From Publishers Weekly
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. (Aug.)
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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, so to enlighten them he discusses three topics with national security implications. His tour of Islamic radicalism has the most immediate relevance and, buttressed by a profusion of maps, it covers Afghanistan, Iraq, the Islamic "front" in sub-Saharan Africa, and--Paraguay? Learning the significance of that outlier to the geography of Islamic terrorism (as well as its unappeasable aims) typifies many of de Blij's informational surprises, which are arranged clearly and spiced with the author's allusions to his career and travels, including China. His observations of attitudes and changes he's seen there are sober divinations of the cold war potential vis-a-vis China and the U.S. The putative threat of global warming receives de Blij's somewhat contrarian assessment, an outgrowth of his geographic summary of the ice age gripping the earth right now, geologically speaking. Accessible expertise vital for the current-events display. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved