Volume XXI, Number 1, April 2001

It used to be a geography lesson, and now it is an emotion*

The AGS Globe Signing Ceremony

Hilary Hopper, Editor, FOCUS on Geography

In a ceremony held on December 11, 2000, at the Wings Club in New York City, the American Geographical Society honored seven men who collectively have ventured the deepest and highest in all of human history, traveled farthest by balloon, and discovered catastrophic flooding of ancient seabeds. Honorees included Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard (deepest ocean dive, 1960); Neil Armstrong (first man on the Moon, 1969), Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones (first circumnavigation of Earth by balloon, 1999); Bill Ryan (discovered 5,000,000-year-old Mediterranean Sea inundation and 7,500-year-old Black Sea inundation); and Walter Pitman (co-discovered Black Sea inundation). Jacques Piccard could not attend due to health, but all the others were present, and Bertrand Piccard spoke on behalf of his father as well as for himself. The six renowned fliers and explorers were invited to sign the AGS Fliers' and Explorers' Globe, which has inscribed on its venerable surface the signatures (and in many cases the marked routes) of Charles Lindberg, Amelia Earhart, Sir Edmund Hillary, Robert Peary, Matthew Hensen, Richard Byrd, Roald Amundsen, Wiley Post, John Glenn, and other renowned aviators and explorers totaling 62 names (for a look at these signatures, please go to the following website.

The globe has been a prized possession of the Society since 1929. Many signatures were obtained even earlier by the donor John Finley, President of the AGS and later Editor in Chief of the New York Times. As AGS Councilor Jerry Dobson said in his introductory remarks, Finley "would go down to the wharf to meet explorers and get their signatures." The globe-signing tradition was actively pursued by the Society from the 1920s onward to honor aviators who set world records and explorers who reached new places. Ocean exploration and depth records were honored as well; for example, when William Beebe set a depth record in 1934 and Louise Boyd explored the ocean floor around Greenland.

The December 2000 ceremony was the first signing since the 1960s.  Honorees were chosen through a formal process by the AGS Exploration Committee and final selection by the AGS Honors Committee. The globe-signing ceremony and associated exploration workshop were funded through a grant from the United States Geological Survey; donations by private contributors including Storm Richards and Associates, the Joseph Aurichio Foundation, and an anonymous donor; and in-kind donations by the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), and the International Council of Shopping Centers. The ceremony opened with remarks by Council Chair John Gould and Executive Director Mary Lynne Bird, who organized the event. Councilor and Chair of the Honors Committee Alec Murphy (University of Oregon) explained the history of AGS honors and the procedure by which globe-signers were chosen. Previous signers, he said, include "many household names whose feats of exploration and aviation have captured the imagination and shaped the understanding of several generations of Americans."

AGS Councilor and Director of Exploration Jerry Dobson (Oak Ridge National > Laboratory) discussed the history of the globe and served as Master of Ceremonies. Councilor Bill Derrenbacher (ESRI, Inc.) offered a GIS presentation incorporating video segments provided by each globe-signer. John Noble Wilford, Councilor of the AGS and Senior Science Correspondent of the New York Times, introduced Neil Armstrong, Bill Ryan, and Walter Pitman. Wilford covered the Moon landing in 1969 and has written news articles about Ryan and Pitman's research on the Black Sea flood. Introducing Ryan and Pitman, Wilford commented that "they present a paradox -- they are thoroughly modern antedeluvians!" Neil Armstrong said that, as a youth, he feared he was too late: "By the time I was a teenager, all the great flights had been flown. All the records had been established. I was born too late - I missed all the adventure!" Here he paused, smiled at the audience, and then continued, "I was - wrong!" Councilor Marie Price of George Washington University introduced Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, who had this to say about the globe they were signing: "You can imagine the emotion we feel, looking at this globe, which is so spectacular and impressive; and I just want to thank the Lord my name is very easy to spell, so if my hand shakes when I sign, it won't be too difficult."

