Apocalypse now

29th March 1996 at 00:00
The Geography Collection, Series editor Ian Selmes; At Leisure, By John Edmonds, Energy Matters, By Rosemary Hector, Hodder Stoughton Pounds 4.99 each. 16 - 19 Geography Options, Series editors Michael Naish and Sue Warn; The Aral Sea, By Trevor Brown and Frank Mugglestone, Longman Pounds 4.99 each. South America: A Changing Continent, By Arthur Morris (Fourth edition) Hodder Stoughton Pounds 15.99, Age range 16 plus.

World energy and leisure industries face crises: Patrick Bailey looks at A -level books on contemporary issues

At Leisure and Energy Matters are welcome additions to The Geography Collection. Like their predecessors, these commendably small and inexpensive A-level textbooks can either be used independently or as part of the series built around the core text, The Geography Collection Worldwide (1995). All titles in the series have similar layouts.

At Leisure continues the tradition begun in the 1970s by Man, Land and Leisure of treating leisure provision as a major world industry. In a nutshell, it asks, if we enjoy, must we destroy? First it raises questions about the impacts of the leisure industry on today's world. Next, the causes of the leisure explosion are examined and some of its consequences looked at alongside planning and management issues. The role of tourism in helping general economic development is considered; and we are left with the question, is sustainable tourism achievable or is it just a nice idea?

Each section begins with a list of key ideas, invaluable for lesson planning. There follow sections of text, press reports, graphs, maps and tables, and a few rather indistinct photographs. The book contains useful overseas material but its real strength lies in its detailed case-studies of the Guildford leisure complex, coastal management at Beachy Head and the Hadrian's Wall footpath controversy. Questions for discussion are inserted into the text, suggestions for A-level projects are given at the end, together with a reading list, useful addresses, a glossary and an index.

Energy Matters is an equally competent and readable study of global energy production and consumption, and some related issues. It is encouraging to find proper attention being given to Africa's growing energy crisis, the fuel-wood famine. Discussions of the technology and pros and cons of fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable energy sources are well handled.

There are thoughtful comments on the politics and social effects as well as the economics of British coal, oil and gas extraction and of oil extraction in Ogoniland. This last controversy seems likely to become fiercer now that Shell has proved the existence of major oil deposits in Nigerian off-shore sites, geologically similar to the Gulf of Mexico. Energy developments in Britain and Japan are compared. Finally, there is a case-study of oil developments off Newfoundland.

The Aral Sea is a unit in the 16-19 Geography Options series. Its coverage is wider than its title. In fact it is a short study of how the Soviet Union undertook a grindingly slow "race" towards industrialisation and of how some of its achievements damaged the country's natural environments, especially its water supplies, its soils and its dry lands. It looks at Lake Baikal as well as the Aral lake as prime examples of environmental disasters, the first still latent, the second fully achieved. Interesting materials are added about changes in official statements and in expressions of popular opinion about environmental matters from Soviet to Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) times.

The book contains much statistical material, maps, some cartoons with pompous and improbable comment "bubbles" and no less than 15 exercises for students based on the book. There is a glossary but no reading list and no index.

Arthur Morris's book on South America is an expertly crafted example of modern regional geography, informative and readable. It has two main sections. First, the overall physical and human-geographical backgrounds of the whole continent are described; second, accounts are given of each country. Stated baldly in this way, the book may sound dull; it is not.

The opening chapters are a masterly synthesis which describe and explain the people-and-environment relationships worked out in the continent over a very long time, in environments which are sometimes welcoming, sometimes difficult and often extreme and hazardous.

Chapters on history and geo-politics are especially welcome because much of their content will be unfamiliar to British readers. The nation-state chapters are concise and up-to-date. The interesting text is complemented by well-chosen maps, diagrams and statistical displays. Tinted boxes are used throughout to highlight particularly significant information, key political statements, mini-case-studies and reading lists.

This is an authoritative book for A-level teachers, students and undergraduates. Even more, it should be essential reading for all UK business people intending to work with their South American counterparts.

Patrick Bailey is senior university teacher at the University of Loughborough Department of Education

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