Book advocates learning about world around you

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As you consider possible New Year’s resolutions, why not resolve to learn more about the world? Picking up an atlas and a copy of Harm de Blij’s book “Why Geography Matters: More Than Ever” is a great place to start.

But why should we learn geography? De Blij, a geography professor at Michigan State University who has spent time in more than 100 countries, argues, “The more we know about our planet and its fragile natural environments, about other peoples and cultures, political systems and economies, borders and boundaries, attitudes and aspirations, the better prepared we will be for the challenging times ahead.”

Being better prepared, he argues, is everyone’s responsibility. There are far-reaching consequences for lacking geographic knowledge, from mistakes on the battlefield to being left behind in an increasingly global marketplace.

De Blij then moves on to explore what he calls the “Three Challenges Facing America”: The rise of China, global terrorism, and climate change. De Blij manages to take these complicated topics and make them accessible. In order to put the global-warming issue in geographic perspective, for example, de Blij has a fantastic exercise for relating “our planet’s age to our own.”

Additionally (perhaps unsurprisingly), de Blij makes great use of maps and figures. Not only do these resources guide and inform the reader, they also are so accessible as to make even the most novice geography student feel confident.

Perhaps most fascinating (for this nerdy reader, anyway) are his chapters on the European Union, Russia and Africa. (De Blij manages — in just 26 pages — to explore the eight most formative disasters to impact Africa.) “Why Geography Matters: More Than Ever” provides just the right amount of information to give readers a foundation in geography — and a curiosity to know more.

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