Review: Geosystems–An Introduction to Physical Geography (6th Edition)

5 Star, Geography & Mapping, Reviews (DVD Only)
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This is a World-Class Book and DVD for Serious People

June 30, 2007

Robert Christopherson

Edit of 5 Feb 08 to add emphasis comment and links.

Coment of 5 Feb 08: This amazing professional product has pride of place in my 3000 volum library. It is the permanet owner of the teacher's lecturn, always open to chapter. I include an image aboe to emphasize this point. This book and its author, are GOLD STANDARD.

This is the only DVD I watch weekly on background, stopping my work at each song. This is an incrediblly gifted rendition and integraration of reality art, technology, and directoriaq craft. Wow, wow, wow.

I picked this gem up at the University of Colorado bookstore. I do not have the time for a third graduate degree, but if I did, it would be in Environmental Science.

Unlike most textbooks, this hardcover version is worth every penny, and the paperback is a bargain. This is a large book, 8.5 x 11, crammed with photos, extraordinarily well organized, illustrated, and presented, and it includes a CD ROM that the previous owner never opened that I find to be priceless: a series of illustrations and animations keyed to every chapter, with a non-punitive self-test. Also provided free are an online study guide. Supporting materials include a Student Study Guide and a Student Lecture Notebook that provides illustrations and diagrams to be integrated into the class binder. All are identified by ISBNs, but if you miss page xviii, which outlines “the package,” you will be unaware of the other resources.

Each chapter has the base material, a focus study, a news item, and more often than not, a career link. Each chapter ends with self-study questions. My bottom line: this book, taken seriously, *is* a self-taught graduate program in Geosystems.

The only think I do not see in the book, and it may be in the study guide, is “Recommended Reading.” BUT a complete array of current sources are fully cited as easily visible footnotes on most pages.

The only gap in this book, and it could probably be quickly developed as a supplementary paperback guide and CD, is the avoidance of an integrated discussion of costs and consequences. The entire study of Geosystems is irrelevant unless it can be explained to people in “true cost” terms. While the book excels, for example, at showing the severe drop in aquifers across specific places, it does not provide a guide to calculating current and future costs to society for ignoring these problems and allowing corporations and individuals to continue to externalize to the public and to future generations, the costs of being stupid and greedy today.

First rate book. One of the most serious textbooks, one of the best illustrated, explained, supported, and presented, I have every seen. For serious adults and emerging adults only–this is not a book, nor a class, for dolts just trying to meet a requirement for graduation.

Other recommended book:
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
The Future of Life
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
The Ecology of Commerce
Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications
Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics
Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble
Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
Pandora's Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy
Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict With a New Introduction by the Author

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Review: The Outlaw Sea–A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime

4 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe, Crime (Organized, Transnational), Environment (Problems), Geography & Mapping, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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4.0 out of 5 stars Threat From the Sea–75% of the Planet,

July 28, 2004
William Langewiesche
This is not the book I was expecting. Normally it would only have gotten three stars, for recycling three articles, only one of which was really of interest to me (on piracy), but the author is gifted, and his articulation of detail lifts the book to four stars and caused me to appreciate his final story on the poisonous deadly exportation of ship “break-up” by hand. It is a double-spaced book, stretched a bit, and not a research book per se.

Two high points for came early on. The author does a superb job of describing the vast expanse of the ungovernable ocean, three quarters of the globes surface, carrying 40,000 wandering merchant ships on any given day, and completely beyond the reach of sovereign states. The author does a fine job of demonstrating how most regulations and documentation are a complete facade, to the point of being both authentic, and irrelevant.

The author's second big point for me came early on as he explored the utility of the large ocean to both pirates and terrorists seeking to rest within its bosom, and I am quite convinced, based on this book, that one of the next several 9-11's will be a large merchant ship exploding toxically in a close in port situation–on page 43 he describes a French munitions ship colliding with a Norwegian freighter in Halifax. “Witnesses say that the sky erupted in a cubic mile of flame, and for the blink of an eye the harbor bottom went dry. More than 1,630 buildings were completely destroyed, another 12,000 were damaged, and more than 1,900 people died.”

There is no question but that the maritime industry is much more threatening to Western ports than is the aviation industry in the aftermath of 9-11, and we appear to be substituting paperwork instead of profound changes in how we track ships–instead of another secret satellite, for example, we should redirect funds to a maritime security satellite, and demand that ships have both transponders and an easy to understand chain of ownership. There is no question that we are caught in a trap: on the one hand, a major maritime disaster will make 9-11 look like a tea party; on the other the costs–in all forms–of actually securing the oceans is formidable.

