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 Olsson roams widely but always returns to the problems inherent in reason, to question the outdated assumptions and fixed ideas that thinking cartographically entails.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.
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.
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.
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.
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