Tales of the city

18th October 1996 at 01:00
Patrick Bailey assesses some heavyweight A-level texts. HEINEMANN 16-19 GEOGRAPHY THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT By Bob Digby, Sue Bermingham, Graham Butt, Peter Capener, Linda King, Graham Ranger, Roger Robinson and Celia Tidmarsh Series editor: Bob Digby, Heinemann Pounds 14.99. AGRICULTURE AND FOOD By Peter Atkins and Michael Raw, Collins Pounds 13.75 POPULATION, RESOURCES AND DEVELOPMENT By Jane Chrispin and Francis Jegede. Collins Pounds 15, (Pounds 12.95 per book for six or more copies).

ASPECTS OF APPLIED GEOGRAPHY: URBAN CHANGE AND ITS MANAGEMENT By Jim Bruce, Malcolm McDonald and Alan Doherty Series editor: Martin Duddin, Hodder Stoughton Pounds 5.35. ASPECTS OF APPLIED GEOGRAPHY: EUROPEAN REGIONAL INEQUALITIES By Morven Archer Series editor: Martin Duddin, Hodder Stoughton Pounds 4.99. UPDATE: AGRICULTURAL CHANGE IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES By Ian Bowler Cambridge University Press Pounds 8.95

The Human Environment is a course-book for the geography 16-19 syllabus, but it has more general applications. It is a rich source of ideas and information based on case studies and offers numerous suggestions for student investigation. Its treatment of topics is, however, uneven in quality and originality. Illustrations are lavish and effective and the feel of the book is of immediacy and readability.

Section 1 - the challenge of urbanization - uses an air photograph of Hong Kong to introduce a full discussion of urban structures, developments and problems. Case studies are drawn from cities as different as Chicago, Berlin and Bangkok to exemplify selected aspects of urban geography. As the argument develops, the suspect North American town models of Burgess, Hoyt et al are compared with the realities of urban development in later times and different cultures. A final section on London discusses issues related to the St Pancras railway lands and developments in the City.

Section 2 - the impact of changing economic activity - begins with a study of the likely impact on Sydney of hosting the next Olympic Games. Teachers will be able to build up files on this topic and compare predictions with actualities. The impacts of various types of industrial enterprise on employment, national and regional economies and environments are then discussed, with examples.

Section 3 - resource management - looks at resource uses and misuses and their environmental impacts. There are good sections on coal and water. Renewable resources are treated rather briefly.

The two Collins titles are heavyweight A-level texts which will exercise the ablest students in sixth forms. They contain thorough explorations of their topics, backed by theoretical discussion and examples. Again there is a strong reliance on case studies. Agriculture and Food begins by discussing the nature of agriculture, necessary in an urban society which generally knows little about what farmers do. There follows a comprehensive treatment of issues related to modern farming: interactions with natural systems; politics and farm production; food processing; agribusiness, global production and global marketing; environmental and biological modification; and the causes and control of famine, past and present.

Population, Resources and Development discusses the nature, uses and misuses of resources, the demographic trends of our time and the aspirations and frustrations associated with "development". Case studies that contain new material reinforce the general argument. Topics include the complex relations between trade, aid and national self-interest; attempts at international trade regulation; the rise of global producers, with a useful section on the banana industry; industrial developments and population trends and movements; the politics of resource exploitation; and development strategies. Tourism is one such strategy and case studies of Goa, Gambia and Belize are unusual and useful.

The two shorter offerings from Hodder Stoughton take selected topics and deal with them through general discussions and case studies. Urban Change and Its Management focuses on the changing geographies of London and Karachi in order to explore urban development and attempts at control and planning in different cultural contexts. European Regional Inequalities reviews regional disparities and discontinuities within the European Union in general, then examines the nature and reality of Britain's north-south divide and regional inequalities in France and Spain. There is an excellent, factual discussion of policies intended to counteract regional disadvantage in all three countries.

Ian Bowler's Update on agricultural change in developed countries is an excellent undergraduate reader, written by an expert in the field. It will be useful to A-level teachers as a source of up-to-date information and ideas. It reviews recent developments in agriculture in the so-called "advanced" countries, developments shaped by the interplay between new technologies, economic and social trends and political policies, the globalisation of production and marketing and international capital movements. Briitish examples are compared with information from other developed countries.

A-level teachers will find all these books useful and are recommended to send for inspection copies.

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