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Title: Physical Geography - The Key Concepts
Author(s): Richard Huggett
Date of Publication: 2010 Publisher: Routledge
Pages:xiv + 210 ISBN: 978 0 415 45208 3
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Senior Secondary







Content: 1 – Key concepts

Review: One of the main problems with environmental science (and even, to an extent, ecology) is the need to have access to a range of subject languages and concepts. To this extent there is an anomaly - environmental science courses, especially in schools, are seen as a "soft-option" science whereas, in reality, they are amongst the hardest. We are slowly realising this with topics such as global warming demonstrating the considerable complexity of the environment. Let's keep with global warming as a focus. We're told that our students need to be aware of the topic and need to find a solution/mitigation strategy. At the same time they're being told it's an extremely difficult subject. If this wasn't off-putting enough they're also told they need to understand, or at least appreciate, a number of concepts. Is it any wonder younger people can opt out of the debate. What we need is a text which highlights key ideas but also offers a critical guide.

This text could well be a way forward. Words were chosen for their relevance to the subject as a whole, the aim being to produce a primer of the most important ideas. Obviously there are going to be some "omissions" because the subject matter today is so broad. What is crucial is not what is excluded/included but the treatment of the subject matter and here we are luckier. Terms are defined and a range of cases noted. However, there is also the opportunity to discuss something of the issues behind the concepts: to consider the extent to which a term might be seen as 'key' and how controversies might have arisen. This is important but it is often left out. Beginners need some idea of terminology but a standard dictionary fails to add the importance of the word and something of the arguments surrounding it. Take the first entry - active and passive margins. Here we start with a standard definition. Then we move on to the value of examining such areas. There is some discussion of the limitations of the idea and more on the importance of these features to both physical geography and topography. In this case, two references help with further explanation. Randomly take another case e.g. ergodicity, and the same format is repeated with slightly more on this issue as a less common term with some controversy. The reader gets the term, its use and significance and something of the background to the study.

Overall, an excellent book which brings together both significant terms and the importance to the development of the subject. This is a good idea with other disciplines would do well to replicate.





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