Cartography and Geography

Eroding Shores, Eroding Boundaries

March 26, 2010
By
Eroding Shores, Eroding Boundaries

Last weekend’s New York Times magazine featured a fascinating article about the clash among property lines, public land, and the tides of the Gulf in the coastal community of Destin, Florida. The article raises some important questions. Who owns the beach? Does private property trump public good? And what happens when Mother Nature washes away property lines? In the piece, titled “A Stake in the Sand,” author Andrew Rice chronicles the legal battle seaside homeowner launched against the state of Florida; rather than pump in new sand to replenish the eroded beach, the home owners preferred to allow natural erosion to runs it course and, in so doing, keep their beachfront off limits to the tanning masses. As Rice writes: This “nourishment” program, which involves an expensive process of dredging and pumping submerged sand back onto beaches, has been around for four decades and is one of Florida’s more popular public initiatives, a lifeline for many communities in a tourism-dependent state. So it came as a great surprise when, in Destin, the prospect of restoring the shore ran into fierce opposition. The battle over the beach, featuring charges of extremism, selfishness and dirty dealing, started as a typical squabble at . . .

Read more »

Press Release: Forsberg, Great Plains

October 6, 2009
By
Press Release: Forsberg, Great Plains

Spanning the area west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains once ranked among the most magnificent grasslands on the planet, second only to the Serengeti in sheer size, grandeur, and biodiversity. But today this broad expanse of prairie and steppe is among the most endangered ecosystems in the entire world. Here award-winning photographer Michael Forsberg—a frequent contributor to such publications as National Geographic, Audubon, National Wildlife, and Natural History—reveals the lingering wild that still survives on the Plains and whose diverse natural communities, landscapes, and native flora and fauna together create one extraordinary whole. Featuring contributions from novelist and wildlife biologist Dan O’Brien, noted geographer and environmentalist David Wishart, and American poet laureate Ted Kooser, Great Plains features 150 stunning full-color images along with literary, historical, and scientific passages that bring this extraordinary part of the country into more vivid focus than ever before. Most Americans know little about the landscape, wildlife, and history of this vast part of our country. But here, the beauty and majesty of the Great Plains come alive in all their quiet glory. Read the press release. Also see a gallery of photographs from the book, or these . . .

Read more »

The world beyond—and before—MapQuest

July 23, 2009
By
The world beyond—and before—MapQuest

If you are planning to travel this summer through unfamiliar territory, chances are that you’ll use MapQuest or Google Maps, if not a GPS, to guide you—at least, you will if you’re anything like Regina Robins Flynn’s travel writing students. In the current Chronicle of Higher Education, Flynn reflects on the ways that new technologies have changed how travelers look at (or don’t look at) maps and, by extension, the terrain they traverse. Talking to her students about an assignment that required them to write about a trip they had just taken, she “took an informal survey in class: ‘Who reads maps?'” The answer? “No one.” It’s not exactly news that, as Flynn puts it, “people nowadays—and not just young people—do not like to encumber themselves with Rand McNally or Michelin books of maps, displaying every state in the union. Instead, they go to their laptops, print out directions to wherever they are going, and they’re off.” But it’s easy to forget, now that map-guided journeys can evoke such powerful nostalgia—Flynn remembers “being a kid traveling in my family’s nine-passenger station wagon,” where she’d “sit in the front seat and unfold all the crinkly creases, laying the maps out along . . .

Read more »

More than four corners

May 21, 2009
By
More than four corners

In his new American Boundaries: The Nation, the States, the Rectangular Survey, the first book to chart the growth of the United States using the boundary as a political and cultural focus, Bill Hubbard Jr. makes a point of recounting February 24, 1863—the day Congress created a new Arizona Territory from the western half of New Mexico Territory. “By tying the Arizona-New Mexico border directly to the southwestern corner of Colorado,” Hubbard writes, “Congress ensured our right as Americans to travel to the Four Corners National Monument and put one foot or hand into each of four different states.” But as it turns out, the many Americans who have since done so may have been a bit misguided. As the Discovery Channel’s Global Science Blog (among other sources) points out, recent reports suggest that “the Four Corners monument was built at least 1,800 feet from the technically correct spot where four states meet.” How did this happen? USA Today notes that “the area was first surveyed by the U.S. government in 1868, but it turns out that surveying errors misplaced the spot of the popular monument.” Errors aside, though, surveyors made great and often unheralded contributions to the way we . . .

Read more »

Mapping Danger

April 7, 2009
By
Mapping Danger

After disasters like Monday’s earthquake in central Italy, attention often turns to the puzzle of predicting and preparing for such tragedies. Maps, Mark Monmonier points out, play an important role in this process. In Cartographies of Danger, he explains that maps can tell us a lot about where to anticipate certain hazards — but they can also be dangerously misleading. California, for example, takes earthquakes seriously, with a comprehensive program of seismic mapping. But as 1994’s Northridge earthquake demonstrated, even reliable seismic-hazard maps can deceive anyone who misinterprets “known fault-lines” as the only places vulnerable to earthquakes. How should we go about making the safest decisions? Upon the book’s publication, NBC News recommended that “no one should buy a home, rent an apartment, or even drink the local water without having read this fascinating cartographic alert on the dangers that lurk in our everyday lives.” We recommend that you start here, with Monmonier’s list of Ten Risky Places. . . .