Jeff Osleeb of Hunter College introduced Don Walsh, who offered insight into the exploration process: "That is the essence of the real explorer: you happen to back into a world record because you were doing something else that was important, and that was incident to it." In his closing remarks, President Bill Doyle recognized members of the Galileo Circle in attendance, and expressed his hope that others might want to join. Addressing the signers, Doyle said of the night's event, "We hope this is also an inspiration to those who will come after you, who will not only sign our globe but make major contributions to our world and to our social and economic surroundings." At one point during the opening reception, Dobson introduced Walsh to Armstrong. He later recalled, "Instantly, it hit me that I had just introduced the man who went the deepest to the man who went the highest in all human history, an event that can only have happened once before (when Armstrong met Jacques Piccard) and can't happen again unless someone lands on Mars and returns while Walsh and J. Piccard are still alive. It was that kind of night." The overriding effect of the evening was highly inspirational, as indicated by comments heard that night and compliments that continue to flow in to the AGS Office. During the ceremony, Councilor Barbara Fine said, "I had no idea this would be so exciting! I am on the edge of my seat!" A member of the Galileo Circle said, "It would have been worth it to walk from Chicago for this." Leaving the hall, a woman exclaimed, "I just want to go out and do something fabulous." And she meant it. That's the kind of impact the globe-signing ceremony had on people. Even the globe-signers themselves were struck by the honor of signing alongside the names that were already on the globe. One signer later reported that he continued to pinch himself for days afterward to assure himself it was for real.

(*Quotation above is from Brian Jones, globe signer)

On-Board in a Time of Ferment:
The American Geographical Society, 1951-1953

Dorothy Weitz Drummond, Indiana State University

It was September, 1951, when I first approached the imposing three-and-a-half story limestone building at the corner of Broadway and 156th street and looked up in awe at the row of massive engaged columns with their ionic capitals, and the names inscribed on the south frieze: Strabo, Ptolemy, Marco Polo, Columbus, Magellan, Da Gama, Humboldt, Dias, Cabot. I had arrived at the uptown Manhattan headquarters of the American Geographical Society, at Audubon Terrace. Fresh out of graduate school, I was beginning my first day of work as an editorial assistant to Wilma Fairchild in the office of the Geographical Review. I walked through the massive yet delicately wrought bronze doors, whose creator (I would later learn) was Anna Hyatt Huntington, wife of the Archer Huntington whose fortune had built the Society's beautiful headquarters and had continued to sustain it. That is, until the previous year, when he had put the Society on notice that such largess could no longer be assumed. Once on board, it didn't take me long to realize that within the walls of the magnificent building there was a tension between the comfort of past ways of operating, born of the certainty of sustenance, and the dynamics which revolved around the Society's newly mandated need to pay its own way.

George H.T. Kimble, charged with meeting the challenge, was already one year into his term as the Society's director. He was at one and the same time a man of action and a dreamer, and under his leadership the Society was beginning to take new directions. The Office of Naval Research was now underwriting contracts with the Society for the production of regional reports. Focus, a new publication intended to reach a popular audience, had been launched under the editorship of Alice Taylor, and eventually I would author one of the early issues. Meanwhile, work on the Millionth Map of the Americas was still going on, work on Alaskan glaciers was continuing, and in a basement suite the new and promising field of medical geography was being developed by Dr. Jacques May and his staff. As before, the cartographers on the third floor of the building were serving the needs of the Society's publications, which would soon include also an Atlas of Diseases. Office space throughout the building was being divided and subdivided, to meet the needs of the research associates and their assistants who were doing the expanding work of the Society. Meanwhile, former director John K Wright was putting the finishing touches on his history of the first hundred years of the Society, entitled Geography in the Making.

Although the seeds of change were already planted, they were deeply buried. In the two years I worked for the Society, the building was a Presence, an assurance in its very solidity that the geographical endeavors it housed would endure. No one yet foresaw the inevitable passing of the Old, the transformations that were to come: the move of the Society's incomparable library and map library to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the move of the Society's offices first to a midtown location on 5th Avenue and eventually to a Wall Street suite, and the abandonment of the magnificent building at Broadway and 156th Street.