Having previously written about the urgent need for a 450-ship Navy that includes brown water and deep water intercept ships (at the Defense Daily site, under Reports, GONAVY), I secure the fourth star for the author, despite my disappointment over the middle of the book, by giving him credit for doing a tremendous job of defining the challenges that we face in the combination of a vast sea and ruthless individual stateless terrorists, pirates, and crime gangs collaborating without regard to any sovereign state.

I do have to say, as a reader of Atlantic Monthly, I am getting a little tired of finding their stuff recycled into books without any warning as to the origin. Certainly I am happy to buy Jim Fallows and Robert Kaplan, to name just two that I admire, but it may be that books which consist of articles thrown together, without any additional research or cohesive elements added (such as a bibliography or index), should come with a warning. I for one will be more alert to this prospect in the future.

Having said that, I will end with the third reason I went up to four stars: the third and final story, on the poisonous manner in which we export our dead ships to be taken apart by hand in South Asia, with hundreds of deaths and truly gruesome working conditions for all concerned, is not one of the stories I have seen in article form before, it is a very valuable story, and for this unanticipated benefit, I put the book down a happy reader, well satisfied with the over-all afternoon.

See also, with reviews:
Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
Blue Frontier: Dispatches from America's Ocean Wilderness

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Review: Terrain Analysis of Afghanistan

5 Star, Geography & Mapping

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5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible for Reconstruction & Military Operations,

September 24, 2003
Kent D. Lee
I am a very happy owner of this volume, and I will certify that it is easily worth $2,500 to $5,000 for any construction or paving company bidding for or awarded contracts in Afghanistan.I have known Kent Lee and East View Cartographic since 1995, when they were instrumental in supporting me in a competitive exercise to demonstrate all that could be done with “open sources” of information, versus narrowly-focused classified capabilities. The ability of this individual and this organization to acquire and then exploit Russian, Chinese, and other third-nation source material has made them the single most important geospatial entity in the world after the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

Every page is clearly printed and the maps, all in color, are extraordinary. The fine print can be a burden if you have to read more than a few sections at a time, but was a necessity–the book would not be easily portable otherwise.

I understand that similar books are in the works for Iraq and other countries where terrain analysis is a vital element of reducing costs and increasing profits and operational successes. This book is both essential to prior planning, and essential to on-going operations.

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Review: Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places: 5th Edition

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atlases & State of the World, Country/Regional, Future, Games, Models, & Simulations, Geography & Mapping, History

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5.0 out of 5 stars 5th Edition Even Better–Valuable to Business and Government,

June 19, 2003
Robert Young Pelton
I've heard Robert Young Pelton speak, and he is, if anything, even more thoughtful and provocative in person. He has written an extraordinary book that ordinary people will take to be a sensationalist travel guide, while real experts scrutinize every page for the hard truths about the real world that neither the CIA nor the media report. The 5th Edition is even better than the earlier version that I distributed to all the professional intelligence officers attending the annual Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) conference, so I am going to distribute the new improved version.Unlike clandestine case officers and normal foreign service officers, all of them confined to capital cities and/or relying on third party reporting, Robert Young Pelton actually goes to the scene of the fighting, the scene of the butchery, the scene of the grand thefts, and unlike all these so-called authoritative sources, he actually has had eyeballs on the targets and boots in the mud.

I have learned two important lessons from this book, and from its author Robert Young Pelton:

First, trust no source that has not actually been there. He is not the first to point out that most journalists are “hotel warriors”, but his veracity, courage, and insights provide compelling evidence of what journalism could be if it were done properly. Government sources are even worse–it was not until I heard him speak candidly about certain situations that I realized that most of our Embassy reporting–both secret and open–is largely worthless because it is third hand, not direct.

Second, I have learned from this book and the author that sometimes the most important reason for visiting a war zone is to learn about what is NOT happening. His accounts of Chechnya, and his personal first-hand testimony that the Russians were terrorizing their Muslims in the *absence* of any uprising or provocation, are very disturbing. His books offers other accounts of internal terrorism that are being officially ignored by the U.S. Government, and I am most impressed by the value of his work as an alternative source of “national intelligence” and “ground truth”.

There are a number of very important works now available to the public on the major threats to any country's national security, and most of them are as unconventional as this one–Laurie Garrett on public health, Marq de Villiers on Water, Joe Thorton on chlorine-based industry and the environment–and some, like Robert D. Kaplan's books on his personal travels, are moving and inspiring reflections on reality as few in the Western world could understand it–but Robert Young Pelton is in my own mind the most structured, the most competent, the most truthful, and hence the most valuable reporter of fact on the world's most dangerous places.

What most readers may not realize until they read this book is that one does not have to travel to these places to be threatened by them–what is happening there today, and what the U.S. government does or does not do about developments in these places, today, will haunt this generation and many generations to follow. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who cares to contemplate the real world right now.

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