Global Issues: an introduction. 5e.

hiteRating: ★★★☆☆

Kristen A Hite and John L Seitz. 2016. Global Issues: an introduction. Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 9781 11896885 7.

In an increasingly busy marketplace, it says something that a book makes it into its fifth edition in a 20-year timespan. Clearly, the popularity of the issues has not declined, judging by my reference point, the third edition I reviewed a few years ago! By this edition, climate change has made an entry and the environment section is divided into two for the addition of a few pages.

So, what’s new and has the reader’s interest been maintained? Certainly, there’s more than a passing nod to social media. It’s a clever idea to link a text like this, where changes are so many and rapid, to a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GlobalIssuesHiteSeitz/) where everything can be updated and readers can make comments.

In terms of the text, the reader starts with a chapter devoted to population. Like the other cases, at about 40 pages, there’s time for a decent overview and useful cases without getting bogged down in minutiae. Such summarising of what are, in reality, highly complex issues is always going to be a question of choice but the authors have covered all of the basic concepts. The two big questions are handled first – how many and where. From this point, the focus is on the relationship between development and population which might be pertinent from a global point of view but does restrict investigation of the many issues found in the wealthier nations. True, there is a part looking at ageing population but that might have been usefully expanded. The demographic transition theory gets a mention as do government population controls. A future-focussed section looking at possible scenarios helps the reader to grasp some of the problems. A good set of references and recommended readings round off the chapter.

Subsequent chapters follow this approach, each covering a key issue, largely focussed on the “developing” world and with abundant references and texts to follow up work. Wealth and poverty form the next chapter, starting with the Millennium Development Goals, poverty, development and aid. Globalisation gets some discussion but, overall, this is one of the briefer chapters where some useful ideas, like Rostow could have been introduced. It didn’t help their case that, sometime around the time the book was sent for printing, the development goals morphed into the Sustainable Goals. Food is the next global issue with a good discussion on hunger and its social/economic impact. It’s good to see a section looking at food waste because this is often missing in standard works; we are seeing just how big an issue it is. The Green Revolution is described followed by a larger section examining food futures. Moving on to energy, the reader starts with a discussion on climate change and only gets to energy as a resource issue some way in. There are examples of energy consumption but not flows which might have been instructive. The futures section considers renewables but also deals with nuclear power as an option.

From energy via look at climate change takes the reader to two chapters looking at the environment. The topics placed in each one do not appear to follow a logical sequence but every issue is a critical one. The first part looks mainly at air and water pollution, land use change and extinction (of both species and cultures) whilst the second covers pollution in the home and at work (an unusual topic not often covered, but certainly needed), waste, wise use and politics. Together these to deal with a wide range of topics although the focus is far more often the developing world than the developed. A look at the pros and cons of technology leads to the final chapter, covering current development situations and possible futures.

¬†To what extent does the book succeed in its goals? Any text trying to look at such a number of global problems will always find areas of disagreement amongst¬† readers and this is the case here. All of the issues are critical so there is nothing here that is trivial. Each chapter has enough space to develop its thesis although there is variation in the extent to which this is achieved. One could always add more but, for the beginner, there’s more than enough, especially with the references, to develop an interest further. It focusses heavily on the developing world which is fine but many global issues (including some dealt with here) sit firmly with the actions (or not) of wealthier nations.

Overall, this is a good update to this series. The issues would be likely to create significant engagement with the reader. Each case gets a good examination and the references would help those more interested in some aspects to deepen their knowledge. Such gaps as there are would be of interest mostly to those already versed in the topics and this is not the book’s target group. There’s enough in here to start a great course in global issues (which is where the idea originally came from) and this text, especially with the promise of updates via Facebook (let’s hope this continues!) makes it a very useful beginners text.

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