The Rest is Geography. Robert Butler in Intelligent Life
How geography has changed. In the past longshore drift, glacial retreat, ordnance survey maps made for a safe and somewhat dull subject. Today geography is essential, the one topic that covers our world from Arctic melting, desertification and population threats from climate change and disease to water scarcity and environmental migration. Atlases have moved beyond borders and flags to map CO2 emissions, drought and likely hotspots for resource wars – perhaps history before it happens.
By covering the world in its multifaceted glory and complexity geography becomes ever more relevant as we realize civilizations depend on how the environment treated. Whilst we have some control over politics and culture, the dominant factors of the next decades may elude our grasp as the Copenhagen summit showed. As the UN Secretary General said, ‘you can negotiate with Iran. You can’t negotiate with nature.’
Last fall’s British Museum Moctezuma exhibition highlighted what can happen when humans overstress their ecosystem. The Aztecs ignored basic geographical facts to the point of collapse; one can see parallels with our voracious resource appetite and personal consumption. Are we reliving an ancient fate? The answer is coming to a geography department near you, for geography is where things are really happening.