in Iraq generally follows a more apolitical, less publicly assertive form than the Shia in Iran. This may have some relevance to current events in Iraq.
2) Rightly or wrongly, the Chinese government has strong disagreements with a number of neighboring countries about where their mutual borders should be located.
3) The population decline in Russia is especially severe in the far eastern parts of Siberia, which isn't dense populated to begin with. Thus the migration of Korean and Chinese into these parts of Siberia could have more political implications than would be the case if there was a large Russian population in this area.
De Blij does give several examples where spatial proximity is relevant to current events, thus supporting his contention that spatial arrangements are important for predicting future events (for example recent conflicts in Africa have arisen in several countries in which the dividing line between majority non-Musim and majority Muslim populations occur). I agree with one of the editorial reviews that this is a bit vague, but I think it is nonetheless a worthwhile point to keep in mind.
He may be a bit hard on Islam, in that I can think of more than one religion that has texts that express ideas I find alarming.
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