‘Our planet is mid-chapter and we are the authors of its destiny.’ You Are Here is destined to become a classic. Nicholas Crane, geographer, traveller, cyclist, author and broadcaster has dug deep into his rucksack-of-life to share, in compact form, a readable risk assessment of our collective home, evolving from cosmic dust, 4.6 billion years ago. With it, comes a health warning if we expect our blue planet to remain fit for butterflies and children.
The story begins at L1 Lagrange Point, the ‘neutral gravity point’ where the pull of the sun equals that of our planet. Here, our satellites can observe the sun and an illuminated Earth. These images now outshine the original ‘blue marble’ portraits taken by Apollo 17, reminding us again that Earth is a ‘one-off’ and needs more care than we previously thought.
From deep space, Crane guides us around the world, through time and place, focussing on natural and cultural landscapes. Some things we can’t control. Volcanic eruptions in Siberia caused the biggest species crash in history and it took 20 million years for ecosystems to recover. Some things we can. Our carbon footprint has a long tail as seven per cent of fossil fuel CO2 will still be present 100,000 years from now.
Crane then describes a warmer, chaotic world, with reduced and battered nature. We are in a mess and current global leaders are failing on sustainability goals, lacking, he argues, an understanding of geography. His thesis states that we all need to experience and understand the interconnectedness of our Earth, life and social sciences, to map the warning signs of a planet behaving badly. Do we really wait until Venice has sunk?
So here is a pocket guide for every teacher and parent. Droplets of knowledge to deluge the world and to influence students to vote for policy makers determined to grip the causes of change, utilising basic, geographical reasoning. It’s a commendable goal as we launch headlong into the unpredictable Anthropocene.
You Are Here is a meticulously researched distillation of the geography and history of our planet, penned by a former president of the RGS-IBG ‘with mud on his boots’. It should become popular reading for those altering the compass bearing of sustainability. Crane calls this the ‘Great Age of Geography’ and we all now hold the world in our hands.
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