My desk was just outside the large second floor office of Wilma Fairchild, who two years previously had taken over editorship of the Geographical Review when legendary editor Gladys Wrigley retired. Always feeling a little in the shadow of her predecessor, Mrs. Fairchild nevertheless brought her own competency and style to the editorial office. With a warm smile and extended hand, she welcomed visiting geographers to her suite and made them feel comfortable. But as editor, she continued in the exacting Wrigley tradition---exercising finely honed judgement, coddling worthy scholars to write, turning down the efforts of less-worthy ones, and impartially wielding her editorial pen. It was that pen, abetted by the eagle eyes and grammatical perfection of proofreader Marian Eckert and secretary Mollie Cook, that massaged every manuscript to the exacting and peerless standards of the Geographical Review, smoothing rough places here, eliminating redundancies there. Past my desk and into the Review office filed a steady stream of the country's geographical elite. I learned who could write well and whose manuscripts needed a heavy editorial hand, because I participated in the editorial process. To this day I recall the rhythmic phrase of a favorite author, describing the rainforest in Colombia: "The viscous exudation of vanilla-scented resin."

From time to time I would be given the job of verifying facts or statistics in a manuscript, and that task sent me to the library. The stacks, on two floors, contained all geographical periodicals, many not in English, thousands of books about places, and scientific reports of expeditions that had pushed back the bounds of terra incognito. I was fascinated, and I confess I did not always return promptly. At other times I crossed the great central hallway to the map library, where through her thirty-five years at the Society Ena Yonge had developed and catalogued a collection without equal in the world. Despite the crowding elsewhere in the building, with the continual subdividing of space for offices and desks, the map library space was sacrosanct, and all accessions were accommodated.

As in decades past, scholars and adventurers bound for distant places would make a pilgrimage to the Society's headquarters, pouring over the maps and journals of those who had gone before them. I remember especially talking with a handsome and personable tall, lean, dark-haired young man named Arthur Gilkey, 23 years old, who was preparing for a forthcoming attempt on Mount K2, or Kachingjunga, in the Karakoram Range. This was early in 1953, and Everest itself had not yet been scaled. K2 was the world's second-highest peak, and no less a formidable objective. Art Gilkey was modest but self-assured, and he fully expected to reach the summit. Late in the summer the reports came out: his team did indeed reach the top, but without Art. In an unlikely twist of fate, he had developed phlebitis in one of his legs, at 27,000 feet, was in great pain, and could go no further. His companions had laid him on a sheltered ledge, intending to carry him down as soon as they returned from the summit. But before they could return, an avalanche tore away the ledge where he was lying. Gilkey's body was never found. I often think of Art Gilkey. Through the Society's doors had probably passed many Art Gilkeys, whose names will never be engraved in stone, nor even be mentioned in the history of exploration.

In the Great Hall of the Society there were three objects that caught my imagination: the Flyer's and Explorers' Globe, inscribed with the signatures of men and women like Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, Louise Boyd, and Admiral Richard Bird; a portion of the Millionth Map of the Americas, mounted on a spherical surface; and the 1453 Leardo Map, perhaps the Society's greatest treasure. While I was at the Society a reproduction of this map was commissioned, and the first press run had color flaws: the ocean areas were more forest-green than turquoise. So the flawed maps were offered to staff members at a very nominal price, and this map is today one of my proudest possessions. The Leardo Map represents Europe's view of the world on the threshold of oceanic exploration. The shapes of lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea are more-or-less recognizable, but much of the rest of the world is imagined. Africa had not yet been rounded, and most of that continent is shown in prohibitive red. Marco Polo had brought back word of the lands to the east; there is a Persian Gulf, an India, and a China, all grossly misshapen. But the New World did not exist.

