Global environmental change

Global environmental change

Book Applied Geography will find it useful and inform- ative. It is printed on acid-free recycled paper and the price is reasonable, especially for a...

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Book Applied Geography will find it useful and inform-

ative. It is printed on acid-free recycled paper and the price is reasonable, especially for a hardback. A. M. Mannion Department

of Geography, University of Reading

Hardisty, J. The Butch seas. London, Routledge, 1990. 272 pp. f35.00 hardback. The aim of this book is to provide an all-round introduction to the physical resources of the continental shelf seas surrounding the British Isles, and to discuss their exploitation. The book is aimed at undergraduates, indeed it stems directly from a course taught by the author at the University of Hull. The book is divided into two main sections, the first dwelling on the oceanography (geology, sediments and hydrodynamics), the second on the resources. At the outset it must be acknowledged that this book is a good idea. It tries to integrate fundamental and applied science from a geographical standpoint. In this sense it is the antithesis of a modern environmental studies module. The first part of the book is better than the second (probably reflecting the author’s academic upbringing), although both sections are cross-referenced, avoiding undue repetition. Bv and large the book is easy to read (i-t took me g flirrht from Malaea to Heathrow) and should be ve”y acceptable- to undergradhates. Notwithstanding, there are several curious features of the volume. The most obvious is the rather dated nature of some of the information. Much of the chapter on trade and transport would qualify as ‘history’ under the UK gove~ment’s recent edict (more than 25 years ago) and Plate 8 alone should send those with 1960s transport fetishes into paroxisms of excitement. In a long list of major UK ports neither Felixstowe nor Tilbury are mentioned, whereas others such as Bristol and Preston are now largely run down. There is no discussion of the recent waterfront regeneration or the growth of marinas. World trade statistics that largely ignore Japan, or as Figure 12.1 does, give its per capita GNP as below Ireland and Hungary and just above Nigeria, simply invite comments from reviewers. A second oddity is the sudden focusing on seemingly trivial points (presumably ones which interest the author), leaving the general readership wondering what is going on. For example, p. 69 discusses the magnetic induction effect for measuring tidal currents. No less than 5 out of 13 references cited in this chapter on tides relate to the half-page devoted to this obscure (certainly to geography students) effect. There is no explanation as to why there should be such marked inequalities in treatment.

reviews

329

The author is very honest in acknowledging that several chapters are drawn primarily from one source or another. A basic reference throughout is Lee and Ramster’s seminal Atlas of the British Seas, from which many of the figures are taken from coloured originals, although some of these redrawn figures lose out by being too small or lacking in detail. Some figures, for example 9.2, 9.6 and 10.3, conld do with scales, while six pages of maps showing spawning grounds for different fish species seems profligate in a volume of this size. One or two of the photographs (notably Plates 4 and 13) are hard to justify, partly because they are poorly reproduced. Overall, I believe this book is a welcome addition to the undergraduate library, providing it is used with care. The approach is refreshing and pertinent, and the information relevant (if not always up to date). Lee, A. J. and Ramster, J. W. (1981) Atlas oftke Britisk Seas. London: Ministry of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food. Bill Carter ~e~ar~~f

of Geograpky,

~njversi~

of Ulster,

Coleraine

Mannion, A. M. Global environmental change. Harlow: Longman, 1991. 404~~. f14.99 paperback. This book aims to provide a synopsis of natural and cultural environmental history during the last three million years. This is by no means a modest ambition, nor is it a task to be taken lightly. On the other hand, many ~dergraduate courses need a wide-ranging text that surveys the span of environmental change and human influences, and provides a guide to further reading. Given the ambitious nature of the task, Dr Mannion has produced a successful product that will be widely used. The first two chapters review natural changes in the Pleistocene and Holocene. There then follow chapters on the changes achieved by humans in prehistorical, historical and industrial times. Three further chapters investigate the impact of agriculture in the developed and developing worlds, and the role of miscellaneous other activities (forestry, recreation, tourism, sport and biotechnology). The final chapter summarizes past changes and their relationships with the present, and ends with a view of the future. There is a reference list that is over 50 pages long, a reasonable index, and many line drawings and tables. Inevitably, given the scope of the book, there are gaps, and some areas receive relatively sparse treatment. It is, for example, not easy to give a

330

Book reviews

satisfactory account of the causes of natural climatic change in just three and a half pages, nor is it reasonable to aim to discuss environmental changes in low latitudes in just under two pages of text, or to cover sea level changes in just one page. Students seeking a thorough treatment of such issues will need to look elsewhere. Likewise, it is difficult to give adequate coverage of some current environmental issues, such as forest decline, where there is room for controversy. Such controversy is what students find stimulating. There are also areas, as for example with respect to nutrient cycling and fertility loss in tropical soils, where because of excessive compression of the text the reader might gain the impression that deforestation will always cause immediate and irreversible change in soil quality. Because this book is reasonably priced, well produced, and broad in scope, it will undoubtedly appeal to its audience. Moreover, the author has achieved a great deal to make such a wide-ranging text clear and accessible to the reader. Having said that I wonder whether one can really cover so much within the space of one text. A. S. Goudie School of Geography,

University of Oxford

Thomas, D. S. G. and Shaw, P. A. The Kalahari environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. 284 pp. f55 hardback. The Kalahari is in a sense the mirror image of the Sahara, yet a strangely distorted image. It is much more elevated, being 1OOOm above sea level and its aridity is ameliorated not only by lower temperatures but also by moist air from the Indian Ocean. It has extensive dunefields but little blowing sand, lengthy strandlines but few lakes, great valleys without streams, and a river delta with no coastline. Geologists and climatologists disagree as to its limits: the Cainozoic Sands extend far into the centre of the Zaire basin, but the Kalahari proper lies south of the Okavanao and the 1OOOm isohyet. Until recently, the entire region was an unread page of prehistory. Now it is news, in the development journals if not in the daily papers, with diamond mines booming, the Okavango

threatened by water development schemes, and the rangelands a giant experimental area for livestock projects. Over the last two decades, the Botswana Society has been very successful in promoting studies of the region and the University of Botswana is one of the more thriving educational establishments in Africa. Geographers, notably John Cooke and also his wife have played active roles in both. The two authors of the book under review, David Thomas and Paul Shaw, have contributed many articles to the growing volume of literature on the physical geography of the Kalahari, and it is to this aspect of the region that three-quarters of the contents of their splendid book are devoted. Amongst the most important questions that still have to be answered are those relating to the timing of climatic changes in the past. The visible evidence for such changes appears on air photos and satellite images, but dating of the wet and dry periods is still uncertain. Thomas and Shaw bring the published data together and conclude that, although the early part of the radiocarbon record, from 50000 to 20OOOBP, contains discrepancies, humid conditions are certainlv indicated at most sites at various times beiween 35000 and 22000BP. Then they have a drying out for a few millennia around 20000 BP before a phase of greater moisture, except in the southeast, between 17000 and 12000BP. This is an important conclusion because it means that climatic changes at the northern and southern tropics, at least in Africa, were out of phase. Extending their conclusions further afield mav imolv that global biomass may not have been as smallat the height of the last glaciation as is sometimes supposed. Such considerations are not of much immediate interest to the human geographer, who will have to be content with one chapter on the archaeological record and another on the Kalahari environment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These are brief but well informed and there is a useful list of references. They lead to a general conclusion that the Kalahari environment cannot absorb the increasing impacts to which it is being subjected and that present patterns of economic development and activity are not sustainable. A. T. Grove Department of Geography, bridge

University of Cam-