Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Review: The Power of Place by Harm de Blij

During my last semester at university, I took a World Regional Geography class that turned out to be the best decision of my life.  Not only did it become one of my favorite classes I'd ever taken and introduced me to a terrific professor who is still my friend today, it provided me with Harm de Blij's Realms, Regions, and Concepts textbook (15th ed).  In the last two years I have worn that textbook down to shambles, reigniting my interests in all aspects of geography by flipping through its pages.  It currently sits on my coffee table where I can peruse it at will.

Image from amazon.com
As it happens, that's not the book I'm going to discuss here (as much as I love it).  I was hungry for more of Harm de Blij's work and did a quick search at my library for any books of his that they currently held.  The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization's Rough Landscape was the book I discovered there and boy was it a great read.

The book opens with an introduction into the three distinctive groups that de Blij refers to throughout.  He names these groups the Globals, Locals, and Mobals.  The Globals are the folks that are born with the greatest diversity when it comes to opportunity.  They are the people who live in developed nations and have the most flexibility with how they live their lives.  They have a high standard of living and can move throughout the developed world with ease.  The other end of the spectrum features the Locals.  These are the people who de Blij points out will likely live out their lives and die not far from where they were born.  Their level of education, their profession, wealth, language, and religion will  go mostly unchanged from generation to generation.  The middle group, the Mobals, are those that are breaking away from the life of the Local and moving to become Globals.  They are facing all varieties of barriers in order to find a place among the developed world.

The author mostly focuses on the struggles that the Locals and Mobals endure.  He divides each struggle into its own chapter featuring topics such as: Language, Religion, Health, Hazards, Borders, and Gender.  In each chapter, he describes what causes imbalances in each issue and how these imbalances have affected particular societies.  He draws many examples from the time of Apartheid in South Africa where most of these issues factored into the problems that South African Locals and Mobals experienced there.
A solid 10

A final chapter discusses closing the gaps between Locals, Mobals, and Globals.  Harm de Blij leaves the reader with some thoughts about religious extremism, gender inequality, border control, and more that will need to be addressed for change to occur.  The underlying idea of a "flat world" for the Globals and a "rough terrain" for the Mobals and Locals resonate today through presentations like those done by Hans Rosling at TED Talks.

I give the book a two-thumbs-up recommendation, a solid 10 out of 10, a blue ribbon, etc.  It's a great book for any geography buff and provides a spatial perspective to today's current events.

If you take my advice and want to check the book out for yourself, here is the link to the book on Amazon and Goodreads where you can read more reviews.

Next Thursday the blog will start back up with the regular updates.