Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

FLATNESS by BW Higman

FLATNESS by BW Higman
02 Jul
2017
BW Higman has a sixth sense: he sees flat surfaces. Be they screens, furniture, walls, streets, railways, or even level playing sports fields, he notes that ‘flatness is at the centre of the everyday experience’ even to the point where ‘we hardly notice’ it anymore, and see such surfaces as ‘inevitable’ or even ‘natural’


A key premise of this book is to explore why flatness, a feature found rarely in nature, is something humans have tried hard to produce in civilisation. He argues ‘today more than 50 million kilometres of roads dominate the daily movement of most of the world’s people; and one million kilometres of railways link levelled croplands with architecturally planar cities.’

While the miles of concrete and asphalt are the ‘Earth’s new skin’, he describes how flatness has become the human hallmark on most habitats. Forests are razed, swamps drained and beaches reinforced. ‘Per capita, an average of six tonnes of earth is moved annually,’ he remarks. Strikingly, we move more earth than any other geological force.

Most interesting is the fact that humans don’t seem to enjoy flatness that much anyway. Higman shows how the world’s great flat areas, such as the Australian bush and the North American prairies, are often portrayed culturally as featureless places of unease, loneliness, even madness. Natural flatlands ‘struggle to achieve’ the same conservation profile as mountains and oceans. Higman offers that all the energy we put into flattening the land is at odds with our preference for variation, and perhaps reinforces it.

In dealing with such a universal concept, some of the arguments are lost in abstract references. It shines, however, when linked to real-world issues such as the flat, low-lying countries facing the rise of sea levels and the toll of globalised industry on natural resources.

Click here to purchase Flatness by BW Higman

Julysub 2020

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

DurhamBath Spa600x200 Greenwich Aberystwythherts

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Films

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour 2020 brings the water…

Films

2020 has, for many of us, been a dramatic year.…

Films

One woman’s determined plot to tackle multi-national industry through activism…

Films

Acclaimed documentarian Ron Howard brings an intimate depiction of the…

Books

September’s top non-fiction reads

Books

• by Andri Snær Magnason • Serpent’s Tail

Books

August’s top non-fiction reads

Books

By Dawn Bébe and Juliet Coombe • £25 (hardback)

Books

by David Farrier • Fourth Estate • £11.96 (hardback) 

Books

by Jini Reddy • Bloomsbury • £11.89 (hardback)

Books

by James Boyce • Icon Books • £12.99 (hardback)

Books

 by Peter Wilson • £38.99 (hardback)