World of weather, water and windows

The Nature of the Environment
September 5, 2003

This, the fourth edition of the deservedly popular and highly praised book by Andrew Goudie, professor of geography at the University of Oxford, expounds the basics of physical geography for starting undergraduates. The book has grown with each edition, from 331 pages in the first edition to 544 pages in the current one.

Its aims are unchanged: to impart modern information about the human environment at local, regional and global scales; to integrate studies of landforms, weather and climate, water, soils and life; and to examine how humans have shaped, and how they have been shaped by, their environment and the landscapes in which they live. The format of the book is the same as in previous editions. Four parts cover the global framework (global geological background, global climatic background and the organic world); major world biomes (cold, mid-latitude, desert and tropical environments); mountain and maritime environments and landscapes and ecosystems; (plants and animals, tectonic features, slopes, soils and weathering, the water cycle, rivers and cities). The fifth, and final, part deals succinctly with environmental complexity, scale, equifinality, the relevance and application of physical geography, and global environmental change. The new chapter on "The organic world" is a welcome addition. Particularly useful are the many "windows", which include up-to-date and classic case studies.

Students will find the excellent photographs, the diagrams and the suggestions for further reading especially helpful. If the book has shortcomings, then they are perhaps the brevity of material concerned with historical perspectives and the lack of reference to websites. But this celebrated text still represents good value for money and is sure to maintain its popularity in geography departments.

Richard Huggett is reader in geography, University of Manchester.

The Nature of the Environment

Author - Andrew Goudie
ISBN - 631 22463 7 and 20069 X
Publisher - Blackwell
Price - £65.00 and £21.99
Pages - 544

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