Although Archer Huntington had decided to withdraw support for on-going operations of the Society, he had established a trust fund as a memorial to long-time director Isaiah Bowman, and the Council of the Society voted to use the greater part of the income for successive courses of lectures to be delivered at intervals, over a period of a week or two. Carl O. Sauer was invited to give the first of the lecture series, subsequently delivered in January-February, 1952. The overall title later became a book of seminal significance: Agricultural Origins and Dispersals. I attended each of these lectures, held in a lecture hall at nearby Columbia University. Sauer's ideas were scintillating, but his delivery was not. Attendees at the first lecture filled the hall to overflowing; but the fifth and last was delivered in a nearly empty room. Nevertheless, the chance to meet and hear Carl Sauer, and later to be in his presence at a small dinner gathering at Dr. Kimble's New Jersey home, remain one of the two highlights of my time at the Society.

The other highlight was the visit of geographers from all over the world to the Society in the summer of 1952, when Washington D.C. hosted the International Geographical Union. I had been asked to be an official greeter, so as the geographers from abroad entered the first floor reception hall I met each one, tried hard to pronounce their names correctly, and guided them on a tour of the Society's premises. Names escape me at this distance, but I remember in particular two scholars from Germany, who were wearing heavy wool suits totally unsuited for New York's steamy late-July temperatures. I realized that they were probably wearing their only suits, and this was their first trip abroad, a reminder to me that Germans were still recovering from the trauma of defeat. A year later, when I first visited Germany, the economic miracle was just beginning to take hold. Other evidences of the recent war were part of my daily experiences during the two years at the Society. The multilingual staff at that time included many who had come to the United States as Displaced Persons and who were able to put to good use the cartographic and other skills they had learned in Europe. I remember small-boned, dark-haired, fair-skinned Irmgard Fuchs, who worked on the Atlas of Diseases project. Usually she wore a sweater, but on one warm day she was in short sleeves, and the tattooed numbers on her forearm were visible. That was my first personal encounter with a victim of Hitler's concentration camps. She never spoke of her past experiences. Nor did Olga Tamm, who (I learned) had escaped from Estonia in an open boat to Sweden; nor did the cartographer Nicholas Krijanovsky, who had once served in the short-lived Kerensky government of pre-Bolshevik Russia.

I liked to take solitary walks at noontime, up Broadway to 180th Street, up one side of the street and down the other, listening to the sound of conversation in scores of languages, looking at the shop windows and the variety of foods offered, seemingly from every Central and Eastern European country. In those days the neighborhood was settled by recent immigrants, the latest wave in the settlement pattern that by that time had long forsaken the lower East Side and Bleeker Street. In recent years the upper Broadway neighborhood has evolved again, and it is now almost entirely Hispanic. The Society's building at Broadway and 156th Street is now a college serving largely Hispanic students. I knew when I left the Society to marry in 1953 that I would never again be so favored, to work for a Society committed to scholarship, to work in a building which drew the world's leading geographers, to work for a world-renowned journal and an editor with peerless standards. I was fortunate indeed to have started my professional career at the American Geographical Society.

Taking Women Seriously: Vignettes From the American Geographical Society

Peter G. Lewis & Mary Lynne Bird

The American Geographical Society

On a stormy winter evening in 1876, a lecture was given at a brownstone building on 29th Street in New York City, the headquarters of the American Geographical Society. Despite the weather, a good crowd had turned out for the talk. It was an account of the republics of South Africa. New York State Chief Justice Charles Daly, who was then president of the American Geographical Society, introduced the speaker and the topic, saying that "America could but be deeply interested in the condition and prospects of sister republics in southern Africa, of which it is so difficult to obtain any information, except through unfriendly sources." The fellows of the Society were always hungry for information about the world. For them it was not unusual that the bearer of such inside information was a woman, even if the greater society outside the lecture hall didn't even trust women with the vote, let alone to dispense the kind of knowledge that informed a nation's politics. After all, membership in the Society had been open to women right from its founding.

