People rely on reason to think about and navigate the abstract world of human relations in much the same way they rely on maps to study and traverse the physical world. Starting from that simple observation, renowned geographer Gunnar Olsson offers in Abysmal an astonishingly erudite critique of the way human thought and action have become deeply immersed in the rhetoric of cartography and how this cartographic reasoning allows the powerful to map out other people’s lives.
A spectacular reading of Western philosophy, religion, and mythology that draws on early maps and atlases, Plato, Kant, and Wittgenstein, Thomas Pynchon, Gilgamesh, and Marcel Duchamp, Abysmal is itself a minimalist guide to the terrain of Western culture. Olsson roams widely but always returns to the problems inherent in reason, to question the outdated assumptions and fixed ideas that thinking cartographically entails. A work of ambition, scope, and sharp wit, Abysmal will appeal to an eclectic audience—to geographers and cartographers, but also to anyone interested in the history of ideas, culture, and art.
From the first vistas provided by flight in balloons in the eighteenth century to the most recent sensing operations performed by military drones, the history of aerial imagery has marked the transformation of how people perceived their world, better understood their past, and imagined their future. In Aerial Aftermaths Caren Kaplan traces this cultural history, showing how aerial views operate as a form of world-making tied to the times and places of war. Kaplan’s investigation of the aerial arts of war—painting, photography, and digital imaging—range from England's surveys of Scotland following the defeat of the 1746 Jacobite rebellion and early twentieth-century photographic mapping of Iraq to images taken in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Throughout, Kaplan foregrounds aerial imagery's importance to modern visual culture and its ability to enforce colonial power, demonstrating both the destructive force and the potential for political connection that come with viewing from above.
For most of the twentieth century, maps were indispensable. They were how governments understood, managed, and defended their territory, and during the two world wars they were produced by the hundreds of millions. Cartographers and journalists predicted the dawning of a “map-minded age,” where increasingly state-of-the-art maps would become everyday tools. By the century’s end, however, there had been decisive shift in mapping practices, as the dominant methods of land surveying and print publication were increasingly displaced by electronic navigation systems.
In After the Map, William Rankin argues that although this shift did not render traditional maps obsolete, it did radically change our experience of geographic knowledge, from the God’s-eye view of the map to the embedded subjectivity of GPS. Likewise, older concerns with geographic truth and objectivity have been upstaged by a new emphasis on simplicity, reliability, and convenience. After the Map shows how this change in geographic perspective is ultimately a transformation of the nature of territory, both social and political.
Weather maps have made our atmosphere visible, understandable, and at least moderately predictable. In Air Apparent Mark Monmonier traces debates among scientists eager to unravel the enigma of storms and global change, explains strategies for mapping the upper atmosphere and forecasting disaster, and discusses efforts to detect and control air pollution. Fascinating in its scope and detail, Air Apparent makes us take a second look at the weather map, an image that has been, and continues to be, central to our daily lives.
"Clever title, rewarding book. Monmonier . . . offers here a basic course in meteorology, which he presents gracefully by means of a history of weather maps." —Scientific American
"Mark Monmonier is onto a winner with Air Apparent. . . . It is good, accessible science and excellent history. . . . Read it." —Fred Pearce, New Scientist
"[Air Apparent] is a superb first reading for any backyard novice of weather . . . but even the veteran forecaster or researcher will find it engaging and, in some cases, enlightening." —Joe Venuti, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
"Monmonier is solid enough in his discussion of geographic and meteorological information to satisfy the experienced weather watcher. But even if this information were not presented in such a lively and engaging manner, it would still hook most any reader who checks the weather map every morning or who sits happily entranced through a full cycle of forecasts on the Weather Channel."—Michael Kennedy, Boston Globe
For anyone who has looked at a map of the United States and wondered how Texas and Oklahoma got their Panhandles, or flown over the American heartland and marveled at the vast grid spreading out in all directions below, American Boundaries will yield a welcome treasure trove of insight. The first book to chart the country’s growth using the boundary as a political and cultural focus, Bill Hubbard’s masterly narrative begins by explaining how the original thirteen colonies organized their borders and decided that unsettled lands should be held in trust for the common benefit of the people. Hubbard goes on to show—with the help of photographs, diagrams, and hundreds of maps—how the notion evolved that unsettled land should be divided into rectangles and sold to individual farmers, and how this rectangular survey spread outward from its origins in Ohio, with surveyors drawing straight lines across the face of the continent.
