The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization's Rough Landscape
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The world is not as mobile or as interconnected as we like to think. As Harm de Blij argues in The Power of Place, in crucial ways--from the uneven distribution of natural resources to the unequal availability of opportunity--geography continues to hold billions of people in its grip. We are all born into natural and cultural environments that shape what we become, individually and collectively. From our "mother tongue" to our father's faith, from medical risks to natural hazards, where we start our journey has much to do with our destiny. Hundreds of millions of farmers in the river basins of Asia and Africa, and tens of millions of shepherds in isolated mountain valleys from the Andes to Kashmir, all live their lives much as their distant ancestors did, remote from the forces of globalization. Incorporating a series of persuasive maps, De Blij describes the tremendously varied environments across the planet and shows how migrations between them are comparatively rare. De Blij also looks at the ways we are redefining place so as to make its power even more potent than it has been, with troubling implications.
for Africa, with political liberties and economic opportunities that would give Europe a run for its money. The British scientist Nigel Calder forecast a fast-cooling planet on which peoples would be driven toward the tropics as higher latitudes were engulfed by snow and ice. The biologist Paul Ehrlich warned that the population explosion would create vast famines afﬂicting billions, causing global dislocation and disaster before the end of the twentieth century. All this is to emphasize how
admitting nearly 150,000 immigrants annually, mostly from Hong Kong, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka (a proportional number in the United States would be more than two million per year). The inﬂux created social problems that required a reduction in legal immigration, but about 80,000 continue to arrive annually, some of them well-heeled globals but many others mobals in search of opportunities and better lives—and still others seeking asylum for legitimate reasons. Sydney,
globals. The latter is the fate of billions of locals. Take a look at the commercial literature of globalization, and you see that advertisements for professionals at all levels tend to stipulate language ability in English and at least one other world language, and that business schools from Sweden to Singapore conduct all or most of their courses in English. If the power of place is substantially deﬁned by language, 34 THE POWER OF PLACE a key to leveling the playing ﬁeld lies in competence
growing season without growth. In Europe, food shortages arose quickly, prices rose, riots ensued, and armed criminals stole supplies. In North America, corn would not ripen, the livestock market collapsed, and the diaries of New Englanders describe deprivations unheard of even in bad harvest years. “A frost in May killed much of the spring planting and snowstorms in June compounded the problems. . . . [Even] on Cape Cod, ponds froze to a half-inch thickness in May, corn rotted on the stalks and
reports charting high-rank corporate appointments. Referring to one high-proﬁle dismissal, more than one commentator wondered whether “her status as a Same Place, Divergent Destinies 171 demanding woman in a male-dominated industry tipped the scale against her” (Thomas, 2007). From violence in the household to professional promotion, from unpaid labor to unequal wages, women still face higher barriers in this globalizing world. In the context of gender, the world is not only far from ﬂat; in