Read more »

Go deeper than Google

February 3, 2009
By
Go deeper than Google

In this morning’s story about the new version of Google Earth, which for the first time lets users explore Earth’s oceans, the New York Times notes that “organizations seeking to reconnect people directly with nature expressed guarded optimism when the new features of Google Earth were described.” “Electronic images can boost awareness and sometimes even inspire, but there’s no substitute for direct experience in nature,” Cheryl Charles, president of Children and Nature Network, told the paper. “Hopefully those exploring Google’s virtual oceans, especially children, can still find the time to get wet, as well.” While it’s too cold in many parts of the world to make that a pleasant prospect, we have what is perhaps the next-best thing: beautiful books on the oceans and marine life that—long before Google Earth—literally put in our hands a new view of ocean depths around the globe, giving us a glimpse of worlds rarely seen. With hundreds of beautiful full-color photographs and explanatory diagrams, charts, and maps, Dorrik Stow’s Oceans combines the visual splendor of ocean life with up-to-date scientific information to provide an invaluable and fascinating resource on this vital realm. Tony Koslow’s The Silent Deep, meanwhile, tells the story of the exploration . . .

Read more »

Anne Durkin Keating on Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs

February 2, 2009
By
Anne Durkin Keating on Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs

Anne Durkin Keating, author of Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide made an appearance recently on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. On the show Durkin joined host Phil Ponce to discuss all things concerning the urban demography and geography of Chicagoland including whether Obama’s house is really in Hyde Park, how the Olympics might impact the South Side, and a 149 year old Methodist summer camp in Des Plains. Check out the archived video online on the WTTW website. . . .

Read more »

Press Release: Denis Wood and John Fels, The Natures of Maps

January 7, 2009
By
Press Release: Denis Wood and John Fels, The Natures of Maps

Any time we plan a trip, whether it’s as simple as a trek to the other side of town or as complicated as a cross-country drive, our journeys are influenced, guided, and even inspired by maps. Road maps get us to our destinations, while maps of attractions like national parks and wilderness areas entice us to include such wonders in our vacation plans. But do those maps do more than just show off the natural beauties they describe? Could there be hidden agendas at work in even a map as seemingly benign as a National Park Service map of the Grand Canyon? According to Denis Wood and John Fels, the answer is a resounding yes. Cartographers have agreed for decades that territorial or political maps are far from objective representations of reality; rather, maps can’t help but reflect the agendas and intentions of their creators. Until now, however, maps of nature—from depictions of bird migration routes to state park campground maps—have been left out of this analysis. Both researchers and map users—including many who should know better—have wrongly presumed that such maps are strictly scientific, free from the subtexts or biases that mar other maps. With The Natures of Maps, . . .

Read more »

A new look at Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs

September 9, 2008
By
A new look at Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs

Both the Times Higher Education and the New Yorker‘s book blog, the Book Bench have recently published positive reviews of Anne Whiston Spirn’s, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field. Book Bench contributor Eliza Honey writes: Daring to Look is a collection of photographs, many of them previously unpublished, taken by Dorothea Lange, in 1939, for the Farm Security Administration. Though Lange’s shots of Depression-era individuals and families are well known, many of her negatives of empty home interiors have spent the past decades in archives, until Anne Whiston Spirn, the editor of this volume, unearthed them. Like Lange’s portraits, her interiors are gentle reflections of a quiet and stark way of life. Though the book looks deceivingly like it’s meant for a coffee table, Spirn’s accompanying text reveals much more. It’s so engrossing, in fact, that, had the book not been so heavy, I would have taken it to the park during my lunch break. And from the THE: This first presentation of Lange’s 1939 photographs with their accompanying texts provides a very valuable scholarly resource. Spirn’s personal contribution, for anyone interested in Lange, comes in the third and final section, which both brings us . . .

Read more »

Finding Our Place in the World

August 21, 2008
By
Finding Our Place in the World

Conventionally, people tend to thing of maps as useful tools with which to physically orient ourselves within a landscape, yet in their recent book, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, editors James A. Ackerman and Robert W. Karrow demonstrate that throughout the ages maps have had a much greater range of utility. The August edition of the The Art Book features a review of Maps that praises the editors for their insightful exploration of maps’ varying purposes—from maps that orient us geographically, to those that orient us historically and even culturally. From the Art Book: essays by distinguished contributors break the boundaries of chronology and the limitations of conventional Western geography to consider instead a cluster of maps’ varying purposes.… The extensive first essay, ‘Finding our way’ by Akerman (organiser of a splendid Newberry exhibition on American road maps), addresses most observers’ experiences of maps, i.e. as instructions for directed travel.… Allegorical pathways, clearly charted for religious or fantasy realms, are reserved for a fine later essay, ‘Imaginary worlds’, by Ricardo Padron. Another fascinating essay, on the conceptual or thematic use of maps (including geological or astronomical maps), often with statistical graphs to convey data, is provided . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors