About the book
‘Everything is connected to everything else’ is the third book by geography lecturer Carl Lee. This website makes this bi-directional e-book available to all for free. The book is a collection of 101 short stories about geography in the 21st century.
Like all teachers I have a number of ‘tics’; things I say or do that I can be repetitive about. One is the exhortation to students that everything is connected to everything else. Sometimes I draw convoluted topic webs on the white board to provide some visual evidence of this. This book is an equally convoluted attempt to apply some substance to this claim.
One of my key grumbles is that students do not read enough. Sure there is the set text book, the plethora of handouts from class, the endless websites, news media and substantial on-line learning environments. There is plenty for them to read. However at the heart of my grumble is the idea of reading something, long, complex, and intellectually provocative; a good book for example.
In my ‘mission’ to persuade students to read more, and read with more challenge, I have, in recent years, introduced the idea of reading novels to expand and enhance geographical knowledge. I like the idea of learning through stories, I think a lot of what I do in the classroom involves an element of story telling, constructing a critically reasoned narrative that guides students through varying degrees of complexity.
Recently I finished reading Mohsin Hamid’s novel ‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.’ I will add it to my list of books that I recommend to my students. It really is a book about love, although you might be forgiven for imagining that it is the self-help guide to getting rich in the over-crowded streets of Pakistani cities that the story’s narrator initially claims. So baring in mind that some things are not what is claimed for them, this book is an attempt to give students of Advanced Level Geography something else to read that will help them piece together their own big picture of what 21st century geography is about. I’d like to think that non-students might also derive some insights and ideas from some of the 101 stories gathered here. This is after all about the world in which we all live. It is also very much about the future, as geography invariably is about the future.
The stories themselves are gathered into eight loose chapters that pin them together in themes. These cover the key themes of 21st century geography; population, migration, bio-diversity, food, water, climate, energy, urbanization, globalization, capital, technology and the future. I also had the forlorn hope that each story would transparently connect to the next story. I am afraid some of the connections are a bit more than oblique.
Unlike a geography textbook I make little attempt to approach the material with an unerringly even hand. This is a work of partiality and to some extent bias in part due to the stories I choose to tell and the observations I draw from them. I think it will come as no surprise that I come from a ‘left-leaning tradition’, part of that ‘Blob’ that the last education secretary Michael Gove rails against. I do, however share with Mr Gove a belief that for something to be worthwhile the fact that it is ‘difficult and complex’ can make it more rewarding. There is nothing easy about A level Geography and nor should there be; it is difficult, complex and it matters. You have to think critically about it and worst of all there is so much of it to think critically about.
If there is anything to worry about it isn’t that so much of the intellectual terrain that these stories inhabit is potentially so negative and at times so worrisome, no, it is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have hundreds of these stories to tell. Geography teachers, boy can they go on.