Douglas L. Johnson and Laurence A. Lewis: Land Degradation: Creation and Destruction.
This volume, an updated edition of the authors’ 1995 book, provides a readable and wide-ranging examination of land degradation, defined as “the substantial decrease in either or both of an area’s biological productivity or usefulness to humans due to human activities” (2). The book has a global, transhistorical and comparative scope, full of brief (generally two to eight pages) but well-chosen examples. The authors, both professors at Clark University’s Department of Geography, have written a text that is highly accessible to an interdisciplinary audience, explaining technical terms clearly and concisely.
The book is organized loosely around several key concepts: the “spirit of a place” or genius loci, an oddly metaphysical-sounding term that describes a “close association with and sensitivity to the local ecological setting” (20); “sacrifice zones,” areas that are deliberately degraded in order to increase the productivity of other areas (e.g., the once-fertile Owens Valley of...
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