Why does Geography matter more than ever? In Europe, we often hear that: “Americans only care about themselves, and even if some do care about the world, they do not try to understand it” Obviously, this is a caricature of the American society, and surely not always true. I believe that the main idea behind De Blij’s book is the fact that if people, especially the ones at the top of the economic, social and political food chain, knew a little more about global geography, culture and customs of faraway countries, many problems could be avoided.
People’s global knowledge is fragmentary, but geography might be the key linking everything together. Many past or present conflicts, tensions or global crisis, result from clear differences, but are also sometimes purely the result of a lack of understanding, and this is why geography is so essential. This book demonstrates how geography can and should be used alongside the other science fields to add perspective to intricate problems.
De Blij uses geography as a lens to investigate global issues. Using maps and narrative, he validates the significance of spatial realities in issues often discussed primarily through historic or economic magnifiers, therefore proving that geography might be one of the keys to comprehend our complex world. This paper will analyze De Blij’s assertions that inadequate geographic comprehension leads to flawed policy making as well as tremendous risk to America’s national security.
I will specifically discuss three chapters where De Blij uses geography as an addition to other science fields in order to explain the Rise of China, the state of Europe as well as the condition of Africa in a globalizing world. The author’s assertion that the United States of America would be a safer place, and best governed if its leaders knew more about geography is well supported by those three chapters. China’s has been progressively more linked to the United States. To grasp the reasons behind the tensions and issues between the US and China, De Blij clarifies it with his geographical knowledge.
Surprisingly, China’s history is marked by decades of absenteeism from the global stage. When the geographer writes about Mao and the reasons behind his fall, he points out reasons that historians ascribe to the firs chairman’s bad health or his loss of control. On the other hand, De Blij argues that those reasons might have played a role in the demise of the communist party, but he challengingly adds that, in 1976, a twin earthquake near the city of Tangshan, killing more than 700,000 Chinese, might be the real cause behind the collapse of Mao’s regime.
This tragic natural event pointed out how corrupt, disorganized, incompetent and ineffective the relief effort was, as well as the Chinese government as a believe it is an excellent point made by the author, and it gives a lot of clues as to why the United States should try to understand more the cultural and societal complexity of the Chinese government if they want them as economic allies in the future. Moreover, as De Blij states in his book: “How can such a cold war be averted?…
We Americans should learn as much about China as we can, to appreciate its experience and to understand the historic and cultural geographies underlying China’s view of America and the West. ” This quote is extremely important to understand De Blij’s mindset towards geography. To him it is more than a science field, and it is to be used alongside other tools to create a more understandable world. Overall, this chapter supports the thesis of the book because it tries to explain historical, political and social events that happened throughout the history of China with the eye of geography and I strongly believe that it is effective.
It clearly demonstrates that if the West did try to understand China better, as the complex, tradition-oriented, looking-forward “impregnable land base stronghold” that it is today, the fear that American have about being crushed by China would be overcome, new ties could be made, and the world could move forward and become a better place On the other hand, my thoughts about De Blij’s chapter: “Europe: Superpower in the making or Paper Tiger of the Future? ” are more mitigated. I would also argue that if the USA understood Europe better, it would improve their relationship tremendously.
Unfortunately, as the author points out, Europe as a whole is still in the making. It is no secret that Europe, geographically speaking, has been changing a lot throughout the 20th century. How can De Blij expect Americans to understand its complexity when even professional geographers still debate about it? As he writes: “The key issue has always been whether Russia is part of Europe or not. ” (De Blij, 2012) | wish that De Blij would have given an answer to whether the USA’s foreign policy would be very different if Russia was seen as a member of the EU. This is where this chapter falls a little short for me in regards of his book’s thesis.
One of the central ideas in this chapter is the multinational integration that Europe has achieved since its creation a little bit over a decade ago. Notably, even though Europe is now unified, some countries have more power than others. The more central countries are more powerful than the outwards one. De Blij cites: “The size and diversity of the states now comprising the EU are greater than ever… Inevitably, this leads to an “in-group” of leaders and an “out-group” of followers”. I strongly agree with the idea that the geographical position of some countries has a huge impact on their “bankability” as new members of the EU.
This is due to many things; more Latin countries are seen as less hard-working than their northern counterparts, even if this is not by any means always the case. Therefore, this chapter adds an ambivalent value to the overall book and its thesis. It falls short to explain the way the USA sees Europe with or without Russia, but gives a very good explanation as to why understanding the complexity of the intricate relations between the members of the European Union could be beneficial for the United States.
Out of the three chapters that I choose to discuss, “Africa in a Globalizing World” is, in my opinion, De Blij’s best attempt to display the importance of geography as a source of global problem solving. Where the writer supports the best the thesis of his book, is with the idea that globalization is great for most of the countries of the world, at least from an economic standpoint, but as stated:”[… ] in the less privileged parts of the world, where participation in the process is not easily achieved, globalization is seen by many as a threat, not as an opportunity” (De Blij, 2012), and thus, it is not always the case.
This example perfectly depicts how a nation’s geographical location can change the way it sees what the West is doing and how globalization affects that country. Also, understanding that globalization can be a challenge for Africa puts in perspective all the problems that the United States also faces with Islam. De Blij makes a great case, saying that the greatest danger to Africa’s stability is its “Islamic Front”, and as we saw during the last decade, most terrorists and enemies of the West are coming from afar.
Then, understanding and being able to predict what is happening in Africa by example, might relate directly to the way the United States deals with Islamic countries all over the world, and could help them develop better internal policies as well as improve the safety on U. S. soil. I understand that as of today, the American government does not see Africa as big of a threat, or at least not as threatening as some of the middle eastern countries. But ideas are spreading extremely fast, and events that were thought impossible, such as the Arab spring, happened and took the world by surprise.
Additionally, Africa’s infrastructures will certainly improve to reach a level of organization that could potentially threaten the US security as much as Afghanistan, Syria or Iran do today. We all know that Africa is one of the poorest parts of the world and De Blij’s analogy to the fact that: “Africa’s problems, and the World’s problems coincide because our planet is functionally shrinking, and when one of the neighborhoods of the “global village” suffers more than any others from a combination of maladies, the remedy benefits all. (De Blij, 2012)
This quote makes a lot of sense to me, because as we know, the AIDS pandemic started in Africa and then spread all around the world. Acknowledging what is happening on the African continent as well as the U. S involvement or lack of, could make a tremendous difference in the future foreign policies of the country. This chapter supports the thesis because it unequivocally points out that if America would know and care more about the African continent, it would likely avoid future struggle coming from there.
With little involvement from the U. S. government, I believe that Africa’s situation could improve drastically, thus making the whole world a better place. Undoubtedly, after reading these chapters, it makes even more sense that if everyone knew more about global geography, better policies would be adopted, and the United States of America would be a safer place. De Blij, goes even further, dissecting every region of the earth and explaining with factual examples how using Geography can magnify those differences and help understand them.
His goal, making America a safer and better place with the extensive use of historical events accompanied by geographical enlightenment is, in my opinion, extremely successful. I cannot help myself but tying what happened in Africa with was the U. S. does in the Middle East. The problems that the United States’ government has with foreign countries and in particular the Islamic ones seem, surprisingly similar whether it is in Africa, Europe, China or the Middle East and I am a little confused as to why we do not see more foreign policy targeted towards Africa in order to prevent future problems.
De Blij successfully gave me the answer that if the Americans or everyone else caring about more than their country want to live a better life, they have to put an effort into looking at what is happening on the other side of the world because most of the answers are lying there. And what better tool to do so than Geography!