Publisher: Wiley Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 0 471 48280 3
Pages: xvi + 465 Format: Hardback

Overall Score:

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1 - A world in crisis: environment and humanity in the 21st century; 2 - The search for an enduring balance between humanity and environment; 3 - The global context and some geographic imperatives; 4 - Global cycles and systems: the master environmental framework; 5 - Ecosystems and the bioclimatic environment; 6 - The spread of humanity and the challenge of the last frontiers; 7 - The human population: trends, patterns and problems; 8 - Agriculture, food production, hunger and the environment; 9 - Energy generation, use and the environment; 10 - The atmospheric environment: climate, land use and global warming; 11 - Air pollution: patterns, trends and impacts; 12 - The hydrologic environment: precipitation, land use and water resources; 13 - Water pollution: patterns, trends and impacts; 14 - Hazardous waste: sources, problems and management; 15 - Soil and land: use and abuse; 16 - Biological diversity: trends, threats and protection; 17 - Open-land resources: forests, grasslands and shrublands, parks and preserves; 18 - Managing the global environment: the drive towards a sustainable world.



We tend to forget that the environment is such a key issue that many disciplines will either try to take over part of the work or put their own perspective upon existing work. Although sometimes it may create confusion when matters are reported poorly or inaccurately it also helps because it "spreads the word" and offers new insights.

This is the third edition of the text, subtitled: science, land use and Earth systems. Its approach seems very reminiscent of some of the early key texts in environmental education such at the Ehrlich's Population, Resources, Environment. In addition, both have a North American perspective so a comparison might reasonably be made. We start with an outline of the key problems facing us which can be summed up as development and carrying capacity. The argument is made that there is a limit to what we can do and still retain the planet in its current form. Chapter two makes the solution quite clear. There is a balance between people and environment and this lies in sustainability (which becomes one of the book's key messages). Next, we need to see the parameters of the subject. We are told that environmental geography is about environmental degradation and quality of life. This covers the entire Earth's surface and the human rules and regulations that control its use. Chapters four and five are linked in that they study the global-scale cycles - the former in terms of energy and the latter in terms of ecosystems. There's another link with chapters six and seven - human development. The argument is put forward that people have both expanded their location of operations and the scale/extent of what's done. This leads us on to chapter 8 which examines the distribution and impact of agriculture. Like most chapters this is a pleasing mix of geography, human action and solutions i.e. ecology of food, farming systems and sustainable production (bearing in mind the remit of chapter two). Chapter 9 turns to energy both renewable and non-renewable with a brief review of the main forms both current and potential. Of course, energy use leads to energy pollution so chapter 10's look at the atmosphere and global warming is appropriate. There's also an overview of urban climates which leads the reader nicely into the next chapter's review of air pollution. Key examples here include ozone depletion and acid rain but the main focus is on urban pollution and the problems it creates. Given that this topic often receives less coverage its inclusion is welcome. In the midst of this there's a full-colour section, whose existence is noted in the appropriate chapters throughout the book, dealing with 16 brief case studies whose common feature is how we can do less harm to the environment. These short studies would make excellent classroom examples. Chapter 12 and 13 cover the water cycle, water use and water pollution. There's also good review of water treatment methods. Chapter 14 deals with highly toxic pollution. This is hazardous waste that creates so many problems. Given that examples include the infamous Love Canal and Bhopal, the reader is left in no doubt about the issues this pollution brings. Soil is a key resource but one that often is neglected. An overview is provided in chapter 15 which leads on to the idea of biological diversity, its distribution , threats and promises. Our final two chapters cover much the same ground only in different ways. Chapter 17 looks at the management of rangelands, forests and parks whereas chapter 18 looks at sustainable management. The argument is that the former does not always contain the latter. Chapter 18 also gets to review some of the key remote sensing devices to show how they can impact upon us.

Overall this is a useful text. It covers a very impressive range of topics with some detail. The layout is clean and straightforward. There's the chapter outline and key terms/questions to finish with. The text is more wordy than some but the diagrams are consistent in their style and pared down to aid understanding. This is a US-produced text with the focus on North America although there is global coverage in each chapter. It would make a good addition to the library where its coverage would be useful as a prelude to local case study involvement.

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