"1491" and "Why Geography Matters" Around the Blogosphere

Stuart Berman of My Kids’ Dad and I must run in similar circles. His recent post discussed two books that I have just heard about

Stuart on 1491 : New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus:


1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann is a discussion about the forgotten civilizations of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. Mann refutes the notion that the Amazon is fragile and virgin, but that perhaps as many as 100 million indigenous peoples lived throughout the Amazon basin at any time within the last several thousand years. He shows evidence of the aggressive land management techniques used to tame these now wild places and how the civilizations were quickly laid waste by disease as Europeans engaged in trade with these civilizations. Mann also notes that the lack of available domesticable animals led to culture that had little resistance to disease since the great pandemics have typically been the result of disease mutations where the sicknesses have jumped from an animal species to human.

Mann also describes the diversity of cultures within the Americas, the Incas were very centralized and rigid – whereas tribes in the North East of North America were libertarian in nature

I read an Atlantic Monthly version of Mann’s work a few years ago. New tdaxp commentator Biz, proud owner of the new Confessions of a Bibliophiliac blog, gave it a quickie-review:

It’s about the Indians before Columbus came by and farked everything up. It’s the same type of book as 1421, in that “Holy shit, I had no idea” way. I’ve never been an American history fan, but this was really good. And researched like a mofo.

Stuart on Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America — Climate Change, the Rise of China, and Global Terrorism


Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America — Climate Change, the Rise of China, and Global Terrorism by Harm de Blij is a powerful discussion of the impact of geography upon human fate. He tries to show us that despite all of the debate today we are living in a golden age.

Harm de Blij warns us of the coming global cooling and that he has great faith in the ability of the Earth to recover from most types of events whether human induced or through some externality such as an asteroid. He states simply that climate change has been part of the planet’s life for 460 million years and that we are in the middle of a 35 million year ice age, which in the last 450,000 years features 4 periods of global warming (called interglacials) lasting each around 10,000 years separated by glaciations (cooling periods) of around 100,000 years each. The current warming period has lasted 13,000 years so we are due for a sudden and prolonged cooling period.

But Harm de Blij is also brilliant as he discusses topics such as the spread of global terrorism, which he states is fostered by failed nation-states and inaccessible terrain (such as the Pakistani mountain ranges). Just like Tom Barnett, he warns of the spread of terrorism into sub Saharan Africa due to these conditions.

Better stock up on blankets.

tdaxp Commentator Catholicgauze is currently writing a series on this same talk

And a post-script: Thanks to Kobayashi Maru for linking to metwice — and adding me to his blogroll! 🙂

7 thoughts on “"1491" and "Why Geography Matters" Around the Blogosphere”

  1. Thanks for noticing!

    Harm de Blij gets pretty riled up when so called experts call the glaciations erroneously “ice ages”. That misunderstanding conveniently skews tha argument to how serious the interglacials are. After googling a number of global warming sites it is apparent this is a very common misperception.

  2. Now I feel really foolish having decided against purchasing this last month at the base exchange (as most exchange books are crap like the latest from Trent Lott and Michael Moore's book about Iraq), it really seems interesting from what you've written about it.

  3. Apologies for missing your question Dan. Yes, they're just like PX's. We call them the NEX (Navy Exchange) in the Navy, and yes, they stock the crazed “I hate bush” or “I love Bush” books that are so prevalent at stateside bookstores.
    I've noticed a few copies of Chalmers Johnson books right next to Fred Barnes loveletter to President Bush “Rebel-in-Chief”. I saw Kaplan's “Imperial Grunts”, but I never noticed Barnett's PNM books or anything from Ralph Peters, Niall Ferguson, etc etc.

  4. Hey Dan, Eddie,

    You'll be surprise what you can find in an Air Force BX (we call then BX as Base Exchange, similar to an NEX or PX, same concept, at least, and sometimes much nicer). Anyway, as Eddie inidcated you can find the usual “Bush is god” or Bush sucks” crap that you can find in any “civilian” bookstores. Our BX looks kind of like a Target store. I have seen the PNM softcover and the BFA hardcover in our BX, but I have never seen anything Peters or Ferguson. Here in Virginia, I have actually seen the PNM softcover on sale in a Farm Fresh supermaket, so finding the book at the BX is not a stretch. I actually bought “Imperial Grunts” (awesome book) at the BX. I don't care for Peter's (anti-Air Force and too vitriolic)…we bought a bunch of F-22; live with it. We've been flying F-16s and F-15s since the late 70s. Niall Ferguson would be too much to expect. The bookshelf space is limited and they have to make room for all those Danielle Steele novels that (I guess) spouses read. I would be shocked if I found Colossus displayed in a Target or Farm Fresh.

    When the “documentary” Farenheit 911 came out, I was in a base in the CENTCOM AOR, and they actually showed the movie at the base theater. Traveling around our bases in the ME, I would also see Moore's (awful) books on display at the different PX's and BX's. Or course, BXs and PXs out there don't look like Target. Heck, I even remember seeing Hillary's bio. I don't think a lot of G.I.'s were lining up to buy either Hillary's or Moore's (horrible) books, so basically they were just collecting dust and taking up space that could have been devoted to other authors. The BX is pretty much apolitical when it comes to the merchandise they sell. In fact, you can find more “bias” in a Wal Mart bookshelf than in a BX. The BX also sells uncesored CD's. Wal Mart only sells the “clean” versions. Take care,


  5. Thanks for your insight Sonny, I haven't been in the CENTCOM AOR yet (though may be headed there next year one way or another) but I just find it hilarious they did have Moore's movie there. That's what kills me with BX/NEX/PX, they just have a wacky book release and selection process. I've been in heaven the last two weeks being able to shop at Borders & Barnes & Noble and find so much of what I always look for but never find at the PX……

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