The speaker that night was Anne Russell, a native of Victoria, South Africa; in the audience were some of the shapers of political policy and judicial opinion in the U.S. She had important things to say about Africa; they had come to listen and learn. That's the way it was with the Society's lecture series: content, not gender, bespoke quality and seriousness of purpose. Indeed, Ms. Russell was so popular she was invited back a few years later to update her report on the South African Republics. She appreciated that "at the present time America is seeking about for new markets to support her increased manufactures," and so did plenty of the members in her audience. To that end, she served her audience a rich cultural, economic, and political geography of the place, the kind of stock-taking material anyone interested in southern Africa---businesswise or otherwise---would find fascinating.

That same year, Amelia Edwards gave a lecture entitled "Recent Discoveries in Egypt." Her talk conveyed the "very remarkable results obtained by Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie in the course of his recent explorations in Upper Egypt." These were principally excavations that revealed a new alphabet "entirely distinct from the hieroglyphic signs by means of which the people of ancient Egypt had, from immemorial time, recorded the deeds of their kings and the dogmas of their religion." Here was scholarly stuff, and here was a woman delivering the goods to the Society's fellows and friends, who were just as eager to hear about the world's diversity as they were to understand the business climate of southern Africa. As the nineteenth was giving way to the twentieth century, and as accounts of travels to exotic environments became popular entertainments, both in print and the speaking circuit, again the society well understood the valuable contributions women made in both mediums.

In 1892, Mrs. French Sheldon, an independent scholar, delivered a talk on her "Visit to Kilima-Njaro and Lake Chala," where she had gone "to study native habits and customs free from the influence of civilization and in their primitive conditions." Later that year, Mrs. Isabella Bird Bishop---perhaps the best known of dauntless Victorian-era female travelers---gave an account of her visit to the Bakhtiari country of southwest Persia. These talks depicted hard travel to distant places, the kind of journeying that made the reputations of men like Douhgty and Livingstone, and likewise were making the names of these women common currency in geographical circles. The AGS was never hesitant to tap this source of information and enthusiasm. The next year, Annie Peck, a teacher at the American School of Archaeology at Athens, gave an illustrated lecture on "Modern Athens and Greece," then ten years later she returned with another illustrated lecture on "The Huascarán and the Peruvian Highlands." Who could, who would try to, ignore a woman like that?! The same goes for Fanny Bullock Workman, who dazzled the Society with her lantern slides of the glaciers of the Himalayas in 1904, and then in 1914 was back with slides of the Great Rose Glacier of the eastern Karakorams. And Elizabeth Schaeffer, who reported in 1911 on the sources of the Athabaska and Saskatchewan rivers. Can you just imagine the mosquitoes on that expedition?

As exploration gave way to research in specific areas, the nature of the lectures changed with the times. Mura Bayly presented an illustrated research paper in 1912 at the AGS on her work in New Zealand and shortly thereafter Marion Cook read another research piece, this time on Greece. These were field reports, the meat-and-potatoes of regional geography. Margaret Chapman Bolles brought Fellows up to date on "The Shore and Hinterland of the NorthEast Adriatic"; Harriet Chalmers Adams described "The Philippines and the Sulu Sea," and Florence Parbury probably got pretty rhapsodic over "Kashmir, the Garden of the East" when she lectured in 1919. The interwar period brought reports from lands hot and cold, familiar and dangerously remote. Rosita Forbes, a courageous sojourner through eastern Africa, gave an illustrated talk on her remarkable travels in Abyssinia, "From the Red Sea to the Blue Nile," in 1926. 1930 saw the Icelander Thorstina Jackson Walters, in the States doing research on Icelandic communities, give a lecture on "Iceland, the Kingdom of a Hundred Thousand." This was also the period when Louise Arner Boyd was going great guns, with her unparalleled photographic work in Greenland and the Arctic regions, and in Poland. She spoke at the Society a number of times, as did Ellen Churchill Semple, propounding her ideas on the influence of geography upon humankind.

