High price of progress

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
FOCUS ON GEOGRAPHY: Development and Underdevelopment. By Garrett Nagle. Nelson. Pounds 9.99.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. By Garrett Nagle and Kris Spencer. Hodder amp; Stoughton. Pounds 6.50.

FOCUS ON GEOGRAPHY: Changing Settlements. By Garrett Nagle. Nelson Pounds 9.99.

Development is a topic much-taught, packed with interest but also fraught with problems. Who is development for? Who pays for it, and with what motives? Which kinds of development make for independence, which lead to greater dependency?

Commendably, Development and Underdevelopment opens with a 23-page factual scene-setting for such discussions, before looking at specific aspects of development under the headings of population, health, agriculture, industry and tourism. A final chapter focuses upon sustainable development as a possible way (the only way?) forward.

The book is lavishly illustrated in colour. Each chapter includes sections on appropriate statistical techniques and models, handled critically. A-level-type and shorter questions are suggested, together with a short biblio-graphy which includes web site availability. Case studies drawn from the UK and a representative range of other countries complement the main discussion. This is all very good teaching material.

Sustainable Development must be rated an outstanding A-level text by virtue of the high quality and maturity of its discussion. Again, the authors begin by defining their terms. They show that it has now become urgent that humanity finds ways to achieve sustainability because of unprecedented population growth. International attempts to address the problems are noted, not very successful so far. The immediate and often very local impact of sustainability problems are vividly illustrated by an example from Thailand. These problems are no longer abstract discussion points for "environmentalists" but concern us all.

Chapters follow which examine population and pressure upon resources, with an example from the Gambia; the role of women, with an Indian example; urban growth, taking the example of Brazil's planned ideal city of Curitaba as a serious attempt to solve growing city problems; world water supply, Thames water being the example; agriculture, illustrated from Ciskei; and tourism which, in David Lodge's memorable phrase, "is wearing out the planet" (Paradise News). A final chapter looks at whole-world sustainability issues, especially fishing.

Changing Settlementsconstitutes a full treatment of the whole topic of urban geography. Unusually, proper attention is given to the historical antecedents of today's settlement problems, helping to explain their obstinate and persistent nature and the impossibility of finding quick solutions.

The book has 10 chapters. These begin by relating town growth to settlement development generally. There is a useful review of standard topics such as central place theory and urban models, the latter shown as attempts to make sense out of the baffling complexities of urban development. This background discussion leads on to an examination of urban developments in Britain. A good chapter on suburbs follows. Then come chapters about responses to urban problems such as green belts and new towns, with striking examples from Hong Kong New territories. Urban change and urban planning are then related to rural settlement developments.

Final chapters focus on changes in third world cities and attempts to manage these seemingly uncontrollable giants. Use might have been made here of town insets from early atlases, such as Johnston's World Wide Atlas (1904) to demonstrate the spectacular growth of cities such as Bombay and Calcutta.

As well as substantial case studies and examples, each chapter includes questions and illustrations of excellent quality.

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