Mapping how each state came to have its current shape, and how the nation itself formed within its present borders, American Boundaries will provide historians, geographers, and general readers alike with the fascinating story behind those fifty distinctive jigsaw-puzzle pieces that together form the United States.
Ancient Perspectives encompasses a vast arc of space and time—Western Asia to North Africa and Europe from the third millennium BCE to the fifth century CE—to explore mapmaking and worldviews in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. In each society, maps served as critical economic, political, and personal tools, but there was little consistency in how and why they were made. Much like today, maps in antiquity meant very different things to different people.
Ancient Perspectives presents an ambitious, fresh overview of cartography and its uses. The seven chapters range from broad-based analyses of mapping in Mesopotamia and Egypt to a close focus on Ptolemy’s ideas for drawing a world map based on the theories of his Greek predecessors at Alexandria. The remarkable accuracy of Mesopotamian city-plans is revealed, as is the creation of maps by Romans to support the proud claim that their emperor’s rule was global in its reach. By probing the instruments and techniques of both Greek and Roman surveyors, one chapter seeks to uncover how their extraordinary planning of roads, aqueducts, and tunnels was achieved.
Even though none of these civilizations devised the means to measure time or distance with precision, they still conceptualized their surroundings, natural and man-made, near and far, and felt the urge to record them by inventive means that this absorbing volume reinterprets and compares.
The contributors—Svetlana Alpers, Samuel Y. Edgerton, Jr., Ulla Ehrensvard, Juergen Schulz, James A. Welu, and David Woodward—examine the historical links between art and cartography from varied perspectives.
Oceans drive the world’s climate, nurture marine ecosystems full of aquatic life, and provide shipping lanes that have defined the global economy for centuries. And few realize that half of the world’s population lives in a coastal region within easy reach of one. Yet human activities such as commercial fishing, coastal real estate development, and industrial pollution have taken their toll on the seas. The first book of its kind, The Atlas of Coasts and Oceans documents the fraught relationship between humans and the earth’s largest bodies of water—and outlines the conservation steps needed to protect the marine environment for generations to come.
The Atlas offers a fascinating and often sobering account of how urbanization, climate change, offshore oil drilling, shipping routes, global tourism, and maritime conflict have had a profound impact on the world’s oceans and coasts. Combining text and images in visually engaging, thematically organized map spreads, this volume addresses the ecological, environmental, and economic importance of marine phenomena such as coral reefs, eroding shorelines, hurricanes, and fish populations—and how development threatens to destroy the ultimate source of all life on the “blue planet.” Lavishly illustrated with global and regional maps, from the Arabian Gulf to the Great Barrier Reef, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, and all the other major global waterways, The Atlas of Coasts and Oceans will be the definitive companion to any study of its subject for years to come.
The Atlas of World Hunger
Thomas J. Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson University of Chicago Press, 2010 Library of Congress G1046.E59B3 2010 | Dewey Decimal 363.80223
Earlier this year, President Obama declared one of his top priorities to be “making sure that people are able to get enough to eat.” The United States spends about five billion dollars on food aid and related programs each year, but still, both domestically and internationally, millions of people are hungry. In 2006, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations counted 850 million hungry people worldwide, but as food prices soared, an additional 100 million or more who were vulnerable succumbed to food insecurity.
If hunger were simply a matter of food production, no one would go without. There is more than enough food produced annually to provide every living person with a healthy diet, yet so many suffer from food shortages, unsafe water, and malnutrition every year. That’s because hunger is a complex political, economic, and ecological phenomenon. The interplay of these forces produces a geography of hunger that Thomas J. Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson illuminate in this empowering book. The Atlas of World Hunger uses a conceptual framework informed by geography and agricultural economics to present a hunger index that combines food availability, household access, and nutritional outcomes into a single tool—one that delivers a fuller understanding of the scope of global hunger, its underlying mechanisms, and the ways in which the goals for ending hunger can be achieved. The first depiction of the geography of hunger worldwide, the Atlas will be an important resource for teachers, students, and anyone else interested in understanding the geography and causes of hunger. This knowledge, the authors argue, is a critical first step toward eliminating unnecessary suffering in a world of plenty.