In 1938, the Society launched a new series of lectures on topics of current or technical interest. And talk about what was then of pressing concern: The inaugural lecture was given by Elizabeth Wiskemann on "Czechs and Germans: The Historical and Geographical Background of the Sudeten-German Problem." Freya Stark, the inveterate English traveler of southwest Asia, spoke on her wartime journeys in Arabia. As the lecture series was coming to a close, Jane Gaston Mahler, professor of fine arts and archaeology at Columbia University, gave her illustrated lecture on "Crossroads in Afghanistan," based on her extensive ramblings across southern Asia in 1955-1956. There were others, but this is a good sample of how the Society paid due respect to women road scholars. Nor did the Society stint when it came to giving professional recognition of the highest order. The Society's medals have long been considered a pinnacle of achievement, and again here women were recipients of the Society's interest and attention. The first, the Cullum Geographical Medal, went to Ellen Churchill Semple in 1914. Semple had devoted herself for many years and in many lands to "the inquiry of how humanity is affected by the geographical conditions surrounding it in each instance." Her ideas have been beveled with time, but they are an enduring element in the geographical vocabulary. Louise Boyd was also given the Cullum Medal, in 1938, awarded for distinguished geographical discoveries and advancements in the geographical science, which put her right alongside Nansen and Shackleton and, that's right, Semple. Rachel Carson joined their crowd in 1963, on the coattails of Silent Spring but also for long and steady service to the environment that started with Under the Sea-Wind. Then Wilma Fairchild took the Morse Medal in 1968 for her unforgettable work with Geographical Review. That same year, Clara Egli Le Gear, was elected an Honorary Fellow for her work at the Library of Congress in Washington. Frenchwoman Jacqueline Beaujeu-Garnier was given the Van Cleef Medal in 1985 for her contributions to urban and population geography, which remain benchmarks in the French geographical tradition. She was also the first woman to receive the docteur d'etat in geography, and she was the first woman to be professor of geography at the Sorbonne. Talk about over-achieving!

More women were honored: Janes Soons at the Australian National University, Susan Hanson at Clark, Deborah Popper at Rutgers, Anastasia Van Burkalow at Hunter College, and Dava Sobel, author of Longitude. In every case, the Society honored itself by honoring these women. If this sounds like bragging, consider instead that it is a matter of giving credit to earlier generations. The founders of AGS stipulated right from the start that both men and women were eligible for membership in the Society. So, presenting them as speakers and honoring their work with awards was no big leap. But it is a matter of justifiable pride that the Society was doing the right thing a half century before the tide. And it sure was nice, not to mention smart, not to miss out on the experiences and insights that half the human species had to offer all those years over all that ground.

Dr. Kendra McSweeney Wins McColl Family Fellowship

The second McColl Family Fellowship has been awarded to Kendra McSweeney, who received her doctorate in geography from McGill University in December 2000. Dr. McSweeney will use the funds from the award to travel to the Mosquitia in Honduras to examine how native communities are adjusting to the Post-Mitch landscape there. She is fluent in Miskitu (as well as Spanish, French, and English). On this trip, she will return to an area where she did research over a four-year period prior to Hurricane Mitch. As she stated in her application, her work at that time provided a "useful baseline against which to measure post-Mitch changes, especially in agricultural patterns and income-generating strategies." She is "particularly interested in the degree to which local peoples have turned to the forest to meet their needs since the hurricane." Dr. McSweeney's publications have appeared in semi-popular periodicals as well as in scholarly journals, suggesting that she should be able to strike just the right tone for her article in FOCUS in Geography that will be based on this field trip. The editorial policy of FOCUS in Geography is to publish articles by those who can "think like a geographer and write like a journalist." The selection committee for the fellowship was chaired by Marie Price (George Washington University) and included Brian Godfrey (Vassar College) and David J. Keeling (Western Kentucky University ) along with the editor, Hilary Lambert Hopper, serving ex officio.

Applications for the third McColl Family Fellowship, for the year 2002, must be received in the AGS offices by October 15, 2001. They are to consist of the applicant's curriculum vitae plus a letter of no more than three pages describing the goal of the trip and the applicant's suitability for accomplishing it. A separate sheet with an estimate of the air fare may be included. The Fellowship consists of round trip air fare anywhere in the world to do field research on which an article for FOCUS in Geography will be based. The article must be submitted to the editor within six months upon return from the trip. The Fellowship was established through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. McColl. Dr. McColl is the Chair of the Geography Department at the University of Kansas.


