Product has been added to the basket

Two New Books

Geomorphological Hazards and Disaster Prevention

GEOMORPHOLOGICAL HAZARDS AND DISASTER PREVENTIONThis book is advertised as being “accessible to geomorphologists and Earth scientists involved in environmental science, hazard and risk assessment, management and policy”: thus, aimed at specialists rather than generalist hazard and risk managers. Although it is intended to examine “what hazard and risk managers want from geomorphologists and what geomorphologists believe they can offer to them”, all of the authors seem to be geomorphologists. It would have been interesting if at least a few contributions had been invited from “managers”.

The volume has two main sections – firstly, “processes” and, secondly, “processes and applications of geomorphology to risk assessment” containing 16 and 7 papers respectively. Papers in Part 1 range from the specific to the general, giving an uneven depth of coverage. One paper focuses on lichenometry for dating landside episodes while another considers all mountain hazards in general. In Part 2, papers range from the practical (e.g. use of GIS for the assessment of flood and landslide risk) to historical and philosophical discussion of vulnerability analysis as a part of geomorphological risk assessment. Disappointingly, the paper devoted to the requirements of risk managers and what geomorphology has to offer them is almost entirely devoted to the latter. The concluding section takes the line that while the terms “natural, geomorphological, geophysical and hydrometeorological are widely used, the concept of geomorphological hazard is.....rather unknown”. While appreciation of hazard management has made significant progress in many areas, more does need to be done. One wonders whether a text aimed at non-specialists would have been more effective in advancing understanding.

The book deals fairly comprehensively with hazards (seismic, volcanic, flooding, desertification and dune migration, slope instability and avalanche, weathering, dissolution, subsidence and erosion) in a wide range of physical and climatic environments. However it is somewhat weak on hazards in glacial and periglacial environments. Some sections are devoted to environments while others focus on specific hazards. The reader has therefore to refer between sections to develop a full picture. Most of the contributions focus on hazards and, to some extent, investigation and mitigation of these. But only a few consider vulnerability (7 out of 23) and risk (3) in any detail.

The book is well presented, similar in quality to the Special Publications series of the Society. A few of the photographs are poorly reproduced, but that does not detract significantly. Despite some unevenness in content it is well worth reading and is relatively cheap as technical books go.

Reviewed by Brian Marker

IRASEMA ALCÁNTARA-AYALA AND ANDREW GOUDIE (editors) Published by: Cambridge University Press; Publication date: March, 2010; ISBN: 978-0-521-76925-9 (hbk) 304 pp List price: £45.00.

The Earth After Us

ZalasiewiczThis completely original book, now in paperback, is wholly lacking illustrations. The excellently written text is somewhat breathless and unrelieved. It is not ‘lightweight’!

Zalasiewicz employs the artifice of imagining visitors from another planet coming to Earth in 100 million years future, and searching for the traces of humanity long gone. The text commences with a review of global geological relationships and is brilliantly conceived. I have been a geologist for 60+ years, yet I learnt much of which I was unaware. Zalasiewicz has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Phanerozoic. He appears weaker on the Precambrian, but this does not matter. He is really concerned with the Phanerozoic.

The book emphasises the fact that the extraordinary global human population explosion of the past two or three hundred years, and the associated industry and use of resources including food, will hasten our departure. Zalasiewicz is a strong believer in anthropogenic global warming and its harmful effects, and terms these few centuries the ‘Anthropocene’. He is not among the ‘doubters’.

The next two chapters deal with taphonomy, the processes that allow the preservation of fossils, and again there are many obscure and unsuspected processes that were unfamiliar to me. He is especially strong on ‘Lagerstätten’ – the rare sites like Solnhofen and Chengjiang, with preservation of soft tissues as well as hard parts. This is important in the final parts of the book where he concludes that some human artefacts like buildings and tunnels will be preserved in 100 million years, despite deep burial and possible travel on the ‘tectonic escalator’ and all the physical, chemical and biological degrading processes that will be arrayed against them. But remains of actual human bodies, allowing the aliens to find out much about our physical nature, will only survive in new types of Lagerstätten that may derive from our practices. Even so, the aliens would still be mystified about us, and end up with very incomplete understanding.

However unlikely some, including myself, might consider the chances of visitors as capable as Zalasiewicz imagines coming to Earth from outer space in the distant future, this is a brilliant and unique book that should teach much to innumerable readers.

Joe McCall

JAN ZALASIEWICZ, Published by: Oxford University Press; Publication date: September, 2009 ISBN: 978-0-19-921498-3 (pbk); 251 pp.
List price: £8.99