The Wrigley-Fairchild Prize for the best article in the 1997, 1998, and 1999 volumes of the Geographical Review was awarded to Roger Hayter and Jerry Patchell on February 28th by the American Geographical Society. The Patchell-Hayter article, "Japanese Precious Wood and the Paradoxes of Added Value," appeared in the July 1997 issue of the journal . The authors explain how treasuring wood for its artistic and cultural value has affected Japan's economy and environment. They write, "Few cultures have as elevated an aesthetic of wood as the Japanese." They point out that "Japan is the only industrialized country that can boast more than 60 percent forest cover. Had Japan not developed conservation and silvicultural practices, however, preindustrial demand would have ravaged the forests." They conclude that "…if wood can be valued for its inherent beauty and wonder, perhaps lumber will no longer be considered a commodity, and perhaps the forests stand a better chance of not becoming so rare." Dr. Patchell is an assistant professor of geography at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Dr. Hayter is a professor of geography at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. The Wrigley-Fairchild Prize was established in honor of Gladys Wrigley and Wilma Fairchild, two long time editors of the Geographical Review. This is only the second time the prize has been awarded. The selection committee was chaired by Douglas Sherman of the University of Southern California and included Carolyn Cartier, also of USC; Clifton Pannell of the University of Georgia; Roger A.J. Clapp of Simon Fraser University (the first winner of the prize); John J. McCabe, Investments Manager of Shay Assets Management Co. and an AGS Councilor; and, in an ex officio capacity, Paul Starrs, editor of the journal.


by Peter Lewis

Alex Kerr, one of the West's most astute observers of the Japanese scene, unveils a cultural crisis of mega-proportions that currently grips the island nation like a vise in Dogs and Demons (Farrar Straus & Giroux). That Japan's economy has been in a shambles is now decade-old news, but the devastating effect that economic and political policies have had on the cities and countryside and social life of the country have been given less air time. Kerr, who quite obviously loves Japan, feels that to continue to avoid these problems would be to "condone and even become complicit in the disaster." So he serves up here bitter critique of a Japan that has despoiled its rivers and coastlines, leveled traditional neighborhoods, loosed one construction boondoggle after another, cemented over wetlands, allowed frightful toxic waste accumulation, and ignored planning for environmental catastrophes. Rather than solve basic structural problems affecting everything from the schools to the economy to industry and certainly to the political system, the government has been throwing money at expensive showpieces in an attempt to demonstrate that things are fine. This is typical, says Kerr, of a country that not only sacrifices all for economic growth, that has a systemic addiction to construction that essentially props up the economy. It also characterizes "the quality of sheer fantasy" that governs the country's information industry, as expressed in the old artist's saying: "'Dogs are difficult; demons are easy.' Dogs are the simple, unobtrusive factors in our surroundings that are so difficult to get right; demons are grandiose surface statements." Most damaging of all for Kerr: "Japan's cleverly crafted machine of governance lacks one critically important part: brakes. Once it has been set on a particular path, Japan tends to continue on that path until it reaches excesses that would be unthinkable in most other nations." It is a keen, wretched portrait Kerr paints of the doom that has benighted the Japanese cultural and natural environments.

An attentive year with the ospreys of Cape Cod---Return of the Osprey (Algonquin)---comes from the capable hands of David Gessner. Come springtime of 1999 and Gessner makes a resolution to spend more time with his neighbors, the ospreys. Once abundant, the fish hawk went into serious decline in the 1950s as a result of DDT poisoning. Then, due in part to the bird's adaptability and ability to cohabit with humans to a degree, it bounced back from a mortality rate of 90%. As he set out to do in his earlier book, Gessner continues his stab at the elemental life on the Cape: walking, writing, observing, napping, being with his wife. Of particularly importance to him is gaining a sense of place, of homeplace, and one aspect of that search are the ospreys, in whose revival he sees a glimmer of his own recovery from cancer. What Gessler delivers here is a calendar of his days on the osprey watch: watching nests being built and repaired (including one with a naked Barbie doll woven into the woodwork); watching for nestlings, and watching as nestlings get carried away in the night by raiding owls; being witness to the courtship ritual known as the sky dance; recording the daily changes in the salt marsh. While Gessler includes much research he has done into the bird's biology and behavior, relying heavily on Alan Poole's work, he is more content (and is better at) watching, waiting, letting the season deepen, the flowers bloom, the marsh come to vibrant life. And in the process, through his incessant poking about and hungry curiosity, he does approach a notion of place, perhaps never more so than when he attunes himself to "osprey time." A year well spent and carefully recorded: heedful, respectful, and filled with the romance of being out of doors.      Provocative stabs at answering the really big questions regarding wildlife biology, the ones seemingly skipped over when the Victorians tidied up their discipline of natural history, are given by Chris Lavers in Why Elephants Have Big Ears (St. Martin's). What are the answers to some of the obvious questions regarding the evolution of creatures, such as why mammals dominate the savanna and reptiles the swamps? Why are the cold bloods more successful in the struggle for life in a small scale, and why are birds small, and why are there ostriches at all? Lavers approaches all these unanswered mysteries through the lens of garnering and rationing energy, and his results chime true. Size and energy use figure prominently here, be it regarding gas-guzzling elephants or turbo-charged hummingbirds. Lavers follows the journey from cold bloodedness to warm bloodedness, "souping up the metabolic engines." Yet there are clearly times when cold bloodedness wins out, as for those creatures that must endure long periods of drought and starvation. Along the way, Lavers introduces readers to a host of wild oddments, from the utterly rude naked mole-rat to creatures that were weird even for being dinosaurs. As for birds, he suggests that they are small because they buy the power of flight relatively cheaply, allowing them to "forage over wide areas, exploit three-dimensional habitats such as forests, escape the attention of ground-living predators, migrate" and flee at little metabolic cost. Of course, you might say, but answers to such questions have never been so conveniently deployed as this. As well, Lavers' prose is as comfortable as flannel sheets on a cold night and as crisp as starlight. Elephants, by the way, have big ears because it allows them to efficiently shed body heat. Natural history is one of the few sciences that lends itself to enjoyably larking about ideas and hypotheses as well as having its sober sides, and Lavers takes full advantage of its propensity for entertaining erudition.

Adam Rome provides a piquant interpretation of the links between the mass migration to suburbia and the rise of the environmental movement in The Bulldozer in the Countryside (Cambridge). Working like a bloodhound, Rome follows the trail of the environmental costs of tract housing, how they became translated into environmental issues, and then became put on the pubic agenda. In writing that has real momentum, if at times also a whiff of the lecture hall, Rome details how the booming postwar mass-consumption economy became an environmental disaster area. He argues clearly and persuasively that as suburban developments started almost immediately falling apart like old jalopies, environmental movements took shape bit by bit. Building in sensitive areas---floodplains, wetlands---produced flooding; wholesale land clearing produced erosion; septic problems spurred even the government to act. Each degradation found expression in a citizen's group. As open space disappeared right before your eyes, a wilderness and outdoors movement took shape. The machine in the garden, from oil spills to Silent Spring, prompted an environmentalism with aesthetic and social concerns. Rome also demonstrates how a taste for cleanliness, comfort and convenience has slowed environmental results, and how the Wise Use movement gets fuel from environmental regulations that puncture the dream of home and land ownership, a notion built into the nation's economic and political structure following the Depression's class bitterness. Though Rome thumps his chest over what he considers his original ideas concerning the narrow self-interests of homeowners, the sharing of some environmentalist and conservationist goals, and the environmentally conscious behavior of a few government agencies, these are pretty well-established opinions. The final indignity of it all, Rome sadly relates, is that suburbia continues its unabated growth today, with all the old players in the suburban-industrial complex still in command, and still wrecking the environment. A snappy scholarly work that captures a momentous shift in American environmental thinking, made exciting by the fire of Rome's passionate critique of suburbia.